Lakshadweep islands, comprising 36 atolls, islets and islands, is the smallest union territory In India. Lakshadweep means a thousand islands. Located 220 km away from Kerala's coast, a cruise to Lakshadweep has always been not only a mere means of transport but a vacation in itself. Out of the 36 islands, only ten are inhabited. The cruise takes you to the islands in the day for fun activities and the nights are spent on board.
Following is a list of various cruises run by the government and private agencies to Lakshadweep islands:
1. Government run Cruises available from Cochin
Minicoy is a famous tuna fishing centre of Lakshadweep. This crescent-shaped island is the second largest in the archipelago. Minicoy comprises two islands and is the southernmost island of the group. The cruise is for four to five nights here on the cruise package. There are two kinds of rooms available, the Gold class which is four sharing and Diamond class which is twin sharing. The cruise takes 14 to 20 hours. The most important passenger ships connecting Kochi with Minicoy are MV Lakshadweep Sea and MV Arabian Sea.
The Lakshadweep Samudram is a five-day cruise to the islands of Kavaratti, Kalpeni, and Minicoy. The cruise has 150 Diamond class accommodations. It runs from September to May only for 14 to 16 hours. It offers first-class air-conditioned accommodation with three meals a day. The travellers can go angling, swimming, scuba diving and snorkelling. It even has entertaining performances of folk dance and shows.
Moreover, it covers the Tuna Canning Factory and the 1885-built lighthouse in Minicoy and the Museum, Marine Aquarium and various mosques in Kavaratti. The island tour is organised in the day and the night is spent on board of. Overall, this cruise offers you a very enriching experience. This cruise is open only to Indian citizens.
The following ships have the Samudram package:
1. MV Kavaratti
MV Kavaratti accommodates 700 passengers in its 150 berths, two in each room apart from 200 tonnes of cargo. Nights are spent on board. It has some fun activities on board like dances, entertainment shows, adventure sports, etc. It films a documentary on the history of the islands to educate people about the flora, fauna and the culture.
2. MV Bharat Seema
This big white ship takes tourists to the island of Agatti from Cochin where they can stay at the Agatti island resort. The ship offers both four and two berth facilities. The decks are open to passengers. The passengers can relax in the entertainment halls and have food at the restaurants inside. The ship can carry 500 passengers. One can visit further islands by smaller boats.
3. Lakshadweep Sea Ship Lakshadweep Sea takes tourists to Kadmat Island on the Marine Wealth Awareness Package. Days are spent on the shore; nights are spent on board. Apart from excursions, there are activities like boating, diving and reef snorkelling.
4. Arabian Sea Ship
This ship takes you to the islands of Lakshadweep through the Arabian Sea. It includes a five-day coral reef package cruise to visit the islands of Minicoy, Kadmat, Kavaratti, and Kalpeni. Apart from meals and refreshments, diving, snorkelling, swimming and entertainment programmes are a part of the package.
5. MV Tipu Sultan
MV Tipu Sultan was launched in 1988 by the Society for Promotion of Nature Tourism and Sports. It has a capacity of 650 passengers. Air-conditioned, non-air-conditioned, two berths, four berths, deluxe and tourist class packages are available. To keep you entertained throughout the journey, there are entertainment lounges, Snack bars and cafeteria and videos.
6. MV Amindivi MV Amindivi is the first all-weather ship introduced in 1974 to the Lakshadweep islands. Tourists can undertake excursions on the island in the day.
2. Luxury Cruise available from Cochin
Amet Cruise Majesty
One of the best cruise packages in the world, this nine-deck cruise ship provides five-star luxuries to its passengers. Unlike Samudaram, this cruise is open to international passengers as well. With a crew of 200 people, this cruise has facilities like casinos, badminton courts, restaurants, pubs, bars, sea-facing rooms, pools, spa and more. It carries 700 people in its 250 cabins of up to triple and quadruple occupancy. People can also opt for spa and premium suites or basic stag rooms. The restaurants serve Indian and international cuisine along with wine and fancy cocktails. The conference halls can be used by guests for parties, meetings and wedding receptions. There are spa and massage packages along with bars, discos, dancefloors and live performances.
The Cochin to Lakshadweep package includes activities like Scuba diving, reef and lagoon snorkelling, kayaking, glass-bottom boat and banana boat rides and village visits. Shore excursions cost extra fare.
3. Private Cruise
Along with government-run cruise, there are some privately run cruises that sail to Lakshadweep from ports of Mumbai and Goa. However, their number is declining rapidly in recent times. Most of them are unavailable by now. The popular past cruises to Lakshadweep were the Super Star Libra and the MS Ocean Odyssey.
The number of islands covered depends on which cruise you choose. The popular islands that these cruises usually cover are Bangaram, Minicoy, Kavaratti, Kalpeni, Agatti, and Kadmat.
The costs vary widely depending on the type of room, destinations covered, the number of days and the type of cruise you opt for. A five days/four-nights first-class accommodation for a cruise like Samudram costs approximately INR 30,000 for an adult, exclusive of taxes. This includes both transportation and tour charges.
Entry Permit to Lakshadweep
To Travel to the island, you will need an official permit from the administrator of Lakshadweep. The permit is different for Indians an foreigners, while Indians are free to roam around, foreigners who have a valid passport to visit India can only visit the islands of Agatti, Kadmat and the International Tourist resort of Bangaram. The easiest way to get the permit is to consult a travel agent with a reasonable charge, who will take care of all the procedures with each of your travel documents.
Some of the authorized travel agents listed down by the Lakshadweep Tourism website can be viewed via this link However, there is another way you can get your permit without the help of a Travel Agent.
This link can be scanned and printed or downloaded as an e-permit to Lakshadweep which needs to be filed judiciously and submitted to the Administrator of Lakshadweep Office in Willington Island, Kochi.
Note: You need to list down the name of 2 people you are acquainted with from the mainland.
Application Fee: The cost of an application is INR 50, which can be submitted to the Office of the Administrator by cash. You need to submit the Application form to the nearest Station house officer or administration office within 24 hours of arrival. On departure, the permit needs to be handed over to the administrator of Kochi.
Carry these documents while going to visit the Office of the Administrator:
A self-attested ID of each traveller
An original ID proof with the applicant's signature
An additional ID proof
3-4 passport sized photographs
However, on a safer side, it is best to consult a travel agent before the travel as the rules mentioned above are subject to change.
Best Time to Cruise
The best time to take a Lakshadweep cruise is from October to May. Cruises usually begin in September. There is a 10% price hike in the month of December. Mid-May to September is the monsoon period which should be avoided.
Plucking corals is a punishable offence.
Only BSNL has phone coverage on the islands.
Narcotic drugs are prohibited.
Avoid using plastics and littering.
Plucking coconuts is a theft.
Nude swimming and sunbathing are prohibited.
Do not go out of your island lagoon without an escort as it may be risky.
A cruise to Lakshadweep will surely be a rewarding and memorable adventure. It is not just about the destination but the journey itself.