Day 1: You are collected from your hotel late morning. Embark midday on your ship and sail up past the old Danish colony of Serampore to Barrackpore, land and take a walk through the cantonment past the Semaphore Tower, Government House, the Temple of Fame, and Flagstaff House, its garden housing many of the British statues removed from central Calcutta.
Day 2: Sail up to Chandernagore, a French possession until 1950, and visit the 18th century church and Dupleix’s House containing a small museum. Sail on past the old Dutch settlement of Chinsura. Land to visit the imposing Imambara at Hooghly then reboard your ship and cruise upstream leaving urban sprawl behind. Sail into the night to a mooring near Kalna.
Day 3: Land at the country town of Kalna and take cycle rickshaws to see a group of some of Bengal’s most attractive terracotta temples, as well as the unique Shiva temple with concentric rings made up of 108 shrinelets. Continue on through the countryside to Mayapur, its skyline dominated by the vast new ISKCON temple. Sail on through the night to a mooring near Matiari.
Day 4: This morning visit the brassworking village of Matiari where you can see the whole primitive process of beating out brass water pots and other vessels. Later cruise on and visit the battlefield of Plassey where in 1757 Clive’s defeat of Siraj-ud-Daulah changed the course of Indian history, finally mooring at Murshidabad.
Day 5: Land and walk to the Khushbagh, a peaceful Moghul-style garden enclosing the tombs of Siraj-ud-Daulah and his family. Continue a little way upstream to where the Nawab’s great Hazarduari Palace, built by an English architect in 1837, dominates the waterfront. Inside are an extensive collection of pictures, china, weapons and other objects. Visit also the great Katra Mosque and drive out to two amazing buildings of the late 18th century, the Nashipara Palace and the Katgola Palace. Both were built in classical Georgian style by rich local merchants and represent the other side of the coin of the “White Moghul” period when English and Indian cultures came close to fusion. Overnight on the riverbank across from town.
Day 6: Moor at the delightful 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 up the Hooghly, here a charming waterway twisting and turning between banks lined with mustard fields and mango orchards. Carry on up a long canal section to a mooring close to the Farakka Barrage.
Day 7: During breakfast we cruise to a mooring by the Farakka lock. Disembark and take a full day excursion by road to Gaur, near the town of Malda, or English Bazar. This quiet, deserted place was once one of India’s great cities, first under the Hindus in 12th century, then as the muslim capital of Eastern India from the 14th to the 16th century. There are plentiful remains of mosques, palaces and gateways and you visit a number of the most interesting before rejoining the ship in the evening at Farakka.
Day 8: For those taking only Bengal Despatch 1, the Historic Hugli 7-night cruise, dawn transfer to Farakka station for morning 4 hr (approx) train journey to Calcutta. Met on arrival and transferred to central Calcutta hotel.
For those taking both Bengal Despatch 1 and 2 cruises, an excursion by road takes you to Pandua where you will visit the great 14th century Adina Mosque before returning to Farakka where your ship will have passed through the lock at the barrage.
Itinerary subject to river conditions.