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The world’s longest river cruise will sail India’s Ganges

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(CNN) A luxurious ship will make historical past when it embarks from the Indian religious metropolis of Varanasi on Friday on a voyage that the nation’s chief says will assist usher in a brand new age of tourism on the subcontinent.

The MV Ganga Vilas is about to journey 3,200 kilometers (1,988 miles) of waterway in India and Bangladesh, making it the world’s longest river cruise, in line with organizers.

India’s Prime Minister Narendra Modi, who has touted the cruise as one of many centerpieces of his authorities’s main program of infrastructure initiatives, will make a digital look to ship the ship off in type.

From there, the ship will journey alongside the Ganges, India’s holiest river, and different waterways by 5 states in western India, then into neighboring Bangladesh, visiting nationwide parks, UNESCO World Heritage websites and massive cities alongside the best way.

In a speech made by Modi on December 30, the prime minister referenced the cruise as a part of a burgeoning pattern that might carry extra guests to his nation.

“This shall be an unprecedented cruise of its sort in the entire world,” Modi mentioned. “It would even be a mirrored image of the rising cruise tourism (business) in India.”

The MV Ganga Vilas will carry 36 passengers in 18 suites, in line with Antara, the corporate that owns and operates the cruise ship, plus about 48 crew members.

Although it is known as the Ganges in English, the river’s title is Ganga in India, therefore the ship’s moniker.

Initially, the cruise was deliberate for 2020 however was delayed by the pandemic. It was marketed in Europe and the preliminary spherical of passengers are from Switzerland, France and different international locations, in line with organizers.

Kashif Siddiqui, director of gross sales and advertising and marketing at Antara, tells CNN that the plan is to run the cruise itinerary twice a yr between October and March, when the climate is healthier and the river water stage is excessive.

He says tickets for 2 scheduled 2024 sailings have already bought out.

Tickets value between 4.2 million to 4.5 million rupees apiece, which works out to $51,114-$54,765 per visitor.

The MV Ganga Vilas’ 51 days on the water embody stops in Bangladesh’s capital Dhaka, the Sundarbans mangrove forest (which is shared by the 2 international locations) and India’s Kaziranga Nationwide Park, which is residence to one-horned rhinoceroses.

The ship’s interiors had been impressed by the work of Twentieth-century German painter Josef Albers.

A view inside a collection on the MV Ganga Vilas.

Courtesy Antara Cruises

River cruising has lengthy been a stalwart in Europe, with a number of corporations recurrently plying the Danube, Rhine and Seine’s waters, in addition to in North America.

However it’s a pretty new providing in India, which is on monitor to cross China for the title of world’s most populous nation this yr.

River cruising offers a solution to entry extra rural locations that do not have a significant airport or freeway entry and may carry much-needed tourism income to these communities as properly.

However there are points holding the business again. India’s rivers — most notably the Ganges — proceed to wrestle with extreme air pollution. This impacts the day by day lives of hundreds of thousands of Indians, significantly low-income earners who dwell in closely populated city facilities akin to Varanasi.

In 2014, the federal government launched the continuing Nationwide Mission for Clear Ganga initiative — additionally known as the Namami Gange mission — to handle the most important contributors to the air pollution within the nation’s longest river.

Floral waste is clogging up and polluting the Ganges, India’s holiest river. Indian entrepreneur Ankit Agarwal desires to upcycle this waste.

Elevated alternatives for cruise tourism

Plans are underway to extend the alternatives for river cruise tourism in India, with 10 passenger ship terminals being constructed alongside Nationwide Waterway-2, an 891-kilometer part of the Brahmaputra River.

MV Ganga Vilas operator Antara gives a number of upscale cruise itineraries which might be a lot shorter in period.

One route from Kolkata to Murshidabad in West Bengal runs for eight days and prices 292,875 rupees ($3,500), whereas a voyage from Kolkata to Varanasi lasts 12 days and prices 437,250 rupees ($5,300).

Siddiqui tells CNN the corporate’s future plans transcend rivers. Their subsequent mission is a lake cruising expertise in Kashmir, the troubled area divided between India and Pakistan and claimed by each international locations.

Though 51 days is a document for river cruising, that achievement pales subsequent to a number of the barge-sized itineraries accessible on ocean cruises.

The world’s longest cruise, a 245-day journey that departed from London in 2019, visited six continents.

Prime: Exterior of the MV Ganga Vilas cruise ship. Picture courtesy Antara Cruises.

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