Rajmahal Cruise Ship near Hazarduari Palace, Bengal, India

Itinerary: Bengal - Journey down the Ganges

24 March to 5 April 2021

Zen Oriental Journeys has privately chartered one of the most comfortable boats on the Ganges, the deluxe Assam Bengal Navigation’s boutique River Vessel, ‘Rajmahal,’ to follow an itinerary that explores the history of the Lower Ganges and the East India Company. For millennia, the sacred Ganges has been the spiritual and cultural lifeblood of India. Discover an extraordinary world in a way you never imagined. As you cruise slowly down the Ganges, you can relive a rich legacy of colonial history and previous lives nestling alongside the traditional cultures of the Bengalese riverside communities, punctuated by historic battlefields, ancient temple complexes, mosques, grand palaces and impressive colonial architecture.

Our Rajmahal expedition cruiser is modelled on the classic river boats of the East India Company, but with a contemporary touch which celebrates Assam and Bengal's rich regional heritage. It is designed to reflect a sense of homecoming to the region: the unique objets d'art and handicrafts on board the ship have been carefully collected and curated, and the locally made furniture and textiles are the product of traditional craftsmanship and modern design intervention.The décor is stylish and fresh, with touches of colonial elegance, brought to life by traditional Indian-inspired designs on hand-blocked cotton fabrics.

To prepare you for the explosive history of Bengal, read The Anarchy, in which William Dalrymple tells the story of the East India Company as it has never been told before, unfolding a timely cautionary tale of the first global corporate power.

Assam Bengal Navigation was awarded the National Tourism Award for Innovation for their pioneering venture in Indian river cruising.

On this Journey you will:

• Discover the sheer diversity of the peoples, places and cultures of the Sub-Continent
• Explore Kolkata’s rich heritage, from ancient Hinduism, through the British Raj, to contemporary life, all in a great bustling city not often included in tours to India. (Did you know Kolkata’s University has a Chair in Australian Literature?)
• Cruise past riverside communities on the Lower Ganges, punctuated by historic battlefields, temple complexes, historic mosques and impressive colonial architecture
• Visit Kalna, renowned for having the highest concentration of temples in Bengal and home to the spectacular Nabakailas complex, comprising an outer ring of 74 temples and an inner ring of 34 temples
• India’s finest brass handicrafts at the shore side bazaar at Matiari
• Understand the history of the East India Company, the battlefield at Plassey, and historic centres along the river
• Spend an afternoon at Murshidabad, home to the Hazarduari Palace and its plethora of colonial antiques, and the impressive Imambara, a Shia place of worship
• Gain a unique perspective on modern life along the Ganges, alongside a compelling insight into Indian history through the lens of the East India Company

Our Hotels:

We understand that travel isn't all about a fleeting glimpse of popular mass tourist spots, or always staying at luxury hotels, but is also about time, space, privacy and those special destinations and moments that turn your holiday into a truly magical experience. Bengal - Journey down the Ganges is a tour for everyone wanting to see the Sub Continent and explore new horizons rarely encountered. On this adventure, we use 4 and 5 star hotels and our cruise ship.


Daily Breakfasts in our hotels and other meals included are indicated as B (Breakfast) L (Lunch) D (Dinner).

Food on Rajmahal Cruise ship, Bengal, India
Download detailed printable itinerary: Bengal - Journey down the Ganges - PDF format


Day 1: 24 March 2021, Arrival Kolkata

The journey begins in Kolkata, considered by many to be the country’s cultural hub. The former capital of the Raj, Kolkata (formerly Calcutta) still retains much of its dramatic colonial architecture. On arrival you will be met and transferred to your hotel near the Airport.

Victoria Memorial, Kolkata, India

Overnight stay: The Pride or similar hotel

Day 2: 25 March 2021, Kolkata - Farraka, B/L/D

This morning is at leisure, and in the afternoon take a 4-hour train journey from Kolkata to Farakka, and then a short road transfer to the ship.

Overnight stay: Onboard Cruise

Welcome on board the Rajmahal Cruise ship, Bengal, India

Day 3: 26 March 2021, Farraka - Jangipur - Baranagar, B/L/D

Today we will take an excursion by road to Gaur, the ancient capital of Bengal. This quiet, deserted place was once one of India’s great cities, first under the Hindus in the 12th century, then as the Muslim capital of Eastern India from the 14th to the 16th century. Situated within easy reach of the black basalt Rajmahal hills, Gaur is filled with elegant Muslim ruins. The many mosques, palaces and gateways stand as testament to a prosperous past, and gifted stonemasons. The Maghen David Synagogue (1884) and the Armenian Church (1707) are reminders of the variety of religions which thrived in Calcutta prior to Independence.

Later, travel on through the town of Malda, or ‘English Bazaar,’ to Pandua where you will visit the great 14th century Adina Mosque before re-joining our ship at Jangipur.

Then set sail down the Lower Ganges, a charming waterway twisting and turning between banks lined with mustard fields and mango orchards. Moor at Baranagar for the night.

Interior cabin of Rajmahal cruise ship, Bengal, India

Overnight stay: Onboard Cruise

Day 4: 27 March 2021, Baranagar - Azamganj - Mushirabad, B/L/D

This morning visits the delightfully sleepy village of Baranagar with three gorgeous miniature terracotta temples to which you walk through the fields. This is rural India at its most idyllic.

Continue past Azimganj, boasting some fine riverside mansions, to Murshidabad where the Nawab’s great Hazarduari Palace (built by Duncan McLeod in 1837 as a guest house for the Nawab) dominates the waterfront. The palace hosts an extensive collection of pictures, china, weapons and other objects. Visit the great Katra Mosque (1724), modelled on the great mosque at Mecca before driving out to see the Katgola Palace, the18th-century home of rich Jain merchants in classical Georgian style. Katgola Palace represents the period when English and Indian cultures came closest to fusion.

Overnight stay: Onboard Cruise

Day 5: 28 March 2021, Mushirabad - Berhampur - Katwa, B/L/D

Sail downstream a short distance then walk to the Khushbagh, a peaceful Mughul-style garden enclosing the tombs of Siraj-ud-Daulah – the last independent Nawab of Bengal – and his family. Return to the ship and continue downstream past the old British cantonment of Berhampur to a rural mooring, close to the battlefield of Plassey where, in 1757, Robert Clive, the Commander-in-Chief of British India, defeated Siraj-ud-Daulah, to change the course of Indian history. You can walk through the fields to the commemorative obelisk. Cruise on to a mooring near Katwa, a market town with narrow bustling bazaars.

ABN Rajmahal from the banks of the Ganges in Varanasi, Bengal, India

Banana seller, India

Overnight stay: Onboard Cruise

Day 6: 29 March 2021, Katwa - Mayapur, B/L/D

Enjoy an early morning walk to the shore-side village of Matiari, which is known for manufacturing beautiful handcrafted brass items. Sail past the battlefield of Plassey, where the British East India Company, under the leadership of Robert Clive, had a decisive victory over the Nawab of Bengal and his French allies in June 1757. The battle helped the Company seize control of Bengal. Over the next hundred years, they seized control of the entire Indian subcontinent and Burma.

Sail to the pilgrimage centre of Nabadwip, where the river ghats are lined with active temples, for a leisurely walk in the bazaar. Continue to Mayapur, revered as the birthplace of Sri Chaitanya Mahaprabhu (1486) and home of the Krishna Consciousness Movement (ISKCON). Here we visit the vast new temple which dominates the skyline. As the headquarters of ISKCON or the Hare Krishna movement, the temple receives over a million singing and dancing devotees a year from around the world.

Overnight stay: Onboard Cruise

Food Bazaar, India

Day 7: 30 March 2021, Mayapur - Kalna - Chandranagore, B/L/D

Sail to the country town of Kalna. Take cycle rickshaws to visit the series of fine 18th-century terracotta temples, as well as the unique Shiva temple with concentric rings made up of 108 double vaulted shrines.

Rickshaws, India

ABN Rajmahal from Hooghly Imambara, Bengal, India

Leaving fields behind we sail on and arrive at the outskirts of Kolkata and land near Bandel to visit the imposing Imambara at Hooghly. With verses from the Koran written on its walls, the Imambara is an opportunity to step back in time and relive a slice of Islamic history in Bengal. Sail downstream past fine waterfront buildings and the old Dutch settlement at Chinsura to moor at Chandernagore.

Interior of ABN Rajmahal Cruise ship, Bengal, India

Overnight stay: Onboard Cruise

Day 8: 31 March 2021, Chandranagore - Barrackpore - Kolkata , B/L/D

Chandranagore, the former French colony, was established in 1673 and a French possession until 1950, visit the 18th century church and Dupleix’s House, the erstwhile Governor-General of French India, before continuing down to Barrackpore. Land and walk through the cantonment – past the Semaphore Tower, Government House, the Temple of Fame and Flagstaff House – to get a better understanding of India's journey to independence. Subject to river tide, cruise under the Howrah Bridge to reach central Kolkata.

Howrah Bridge, Kolkata, India

Overnight stay: Onboard Cruise

Day 9: 1 April 2021, Kolkata, B/D

Disembark boat and transfer to the Oberoi Grand hotel.

At the end of the cruise, you now explore this fascinating city; stroll through the early morning flower market, pass the bookshops on College Street, watch the world come to life in the institutional coffee shops, sample Bengali cuisine and explore some of the colonial monuments.

Kolkata, the former capital of the British Raj, and the East India Company was once the most important trade centre in all of Asia, and while colonialism in the city is a thing of the past, it’s left a legacy. No trip to Kolkata would be complete without engaging with a mix of Raj and Indian attractions, and the city’s best include both.

Nothing symbolizes the British Raj quite so much as the Victoria Memorial. This palatial white marble monument was built in 1901 as a tribute to Her Majesty following her death. Impressive from the outside alone, thanks to the interesting blend of Renaissance and Indo-Saracenic architectural elements, the monument also contains a museum displaying more than 3,500 artefacts from the British colonial period; possibly the most awesome reminder of the Raj to be found in India.

Overnight stay: Oberoi Grand, located in the heart of Kolkata - “The Grand Old Dame of Chowringhee”- walking distance from the Indian Museum. 5 Star Deluxe.

Victoria Palace, Kolkata, India

Kingfisher, India

Luxury Food, India

Day 10: 2 April 2021, Kolkata, B

The British had sought to build the second city of the Empire right here and it is these buildings that will be shown you in the course of our walk through the ‘European’ areas of what was once the capital of the British Empire in India. There are major plans to beautify and restore this heritage site around Dalhousie Square with its rich and varied architectural styles.

St Theresa of Calcutta (Mother Theresa’s) home.(Museum only)Missionaries of Charity care for those who include refugees, former prostitutes, the mentally ill, sick children, abandoned children, lepers, people with AIDS, the aged, and convalescent. They have schools run by volunteers to educate street children and run soup kitchens as well as other services according to the community needs. These services are provided, without charge, to people regardless of their religion or social status.

The South Park Street Cemetery was one of the earliest non-church cemeteries in the world, and probably the largest Christian cemetery outside Europe and America in the 19th century. Opened in 1767 on what was previously a marshy area, the cemetery was in use until about 1830 and is now a heritage site, protected by the Archaeological Survey of India. The tombs of the early British settlers are of a monumental classicism without parallel in Britain.You’ll walk through the shadows and memories of ages past. The foliage is thick, filtering out most of the sunlight from this city of souls huddled together. Built for the earliest British pioneers of the East India Company, this necropolis is filled with crumbling colonnades, mossy mausoleums, obelisks, sarcophagi, and stone cupolas. It is the final resting place of the soldiers, sailors, civil servants, traders, women, and children who succumbed to the hardships of an unfamiliar and disease-ridden life in the Indian tropics.

Overnight stay: Oberoi Grand

Day 11: 3 April 2021, Kolkata, B/D

Early morning enjoy visit to the flower market with an impressive view of the Howrah Bridge. We then visit the enthralling historic quarter of Kumartuli, where potters create lavish images of deities for religious festivals. Its winding lanes are home to an artistic community that carry on a centuries-old tradition with more than 400 artisans who create thousands of clay effigies of the Goddess Durga, her children and asuras or demons. We will also visit the Kalighat Temple, and gaze in awe at the mighty Hoogly River down which we have sailed.

Sacred Lotus Bodh Gaya, India

Goddess Durga, India

Later we will visit St Paul’s Cathedral, completed in 1847 in Gothic style, has many fine memorials and a window by Burne-Jones, one of his best. Rabindranath Tagore’s home (the Bengali poet and philosopher who received the Nobel Prize for literature in 1913), provides an insight into the Bengali Intellectual Renaissance which in turn led to the Independence Movement, and the Marble Palace, a palatial mansion; one of the finest and most elegant houses of nineteenth century Calcutta.

Later in the afternoon we will visit the Indian Museum, built to house the collection from the Asiatic Society, and is India’s most important collection of ancient sculpture.

Tonight, we will enjoy a Farewell Dinner savouring traditional Bengali cuisine at a local restaurant.

Boy and sunset, India

Overnight stay: Oberoi Grand

Day 12: 4 April 2020, Kolkata - Fly home or take an optional extension tour, B

This morning you will be transferred to the Kolkata Airport for your flight back home

Day 13: 5 April 2021

Arrive in Australia today.


India is at your feet. We have a range of pre- and post- tour options available for you, or we can design a tour just for you. Just ask us.


• There is some walking between sights and around towns and cities, sometimes on uneven cobbles, and rough country roads. Some sightseeing in cycle rickshaws, tuk tuks and cars. Make sure you bring comfortable walking shoes with good support.

• Some mooring facilities along the lower Ganges may present access issues. The crew will be on hand to assist everyone to and from the vessel safely. If you have mobility issues, Main Deck cabins may be the best option for you.

• Please note that the order of visits and activities described may be modified to accommodate changes in flight schedules, special access to museums and craftspeople, the pathways chosen by our experienced and knowledgeable local guides, local road conditions and unexpected contingencies such as festivals, street processions or religious ceremonies. The cruise itinerary and duration of activities are subject to river and weather conditions.

• Many of Zen ‘Journeyists’ are solo travellers, and with our small groups they may travel solo ‘but not alone’. Our tour directors will see to your every need. They are experts in understanding and valuing the uniqueness of individuals within a group situation. You will always have someone to take a photo of you…and the new friends you will have made.


The "Rajmahal" has 22 cabins in total:
14 spacious twin/double cabins on the upper deck
4 twin/double cabins on the main deck
4 single cabins for which we charge no supplement.

All cabins have French balconies and there is a comfortable saloon and bar, dining room and a vast canopied sundeck. A small spa onboard offers a wide range of treatments. All cabins and public rooms on the ship are air-conditioned. We have the exclusive charter rights for this sailing.


• Spacious cabins with individual climate control
• En suite shower/WC with toiletries
• Generous cupboard space and under-bed storage
• Hair drier in each cabin
• Minibar in each cabin
• In-room electronic safe
• Tea/coffee making facilities in cabins
• Intercommunication telephone in cabins
• High quality bathrobes and slippers in cabins
• Large sliding glass windows offering panoramic views of the river
• Vast sundeck both open and shaded, with sunloungers or steamer chairs
• Spacious air-conditioned saloon with library and recorded entertainment
• Spa with choice of treatments


• Shore excursion programme including all admissions
• Maximum 20 guests per guide on all excursions
• Naturalist onboard the vessel
• Cold towel service after excursions
• Welcome drink after excursions
• Shoe-cleaning after excursions
• Turndown service in all cabins
• Expertly trained culinary staff
• Acclaimed combination of Indian & Western cuisines
• Wide choice of wines, spirits and beer
• Complimentary tea, coffee and mineral water throughout
• Welcome reception
• Farewell reception
• Local on-board dance & song performances

Please note:

The price mentioned below is all inclusive for the Kolkata accommodations pre and post cruise and includes an extensive sightseeing program in Kolkata. This means that there is a Single Supplement charge for just the Kolkata hotels. You may prefer single occupancy of a double cabin, in which case there is a charge. This cabin is larger than the Singles on the Main Deck. As we require 02 Single Cabins for our Tour Leader and Tour Manager – we have 2 single cabins available at no extra Single Supplement charge. These will be sold/reserved on a first come, first served, basis. SOLD OUT

ABN Rajmahal deck plan, Bengal, India

ABN Rajmahal sundeck 2, Bengal, India

ABN Rajmahal bar sundeck 2, Bengal, India

Refreshments served on ABN Rajmahal cruise ship, India

Twin bed cabin ABN Rajmahal, India

Bathroom, shower, toilet ABN Rajmahal, India

Onboard cooking class ABN Rajmahal, India

Saloon upper deck ABN Rajmahal, India


Double or Twin Share Cabin on Upper Deck: AUD 4752.00 per person
Double or Twin Share Cabin on Main Deck: AUD 4317.00 per person
Single Cabin Main Deck only: AUD 4752.00 per person (SOLD OUT)
Single Occupancy of double/twin cabin on Upper Deck or Main Deck: AUD 4752.00 per person plus AUD 2990.00 (for those taking the bigger Double Cabin on single room basis)
Supplement for Single Room in the Kolkata Hotels: AUD 390.00 per person


Double or Twin Share Cabin on Upper Deck: AUD 4481.00 per person
Double or Twin Share Cabin on Main Deck: AUD 4061.00 per person
Single Cabin Main Deck only: AUD 4481.00 per person (SOLD OUT)
Single Occupancy of double/twin cabin on Upper Deck or Main Deck: AUD 4481.00 per person plus AUD 2890.00 (for those taking the bigger Double Cabin on single room basis)
Supplement for Single Room in the Kolkata Hotels: AUD 390.00 per person


Double or Twin Share Cabin on Upper Deck: AUD 4172.00 per person
Double or Twin Share Cabin on Main Deck: AUD 3770.00 per person
Single Cabin Main Deck only: AUD 4172.00 per person (SOLD OUT)
Single Occupancy of double/twin cabin on Upper Deck or Main Deck: AUD 4172.00 per person plus AUD 2520.00 (for those taking the bigger Double Cabin on single room basis)
Supplement for Single Room in the Kolkata Hotels: AUD 390.00 per person

As there are limited cabins on both Decks, your choice of cabin will be reserved on a first come, first served basis. Single Cabins are SOLD OUT.

Airfare ex Adelaide or (other capitals by arrangement): TBA

Please register your interest to receive the details by sending an email to Lee Grafton or ring 0401 123 347


• Tour Director accompanying the group from Australia
• Tour Manger from our travel partners in India
• English speaking guides and naturalists onboard the ANB Rajmahal (one guide per 20 people)
• English Speaking local guide for sightseeing in Kolkata as mentioned in the itinerary
• Bottled mineral water during meals and transfers all through the trip
• Shared group transfer on arrival - airport to hotel – and departure hotel to airport
• Shared group transfer to the railway station and to the Rajmahal and from the cruise to the hotel
• Assistance at Airports, Railway stations and boat landings
• All entrances to monuments as mentioned in the Itinerary
• Special Bengali ‘Welcome to Kolkata’ dinner
• Accommodation aboard the ABN RV Rajmahal and Kolkata hotels
• Train Journey in Air-Conditioned Class from Kolkata to Farakka
• Accommodation and all tours and entry fees pre and post cruise in Kolkata
• All meals on the boat including mineral water, tea and coffee
• Gratuities/tips for local guides, drivers, porters, crew. ($192)
• All taxes, duties, fees, levies or charges payable by the consumer for the supply (and use) of the travel


• International flights
• Drinks on board (other than mineral water, tea and coffee)
• Travel Insurance
• Visa Fees
• Camera fees if levied


• You will be invoiced for
• A deposit of AUD 750.00 per person, required by 20 March 2020
• A further 25% deposit is required by 20 September 2020
• An additional 45% is payable by 20 December 2020
• The balance of payment is due by Wednesday 20 January 2021


• More than 6 months before departure- Deposit of $750 is non- refundable
• Between 4 months and 6 months before departure deposit + 25% of tour cost
• Between 2 and 4 months before departure deposit + 45% of tour cost
• Less than 2 months before departure: 100% of the tour cost


Please refer to the Fare conditions on the fare class you have purchased


Flights from Australia and return are not included in the price of the tour. We will send the recommended flight options when they are available to book and ask that you make your own flight reservation. We work in partnership with helloworld Westfield Marion to provide tickets but you can use your preferred provider.

Sharon Evans
Owner / Manager
helloworld Marion Westfield Mall Level 2
Westfield Marion
Oaklands Park SA 5046
Telephone: (08) 8358 1949
E-mail: Sharon

Please note:

Should we have insufficient bookings to charter the Rajmahal by 20 March 2020, any deposits paid will be fully refunded. With fewer than 14 cabins booked, we can offer the same program at a higher price. We will advise accordingly.


• While every effort will be made to maintain the itinerary, in view of fluctuating river conditions and navigational or mechanical difficulties, all schedules and itineraries are subject to change without notice.

• The company cannot accept liability for loss or damage to passengers’ property whilst on board. All valuables should be deposited with the Cruise Manager.

• As per the cruise policy children below 15 years are not recommended onboard the cruise “ MV Rajmahal” due to safety reasons, though you can bring along children at your own risk.

• Force Majeure: We regret we cannot accept liability or pay any compensation where the performance or prompt performance is prevented or affected by or you otherwise suffer any damage or loss as a result of “force majeure”, meaning any event which we or the supplier of the service(s) in question could not, even with all due care, foresee or avoid. Such events may include war or threat of war, riot, civil strife, actual, perceived or threatened terrorist activity, industrial dispute, natural disaster, adverse weather conditions, fire and all similar events outside our control. Program and proposal is based on suggested period of travel, destinations and number of persons (travelling together) and if there would be any change on said element in future, then it will affect per person cost and new cost will be advised with revised program and proposal based on new detail.


It is a requirement for travellers visiting India to carry overseas travel insurance, which should be taken out as soon as you make any payments.


Before booking, please refer to the DFAT website to ensure you are happy with the travel advice for the destination(s) you are visiting:

Please visit http://www.smartraveller.gov.au/or ring 1300 139 281 for information on current Government travel advice.


As we take more travellers to more remote parts of the world, we recognize our obligation to plan and operate our Journeys in a responsible and sustainable fashion. We view this as an environmental, cultural, and social necessity. Above all, we are committed to the well-being of the communities, which are our hosts, the cultural and natural environment that we are there to experience. We also believe that by following these policies we can provide you with more rewarding and interesting experiences.

Prices may fluctuate due to changes in charges, taxes and currency. Prices and flights are correct at time of preparing this program and are subject to availability at time of booking. Special conditions and seasonal surcharges to airfares and package prices may apply depending on date of travel. Flight times are subject to change by the airline.

For further information, don’t hesitate to contact Zen Oriental Journeys by emailing Lee Grafton or ring 0401 123 347



Bookings will be processed in order of receipt. Any bookings after this date will be accepted subject to visa processing, flight availability, land content and room availability. Such booking must be paid in full after confirmation of your acceptance in the tour. Special conditions and additional charges to airfares and package prices may apply depending on date of booking.

Costs associated with the Asia In-Country Study Tours can be tax deductible. Educators may be able to claim their study tour expenses under a number of tax deduction categories which include: self-education expenses; excursions, school trips and camps if these trips have an educational benefit and are related to the curriculum or extra-curriculum activities of the school; acquisition of teaching aids used for curriculum development and teaching programs. Participants must contact their tax advisor or visit the Australian Tax Office website to confirm eligibility.

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