The main focus during a Brahmaputra River cruise is on the action ashore, and considerable time is spent on Mahabaahu's twin tender boats Rudra Singha and Gadadhar Singha, which ferry passengers ashore to meet local tribes and visit monasteries, markets, temples and historic monuments.
Passengers also take boat safaris to see the wildlife that inhabits Kaziranga National Park and the Brahmaputra's sandy banks.
All shore tours are escorted by a destination manager who is a naturalist and photography expert, and so able to point out birds and animals and also advise passengers on how to make best use of their cameras.
At the end of the cruise, photographic highlights chronicled by the naturalist are presented to each passenger on a memory stick.
The undoubted highlight of the trip is the elephant-back safari through Kaziranga Park, to view herds of wild deer and buffalo, white rhino and -- for the sharp-eyed and exceptionally lucky -- the occasional tiger.
This entails a very early start (at 3:45 a.m.) and a long drive, but you get snacks en route, breakfast afterward and an experience that -- like riding the elephants -- you will never forget.
Other shore tour highlights include a jeep safari (which follows the elephant ride); calls at the 13th-century town of Sivasagar and lunch on a tea estate, followed by a talk on Assam and Darjeeling tea.
You'll also get to see vivid dance and drama performances on the island of Majuli -- a center of Assamese culture -- and to visit the villages of the Mishing tribespeople, who live in stilted houses and make a living from silk weaving.
The inhabitants of Peacock Island -- which rounds off downstream cruises as Mahabaahu approaches Guwahati -- are equally interesting. A small family of golden langur monkeys live here, and seem happy to caper about and have their photographs taken, in exchange for tasty chunks of mango.
Daytime and Evening Entertainment
Mornings on Mahabaahu generally begin with yoga sessions, either up on the Donyi Polo sun deck or ashore, amid the sand dunes.
While some passengers concentrate on balancing their chakras, others take an escorted walk along the river bank to get in a bit of bird-watching and witness the local villagers going about their daily round.
Evening options include cooking demonstrations on how to make samosas and other Indian delicacies; gathering up on Mahabaahu's roomy sun deck or ashore to chat over a few 'sundowners,' and taking in colorful displays of folk dancing by local troupes who perform shoreside, so that people can watch from the sandbanks or from their cabin windows and balconies.
Mahabaahu moors up every evening, so passengers are guaranteed an engine-free night's sleep. Before bedtime, they often make their own entertainment at evening parties held on the sun deck or ashore on the sandbanks, with joke telling and singing.
There are regular talks and slide shows onboard, outlining aspects of local history and culture. Topics include 'Sivasagar, the seat of Ahom Civilization,' 'Majuli, the seat of Vaishnav Culture' and 'The River Brahmaputra and the life that exists alongside.'
Soma Lounge, Main Deck: This cozy lounge is the boat's main indoor relaxation area, where people can read or play board games during the day and enjoy evening drinks.
Up on the sun deck (also known as Donyi Polodeck), there is outdoor seating, sunbeds and a canopied area; there is also an alfresco bar, making this a popular area for daytime sunbathing and socializing in the late afternoon and early evening
Reception -- where you can book spa treatments or exchange money -- is at the main entrance to the boat, in an open space between the Soma Lounge and the Mungri Mungram restaurant. There's also a pool table here, and the area is often used as an ersatz bazaar, with locally made silks, jewelery and craft ware for sale.
TV reception in the cabins can be erratic, but there are DVDs and players available for those who can't do without their daily fix. There are also games and a small library of books in the Soma Lounge.
For serious shoppers who'd like an outfit made out of local silks they've bought ashore, Mahabaahu has its own onboard tailor. Prices vary according to what's required, and can be discussed onboard.
MV Mahabaahu has a small swimming pool and sunbathing area on First Deck (one up from the restaurant and lounge on the Main Deck). The pool is unheated but there are comfortable sunbeds, and two showers.
On Second (or Pashuram) Deck, there is a small open-air gym, which basically consists of a stationary bike and weights.
On the Lower (or Spa Ojas) Deck -- one down from reception -- there is a spa, equipped with an Ayurvedic treatment room, a whirlpool bath, a steam cubicle, a small sauna and a hairdressing area.
The spa area is basic and rather old fashioned, but it does offer a range of excellent Ayurvedic treatments at affordable prices. Foot, neck and shoulder massages, conducted alfresco on the sun deck, are priced at 1,000 rupees (about £12.50 or $15). At the upper end of the scale, a traditional Ayurvedic Udhichil deep tissue massage with hot herbal oil costs 6,700 rupees (c £84 or $100) for an hour.
A word of warning to Western visitors; Ayurvedic treatments are medically based and engage with the entire body, so the order of the day tends to be access to all areas, i.e., no underwear. If this would feel uncomfortable for you, have a word in advance and staff will be happy to work out something that suits.
MV Mahabaahu will accept children over the age of 6, but they are solely the responsibility of their parents or caregivers, and no special facilities are offered for them.