See West Bengal from a different perspective by sailing up or down a key distributary of the Ganges.
Kolkata may be a gold mine for history buffs and those seeking out Bengali culture, but vacationers wanting to get out into the countryside for a few days should consider the three- or four-night river cruises now offered by Pandaw on the Hooghly River. Traveling aboard the 57-meter RV Kalaw Pandaw between the city and the former royal capital of Murshidabad, guests will have the chance to explore some lesser-known heritage sites at a more relaxed pace. The vessel has just 18 ensuite cabins with French windows that open out onto a wraparound deck.
Heading upstream from Kolkata, holidaymakers will disembark for an afternoon excursion in Barrackpore, the site of the first cantonment of the British East India Company. A rickshaw tour at Kalna the next day takes in the town’s trove of terra-cotta Hindu temples, built from the 18th–19th centuries and decorated with exquisite carvings. Following a visit to the brass-working village of Matiari the next morning, guests may have the chance to see the battlefield of Plassey, where the East India Company’s private army won a decisive victory over the last independent Nawab (hereditary ruler) of Bengal in 1757, leading to the British annexation of the region. The final stop on the cruise is Murshidabad, seat of the Nawabs. Highlights here range from the neoclassical Hazarduari Palace — designed by an English architect in 1837 — to a ruined caravanserai-turned-mosque known (Katra Masjid) and the Kathgola Palace, built as a stately home for two wealthy merchant brothers.
Rates start from US$1,440 per person, including admission fees and guides, gratuities to the crew, and shared transfers to the ship. Also covered is a first-class train ticket between Murshidabad and Howrah, along with a subsequent transfer from Howrah railway station to any central Kolkata address. Travelers can save up to 10 percent by booking selected dates in 2023.