Cruising Goa's waterways is a quintessential carefree experience. And, fortunately, there's no need to be jammed aboard a dime-a-dozen tourist boat with blaring Bollywood music and cultural dance programs. The Solita is a classic 42 foot luxury yacht that's available for private charter, whether you simply want a romantic evening for two or a celebration with close family and friends.
An ageless beauty, the Solita was notably the first luxury yacht made available for charter in India, in 1993. Yet, she's more than just a boat to owners Hans and his wife Sucheta. She's the reason why they relocated from Mumbai to Goa more than two decades ago and she holds many special memories for their family.
Back in the early 1990s, Hans (who was born in the Netherlands) and Sucheta were successful tour operators in Mumbai, with adventurous international clients who liked to travel through India by all means of transport from elephant to bicycle. They wanted to add a boat cruise of Maharashtra's coast, resplendent with monumental old forts, to their tour options and decided to get a yacht built for that purpose.
However, by the time the yacht was ready, the authorities refused to grant permission for its operation for security reasons due to the bomb blasts and riots that had occurred in Mumbai. Not to be deterred, Hans and Sucheta took the Solita to Goa, where she created quite a sensation. According to Hans, a mere 10 families owned luxury yachts in India at the time. The Solita was the only one that could be chartered, and she hosted everyone from Heads of State to Bollywood stars.
As well as those exciting times, the memory of Hans's little sister (who unfortunately passed away in a car accident many years ago) also lives on in the graceful Solita. Naming the yacht after her brought much positivity, and was undoubtedly a fitting tribute as the Solita has provided some of the happiest moments of their lives.
In fact, the Solita became such a legend in Goa that renowned Indian singer Remo Fernandes recorded an evocative track about her on his album India Beyond.
Meet the Crew
The Solita comes with a professional and highly experienced crew of four -- Captain Jim, Engineer Danny, and two deck officers who are skilled mariners and stewards.
There's an outstanding team culture among the crew, and a rare loyalty. The captain and engineer have been with the Solita since inception, making them the best qualified crew in Goa.
The captain's family are also involved in the business. When you dine aboard the Solita, you'll be served genuine Goan food cooked with care by his mother, wife and sister. What a treat!
Cruise Options and Itineraries
The Solita offers varied cruising itineraries incorporating heritage and nature, and extending from a couple of hours to all day and overnight. Two of the most popular ones are dolphin spotting in the morning, and backwaters and sunset in the evening.
Take the Solita to the Salim Ali Bird Sanctuary for early morning bird watching, from 7 a.m. to 9 a.m. Upon reaching the sanctuary entrance, guests are transferred to a canoe to explore the mangroves, accompanied by a naturalist. Afterwards, it's possible to continue out to sea for dolphin spotting, or to Old Goa.
This morning cruise heads past Reis Magos Fort, Miramar beach, the Governor's Residence and historical Aguada Jail. Dolphin sightings are common and captivating. You can anchor by the beach to swim and then enjoy lunch on the boat.
Panjim and Churches of Old Goa
If you're interested in Goa's history, don't miss cruising all the way to Old Goa, past Chorao and Divar islands. Guests disembark at Old Goa's jetty to visit the area's stately churches, which are UNESCO World Heritage sites. Next, cruise on to Panjim's busy waterfront, have lunch at a Goan restaurant in the Fontainhas Latin Quarter and visit its old Portuguese mansions. If you wish, stay on the boat for sunset.
Backwater and Sunset Cruise
This two hour cruise, in the evening from 5 p.m. to 7 p.m., meanders along Goa's backwaters and culminates in a spectacular show of birdlife and rich hues of the setting sun. Experience it with cocktails or wine and evocative music.
Dinner Under the Stars
Romantics can extend the sunset cruise with a private dinner on board the yacht, from 7 p.m. to 9 p.m., while anchored in a quiet bay area. There's a range of dining options with a focus on seafood, plus a separate menu for vegetarians.
It's also possible to stay overnight on the yacht (see below).
The Solita is an exciting and different venue for business meetings and events.
The authentic Goan food cooked by the captain's family is undoubtedly a highlight aboard the Solita. The menu consists of delicacies such as chicken xacuti (a coconut based curry with Goan spices), Goan prawn curry, fish fry, prawn fry, Goan rice and bread.
Continental and vegetarian cuisines are also offered.
The Continental menu includes fish canapes, prawn rissois (rissoles), golden fried prawns, squid in garlic butter, herbed chicken, and vegetable au gratin.
On the vegetarian menu, there are cheese balls, mini vegetable cutlets, pineapple aloo chaat, German potato salad, paneer tikka makhni, Goan sol khadi, and stuffed capsicum, dal fry, and Goan rice and bread.
Stay Overnight on the Solita
For a really special experience, choose to stay overnight aboard the yacht, anchored with the historic waterfront Penha de Franca Church as your backdrop.
The Solita has two well-appointed cabins that are very comfortable. After dinner the crew will depart, leaving you in solitude to enjoy the serenity and gently lapping waves. They'll rejoin you in the morning to serve a sumptuous breakfast before taking you back to the jetty.
This cruise option starts at sunset and concludes at 9 a.m. the next morning.
The Solita operates from October to April each year.
Cruises depart from Britona jetty, in a quaint traditional village on the banks of the Mandovi River near Panjim.
The rate is 15,000 rupees per hour for a minimum two hours, which is moderate in terms of boat charter costs. Additional hours are 30% less. Water and soft drinks are included in the price. Expect to pay 60,000 rupees for an overnight stay, with three hours of cruising, dinner for two, a bottle of wine and breakfast. A full day charter including five hours of cruising is 90,000 rupees.
The yacht can carry 27 passengers. Its two cabins consist of a master bedroom with one double and one single bed, plus another bedroom with two single beds.
Hans and Sucheta also own a bespoke India tour company called The Traveller's Palm and a gorgeous new luxury three bedroom villa near Calangute beach called Summertime. Guests of the villa receive a 25% discount on the yacht charter rate.
More information is available from The Solita website.
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