It’s been some years now that I have been associated with the digital marketing of Maharajas Express, the most luxurious train that India possesses in her kitty of 5 luxury trains.
Since I have been associated with the digital promotions of Maharajas’ Express train, I could say with confidence that I know the train inside out.
But that was true till yesterday.
I knew Maharajas Express only through the promotion materials, brochures, accounts of other travelers and photos. And I believed I knew everything that I need to know.
Conceited! Wouldn’t you say?
I was invited on behalf of the organization that I work for. It was an orientation cum presentation program wherein the GM of the train briefed us on the features of Maharajas’ Express, latest upgradations and what sets it apart from the other luxury trains of India.
It was yesterday that I became aware of the several features about which I had no knowledge. I guess it’s true that until and unless you see thing for yourself, you don’t know the entire truth.
This is my second visit to a luxury train this month (the first one was Palace on Wheels) and there’s another invitation for Royal Rajasthan on Wheels next Sunday.
Ah, Common now! Don’t feel jealous. It’s part of my job 🙂
So, with anticipation, I along with my 4 colleagues arrive at the quiet and clean Safdarjung Railway Station at 5:30 in the evening.
I catch the first glimpse of Maharajas’ Express. It was parked at platform no 3. We near the train. There’s a gatekeeper standing at an open gate welcoming the visitors with Namaste and broad smile. There’s a red carpet laid out – a short one but still a red carpet to give us the feel of royal welcome.
As I entered a thought crossed my mind for a fleeting second.
“Hey isn’t it Platform 9 ¾ from where the magical train ride to Hogwarts begins.” I muse.
I have just entered Maharajas’ Express and it is as fantabulous as I remember from the photos that I have seen.
It’s the Katela Coach. We are met by the GM of the train, who is leading the orientation program.
“Welcome to the Maharajas’ Express” he says with a welcoming smile. “I am going to brief you about the features and in the meanwhile if you have any queries, feel free to ask me” he added.
“We have a lot of them…don’t we” I quip to Sushant, my colleague. He smiles back…slyly and I would have understood that it’s his day because in the retrospect he was the one with all the questions.
He starts with the specs and just as a fellow journalist asks with (proper hand gestures )“In India when the train runs it’s like a rocking chair. How is Maharajas’ Express different?”
Lo and behold here comes our shooting star: “How does Pneumatic suspension give Maharajas’ Express an edge over the other trains?” asks Sushant.
With a swollen chest, the GM goes on to explain what it is that makes Maharajas’ Express stand apart from the rest. “The pneumatic suspension system ensures that the train doesn’t rock and that guests have a sound sleep.” He also adds something about BP and MP but that was way too technical…something about six inches of play.
So first time in my life I see – I actually see the amenities inside Maharajas’ Express. Deluxe Cabins aren’t that spacious but they are equipped with high class facilities. There are paintings and artifacts adorning the walls. Bathroom is western style and there’s a shower too.
There’s a cupboard where you can hang your suits and clothes and there’s an electronic safe inside the cupboard to keep your valuables safe.
As if that was not enough for security concern, Maharajas’ Express now has doors with RFID lock. BTW, Maharajas’ Express is the only luxury train (or for that matter train) which has got a room style door instead of the sliding doors that we have on other luxury trains.
What’s in it for you? Well…that ensures that you don’t have the typical door noise as witnessed in other trains.
It was also the day when I was told by GM that the corridors or the walking aisle are CCTV equipped but the cabins are not. The cabins also feature live televisions, DVD players and individual climate control. “The first cabin of each coach is double bed and most of the cabins are twin bed as guests prefer twin bedded cabins” the GM informed us. We were surprised!
“Sir! This is the cupboard and you can take the picture of it. Here are the sleepers that come with each cabin” I am told by Dasrath, one of the butlers assigned to Katela. He is friendly, warm and English speaking…all ingredients required to cater to the high profile guests of the train.
We arrive at Junior Suite later. The coach is named Gomed. GM tells us that facilities ares the same as in Deluxe Cabin except for the space. He also tells us that it is more favored among honeymoon couples as there’s space and the price fits the budget.
After these two categories of guest cabins we arrive at the plush Safari Bar. There were dry fruits in the bowls and I was hungry. “Control Nikhil” I told myself. “There’s time for eating and all.”
Just as the name, the theme of this bar car is also nonchalant yet formal. A bartender is standing at his stead and out of a sudden I am thirsty too. But the watch is not yet done. I control myself again. We move to Rang Mahal next.
It’s a colorful coach as the name alludes to. Here we are told that cutlery is imported from France and is 24 carat gold plated. The crystal glasses are imported from Germany. It’s nothing less than the restaurant of a 5 star hotel.
After the Rang Mahal, its Mayur Mahal or the Peacock Restaurant. It is greenish and golden, motif emblematic of colors of a peacock. It’s full of life and energy and I notice several persons eating and drinking. Yes! You read it right…they are drinking.
But my watch ain’t over yet. So I move on again to the next car. It is called the Rajah Club and rightly so. This observation car cum board room cum conference car cum souvenir shop is elegance personified.
“There are LCD and projector ports which could turn this car into a conference room” we are told by the GM. “You could have your business meeting in style at a short notice if you are traveling on board Maharajas’ Express” he added.
After that we headed to the finest specimens of luxury: the suite and the presidential suite of the Maharajas’ Express. Both these categories of accommodation are the most spacious in their class when it comes to luxury train niche. And they are the most spacious in their category even when it comes to luxury trains in this world including Venice-Simplon Orient Express and the Rovos Rail.
Suite and presidential suite are really palatial and would meet the idiosyncracies of even the maharajas of yore. Hand painted ceilings, bath tub in the rest room and ample space characterize these accommodation type.
In the Presidential Suite, there’s a master bedroom and a twin bedroom along with kitchenette and seating area. Lotus motif pervades the ambience of the Presidential Suite. This is the place where you could actually feel like a royalty.
Our watch is done for. It’s time to head back to Mayur Mahal – the place where snacks and somras is being served. We sit there, three of us; Sandeep, Sushant and me. 4 others from my office are sitting next to us. After the visit and even at the beginning, I guess their agenda was to sit idly and eat the sumptuous food served in Mayur Mahal.
We have a seat now ourselves. A khidmatgar comes and asks “Sir! What will you have; Wine, Scotch, Whisky or Vodka?” We look at each other and smile. A song passes through my mind:
“It’s been a hard day’s night
And I’ve been working like a dog
It’s been a hard day’s night
I should be sleeping like a log
But when I get home to you
I find the things that you do
Will make me feel alright”
Yeah! It’s for whiskey hey 🙂
I peg down and we were told that the IT head of the train wanna meet us to discuss over the promotion. We’re the top sellers right. So we are joined by Mr. Anoop and we are having chat over creating more buzz for Maharajas’ Express.
It’s 2 down now! I am feeling like Catcher in the Rye already. It’s 21:00 hrs already. I think I could take 2 more. In the meanwhile Sushant is passionately talking about the things we couls do to create the “buzz”.
Just then there’s a buzz. It’s my phone. The voice on the other end says “chal bhai bahut time ho gaya.”
Horror, the horror! Just like that it’s time to go.
I don’t want to leave. I was beginning to feel like maharaja; seating inside ornate Mayur Mahal, having whiskey in crystals imported from Germany and using 24 carat gold plated fork and spoon to eat the servings.
Just like that it was time to go.
In the retrospect, it was a evening I could remember for the rest of my life. After visiting Maharajas’ Express, I could say without a shadow of doubt that the name justifies what the train stands for. Mind you, Maharajas’ Express is not for rich…it’s designed and perfected for the über, the class apart.
The journey is spoiling and pampering and lavish and idiosyncratic. It has the characteristics that you could imagine in the vulgarly rich maharajas of India. Maharajas’ Express is opulence redefined. It offers an experience unrivalled by any in the world.
And yes! It comes at a price tag that not just anyone could bargain for. The journey starts from USD 3850 per person for the golden triangle itinerary (Delhi, Agra and Jaipur for 3 nights) and goes as high as USD 22,000 for the Presidential Suite accommodation for journey lasting over a week.
So are you game? For the Maharajas’ Express Train beckons the best in their class!
Here’s some more snaps of the experience on board Maharajas’ Express:
Visit my Flickr Photostream @ NikhilChandra for more images of Maharajas’ Express.
- Monday Muse: Tonight I can write the saddest lines
- Firuz Shah Kotla: Fifth City of Delhi