Island hopping with Fred.Olsen Cruise Lines
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Seychelles, Maldives and Andaman Islands
What a dream come true! Escaping the damp
November weather to go island hopping in paradise across the Indian Ocean. We
were sailing on board Boudicca, the smallest of Fred.Olsen’s ocean-going
liners. She had already sailed from Dover, past Spain and the Canaries, around
Africa on an incredible 168-night Grand Voyage that would continue to South
East Asia and Australia before returning home via the Suez Canal and
Mediterranean. Our two-week taster flew us into the Seychelles from where we
sailed to the Maldives, Sri Lanka and the Andaman Islands before flying back
Our base for this exciting trip was a
well-equipped Superior Ocean View cabin with picture windows, a desk and two
chairs, coffee and tea making facilities, mini fridge and bathroom with shower.
I was impressed by the cabin’s generous storage and 30 wood coat hangers!
Plenty of space for all my ‘just in case essentials’ including our own
snorkelling equipment and my footwear for every possible occasion.
Seychelles - Paradise on earth
Pinch me - am I really here? Our first
shore excursion took us to Anse Source d’Argent on La Dique, one of the world’s
most photographed beaches. With 7 Seychelles excursions to choose from the
glossy Fred.Olsen booklet, this stood out as I would also get to meet some of
the island’s delightful giant tortoises. The famous beach was relatively
peaceful when we visited, allowing us time to swim in the crystal-clear waters
and wander the soft white sands between the iconic granite boulders. The island
has a pleasant, laid back vibe that would encourage me to return for a longer
stay. But for now, the Maldives beckoned.
Maldives - Help! Our ukulele teacher is missing!
Our first glimpse of the Maldives from our
mooring point off Malé was slightly disappointing: a higgledy piggledy
collection of skyscrapers with no sign of the golden beaches and palm trees we
associate with this island nation.
We had chosen a Snorkelling Experience
from the 5 excursions available. Other options included spending the day on the
beach at one of the luxury resort islands (too much of a shock for our sun-starved
bodies), touring the islands by catamaran (John gets a bit seasick) and
exploring underwater inside a submarine (too claustrophobic!). Slipping into
the warm seas from the dive boat, I entered a magical underwater world of
brightly colored fish and intricate coral. I was immediately surrounded by a
shimmering shoal of vivid blue trigger fish. I floated along transfixed by the
ever-changing scenery in the depths beneath me, dragging my gaze away every so
often to check the boat was still in sight.
I could have stayed there all day, but it
was soon time to go. However, as the dive boat prepared to return to Boudicca,
we realised we were one short - Tony, the ship’s ukulele teacher, was missing!
We had been assured the rather large reef sharks that we’d seen circling
beneath us were harmless, but ... There was a growing sense of unease as the boat
puttered about, scouring the waters in vain. A collective wave of relief swept
over us all when we finally spotted him waving to us from another boat!
Venturing off from the group, he’d been swept away by a strong current and
fortunately hauled out by the crew.
Colombo, Sri Lanka - A quick trip
A 2-hour tour of Colombo by air-conditioned
coach had not been my first choice of excursion but both the jeep tour and tea
plantation tours had been fully booked and the city walking tour was not an
option for John with his poor mobility. The coach driver ably whisked us around
the city’s key tourist sites through streets bubbling with tuk tuks and mopeds.
Our guide was at pains to emphasise the steps the new government has put in
place to keep tourists safe, pointing out the very visible armed guards and
security measures around each hotel that had been attacked in the Easter Day
2019 terrorist incident. A quick photo stop at Independence Square where the
heat hit us like a blast furnace as we exited the cool coach, then it was back
We had merely touched the surface of this
friendly island country and this brief tour made me keen to return for a longer
Andaman and Nicobar Islands - Bambi and crocodiles
For me the highlight of the cruise was
visiting these remote and relatively unknown Indian islands, sitting in the Bay
of Bengal and closer to Burma and Thailand than India. Of the 572 islands only
9 are open to tourists and we were lucky enough to visit 3 of these. Our excursion to Netaji Subhash Chandra Bose
Deep island (formerly known as Ross Island) was definitely worth the cost of
the Indian Visa. During the British Occupation, this tiny island had been home
to a British settlement. The ruins of the Chief Commissioner’s grand colonial
house, the church, bakery, ballroom, troop barracks have since been overgrown
by vines and trees, offering photographic opportunities to rival those of
Cambodia’s Angkor Wat temples. Delightful bambi-like deer wandered up to meet
us and striped squirrels scurried through the undergrowth.
A second excursion to Swaraj Deep (formerly
known as Havelock Island) took us to Radhanagar Beach - one of the world’s top
10 beaches. Finding we had 2 hours here, rather than the expected 45 minutes, I
strolled a couple of kilometres along the pristine beach and was hoping to
paddle by some rocks. However, a sign, fortunately in English, warned “Danger -
Salt water crocodiles live here” so I quickly turned on my heel and made my way
back to the busy part of the beach. There’s safety in numbers and I’m quite a
Tourism is relatively new to these
unspoilt islands and hopefully their remote location will prevent them becoming
Phuket and the sea gypsy village
We spent the final day of our cruise on a
speedboat tour of the islands off Phuket’s Phang Nga Bay. We passed the kast
towers - iconic tall, thin limestone islands - and spotted monkeys watching us
from caves beneath gnarled stalactites. We stopped off at Koh Tau, “James Bond
island” where we queued patiently to follow other tourists along the paths to
the various photo view-points trying not to breathe in fumes from the rows of
brightly coloured boats darting in and out to deposit and collect passengers.
It was a relief to be back to sea and to
visit Ko Panyi - a 200-year-old Sea Gypsy Village built on stilts. We walked
across the village’s football pitch - a floating pontoon where every missed
kick sees players jumping into the sea to rescue the ball - and through a
covered market that was a riot of colors and aromas. Dried fish stalls stood
alongside tables selling tasty-looking snacks, clothing and souvenirs. Wizened
traders grasped our arms urging us to buy. We crept past the village school
where all the children were laying on the floor for an afternoon nap and
climbed back aboard our speedboat.
The heavens opened on our way to our Thai
lunch on the beach at Rang Yi island where, dripping wet and sheltering under
cover, I enjoyed the best Tom Kha Gai coconut soup I have ever tasted. Lunch
included a couple of bottles of Singha beer each so the rest of the day passed
in a bit of a haze!
At sea days
Our two-week cruise involved seven sail
days when the ship’s entertainment team put on an amazing array of activities
from lectures to craft, sports and singing. The Fred.Olsen’s Daily Times news
sheet left in our cabin each night listed the following day’s timetable. Most
activities were free, though some such as yoga and Pilates, incurred a small
charge. I enthusiastically signed up for Pilates, Line Dancing, Ukulele Fun and
Watercolour Painting, but had to give up line dancing as I found myself feeling
stressed running from one end of the ship to the other to be on time for class
and then sprinting sweatily into breakfast just in time to catch last orders. I
saw many of the same faces at these arty/creative/fitness activities. It seemed
that most other guests enjoyed card games, lectures, chilling on the deck, by
the pool or in one of the many lounge areas.
As part of our deal we had a table for two
booked in the Four Seasons Restaurant with waiter service every night. For us,
eating out is the highlight of any holiday and it was lovely to enjoy a
different menu of fine dining every night with tempting choices and good wine.
There are buffet restaurants for those who prefer a more casual style of eating,
but we like to be waited upon. After our dinner, we retired to our favourite
bar to listen to talented singer Jon Kelly’s gentle guitar music and popular
songs - anything from Simon and Garfunkel to George Thoroughgood. Finally, we’d
take in the show at the Neptune Lounge - where the talented entertainment crew
put on high class shows of singing, dancing, magic and comedy. My favourite
show, however, was the ‘non-entertainment’ crew’s performance of traditional
dances from their home countries and the engine room boys’ saucy song and dance
routine to the Tom Jones classic “You can leave your hat on”!
All in all, this cruise was a great way
for me to tick off several places from my wish list in the company of my
husband who, being disabled, finds it hard to cope with the type of independent
adventure travel we enjoyed when he was more mobile. Boudicca’s smaller size allows
it to moor in places larger ships cannot reach. The crew looked after us well,
meeting our every need on board and making passport controls a breeze. The
excursions were, on the whole, carefully planned and well managed to maximize
our time on shore. Our experience with Fred.Olsen provided a good introduction
to ocean cruising and a wonderful opportunity to visit Paradise on Earth.
Carole and John were guests of Fred.Olsen Cruise
At the time of writing, there is still
time to join Boudicca for parts of its return journey to the UK. I am sorely tempted
by several of their two-week cruises in January/February and March including
Singapore, Bali and Myanmar; Authentic India; or Ancient Sites of Oman, Jordan
This was our first ocean cruise - I have
two more articles to follow about tips for first ocean cruises and cruising
with a disabled partner.
Silver Travel Advisor recommends Fred.
Olsen Cruise Lines.
See alsoCruising with a disabled partner
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