In days gone by Indian royalty and the British aristocracy would often set out on a shikaar, or safari, travelling in the luxurious surrounds of a private palace on wheels.
Now clients can experience the royal treatment first-hand with a journey onboard the historic Deccan Odyssey, which was refurbished in 2015.
The feeling of regal opulence began on the train platform at Delhi, where I was greeted by the thrashing beat of drums and the sound of bells jangling, as a troupe of jubilant dancers and drummers welcomed us, dressed in brightly coloured traditional outfits.
As the guests, we became the stars of the show, invited to walk through the dancing mass of colour and across a red carpet, before being welcomed onboard by beaming faces handing out chilled glasses of champagne.
Although the train didn’t actually leave the station on this occasion, the sense of enchantment created for passengers shone through.
We were invited to explore the train, which is made up of 21 coaches, each with four charming cabins decked out in elegant decor but equipped with modern amenities including a telephone, air con and Wi-Fi. The train also offers cabins for wheelchair users.
There are four impressive Presidential Suites, each with two bathrooms, a large living area and a master bedroom, plus a 24-hour personal butler. Attendants are available around the clock for each coach on the train, too.
Other luxurious facilities include a lounge, a shop, and a spa where clients can catch up on some zen time thanks to ancient Indian therapies and massage techniques.
Clients can eat in one of two restaurants, which showcase the flavours of the cities the train stops at, and also offer continental options.
Agents booking directly can choose from six Deccan Odyssey itineraries for their clients, covering the length and breadth of India’s diverse landscape.
Options include the Indian Odyssey, highlights of which include the Golden Triangle, Udaipur and Mumbai; and the Maharashtra Wild Trail, which incudes game drives in the Tadoba Tiger Reserve to spot Bengal tigers.
The train moves mostly at night, giving clients the opportunity to get out and explore by day at the hands of expert guides. Private drivers are available on request for clients seeking a more exclusive experience.
“While traversing India is not possible with a cruise, the Deccan Odyssey is a great option for cruise-loving clients, as it allows them to cover vast terrain in a short space of time,” said sales manager Victor Bhattacharjee.
While the cruisers won’t fail to be seduced, the allure of the Deccan Odyssey is even more far-reaching, providing a unique travel experience through India, and all the romance that an epic train journey affords.