The Andaman Odyssey - Makruzz: Cruising across Andamans
Andaman and Nicobar Islands, India are a perfect travel destination for all kinds of people – the sea lovers, the adventure lovers and the nature lovers. It is an ideal destination for solo travelers, honeymooners, couples, friends and family as well. The most popular tourist destinations in Andaman Islands are Port Blair, Havelock Island (Swaraj Dweep) and Neil Island (Shaheed Dweep). Inter-island travel is hence very critical for islanders and tourists. Makruzz plays a critical role in not just providing fast inter-island connectivity, it does so in the most comfortable and reliable way possible. In our opinion, it is the heart of Andamans.
The series of travel blogs - The Andaman Odyssey will serve as a one stop travel guide to you and give you all details along with recommendations to ensure you can plan your own trip.
Our other blogs of the series - The Andaman Odyssey will help you understand and plan your trip to Andaman Islands and give you a good idea of Havelock (Swaraj Dweep) and Neil Island (Shaheed Dweep) with recommendation on places to stay and activities to do.
9. Review: Makruzz - Cruising across Andamans - Current blog
We happened to travel in M.V. Makruzz and Makruzz Gold during our trip to Andamans in Nov-Dec 2017. Thanks to their management, we got special access to some areas of the vessel and an opportunity to talk to some of their staff and crew. In this article, we will be briefing you about these high speed vessels. In the later part, we will also guide you on how to book your trip, the boarding process and what to expect once on-board.
Little bit of background of Ferries in Andaman:
Till 2009, the only means for inter-island travel were the Government ships. These are heavy ships ferrying passengers from one island to another. However, the Government ships run at achingly slow speed, carrying less than 100 passengers in a single run, no advance booking is possible, and are devoid of any comfort and facilities for the passengers. It is best not to comment on cleanliness of these ferries.
In November 2009, MAK Logistics introduced one passenger ship for inter-island travel named M.V. Makruzz and that changed the whole scenario of island hopping in the Andaman Islands. It was the first private ferry service plying in Port Blair – Havelock (Swaraj Dweep)/ Neil Island (Shaheed Dweep) sector. Starting with one ship, MAK Logistics currently runs three passenger ships namely – M.V. Makruzz, Makruzz Gold and Coastal Cruise; owning the first 2 and leasing the 3rd. Both the Makruzz are designed for comfort; offering many amenities to its passengers, the seats can be booked in advance through their online portal and they run at a very high speed thus saving travel time to a great extent.
MAK Logistics is the Company that takes care of all the matters related to the ships; right from reservations to on-board and off-board operations to technical and catering tasks. Makruzz ships are state-of-art crafts made of aluminum that provide utmost comfort to its ferrying passengers. Both M.V. Makruzz and Makruzz Gold are twin hull Catamaran vessels. What this means is there are 2 hulls instead of one and there is open gap between the 2 hulls as seen in picture below. This enables high speed, better stability and more space.
Interesting fact – MAK Logistics is co-owned by three members – Mr. Mohammed H. Jadwet, Mr. Ashok and Mr. Kundu – hence the name MAK Logistics. The name ‘Makruzz’ not only manages to get their company name MAK in the start, but ‘Maqrooz’ in urdu also means ‘Indebted’.
Makruzz ships have white exteriors and look similar to a huge aircraft. Makruzz Gold is a slightly bigger ship and has a shining golden strip on its exteriors. The Makruzz vessels have two decks – an upper deck and a lower deck, both of which are closed as the whole vessel is centrally air conditioned. Huge transparent glass windows run throughout the entire length of the ship’s upper deck and lower deck offering all the passengers a personalized view of the panorama.
There are three different seating classes for its passengers – Premium, Deluxe and Royal:
The Premium seats are located in the lower deck
The Deluxe seats are located in the upper deck
The Royal seats are again located in the upper deck in a small cabin – these seats are bigger and more comfortable just like cushioned sofas and offer more privacy. Both M.V. Makruzz and Makruzz Gold had only 8 Royal seats.
Our experience of travelling in Makruzz:
We happened to travel in M.V. Makruzz and M.V. Makruzz Gold during our trip to Andamans. After quick check in process at the port, as we headed towards the ship, just the first glimpse of the Makruzz took our breaths away. It seemed like a large white and blue sea plane sailing on water at high speed. The onboard staff guided us to our seats. The seats, even the premium ones, were comparable to those on flights. They also had life jackets under each seat just like flights did. The similarities did not end there. As the ship started disembarking the port, an announcement was made requesting all passengers to be seated and the TV screens started screening a safety video film along with onboard staff giving a safety demonstration. After the safety video, a complimentary vegetarian snacks box is distributed to all Royal passengers along with tea/coffee and a bottle of water. Makruzz went one step beyond aircrafts when the TV screens continued entertaining the passengers with documentaries around Andamans or popular video songs through the entire trip.
Interesting fact – Slogan of Makruzz ships is something we felt was so true to what we experienced – “FLY BY SEA”. Their logo – a dolphin signifies beauty and friendliness, again something which we felt was true.
After the safety demonstration, passengers are allowed to move around. We found it difficult to walk as we were cruising at around 18 knots towards our destination and the sea was a bit rough that day. The onboard staff was kind enough to give us some important tips which made it easier for us to move around. One should walk with feet apart allowing the body to be fluid enough so that the motion of sea slowly gets synchronized with one’s body. The staff was highly skilled at it as they were able to carry cups of tea without spilling when we were struggling just to stand. Moving around, we were delighted to see many amenities such as ample space, clean lavatories on both upper and lower decks and a Makruzz café on the lower deck which was well stocked to cater to eating needs of all types of passengers.
Since we had special access, we got the opportunity to visit - The Bridge. It is similar to cockpit of aircrafts where Captain, Chief Officer and Chief Engineer sit and navigate the vessel safely with the help of integrated operation systems. We learnt that Makruzz vessels meet the global standards of safety in terms of life saving, fire-fighting, navigational and communication systems. Maintaining such high standards was one of the primary reasons government allowed a private company to operate on choppy waters of Andaman Sea.
Interesting fact – M.V. Makruzz Gold happens to be the most technologically advanced vessel in the Andaman Sea with features such as satellite communications, infrared radar and autopilot modes. Commissioned in Feb 2017, M.V. Makruzz Gold is also one of the biggest & fastest passenger ships with capacity of 322 passengers and speed upto 22 knots. M.V. Makruzz on the other hand can carry upto 264 passengers.
Inside the ship, while hopping islands, we had a great time and believe us, time just flew off. We chatted with few English citizens who were visiting Neil islands (Shaheed Dweep) and they told us that Makruzz vessels were at par with other such ships they had traveled in globally. They did not expect such comfort and services especially the Royal seats of M.V. Makruzz Gold which were pushback with footrest. The ocean was quite choppy during one of our trips to Neil Island (Shaheed Dweep) causing sea sickness and we could see some passengers getting very uncomfortable. The AC and soothing music did help and the crew and onboard staff were always on their toes to assist such passengers with sea sickness bags. However we felt like being in an hour long roller coaster ride enjoying the panoramic views of the emerald sea.
Travel through Makruzz – The complete process
Here is a short guide that will help you through the entire process of traveling through Makruzz.
As timings and charges are subject to change every now and then, it is advisable to check them at their website www.makruzz.com. The online booking system on their website shows live availability status and lets you book tickets for any route. Note the abbreviations you might find on their site are – PB for Port Blair, HL for Havelock (Swaraj Dweep) and NL for Neil Islands (Shaheed Dweep).
Makruzz ships cover both directions Port Blair-Havelock (Swaraj Dweep)-Neil (Shaheed Dweep)-Port Blair and Port Blair-Neil (Shaheed Dweep)-Havelock (Swaraj Dweep)-Port Blair. Since the first route is more popular among tourists, 2 ships – M.V. Makruzz Gold and Coastal Cruise operates on this route. M.V. Makruzz Gold currently operates twice in a day, one circle in morning and one circle in evening.
The Makruzz ships sail to and from Phoenix Bay Jetty at Port Blair. There is only one Jetty at Havelock (Swaraj Dweep) and Neil (Shaheed Dweep) so that’s where they sail from.
Process of ferrying in Makruzz
Reservations – If your travel dates are planned, book your tickets online at www.makruzz.com. The online ticket windows open 1 month in advance. You can also just walk into Makruzz office present at all the 3 locations (Port Blair, Havelock Island and Neil Island) and get your tickets booked subject to availability. Once you have reserved tickets, print it and carry your government ID cards with you when you travel
Security check – This is done by CISF personnel (Police) while entering the Port Blair jetty (i.e. the Phoenix Bay jetty). The entire luggage also has to go through the security checks just like in airports. This is not done in Havelock (Swaraj Dweep) and Neil (Shaheed Dweep). At Port Blair, you can board a bus after this to reach the jetty in case you don’t want to walk
Check-in – Near the jetty, all the passengers have to go to Makruzz office and check-in by displaying their photo ID cards and printed tickets. The check-in closes 15 minutes prior to departure
Luggage hand over – Just like in aircrafts, the check-in luggage has to be handed over to Makruzz staff. The hand-luggage can be carried with oneself
Boarding – The gates open a short while after the Makruzz arrives at the jetty or 30 minutes prior to departure. The Boarding closes 10 minutes prior to departure
Seat Allocation – Though the seats are already allocated during reservation, the cabin crew members help in identifying the seats
Arrival – On arrival, the check-in luggage is handed over to you at the jetty outside the ship
Few tips for the passengers travelling in Makruzz:
Arrive 1 hour prior to your ship’s departure as it takes time to go through security checks and check-ins especially at Port Blair
Do not forget to carry your valid photo ID proofs – it is a must while checking-in
Make sure you carry a print out of your reserved tickets. If forgotten, you can get them printed at the Makruzz office present at the jetty for additional charge of INR 50
Children or infants above 1 year are charged a full ticket. Infants below 1 year of age can travel free of charge
Correction of name is not permitted in ticket once booked. So please ensure the correct name of each passenger
While handing over your check-in luggage, ensure that you inform the personnel your destination point. The ships run from Port Blair to Havelock Island (Swaraj Dweep) via Neil Island (Shaheed Dweep) or the other way round and to avoid your luggage getting off-boarded at the intermittent island, it is advisable to inform them first hand
Hope you liked our experience with Makruzz as much as we did and plan to sail with them during your trip to Andaman Islands. What do you think of our sailing experience or services offered by Makruzz? Have you traveled in a catamaran before or could our article encourage you to try it? Do let us know in comment section below.
Note: All opinions expressed in this blog are our own and not influenced by Makruzz or MAK Logistics in any manner.