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World’s longest Ganga Vilas Cruise about to set sail from Varanasi in next Jan : Sonowal

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NEW DELHI : The government proposes to launch the world’s longest luxury river cruise—from Varanasi to Dibrugarh via Bangladesh— next year in what it hopes will give a push to inland waterways development in India.

The 50-day cruise will set sail from Varanasi on 10 January and cover 4,000 km, passing through Kolkata and Dhaka before reaching Bogibeel in Dibrugarh district of Assam on 1 March.

Ganga Vilas Cruise will sail from Varanasi to Dibrugarh in a longest river journey of 50 days covering 27 river systems and visit over 50 tourist sites including World Heritage Sites. This will be the single largest river journey by a single river ship in the world and would put both India and Bangladesh on the river cruise map of the world,” Minister of Ports, Shipping and Waterways Shri Sarbananda Sonowal said.

He said that development of coastal and river shipping, including cruise services, is one of the priorities of the government and that more such services would be launched to tap the country’s enormous potential in this area. “Besides promoting passenger traffic on rivers, the development of inland waterway systems would also facilitate trade and cargo services and give a boost to tourism around the areas along its route,” the minister said.

The Varanasi-Dibrugarh cruise is expected to be run on a PPP model with the memorandum of understanding to run the first set of cruise liners signed between the Inland Waterways Authority of India (IWAI) and Antara Luxury River Cruises and JM Baxi River Cruises.

The operators will decide the ticket price based on a cost-plus basis with no intervention from the Centre.

“The cruises are of different kinds—luxury, expedition, etc. The tourists also come with different mindsets—some want to stay for the full journey while some may move from one point to another. The service will facilitate all kinds of tourists. Moreover, with the amendment to Indian Vessel Act, cruise lines would have national permit to move seamlessly across states,” Sonowal said.

The cruise will cover almost 1,100 km in Bangladesh before re-entering India. This will be done via the Indo-Bangladesh Protocol Route, which has already opened trade and transit channels between the two countries and connects the Ganga and Brahmaputra rivers.

The Ganga Vilas cruise will start its journey at Varanasi and reach Patna on day 8 passing through Buxar, Ramnagar and Ghazipur.

From Patna it will reach Kolkata on Day 20. It will set sail the next day to enter Bangladesh at Bali and remain in the neighbouring country for 15 days before entering India again and reaching Bogibeel (Dibrugarh) 31 days after starting from Kolkata.

To be sure, river cruises are already running on National Waterway 1 (NW-1) (Ganga-Bhagirathi-Hoogly), NW-2 (Brahmaputra) and NW-3 (West Coast Canal).

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