Indian Railways’ Maharajas’ Express, the world’s leading luxury train, chugged out of a Delhi station on Sunday on a royal odyssey to take its patrons across the famed ‘Golden Triangle’, signaling the beginning of its first journey of the new tourist season.
A signature enterprise of Indian Railways Catering and Tourism Corporation (IRCTC), the magnificent train, known for unmatched hospitality and off-train excursion, runs on five circuits across north-west and central India, covering around a dozen destinations, mainly in Rajasthan, between the tourist months of October and March.
IRCTC Chairman and Managing Director Dr. AK Manocha, who was present at Safdarjung station from where the train steamed out, said plans are afoot to run Maharajas’ Express during the off-season too (April-September) with some concession.
“During the lean season, we may offer one free ticket for every single booking. Thus, a couple can board the train by buying one only one ticket,” he informed.
The Safdarjung station wore a festive look on the occasion; Uttaranchal Pipe Band played music, shehnai and tabla players showed their expertise and immaculately-dressed staff stood in tows as the exuberant guests boarded the 23-coach, half-a-mile-long train that looked resplendent in maroon exterior with a golden hue.
The three-night/four-day trip, known as ‘Treasures of India’ will offer the guests an opportunity to explore and experience the rich cultural heritage of Incredible India, including the Taj Mahal, mighty fortresses and exquisite palaces (in Jaipur) and the Ranthambore National Park.
The train, which began its inaugural run in March 2010, has won a hat-trick of the coveted World Travel Award-from 2012 to 2014. Last month, it bagged the prestigious ‘Seven Star Luxury Hospitality and Lifestyle Awards’ for the category “Seven Star Experience” at a function in Bali, Indonesia. The luxury train also won the CNBC Travel Award for the second time in June this year.
During 2014-15, 1,144 passengers boarded the train in 33 trips with a total income of Rs 47.89 crore as against 865 passengers in 28 trips and an income of Rs 36.27 crore in 2013-14.
With exquisite interiors, state of the art amenities and impeccable hospitality, Maharajas’ Express has four cabin configurations-Deluxe, Junior Suite, Suite and President Suite.
Each guest cabin comes equipped with RFID door locks, individual temperature control, fire alarm, attached washrooms with showers, electronic safe, live television, DVD player, WiFi Internet and a water filtration plant. Besides round the clock valet service, a paramedic is available throughout the journey of the train, which is equipped with CCTV cameras. There is a souvenir shop also.
There are two tastefully done dining cars as well, offering a range of delicacies. The seating capacity of the dining cars is 84 to ensure that all guests eat together. A bar car, named Safari, and the lounge, known as the Rajah Club, have well stocked bar. In the dining car, guests enjoy meals in gold-crested plates and spoons that have been imported from Paris.
The tariff, ranging between 3850 US dollars and 23,700 dollars depending on the train’s five circuits, includes meals, house wines and spirits, sightseeing and services of experienced guides. All the living cabins have been named after precious gems, such as Firoza, Moti, Manik, Panna and Hakik, in an effort to recreate the mystique of royal grandeur of a bygone era.
“There are many distinct features that set Maharajas’ Express leagues apart of its contemporaries. It commands huge brand equity in the world,” said Dr. Manocha.
Besides ‘Treasures of India’, the four other circuits of the train are: the 8-days/7-nights The Heritage of India (Mumbai, Ajanta, Udaipur, Jodhpur, Bikaner, Jaipur, Ranthambore, Agra, Delhi); the 8-days/7-nights The Indian Splendour (Delhi-Agra-Ranthambore-Jaipur-Bikaner-Jodhpur-Udaipur-Balasinor-Mumbai); the 8-days/7- nights The Indian Panorama (Delhi-Jaipur-Ranthambore-Fathepur Sikri-Agra-Gwalior-Khajuraho-Varanasi-Lucknow-Delhi); and the 3-nights/4-days Gems of India (Delhi-Agra-Ranthambore-Jaipur-Delhi).