If you’ve always dreamt of travelling on a riverboat casino, then SamLink’s 12-hour night cruise off the coast of Mumbai just might be for you. But if your proclivities happen to lead a little elsewhere, make sure you stay away from this cruise boat.
Embarking from the old Bhaucha Dhakka terminal at Mumbai’s Dockyard Road, SamLink’s New Caribbean Princess seems to offer a lot—from the outside at least. It’s a big ship, so you’re already thinking an upper deck, heated swimming pool; a well-stocked bar; and of course, a massive casino floor. But, as it turns out, the New Caribbean Princess is less like the MGM Grand, and more like the dingy two-star right next to the airport.
That’s not to suggest that you’re taking a ride in a rat-infested boat (or perhaps the rats have already jumped ship). There are some things to look forward to.
Sea worthy: The two worthwhile experiences on the cruise are (above) losing your money; and (below) watching a spectacular sunrise on the upper deck.
The good stuff
No doubt, gambling remains the single most popular attraction. Except for Goa, you can’t gamble in any state in India unless you take one of these trips. The ship travels the 22km that is necessary to cross into international waters, drops anchor for around 7 hours, letting both high rollers and casino novices provide testament once again to the golden rule of gambling—the house always wins (yes, yours truly lost some cash on this trip, and isn’t so pleased about it). The casino is professionally run, and has a somewhat decent bar. There are roulette wheels, tables for blackjack and three-card poker.
However, SamLink seems to fail to even capitalize on its biggest attraction: Despite its advantages, the ship’s casino is far too small. There are only two blackjack tables, for instance; the minimum bet is as much as Rs200. It’s unclear if the cruise is meant to primarily attract high rollers, since that’s certainly not the crowd it ends up attracting.
The upper deck has entertainment planned for those who don’t want to gamble, but that gets banal soon. Before you know it, you’re pretending to clap along with a tired rendition from Amar Akbar Anthony, or trying not to feel embarrassed for the kid dragged from the audience to dance along with the singer. The “fun event” soon starts feeling like a communal picnic.
That’s when the audience also peters out, trickling in slowly into the casino. So the upper deck is left with fewer young- and middle-aged men when it dawns on the ship’s organizers that they need to spice things up. Enter the “Western dancers from London” who, with their blonde hair and buxom bodies, invite catcalls from the men left on deck. The women and children are busy wondering what they’re doing on board. Whoever said this was a family cruise?
You can try buoying your spirits with alcohol, though you’ll soon find the bar on deck is more of a makeshift tea shop. And, no, there’s no swimming pool. The food is mediocre and the disco is empty for most hours of the night (it starts filling in when those who haven’t booked cabin beds are looking for sofas to sleep on).
Between catcalling the “Western dancers from London” and burning through my cash, I tried to investigate the somewhat old ship. There are plenty of Russian signs, making us wonder which Russian billionaire this previously belonged to. Maybe the Russian roulette wheel is actually from Russia. Yet, we imagined that if the New Caribbean Princess were to declare itself a sovereign entity, it would eschew Russia and align itself with Gujarat. Yes, there are tonnes of Gujaratis on board.
But they are only ordinary folks looking to make bets who, thanks to the a ban on gambling, can’t do so on Indian soil. Aboard the ship, they can unleash their rolls of cash and display their verve for gambling.
Tickets are priced upwards of Rs1,690. The cheapest and most available are “Seats”, big armchairs where you can sit and doze off a little uncomfortably. The most expensive “Premium Deluxe Cabin” is for Rs3,990. The night cruise runs every Saturday from 8pm-8am. The day cruise runs on Fridays from 11am-10pm.
For reservations, call 022-40317000.