iNDICA NEWS BUREAU-
For tourists headed towards India, there is now an added attraction – the world’s longest river cruise – MV Ganga Vilas which was flagged off by Prime Minister Narendra Modi on Friday. The cruise offers a 51-day trip from Varanasi to Dibrugarh via Bangladesh covering a 3200 km distance.
The cruise will take its passengers to 50 tourist destinations including world heritage sites, national parks, river ghats, and major cities like Patna in Bihar, Shahiganj in Jharkhand, Kolkata in West Bengal, Dhaka in Bangladesh, and Guwahati in Assam. The cruise starts in Varanasi and travels to Patna, Sahibganj, Kolkata, Dhaka, Guwahati, and Dibrugarh.
For those seeking a spiritual experience, the cruise will cover destinations like Kashi, Bodh Gaya, Vikramshila, Patna Sahib, and Majuli, while for the tourists it offers an international cruise experience as it will sail via Dhaka in Bangladesh, and showcase India’s natural diversity through Sundarbans and the forests of Assam. The cruise will pass through 25 different river streams and treat its passengers to the varied culinary and cuisines of India.
The per-day ticket price for the MV Ganga Vilas cruise is around Rs. 25,000 to RS 50,000 and the cost of the entire 51-day trip will be around Rs. 20 lakh. The international cruise, with a capacity of 36 passengers is being offered by Antara Luxury River Cruises.
While tourists can book tickets from the company website, the bookings for this ongoing voyage are closed as a Switzerland-based company has already bought all the tickets. This voyage will end on March 1, 2023, and the next voyage is scheduled to start in September 2023.
Union Minister for Tourism and Culture G. Kishan Reddy said, “Indian river cruises offer something for everyone in the family. Since 2014, in the last 8 years, there has been a significant effort to clean our rivers. We have taken up cleaning and rejuvenating the Ganga River. Clean rivers have created the potential for tourist activities such as river cruising. All the facilities and security protocols have been taken care of for the tourists. The Government of India is taking several steps to promote cruise tourism in the country.”
While flagging off the MV Ganga Vilas cruise, Modi also inaugurated the Tent City at Varanasi via video conferencing and laid the foundation stones for several other inland waterways projects worth more than Rs. 1000 crores. He said that these projects in Varanasi, West Bengal, Uttar Pradesh, Bihar, and Assam will give a push to the tourism and employment potential in eastern India.
To boost the country’s cruise tourism industry, the government has initiated infrastructure upgrades, rationalization of port fees, removal of ousting charges, priority berthing for cruise ships, and the provision of e-visa facilities.
India aims to increase cruise passenger traffic from 0.4 million at present to 4 million. The economic potential of cruise tourism is expected to rise from $110 million to $5.5 billion. To realize this, the government has begun developing 100 national waterways to enable world-class cruise ships to operate on these waterways in addition to cargo movement. Twelve projects with a cost of Rs. 1,098 crore have been undertaken to improve infrastructure related to cruise shipping in India. For a majority of these projects, infrastructure with allied facilities is being developed at major ports.
“One can witness the extraordinary amalgamation of the heritage of India and its modernity on this cruise”, Modi said. “Not just foreign tourists but Indians who traveled to different nations for such an experience can head towards North India now”, the Prime Minister said. He also informed that similar experiences are being readied in other inland waterways of the country to give a boost to cruise tourism while keeping in mind the budget as well as the luxury experience.