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The Most Luxurious and the Most Expensive Train (It’s Not the Orient or the Scotsman!)

An avid reader who hopes to share his findings with curious rail travelers.

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'Life is the train, not the station', Paul Coelho notes. There is something about the train travels which brings out some sort of lost romance back in life. Nostalgia? Thrill of meeting new people? Discovering new places or culture? Or probably all of them combined. And if you are amongst the connoisseurs who love travelling by train in the lap of luxury, India is the one place which should be top on your list. With a host of uber luxurious trains operating, you are spoilt for choices. But one amongst the many of luxuries stands out. The grandest, the most royal and the most pocket 'unfriendly' train in the world, the king of the kings, The Maharaja Express.

The Maharaja was launched in the year 2010 and quickly established itself as the world's best luxury train. It was crowned as the 'Best Luxury Train' at CNBC Travel Awards 2010. It was voted World Leading Luxury Train at World Travel Award for 7 years in a row (2012-2018). No wonder, it is often dubbed 'orient of the orients.' The name of the train itself means the 'king of the kings', and every passenger is treated as one. The Maharaja was designed to provide the tourists with a feel of Indian hospitality, a glimpse into the extravagant lifestyles of Indian royals coupled with all the luxuries one can expect from the most expensive train in the world. All this, while the train takes you through the splendor of rich, vibrant, colorful and some of the most iconic destinations of Indian culture. You don't spend your entire journey locked up inside the train. At every destination, you are welcomed off-board to a leisurely and curated visit to the important tourist attractions. Palaces and forts, which narrate the opulence and valor of kings, to the spiritual capital of India, Varanasi, are among many of the equally thrilling destinations. The Maharaja covers a total of 8 UNESCO world heritage sites spread across 4 different itineraries. The entire train is built up of 23 coaches of which 14 are for guest carriages. The interior of each coach reflects the grandeur and opulence enjoyed by the kings, complete with traditionally styled furniture and paintings.

The train is also well decked in terms of facilities like Wi-Fi, live television, a gym, lounge, bar and library. A trip by Maharaja is all about larger than life philosophy and pampering. Travelers are welcomed in traditional Indian style at every destination during their journey. It's fit for the arrival of a king, to say the least. Guests are afforded an red carpet entry, where traditionally dressed hosts perform an aarti (an Indian ritual) and a garland of flowers is placed around their neck. All this while local artists perform folk dances and play folk music. Guests are assigned with a butler who attends to you 24 hours of the day throughout the journey. You can also opt for a personalized wake-up call and breakfast in your bed. Each cabin is equipped with individual climate control so you can set the temperature you feel most comfortable at. You can also enjoy hot or cold shower depending on your mood and you're provided with a bathrobe, slippers, hairdryer and a range of luxury toiletries to further enhance your experience. Cabins are also equipped with a wardrobe and a personal safe to store your valuables and important documents securely. You also get a direct international dial telephone service, so you can stay connected to your loved ones. If you are fitness conscious, the train is equipped with a gym. A library is available for book lovers, where you can enjoy novels and magazines. If you feel like shopping, you can check out the on-board souvenir shop which sells traditional handicrafts, artefacts, paintings and jewelry. Paramedics are also available 24/7, as well as air-ambulance services if the unfortunate case of a medical emergency arises. The travelers are also insured for the duration of their entire journey.

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And while your senses are busy absorbing in the royalty surrounding you, your tummy won't be left behind either. Maharaja has two fine dining restaurants, namely 'Mayur Mahal' (Palace of Peacock) and 'Rang Mahal' (Palace of Color). Both the restaurants are thematically and regally decorated and can seat 42 persons each, either in 1+1 or 2+2 seating arrangement. In a true Maharaja style, the meals are served on an gold edged Limoges porcelain plates and the glasses are Swarovski hand-cut crystals. Both the restaurants serve authentic Indian and international cuisines, with a wide range of meals. You get to choose from an exhaustive range of lactose or gluten free, kosher, vegetarian or vegan and non-vegetarian meals. You also have the option of choosing a complimentary wine.

For people who love to socialize over drinks, there are two bars available which serve both alcoholic and non-alcoholic beverages. The 'Rajah (Raja) Club' is an lounge bar with a relaxed sitting layout where you can enjoy the world's finest whiskeys, wines and exciting cocktails in an completely laid-back atmosphere. On the other hand, 'Safari Bar' would be best suited to people who love to combine business and leisure together in an totally relaxed environment. It also double up as a venue to celebrate festive events. There are also board games available to further enhance your rich experience.

There are four categories of accommodations available on the Maharaja. Since I have already covered most of the amenities that are common to all, I won't elaborate on it much.

  1. Deluxe Cabin: There are five coaches allotted for deluxe cabins. There are 20 thematically and lavishly done deluxe cabin, out of which 12 are twin bedded and eight double bedded. Each coach is named after precious gems like Hakik, Firoza, Katela, Beruz and Petoniya which is reflected by their respective decor. Each car has 24/7 availability of a personal butler.
  2. Junior Suites: Junior suites take up another six coaches and are named as Moti, Panna, Manik, Gomed, Moonga and Pukhraj. There are 18 junior suites in total with large panoramic windows and lavish interiors. Each car has a mini pantry and a valet to serve you 24/7.
  3. Suite: There are four suites which are housed in two coaches named Heera and Neelam. Apart from all the regular luxuries, the suites are equipped with complimentary mini-bar and bath tub. The tariff for this suite also includes an exclusive language speaking guide as well as luxury car for off-board journeys.
  4. Presidential Suite: Taking up an entire coach, this suite is aptly named Navratna (nine precious gems) and is only one of its kind among the international train. Decked with the finest of decorations, it has a living room, two bedrooms and washrooms. It also includes an personal valet, an exclusive language speaking guide and a luxury car for off-board journeys.

Tariffs

So finally we are about to face the moment of truth, what the hell on earth does this madness costs? The tariffs of the Maharaja depends upon your choice of accommodation and the itinerary that you choose. The prices starts from 3,850 USD and goes up to 23,700 USD, plus taxes. All the tariffs are detailed in a table below.

© 2022 Yogesh Prasad

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