First on the Celeste! Thrissur to Bengaluru - Kerala Lines

Prakash Bus Corporation launched their new premium sleeper model - 'Celeste' sometime in October 2017. The new model was built from scratch on the new Volvo B11R Euro-4 chassis. The coach was offered on both, the 13.8m & 14.5m, variants of the new Volvo B11R. Fully built as a Sleeper coach, the coach offered better ride quality and comfort to passengers.

Almost a year since the coach was launched, I was yet to get a chance to travel by the Celeste. My good friends at Kerala Lines had launched their own Celeste coach some time in mid August 2018. The coach was built on the 14.5m variant of the B11R, and had 42 premium berths. This coach was among the first choices as I looked for my return ticket from Thrissur to Bengaluru, after Puja holidays. Fares was low, at the normal weekday rates - I decided to grab this opportunity and booked two berths - I & TW were traveling.

October 20, 2018:
We had planned to leave home around 2000hrs - it was raining through this time, and I was not sure of being able to get public transport to get to Thrissur at this time. I decided to try our UBER, and managed to get a cab by around 2015hrs. We got to Thrissur by around 2100hrs - rain had stopped by then. We reached the Kerala Lines office, opposite Saphire Hotel by around 2115hrs (we had a short stroll before we headed to the office). I met an acquaintance at the office, and we spent most of the time talking. Our bus to Bangalore was running late - I was tracking the bus continuously using the tracking link they had sent - road maintenance work was causing a lot of delay to the bus. All the buses of Kerala Lines were delayed due to road works.
The bus: NL-01-B-1190..

Our bus, NL-01-B-1190, turned up at 2311hrs - late by an hour and 11 minutes. Majority of the passengers for this bus were boarding at Thrissur - 22 passengers! The bus was fully sold out on the day. Boarding was quick - almost every passenger had lots of baggage, and the crew did have a lot of work arranging the bags in the luggage hold. The bus got moving at 2315hrs. The driver rushed through the city and got to their office at Mannuthy (2326hrs) - although no passengers boarded, the bus remained there for quite some time. We started from Mannuthy by 2334hrs. I slept soon after the bus started from there.

The interiors of the bus was great - the finish seemed quite good for Prakash. The berths felt wider than the normal AC sleepers. A comfortable pillow, and blanket was provided. The berth had bottle and mobile phone holders. There were mobile chargers as well. I badly missed a rack to keep our bag, though. I had a nice long sleep - woke up only around 0600hrs - the bus was stationery at the time - I assumed it to be some toll gate, and dozed off for some more time. The bus was stationery when I woke up again - this time it was inching forward at times. It took some time to realized that we were stuck in traffic - a quick check using GMaps showed that we were just at Thoppur then! A little later, I headed to the cabin to request for a toilet break - the crew informed that they'd stop at the next toll gate.
Interiors of the bus (Archives)

The bus pulled over after Krishnagiri toll gate (0750hrs) - almost everyone in the bus got off to use the restrooms. I spoke to the crew during the break - they informed that we were stuck at Thoppur ghats for about 2 hours due to some accident there. The break was about 11 minutes long, and we started off at 0801hrs. We were confused about where to get off - we finally opted to get off at Electronic City toll gate. We got off the bus, at 0906hrs - at Electronic Ciy Toll gate - about 3 hours behind schedule. The bus took about 9h51m hours - of which atleast 2 hours was lost at the traffic block.

Remarks: The bus, NL-01-B-1190, was about two months old at the time of travel. The interiors were simple, but elegant and very comfortable. The engine could be heard at our berth (the third 'row') - but not intrusive. The AC Vents need relocation, in my opinion. The berth was very comfortable, and the body roll was very much under control. The crew were very cordial and helpful - they were really quick, and pushed the bus hard after the traffic block to get to Bangalore without any further delay - they managed to get to Electronic city from Krishnagiri toll in a little over an hour - which itself was a great show. Overall, a great experience - that I would look forward to repeat!

Blanket: Yes
Water: No
Snacks: No
Charging Point: Available. Worked.
Entertainment: Not Available.

Maintenance: 5/5
Cleanliness: 5/5
Driving: 5/5
Crew behaviour: 5/5
Punctuality: Not Rated. Delays for reason beyond control.

Overall: 4.95/5

Pros: Value for money, excellent service
Cons: Nothing really - may be weekend fares!

Will I take this service again? Absolutely.