AT school in a history lesson, I learned of the exploits of Vasco da Gama, the first European to discover India; at the time, I dreamed of visiting this fascinating country.

This dream became a reality thanks to the Authentic India experience offered by Fred. Olsen Cruise Lines. What’s more, it also included a stay in Sri Lanka, where I spent time many years ago.

We boarded the good ship Boudicca in Mumbai. Our first excursion sounded intriguing, entitled ‘Delivery with the Dabbawalla’. A Dabbawalla is a lunchbox delivery man taking freshly cooked individual meals to office workers throughout the city.

The tour began with a drive taking in the highlights, including Colonial, Indian and Art Deco buildings, stopping at Dhobi Ghat, the open air laundry, the largest in India, which has over 750 workers washing by hand.

Time to join the Dabbawalla, we boarded a train at Mahalakshmi station and met our man in the luggage carriage. The journey to Churchgate Station took 15 minutes, during which we interacted with him. He told us he was one of 5,000 who deliver individually cooked meals in lunch boxes before 12.30pm each work day. In total, there are over 200,000 daily deliveries.

We accompanied our Dabbawalla on his deliveries; I donned a white Gandhi hat and helped to carry his lunch boxes, he then made me an adopted Dabbawalla! He told us that he only delivered one wrong box to a lady, she is now his wife!

Thrills of the day continued, as we gazed at the Gateway of India, an imposing monument completed in 1924, commemorating the visit of King George V. Next to it and in contrast is the elegant Taj Mahal Hotel. Our first-day sights of India were mesmerizing.

We sailed into Goa to the sights and sounds from traditional musicians and dancers. Our excursion to Old Goa took us through tropical countryside, stopping at the Basilica of Bom Jesus, a UNESCO World Heritage site, where St. Francis Xavier’s relics can be seen. Then we meandered through the quaint Latin Quarter, admiring individually designed Portuguese houses dating back over 200 years. Our day ended in the small town of Panjim, where there was an array of silk clothing to be bought at bargain prices; my wife indulged and, to my relief, I was left with little damage to my wallet! T

The following day, we boarded an Indian-style motor boat to begin our next adventure – crocodile and bird watching on the Cumbarjua Canal.

Then a drive into the hills to a spice plantation, during which we weaved our way through an abundance of trees and colourful bushes, giving off sweet smelling aromas, learning about the spices used for cooking and medication. At the end, it is tradition to have water and lavender oil poured on the back of your neck, very refreshing.

Dusk saw me in the deck Jacuzzi watching an amber sunset, then followed by evening highlights. At dinner, we chose from a mouth watering 5-course à la carte menu, then on to enjoying a variety of top evening shows.

A relaxing day at sea gave us the opportunity to enjoy Boudicca’s many amenities, and the smaller ship’s intimacy.

Again, sights and sounds of India greeted us, as we berthed in Kochi (Cochin); the drum band accompanied by dancers wearing colourful saris swayed to the rhythms.

Our trip took us to the backwaters of Alappuzha, where we transferred to an authentic houseboat, with stylish interior of teak, mahogany and polished coconut. We cruised lakes, rivers and narrow canals, passing tiny villagers, observing activities of daily life, while eating fried banana and tapioca crisps. I admired the skills of the fishermen in dugout canoes, using one hand to paddle, the other to operate their nets, a skill going back centuries.

Last stop, Colombo, Sri Lanka. I eagerly looked forward to revisiting this city after decades of absence. A scenic drive over hills and through valleys brought us to the Ingiriya Tea Plantation. It was fascinating to see how your cup of tea is made.

A great way to see Colombo is through a city tour, which highlights the sights, reflecting Colonial and Sri Lankan cultures.

Our final evening excursion took us to the Galle Face Hotel, built in 1864, a masterpiece of Victorian architecture, where I stayed on my visit years ago. We were entertained on the lawn by Kandyan dancers and musicians. The combination of music and dance routines reflected different regions throughout different eras, their national costumes and saris were dazzling. A fitting finale.


A similar cruise with Fred.Olsen Cruise Lines in 2020 will be a 14-night Authentic India fly- cruise (D2003), departing UK on February 6

Prices currently start from £1,749 pp, based on an interior twin-bedded room, subject to availability, and includes all food and entertainment on board Boudicca, return flights from the UK, port and airport taxes and transfers.

For further information visit, or call Reservations on 0800 0355 242