I do not know what they sang in Marathi, but the sari-clad women sitting just beyond the entrance to Angriya’s foredeck, called the heli-deck, provided a fitting, mellifluous soundtrack to the journey. Two seagulls circled the opalescent evening sky just above the Monkey Deck (the ship’s highest), right until the sun dipped below the horizon. Surrounded by the vast sea and its undulating waves, about 10 nautical miles away from the Konkan coastline, the southbound ship—sizeable at 131m-long, 17m wide and 7 storeys tall and super-safe with 20 life rafts and the Marine Evacuation System (MES)— smoothly made her way to Goa from Mumbai’s Victoria Docks.
The Konkan waterways have historically been special: whether for Maharashtrians and Goans, whose childhood memories aboard two passenger steamers that traversed these waters in the 1960s and 70s—Konkan Shakti and Konkan Seva—are yet to fade away; or in the age of kings, when the seafaring exploits of the first admiral of the Maratha navy, Sarkhel Kanhoji Angre (after whom the ship is named), left even European colonial fleets cowering in the 17th and 18th centuries. It was only in October 2018 that Angriya, India’s first domestic cruise liner, started plying on this route that had virtually been left unused in the past two decades. Thus began a new chapter in the region’s tryst with maritime.
Captain Nitin Dhond, who founded the company that runs the cruise, had aspired to operate a passenger vessel along the Konkan coast ever since his merchant navy days. The good news came to him from a friend who had chanced upon the perfect Japanese vessel to give sails to his dream. The executive vice chairman, Leena Kamat Prabhu, worked tirelessly towards everything that went in creating Angriya—from procurement to operation—sometimes alone in a ship among 200 male workers, sleeping in a room that could only be locked from the outside. Individuals like naturalist Nirmal Kulkarni, and the CEO, captain Anand Kumar, also hopped on board. The team’s efforts led to the introduction of a ship that allowed Indians to cruise without burning a hole in their pockets.
Angriya may not be a floating mall-cum-amusement park like many of her international contemporaries, but she guarantees a ball of a time during the 16-hour sunset-to-sunrise journey: at the back of the ship, young couples sipped martinis by the infinity pool; an old man— consider him an ‘old sea-dog’—downed whisky at one of the six bars; a group of corporates shook a leg to the DJ’s beats at the Fathom Lounge. Some passengers headed to the Dry Dock Spa for a massage; others were immersed in Paradise Lost at Knots & Crosses, the little library. At the Coral Reef restaurant, which served the softest khari during high tea, children enjoyed the screening of an animated film. Up at the Ancora restaurant, which had a real anchor placed in its centre, people relished the chicken Chettinad for dinner. When all was experienced, I headed to my spacious family room in the lowest (underwater) deck of the ship. It lacked a porthole, but the window with artificial white light gave an impression of daylight. And the still-as-a-rock vessel assured a good night’s sleep.
At 6.45am the next morning, first light revealed a golden ocean from the heli-deck. Goa’s coastline was at the horizon, and Hanuman, the on-board naturalist, kept his eyes peeled for dolphin pods. Over breakfast, Nirmal told me about the company’s future plans. The Konkan dream will be fully realised once smaller vessels, capable of docking at some of the picturesque smaller ports along the route, are introduced by Angriya’s parent company. After all, there are 92 beaches, many coastal villages and forts along the 500 kilometre stretch. Other than that, since there’s no signal for most of the journey, the ship will soon have an offline app to act as a guide-cum-navigator. There are also efforts to make the ship more disabled-friendly.
After I disembarked at the Mormugao terminal, Angriya was being repositioned for the return journey. When it was finally anchors aweigh, Leena requested that we stay by the dock till the vessel was out of our sight. The first lady of the ship must have seen the view a hundred times, but just like a mother seeing off her child to school, she could never tire of it. This way, Angriya carries many a heart on its hull. And she’s here to make the Konkan coast her own.
Pick among the Mumbai–Goa (Monday, Wednesday and Friday) and the Goa–Mumbai (Tuesday, Thursday and Sunday) routes. Angriya always departs at 4pm and arrives by 9am the next morning. She doesn’t operate in the monsoons. As for the rooms, there are plenty of categories including family, couple, buddy (four-sharing), pod (up to 2 adults) and dorm (up to 18 adults). I recommend the rooms with windows on the upper decks. Tariffs range from INR 4,300 to INR 7,650 per person, meals at INR 2,000 per adult and INR 1,000 per child. (angriyacruises.com)