On our last evening onboard, the atmosphere was rather subdued. We even had one couple leave around 9:00pm so were down to 16 even before we hit the sack. Another couple left early morning so we then down to 14. Nicole had packed all the cases last night so apart from settling our onboard account, there was little left to do other than enjoy the warm weather. During dinner last night, we had arranged with another couple to do a brief shopping tour this morning. The staff were happy to organise this for us and provide a member of the crew to accompany us. Unfortunately for me, I had a bit of an up-and-down night spending quite a few spells sitting on the throne. As a result, I wasn’t confident to venture out but the others all went.
They left at 9:00 and spent 3 hours out at various points around the city. All back by 12:00 with lots of tales and bargains.
We were among the last 10 to leave the boat which was at 3:00. The boat will remain empty now until the new year when it will resume the same itinerary. Some of the crew even came out to wave us off, their job after we had gone was to ready the boat for a visit by the owners.
The trip to the airport took 1 hour and 20 minutes and took us pretty much by the same route we came in on as there were a lot of things I remembered. Kolkata’s roads are not the best and with the traffic, I was glad to reach the airport.
Check-in was swift and immigration and security were deserted so we were soon airside. We flew back via Dubai on Emirates in business class which was something that came as part of the package. It’s just a shame the shared lounge at Kolkata airport wasn’t up to much.
So, that’s me signing off for a week, because we fly back on Friday morning to of all places Dubai for 7 nights on Costa Toscana.
Last night we again had a group of local dancers onboard who performed several dances for us. The colours and movement do make for really eye-catching spectacle.
Afterwards, we enjoyed a farewell dinner with the food being exceptional as it has been all this cruise. This morning we had an 8:30 start, the first place on the itinerary was a tour of the flower market, it took a good 40 minutes to get there on the coach along the very bumpy roads while navigating the busy traffic as well. It’s not a massive market but it was extremely busy and our visit lasted about 30 minutes.
Once back on the coach it was a 25-minute ride to our next stop which was the potters market where they make the ceremonial clay icons for one of many festivals. Interesting to see the different stages of production.
Just before making our way back to the boat, we made a final stop at St. John’s Church which was originally a cathedral, it was finished in 1787 and one of the first public buildings erected by the East India Company in Kolkata after it became the capital of British India.
On the grounds there is the Black Hole of Calcutta Monument, this event is a controversial part of the country’s history. During the siege of Calcutta, the Nawab, Siraj ud Daulah took 146 prisoners and confined them in a room measuring 14 feet by 8 feet and locked them up overnight. Only 23 survived: the remaining 123 perished of suffocation and heat stroke.
There was another tour in the afternoon which was to visit the Mother Teresa museum with a photo stop at the Victoria monument which we decided not to take. Apart from having minimum appeal, we have had enough of being driven around Kolkata in a coach so we spent the last afternoon out on the sun deck with one of the other couples. Judging by the feedback from those that went, we made the right decision
It’s our last night tonight so the packing must begin, we don’t actually leave the boat until 3:00 pm so will still get the best part of the day here.
Last night’s surprise was quite magical, after dinner we were invited up on the sun deck to see surprise number one which was a trail of candles floating down the river past the boat. Crew had taken the sampan up river and were releasing them into the water and the effect was stunning.
Then we were invited off the boat onto the bank where there crew had made a fire and set up speakers to play music to dance to, it was great fun. The evening was finished off with fireworks and the releasing of Chinese lanterns.
We awoke this morning to find ourselves anchored near the other side of the river in front of the Chandrodaya Temple of ISKCON.
At 7:30 we set off by sampan to the bank and then walked for about 10 minutes to reach the temple complex. Today we had a local guide to show us around and explain the principles of the Krishna movement. We were shown around Prabhupada Pushpa Samadhi Mandir which is dedicated to Srila Prabhpada, the founder of ISKCON. A beautiful building inside and out and despite there being many signs saying no photography, our guide said please feel free to take photos, so I did.
We didn’t actually visit the main temple as it is still under construction but we we shown around a smaller temporary one right next to it. Again although there were signs saying no photography, our guide said go ahead. Below are two of the interior.
I did find a few angles where we could get a photo or two of the exterior of new one as we were walking around which will have to do.
We were back onboard by 10:00 and on our way to Chandannagar more or less straight after. The rest of our morning was spent on the sunbeds at the back until the lunchtime gong was sounded. At 5:00 we took a sampan trip over to the bank for a quick walk along the Chandannagar promenade before returning back to the boat to prepare for the evening.
We have dancers coming aboard then for the farewell dinner.
The early morning Ganges is a gift that keeps giving. At first light there is a mist that blankets the ground then as the sun is rising, it starts to burn off and the effect is absolutely stunning.
Although today was mainly a river day, we did have the opportunity for a pre-breakfast walk to Khushbagh (“Garden of Happiness”). It is the garden cemetery of the Nawabs of Bengal and about a 10-minute walk from the river bank. Here we were shown the graves of the Nawabs of Bengal from the Afshar dynasty along with some of their family members. It was an interesting experience and nice to have a chance for some pre-breakfast exercise.
As the rest of our day was spent onboard, I will show you around the boat a bit. Apart from the cabins, there are essentially 3 large public areas, the dining room, the bar/lounge and the sun deck. All three are well furnished and facilitate their purpose perfectly.
You can walk a complete lap of deck 4, as it has an outside walkway both sides of the lounge. From these you can access the wheelhouse at the front and also the small but very busy spa.
Nicole along with many others has made good use of the very reasonably priced treatments available. The water out of the taps isn’t drinkable and we have an endless supply of bottled RO water which is processed onboard. After every excursion, we have to take our shoes off which are then cleaned and left outside our cabin.
This morning, there was a henna tattoo session and most of the ladies succumbed to having one. I was very impressed with the artistic skills of the two crew members providing the service.
I have enjoyed just sitting on the sun deck watching the world go by, you pretty much see everything from fisherman, farmers men bathing, women doing the washing, the wildlife, small children shouting and waving as we pass and even the occasional funeral pyre.
At 5:00 we arrived at Mayapur where tied up at the bank for the evening. We have been told to expect a surprise tonight so I will reveal all tomorrow.
Another misty morning but this time in Murshidabad. Nicole is in her element having two yoga classes a day with an Indian yoga guru out on deck just as the sun is breaking through the mist.
At 8:30 after breakfast, we set off by horse and carriage to Katra Masjid.
En route, we had a lucky escape after a motorcycle drove into the side of our carriage. No harm was done to us or the horse and from what I could tell the motorcyclist came off the worst.
Katra Masjid is a former Shia mosque that was built in the 1700’s. It’s no longer in use and it’s where the grave of Nawab Murshid Quli Khan (the first Nawab of Bengal) lies.
After our visit we were back in our carriage and on our way to destination number two which was the Hazarduari Palace.
Built-in the early 1800’s by the Nawab of Bengal to house his office, durbar and also house officers of the East India Company.
Today it is a museum containing many documents, artefacts and mementoes from its heyday. Photography is prohibited inside so I just have exterior shots. From there it was a short walk back to the boat via a lane which had lots of gift shops.
We were back onboard for 11:00 and I had a nice cold beer to enjoy for the sailaway. There was a second excursion in the afternoon to another village but we opted to stay onboard, there are only so many of these places you can see.
Tomorrow is a river day so I will tell you more about the boat and life onboard.
Nicole again enjoyed her early morning yoga while a sat with a coffee and watched the local ferry crossing back and forth as the sun was trying to break through.
There wasn’t time for breakfast first thing this morning either as we had an excursion to one of the local villages. From 7:30 until 9:00 we were given a walking tour of Matiari where we visited a couple of workshops that produce brass and copper items from recycled metal salvaged from the cities and towns. We saw various different stages of the production process and were then given the chance to buy direct from the manufacturer.
By the time we were back onboard, I was more than ready for a good breakfast. I have become very partial to a Masala Omelette from the egg station and have enjoyed one most mornings. While we were enjoying breakfast, the boat set off for our next stop in Murshidabad. I also made a visit to the wheelhouse this morning to see how it all works, with all the modern technology there really isn’t that much to do these days other than to steer the boat away from the shallow areas.
At 11:00 we went to the bar lounge and learnt about colourful Indian Saris, turbans and dhotis. We were randomly selected to dress up in one of the 3 items and it was a lot of fun. Lots of photo opportunities for everyone to pose in their Indian attire.
The last 10 minutes of the hour were taken up with a few learning some Indian dance steps. I think it’s fair to say everyone had a great time. At lunch, I was treated to a special hotter curry which was amazing, after the talk on spices I had mentioned to the chef that I am partial to a little bit of heat so he prepared one for me to try.
The afternoon was spent just relaxing on the sun deck and enjoying the nice weather interspersed with some liquid refreshments.
This evening we were treated to a traditional Indian dance performance on the sun deck which was really impressive. So much expression and detail that I am in awe of the talent involved.
We had a lovely meal in the dining room yesterday evening which just rounded off the day perfectly. The bed is super comfy and we both enjoyed a really good night’s sleep. This morning we had some coffee delivered to our cabin at 6:30 and then Nicole was out at 7:00 for yoga on the sun deck which she thoroughly enjoyed.
By the time she had finished, we had a one hour window to get breakfast before our morning excursion to Kalna.
We were tendered to the bank and then taken by electric tuktuks to visit Kalna Shiv Mandir which consists of 2 circles of 108 small Hindu Temples then across the road to the Krishna Chandra Temple.
Before heading back to the boat we walked through the local fruit and vegetable market.
When we arrived back onboard there were sail away cocktails on the sun deck.
The rest of the afternoon has been spent just relaxing onboard, except for lunch and a talk on Indian spices by the chef. The internet has been very, very slow today so this post is shorter than normal as I am not going to waste too much time and effort uploading bits and pieces while I am on holiday. If I don’t manage today it can keep for a day or two
It was a very early start for us this morning, our cases had to be out for 4:00 and there was a small buffet breakfast and coffee available in the lobby from 4:15 until we left at 5:00. The journey to the airport took about 30 minutes, security screening at the airport was a bit of a bun fight but we all made it through okay, by 7:30 we were in the air and on our way to Kolkata.
Our flight on Indigo Airlines took 1 hour and 20 minutes and 95% of us were swiftly through baggage reclaim with the exception of one couple who had one case not arrive. Transfer to the boat took a good 2 hours and while I’m sure it was the fastest route, I have to say that Kolkata appears vast and very extremely busy so progress was slow. Due to the lost luggage and delay leaving the airport, our embarkation location changed due to high tides linked with the full moon. It meant that the incoming tide would prevent us from sailing under two bridges so in the end we used an alternative spot and tendered to the boat.
Once onboard we were shown to our cabin and given a quick tour of it. Everything looks really lovely and I think we are going to enjoy our time in it.
Lunch was served almost immediately after we boarded and after we had enjoyed our first meal onboard, we were able to for the first time in days unpack the suitcases properly.
Time is of the essence today so it will mostly be photos as they say more than words. It has been a long day today but at least we are now onboard so life should become a little easier.
Picking up from where I left off last night is where I will start today’s post. Our room which is in a block of 6 one storey chalet style suites is simply stunning, it had the wow factor as soon as we set foot inside it. Very spacious and beautifully decorated and complete with its own private garden area outside the bathroom. It’s a great shame we only have the two nights here.
We only had about 45 minutes to take it all in before going out to a group dinner where all the men were dressed up by staff in turbans for the evening. The food was a buffet and served outside, we all sat on one long table and it was a lovely way to end the day. We are all getting on famously and I am now confident to say I know everyone’s name. All the men had a group photo where we encouraged our tour manager Vishal to join us by lying along the floor in front of us. What a great sport!!
At 9:00 this morning after breakfast we set off on our morning tour which first took us to the Amber Palace. It is perched on top of hill and constructed of red sandstone and marble. It is a Unesco World Heritage site which was a really great place to experience.
From there we visited another Unesco site, this time Jantar Mantar, which is a collection of 19 astronomical instruments built by the Rajput king Sawai Jai Singh II. A local guide took over from Yogi to explain how all the sun dials worked. This was another venue that we enjoyed very much and totally amazed at how accurate the dials all were.
Finally just before lunch we visited the former Royal Palace which was within walking distance of the observatory. Here we were shown the display of ornate royal garments dating back hundreds of years.
Lunch was booked for us in a restaurant adjacent to the palace and afterward we made our way back to the hotel to enjoy the facilities and swim in the pool.
We had an early start this morning, leaving the hotel at 6:15 for another visit to the Taj Mahal, this time to witness the sunrise. It was still dark when we left but as we were queuing to go in it was getting lighter by the minute. Sunrise itself was at 7:55 but it wasn’t until 25 minutes or so after that it started to make it’s impression on the monument itself.
Not as busy this morning and a lot more westerners about. We could have got a photo on the Diana seat without a longish wait but what is the point with so many people standing behind you? There are plenty of other benches available providing a clear view between you and the Taj Mahal.
Sunset or sunrise? There is nothing between them really, only in that sunrise is not so crowded. Again, it’s easier to show a selection of photos to get an idea.
By 8:00 we were back at the hotel for breakfast which by now we were more than ready for. At 9:30 we took an optional trip to see how the marble inlaying is done complete with the exit through the gift shop. Very interesting and some beautiful craftsmanship with prices to match. Once back at the hotel, we were able to take a look around the pool area at the back which is stunning, it’s just a shame we never got enough time to utilise the facilities.
At 1:00pm, following a swift lunch, we set off by coach to our next hotel (The Oberoi Rajvilas) in Jaipur. Once again I enjoyed driving through the Indian countryside, it’s absolutely fascinating seeing the diversity of everything that is going on and makes for an entertaining journey.
We arrived at the hotel just before 6:30 which was 30 minutes later than expected so the evening turned into a bit of a rush as we scheduled to go out for a group meal at 7:30. The setup isn’t like a hotel that’s all in one block and is a series of chalet type buildings spread over quite a large site. The accommodation is out of this world and due to time restrictions, it’ll have to wait until tomorrow for me to show you. We have another early start tomorrow but after lunch, the afternoon and evening is ours so I will catch up then.