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Ship ship hurray!

If in no mood to rush the 600-km distance from Calcutta to Patna, you could do it at leisure now, in 15 days, on the ABN Rajmahal. The ship set sail on Saturday.

“This is the first trip of the second vessel of Assam Bengal Navigation Company on the Bengal-Bihar route. The cruise runs in association with Bihar State Tourism Development Corporation (BSTDC). Guests get to stay at Patna for a day, with sightseeing trips to Patna Museum and Kumhrar Park. They spend the night on the ship,” said Naveen Kumar, deputy general manager, BSTDC.

The 15-day trip has been a sell-out. The company also runs cruises on the Brahmaputra. The Telegraph 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 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, Moong 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.

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