“Hi, we are invited to attend the inaugural run of the Deccan Odyssey” said Dipali. It’s funny how after an year I am going to board yet another award winning luxury train of India. Not as excited as I was when I was invited to board the Maharajas’ Express or the Palace on Wheels as I have been to Deccan Odyssey once but then who am I to complain now that Cox & Kings have invited us (the marketing team from Indian Holiday Pvt. Ltd.) to get a glimpse into the “new look” of the Deccan Odyssey.
The last time I was on train it belonged to and was operated by the Maharashtra Tourism Development Corporation (MTDC) but now the train has been acquired by none other than the oldest and one of the most respected travel agencies in the world; the Cox & Kings.
It was around 18:00 hours that I reached Safdarjung Railway Station along with my colleagues Gaurav, Dipali & Jagdish. The last time there were more to the company but this time there were just 4 of us.
“Ah! Okay…After an year or so, I’m gonna board yet another luxury train in India” I told myself. I have my camera ready. I am carrying two lenses but I rue the fact that I should have carried a muffler or a cap instead of the EF 70-300mm lens to protect myself from the freezing cold.
“Never mind, it will take an hour or so” I placate myself but then begins the long waiting game. As in the tradition of the procedural IST, the Deccan Odyssey took 1 and a half hour more than the scheduled time to arrive at the station.
The station has been decorated. There is staff of Deccan Odyssey (Not sure if they were from MTDC or the Cox & Kings) in traditional Indian dress – or to be more precise the ladies only in blue saris. The guests were welcomed with a vermillion mark on their forehead and a garland to adorn their neck.
The place was cold but the comfort was provided by the energetic Punjabi troupe who danced and swayed to the beat of the bhangra. Even the guests – all of whom were from foreign countries – couldn’t help but sway to the beat of the intoxicating Punjabi beats. Many of them danced and swayed along with the troupe. Lo and behold! How the cold vanished in an instant.
I am clicking the pics…there are photo ops that is tempting me to click more and more. In between a cop is trying to intimidate me. “Kahan se hai chhore” he asks. “Invited hun taau” I retort. His colleague asks “Ke kar raha hai” and he replies “Maja to len de”. BTW I was not supposed to overhear but I did 🙂
Reminds of the cops I met 2 days before just near my office. I am tightening my belt and my tab is on the bench in a park. There are 3 cops sitting near and sipping hot cuppa of tea. One of them is so concerned that he addresses me – actually he is joking with his collegues – “abe jitney der mein pant siddhi karega teri phone nikal jayegi” and I am suddenly lost for word. Here are 3 cops sitting at an armlenth distance with me and telling me to keep my tab in my pocket and not on the bench as it might get stolen. What has become of our city and the cops? How incompetent or impotent they are to tell me to keep my phone in pocket and not on bench for it might get stolen despite 3 of Delhi Police sitting there.
Digressions apart; I wait and click and walk and smoke and wait and click and walk and.. well It goes on for an hour. Even the guests are cold now. Bhangra is now overdone and hospitality well up to the mark but its “Dilli ki Sardi” so you need shelter. Off they go to the waiting room and I am still meandering up and along the platform waiting for my Odyssey with the Deccan.
After ages have passed, the train finally rumbles in. It’s as blue as it was the last time but the changes since the Cox & Kings have taken over was visible even from the outside. The exteriors of the coaches are given a fine touch with paintings in red. Looked really pretty I must say. But it’s an ongoing task. “The end result would be a sight to behold” I say to myself.
So as the train chugs in and halt we are invited by Nidhi, the sales & marketing head, to board the train. We gather in the vestibule and we are told about the changes that have been made and upgrades that will be undertaken to make Deccan Odyssey one of the most sought after luxury train travel mode in the world.
The train is composed of twin bed and double bed cabins as well as 2 Presidential Suites. Not as spacious as Maharajas’ Express Suites – which span over an entire carriage and comes equipped with bath tub – the Presidential Suite of the Deccan Odyssey are spacious enough with a double bed room, seating area and 2 washrooms fitted with shower.
One of the distinguishing features of the Deccan Odyssey is the fitness center and spa car which is absent in Maharajas’ Express. There are separate steam room for the ladies and the gentlemen and aromatherapy is also offered on board. I was also told that a range of Ayurveda treatments would soon be made available on board.
Each cabin of the train comes equipped with satellite television, Wi-Fi internet, attached washroom and individual climate control. The luggage area sadly is beneath the coupes as opposed to Maharajas’ Express who also provide a cupboard for luggage in each cabin along with the RFID door lock and electronic safe.
The interiors as I observe looks very well composed and upgraded from the last time I was on the train. The wall to wall carpeting looks neat and the valets are looking traditional and impeccable. Each one of them is well versed in English so that guests are taken care of in a standard parallel with the best.
After the guest cabins we were led to the lounge car. It is a place where guest could spend some refreshing moments playing board games or carom. There is a well stocked library too for discerning guests with popular fictions and history books to acquaint themselves with ‘royal India’.
Followed by the lounge car cum recreation center are the 2 aesthetically designed dining cars named Peshwa I and Peshwa II. Both were nicely decorated with impeccable presentation of cutlery and crystal glasses. The food is prepared from fresh ingredients by the very own master chef. A wide variety of cuisines – both Indian and International – are served in the restaurants to satiate the taste buds of the guests. The total seating capacity of the dining cars is 84 to ensure that everyone on board eats together.
Finally, after getting to know the new highs of the train, we were ushered in inside the Mumbai Hi. As the name itself is suggestive, this is the most frequented and favorite car of the Deccan Odyssey. With fine collection of home brand of wine and liquor which is served table d’hôte, an extensive menu of international scotch, wine and liquor is served to the guest in an immaculately nonchalant ambiance. This is an ideal place to get Hi on life and low on worries; a place for tête–à–tête and getting to know the fellow travelers.
It was where I wound up my camera and sat down. Delicious starters along with wine and beer were served. After a long wait I’d say it kinda made up for it 🙂
The journey that will begin today is the Indian Odyssey. The train is not house pack but there are enough guests. The journey which will span over the next 8 days will take the guests to Sawai Madhopur for a wildlife safari in Ranthambore, Agra to visit the Taj Mahal (one of the Seven Modern Wonders of the World), Jaipur with its pink buildings and impregnable forts, the ‘blue city’ Jodhpur. Udaipur with its sparkling lakes and floating palaces, Vadodara and finally the journey will conclude in the ‘city of dreams’ Mumbai.
An Array of insider experiences and cultural interactions will ensure that the guests get a peek into the real essence of India along with its diversity and myriad experiences. At all halts. Guests will be provided with guided sightseeing tours and transportation which is part of this luxury train travel package. In all, the journey is promised to be like any no other.
For more information about the journeys (there are 9 in total), tariff, inclusions and the train visit the website here: deccan-odyssey-india.com
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