The prospect of a houseboat stay on the backwaters of Kerala is hard to resist, but keeping these points in mind before you book your stay will go a long way in making your experience truly memorable.
A stay on a lavish private houseboat is a one-of-its-kind experience, and even more so if it is in God’s Own Country. It is an experience unique to the state, one that attracts tourists from around the world all year round. The number of operators providing this service is on a perpetual rise, which can throw even the most seasoned traveller in a tizzy. To make the most of this beautiful experience, keep these points in mind.
How old is your boat?
Yes, the traditional wooden houseboats floating over the calm backwaters strike quite a pretty picture, but bear in mind that the average lifespan of a houseboat is six to ten years. And while a yearly maintenance is mandatory for operators, some of them are known to cut corners. Ensuring that your tour operator is a trusted, well-known and certified one goes without saying, but do delve into the details of your boat before you hop on.
Bagging the upper deck
Pay attention to the minor details to make sure you make the most of your stay. For instance, try and book a cabin near the upper deck, which offers the best views of the backwaters, better photo ops and also more privacy. Ensure that it is well-equipped with sofas; many boats have a few chairs instead of sofas, which can make it uncomfortable to spend much time on the deck. After all, the main purpose of your trip is relaxation.
Overnight cruises are a myth
If you think an overnight cruise means that your houseboat will be manoeuvring the backwaters all night long, you’re wrong. All houseboats dock after sunset, a fact that some operators will conveniently forget to mention. Overnight cruises cost a lot more than day ones, so before you opt for one, know what you’re signing up for. That being said, a night spent on a houseboat is a memorable experience. Just imagine a peaceful night under a canopy of stars and the stunning view you’ll wake up to, in the morning after.
The cost of your houseboat stay depends upon various factors such as the condition of the boat, the services included in the package as well as the cruising route and duration. To ensure that you get your money’s worth, it is important to do your research well and go through a trusted tour operator. TUI India’s Picturesque Kerala package promises to be a fun-filled 5-nights-6-days experience that includes sightseeing at key destinations as well as a rejuvenating backwater houseboat cruise.
While the most common route is the round trip from Alleppey to Alleppey, there are other longer routes like Komarakam-Alleppey-Komarakoram and Kolam to Cochin as well. The Alleppey round trip is the most scenic one, taking you through canals and backwaters to Vembanad Lake, the longest lake in India and the surrounding villages. These are mostly day-long cruises, though you can opt for a night stay on the boat as well. If you’re really interested in spending time on the cruise, opt for the Alleppey-Alumkadavu route, which is a two-night long cruise.
All houseboats offer lunch, tea and dinner cooked on the boat. Most common is the local Kerala cuisine. In case you have any particular food preferences, it is mandatory to let the operator know in advance. Alcohol is not offered on the boats, so if you wish to drink on the cruise, don’t forget to stock up. Some boats offer the facility to cook your own food, so check with your operator before you book and inform him about the ingredients you will need. This, however, is a very limited service.
Most houseboats provide free air-conditioning at night, usually during 9:00 pm to 7:00 am, while during the day it is chargeable on a per-hour basis. Considering that during the day you will mostly be out on the deck soaking in the many sights of the beautiful backwaters, it is a rare chance that you will need air-conditioning. However, if you’re booking a cruise in off-season, when the weather can get quite muggy, this is an important consideration.