Ancient Arabia, India & the Med
This cruise has now set sail.
After stepping on board Boudicca in the Sri Lankan city of Colombo, you’ll begin your memorable voyage with a relaxing day at sea as you sail to India. Three enticing Indian cities feature on your itinerary, each showcasing this remarkable country’s fascinating diversity. First up is Cochin, where you can see the famous Chinese fishing nets dotted along the city’s idyllic shores, visit the British Commonwealth’s oldest synagogue and admire fine examples of India’s European-influenced architecture. Bustling Mumbai will then present glimpses of old and new India, with its mix of centuries-old structures, impressive Hindu temples and vibrant commercial districts. The British-style buildings of the historic Colaba quarter and the grand Victoria Railway Terminus are well worth a visit; while you could also opt to take in the unique Dhobi Ghat laundry district and Dadar Flower Market during your overnight stay. Be on the lookout for the dabbawallas at lunchtime too. Your final Indian call is the spiritual city of Porbandar, birthplace of Gandhi – the ‘Father of India – and Sudama, devotee of Lord Krishna. [ReadMore]
In Arabia, a day of high-end shopping and sightseeing in Dubai – home of the Burj Khalifa, the world’s tallest building – is highly recommended, before Boudicca takes you on an enlightening exploration of Oman. Your day in Khasab could be spent venturing into the beautiful Musandam Fjords via traditional Dhow Boat; while in Muscat you can marvel at the magnificent modern Arabic architecture of the Sultan Qaboos Grand Mosque and Qasr Al Alam Royal Palace. Alternatively you could tour from the Omani capital to the pre-Islamic Nakhal Fort, or the ancient city of Nizwa. The Lost City of Ubar, which is celebrated in the Qur’an, will await your discovery from Salalah too before you sail onwards to Aqaba, Jordan for the chance to explore the Lost City of Petra – one of the Seven Wonders of the Modern World. Don’t miss the chance to discover the huge tombs and temples carved into sandstone over 2,000 years ago. In Egypt, memorable scenic cruising along the Suez Canal is sandwiched between an overnight stay in Safaga, gateway to the remarkable Valley of the Kings; and a call into Alexandria, for tours to the Pyramids of Giza – the world’s oldest ancient wonder. As if all that wasn’t enough, you’ll also visit Malta and sail Valletta’s Grand Harbour into the walled capital city; and sail to Spain, stopping at the beautiful island of Mallorca and pretty Cádiz.
Colombo, Sri LankaJan 10 | Depart - late night
The port city of Colombo is rich with colonial heritage, religions, races and cultures. With a population of over 4.5 million people, Colombo is a bustling, fascinating and noisy city. It combines Dutch and British colonial buildings, with Buddhist temples, Islamic mosques, Christian churches, and modern gleaming skyscrapers. The impressive Colombo National Museum, dedicated to Sri Lankan history, is worth uncovering and it borders the sprawling Viharamahadevi Park, home to a giant Buddha.
The narrow cobbled streets of Pettah, the main bazaar district, are full of shops and street markets selling an amazing array of goods at bargain prices. There are plenty of places to eat, from small shops selling pancakes to coffee shops and upmarket restaurants.
A more rustic, slow-paced Sri Lankan experience can be found in nearby Negombo, with its quaint village streets and lively fish market. Alternatively, sun seekers can venture to the private beach of Mt. Lavinia, located on the breath-taking Golden Mile beachfront.
Kochi, IndiaJan 12 | Arrive - early morning | Depart - late afternoon
Known as the Queen of the Arabian Sea, serene Kochi on India’s south-western coast has been drawing traders, explorers and travellers to its shores for over 600 years.
Formerly the port of Cochin, Kochi grew to prominence as an outlet for the spice trade in the 14th century, and is most famous for the iconic-cantilevered Chinese fishing nets that billow out across its harbour. This ancient trading centre is a melting pot of cultures and religions, evident in the town’s buildings, which range from the oldest synagogue in the British Commonwealth to the austere Mattancherry Palace, built by the Dutch but influenced by the Portuguese.
Mumbai, IndiaJan 14 - 15 | Arrive - late morning | Depart - early morning
Once a cluster of seven islands covered with coconut palms, Mumbai, formerly Bombay, is a sprawling, vibrant city on India’s west coast. It is a busy, densely-populated city, home to India’s most prolific film industry, Bollywood, and the largest tropical forest in an urban zone.
Mumbai can prove to be a surprising introduction to India. On its harbour waterfront stands the iconic Gateway of India stone arch; through it is India’s centre for finance and fashion, and a fervent religious crossroads. As such the city’s furious energy – and often heavy air pollution – can make it a totally different experience for visitors.
But once in Mumbai’s heart, some of the most imposing colonial-era architecture on earth is on view, as are its secret bazaars, hidden temples, and India’s top restaurants and intense nightlife.
The cultural mix is extraordinary: religious sites like the Jain Temple and the closely guarded Parsi Towers of Silence all exist happily next to the Victoria Railway Terminus, the Royal Bombay Yacht Club and the Ghandi Memorial Museum. The unique and popular bazaars offer souvenir trinkets, traditional shawls and shoes all ready to be bartered over.
Venturing beyond Mumbai, the elusive and lesser known Elephanta Caves are captivating. Set in attractive surroundings of lush green vegetation, vines and towering trees, Elephanta Island offers a stark contrast from the bustling inner city of Mumbai. The eerie Buddhist and Hindu caves, and their honeycomb of halls, shrines and pillars, are a must-see.
Porbandar, IndiaJan 16 | Arrive - early morning | Depart - early evening
Porbandar, a coastal city in the Indian state of Gujarat, is the birthplace of the ‘Father of India’ and the loyal friend and devotee of Lord Krishna, Sudama. As a result, Porbandar is of great religious and spiritual importance, and a place of pilgrimage for Hindus across the world.
Porbandar’s fascinating history dates back to the Harappan age (1600-1400BC). Its ancient port served as a vital trade link to Arabia and countries in the Persian Gulf, and had close ties to some of India’s great religious and spiritual figures.
Best known as the birthplace of Mahatma Gandhi and Sudama, Hindus make the pilgrimage to visit various dedicated temples and museums. The must-see Kirti Mandir, a memorial dedicated to Gandhi, is on the site where ancestral properties of the Gandhi family once were, and contains various pictures and paintings depicting the life and influence of Mahatma.
The Krishna Sudama Temple, dedicated to the friendship between Lord Krishna and Sudama, is another of Porbandar’s unmissable attractions, while the beautiful temple of Sir Hari is well worth a visit too.
Dubai, United Arab EmiratesJan 19 | Arrive - early morning | Depart - late evening
To the south of the Arabian Peninsula, Dubai uniquely blends traditional Arabia with the lure of an ultramodern city. The emirate is a relatively new tourist destination that has gained popularity through its luxury shopping and stunning architecture. It is a world of sharp contrasts: from the contemporary malls, hotels and theme parks to the historic culture of Dubai’s Shindagha and Bastakiya districts.
Experience the soaring Burj Khalifa Tower, the world’s tallest building, visit the man-made Atlantis Palm Island or take a drive through the Arabian Desert, where the sand dunes display a spectacular sight at sunrise. The beaches stretch as far as the eye can see – the water sports on Kite Beach are a particular attraction – and limitless culinary delights await in award-winning Michelin star restaurants. The city is alive 24/7, and the nightlife is famously upbeat. Some tranquillity, however, can be found at the Al-Mamzar Park.
Dynamic Dubai is constantly developing and evolving, including what can be picked up in the traditional Souks. From the usual spices and delicious local treats to more extravagant items including gold, silver, precious stones and perfumes, the atmospheric lanes of old Dubai are piled high with aromatic and glittering surprises.
Khasab, OmanJan 20 | Arrive - early morning | Depart - early afternoon
The small, yet energetic Omani city of Khasab is a melting pot of sights, from charming old souks and historic castles, to bustling modern markets and a lively harbour. It’s also the gateway to the stunning waterways and islands of the Musandam fjords – The Norway of Arabia. From Khasab Harbour, traditional Dhow boats enter these stunning fjords that form part of the Strait of Hormuz, and offer rugged coastal views and dolphin sightings. Past mountain villages lies Jabal Hareem Peak – Musandam’s highest point – which is known for its marine fossils.
There are plenty of highlights to discover in the capital of the Musandam peninsula. The Portuguese-built, stone-turreted Khasab Fort was the former home of the Wali of Khasab and is now a museum with model boats, handicrafts and archaeological finds. Within the heart of the city, two very distinct areas – the Old and New Souk Areas – demand discovery.
The Old Souk is where you’ll find traditional markets resounding to a mix of languages such as Kumzari. The New Souk has a more modern feel. LuLu Market is the largest supermarket in Musandam and enjoys all the hustle and bustle of Arabian life. Given piracy has been a tradition in these parts for well over 200 years, a visit to the harbour to see Iranian traders come and go with semi-illicit goods in their jet boats is well worth a look.
Muscat, OmanJan 21 | Arrive - early morning | Depart - late afternoon
Muscat, Oman’s port capital, offers plenty of history, an air of tradition, and a distinctly exotic location, all crammed between the mountains, the sea – laden with fauna-rich lagoons – and the desert.
With history dating back to ancient times, Muscat mixes modern architecture and fashionable shopping malls with souks, Royal Palaces and landmarks like its 16th century Portuguese forts, Al Jalali and Mirani that keep watch over the harbour.
The ornate marble-clad Sultan Qaboos Grand Mosque, with its 50m dome, can accommodate 20,000 people. This most modern of Islamic buildings is also home to the world’s second largest hand-woven carpet, which took four years to thread and is made from various vibrant vegetable dyes.
The opening of the Royal Opera House in 2011, and the splendid National Museum which opened six years later, offer additional culture highlights that give the city a personality all of its own.
Salalah, OmanJan 23 | Arrive - early morning | Depart - early evening
Capital of Oman’s southern region, Salalah, known as the ‘perfume city of Arabia’, is famous for its trade in frankincense, banana plantations, Arabian Sea beaches and waters teeming with sea life. An annual monsoon, The Khareef, transforms the desert terrain into a lush, green landscape and the seasonal waterfalls it creates is a magical sight.
The city’s must-see sights include the eye-catching Sultan Qaboos Palace and the Al-Husn Souk, which is a large outdoor market with dozens of shops and stalls selling gold and silver products, incense, perfumes and frankincense resin. The Frankincense Land Museum, part of the Al Balid Archaeological Site, recounts the city’s maritime history and its role in the spice trade.
There is another market – the Haffa Souk, in the old city. This is the place to buy local hand-made wood and leather products as well as more frankincense resin.
Aqaba, JordanJan 28 - 29 | Arrive - early afternoon | Depart - early evening
Inhabited since 4000BC, Aqaba is the Jordanian port city on the Red Sea's Gulf of Aqaba, and gateway to the world-famous stone-city of Petra. The Lost City of Petra is the impressive archaeological site carved from the sandstone hills more than 2,000 years ago, and is one of the Seven Wonders of the Modern World. Its breath-taking tombs and ruins remained hidden to the world until their rediscovery in 1812 by a Swiss explorer.
The seaport of Aqaba has been strategically important for traders for centuries. The Crusaders built a fortress here, which was rebuilt by the Mamlukes in the 16th century, and it remains one of the town’s most important landmarks. The Aqaba Archaeological Museum houses Rashidun, Umayyad, Abbasid and Fatimid artefacts, an unearthed treasures from the ancient city of Aila, are also within its walls.
The small town of Aqaba itself has a relaxed vibe, and is a regular stopover for visitors heading to the diving and snorkelling clubs of the Yamanieh coral reef.
Safaga, EgyptJan 30 - 31 | Arrive - early morning | Depart - late night
The Egyptian town of Safaga on the Red Sea offers crystal-clear waters and black-sand beaches that are popular with divers, windsurfers and sun worshippers. For a glimpse into Egypt’s ancient past, the majestic temples of Luxor and Karnak, and the historic Valley of the Kings, are in easy reach.
Safaga’s clear serene waters hypnotise with its multitude of tuna, sharks and manta rays often seen around the towering reefs of Abu Qifan. The sea here is very saline, rich in minerals and is said to have curative properties.
Safaga is the popular gateway for exploration of the Eastern Desert and the granite quarries of Mons Claudianus. The network of tombs at the captivating Valley of the Kings, and all the mystique of the Pharaohs, await on tours from this sultry port.
Cruising the Suez Canal, EgyptFeb 01 | Arrive - early morning | Depart - late night
The Canal crosses the Isthmus of Suez dividing the Mediterranean from the Red Sea, and is one of the world’s most impressive man made waterways, 101 miles in length. Opened in 1869 it remains one of the world’s busiest shipping lanes.
Alexandria, EgyptFeb 02 | Arrive - early morning | Depart - late night
The magnificent Egyptian city of Alexandria is home to the site of the great Pharos Lighthouse – one of the Seven Wonders of the Ancient World. Alexandria’s Roman amphitheatre, ancient storied library and catacombs recall distant glories of this great Hellenic city, while the 19th century Montazah Palace Gardens and seafront boulevards reflect a more recent era.
Founded by Alexander the Great, Alexandria is a sparkling gem on the Mediterranean coastline. The birthplace of Cleopatra VII, the city is the cultural hub of the region, and gateway to the Giza pyramids and the River Nile. A short venture along the coast will uncover the fortress Citadel of Qaitbay teetering on the coast.
This sultry, bustling city has both ancient and modern history intertwined in every street. French-style parks and the occasional French street sign have survived as part of Napoleon’s legacy, and, as one of Alexandria's many conquerors, Greek restaurants and cafés still dominate the cultural scene.
Valletta, MaltaFeb 05 | Arrive - early morning | Depart - late afternoon
Malta’s 16th century walled capital of Valletta, with its Grand Harbour, is a treasure-chest bristling with Baroque architecture. This most scenic of ancient ports echoes the epic, heroic history of the tiny island it nestles on. Centuries of invasion and siege have brought the influence of Romans, Phoenicians, Greeks, Arabs, Normans, Crusaders and the British – all leaving an enduring mark on Valletta’s cultural heritage. Home to The Knights of Malta, an order created in the Middle Ages, the town is known for museums, palaces and grand churches.
Baroque landmarks include the ornate St. John’s Co-Cathedral; its opulent interior is crowned by Caravaggio’s masterpiece "The Beheading of Saint John". Other noteworthy attractions include the National Museum of Archaeology, the 16th century Casa Rocca Piccola Palace and the military artefacts in the National War Museum.
The cityscape is probably one of the most stunning in the Mediterranean – the city’s sun-drenched stone walls have an almost permanent warm, honey hue, while colourful, decorative balconies overlook the worn and tethered streets below. Fine restaurants and shops leap out from side streets or are tucked away in charming courtyards.
Valletta is also well-situated to discover the silent city of Mdina, a fortified city in the Northern Region of Malta and home to the Roman burial complex of St. Paul’s Catacombs.
Palma, SpainFeb 07 | Arrive - early morning | Depart - early evening
With its array of bars & restaurants, stylish shops, palm-lined beaches and charming Old Town, Palma – Mallorca’s cosmopolitan capital, is one of the Balearic’s finest destinations. Surrounded by vast mountains and crystal clear waters, it is also one of the most beautiful.
An historic city, Palma’s most popular attractions include the impressive Santa María Cathedral, a Gothic landmark begun in the 13th century that overlooks the Bay of Palma. The adjacent Almudaina is a Moorish-style Arab fortress converted to a royal residence, and on a hilltop west of the city, the magnificent 14th century Bellver Castle boasts stunning circular architecture and exhibits that uncover Palma’s vast history.
With charming narrow streets, large squares and 18th century stone walls, the Old Town district is a joy to explore. Half of the island's population dwells in Palma, and its lively, all-year-round atmosphere centres on luxury hotels, trendy restaurants, cafes, shops and nightlife, alongside a thriving art scene.
Cádiz, SpainFeb 09 | Arrive - early morning | Depart - early evening
Cadiz, one of Europe's most ancient cities, hugs Andalusia’s sunlit Atlantic coast and is characterised by palm trees, lookout towers and weathered old buildings. Now into its fourth millennium, Cádiz's fascinating Old Town district features huge stone walls from the 1500s and is home to a wealth of historic highlights, including the beautifully crafted 18th century Cádiz Cathedral.
Boasting over 100 watchtowers, including the iconic Torre Tavira, traditionally used for spotting ships; traditional tapas bars serving delicious traditional cuisine and local seafood; and fascinating maritime history; Cádiz offers a plethora of authentic sights and experiences. The winding streets assume the feel of a carnival, packed-out with friendly locals and humming to the sounds of upbeat alegrías (flamenco songs).
Cádiz is also the gateway to the stunning city of Seville, with its maze of courtyards, atmosphere old quarters and ornate churches and cathedrals.
Dover, EnglandFeb 13 | Arrive - early morning
Home of the famous White Cliffs, Dover is one of England's most iconic towns. Located on the south-east coast of England just 21 miles across the English Channel from France, Dover – home of the world's busiest passenger port – is the first sight for many visitors arriving from around the world.
This historic town is much more than a gateway to Britain, and offers much to discover, including the 12th century Dover Castle – which overlooks the pretty harbour and houses the extensive Secret Wartime Tunnels – Archcliffe Fort, and the Western Heights, where a series of coastal defences and unspoilt nature reserves await exploration.