ABN Rajmahal Ship near Hazarduari Palace

A river cruise in India: exploring this incredible country by cruising

May 2, 2017

A gentle daily rhythm, unhurried exploration of a fascinating part of India, new friends and plenty of time to read and enjoy the scenery – this is what we discovered on a recent river cruise in India.

Earlier this year we were fortunate enough to spend a few days aboard a river cruise in India, on the ABN Rajmahal, a sister vessel to the ABN Charaidew.  Later this year, Remarkable East – the small group-touring brand of India Unbound – will run Brahmaputra River Cruise on the ABN Charaidew.

Our recent time on a river cruise in India not only revealed a way to travel and discover a country with a very languid, pleasing pace – it gave us the chance to take great photos (wonderful for amateur travel photographers), time to relax on the deck and loose myself in the scenery, and the opportunity for casual socialising with my fellow cruise-goers, which quickly developed into a companionable sense of camaraderie as we went on a river voyage together.

Here are some of the practical observations we noted along the way about a river cruise in India.

#1 Cabins

The cabins on our vessel were quite spacious. In our cabin there was a desk, luggage rack, bedside tables, and a sitting area with chairs next to the cabin’s French windows. The cabin looked directly out over the river. You can sit with the window open and enjoy uninterrupted views of riverside life as it floats by from the comfort and privacy of your own cabin.

ABN Rajmahal Single cabin
#2 Meals

Meals on board are a mix of Western and Indian, allowing you to experience local cuisine, but also giving you some familiar fare during your voyage.  In charge of meals on our cruise was  Chef Vincent, who whipped up a storm of classic Indian dishes as well as some regional favourites and Western options.

#3 Head to the sun deck

The sundeck is the place to be and the most spacious part of the boat.  There are lots of private seats if you are after a quiet afternoon – plus chairs that are arranged to encourage socializing, so you can chat with friends you make along the way and those you are travelling with.  There’s plenty of cover as well as a small, uncovered area if your tan is a priority.  The sundeck also has a small bar with drinks and all day tea and coffee.

ABN Rajmahal Sundeck1

#4 Onboard activities and resources

The vessel’s saloon has wifi, lots of coffee table books, novels, games and DVD’s (a small selection of Western and Indian classics). We can imagine people gathering here for a Scrabble shoot out in the evenings or to even try the latest Bollywood blockbuster.

There’s often a documentary film on in the evening in the saloon, followed by a very detailed briefing of the next day’s schedule – timing, what to wear/not wear, how long excursions will take etc. All of the day excursions off the vessel are optional so by giving the briefing you get an idea of whether you wish to go or not. Nearly everyone goes along, including the cruise staff (who one minute are serving you lunch and the next helping you on and off the tender).

#5 Day excursions – exploring rural India

The small riverside towns and unaffected sites you visit along the way are perfect for unhurried exploration, a world away from the big name monuments of North India, which have their crowds of tourists and hawkers. During these excursions, the boat’s naturalist is one of the people to accompany you. During our voyage, not only was our boat’s naturalist adept at spotting birds, he was also engaging with the locals we met along the way, allowing some insight and interaction with the people and communities we were visiting.  This really added to the experience.

ABN Rajmahal near Paddy field

A river cruise in India allows to you see places that are hard to reach by road, while travelling in a comfortable and leisurely manner. As the journey unfolds, not only do you get to see and experience some of this incredible country, but you can meet and get to know your fellow passengers. And, as we observed, forge a real sense of camaraderie as you share this trip with those you meet.

For more details on our Brahmaputra River Cruise contact us today or visit the website. Brahmaputra River Cruise, a small group tour offered by our small group-touring brand Remarkable East, starts in Kolkata on October 11, 2017 and begins a 3-night stay at the wonderful Oberoi Grand in Kolkata.

India Unbound offers a range of India river tours. See our website for full details or email us to receive an itinerary or a copy of our latest brochure.