We spent four nights aboard the MV Mahabaahu, sailing south on Assam’s Brahmaputra River.
On arrival at Jorhat airport, Venkat, the ships naturalist, swung into action arranging the transport for 10 of us, providing luggage labels denoting car and cabin number. A packed lunch, in oval wicker basket was full to burst, but we couldn’t face investigating the contents after experiencing “Jet Airways”:http://www.silvertraveladvisor.com/review/airline/170674-review-jet-airways contributions.
The drive to the Neamati Ghat took 30 minutes with each couple in a 4WD, where we met our ship. After negotiating a rickety, bamboo gangplank, we swapped dusty shoes for white towelling slippers and were presented with cold flannels, scarves, orange marigold garlands, and a non-alcoholic drink. Our shoes were found later, neatly parked outside our cabin, minus the dust.
There were 23 cabins in total – 10 like ours on the second deck along with 2 Suites, and 11 cabins on the first deck. We were served by 35 crew members including an on-board paramedic who came on all the excursions and provided me with three cough sweets when I had a sore throat (I’d been expecting something a little stronger!).
Our superior cabin with balcony, was compact but functional with two narrow single beds, desk, TV, small wardrobe, safe, and mini bar with snacks and soft drinks. Moving around the cabin required a little co-ordination.
The small bathroom had a powerful shower which was at the right height for me but a little low for a 6’ 2” man. There was plenty of hanging space for towels but not enough for toiletries, but there was an illuminated shaving mirror and toiletries including toothbrushes and toothpaste.
On my second day, I noticed the room next door, had a double bed and was told “of course you can have a double bed made up, you only had to ask’. My travel agent had, so I was a little disappointed with this omission.
At the briefing by Neena, the ship’s director, we were told about the facilities on board which included a spa and gym, top deck with swimming pool and relaxation area, bar/lounge and restaurant. Here it became apparent that there were only ten guests on board, with us leaving after night four and others leaving after night five of the seven-night cruise. The laundry impressively turned around our trousers overnight – handed in at 7pm, returned at 6.10am.
Each day, there was a different excursion: some from the shore and others requiring the tender.
The first to Sibsagar, well known for its Ahom palaces and monuments, where we were greeted liked celebrities with the locals wanting selfies with us and autographs. We then had a typical, rather good, Assamese lunch on a tea planation followed by a somewhat disappointing tea tasting from plastic spoons dipped into cold tea.
At Majuli island, one of the world’s largest river islands, we boarded jeeps and drove along a sandy track scattered with palm leaves to provide traction. We watched native dance performances including the story of Ramayana and at the monastery, a dozen white-robed monks performed with drums and cymbal.
At a Mishing Village we visited weavers and had the opportunity to buy shawls.
On an afternoon boat safari, we spotted birds, two elephants on the bank and the nose of the leaping, Gangetic dolphin before watching the sunset.
As well as an action-packed programme of excursions and talks on them, there were early morning nature walks or yoga, a cookery demonstration and bonfires on the bank before dinner. At times, we felt as though we were on a hamster wheel, lurching from one event to another with little time to relax or take up optional things to do such as visit the wheelhouse. Perhaps because there was only ten of us, it was hard to ‘duck out’.
Food and drink
Breakfast – consisted of fruit, yoghurt, cereal and an egg chef but we generally had Indian food from the buffet.
Lunch – again was a buffet of curries and salads and was my favourite meal of the day with fabulous, different Indian breads.
Dinner – started with a cocktail and on the first night we found a stack of champagne glasses which were filled from the top – something I’d never seen done in real life. The food was good and was meant to swap between Indian and continental although there seemed to be more of the former. The menu was slightly confusing and it was difficult to know what choices we had. Dinner was the only meal at a communal table. A nice touch, was a slide show of the photographs Venkat had taken during the day.
Tea, coffee and biscuits were also available at a service point throughout the day.
We were disappointed with the amount of cruising we did. On the first night, we simply sailed from one side of the river to the other and back the next morning and I worked out it was 41 hours after boarding before we did any real sailing. The staff acknowledged that the first few days were excursion based and perhaps we should have stayed on for longer, bearing in mind we missed one of the highlights: an early morning elephant ride and the opportunity to see the one-horned rhinoceros in Kaziranga National Park.
Suggested tips – for crew and onshore services $10 and $5 per person per night and the Naturalist $6 per person per night. To pay for our drinks and anything from the souvenir stall we used a credit card.