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You need visa power

You need visa power
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First Published: Thu, Feb 18 2010. 08 46 PM IST

Updated: Thu, Feb 18 2010. 08 46 PM IST
Say Gren-a (as in hey)-daa. It is not Gran-aa-daa. That’s in Spain,” I am told by local Grenadians, who are justifiably proud of their “Island of Spice”, an emerald in a pale turquoise Caribbean Sea. Life moves slowly, more naturally here, barely touched by the horrors of mass tourism.
At the Laluna hotel in Morne Rouge, recommended by every single luxury travel site and travel connoisseur, the cove is a private paradise. Early one morning, I see my first “moonset” ever. When jet lag drags me out on to the silver sands, there, shining like the final scene in Mamma Mia, is this giant orb, lending a silver touch to the waters before it slides into the sea.
On this island, with its light muscovado beaches and cinnamon-scented fields, it makes perfect sense to sit on the beach, local rum punch in hand, and watch as the sailboats of the annual Grenada Sailing Festival flutter by. The adventurer can trek to the Grand Etang National Park and see the Seven Sisters Waterfalls in St Andrews.
Apart from the delicious Italian at Laluna, sample the culinary delights at Carib Sushi, La Belle Creole, Karma Club, Rhodes Restaurant or Nutmeg Café. Shopaholics will find comfort and more at the Best Little Liquor Store (buy the Clarke’s Court Rum and the local chocolate) and the St George’s Saturday market.
Even as I sip the rum punch, I wonder that we are in Grenada at all. It was never part of the plan.
For many years now, we’ve had this dream, to see the entire continent of South America in one grand go, on a cruise. On an earlier trip with cruise company Silversea, we heard about a new ship that would do an inaugural 51-day voyage through Barbados, French Guiana, Brazil, Uruguay, Argentina, Cape Horn, the Chilean fjords, Peru, Ecuador, Costa Rica, Guatemala and end up on the Mexican Riviera in Acapulco. So finally, we did the once-in-a-lifetime thing and booked two berths on the Silver Spirit.
Paradise: Grenada is still untouched by mass tourism. Wendell Rodricks
That was the easiest part.
A trip as long and as varied as this comes with its own complications. For instance, visas. We could not apply too early since the papers would be valid for six months only. So in December we filled out forms: I had valid US, EU and UK visas in my passport, but as an Indian, I still needed seven more visas—for Brazil, Argentina, Chile, Peru, Uruguay, Mexico and Barbados.
Along the way, we discovered that Barbados has no representative in India. “Ask for a visa in Singapore,” someone suggested. “Get on with the other visas,” I bellowed. Two visas later, we were told, “Barbados is not represented in Asia. You have to call London.” I did. They asked us to courier our passports. But no courier was willing to do this. Besides, our passports were in Delhi, doing the visa rounds.
“Call the immigration at Barbados. Maybe they will grant you a visa on arrival.” A week later, I was told, “No visas on arrival, sir. But you can apply and we can give you the visa in three weeks.” Three weeks? We are two weeks away from departure!
Meanwhile, Argentina was throwing a fit: “Your ship is going to the Falklands. We don’t recognize that name. Reapply with ‘Islas Malvinas’.” I curse the Falklands War and reapply with newly attested fingerprints and affidavit.
Finally, all visas are in the bag—except Barbados, the embarkation point. Five days away from departure.
So, we cancel Barbados and land in this paradise called Grenada, the Silver Spirit’s second port of call.
Arriving in Mumbai from Goa after an hour-long plane ride, we catch an Etihad flight at 4am, land in Abu Dhabi and, after 4 hours, board the plane for New York. Fourteen hours of pampering later, we touch down at a freezing JFK, New York, and take off again 10 hours later, amid snowfall, for San Juan, Puerto Rico. Just the sound of those words is enough for my heart to sing West Side Story songs—or maybe the sunshine has something to do with it.
(Left) The highly recommended Laluna hotel; and a drink served at the hotel. Wendell Rodricks
A delicious Creole lunch at Raices restaurant later (my partner Jerome has a pork chop double the size of his thighs, while I savour a Mahi Mahi fish), we see the sights over our 6-hour transit: Old San Juan, a beautiful Caribbean city within high fortress walls, is a delight.
Then to Grenada, where we would board the Silver Spirit, a 2-hour ATR flight away. The ship will be our home for the next 50 days. Our verandah will keep the coast in view all the way. The bathrooms are stocked with Acqua di Parma and Bulgari toiletries. The bar is overflowing with Grey Goose vodka, single malts and Champagne. We unpack and explore the ship: Eleven decks of splendour, with six dining options—including Seishin, a Japanese restaurant, and a six-course gourmet experience in the Champagne restaurant—three dance floors and evening entertainment, besides a spa, two fitness studios, a pool, two jacuzzis, a library and an Internet room.
It is now time to sip champagne and watch the sunset from our private suite while the valet steams our sherwanis for the Captain’s formal gala. A fitting first night for the next 50 on our cruise of a lifetime. While we dine, the Silver Spirit will sail gracefully towards Port of Spain, where she will berth tomorrow morning.
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First Published: Thu, Feb 18 2010. 08 46 PM IST