Saturday, 7 July 2018

Santa Monica sunset Cruise conducted by GTDC

Santa Monica sunset Cruise conducted by GTDC
Yesterday, while I was leisurely researching for my upcoming motorcycle trip, few negative reviews on Santa Monica cruise which is run by Goa Tourism Development Corporation did grab my mental balls. After wasting some time on those unhappy feedback I realised that injudicious criticism is a favourite pastime for many tourists. You’ll be disappointed to find that a lot of consumers voice their opinions on a travel service solely based on their expectations. They tend to forget the cost associated with it, as if the concept of “value for money” was alien to them. It is to be understood that when you publish an online review it plays a pivotal role in decision making for many future travellers. In a more artistic sense, your every feedback creates a ripple in the travel community worldwide. So, if you are not sure about what you’re going to throw, at least refrain from peeing onto the pond. The enchanting aura of Goa formed by its myriad uniqueness and few myths captivates travel fantasy of every travel enthusiast at various stages of his life, in surprisingly different ways. Among many fascinating things to try in north Goa, one can checkout the musical evening cruise over River Mandovi. Just a minute, this article doesn’t intend to promote the cruise service of GTDC.

Santa Monica sunset Cruise conducted by GTDC
While the cultural show was yet to start tourists kept enjoying the river view from the top deck.
I had got an opportunity to experience this Santa Monica sunset cruise in my Goa trekking trip almost five years ago. I was satisfied back then. Well, I have no idea how GTDC is presently conducting the cruise service. Here I’ll share a page from my 2013 travel diary. Consider it as a travel tale, because this is strictly not a review. Goa packs so much life, music, and spirit of carnival in its just three letters that our imagination refuses to break the stereotype- A tanned man with ruffled hair, silvery earrings, completely oblivious of the chaotic world, wet with the evaporating vapours of country liquor, playing guitar on some pristine beach while the sun conveniently slips down the horizon. It was my first visit to Goa, and I was already feeling no less important than a seasoned wine taster. After reporting in the YHAI base camp near the Miramar Beach at Panjim, the entire day was waiting to be productively utilised. I had teamed up with a fellow trekker and hired a scooter to explore the monuments of Old Goa.

Santa Monica sunset Cruise conducted by GTDC
The setting sun left its crimson warmth over Panjim and Mandovi.
As the clock touched the fading tail of afternoon we concluded our Old Goa ecstasy ride. Two tickets for the sunset river cruise were idling in my pocket which were purchased in the morning itself to seal our evening sail. There were three booking options at Santa Monica Jetty- Sunset Cruise, Sundown Cruise and Dinner Cruise. Dinner cruise seemed most inviting as the pass included a dinner on board, but there was an added headache of reporting back at camping ground before it got too late. Sunset cruise was our safest bet. As we rode back to Panjim and reached the jetty area, we were unpleasantly surprised by the thick crowd formed by tourists. Tickets gave no other lead than making us integral part of one of those four long queues. The humidity in the Goan air and expired warmth of so many excited souls made me sweat like a hippo. Eventually in half an hour long lines got cleared and we were pushed successfully onto the deck of Paradise Cruise. It was a double decked spacious motorised vessel with DJ on board. 

Santa Monica sunset Cruise conducted by GTDC
One of those floating casinos in Goa, popular among tourists with an itch to indulge.
The bottom deck hosted a snacks parlor and the upper deck was reserved for organising the dance show. There was a proactive (and, too loud for my taste) DJ stationed at one corner of the stage to anchor the cultural evening. Nothing much is actually needed when you have the mystic river breeze to cuddle with your cheeks and a variegated sunset sky to pacify your soul. Having secured a seat by the edge, I kept staring at the purplish orange silhouette of the mainland Goa like an amazed child. Ouch, after few happy clicks my camera battery ran out of juice and the phone camera was the only available helpline. Low light photography is no strong suit for any smart phone camera. Back then, my Lumia 520 still played her best and helped me document the cruise experience. Photos came grainy, videos blurry, but something is always better than nothing, especially when you are travelling. The DJ left no means to engage his audience. Ladies, gents and kids were called up stage on separate occasions to tap feet on trending Bollywood tracks. 

Santa Monica sunset Cruise conducted by GTDC
The proactive DJ of our Paradise Cruise left no means to engage his audience.
There were moments for couples as well. When a husband sitting in front of me rejected his wife to join her on stage during the couple salsa, her “see you in court” expression made me real curious what the poor chap shall have to go through after they return to hotel that night! I know it’s not very decent to poke our nose in others’ private affairs. Technically I was merely being imaginative. While the live music and dance were on full swing, our Paradise Cruise gently sailed along Mandovi, passing several old colonial buildings interspersed with scenic promenades, few floating casinos and luxury cruise ships, till the sky got completely dark, allowing us to spot those dots and blotches of light over the distant Miramar Beach. Organisers presented us with four styles of folk dance. It is tough to judge whether it’s the influence of history or the superiority of their dance steps, the Portuguese dance fascinated me the most. As my seat was quite far from the stage it was difficult to capture clear videos. 

There was a dedicated bar in our vessel to add that extra zing to the evening float. Now the question returns- would I recommend you to experience this Santa Monica river cruise? Yes. The most obvious reason is bang for your buck proposition. It’ll be more meaningful to mention who should ditch the idea of sailing on Santa Monica cruise. It’s not for you if you are a private person, luxury traveller, or a nagging tourist. Even if you got a single day at Panjim, you can still end your day dining on a floating deck by booking a Dinner Cruise ticket from either the jetty counter or the GTDC online portal. A lone wolf who chooses tranquillity over exuberance can always skip the cruise plan, plug in earphones to savour Bob Dylan and hibernate in one of those tidy pubs with old world charm with a glass of something that can be called a gentleman’s drink. Take care my friend and do bounce back when you have free time.

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