"I'm going to speak my mind because I have nothing to lose."--S.I. Hayakawa

Wednesday, January 28, 2015

The India Journals, Ch. 7, The Big Boat

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.

The dashing captain.

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. 

The lounge.

The lounge.

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.

East India dining room.

The other side of the dining room.

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.

I want one of those sprayers in my bathroom!  See the tiny white ball on the drain?   See below.

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.


  1. All I can say is wow!

    1. Yeah, Missy. Far cry from the M/S Nikolay Cheryschevsky.

  2. I love your comment that it was remarkable there was nothing impaled on the front bumper of the bus after your harrowing ride!!! What a privilege to be on the first trip for the RV Ganges Voyager.

    Did you eat any of the crisped rice or did you have to pass because of the spiciness?

    56 passengers is a small number. That's nice though. Compared to the huge cruise ships, I'm sure you're treated even more royally.

    Those wood floors in the hallway are incredible. Do you know what kind of wood was used?

    That sprayer in the bathroom. Like a bidet?

    I bet the party boat could have pulled up right next to your room and you wouldn't have heard a single sound once you hit the sack.

    Thanks, Gully, for this taste of your trip.

    1. I ate just enough of the crisped rice to determine its heat. Then I followed it up with more to make sure it was really that hot.

  3. I cannot help but chuckle at much of your post ... it is SO India! I can well understand your comment about checking to see if there was anything impaled on the front bumper after your trip through Kalkata ... traveling the streets there is a challenge at best ... the animals (dogs and cattle mostly), the people, and the FAST traffic all make it a wonder that you get from one place to another in one piece. The practice there has got to be: BE ALERT AT ALL TIMES.

    The boat looks absolutely sumptuous and very Indian ... if they are going to do something for tourists specifically, they do it royally. And, I, again, had to chuckle when you wrote about a dizzying number of people all of whom seemed to be in charge of something ... they take any sort of responsibility very seriously.

    Fun to hear India from your viewpoint. Love it!! Patti and Cap

    1. Hmmmm.... When did Patti start writing with elipses? Yes, the crew was wonderful--always helpful and friendly.

  4. Love it? I CRAVE IT! Hot Diggety Dog .. We are all off for a trip in India. I sure envy you .. but .. what can I say?

    Here in Hong Kong I am living in a room .. with bathroom and kitchen with mini-refrigerator and microwave and bed and a wardrobe to hang things in and a small desk with a chair to use as you wish (to put stuff on is what) that totals ninety three square feet (as in 93 square feet). I HOWLED when you gave us the square footage of your majestic rooms .. 260 to 400 square feet!

    I HOWLED when I saw the magnificent cruise liner you are all breaking in .. brand new and spic and span .. HOWLED !! And no staff of obvious Indian heritage? Sweet sailing ship ..

    Your ride through the Calcutta dark of night or morning .. I KNOW .. Kolkata .. but I was there before it was changed.

    Patti and I can not wait for more ..

    SO NICE TO HAVE YOU UP AND RUNNING .. Joy .. Cap and Patti ..

    1. Cap, 93 square feet is not a studio apartment. It's a cell.

      I rewrote the paragraph about the chiefs and Indians. I can see how you misunderstood my pathetic attempt at a joke. I'll blame it on the Mucinex. The entire crew, with one exception, was Indian, and they were wonderful. All were "stolen" from various hotels and shipping outfits. The two exceptions were a Chicago man with Haimark who was there to see the launch went off smoothly. I'm not sure if Haimark owns the ship, or leases and operates it. The second Caucasian was the culinary director, but the staff under him was Indian. Joanne, the Vantage "inspector", was Chinese and not with the boat staff. Not only was river trip a maiden voyage, but the entire itinerary of the 3 week tour was a maiden voyage. Sorry for the misunderstanding. My bad.

  5. That bed would be pretty under any circumstances, but I can only imagine how heavenly it must have looked and felt after your arduous journey. The boat is beautiful.