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Trip Report Haimark Lower Ganges Cruise and beyond

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I am sharing my experience with those who would like to know about a now "trendy" vacation.....cruising on rivers on small boutique boats. I was not able to find much about this topic on this Forum while researching India. Haimark Luxury River cruises is based in Colorado and catered originally to English speaking travelers. We bought our accommodations directly through Haimark about 1 1/2 years before embarkation (December 22, 2015) expecting a nice family holiday celebration somewhere different. On one of my posts, before leaving, I was totally frustrated because Haimark had reneged on some of what they stated was paid for as well as our rooms we paid for (special suites) later reassigning us other smaller rooms at the back of the boat. also, part of our frustration was not receiving our ship boarding passes until 3 days before embarkation. Their brochure stated we would receive our documents between 30 to 14 days before departure)...........
We had already gotten our shots, taken our typhoid, etc, bought our business class tickets to New Delhi a year ahead, not to speak of making arrangements with Arvind, owner of Castle and King and paying him 1/2 of our tour we arranged. Too late to cancel, so we bit the bullet and went forward thinking the worse. TIP: work through a certified travel agent instead of directly with the cruise line. No one else on board had the problems we had!!! Lesson learned!

The 7 day cruise on the lower Ganges was what was needed to rest my soul and get into the family holiday spirit. On board, there were only 40 passengers and it seemed the crew outnumbered the passengers. The Ganges Voyager is well maintained, professionally staffed, and run like a boutique hotel, with every amenity possibly available. The weather was perfect! No wind, no rain and cruising went smoothly each day. Being foodies, the chef was amazing offering both Indian cuisine along with western choices.....spicy hot and not. The Pastry chef baked a special cake for my son-in-law on his birthday and surprised everyone. It was delicious! Learned a lot about West Bengal culture, South Indian food and all religion during this cruise. . First day out, we had gotten a tour of Kolkata and visited Mother Teresa's orphanage, the Parliament House and Museums. We did see the Ganges culture each day as we cruised up the River with human cremations and ceremony on the river, daily bathing, clothes washing, fishing etc. Of course, not as spiritual as Varanasi, but there were still Ghats and Ganges Culture present. We were able to take the boat's tender each day to visit new rural villages and walked into the village homes to view families still making special handicrafts (e.g. bronze ware, bricks) to be shipped out to bigger distributers. Pollution was thick and there really was not a clear blue sky day any of the days we cruised. TIP: If you have a choice of rooms, ask for rooms closest to the front of the boat. We were at the back, and when the engine motor turned on to move forward, the noise was somewhat daunting and not relaxing. At the front, no noise!!! Also, it does not matter which side of the boat your room is on as the boat will turn around and you will also be able to see sun rise and sunsets.

At the end of the 7 days, we were ready for something more exciting but glad we visited Kolkata first, using that as a basis to compare our next week in North West India. We will remember the crew onboard, mostly, because, without their attentiveness to our every needs, the trip would be a bit more ordinary. No more cruising for awhile, I think..... From Kolkata, we worked with Castle and King to plan the rest of our India adventures for another 8 days. I will write more about that in the future.......

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