Getting visas for this mammoth cruise was remarkably straightforward. Everywhere we have visited, with the exception of Australia and India either did not require UK visitors to have a visa or granted them upon arrival. Getting a visa for Australia was gloriously straightforward (and free) the whole process being completed online within minutes.
India was the problem. First of all the Indian Government only allow tourist visa applications to be made within 6 months of travel and at just the time I needed my passport for work travel. Secondly, according to Cunard and their visa specialists, CIBT, we could not disembark at Cochin with an electronic visa and would need, instead, to apply for a full visa, the obtaining of which is time consuming and the cost, including agency fees, is about £175 each.
India is a wonderful place and we have been lucky enough to holiday there on a number of occasions. And we have visited Cochin before. It is – at best – an unremarkable place. So, before embarking in Southampton I sought from CIBT specific advice on whether or not we needed a visa if we were prepared to stay on the ship throughout our stay in Cochin. CIBT were evasive, if not dishonest, insisting that was impossible. Eventually, after a number of terse exchanges with Cunard they confirmed – in writing – what I had suspected, which was that those staying onboard would not require a visa.
In the event, it seemed very odd indeed to be in India and not to be able to disembark. But we were not alone and I would estimate that about half the passengers stayed onboard. With that number, along with hundreds of Indian day visitors, the ship seemed as busy as on any sea day.
Why Cunard choose to allow the QM2 to stop in Cochin, and only Cochin is a mystery. It would have been very easy to visit Madras before or after Colombo, and after Cochin we could have visited Goa (perfect for the many passengers onboard who were experiencing India for the first time). And yesterday we sailed past Mumbai, which we know to be an exhilarating and friendly city. The Celebrity Constellation, which has been following us from port to port, was, apparently, dropping into both Goa and Mumbai.
Deciding not to get off at Cochin has meant an extra sea day, making four between Colombo and Muscat. As usual, we’ve spent a lot of time reading on the promenade deck. I’ve walked a lot of laps as the fight to prevent any weight gain continues. We both attended a well presented and amusing musical Who Done It in the Theatre and there’ve been a couple of worthwhile things on at the Cinema (including the rather odd Phantom Thread and, somewhat predictably, Lawrence of Arabia (which would have been more appropriate on the next sector, approaching Aqaba which is central to this brilliant but very long film).
One highlight was eating with Jo, Joyce and David at the Veranda Restaurant, Cunard’s speciality French restaurant. There was a supplement of $49 each but it was first class and ran to about six courses. Jan had veal and I had some outstanding lobster:
There were some excellent desserts and a very good cheeseboard. I’m sure we shall go again.
Today (the 17th April) there was a special passenger drill to prepare us for the possibility – however remote – of an attack by pirates. As has been explained to us, and as we approach Oman, we’re entering the area which has been protected for some years now by the United Nations. Although we have not yet seen any evidence of it we know there is a UN naval task force nearby and observing our progress. The drill required us to leave the decks, including our balcony, and congregate in the hallway outside our room. Meanwhile, on the deck at the back of the ship temporary look out posts have been established and the promenade deck is locked shut at dusk for the next week or so.
Muscat in Oman tomorrow, and then two days in Dubai.