India’s Golden Triangle & the Sacred Ganges
Note: The itineraries presented are subject to modification due to water levels, closures because of public holidays or other uncontrollable factors. Every effort will be made to operate programs as planned, but changes may still be necessary throughout the cruise. This day-to-day schedule is subject to change. Your final day-to-day schedule will be provided onboard on the first day of your cruise/tour.

Day 1: New Delhi

Arrive at New Delhi Indira Gandhi International Airport. If your cruise/tour package includes a group arrival transfer or if you have purchased a private arrival transfer, you will be greeted by a Uniworld representative and transferred to The Oberoi Guragon.

Day 2: New Delhi, Udaipur, Araveli

This morning, you’ll transfer from your hotel to your commercial flight to Udaipur, where you’ll then make your way to your home for two nights, the bespoke Araveli Cottages and Tented Camp, in Rajasthan. After a brief introduction and orientation about your time with ME to WE, you’ll prepare for your interactions with locals with a lesson in basic Hindi phrases. Then, it’s off to the local village to mingle with community members. To mark the beginning of your time in Rajasthan, you’ll partake in a Hindu tradition, a Poja, a Hindu prayer ceremony that marks the beginning of an auspicious event. The blessing ensures the success and prosperity of the work being undertaken.

A little Hindi lesson and community welcome

For the duration of your time with ME to WE, you’ll have plenty of opportunities to practice the key introductory Hindi phrases you’ll learn today. From “Namaste” (a respectful greeting) to “Aap kaise ho?” (“How are you?”), you’ll soon be testing out your new skills as you head into the village for the first time. Experience the warmth of a community welcome as you gather with students and villagers who will be directly impacted by the work you are doing. In accordance with Hindu tradition, you will partake in a puja—a traditional Hindu prayer ceremony to mark the beginning of an auspicious event. Every new initiative begins with a blessing to ensure the success and prosperity of the work being done.

Day 3: Araveli

After a blissful night’s sleep in your private cottage or luxury tent, choose to wake up to a sunrise yoga session overlooking the pink-hued Aravalli Mountain Range. Spend the rest of your morning with women in the community and learn what daily life in rural India is like. Enjoy a savory meal and cup of chai as you take in the beautiful surroundings and a traditional jhapki (Hindi for “siesta”). Then, meet a local farmer before venturing to the project site of your sustainable development project. Cap your first full day with a colorful performance showcasing local folk dance traditions.

Day in the Life and Local Farmer and Project Building

This morning you will help local women with a few of their daily activities. You will walk with them through the village where you will experience shared communal responsibility, frugality in response to limited resources, and sustainability defined by the renewable and functional use of resources. You are invited to accompany women in making chapatti in their homes, hauling water from the local well, and help feed their animals. After lunch, you’ll have the opportunity to meet a local farmer and hear about his agricultural challenges and successes. It’s a great way to see how farmers are still working to maximize the production of their crops for the benefit of the entire community. Next, it’s time to roll up your sleeves and start working on a community development project. There is a meaningful role for guests of all ages and abilities, as you help build a needed facility for the community—whether it is a school, latrine or even a wall. You will be contributing to the project that the community needs most at that time.

Day 4: Araveli, Udaipur, Kolkata

Your time with ME to WE is coming to a close this afternoon, but not before a slew of authentic Indian experiences in nearby Udaipur, often nicknamed “Venice of the East.” Explore Udaipur’s splendor with stops at the world-renowned architectural marvels, City Palace and Taj Lake Palace, followed by lunch on the shores of beautiful Lake Pichola. The majestic City Palace was built nearly five centuries ago and sits on a hill overlooking the city below, while the opulent Taj Lake Palace appears to float over the water—it can only be reached by boat. The Palace also makes a guest appearance in a 1983 James Bond film. Visit a lively Indian market, teeming with shops, motorcycles, rickshaws, and cows before checking into The Oberoi Grand, Kolkata.

Sightseeing in Udaipur and lunch on the shore of Lake Pichola with market shopping

Bask in the beauty of Udaipur, which has often been described as the most romantic spot in India. With its colorful bazaars, old-world charm and dynamic arts scene, Udaipur is a treasure just waiting to be uncovered. Enjoy lunch on the shores of the beautiful Lake Pichola in the shadow of City Palace and Lake Palace, both world-famous architectural attractions. The majestic City Palace was built almost five centuries ago on a hill that gives stunning views of Udaipur, and you might recognize Lake Palace from a 1980’s James Bond film. Originally built as the pleasure palace of Maharana Jagat Singh II, Lake Palace sits on a man-made island in the center of the lake and affords majestic views of City Palace, the Aravalli Hills and Jag Mandir. Today, this Indian icon is a luxury hotel featuring 83 stunning rooms encased in white marble walls and has hosted a slew of famous guests.

Day 5: Kolkata (Embark), Kalna

Settle into your beautifully appointed suite aboard the Ganges Voyager II in Kolkata (the city formerly known as Calcutta), the gateway to your journey along the world’s holiest river, the sacred Ganges. This evening, delight in a Captain’s reception dinner and welcome onboard.

Day 6: Kalna

As incredible as it sounds, India is the birthplace of four of the world’s major religions (including Buddhism and Hinduism), and Kalna—India’s “Temple City”—has some of the most magnificent examples of Hindu temples on the entire subcontinent. Kalna, once an important trade port on the river, is best known today for the magnificent Hindu temples built by the maharajas of Bardhaman in the late 18th and 19th centuries. They are your destination today.

India’s “Temple City”

You’ve seen them jostling through the busy streets of New Delhi; today’s your chance to try riding in one yourself. Board a trishaw—a pedal-powered three-wheeled rickshaw—for a view of the streets of Kalna as you head to the Rajbari temple complex. The Pratapeshwar Temple, built in 1849, is embellished with exceptional terra-cotta carvings depicting myths and rituals, as well as scenes of everyday life (see if you can spot the girl in typical Victorian dress with a violin among the hundreds of figures). Lalji, the oldest temple in the complex, dates to 1739; the three-storied structure is topped with 25 distinctive pinnacles. Next to it is Krishna Chandra, built in a similar style. Across the street you’ll find the amazing Naba Kailash, two concentric circles of intricately carved temples dedicated to Shiva. The inner circle is made up of 34 white temples symbolizing pure thought; the outer circle contains 74 temples symbolizing the everyday world.

After marveling at these temples, you may opt to walk with your guide through the colorful local market or return to the ship.

Day 7: Matiari

Your ship serves as a time machine today, transporting you hundreds of years into the past, as we travel to an artisan village where craftsmen use materials and techniques that have remained unchanged for centuries. Matiari, a West Bengal village nestled above the banks of the river and surrounded by farms, is also home to a thriving metal-working tradition that you will see in action today.

Matiari master craftsmen with an introduction to brass

Artisans have been making ornamental brass objects— vases, lamps, figurines, platters—in Matiari for more than a century, so it’s no wonder that production is so well-organized and the craftsmen so skillful. Scrap metal is melted in the village foundry and pressed into new sheets of brass, which are then turned into various objects. Each craftsman specializes in a different step of the process, so one artisan might cut the metal, while another shapes it into a wide tray, and yet another etches an intricate pattern onto the surface. The sound of hammer on brass will fill the air as you stroll from workshop to workshop to see each step of the fascinating process.

Back onboard, watch as a skilled practitioner of mehndi demonstrates how the intricate henna patterns are created, and discover the meanings of the traditional motifs.

Day 8: Murshidabad, Baranagar

Curiosities abound in India, and that includes the country’s eclectic architectural styles. But a palace with a thousand doors? Such a thing does indeed exist, as you’ll see for yourself today, along with some famous terra-cotta carvings, the ruins of a mosque and yet another cultural curiosity—the game of cricket, India’s beloved (and rather complex) national sport. Today’s adventures take you to a duo of Bengali towns - Murshidabad and Baranagar - each one boasting surprising and beautiful architectural monuments closely linked to the ruling families of the area.

Visit to Murshidabad City, ride by buggy to Katra Mosque and visit to Baranagar village

Your day begins in Murshidabad, long ago the capital of Bengal and an important administrative center during the Raj—a fact that comes clear as the ship rounds a bend in the river and you behold Hazarduari Palace. This massive neoclassical building was erected in the mid-19th century for British officials, who lived and had their offices in its 114 rooms. One might wonder why the architect, Colonel Duncan Macleod of the Bengal Corps, thought the building needed a thousand doors, but that’s how many it has—900 of them are real doors, and the remaining 100 are false. It is now a museum, which you will visit. Climb aboard a horse-drawn buggy for a ride to Katra Mosque, built in 1723 by the first nawab, Murshid Quli Khan, who gave his name to the town. The huge mosque was damaged by an earthquake in 1897, losing two of its four great towers, but it is still a remarkable sight.

Return to the ship for lunch and cruise to the town of Baranagar, where Rani Bhabani built beautiful brick temples in the 18th century. Goats frolic among them now and vines attempt to take them over, but the terra-cotta carvings are considered among the best in Bengal and the temples are well-tended.

After your tour, if time and weather allow, you can learn a bit about one of the Raj’s enduring legacies in India: a passion for that most British of all games, cricket. It remains India’s favorite sport, and the national team, nicknamed the “Men in Blue,” has won the Cricket World Cup more than once. The game is played in schools, in fields, even on village streets; watch it in action and discover the meaning of terms like “long leg,” “fast bowler” and “run-out.”

This evening, following dinner onboard, take in a lively and fun-filled Bollywood-style show, complete with music and dancing.

Day 9: Mayapur

Today the ship heads back toward Kolkata, cruising past lush fields of rice, sugarcane, tomatoes and eggplant, among many other crops, but your river adventure is not over. You still have some fascinating locations to visit; they lie on the opposite bank of the river from your upstream ports of call. Your stop is in Mayapur, sometimes called the spiritual capital of the world. Few places of worship exist on such a head-spinning scale as what you will witness today in Mayapur, the center of the international Hare Krishna movement and home to the new Temple of the Vedic Planetarium, still under construction.

Day 10: Mayapur, Chandannagar, Kolkata

Most students of history know a thing or two about the British colonial powers in India, but few are aware that the French had colonies here, too—including one that existed as late as the 1950s. You’ll visit this former French outpost today, as well as a famous Shia pilgrimage center. You’ll continue to cruise toward Kolkata today, stopping en route in Bandel and Chandannagar, a little piece of France that survived in India for a couple hundred years.

Hare Krishna complex and Temple of the Vedic Planetarium

As the ship comes into sight of Mayapur, look for the new Vedic temple currently under construction. Funded in part by Alfred Ford, great-grandson of Henry Ford, the temple is designed to be larger than St. Paul’s Cathedral in London once completed. The new temple construction coincides with the 50th anniversary of the founding of the Hare Krishna movement, whose founder was born in Mayapur. Millions of Hare Krishna devotees come from all over the world to this pilgrimage site; as you walk through Mayapur’s bazaar to the temple complex, you may well spot expatriates from America, Canada and Europe. Colorful parades of followers often weave through the streets, adding to the hustle and bustle of the lively, vivid scene. You’ll tour the existing temple complex, get a look at the new Vedic Planetarium and learn something about the beliefs of the International Society of Krishna Consciousness.

India’s French colonial heritage

Bandel, founded by Portuguese traders in the 16th century, offers a typically Indian mix of religious monuments: It’s the site of the oldest Christian church in India, the location of Hindu festivals (including one devoted to the goddess Muthumariamman), and home to a famous Shia pilgrimage center, the Hooghly Imambara. You’ll board a country boat—a small boat fitted with benches that ferries passengers to and from your luxurious ship, which cannot always moor on the banks of the river—to reach the shore and the imambara. Completed in 1861 to honor Muhammad Mohsin, a revered Bengali philanthropist, the stately imambara offers shelter for pilgrims, a mosque and a school. Step into the long colonnaded courtyard for a view of the twin towers and the 19th-century clock, and climb the stairs of the clock tower for a fabulous view of the river and surrounding countryside. Visitors are sometimes allowed into the mosque, but all guests must leave before the faithful are called to evening prayers.

“Liberté, Egalité et Fraternité.” These words, the famous slogan of the French Revolution, are inscribed on the gateposts of Chandannagar, a memento of the centuries the town was a French outpost in West Bengal. In fact, Chandannagar did not officially become part of India until 1952, so when you step ashore here you will find a mixture of French Colonial and Indian architecture. A broad, tree-lined riverfront promenade known as the Strand shows off the handsomest remaining French buildings, including the Dupleix Palace, now a museum, and the 19th-century Church of the Sacred Heart that replaced the 17th-century original.

Day 11: Kolkata

The city of Kolkota is virtually synonymous with the enduring legacies of Mother Teresa— recently canonized as a Catholic saint—and the colonial-era British Raj, both of which you will get better acquainted with today.

Kolkata city tour—visit the Flower Market, colonial sites and Kumartulli

Continue this morning with a panoramic tour of Kolkata’s city center. The first stop? A visit to the captivatingly colorful Flower Market. Located adjacent to the Howrah Bridge, this vibrant and bustling market is filled with vendors and buyers exchanging money for flowers to be used in festivals, rituals, weddings and more. You’ll also have the chance to witness local wrestlers practicing early in the morning in an area along the riverbank. Though teeming Kolkata is home to palaces and tenements, new developments and modern office buildings, grand hotels and parks, its historic architecture reflects its status as the longtime administrative heart of the British Raj. The colonial buildings still standing—and still in use—offer a blend of baroque and neoclassical styles that say much about British colonial taste. Perhaps the most surprising is the red-and-white façade of the Calcutta High Court building—a replica of the city hall in Ypres, Belgium. You’ll see it as well as the stately Palladian dome of Government House, the classical white columns of Town Hall, the red-brick Writers’ Building and the enormous General Post Office. Pay a visit to St. John’s, the oldest Anglican church in the city, and the Victoria Memorial Museum—which was partly inspired by the Taj Mahal. Built as a tribute to Queen Victoria after her death, this huge white-marble structure houses an illuminating exhibition on the colonial era. From there, you’ll venture to Kumartulli, a traditional potters’ neighborhood that specializes in making intricate clay idols, for a look at this complex and fascinating time-honored tradition.

NGO's Kolkata Rescue visit

This afternoon, you’ll visit the local NGO Kolkata Rescue, which serves the area’s underprivileged children. They provide much-needed services at no cost to the neediest people of Kolkata and West Bengal—regardless of gender, age, caste or religion—through health clinics, schools, vocational training and preventative health programs. You’ll hear about the impact Kolkata Rescue has made over the last 30 years and get some insight on some of their current projects.

Mother Teresa’s home and tomb

She came to India in 1929, after growing up in Macedonia and joining a Loreto nunnery in Ireland, and two decades later she founded her own order, the Missionaries of Charity, devoted to the “salvation and sanctification of the poorest of the poor.” Visit the Mother House, where she lived and worked for decades; see her simply furnished room and the tiny museum devoted to her—her Nobel Peace Prize medal is on display, along with informative newspaper clippings and photos—and her tomb. It’s a modest and serene spot devoted to one of the most influential women ever to live in the city.

Enjoy a Farewell dinner tonight.

Day 12: Kolkata (Disembark)

Your incredible Indian adventure ends early this morning, as you disembark and transfer to the Netaji Subhas Chandra Bose International Airport for your flight home, or extend your journey with an optional extension to Varanasi.