What is a houseboats? Describe a houseboat cruise and the experience?

Commonly called kettuvallom, a houseboat is a huge country boat, the hull made with planks of the Wild Jack Tree. These planks are stitched together and bathed in fish oil to provide longevity and also to make it entirely leak proof. Houseboats range upto 70 feet and weigh in more than 50 tons. Within this huge structural base, they hold bedrooms, toilets, a sundeck, a kitchen and in some cases a conference hall too! Houseboats are presently powered by an outboard engine and cruise leisurely.

Houseboats come in various shapes; one bedroom, two bedrooms, three bedrooms, five bedrooms and even a ten bedroom houseboats is available, both in Alleppey and Kumarakom. Most houseboats today are fitted with air-conditioning but normally the air cons are switched on only during the night. Food is served on board and consists of Kerala based items with no other choice. Breakfast, Lunch, Evening Tea and snacks and Dinner is included in the cruise rates. Houseboats are usually stocked with fruits, water and beer though one would have to pay extra for any requirement above the normal three meals and evening tea.

Houseboat journeys are usually overnight. Journey options are available, namely, Alleppey Round, which covers the Alleppey area, Kumarakom round which covers the Kumarakom area and AlleppeyKumarakom Round which does a short synopsis cruise of both areas. Houseboats cruises are also available from Thottapally, further south to Alleppey. Most travellers book an overnight cruise but many do more than a single night, which would mean covering more of the lagoons and the lake. Usually these cruises have two stops, a stopover after lunch for a short while and a longer night stop. Check in timings are 12 noon and check out timings are 9 am.

The journey is at a leisurely pace and is a great way to explore the area and life of the people who live around the backwaters. Children running to school, women making their way to the local market, temple or church, men working in the paddy fields, country boats carrying items of everyday use across the lagoons and the Cormorant sunbathing are vistas which set against a green, palm fringed background make this a journey of a lifetime.