State Minister for Shipping Khalid Mahmud Chowdhury and Indian High Commissioner PranayVerma welcomed the passengers aboard the “world’s longest river cruise” MV Ganga Vilas on its arrival at Mongla port in Bangladesh on 4 Feb.
The cruise was flagged off by Prime Minister Narendra Modi from Varanasi, India on January 13. It took 50 days to travel over 3200 kilometres to reach Mongla port.
The Indian High Commission said it demonstrates the endeavour to boost river cruise tourism between India and Bangladesh. In its journey to Bangladesh, the cruise also provides a unique opportunity to study the natural diversity and rich culture of Bangladesh.
In his welcome remarks, the High Commissioner said that the Ganga Vikas river cruise is a “historic development” that demonstrates the power of rivers to connect India and Bangladesh and their peoples.
He hoped that the cruise will unlock the new potential for heritage and ecotourism in both India and Bangladesh, including the Sundarbans.
Earlier, the High Commissioner in an interview to DD News said Ganga Vilas river cruise is a "momentous development" that shows the power of the river systems to connect India and Bangladesh and its people.
The river cruise will pass through places of historic importance in Bangladesh during its close to two-week passage through the country.
Highlighting the fact that the river cruise passes through some of the historic and heritage locations of Bangladesh, High Commissioner Verma had also said that the cruise would bring these places on the world tourism map benefiting the local economy which depends on tourism. This will also open up the potential of ecotourism in Sundarbans too.
The MV Ganga Vilas is designed to carry 36 passengers in 18 luxe suites, as well as 48 crew. Because the long-haul cruise was solely marketed in Europe, its initial round of passengers are from Switzerland, France and other countries. The ship’s interiors are inspired by 20th-century works by German painter Josef Albers, known for his vibrant color square paintings. The cruise was originally planned to set sail in 2020 but was delayed by the pandemic.
According to CNN, India’s Prime Minister Narendra Modi sees the cruise as one of the centerpieces of his government’s infrastructure initiatives. He even made a speech in December that recognized the cruise as a trend that could bring more visitors to India, home of the Himalayas, the Golden Temple and the Holi Festival. “This will be an unprecedented cruise of its kind in the whole world,” Modi said in a statement. “It will also be a reflection of the growing cruise tourism (industry) in India.”
River cruises have been popular in Europe and North America for some time, with multiple companies regularly trailing the Danube, Rhine and Seine. But the concept is still fairly new in India seeing as the country’s rivers—most notably the Ganges—continue to struggle with severe pollution. But there are plans underway to increase opportunities for river tourism in India. One of its incentives includes building 10 passenger ship terminals along National Waterway-2, an 891-kilometer section of the Brahmaputra River. The country also has eight river cruise ships that are capable of traveling between Varanasi and Kolkata.
The plan is to run the nearly 2,000-mile cruise on the Ganges twice a year between October and March when the weather is nice and the river water is high. Tickets to board the MV Ganga Vilas costs between 4.2 million to 4.5 million rupees, or $51,114 to $54,765 per guest. Tickets for two scheduled 2024 voyages have already sold out, it is reported.