Overview: I finally booked the Samudram package to Lakshadweep islands after a few months of planning. The bookings were open from the 1st week of Oct after monsoons. The booking process is pretty easy through the Govt website, but the tickets get filled up pretty fast. They also keep slots for waiting list in case of cancellations.
The cruise starts from Willingdon Island in Kochi, so we took an overnight train from Bangalore to Ernakulam. Kochi welcomed us with grey skies and slight drizzle. It takes around 20 mins to reach Lakshadweep Wharf from Ernakulam railway station. We need to queue up for the boarding passes at Lakshadweep Wharf. There was some chaos and confusion at the boarding pass counter, as there was only one person managing the show, and the queue was building up. The officer had to search for the boarding passes and get the papers signed. Also he had to put the T-shirts and caps into a bag and give it along with the boarding pass. After a wait of around 45 mins, we got our boarding passes, and then there was another queue for security check. Its similar to the airport, where the baggage is scanned and the passengers are frisked. The baggage has to be checked into a cargo vehicle, and is transferred to the cabins directly. A bus would be waiting at the other end, to carry the passengers towards the ship. We could see the first sight of the ship MV Kavaratti at the port in Mattancherry.
An interesting story behind MV Kavaratti is that this very vessel was used for evacuating 4000 Indians stranded in conflict hit Yemen in 2015.
Coming to the ship, it can house around 700 passengers and 200 ton cargo. Out of that, around 200 berths are reserved for tourists for the Samudram package. The tourist cabins are set up in 3rd, 4th and 5th decks, and have Diamond class (2 bunker) and Gold Class (4 bunker) cabins, and are fully air conditioned.
We were welcomed at the 3rd deck and were asked to occupy our allotted cabins, and the baggage was sent directly to our rooms. Ours was a 4 bunker room, with cupboards and a study area. The beds were clean and toilet was also spacious and clean. Towels and soaps were also provided for the guests. We took a walk around the ship and explored the area completely. The tour leader Jaffer briefed us about the package and daily itinerary in the evening.
Regular announcements are made all around the ship and also in the cabins for food timings.
The ship leaves Kochi in the afternoon on day 1, and reaches back in the morning of day 5. The transit between islands is done at night time. Overall, the experience in the ship was memorable, with well managed tour and friendly crew and the tour leader.
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