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Cruises to Kolkata (Calcutta)

Kolkata (Photo:Hung Chung Chih/Shutterstock)

About Kolkata (Calcutta)

Chaotic, captivating, cacophonic Kolkata (the former Calcutta, for alliteration fans) is the capital of West Bengal. It's also India's second city and arguably its most fascinating.

With 350 years of outsider rule, Kolkata is rich in old colonial architecture -- a lasting, if now somewhat faded testament to its importance as the former capital of the British Raj.

But it's also India's artistic and cultural capital, home to poets, writers and film folk, and a treasure trove of the subcontinent's vast and varied culture, epitomized by the ancient religious ceremonies enacted on its colorful riverside ghats (stone steps); its thriving markets, restaurants and Millennial culture; and its modern art galleries.

Nowadays, Kolkata is becoming increasingly prominent in cruising circles. It's the international gateway to West Bengal, the beautiful tea country of Assam, and sailings take place along two of India's greatest rivers: the lower Ganges tributary of Hooghly and the Brahmaputra (which requires an extra flight). Many cruise tours begin with a trip to the Golden Triangle cities of Delhi, Agra and Jaipur first and then wing passengers to Kolkata, either for sightseeing or to board the ship.

Whatever your itinerary, make sure a day or two in Kolkata forms part of it. The desperate poverty facing many of its inhabitants will shock you and arouse your social conscience but in this city of many faces, hopeful new towns are rising amid the squalor of the slums and you'll find some beautiful parks as well as splendid old colonial buildings. And the whole thing encapsulates the vivid, kaleidoscopic, unforgettable human experience that is modern India.


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  • 14 Night
    Cruise to Kolkata (Calcutta)

    Leaving:
    Kolkata
    Visiting:
    Calais, Matiari ... see more
    Cruise Line:
    Pandaw River Cruises
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    • Itinerary
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    Itinerary

    Cruise Itinerary

    14 Night Cruise to Kolkata (Calcutta) Route (Pandaw River Cruises)
    • Day 1
      Kolkata (Calcutta)
    • Day 2
      Calais
    • Day 3
      Matiari
    • Day 4
      Murshidabad
    • Day 5
      Farakka
    • Day 6
      Bateshwarsthan
    • Day 7
      Bhagalpur
    • Day 8
      Munger
    • Day 9
      Patna
    • Day 9
      Barh
    • Day 10
      Patna
    • Day 11
      Buxar
    • Day 12
      Ghazipur
    • Day 13
      Varanasi
    • Day 14
      Varanasi
    • Day 15
      Mumbai (Bombay)
    Ship Details

    Kindat Pandaw - Pandaw River Cruises

    Will cruise to remote reaches of Irrawaddy

    Ultra shallow go-anywhere draft

    Colonial-style design to be outfitted in teak and brass

    Reviews

    Kindat Pandaw Reviews

    Cruise Critic Editor Ratings
    Overall
    0.0/5

    Kindat Pandaw has two walk-around passenger decks with identical cabins of 170 square feet. All ha...

    Cruise Critic Member Ratings
    the quiet American
    Sail Date Oct 2019
    Very disappointing
    Read More
    Bern1143
    Sail Date Feb 2017
    Wonderful mix: luxury cruise and rural Myanmar
    Read More
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    Call to plan your cruise 866-501-1694 866-501-1694
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  • 14 Night
    Cruise to Kolkata (Calcutta)

    Leaving:
    Varanasi
    Visiting:
    Varanasi, Ghjazipur ... see more
    Cruise Line:
    Pandaw River Cruises
    View Deal
    View Cruise Info
    Hide Cruise Info
    • Itinerary
    • Ship Details
    • Reviews
    • Cabin Comparison
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    Itinerary

    Cruise Itinerary

    14 Night Cruise to Kolkata (Calcutta) Route (Pandaw River Cruises)
    • Day 1
      Varanasi
    • Day 2
      Varanasi
    • Day 3
      Ghjazipur
    • Day 4
      Buxar
    • Day 5
      Patna
    • Day 6
      Bodh Gaya
    • Day 7
      Mokama
    • Day 8
      Sultanganj
    • Day 9
      Bateshwarsthan
    • Day 10
      Farakka
    • Day 11
      Murshidabad
    • Day 12
      Matiari
    • Day 13
      Kalna
    • Day 14
      Kolkata (Calcutta)
    • Day 15
      Kolkata (Calcutta)
    Ship Details

    Kindat Pandaw - Pandaw River Cruises

    Will cruise to remote reaches of Irrawaddy

    Ultra shallow go-anywhere draft

    Colonial-style design to be outfitted in teak and brass

    Reviews

    Kindat Pandaw Reviews

    Cruise Critic Editor Ratings
    Overall
    0.0/5

    Kindat Pandaw has two walk-around passenger decks with identical cabins of 170 square feet. All ha...

    Cruise Critic Member Ratings
    Brenda Banbury
    Sail Date Apr 2016
    Wow; 100% Service
    Read More
    LivPhilly
    Sail Date Oct 2015
    Kindat Pandaw, Highlight of a Month Long Tour, A+
    Read More
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    Call to plan your cruise 866-501-1694 866-501-1694
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  • 14 Night
    Cruise to Kolkata (Calcutta)

    Leaving:
    Kolkata
    Visiting:
    Calais, Matiari ... see more
    Cruise Line:
    Pandaw River Cruises
    View Deal
    View Cruise Info
    Hide Cruise Info
    • Itinerary
    • Ship Details
    • Reviews
    • Cabin Comparison
    • View All Prices
    Itinerary

    Cruise Itinerary

    14 Night Cruise to Kolkata (Calcutta) Route (Pandaw River Cruises)
    • Day 1
      Kolkata (Calcutta)
    • Day 2
      Calais
    • Day 3
      Matiari
    • Day 4
      Murshidabad
    • Day 5
      Farakka
    • Day 6
      Bateshwarsthan
    • Day 7
      Bhagalpur
    • Day 8
      Munger
    • Day 9
      Patna
    • Day 9
      Barh
    • Day 10
      Patna
    • Day 11
      Buxar
    • Day 12
      Ghazipur
    • Day 13
      Varanasi
    • Day 14
      Varanasi
    • Day 15
      Mumbai (Bombay)
    Ship Details

    Katha Pandaw - Pandaw River Cruises

    Cruises Burma's Irrawaddy and Chindwin rivers

    Colonial-style vessel outfitted in teak and brass

    Max 32 passengers creates an intimate experience

    Reviews

    Katha Pandaw Reviews

    Cruise Critic Editor Ratings
    Overall
    0.0/5

    Katha Pandaw is one of the company’s smaller vessels, with a shallow draft that enables it to cr...

    Cruise Critic Member Ratings
    BRR
    Sail Date Oct 2019
    Disastrous 14 day inaugural river cruise on Upper Ganges, Kolkata to Varanasi
    Read More
    sunnies
    Sail Date Oct 2019
    Pandaw Problems in India
    Read More
    Cabin Comparison

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    No Results Found
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    Call to plan your cruise 866-501-1694 866-501-1694
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  • 14 Night
    Cruise to Kolkata (Calcutta)

    Leaving:
    Varanasi
    Visiting:
    Varanasi, Ghjazipur ... see more
    Cruise Line:
    Pandaw River Cruises
    View Deal
    View Cruise Info
    Hide Cruise Info
    • Itinerary
    • Ship Details
    • Reviews
    • Cabin Comparison
    • View All Prices
    Itinerary

    Cruise Itinerary

    14 Night Cruise to Kolkata (Calcutta) Route (Pandaw River Cruises)
    • Day 1
      Varanasi
    • Day 2
      Varanasi
    • Day 3
      Ghjazipur
    • Day 4
      Buxar
    • Day 5
      Patna
    • Day 6
      Bodh Gaya
    • Day 7
      Mokama
    • Day 8
      Sultanganj
    • Day 9
      Bateshwarsthan
    • Day 10
      Farakka
    • Day 11
      Murshidabad
    • Day 12
      Matiari
    • Day 13
      Kalna
    • Day 14
      Kolkata (Calcutta)
    • Day 15
      Kolkata (Calcutta)
    Ship Details

    Katha Pandaw - Pandaw River Cruises

    Cruises Burma's Irrawaddy and Chindwin rivers

    Colonial-style vessel outfitted in teak and brass

    Max 32 passengers creates an intimate experience

    Reviews

    Katha Pandaw Reviews

    Cruise Critic Editor Ratings
    Overall
    0.0/5

    Katha Pandaw is one of the company’s smaller vessels, with a shallow draft that enables it to cr...

    Cruise Critic Member Ratings
    Megamoha
    Sail Date Jan 2018
    Really let down by lack of care
    Read More
    StephenPerry
    Sail Date Sep 2017
    Fantastic River Cruise from a Bagan to Mandalay
    Read More
    Cabin Comparison

    Compare Cabin Prices

    No Results Found
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    Call to plan your cruise 866-501-1694 866-501-1694
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More about Kolkata (Calcutta)

Why go to Kolkata (Calcutta)?

Pros: Pro: Colonial museums explain history; Mother Teresa's home a must.

Cons: Con: Pollution, traffic and poverty abound.

Bottom Line: Bottom Line: Embarkation for Ganges cruises is worth a day to explore.

Where You’re Docked

Kolkata is the international gateway for Brahmaputra River cruises, which depart from Guwahati or Jorhat (a 90- to 120-minute flight from Kolkata), so a day or two's hotel stay in the city would be a pre- or post-cruise option for travelers on these voyages.

The part of the Ganges that flows through Kolkata is known as the Hooghly, and travelers who choose a Lower Ganges cruise will join their riverboats from riverside ghats (tiered areas along its banks, some of which offer mooring for boats, while others are used for religious ceremonies, bathing and washing).

Ganges river cruises generally depart from moorings near Kolkata's Botanic Garden or the Maidan. This means Open Field and it's a vast city center park known as the "lungs" of Kolkata, where locals gather to watch football at various stadia, cricket at Eden Gardens or horse racing at Kolkata Race Course.

Kolkata (Calcutta) Cruise Port Facilities

The mooring spots will give you an inkling of what to expect on the rivers, particularly at the Botanic Garden dock, where you pass a shanty town on the way to the ship.

The Maidan -- which stretches from the Hooghly River on the west to the Victoria Memorial (an impressive marble building now used as a museum) to the east -- is more central and contains some spectacular statues, buildings and monuments.

The Botanical Garden (or to give it its full moniker, the Acharya Jagadish Chandra Bose Indian Botanic Garden) is a bit further out, near the Howrah Bridge. You'll likely spend little time here, as your tour directors will try to keep you from the chaos that's going on near the dock. That being said, the ghats here are a wonderful sight; you'll witness everything from morning bathing rituals to wedding preparations to funerals.

Good to Know

Traffic: Kolkata's chaotic, noisy traffic is a sight to behold. The concept of "giving way" seems alien in India; when approaching a busy junction, it's a case of every man for himself, and whoever gains an inch of advantage over another vehicle wins the day.

Drivers use their horns constantly but not aggressively -- just to signal their presence and their intention to overtake. But, because everyone seems to know the "rules," you soon get used to the elaborate "dance" of traffic that -- like most of life in India -- somehow manages to conjure order out of chaos.

Appalling poverty: This is India, and some of the sights will -- and should -- leave you feeling very grateful for the life that you have.

Locals wanting selfies: It's very sweet, but rather odd at first. Youngsters, in particular, find Westerners quite fascinating and will ask you to pose with them.

Local vs. foreigner entrance fees: Visitors will pay more for local attractions and museums than locals do (not unreasonably, given very low rates of pay). If you're on a cruisetour, these will be included in your fare.

Getting Around

There are many ways to get around Kolkata -- some of them hair-raising, and only for the very experienced and adventurous traveler. If you're on a Ganges river cruise, it's likely that you'll go directly to the dock from the airport by motor coach, so there's no need to get independent transportation.

On Foot:You'll find pleasant open spaces near riverbank mooring spots, but the city streets are very busy with both people and traffic.

By Rickshaw: Motorized rickshaws weave their way along certain fixed routes and gather hop-on passengers as they go, usually sharing with three others -- two in the back and one by the driver. Fares are low -- around 10 rupees (less than ?1), maximum -- but you'd need to know where you're going and be confident about speaking to the driver, so not recommended for newbies to India.

Cycle-powered "tana rickshaws" also operate within certain areas, and you can negotiate a rate that you consider fair, while electric-powered "tuk tuks" are a more recent innovation on the city's roads and again, can be hired for a negotiated fee.

To get an idea of auto-rickshaw fares before you travel -- which helps if haggling with drivers -- look at www.meterbabu.info.

On the Water: Ferry services, which link Howrah with central Kolkata, depart every 15 to 20 minutes and cost only a few rupees, but they can be crowded at rush hour and they are pretty basic. Don't expect refinements like steps or a gangway to get onboard; you face a steep haul to get yourself on and a big jump off at the jetty.

By Metro: Kolkata's Metro system is still a work in progress and gets hellishly crowded. Again, best avoided unless you're very confident and adventurous.

By Cab: Yellow cabs are metered and charge around 25 rupees (less than ?1) for the first 2 kilometers and then 12 rupees (less than ?1) more per additional kilometer. Some cabs offer air-conditioning (look for white cabs with a blue stripe) and charge 25 percent on top of the metered fare but allow you to travel in relative comfort. You can generally flag cabs down when you need them, but may face stiff competition during rush hours. There are prepaid taxi booths at the airport and Howrah Rail Station. For an idea of up-to-date rates and fares over various distances, try www.autotaxifare.com.

Uber cabs are also available and can be hired via phone app, but fares are higher (from 60 rupees (less than ?1) minimum) and can soar at peak times.

By Hired Car and Driver: The best bet for visitors on a tight timescale would be to hire a car and driver. Several private travel agents and car rental companies in Kolkata can arrange chauffeured drives or tours with a car and driver. Ballpark cost would be around 1,000 rupees (about ?14) for eight hours, within a limit of 250 kilometers. Over this, you'd pay a further 12 rupees (less than ?1) per kilometer.

Currency & Best Way to Get Money

The local currency is the Indian rupee, which is roughly 80 to the U.K. pound and 67 to the U.S. dollar (for current currency conversion figures, visit www.oanda.com or www.xe.com).

Do be aware that the currency was updated at the end of 2016, so some of the older,

high denomination notes are no longer legal tender. Also, you can't purchase rupees in advance, so will have to get them on arrival.

Fortunately, there are plenty of ATM machines at Kolkata's Netaji Subas Chandra Bose International Airport, as well as in downtown Kolkata (for a full list of ATMs with location and maps, check out www.bankatmlocator.in).

Language

Kolkata's most-spoken languages are Bengali and Hindi. Most people -- especially those working in tourist areas -- will also speak English.


Kolkata (Calcutta) Cruise Reviews

Ganges Voyager II
Cristaltravel2
Sail Date: Feb 2019
We sailed up the Ganges stopping at small local villages...Read More
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