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Ship ship hurray!

Private cruise liners on the Hooghly will soon be allowed to moor their ships to Bengal government jetties anchored on the riverbank in Calcutta. These operators had been laying anchor mid-river, using dinghies to ferry tourists ashore. “They would be allowed to keep their vessels alongside our jetties. This will spare tourists an unnecessary hassle and help the cruise liners draw more people,” said Madan Mitra on Friday, on the eve of ABN Rajmahal’s 600km journey to Patna. The 15-day trip by the Indo-British joint venture Assam Bengal Navigation Company is a sell-out. The company also runs cruises on the Brahmaputra. “We will soon have other players lining up to use our jetties,” Mitra said. Metro brings you a sneak peek of the ship...

The Vessel

ABN Rajmahal has 18 double-bedded cabins and four single-bedded ones apart from a salon, a spa and a sundeck offering comfortable open-air seating in shade or sun. The cabins have French balconies. The glass-covered dining room is on the lower deck below the cabins. A corner at the entrance has a small display of Bengal artefacts.

The ship is 51 metres long, powered by three engines with extra-shallow draught for river navigation.

The ship’s dining hall (above) and the lounge on the lower deck are airy and full of light

The cruise

Calcutta to Patna is covered in 15 days with stopovers while the downstream trip lasts 12 days. The journey to Farakka is a weeklong affair and beyond that (Farakka-Patna) is an eight-day trip. Those who have booked till Farakka can catch a train to return to Calcutta. Tourists will visit villages, palaces and terracotta temples in cars and on rickshaws at each halt, savouring the flavours of Bengal.

The fare

Rs 11,500 per person per night, inclusive of all meals, taxes and local trips. The fare includes airport/station drop and a return trip by train. The company says it has agents abroad. “There are three price bands. The fare varies according to season, going up to around Rs 24,000 a night in November,” said Ashish Phookan, the firm’s managing director. Log on to www.assambengalnavigation.com for details.

The food

It’s a mix of Bengali, north Indian, Chinese and continental. Vegetable and fish will be sourced locally along the route. “From Shorshe Ilish to Begun Bhaja, Mug Dal to Malai Kebab, there’s everything you can expect from a cruise,” said an official.

ABN Rajmahal doesn’t have a bar licence but allows guests to carry liquor on board.

One of the double-bedded rooms with French windows

The stops

• Barrackpore: Synonymous with the 1857 freedom movement, this is where the first British cantonment was built in 1772

• Chandernagore: Former French colony famous for its museum housing a collection of antiques

• Kalna: A clutch of 108 Shiva temples built in 1809. A tourist must-go of Burdwan district

• Nabadwip: The birthplace of Lord Chaitanya, the 16th-century social reformer and preacher of the Bhakti cult

• Mayapur: The world headquarters of Iskcon

• Murshidabad: Capital of the nawabs

• Gour: Capital of three dynasties of ancient Bengal: the Buddhist Palas, the Hindu Senas and the Muslim nawabs

• Farakka: The 2.2km barrage on the Ganga with 109 gates

Text by Kinsuk Basu

Pictures by Amit Datta