Goa and the Kingfisher Brewery

Woke up around 7.30am to the sound of singing and music playing loudly, so even if we’d wanted a lie-in there was no chance of that! 😊  We went out onto the balcony and saw that we were moored up in Mormugao, and there was a large makeshift gateway/archway proclaiming “Goa Welcomes You” and a few colourfully-dressed locals singing and dancing, as well as some guys playing the trumpet and banging on drums.  Looking to our left, we could see the tour buses lined up at the end of the port, just beyond the bows of the Constellation.

Trevor went up to breakfast, but I just enjoyed a cup of coffee and some water in our cabin, while getting ready for our excursion, which would take us on an interesting scenic ride through the streets and countryside of Goa with the ultimate destination being the United Breweries, where the world-famous Indian beer Kingfisher is brewed.

We made our way to the Celebrity Lounge to register for our tour, and we didn’t have very long to wait until our bus number was called. We then made our way down the gangplank where we had to present ourselves at the first checkpoint, where the official examined our visas and the colour photocopies of our passports.  Then we walked a few yards further along to the gate where another bloke in uniform examined our visas.  Finally, we were able to board our bus, which was a narrow vehicle with a small doorway and steep steps; the windows were curtained against the sun and everyone had to open the curtains in order to be able to see.  There were no seat belts.

We had to wait a few minutes for everyone to board the bus, due, I imagine, to the wait in line to have the visas checked.  Eventually we were all present and correct (there were only 13 of us, plus our guide), and off we went.

Trevor and I were instantly reminded of our eye-opener of a trip to India in 2015.  The scene beyond the window was one of chaos; buses, trucks, cyclists and cars all vying for their place on the dusty road, in which no traffic rules seemed to be in force.  Vehicles regularly jumped red lights and we saw lots of motorbikes and scooters, whose riders wore no helmets, and we often saw children and sari-wearing ladies riding side-saddle on the pillion.  Over it all was the incessant blare of car horns.

The buildings were a sight to see as well.  Well-maintained split-level apartments with balconies and downstairs garages sat cheek by jowl with ramshackle wooden shanty-built huts with corrugated tin roofs, all of which nestled amongst palm and banana trees.  The evocative aromas of spices and wood smoke mixed with the smell of cow dung and stagnant water – it was all certainly a country of amazing contrasts.

We saw passed through one of two small villages and towns, our heads constantly swivelling from left to right, as if watching a tennis match, as we strove to take in all the scenes beyond the bus windows.  Sometimes we passed fields of sugarcane or the flooded rice fields, with here and there a lone farm-worker toiling.

Eventually we pulled up outside the gates of the United Breweries, and we all alighted from the bus into the bright sunshine. We had to watch a safety presentation (which our guide had to keep pausing and translating, as it was all in the local language) as well as sign a waiver form.  Then we followed the guide inside the brewing house, where the brewery chemist explained to us the different brewing processes starting from the grain and hops, to the fermentation process and the bottling and canning.

We went up some stairs where there were numerous cardboard packing boxes ready to hold the cans and bottles of Kingfisher.  There was a sort of walkway and gallery where we could look down at the canning plant; the cans would come along on the conveyor belt, seemingly haphazardly, but in some places the conveyor was only one can wide, and at this point the cans would neatly line themselves up before continuing their route; it was mesmerising to watch.

After about a 45-minute tour of the brewery we arrived at the place we’d all been waiting for; the tasting room. 😊  Inside, we all took a seat and a bloke came in with a huge glass flagon in which some fresh Kingfisher, straight from the barrel, awaited us.  He said it would be the freshest beer we’d ever tried, and he therefore hoped, as a result, it wouldn’t spoil it for us in future.

To accompany the beer, a long table contained a selection of Indian snacks, such as pakora, onion bhaji, cashew nuts, spiced cauliflower and cheese sandwiches for those who “didn’t like” Indian food.

We had about an hour in the tasting room, during which time I enjoyed three glasses of Kingfisher and Trevor had four.  Then it was time to go back outside and wait for our bus, for the return journey to the Constellation.

While we were waiting for the bus we watched, agog, as a group of cows and a humped buffalo made their placid way along the other side of the road. Stray cows, pigs, buffalo and goats are a common sight in India, and I took a photograph of a helmet-less guy on a motorbike with the cows ambling along in the background.

The journey back to the port was just as interesting as the outward trip, and we arrived back around 2.00pm.  We had to go through the same rigmarole with immigration as we had when leaving the ship; first of all, we had to show our shipboard passes and visas to a guy at the dock gate, then we had to show them again at the entrance to the cruise terminal, then once again at security, when any bags had to go through the x-ray scanning machine.

Finally we got through, and I was able to get a good bow shot photo of the Constellation for my web site.  We then went back on board the ship and had a potter around as well as enjoying a couple more drinks.  I couldn’t decide whether my cold/cough was getting better or not; sometimes I’d feel fine and other times my throat would start hurting or I’d lose my voice – I think a lot of it was down to the air-conditioning around the ship; dry, recycled artificial air instead of the fresh sea air.  Also, the air-conditioning makes the ship far too cold; in the show-lounge especially a wrap or jacket is an absolute necessity.

We just had dinner in the Ocean View self-service place, sitting by the large floor-to-ceiling windows where we were able to watch the Constellation putting to sea once more around 6.30pm, next stop Mumbai.

We were out of the restaurant in good time to make it to the Celebrity Lounge for the seven o’clock performance.  Tonight it was featuring a Phil Collins tribute act; the guy was called Rob Lewis and was the winner of the Stars In Their Eyes TV show in 2005, so we were looking forward to it.  However, when we took our ‘usual’ seats in the theatre an announcement came over the PA system to say that the Phil Collins show had been postponed (as the guy’s flight into Goa had been delayed and he hadn’t arrived yet) and, instead, a female singer by the name of Jane Curry would be performing instead.

I decided not to stay to see the show; not only was it bl**dy cold in the theatre but I didn’t really feel like sitting through the performance.  So instead I went back to the cabin to wait for Trevor, where I read my Kindle and sat out on the balcony for a while; it was warmer out there than inside the vessel.

Once Trevor returned, we had a wander around the ship and a look in the shops, where I bought a white t-shirt with “Celebrity Constellation” written on the front.  The girl on the till gave each of us a card and said we could have a go on the reflex-testing machine; it’s the one where several buttons light up and you have to press the buttons quickly; apparently you needed a score of at least 30 to be able to put your name into the draw.

We went along to the ‘TAG Heuer Batak Challenge’ (as it was called) and Trevor scored 30 while I scored 31, so we each filled in our cards with name and stateroom number, and put them into the draw.  The guy in the TAG Heuer shop said the draw would be made at 10.15pm and you had to be present to be able to claim your prize.  This we did, and the draw had to be made three times before someone claimed the winning ticket.  What an anti-climax; all they won was a baseball hat.  Whoo-pee-doo!  What a rubbish prize, after such a big build-up.  Now I wasn’t disappointed that we hadn’t won.

We then went back to cabin 6098 and settled down for the night.  We were not due to arrive in Mumbai until 10.30am tomorrow, so we could enjoy a lie-in if we wanted.  😊

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