If you’re looking for a new cruise experience, consider an itinerary that includes port calls on the subcontinent of India. Ornate temples, bustling bazaars, Victorian-era museums, the smell of spices in the air – India’s ports offer all this and more.
India’s main cruise ship ports, Mumbai and Kochi, are both on the country’s Arabian Sea coast. Mumbai, formerly known as Bombay, is a massive and populous city. One of its signature sights is the Gateway of India, an ornate arch built to celebrate a visit from King George V when India was still a British colony. Across the street is the Taj Mahal Palace hotel, a prestigious and historic building where the most important visitors to India stay.
Mumbai is a center of business and is home to India’s television and movie industry, commonly known as "Bollywood.” There are museums, art galleries, an incredible mix of colonial European architecture and some great shopping. There is often a festival going on as well, celebrating an Indian tradition or a Western holiday.
A few of Mumbai’s many noteworthy temples are the Jain Temple, which has an ornate domed ceiling; the Mahalakshmi Temple, dedicated to the goddess of wealth and beauty; and the Shri Siddhivinayak Temple, dedicated to Ganesh, the elephant-headed Hindu god.
Just off the east coast of Mumbai, the Elephanta Caves are a UNESCO World Heritage site. The caves form a temple dedicated to the Hindu god Shiva. Sculptures of Hindu deities, including a 20-foot high, three-headed image of Shiva, are carved into the rock.
Near the southern tip of India, Kochi (formerly known as Cochin) has been a trading port for at least 2,000 years. It’s also the gateway to the Kerala Backwaters, a beautiful area of peaceful canals, lagoons, lakes and rivers that twist and turn around low barrier islands.
Kochi is famous for spices, and little shops along Bazaar Road on the north side of the city offer fragrant ginger, red chilies, cinnamon, turmeric and many other spices for sale.
Like Mumbai, Kochi has plenty of colonial architecture to view, as well as Vasco House, a 16th-Century structure believed to be the home of the explorer Vasco de Gama, the first European to reach India by sailing around Africa. The Santa Cruz Basilica, the Mattancherry Palace and the Paradesi Synagogue are all uniquely, ornately decorated and well worth a visit. You can also explore Fort Kochi, the first European colonial settlement in India. Be sure to watch the crews catching fish right off shore using huge Chinese fishing nets.
Other emerging ports in India include Goa, on the Arabian Sea, and Chennai (formerly known as Madras), on the Bay of Bengal.
Some cruise lines include port calls in India as part of a world cruise or a longer Asian itinerary. To find out more about how you can explore India via cruise ship, talk with Cruise Holidays.