8th Aug 2019

The perks of staying in UAE definitely seem to matter a lot during Eid, when we, the otherwise holiday deprived expats, get treated to a 5 day EID break!

This time around, when we were visiting Italy, my husband who has always been a fan of cruising, finally managed to convince me at the Port of Napoli, all the benefits and enjoyable things we get, if we cruise!

And we were blessed to have found the perfect deal for us on Jalesh – India’s first international premium cruise ship by the name KARNIKA (This is how I will continue to address the ship in this blog). We got a steal deal exactly for the EID break, 3 nights & 4 days on the waters.

I have never been on a cruise before and, I have to admit, I would have been one of those people previously who would’ve turned up my nose at the thought of being stuck on one ship for any lengthy period. But, at the same time, they have always fascinated me.

We were travelling with 1 more couple, and because none of us had been on a cruise before, this was way more exciting!

We started off on 8th August, Thursday afternoon, and battled the never ending queue at port Rashid, Dubai to finally board the ship.

When I first saw KARNIKA, I was really blown away by its majestic built up, and larger than life size.

The ship has a total of 14 decks, and our stateroom (the room cabins are called as staterooms in a ship) was on Deck number 9. We were welcomed warmly by garlands and tilak on our foreheads in true Indian style, and were led to our rooms by a lift. The room was pretty impressive, with a splendid view of the blue ocean from our window. After keeping our luggage in our rooms, the 4 of us started exploring KARNIKA deck by deck with sheer excitement.

Deck number 5 was the main lobby area, with help desks. Deck 7 was always buzzing with most highlights on this deck – The Connexions Bar with live music and activities, and the beautiful Marquee Theater for plays and shows. Deck 8 was a favorite for most of the crowd because it had The Casino! Being a foodie myself, Deck 12 was my favorite because it had the food court with around 50 plus delicious food dishes ranging from Indian/ Italian/ Chinese/ South Indian to suit all taste buds. The best part of the food court was the unlimited food flowing away throughout the day!

Deck 12 also had a club, and a huge pool deck for pool parties, followed by the viewing deck on floor 14.

The cruise was specially designed & customized for the Indian audience and it was amazing to see the entire staff catering to the demands of 2000 passengers on ship, with a smile on their face.

The sunrise & sunsets which we managed to witness over the sparkling blue ocean water, gazing at the stars, was an unmatchable experience.

I realized that life on a ship is different to life on land. You lose perspective. Everything you need to know is contained within this metal hull. You lose sense of time and even sense of the date. Luckily there is a reminder in the form of announcements over speaker regarding the location and current time.

One of the things I loved about being on a ship is that you don’t have to go out in search of food three times a day (as I usually do when travelling on land), or get bored. Ultimately it’s this variety on the ship that I found so pleasurable during the cruise.

Oh, and I also liked the familiarity and routine of not following a routine!

A cruise experience lets you be you! You can wander up to get food without making a decision, you can sit by the pool and read a book, you can find the guitarist at the same pub doing the songs you asked for the night before, you can just watch other people, and you could just stare at the sea, or just make new friends on board! The mind can be challenged at a quiz; the body can be exercised in the plush gym or a swim in the pool.

When you get a little bored or feel like doing something fresh, the ship reaches a port, and you can see a city! We got lucky to see a new country – The Kingdom of Bahrain! Bahrain is like the soul of Middle East, with its small size and warm people (That’s what my best friend keeps talking of her hometown Bahrain) My husband Mr. Discount Shah, as I lovingly address him, got us a good deal for seeing Bahrain in 4 hours. We saw the Wyndham Tower, The Wind Tower, my husband’s old offices location, and a camel farm. Having finished the city tour satisfactorily, we returned back to the ship, to start our journey again.

You can make your cruise what you want it to be – and clearly that’s what people did here. People wandered aimlessly at odd hours like 4 am in the morning on decks, and no one judges anyone. I myself had the midnight nuggets & hot chocolate daily at 2 am on the deck, which I otherwise would never have done! Some people just moved without a plan between their staterooms, some spent most of their time in the casino, or others were hanging out at the events in the bars.

We soaked in each day, each minute of this marvelous experience. We dressed up, we dressed down too, we ate sumptuously, we toasted with our friends, made new friends, and made fun of our dear hydrophobic friend too with Titanic sinking stories, but deeply scared ourselves at just the mere thought of it!

From the food to the restaurants, casino to the karaoke, services to the spa, even 3 days were not enough. Each day was like opening a Pandora box. The whole experience was so thrilling, and the entire place just became “a happy place” to be at!

This was one of the best holidays in my travel diary, and like all trips, I always remind myself about a particular thought that has stayed in my mind forever.

“Once a year, travel to a place you have never ever been, take an adventure you would never ever try, for he who returns from a travel is not the same as he who left”

Signing off, until the next chapter