Ch. 7, The Big Boat
Hey, people who travel with their bed pillow. You look insane.—Jim Gaffigan
Our motor coach pulls over to the side of a nondescript street in the Kolkata darkness and lets us off. Thankfully, there are no rickshaws, taxis, or sacred cows impaled on the front bumper.
We are met by several men who lead us around the railroad barriers, across the tracks, past the wild dogs, and onto the river boat that will be our home for the next seven days.
|Two India crows on the wide tracks. India's railroads have three gauges--narrow, medium, and wide.|
This is the RV Ganges Voyager. Brand new, we are the guinea pigs—this is her maiden voyage. “Has she had her sea trials?” I ask. I am assured she has passed her inspections in the river, but we are her very first paying passengers.
There are 38 Vantage Tours clients aboard and we are ushered up to the lounge on the top deck, where we are offered complimentary local beer and wines, and “crisped rice” as a canapé.
|Crisped rice ("rice crispies) seasoned with every hot spice known in India and Mexico.|
We are welcomed aboard and given a briefing. Understanding that we are brain-fried after a fourteen-hour Air India flight from the U.S., then a long wait in the Delhi airport before another two hour flight to Kolkata, the briefing is mercifully short.
Room keys are passed out, and we head to our rooms before a light buffet in the dining room.
|A photo I stole off the internet, because my photos were taken under fluorescent lights.|
The boat is exquisite. Wood floors gleam, everything is bright and shiny. Someone put a lot of thought into designing this boat and it seems they thought of everything. At 185 feet in length with a 41 foot beam, the boat can carry 56 passengers in 28 rooms on two decks. The rooms range from 260 square feet to 400 square feet for the sumptuous Maharajah suite.
My room is called a Colonial suite, but all the rooms for tourists are called “suites” and evoke India’s rich colonial past.
|Photo is from an internet posting, enlarged and not very clear. I post it because it shows the true colors of the room.|
|My room in natural daylight.|
|The furniture is not purple. It looks that way because of the fluorescent lighting.|
|There's a mini-fridge in that cabinet. Again, fluorescent lighting messes up the color.|
|My French balcony. I opened the windows and watched India go by.|
|Carpet runner in one passageway.|
|Look at those floors!|
Aboard is a Vantage “inspector.” I don’t know Joanne’s official title, but she is here to see if this portion of the tour measures up to Vantage quality. She is Chinese.
Also aboard is Dinesh, born and raised in Kolkata, now living in Chicago and operating a travel agency. He is a special guest, because Haimark, Ltd., the company operating the boat, hopes he will book tours with them.
|In the sink drain, as well as in the tub, are three balls of deodorant, the kind they used to use in bus station restrooms. The smelly ones.|
We are introduced to a dizzying number of people, all of whom are in charge of something. All but one are Indian, and the lone Caucasian was from Haimark, here to see this very important voyage goes off smoothly. It seemed to me that there were many chiefs but, pardon the pun, there appeared to be few Indians. I guess they were all working somewhere else on the boat. I have a difficult time determining who is with Vantage, with the boat crew, or with Haimark.
All I know is that this guinea pig is very, very excited and very, very tired. Breakfast will be from 7 to 8 A.M. in the East India Dining room with a tour of Kolkata immediately following.
So off I go to room 310 on the upper deck and my very comfortable bed.
Not so fast there, Gullible. The party boat is ramping up the music and dancing next to us.