: The world’s longest river cruise from Varanasi in Uttar Pradesh to Dibrugarh in Assam via Bangladesh will cost $300 a day.
The voyage covering more than 3,200 km along several river systems – primarily the Ganga and the Brahmaputra – works out to $15,300 or ₹12.59 lakh per passenger.
MV Ganga Vilas, the privately-operated luxurious three-deck cruise ship measuring 62 metres in length and 12 metres in width, is scheduled to set sail from Varanasi in Uttar Pradesh with 32 Swiss passengers and reach Dibrugarh in eastern Assam after 51 days.
“The cruise ship with all amenities has 18 suites and can accommodate a total of 36 passengers besides the crew members. The fare, $300 per head per day, is the same for foreigners and Indians,” Minister of Ports, Shipping and Waterways Sarbananda Sonowal told journalists in Guwahati on Monday.
Prime Minister Narendra Modi will launch the first-of-its-kind inland water cruise on January 13, he said.
“This will be the longest cruise in the world, beating a few other inland water cruise routes that in the range of 2,500 km,” Mr Sonowal said.
“The cruise will pass through Uttar Pradesh, Bihar, Jharkhand, West Bengal, Bangladesh and Assam. It will halt at 50 places in these Indian States and Bangladesh for the tourists to visit local cultural and heritage sites during stopover,” he said.
Mr Sonowal said 14 of the Swiss passengers on MV Ganga Vilas will deboard in Kolkata and another 14 will get on board from the West Bengal capital up to Dibrugarh. The passengers will fly back after reaching their destination, from where another set of tourists will board the cruise to sail to Varanasi.
Two tugboats will move alongside the cruise ship for instant dredging if the depth of the water in India and Bangladesh is less than 1.4 metres, he said.
Mr Sonowal hoped the cruise will open up a new vista for tourism in India, attributing the push for “going beyond moving passengers and cargo” on inland waterways to the Prime Minister’s vision. “This vision will help tourists discover India’s cultures, civilisations and landscapes on the banks of the Ganges and the Brahmaputra,” he said.
A part of the plan to rejuvenate inland waterways – economy of pre-Independence Assam was dependent on river transport – in the State and the rest of the northeast.
“The plan is not only about opening waterways and operating vessels. Apart from setting up a river transport-specific skill centre in Assam, we are setting up a ship-repairing centre at the Pandu terminal (Guwahati),” Mr Sonowal said.
The terminal will be handled by the Cochin Shipyard Limited.
“The sector cannot be developed in the northeast without such a facility. Currently, vessel operators in Assam are required to go to Kolkata for repairs, and the entire process consumes five months,” he said.