So deciding how to explore various calls and planning your time ashore is crucial, and a little time invested before you travel goes a long way to helping make the most of a trip. Having just returned from a superb cruise across the Indian Ocean on board Silversea's intimate Silver Cloud, a sailing with an eclectic mix of towns, cities and beaches, we were thankful we gave this careful consideration.
Our first foray ashore was in the historic trading port of Cochin. Having visited India before we were happy to strike out on our own so, after agreeing a set fare with one of the local taxi drivers waiting by the ship, we headed into town to see the famous Chinese fishing nets in the old town area and a handful of other sights.
A morning exploring independently had worked for us, but for our second call in India, Mumbai, we wanted to see as much as possible so had pre-arranged a private tour. The day zipping round the city at our own pace was superb and when asked on our return "How was your holiday?" the answer invariably contained "Mumbai was fantastic" within the first few seconds.
We visited India Gate, the Taj Hotel, temples of various faiths, a museum dedicated to the life of Gandhi, street markets and even a cow sanctuary. All with an expert on hand to answer our questions and, over a superb lunch in one of Mumbai's best restaurants (a local Bollywood film producer was on the next table) we chatted about life in India. There were no forced shopping stops, no struggle with communication and no hidden extras, a welcome contrast to the grumpy taxi driver in Cochin!
Arriving in Muscat, our top priority was to visit the Grand Mosque, so we joined one of Silversea's group tours. It included time at the huge Mosque, the highlight of which was the beautifully ornate main prayer hall. An enthusiastic and good natured guide explained the various architectural features and their significance as well as the religious rituals. The tour also included a stop at one of the Sultan of Oman's official palaces, time at the city's heritage museum and an opportunity to browse the souk for souvenirs.
In Dubai we had originally planned to go for afternoon tea at the Burj Al Arab independently but, as Silversea had a group tour which included this at a more reasonable price, we opted for this and were not disappointed. In our final call in Abu Dhabi we simply took advantage of the complimentary shuttle, a service Silversea offer in most ports, to visit the Marina Mall which has views across the city.
Our cruise was superb and we enjoyed the varied experience of every stop. There is no 'one size fits all' approach to planning your time ashore. It depends on your individual interests and preferences, but when choosing your next trip do consider where you might explore independently, take a group excursion or arrange a private tour, and for advice and help with any of the arrangements, just give us a call!