Journey to India 2
Manama perches on the tip of the island of Bahrain, just off the coast of Saudi Arabia. It’s an important business hub, where steel and glass skyscrapers dominate the…Time in port: 08:00 - 17:00
The spotlight shines on Bahrain’s most famous faces on this daytrip. One of them is the Al Fateh Grand Mosque – with a capacity to accommodate more than 7,000 worshippers, it’s one of the biggest in the world. This holy place lays claim to a second superlative, too, having the world’s largest fibreglass dome built on top of it. Later on, you’ll visit Bahrain National Museum for a glimpse of relics that date back millennia. The kingdom’s Medieval fort, built by the Portuguese, is on the cards, as well, before the main event – Bahrain International Circuit. You’ll get to visit the welcome centre and the main grand stand.
Be sure to charge your cameras before this tour, because it ticks off some of the most photogenic spots in Bahrain. Al Fateh Grand Mosque is one of them – it’s one of the biggest mosques in the world, and its façades span a number of ornate Middle Eastern designs. Manama Souk is on the cards, too. The bustling bazaar has been around for centuries, and serves as a reminder of the past in a capital city that’s brimming with futuristic skyscrapers. Speaking of which, you’ll also stop for photos outside the Bahrain World Trade Centre. These massive, sail-shaped twin towers were the world’s first skyscrapers to incorporate wind turbines into their design.
As its name suggests, there are three points of focus on this tour. Black refers to oil, as Bahrain was the first country on the Arabian side of the Persian Gulf where oil was struck. You’ll visit the aptly-named First Oil Well, which leaked precious oil for the first time in 1932. Bahrain’s sky-high economy is represented on the ‘gold’ part of the tour. You’ll make a photo stop outside the state’s striking World Trade Centre, as well as the famous Bahrain International Circuit racetracks. The trip’s third section focuses on the camel – an animal that has been important to the livelihood of locals for thousands of years. There’ll be time to take pictures with the humped mammals at a local farm.
Before the 19th-century, foreign maps of Arabia didn’t include Qatar. That was then. Now, the once-forgotten country has made an almighty comeback – and its glittering…Time in port: 08:00 - 17:00
Today, you’ll exchange skyscrapers for a taste of traditional Qatari culture. Your first stop is in Katara, or the Valley of Cultures. The buildings are newly-built as part of a multi-million pound project to replicate traditional dwellings. You’ll find an amphitheatre at its hub, as well as an opera house, libraries and art galleries. Next, it’s off to the Pearl-Qatar – a manmade island built on a former pearl diving site. It’s as glamorous as it sounds, and you’ll drive past Venetian-style canals, plazas and a marina full of restaurants. After, you’ll visit another of Doha’s islands, home to the Museum of Islamic Art. In fact, it’s got the biggest collection of Islamic works in the world. Aside from the ceramics, jewellery and carpets, it’s set in well-preened lawns, decorated with palms. Your final stop is at Souq Waqif. Here, you can wander the ancient alleyways with their mud-rendered shops selling spices, perfumes and incense.
Hold on to your sunglasses – you’re in for a bumpy ride. Today, you’ll be heading out into the desert to tackle the sand dunes. You’ll hop in a 4x4 for a rollercoaster-like ride, up and down the steep slopes. After some dune bashing, you’ll stop at Khor Al Udeid – dubbed the inland sea. It’s the natural border between Qatar and Saudi Arabia, and you can see all the way across. Qatar is also one of only two countries where sand dunes meet the ocean – the other being in Namibia. You’ll have time to snap away on the beach, which is framed by huge dunes. If luck is on your side, you might even spot a rare dugong in the see-through waters – they’re similar to manatees. Once you’ve finished marvelling at the other-worldly view, there’s a quick stop at a traditional campsite, before you head back out over the dunes.
Sir Bani Yas is probably as close to a desert island as you can get. One with pale-sand beaches, a former-palace-turned-hotel and a wildlife reserve, that is. The tiny…Time in port: 08:00 - 17:00 | Tender to shore
Time spent on the beach doesn’t get more appealing than with your own private cabana. A transfer to the island will pop you right on a feather-white sandy beach, where your private cabana awaits. You’ve got this little sun shelter for the whole day, and it makes for a great base from which to enjoy the tropical beach, and the clear waters of the Arabian Gulf. Each cabana has space for two people, and the price is based on the rental of a cabana for the day, so you'll only need to select one when booking.
You’ll want your camera at the ready for this 4x4 island adventure, which is all about catching a glimpse of some amazing wildlife. Sir Bani Yas Island is home to cheetahs, giraffes and gazelles, and from a front seat in a 4-wheel drive, there’ll be plenty of opportunity to spot these creatures in their natural habitat. Elegant flamingos, ostriches, and an endangered Arabian Oryx herd can also be seen. Plus, the island’s home to eye-widening rock formations in higgledy-piggledy piles, so there’s plenty to look out for during your drive. Just so you know, this excursion doesn’t have a guide. This leaves you free to explore the island at your own pace, with the assistance of a driver.
Bag yourself a floating mat for the day and take yourself off for some top-quality relaxation on the water. It’s like a Lilo – but it’s a mat. Catch up on your favourite book while floating off the shore, or drift around the coastline to see the island from a new angle. This is not a guided experience, and is instead an activity designed solely for R&R.
Oil was discovered here back in the Fifties. Since then, Abu Dhabi’s been transformed from a fishing village into a modern metropolis. It’s not quite as well-known as…Time in port: 08:00 - 20:00
You’ll get an insight into Abu Dhabi’s history and culture during this half-day tour. It starts with a visit to the stunning Sheikh Zayed Grand Mosque. Big enough for 40,000 worshippers, it’s the largest in the UAE. Four 350-foot minarets and 82 white marble domes tower above it. For the tour, ladies must wear loose clothes that cover their head and body – you can leave your hands and face exposed. Afterwards you'll head to the Heritage Village, a museum where you can see what life was like in the UAE before the discovery of oil. On the way back to the port, there’ll be a photo stop at the Emirates Palace, a five-star hotel and one of the most extravagant buildings in the world.
This trip ticks off some of Abu Dhabi’s grandest and most historic landmarks, with a couple of new bits thrown in, too. Things get started for a photo stop at the snowy-white Sheikh Zayed Mosque. To give you a taste of its size, it was built using 100,000 tonnes of marble, and has space for up to 40,000 people. Next, you’ll drive through some of the city’s most exclusive neighbourhoods on your way to the Emirates Palace. You won’t be checking in at this luxury beachfront hotel, but the red-hued walls and neatly-clipped gardens make it well worth a photo stop. Once you’ve grabbed a few snaps, it’s back on the bus for a scenic drive along the Corniche – a waterside road which curves around the skyscraper-backed bay. You’ll get the chance to grab a few more holiday shots of Al Marina, an islet connected to the city by a narrow causeway, then it’s back to Port Zayed to board the ship.
Abu Dhabi’s Ferrari World is the largest indoor theme park on the planet. It’s packed with more than 20 rides and attractions that tell the story of Ferrari, all underneath a roof shaped like the classic double-curve body shell of one of their cars. The star of the show is the Formula Rossa rollercoaster. Reaching speeds of 150 miles per hour, it’s the world’s fastest. It’s designed to provide the same g-force that a Formula One driver would get as they whizz around a track and even bursts through the roof into the desert sun at one point. For the more fainthearted, there are attractions like the 4D Speed of Magic, where you can go on a car chase through the desert from the comfort of a sofa.
This corner of Oman has been dubbed the ‘Norway of Arabia’, thanks to its fjord-like inlets and mountainous coastline. Back in the 17th century, the Portuguese…Time in port: 09:00 - 17:00
This half-day tour introduces you to Oman’s Musandam Peninsula. You’ll start off by driving to Khasab, where you’ll visit a fort built by the Portuguese in the 17th century. Unlike most around the world, this stronghold is close to sea level, so the views of the surrounding waters are second-to-none. Later, you’ll take a scenic drive through the peninsula’s rugged countryside, towards the seaside town of Bukha. This place is home to another sea-facing fort, which provided the town with protection in the Medieval ages. After a visit of the smooth-stoned castle, you’ll head back to Khasab, making a photo stop at one of the area’s grand, domed mosques.
Today, you’ll board a traditional Omani Dhow to see why this part of the world is nicknamed the ‘Norway of Arabia’. In Khasab’s port, you’ll swap cruise ship for dhow boat – simple vessels that are seen in the waters up and down the Persian Gulf. The captain will navigate through the area’s mountainous valleys, called khors, which draw comparisons to the fjords of Norway. You’ll anchor-down beside Telegraph Island, a rocky isle where, in 1864, the British laid a telegraph cable that ran from India to Iraq. Keep your eyes peeled while you’re onboard, because dolphins often swim alongside dhows.
Buckle up for a 4x4 adventure to 6,000 feet above sea level. From Khasab, you’ll drive up into the mountains of the Musandam Peninsula, making pit-stops at viewpoints along the way. The village of Sayah is on the cards, too. This picturesque hamlet tumbles down the hillside, and is still occupied by desert-dwelling Bedouin people. The settlement is famous for its ancient petrographs – 3,000-year-old paintings splattered on the rock face. Later on, you’ll drive up near the summit of Jebel Harim, which translates as the ‘mountain of women’. Up here, expect to see more millennia-old petroglyphs, and fossils that are studded into the rocks. Of course, the photo opportunities from these heights are spectacular, in particular the Khawr Najid this stunning view point overlooks the Indian Ocean
The ancient walled city of Muscat is wedged into a mountain-cocooned bay, just 20 minutes’ drive from Port Sultan Qaboos. It’s only 250 miles from king of the Emirates,…ARRIVE IN PORT: 08:00 (DAY 7)
DEPART FROM PORT: 18:00 (DAY 8)
You’ll tour some of Oman’s highlights on this trip, including an enormous mosque, a bustling souk, and Muscat old town. The first stop is the Grand Mosque. Outside, it’s completely white, but on the inside, it’s filled with intricate murals and big crystal chandeliers. A single Persian carpet covers the 4,000-square-metre floor, making it one of the largest ever made. Next, you’ll have an hour’s haggling time at the Muttrah Souk. This indoor marketplace is the oldest in Muscat and its stalls are packed with colourful jewellery, pottery and spices. After you’ve picked up some souvenirs, you’ll head off to the Bait Al Zubair Museum for an insight into Omani heritage, before a tour of Muscat old town. Two enormous forts and the Al Alam Palace dominate the skyline here. The latter is the official residence of His Majesty, Sultan Qaboos.
From a mosque to a market, you’ll see some of Muscat’s best bits on this full-day tour. Your first stop will be one of the world’s largest mosques, called the Grand Mosque. Inside, it’s really elaborate – one single handmade Persian carpet covers the entire floor space of the huge prayer room, while massive crystal chandeliers hang from the ceiling. From the tranquillity of the mosque, you’ll be taken to the Barkha Fish Market, where locals haggle for the catch of the day. Next, you’ll stop off at the Al Thowarah hot springs and the Nakhl Fort, an enormous castle that sits on a rocky outcrop surrounded by palm trees. Then a buffet lunch is served at the Al Nahda resort before heading back to the ship.
This morning tour ticks off a busy market, a beautiful mosque, a museum and a palace. The tour starts with a quick stop for a photo at the Sultan Qaboos Grand Mosque, a huge sandstone building topped with a 50-foot dome. In fact, it’s one of the largest mosques ever constructed. Next, it’s onto the rainbow-coloured Muttrah Souk, which is packed with stalls selling fabrics, ornaments and glittering jewellery. There’ll be time to do a little shopping before you head to the Bait Zubair Museum for an insight into Omani heritage. Last up for the morning is a chance to snap a couple of photos of the gold and blue Al Alam Palace, the ceremonial home of Sultan Qaboos of Oman. Then it’s time to head back to the ship – right in time for lunch.
As its name suggests, this speciality restaurant majors in the likes of marbled steaks and meaty lobster tails. You’ve also got other meat and fish options, as well as plenty to satisfy a vegetarian palate. You’ll pay a cover charge to eat dinner here.
Marella Discovery’s main eatery is a big, stylish venue, finished in the colours of the sand and the sea. Daytime meals here come with a side-order of sea views, thanks to floor-to-ceiling windows, and a grand double staircase leads up to a separate eatery.
Festival food stalls and iconic British beach huts provided the inspiration for this grab ‘n’ go eatery. This means you can expect to pick up things like bacon butties for breakfast, and sweet chilli chicken wings, mezze salads and focaccia sandwiches in the afternoon.
With over four million international visitors a year, a stellar selection of rooftop cocktail bars, and boutiques taking inspiration from the streets of Paris, it’s no…Time in port: 08:00 - 17:00
You’ll see Mumbai’s eastern and western sides on this tour. First, you’ll pay a visit to the Gateway of India. The arch was built in 1911 as an entry point for passengers arriving from England, but it also marks the place where British troops left India following the country’s independence. Next, you’ll move on to Dhobi Ghat, which is over 100 years old. It’s basically a giant human-powered washing machine, so you’ll see hundreds of washers – or dhobis – cleaning clothes in the open-air water tanks. After absorbing the atmosphere, you’ll head to a very different sight, the Chhatrapati Shivaji Terminus railway station. This extravagant Gothic building’s a prime example of colonial-era architecture, with Victorian, Hindu and Islamic influences. Later, you’ll see more buildings built during British rule at Colaba Causeway, which is overflowing with stalls and shops. It’s a great spot for stocking up on souvenirs, as well as sampling some of the local delicacies.
You’ll need to put your bartering hat on for this tour, as you’ll visit three of Mumbai’s biggest markets. First, you can get your haggling hat on at Colaba Causeway. This area’s streets are filled to the brim with shops selling jewellery, clothes, handbags and handicrafts. And you can buy coconut water, baked goods and fruit from some of the vendors, too. After, you’ll visit historic Crawford Market. It’s Mumbai’s main wholesale market for fruit, so you’ll find stalls stacked with mountains of mangos and grapes. Produce aside, you can check out the Norman-style façade and its decorative friezes, which were designed by Lockyard Kipling – the father of author Rudyard Kipling. Your last stop is in Bhuleshwar. This place is packed-full of bazaars, selling everything from jewellery to food. On your way back to the ship, you’ll also drive past the famous Gateway of India monument.
Mumbai’s a mixing pot of cultures and religions, which you’ll learn all about on this trip. You’ll start by driving past the city’s seafront promenade, before heading up to Malabar Hill to check out the extravagant mansions of Mumbai’s swankiest neighbourhood. Then it’s on to Iskcon Temple. It sits in four acres of land, with enough room for a pretty courtyard, a restaurant and a huge prayer room. This is where you’ll hear the melodic chanting of the Hare Krishna devotees. Just across the road is Babulnath – an ancient Shiva temple. Not only is it one of the oldest in the city, but it’s also a great example of Hindu Nagara-style architecture. Next, you’ll visit a different place of worship. You might think you’ve stumbled back to Britain when you arrive at the Afghan Church – an Anglican Church, built by the British to commemorate the dead of the First Afghan War. You’ll finish up with a photo stop at the Gateway of India – a 20th-century monumental arch.
Docking in Mormugao puts you a hop, skip and a jump away from some of Goa’s best bits. Within an hour’s drive, you’ve got the state capital of Panjim, the UNESCO-listed…Time in port: 08:00 - 19:00
This tour throws Goa’s history and beaches into one package. First, you’ll spend time at the small-but-mighty Goa Chitra Museum, which houses more than 4,000 artefacts. It’s split into two sections – one looks at transport, the other peers into the agricultural history of the state. You’ll find farming tools, local pottery and decorative marriage palanquins – a type of wheel-less carriage. After your history lesson, you’ll get to chill out on one of Goa’s best stretches of sand. Utorda Beach won a TripAdvisor Travellers’ Choice Award in 2018. It’s an uncrowded swathe of white sand, sprinkled with palms and a few beach shacks. You’ll have lunch at one of these laidback eateries. Then you’re free to sunbathe for an hour, before heading back to the ship.
You’ll need to keep your eyes peeled for crocodiles on this tour, as you sail along the Cumbarjua River. It’s the only place in Goa that you can see these huge reptiles in their natural habitat. And it’ll also give you a taste of traditional, tourist-free Goa. You’ll be joined in the mangroves by fishermen searching for their daily catch. The waters are brimming with fish and molluscs, which keep the crocs and riverside villages well fed. And the locals are quite happy to share, as they see the crocodiles as the guardian spirits of the community. They’re not the only wildlife you can spot, either. As you cruise along the backwaters for a few hours, there’s a good chance you’ll pass otters, flying fish and kingfisher, too.
This tour does what it says on the tin. First, you’ll make your way to Mangueshi Temple. It’s one of the prettiest of its kind in Goa, with pastel-painted walls and a dove-white tower. After your tour inside the temple, you’ll drive to the Nandanvan Spice Farm. Here, you’ll be greeted in true Goan style, with a handmade garland and some herbal tea. Once you’ve settled in, you’ll be shown around the plantation, to see how the spices are grown and find out about their uses. You’ll then get to see how they taste, as you sit down for a traditional buffet lunch. You can pile your palm leaf plate high with fried prawns, curries, rice and bread. After eating, you’ll get the chance to buy some spices in the plantation’s shop to take home with you.
Long sandy beaches are among the first things that come into focus as you cruise into Mangalore. The coastline’s brushed with footprint-free sweeps that wouldn’t look…Time in port: 08:00 - 17:00
Temples and local tastes are both on the cards on this trip. One of the region’s most-visited Hindu places of worship – the Udupi Sri Krishna Matha – is up first. Ornate columns and carvings adorn the entrance, and you’ll have a chance to check out the inside, as well. Next, you’ll head to the Gomateshwara Temple, which has been voted one of the Seven Wonders of India. Its standout feature is a 45-foot statue of ancient religious icon Bahubali, which rises up from an enclosed courtyard. For lunch, you’ll make a stop at Soans Farm. Stroll through orchards of pineapple plants, before sitting down for a traditional bite to eat. You can pick from the likes of mutton stew, coconut-sprinkled chicken and kasha halwa – a pumpkin and sugar dessert.
This trip’s like a who’s-who of Mangalore’s prettiest places of worship. The first stop, though, is a working cashew factory, where you can see the prep process that goes on behind the scenes. Next, you’ll make tracks for the Gokarnanatheshwara Temple, in the Kudroli district of Mangalore. It’s more than a century old, and the exterior’s decorated with gold statues and images of Shiva. You’ll head into the hills that surround Mangalore for the next site – the Kadri Manjunath Temple. This one’s 10 times the age of the previous stop, and some of the artefacts inside are among the oldest in southern India. Last on the agenda is the St Aloysius Chapel, on the city’s Lighthouse Hill. This baby blue structure was built by missionaries in the 1800s, and the stunning frescoed interior was the work of an Italian painter.
You’ll get a look at traditional trade and time-worn temples on this excursion, which starts with a trip to one of the region’s trademark cashew factories. While you might be used to opening a bag of them for a quick snack, this place shows you the process behind the scenes. They’re dried, steamed, cooled and separated, before being vacuum packed and canned. You’ll have a chance to buy a bag or two before you set off for your second stop, the Udupi Sri Krishna Matha. This temple’s one of the most handsome in the region, with huge columns and decorative designs covering the front. The whole place is dedicated to the Hindu god Krishna, and dates back more than 1,000 years.
This bustling spot – which is also known as Kochi – is one of India’s largest ports. It’s set in the Lake of Kochi on Willingdon Island, so the easiest way to travelto…ARRIVE IN PORT: 06:00 (DAY 14)
This half-day tour of the city will give you an idea of how years of visiting explorers and traders have made Cochin into the cultural melting pot that it is today. You’ll head to Mattancherry by coach and stop at the Dutch Palace. It’s home to Hindu murals that cover entire walls. You’ll then move on to Asia’s best preserved synagogue, which is paved with hand-painted blue-and-white porcelain tiles, before perusing the shops in Jew Town. Next, it’s on to Fort Cochin – the first European settlement in India. This region has changed hands between the Portuguese, the Dutch and the British, each of which have left their mark on the architecture. Your guide will point out the traditional Chinese fishing nets dotted along the shoreline that are still used in the Kerala backwaters today. The final stop is at St Francis Church, which was built by General Alfonso de Albuquerque in 1500. He arrived from Portugal with half a dozen ships to build the first European church in India.
This half-day trip will see you swapping cruise ship for motorboat to explore Cochin’s natural harbour, which is home to a cluster of islands connected by ferries and bridges. You’ll pass the islands of Vypeen, Gundu, Vallarpadam and Bolgatty along the way. Once you’ve disembarked at Fort Cochin, you'll be able to wander around. Here, look out for the influence of the Portuguese, the Dutch and the British – all of which have been in power in this region over the centuries. Pay a visit to St Francis Church, the first European church in India, which was built back in 1500, before moving on to check out the traditional Chinese fishing nets along the region’s waterfront. At this point, you’ll be picked up by a coach to travel to Mattancherry, where you’ll get a panoramic tour of Old Cochin. The final stops cover two of Cochin’s most important buildings. The Dutch Palace houses wall-sized Hindu murals, while the Jewish Synagogue, the best preserved building of its kind, is paved with hand-painted blue-and-white porcelain tiles.
On this full-day tour, you’ll hop on a coach and take the scenic coastal road towards the city of Alleppey. These serene waterways are fringed by palm groves and paddy fields and offer a view of traditional life – they were the main mode of transport before bridges were built between the islands. The most important town in this stretch is Alleppey, famous for its boat races, houseboats and lakes. It’s also known as the "Venice of the East", as it was here that traders came in search of black gold. You’ll board a modern version of the old rice barges, which were once used to transport goods around Kerala, for a cruise through the canals. You’ll pass green landscapes peppered with pocket-sized villages and traditional temples while you tuck into a Keralan lunch. The menu covers off local favourites, like Kerala-style chicken, vegetable and lentil curries, and fried fish. It’s finished off with ‘semiya payasam’, a southern Indian dessert of vermicelli noodles cooked in condensed milk, topped with bananas or pineapple. After lunch, you’ll disembark at Alleppey and take the coach back to Cochin.