“You are my lucky charm”, say many a couple to each other.
The Casino Royale Goa Casino floating off the pier in Panjim is the perfect place to see if those words indeed ring true.
A short stroll from my Mitaroy Goa Hotel, the pier of the Casino Royale Goa is quite a fancy affair with a red carpet welcome. From there, a speed boat with a captain and crew in smart sailor uniforms rush you to the Casino Royale Goa, a floating casino ship that is anchored off the coast of Goa, due to strict gambling rules that apply in Indian territory.
On board Casino Royale Goa, which I am told is the largest passenger/entertainment vessel ever built in the country, I immediately feel an eclectic mix of sophistication and style. The reception area is really fancy, with a classy mix of browns, gold and mirrors.
Among the couples I notice a few rich looking gentlemen, that look like Russian millionaires to me, looking to drop a million or two. I am guessing that they didn’t come by speed boat. Indeed, Casino Royale Goa boasts of its own helideck where millionaires can land in their own private chopper, before being whisked to the private gambling Suites!
I see a big Bollywood entourage in the main Casino Royale Hall. At the time, Casino Royal Goa is partnering with the Bollywood movie Teen Patti, starring Amitabh Bachchan, Sir Ben Kingsley and southern superstar Madhavan. Casino Royale Goa akin to Bollywood seems to be about a winning combination of lavishness, style and grandeur.
I am on board to visit my friend and Managing Director Narendra Punj, who has worked many years for Casinos Austria. I know Narendra’s bother Brij, who lives in Germany very well.
Dressed in a dapper grey suit that matched his salt and pepper beard, Narendra Punj is not at all like his soft spoken brother. I guess that in the casino business, you have to make a mark immediately. And Narendra has made his mark, working for many years for Casinos Austria before he returned to India to take charge of Casino Royale Goa. Narendra managed to take some time off to show me around his floating casino. In addition to the Main Gaming Area and a dedicated poker room, Narendra also showed me the VVIP Gaming Room, where the creme de la creme of Indian and foreign society come to chase lady luck in the privacy of their own room.
Casino Royale Goa also has an Aqua Bar that has a stunning view of the ocean. I order a Goan feni with water. The bartender at the Aqua Bar seems to be quite shocked that I didn’t go for the usual martini. He tells me that I am the first person to order a Goan feni on board, and he opens a sealed bottle of feni as proof.
As I sip my Goan feni, shaken not stirred of course, and wandered around the ship, I notice a couple sitting at one of the tables. The man gently encourages his wife to roll the dice and she hesitantly does so with a flush of excitement on her face.
Or maybe it is the flush of love, I think to myself as I stroll away…