Engaging with the Ganges

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Uniworld and Avalon both offer travelers the option of visiting the holy city of Varanasi on Ganges River cruises.
Uniworld and Avalon both offer travelers the option of visiting the holy city of Varanasi on Ganges River cruises.
Having first launched cruises on India's Ganges River in 2016, Uniworld Boutique River Cruise Collection is now enhancing those sailings with a new wellness program centered around the destination's ancient tradition of yoga.


Starting in 2019, all of Uniworld's 13-day India's Golden Triangle and the Sacred Ganges departures will include the complimentary program. A certified, resident yogi will lead daily sessions, introducing the group to different types and styles of yoga, and will also offer group lectures, classes and one-on-one meetings with the goal of engaging all interested guests regardless of their ability or what stage of their practice they are in.

Yoga originated in ancient India, and there are physical, meditative and spiritual elements to the series of stretches and exercises that have become so popular today.

For 2019, Uniworld will be implementing a nutrition and wellness culinary program.
For 2019, Uniworld will be implementing a nutrition and wellness culinary program.

In addition to the yoga enhancements, Uniworld has developed a nutrition and wellness-focused culinary program for the 2019 sailings that will ensure that organic and healthful food options are available during daily breakfast, lunch and dinner services.

For those who are interested in taking an even deeper dive into the local culture while in India, Uniworld has also partnered with Me to We, a tour operator specializing in volunteer travel, to offer a precruise option designed to bring guests closer to the local communities. This extension is already available for 2018 cruises.

For the five-night experience in rural Udaipur, guests will stay in the mountainside Araveli Cottages and Tented Camp. The program begins with a poja, a traditional Hindu prayer ceremony signaling the start of the experience. There will also be a lesson in basic Hindi phrases before participants will be invited to the local village to mingle with community members.

A sunrise yoga session overlooking the Aravalli Mountain Range will be offered, as well. Participants will be invited to learn from women in the community what life is like in rural India and will have the chance to meet a farmer who will show the group to the site of their sustainable development project. Prices for the Me to We India extension start at $2,375 per person, based on double occupancy.

Uniworld's 13-day India's Golden Triangle and the Sacred Ganges itinerary begins with three days in New Delhi, with accommodation at the Oberoi New Delhi. After exploring India's capital, the itinerary continues on the Golden Triangle, including a day and a half at Agra, where guests will have the opportunity to visit the Taj Mahal at both sunset and sunrise.

On the seventh day of the trip, the group is transferred to Kolkata, where they will explore the city before boarding the Ganges Voyager II for a six-day sailing along the Ganges.

From Kolkata, the vessel sails north toward some of India's lesser-known gems. Stops include Kalna, where there is an abundance of Hindu temples dating to the 18th century. Another highlight is Murshidabad, home to the mid-19th century British administration and the Katra Mosque, which was built in 1723 by the first nawab (or ruler) of Bengal, Murshid Quli Khan.

As part of Uniworld’s Me to We extension program, travelers have the opportunity to engage with women in local communities.
As part of Uniworld’s Me to We extension program, travelers have the opportunity to engage with women in local communities.

In Mayapur, passengers will get to visit the international Hare Krishna center. Before returning to Kolkata, the Ganges Voyager II docks in Bandel, a town founded by Portuguese traders in the 16th century. Here, passengers will board a smaller boat to ferry to Hooghly Imambara, a Shia Muslim congregation hall and mosque.

The 13-day India's Golden Triangle and the Sacred Ganges is priced from $5,499 per person, based on double occupancy.

At the end of the cruise, there is an option to add a three-day extension to Varanasi, considered one of the holiest places along the Ganges. Devout Hindus make once-in-a-lifetime pilgrimages there to take a dip in the Ganges. The visit includes witnessing a sacred sunset ritual led by a Hindu priest. There will also be the opportunity to witness the dynamic and eclectic life along the banks during the early morning hours. The extension is priced at $999 per person, based on double occupancy.

Uniworld’s Ganges sailings take place on the 56-passenger Ganges Voyager II.
Uniworld’s Ganges sailings take place on the 56-passenger Ganges Voyager II.

Avalon launches Ganges cruises, too

For 2019, Avalon Waterways will be starting a Ganges program in India. The river cruise line has developed several itineraries that include the Ganges River, ranging from the 13-day Colorful India and the Ganges River, which includes the Golden Triangle (Delhi, Agra and Jaipur) and a six-day Ganges cruise, to a 21-day itinerary called Colorful India and the Ganges River with Southern India, Varanasi and Kathmandu.

For the Ganges River portion of the itineraries, guests board the 56-passenger Ganges Voyager (sister ship to the Ganges Voyager II, which Uniworld uses) for a six-day, roundtrip cruise that begins and ends in Kolkata.

Similar to the Uniworld sailing, the Avalon river cruise heads north from Kolkata to visit towns such as Kalna, where passengers will take a rickshaw to the historical terra-cotta temple complex, and smaller villages where guests get to witness handicrafts such as brassmaking, sari-weaving and idol-making. Avalon will also offer a visit to a farmer's home and to a rescue shelter for cows in addition to the region's more stately sites, such as the Hare Krishna center.

The Ganges Voyager is an all-suite vessel that offers accommodations ranging from the 260-square-foot deluxe suite to the 400-square-foot Maharaja suite. There is air-conditioning throughout, and the Ganges Voyager also features a lounge and bar, a restaurant, gym, two spa treatment rooms and a partially shaded observation deck. Prices for the Colorful India and the Ganges River itinerary start at $5,559 per person, based on double occupancy.

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