Southern India & Sri Lanka by Sea

Southern India & Sri Lanka by Sea

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For those seeking an informative and relaxing experience of India and Sri Lanka, what better way than a journey aboard the all-suite MS Hebridean Sky in the company of just over 100 fellow travellers. From this fine vessel, you can explore some of India’s and Sri Lanka’s most interesting coastal regions with the added knowledge that you will be returning each evening to all the comforts of a small and luxuriously appointed vessel.
Exploring by small ship, we are able to see so much in just over two weeks, allowing for some leisurely interludes. Accompanied by an excellent onboard team, we can learn of the history and natural world as we journey between our fascinating ports of call. There is nowhere like India for observing the colourful day to day life, its markets, traders and general hubbub of the towns and cities, and contrastingly few places offer the peace and tranquillity which can be found around its temples, holy places and countryside. The intricate nature of its religions and cultures, together with its rich and absorbing history will be brought to life by our Guest Speaker, with informal onboard talks and the knowledgeable local guides who will accompany us ashore. Amongst the many highlights of our time in India will be our couple of days in the Malabar port of Cochin from where we will explore the ‘backwaters’, a network of lagoons, lakes, rivers and canals, observing the day to day life. Boats carrying the local produce of copra, coir and cashews travel slowly through peaceful, palm-shaded waterways and keen birdwatchers can have a field day looking out for fish eagles, kingfishers, egrets, herons and many more.
Whilst in Sri Lanka, cultural highlights include the superb ancient remains of the royal ancient city of the Kingdom of Polonnaruwa, along with the remnants of the Portuguese and Dutch colonial eras in Trincomalee and Galle and the fascinating and diverse city of Colombo. Not forgetting the country’s magnificent natural world wonders, there will be the opportunity to visit the Bundala and Yala National Parks with their vast array of wildlife. All this and more will be achieved with ease with the benefit of returning to the vessel each evening to recharge the batteries with good food, caring service and a restful night’s sleep ready to witness another day in these great lands of ancient faiths, customs and traditions along with some spectacular natural world wonders.

Trip Name
Southern India & Sri Lanka by Sea
Vessel Type: Expedition Length: 90.6 metres Passenger Capacity: 118 Built / Refurbished: 1992 / 2016 The MS Hebridean Sky is one of our three flag ships and sister vessel to the MS Island Sky and MS Caledonian Sky. All three vessels were built in the same ship yard in Italy at similar times and share the same excellent attributes that make them three of the finest small ships in the world. Formerly known as the Sea Explorer, the vessel underwent a multi-million pound refurbishment in Sweden in Spring 2016 before being re-launched as the MS Hebridean Sky. Your Suite. On board there are 59 exceptionally spacious and well-designed suites. All feature a sitting area and fourteen suites have private balconies. The feeling of luxury is enhanced by the wood panelling and brass which predominates throughout the vessel conveying the atmosphere of a private yacht. The passenger accommodation is arranged over five decks and all suites have outside views with suites on the Scott and Shackleton Decks featuring private balconies. Each suite affords considerable comfort with en-suite bathroom featuring vanity unit with sink and walk-in rainfall shower, large wardrobes, dressing table with large mirror and stool and excellent storage. There is a minifridge, flat screen television and a telephone in each suite. Refillable water bottles, towelling dressing gowns and slippers are also provided for your comfort. Additional facilities include a programmable electronic safe, hairdryer, assorted Molton Brown toiletries and individually controlled air-conditioning and heating. Soft hues and blended tones enhance the traditional maritime style making the passenger accommodation an inviting and relaxing place to be. The beds in each suite can be configured as twins or double with the exception of suite 601 and 602 which feature fixed double beds. The impressive Hebridean Suite, located on the Shackleton Deck consists of a separate bathroom and sitting room with extra large balcony stretching the length of the suite. Additional benefits of booking this marvellous suite include complimentary mini-bar stocked with your preferences and complimentary laundry. Your Space. The spacious and finely decorated public rooms on board the MS Hebridean Sky include a large lounge on the Byrd Deck featuring a selection of seating options from individual armchairs and sofas to side cushioned benches. Daily briefings given by the Cruise Director and talks from Guest Speakers and expedition staff take place in The Lounge which is fitted with the highest standard of presentation equipment including multiple screens. In addition to the Lounge, there is also The Club, located on the Mawson Deck which features the main bar where the onboard pianist plays periodically throughout the day. The Club also offers a 24-hour tea and coffee station. Towards the aft of the ship on the Mawson Deck is The Library which is well stocked with reference books pertaining to the destinations the vessel is visiting and a selection of essential reads. A collection of games and devices to access the internet via the ship’s satellite can also be found in the library. Access to the ship’s satellite Wi-Fi via your own device is complimentary on board (signal strength varies depending on location and demand). The Dining Room which can seat all guests at one sitting is located on the Amundsen Deck and is a bright and charming setting to enjoy the delicious meals on board. Outside there is a rear Lido Deck located on the Scott Deck where meals are served in warm weather under shade. Whilst heaters and blankets make dining al fresco comfortable in cooler climates. Further to this, on the top Shackleton Deck there is an observation area which offers a fantastic platform for spotting wildlife complete with deck furniture, ideal for relaxing with a book or catching up with fellow travellers. You will also find a clinic and Doctor on board and a lift that serves all decks. Additionally there is a small hairdressers with appointments made on request. Your Dining. It is quite a task to create a dining experience as that found on board our Sky vessels when you are cruising in far-flung corners of the globe, indeed it takes a team of highly talented chefs to deliver fresh, varied dishes no matter where you are at sea. Fortunately, our catering teams are well adapted to the world of small ship cruising where no two days are the same and the menus are often scheduled and tailored around the days’ excursions. With only one sitting and a maximum of just over 100 passengers, the cuisine on board is of a consistent superior quality that befits such vessels. Where possible and when it meets their high standards, our accomplished chefs will obtain local produce in markets. Such purchases enhance the well-stocked larders and enable the chefs on board to exhibit their culinary skills and bring a local touch to the varied menus, emphasising the international expertise of the chefs on board. Afternoon tea and pre-dinner canapés take place every day in either the comfort of the Lounge or out on the Lido Deck when the weather is favourable. Tea and coffee are also available 24 hours a day. Special diets can be catered for with sufficient notice. In keeping with the informal atmosphere on board, when dining you are able to choose your seating arrangements at your leisure. Whether that be joining a table of four to six other passengers outside on the Lido Deck in the evening’s sunshine or whether you prefer to enjoy meals in the à la carte restaurant. For those travelling alone, our onboard friendly restaurant staff will take care to ensure you are seated with other like-minded travellers. In the main elegant dining room, breakfast is served buffet-style, with certain items cooked to order on request. Lunch and dinner are à la carte with an excellent choice of dishes, with the menu reflecting the daily catch or local delicacies. To enhance your dining experience even further a selection of wines are included with both meals and there is also a comprehensive wine list with a wide selection of new and old world wines from which to choose. The onboard catering and restaurant staff are experienced at sea and enthuse a passion for superb service. Whether it be ensuring you have an outdoor blanket as you enjoy the crisp sea breeze on the Lido Deck or sharing their knowledge of the characteristics of the days’ wine selections, you will experience a service on board like no other. You may also enjoy sumptuous barbeques on deck whilst at times, the chef will make your dish to order at special pasta or stir fry stations. For Your Comfort. The MS Hebridean Sky is equipped with the latest safety, navigation and communications equipment along with roll stabilizers to minimize the ship’s motion. During your voyage we hope to offer the opportunity to visit the Captain and Officers on the Bridge to check the vessels progress by charts and learn more about your journey. There is also a dedicated channel on your television in your suite showing the routing of the vessel along with technical information and estimated times of arrival and departure from port. On board you will also find a clinic and Doctor and a lift that serves all decks. Smoking on board is restricted to a specific area on deck. Life Onboard. If large resort-style vessels accommodating many thousands of passengers are your ideal, then our ships are not for you as you will not find endless entertainment, round the clock buffets and the people management which is so much a part of today’s big ship on board style. However, if like us you prefer a more peaceful life at sea you will find our flagships the perfect vessels. When choosing your next voyage the choice of vessels is astounding. You can select a ship carrying in excess of 4000 passengers with impersonal service or join us aboard the MS Caledonian Sky, MS Island Sky or MS Hebridean Sky where peace, high quality service and attention to detail are the order of the day. We promise there will be no organised entertainment, fancy dress, deck games or any of the usual big ship experiences. Instead, the atmosphere is warm and convivial and more akin to a private yacht or country hotel in which you can learn more about the wonders of nature, culture and ancient civilisations in the company of like-minded people. A little music in the lounge or bar after dinner, Guest Speakers and informative port briefings from our Expedition Leader or Cruise Director and of course good food with wine included at lunch and dinner, all contribute to make any voyage aboard these wonderful vessels a memorable and joyful experience. After a day ashore you will return to the comfort and peace of an exceedingly comfortable ship. The daily programme on board is in the capable hands of our Cruise Director or Expedition Leader and staff who coordinate with the Captain and Officers to make the most of each day. Briefings and talks will be provided throughout the voyage together with a ‘Daily Programme’ that is distributed every evening to your suite outlining the next day’s activities. Dress on board is casual and relaxed and there will be no ‘black tie’ evenings.


Day 1 - Day 1 Chennai.
Transfer to our hotel for an overnight stay. The remainder of the day and evening is at leisure to enjoy the hotel facilities or explore at your own pace.
Day 2 - Day 2 Chennai.
After breakfast we will explore the flourishing city of Chennai. See the 14th century St Thome Cathedral, the Kapaleeshwara Temple dedicated to Shiva and the impressive Government Museum, which includes a superb collection of South Indian bronzes from the 7th century Pallava era. Lunch will be served in a local restaurant before we transfer to the MS Hebridean Sky and embark. Enjoy welcome drinks and dinner as we sail this evening.
Day 3 - Day 3 At Sea.
Spend the day cruising towards Sri Lanka. Maybe join a lecture in the lounge or find a spot on deck to relax.
Day 4 - Day 4 Trincomalee, Pigeon Island National Park & Polonnaruwa, Sri Lanka.
Arrive on the north east coast of Sri Lanka in Trincomalee, one of the finest deep water harbours of the world. Choose to join a morning excursion which includes Fort Frederick, built by the Portuguese in 1623, and walk to Swami Rock to see the Koneswaram Temple, one of the five most holy Shaivite temples in the country. Alternatively join a local boat to Pigeon Island National Park, an island off the Sri Lankan coast and one of two national marine parks in the country. Here it will be possible to snorkel over the coral reefs and maybe see some of the turtle species that reside here. A third option today will be a full day tour to Polonnaruwa. This 5th century ancient city was named a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1982 and is considered to be one of the best planned archaeological sites in the country. The entire landscape of the region is punctuated by high man-made reservoirs, the most famous of which is Parakrama Samudra or the Sea of Parakrama, built during King Parakramabahu’s reign in 1164-1196 AD. The monuments in the ancient city are relatively well preserved and highlights are the Royal Palace complex, including the King’s Palace and Audience Hall and the spectacular Gal Vihare complex of four massive images of the Buddha cut from a single slab of granite.
Day 5 - Days 5 & 6 Bundala National Park, Yala National Park & Kataragama.
We have one and a half days in Hambantota from where we will visit a couple of the region’s highlights. We will visit Yala National Park, known as Ruhunu it was designated as a wildlife sanctuary in 1900 and is now home to 44 varieties of mammal and 215 bird species. This vast region of arid scrub interspersed with pockets of dense forest and open patches of grassland hosts one of the highest densities of leopard in the world. On a jeep safari we also hope to see sloth bears, jackals, wild boar and elephants. From Hambantota there will also be the opportunity to explore Bundala National Park, a haven for birdwatchers and Sri Lanka’s first designated wetland site of international importance. Located in the deep south of the island, the diversity of the park lies in its landscape, from dry thorny scrubland to sand dunes and salt marshes, to mangroves and lagoons. Take a jeep through the park and discover close to 200 species of bird as well as many species of butterfly, crocodiles, elephants and deer. Alternatively you may wish to visit Kataragama, one of the three most important religious sites in Sri Lanka and a popular place of pilgrimage for the Buddhist, Hindu, Muslim and the indigenous Vedda communities of Sri Lanka and South India. According to the Buddhists this was one of the 16 places visited by Buddha during his stays in Sri Lanka. We will explore the religious complex built across the Menik Ganga which contains buildings from all three religions including the mosque, the temple, the small archaeological museum and the principal shrine of the god Kataragama.
Day 6 - Day 7 Galle.
Awake this morning in Galle where we take a walking tour of the impressive Galle Fortress. This UNESCO World Heritage Site is the port where the Portuguese first landed in Sri Lanka in the 16th century and was then extensively fortified by the Dutch during the 17th century. Also see the maritime museum, which is housed in an old Dutch house, the lighthouse, mosque and church before taking a stroll through the narrow streets with their shuttered mansions and cloistered courtyards. Return to the ship for lunch and this afternoon is free to explore Galle further at your own pace or alternatively join a tour to a nearby tea plantation where we will learn about the growing processes and enjoy a tasting.
Day 7 - Day 8 Colombo.
Arrive today in Colombo, Sri Lanka’s commercial capital and largest city which dates back over 600 years having been a trading hub for sea merchants and colonial rulers. Buddhist temples, Hindu temples, mosques and churches reflect the various beliefs practiced all over the island and the beautiful facades of the old, colonial buildings contrast with the modern but elegant shopping arcades that have been developed inside. There will be a choice of activities today including a cultural tour visiting the Gangaramaya Buddhist Temple, the National Museum and Independence Square. Alternatively visit the Kelaniya Buddhist Temple, located on the outskirts of the city it is believed that Buddha visited and preached his doctrine here to a gathering of serpentkings. Today worshippers come to lay sprigs of lotus flowers around the great white dagoba, light oil lamps, and sprinkle the base of the Tree of Enlightenment with purifying water. We can see the fine carvings and lovely frescoes, fascinating geometrically patterned ceiling paintings, and three important images of Buddha.
Day 8 - Day 9 Trivandrum, India.
After a morning at sea we return to India at the Keralan port of Trivandrum. Built over seven hills, the ‘city of the sacred serpents’ retains some of old Kerala’s ambience, with its pagoda shaped buildings, red-tiled roofs and narrow winding lanes. There is much to see here and on our afternoon excursion we will include the old fort area around the 260 year old Sri Padmanabhaswamy Temple.
Day 9 - Days 10 & 11 Cochin.
Cochin is an extraordinary city with strong influences of Portuguese, Chinese, Arab, Dutch and British cultures still much in evidence today and we have two days to enjoy this intriguing Malabar port. Visits will include the serene Kerala backwaters at Alleppey where we will board a local boat for a cruise past colonial warehouses and coconut thatched houses. For centuries, these canals provided a safe and efficient means of transportation for goods and people moving between the heartland of Kerala and the port towns along the coast. Even today, traditional barges, or kettuvallams, haul coconut, pepper, rice and other goods along the waterways. We will also have time in Cochin to explore the diverse mix of cultures and religions that together, with its strong trading past in spices and silks, make for a fascinating city. Discover Mattancherry Palace with its ornately decorated rooms including some marvellous ancient murals. We see the oldest European church in India, St Francis and the ruins of the fort. On our first evening as we moor overnight, we will enjoy a Kathakali performance on board after dinner. Based on the subject from the Ramayana, Mahabharata and stories from Saiva literature, Kathakali is one of the main forms of classical dance drama of India and indigenous to Kerala.
Day 10 - Day 12 Mangalore.
In the 14th and 15th centuries Mangalore traded with Persian and Arab merchants and was fought over by the Nayaka princes and the Portuguese. In the 18th century its control was contested by Hyder Ali and his son Tipu Sultan on the one hand, and the British on the other. The influences of its turbulent history are still apparent in the cosmopolitan attitude and diverse religions that exist here. Today it is a business and commercial centre and is India’s ninth largest cargo handling port exporting 75% of the country’s coffee and the bulk of its cashew nuts and spices. Arriving at lunchtime we spend the afternoon learning about the cashew processing industry, before we visit Gokarnatha Temple and the remarkable St. Aloysius Chapel, with a fascinating series of intricate paintings that cover virtually every square inch of the interior ceiling and walls. Created over a period of two years by Brother Antonio Moscheni, an Italian artist, the chapel with its magnificent art work is one of the city’s hidden gems.
Day 11 - Day 13 Goa.
In the 15th century Goa was the largest trading centre on India’s west coast and when the Portuguese arrived in the early 16th century it was their plan to set up a colony to seize the control of the spice trade. Goa remained a Portuguese colony until 1961 when it became the 25th state of the Indian Republic. Whilst famous for her beautiful beaches Goa offers wonderful architecture with a mixture of Hindu and Catholic styles, unique history, rich culture and pretty natural scenery. Today we will explore Old Goa with its fine Basilica of Bom Jesus and the Neo Classical Church of St Cajetan. Afterwards choose to return to the ship or continue to a spice plantation where the cultivation of cardamom, chilli, cloves and coriander can be seen. We will enjoy the smells and tastes whilst we learn about their uses in Indian life.
Day 12 - Day 14 Mumbai.
After a morning at sea we sail into Mumbai, a cluster of seven islands which were first home to the ‘Koli’ fisherman, who still occupy parts of the city shoreline today. Mumbai was derived from ‘Mumba’ the name of the Hindu goddess ‘Mumbadevi’ and ‘Aai’ – mother in the local Marathi language. First ceded to the Portuguese, the British Government took possession of the islands in 1665 before leasing them to the East India Company who founded the port and saw the city grow in size and importance. This afternoon we explore the city and see the prominent landmarks visiting the Gateway of India, Mani Bhavan, the former residence of Mahatma Gandhi when he stayed in Mumbai from 1917 to 1934 and Dhobi Ghat where we can observe the vast open air Indian laundry. Alternatively, travel to Gharapuri Island, better known as Elephanta Island and view the remarkable caves designated a UNESCO World Heritage Site. This labyrinth of cave temples feature courtyards, shrines, remarkable statues and vibrant sculptures that date from the 5th to 7th century AD.
Day 13 - Day 15 Mumbai.
Disembark this morning.
Day 14 - Please Note:
Itineraries are subject to change.

Trip Dates

StartEndPrice FromRoom Type
17-02-202503-03-2025Array Array9,245Amundsen Deck Standard Sole
17-02-202503-03-2025Array Array9,245Amundsen Deck Standard Suite
17-02-202503-03-2025Array Array9,645Byrd Deck Superior Sole
17-02-202503-03-2025Array Array9,645Byrd Deck Superior Suite
17-02-202503-03-2025Array Array9,845Mawson Deck Premium Suite
17-02-202503-03-2025Array Array10,245Mawson Deck Corner Suite
17-02-202503-03-2025Array Array11,545Scott Deck Deluxe Balcony Suite
17-02-202503-03-2025Array Array12,045Shackleton Deck Owner's Balcony Suite
17-02-202503-03-2025Array Array0Shackleton Deck Hebridean Suite


    • Explore India and Sri Lanka aboard a luxurious vessel, the MS Hebridean Sky, with just over 100 fellow travelers. The vessel provides all the comforts of a small and luxuriously appointed ship, allowing for a relaxing experience.
    • See a lot in just over two weeks, with leisurely interludes. An excellent onboard team and knowledgeable local guides provide insights into the history, culture, and natural world of the destinations.
    • Enjoy the colorful day-to-day life, markets, and holy places of India, and spend a couple of days in Cochin to explore the backwaters, a network of lagoons, lakes, rivers, and canals. Observe local life and enjoy birdwatching is emphasized.
    • Ancient remains of the royal city of Polonnaruwa, the colonial eras in Trincomalee and Galle, and the diverse city of Colombo as cultural highlights in Sri Lanka. Visit Bundala and Yala National Parks to witness the country's wildlife is also mentioned.