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CruiseDirection - Magazine May 2019

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Cruise the Ganges

If you have never been to India before, then you are likely to find the cruise a challenging and intriguing experience. Vivid colours, Eastern architecture and circling vultures all give a sense of the exotic, but you will also witness sights of extreme poverty, and the river used for everything from drinking to washing to bodily functions for both humans and animals.  

Most Ganges river cruises do not take place on the actual Ganges, but on the Hooghly, Jalangi and Bhagirathi, three rivers that form part of the Ganges delta. Vantage, Abercrombie & Kent and Uniworld are three of the best-known cruise lines that operate these cruises from October to March to take advantage of the cooler temperatures. Assam Bengal Navigation offers a cruise on the actual Ganges, cruising to Patna. However, this is only possible during the periods of high water in August and September, when temperatures are very hot.

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Why Visit Ganges?


Ganges scenery image by cruisedirection

India's sacred river

A holiday on its waters is a cruise to the spiritual heart of the nation

Among the stops on a Ganges river cruise is Kolkata, one of the major centres of the former British Empire. You can still see the remains of the colonial past in buildings such as Victoria Memorial Hall, which is now a museum. For more recent history, visit the Motherhouse, where Mother Theresa served the poor of the city. It now houses her tomb. At Kalna, you can visit some well-preserved terracotta Hindu temples, and for souvenirs, go to the craftspeople of Matiari, who specialise in brass work such as bangles and Hindu statues. At many stops, your excursions will be by horse-drawn cart, tuk-tuks or rickshaws.  

Most cruises will include a trip to Varanesi, which is on the actual Ganges and is frequently offered as a stay for before or after your cruise. Crammed with pilgrims, it is India’s most sacred city and one of the oldest cities in the world. Vibrant Varanesi, with its temples and sacred walks, is likely to be one of the highlights of your Ganges cruise.  

India is a vast country, and most Ganges cruise operators offer the chance to see more by combining the cruise with a visit to the Golden Triangle of Delhi, Agra and Jaipur, where you can see the fascinating Pink City and India’s most iconic site, the Taj Mahal.  

For the adventurous, cruising to the Ganges is a trip that they will never forget, and the chance to experience such a different culture is a rewarding one. Make sure that your trip runs smoothly by being prepared for the negative aspects of the country. Check which vaccinations you will need prior to your trip, and anti-malaria tablets may also be advised. Be aware that many of the stops on the cruise are to traditional towns and villages, where animals roam freely. This is picturesque but brings the inevitable mess, so closed footwear is advised. Also, be careful what you eat and drink when you are away from your cruise ship and bring medication to cope with any bouts of “Delhi Belly.” With sensible precautions, there will be nothing to stop you from enjoying the wonders of this Indian cruise.

Ganges destination image by cruisedirection

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