India Cruise Story

Bengal Ganga was designed as a replica of the colonial style ‘Clyde’ steamers that at the height of Empire trudged through swamps and far flung deltas; in particular, similar ships employed were used by a succession of important officials and celebrities of the day, most notably recorded as being used by Viceroys of India and the Prince of Wales. Shining Teak and Brass lined state rooms opening onto similarly equipped promenade decks with rattan sitting areas. The 28 state rooms today can still ensure a fantastically comfortable and elite travelling style. ‘Improvements’ to meet today’s needs such as the saloon bar, dining room and observation deck are crucial facets of enhancing what otherwise would be long distance road travel, that can be arduous and frustrating at best of times.

After a gruelling sea voyage from Burma, the ship entered India in April 2009 to Kolkata Port, when a cyclone left her severely damaged. As rare an event as the immigration of an inland river ship, the Indian Register of shipping specifications meant that repairs could not be undertaken until 3 months later, when customs clearance had been granted.

Finally with the much needed facilitation by the Government of India Tourism, the Inland Waterways Authority of India including the Ministry of Shipping, and the Government of West Bengal, Bengal Ganga was confirmed as an Indian Ship on the 27th September 2009, merely 24 hours before the inaugural voyage. True to form, bureaucracy was troublesome, but ensured a thorough understanding of local by laws and a greater appreciation of the ship itself. A reminder of the equal value of both the destination and the journey.

Against all odds Bengal Ganga’s maiden voyage, and the first Ganges passenger cruise in well over 100 years were completed by September 2009. There was never a dull moment from start to finish: broken propellers and rudders a regular occurrence, with hindering inclement weather, and the constant battle against unprecedented urban development forming ‘barrages’ of aerial wires and bridges. These had to be subverted in order to reach Farraka Lock: the gateway from the Hooghly to the Mother Ganga, leading the ship on to Varanasi. At this point it has to be said that the resilience of the crew and the full backing of the Governments of West Bengal, Bihar and Uttar Pradesh in tandem with the Indian Waterways Authority of India resulted in a speedy and efficient round trip, arriving back in Kolkata on schedule. Covering 1200 kms the routing offers a sumptouous feast of cultural and historical precedence: Kolkata, Chandernagore, Bandel with British, French, and Portuguese architecture, terracotta temples at Kalna, Murshidabad with it’s Moghul Palaces, museums and mosques, Raj Mahal and the Moghul monuments, the Munger School of Yoga, Nalanda, Vikramshila the 8th Century ancient Buddhist University, Bodh Gaya where Siddhartha Gautama attained enlightenment, Patna museum, Sarnath, and the oldest living city in the world Varanasi, like the Ganges, the list is long and rich.

Whatever your interests there is nothing that Mother Ganga can’t tempt you with. Village life, colourful festivals, amazing archaeological sites, museums, temples, wonderful scenery and a rich tapestry of natural history that can be observed as the ship proceeds steadily along. This ‘diamond in the rough’ harbours some of the large endangered mammals such as Bluebull and Blackbuck Antelope, Wild Boar, Jackal, Bengal Fox, Jungle Cat, Rhesus Macaques, Grey Langurs and for those with sharp eyes good chances of Indian Mongoose. Not only the banks, but the channel itself hosts over ninety species of fish, Smooth Indian Otters, Terrapins and Tortoises as well as healthy populations of River Dolphins. Thousands of migratory ducks can be seen, as well as Indian Skimmers, Storks, River Lapwings, Kingfishers and birds of prey.

From an uncertain explorative start, our maiden voyage mistakes have allowed us to hone the Bengal Ganga Experience. We now have a fully trained crew, improved cuisine and excellent housekeeping. The Bengal Ganga Experience with the knowledge and enrichment given by the Mother Ganga herself gives clients the elegance of travel with the cultural and spiritual growth that is offered by this unique catchment. The journey is the destination.