India is a stunningly diverse country. You’ll discover craggy mountains, vast deserts, luscious rainforest and sun-kissed beaches. The culture is diverse, too; each area has its own religious rituals and customs. The same goes for the food. From the sizzling street food of Mumbai to the fresh seafood in Goa, your India cruise will be a culinary odyssey.

This is a place where the ancient and the modern collide. The country is dotted with atmospheric temple complexes, which will fascinate you more than any museum. It has a long tradition of art and handicrafts, reflected in the colourful silks and saris you can purchase. But the cities are also cosmopolitan metropolises, filled with global restaurants, hip bars, and luxury five-star hotels.

taj mahalPopular Ports in India

Mumbai

This sprawling, upbeat city has many faces. It’s the centre of the Bollywood film industry and also one of India’s fashion and finance epicentres. Hip neighbourhoods boast some of the country’s best bars and restaurants. But it also has a more traditional side, with ancient temples hidden down quiet streets, and stunning colonial architecture. There’s never a dull moment when you’re out exploring.

Visit the Gateway of India, a huge arch built as an entry gate for British passengers a century ago. This area is popular with tourists from around the world, and it’s a great spot for people-watching. Afterwards, head on down to Colaba Causeway, a popular street overflowing with stalls selling colourful clothes and artwork, and vendors serving tasty snacks.

mumbaiMormugao

One of the highlights of an India cruise is a visit to Goa’s cruise port of Mormugao, the country’s most popular tourist destination. It’s renowned for its miles of palm-tree-fringed coastline, as well as its lively nightlife. Most people visiting Goa like to go straight to the beach – there are lots of options available within a short drive of Mormugao. Head to Colva Beach, a beautiful powder-white stretch of sand fringed with palm trees. There are plenty of beach shacks where you can purchase food and drinks, and a water sports centre.

goa cow indiaBut Goa’s not just all about the beaches. History buffs will be fascinated in exploring the churches and colonial architecture of this former Portuguese colony. Mormugao is just an hour’s drive from the capital of Panjim, which has a stunning, UNESCO-designated old town. This is also a brilliant place to try traditional Goan dishes, such as fish thali (a platter of different fish dishes, prawn pickle and rice).

Cochin

Cochin is renowned for its laid-back atmosphere, and provides a welcome change of pace from the larger cities. It’s a melting pot of cultures, religions and nationalities, having been ruled by the Portuguese, Dutch and British. Visit Fort Kochi, a historic district where you’ll find St Francis, the oldest European church in India. At Fort Kochi’s beach you’ll catch sight of Cochin’s huge, iconic Chinese fishing nets suspended over the water. Fishermen have been using them for hundreds of years.

Mattancherry is another stunning district, where you’ll find an ornate palace and a synagogue. It houses a traditional Jewish area of colourfully-painted houses and cobbled streets, renowned for its markets and unique antique shops. This is a great spot to pick up some unique souvenirs.

kerala cochinWhat are the best cruise ships for an India cruise?

There’s never a dull moment in energetic India, so in between sightseeing you’ll want to have a cruise ship where you can really kick back and relax. Here are two highly recommended options.

Marella Discovery

The chic Marella Discovery scores points for its luxurious cabins and its state-of-the-art facilities. Indulge in a treatment at the spa, or relax by the pool ­– there’s both an indoor and outdoor one to choose from. If you’re feeling active, there’s a jogging track, a rock-climbing wall and a mini-golf course. There are seven restaurants to try, offering everything from gourmet show-cooking to international buffet spreads. Round off the evening enjoying a show at the outdoor cinema, Movies by Moonlight.

Celebrity Constellation

The recently refurbished Celebrity Constellation will wow you with its dramatic atrium and modern interiors. Children will enjoy playing with the new Xbox consoles at the kids’ club, leaving you to relax on a padded lounger in The Solarium, an adults’ indoor pool, complete with waterfalls. You’ll be bowled over by the choice of food on offer, too. The Ocean Liners restaurant reimagines the golden age of cruising, with flambéed lobster tail and Champagne afternoon teas, while the Pool/Mast Bar & Grill serves al-fresco light bites.

Shore Excursion Ideas

Each port in India offers lots of fascinating tours. Here are two unmissable options.

Alleppey backwater houseboat tour

The most popular excursion from Cochin is a full-day tour of Kerala’s iconic backwaters, an intricate network of canals, palm-tree-fringed lagoons and emerald paddy fields. You’ll drive to Alleppey, known as the Venice of the East, where you’ll board a traditional rice barge, converted into a tourist vessel.

Spend the day drifting lazily along the backwaters, passing traditional villages and looking out for wildlife. You’ll be served delicious Keralan food such as coconut-milk stew or freshly caught fish.

aleppey boat house tourTaste of Mumbai

If you’re attracted to India by its delicious cuisine, this is the excursion for you. Start off with a glass of sweet masala chai, tea spiced with cardamom, cloves and cinnamon, at sophisticated Gaylord Restaurant.

After that you’ll sample some of Mumbai’s most well-known street foods, including pav bhaji – buttery bread rolls dipped into spiced-tomato curry. You’ll finish up with a trip to Bachelorr’s, where you can try kulfi; an Indian ice-cream made with condensed milk.

Top ports of call in this destination

  • Mumbai
  • Cochin
  • Mormugao
  • Mangalore