Incredible as it may seem, the only country on earth that goes out of its way to snub the cashed up and ever growing cruise market is India.
Our cruise aboard Explorer of the Seas visits Goa and Cochin on its way to Malaysia and Singapore – and i have spent about as much time as we will have at both these destinations trying to cope with the endless and moronic reels of red tape we can thank the Indian immigration department for. To add insult to injury, visitors are also ripped off with visa prices that would send Indian visitors into a state of shock.
There is an electronic visa that I hoped I could use but no – it was only available to passengers arriving by air, I was told. How about the fact that we spend two afternoons in India as part of a cruise – can we apply for a transit visa? “No, no no. It must be a tourist visa – please apply on line, print the application out and then send it with you passport to one of our offices.” So, on to the form that wants to know everything – right down to the name of your dog, its sex and religion. I am joking of course, but you get my drift. Each form takes around three quarters of an hour to complete and print asks daft questions like “If you have been to India before what was the visa number and which hotel did you stay in?” Really helpful if you threw your old passport away. So, another phone call. “Don’t worry – put no I was told – but explain you have been before in your covering letter.” The application asks for current picture by the way but just ignore the request and move on.
So, finally when four applications were done and the right size pictures printed, I sent the application in a $20 overnight bag to Melbourne. The package was back the next day with a note saying “please sent to our Sydney office.” On to Sydney we go and about $500 later we received our stamped passports.Thank goodness it’s all over I thought until yesterday we were advised on the ship that everyone had to fill in two new sets of forms and then take them with our passports to be inspected by officials from Goa. By lunchtime the line waiting to get to these “officials” was as long as the ship. The final joke is when we finally arrived at checkpoint goa the man from Goa did not look at a thing – just slammed down a rubber stamp. And so ended a complete waste of more than half a day. My advice to anyone contemplating a cruise that involves a day or two in India is to choose again.
Written by: Ian McIntosh