Sign Up for Our Monthly Asia Newsletter
From the 15th to early 19th centuries, India’s Maharajas were among the wealthiest, most bejeweled rulers on the globe, famous for their opulent lifestyles. Fittingly, the royals only traveled in grand style — in private, plush rail cars in which their every need could be attended to. While the Maharajas lost such privileges in 1947 (when India gained its independence), their decadent travel style lives on with the 88-passenger Deccan Odyssey luxury train.
The Deccan Odyssey has been introducing travelers to the Deccan Plateau of India since 2005 and specializes in travel within the state of Maharashtra, including Mumbai, Goa and Kolhapur. During a Deccan Odyssey week-long journey, guests will stay in one of 44 air conditioned suites, which offer the services of a doting butler and around-the-clock, in-cabin dining.
“We have a saying in Sanskrit ‘Atithi Devo Bhava,’ which means ‘the guest is God,’” said Shuib M. Kaw of The Luxury Trains, a consolidator and GSA for Deccan Odyssey. “We apply this philosophy onboard the train. The Deccan Odyssey is your home for seven days, and each day is a new experience that showcases India’s culture, people and natural beauty.”
The train has partnered with Taj Hotels & Resorts and, therefore, guests can expect a thoughtful, well-trained staff onboard, many of whom will be dressed like 17th-century Maharashtra warriors. Food and beverages are prepared to Taj standards with purified water, so it is safe for guests to eat locally sourced fruit and vegetables and drink their cocktails with ice.
Guests can enjoy lavish, multi-course meals in one of two dining cars, kick back with a Kingfisher beer in the bar or relax with an affordable massage treatment in the train’s spa. The onboard gym features a treadmill, a stationary bike and a set of hand weights. It can fit up to two people at once.
Although in-room Wi-Fi access is advertised online, this is not the case onboard. However, the train is working on adding Wi-Fi connectivity to all cabins by 2014. In that time frame, the train plans to improve its suspension and traction; add a 72-channel satellite television to each cabin; offer complimentary Indian spirits, wine and beer to guests; and refresh all soft goods in the train’s dining cars.
The absolute highlights of my seven-night train journey this spring were visits to the Ajanta and Ellora caves in Aurangabad. Both caves are UNESCO World Heritage sites comprised of monolithic religious monuments. Ajanta’s 30 Buddhist caves have retained their brilliant 1,500-year-old paintings that depict the lives and times of the Bodhisattvas and Buddha. The Ellora Caves were painstakingly carved with chisels over the course of a century and represent the three dominant religions of the time — Jain, Hindu and Buddhist — living in harmony with one another.
From September 2013 to April 2014, Deccan Odyssey will offer seven-night tours of the Maharashtra region for $575 per person, per night. Commission: 20-25 percent.