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This Luxury Cruise Down the Ganges Showcases Authentic India in Stately Style

Travel to regional India is more closely associated with iron-stomached backpackers tramping the last stretches of the hippie trail than it is with plush peripatetics. Now, a deluxe cruise from Uniworld’s “Ganges Voyager II” is out to change that perception—taking more splendiferous sailors deep into the Indian interior along its most sacred river in five-star comfort.

“The number one experience is seeing India from the Ganges,” says ship manager Partha Mandal. “From the road or railways, these places are not that accessible.”

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Providing access to otherwise hugely annoying to get to destinations is Uniworld’s trump card, so Robb Report climbed aboard to see how well they play it.

The Maharaja suite on Ganges Voyager II
The Maharaja suite sprawls over 400 square feet.

From the big-city hustle of Kolkata to the onetime Mughal outpost of Murshidabad, with rural towns and villages in between, getting a taste of life Ganges-style was a breeze. Rather than haggling in Hindi for an overnight coach, you simply stroll from stateroom to shore for daily excursions.

Shorter ventures are by foot, but for anything further transport is ready and waiting—tuk-tuks, a bus or even horse-drawn buggies. Often you’ll be greeted by a crowd of locals gathered to ogle the ritzy ship, still a curious sight in these parts. Disneyland India this ain’t.

The tour manager and two guides are experts in the region and know the towns inside out. Radio packs are provided if you’d like your own guided commentary track, or you can just enjoy the curated sightseeing. A bevy of staff are also ever-present to provide bottled water, hand sanitizer, and anything else you might need.

With 36 staff to a maximum 56 guests, the service is a standout. Uniworld—which runs 19 ships around the world and operates under the same corporate umbrella as Red Carnation Hotels—can afford to sweat the small stuff, which you appreciate when you’re sweating. Crew greet you with refreshments and cool towels on return from excursions. In the meantime, shoes are collected, cleaned and returned to your room—a trick too many top hotels have long forgotten.

Comforting little touches like these are all part of the daily routine. A staff member might overhear a guest’s favorite dish, only for it to appear on the menu the following night. In your suite, twice-daily services are accompanied by a small souvenir (the one you forgot to buy), and a pillow menu is always a welcome sight.

Deck chairs on the Ganges Voyager II
While there are off-ship adventures aplenty, sitting back and taking in the scenery is the ultimate treat.

The ship itself is beautiful, and designed in a nod to the region’s British colonial history. Think teak floors, carved hardwood furniture, Indian-patterned tiling, fabrics, and hand-painted murals. Each of the 28 staterooms feature a floor-to-ceiling French balcony, armchairs, plus a writing desk for channeling your inner Paul Theroux. If you need more space to practice your cricket shots, opt for one of the two Viceroy suites, which come with a divan, or the 400-square-foot Maharaja, complete with bathtub.

Excursions generally run for around two hours, so this trip is for those who like relaxation and adventure in equal measure. Onboard activities are plentiful, though, and continue to teach you about Indian culture, whether a dhoti-tying workshop or a performance from a local dance troupe. Sunset yoga with the onboard wellness consultant is a popular way to wind down the day.

Perhaps the simplest and best experience, though, is just sitting on deck watching life happen. Everywhere people bathe along the river’s hundreds of ghats (stone steps), many hop bamboo-platformed ferry boats, prayers and music ring out from towns behind jute plantations.

“The Ganges is not only a river, it’s a mother to us,” says Mandal. It’s hard to imagine a more comfortable way to see it first-hand.

Pricing for the 13-day itinerary begins at $7,199 per person, beginning with six days in New Delhi, Agra, and Jaipur.

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