Interest in river cruising continues to grow as more vacationers discover the appeal of sailing on small, intimate ships through beautiful countryside and right into the heart of historic river ports in Europe and Asia. Soon, river cruise fans will be able to take a river cruise on the subcontinent of India, too.
The Ganges river has always been essential those who live along its banks, which extend from the western Himalayas to the Bay of Bengal. The Ganges is a sacred river to Hindus, who believe it descended from heaven. Beginning in 2016, Uniworld Boutique River Cruises will sail its new Voyager II on this storied river.
The major city in the delta of the Ganges is Kolkata, located on the Hooghly River, one of the Ganges’ many distributaries. Kolkata, India’s most important river port, was India’s capital during British colonial days. It remains the country’s cultural center, with wonderful traditions in literature, theater and music. Kolkata’s Indian Museum is the place to learn about Indian natural history, and the white marble Victoria Memorial has lovely architecture, gardens, and 25 galleries full of art and artifacts. Mother Teresa established the Missionaries of Charity in Kolkata, and you can visit her former home and humble tomb.
Sailing north from Kolkata will bring you to Chandannagar, a former French trading post and settlement; and Kalna, famous for many intricate terracotta shrines that date from the 18th century. These include an amazing complex of 108 temples in two circles, all dedicated to the Hindu god Shiva.
Continuing up the river, Mayapur has a beautiful temple marking the birthplace of the founder of the Hare Krishna movement, which attracts more than one million pilgrims each year. Murshidabad is home to the magnificent Hazarduari Palace, built between 1829 and 1837 for the Nawab (ruler) of Bengal. Once the setting for official meetings between the royal family and representatives of Britain, it’s now a museum that houses priceless art and furnishings, including a noteworthy chandelier presented to the Nawab by Queen Victoria. A longer cruise may even take you as far as Varanasi, the holiest city in Hinduism.
The best time to cruise the Ganges is October through March, avoiding the heat and monsoon rains of summer. To find out more about cruising on the historic and exotic Ganges – and perhaps adding a land-based excursion to the Taj Mahal – talk with your Cruise Holidays personal cruise expert.