Guwahati: Who are the first tourists to cruise on ‘Ganga Vilas’- the world’s longest river cruise to be flagged off by Prime Minister Narendra Modi on January 13.

The maiden voyage of MV Ganga Vilas will witness 32 tourists from Switzerland relishing the Varanasi to Dibrugarh journey. 

The expected date of arrival of MV Ganga Vilas in Dibrugarh is on March 1.

The 51 days cruise is planned with visits to 50 tourist spots including World Heritage Sights, National Parks, river Ghats, and major cities like Patna in Bihar, Sahibganj in Jharkhand, Kolkata in West Bengal, Dhaka in Bangladesh and Guwahati in Assam. 

The luxury cruise will cover a distance of more than 3,200 km across 27 river systems in 5 states in India and Bangladesh. 

The MV Ganga Vilas vessel is 62 meters in length, 12 meters in width, and comfortably sails with a draft of 1.4 meters. It has three decks and 18 suites on board with a capacity of 36 tourists with all the amenities to provide a memorable and luxurious experience to the tourists. The ship follows sustainable principles at its core as it is equipped with pollution-free mechanisms and noise control technologies. 

The itinerary of MV Ganga Vilas has been curated to showcase the rich heritage of India with stopovers in spots of historical, cultural, and religious importance. From the famous “Ganga Arti” in Varanasi, it will stop at Sarnath, a place of great reverence for Buddhism. 

It will also cover Mayong, known for its Tantric craft, and Majuli, the largest river island and hub of Vaishnavite culture in Assam. The travellers will also visit the Bihar School of Yoga and Vikramshila University, allowing them to soak in the rich Indian heritage in spirituality and knowledge. The cruise will also traverse through the biodiversity-rich World Heritage Sites of Sunderbans in the Bay of Bengal delta, famous for Royal Bengal Tigers, as well as Kaziranga National Park, famous for one horn rhino. 

Highlighting the need to develop river cruise tourism in the country, Union Minister Sarbananda Sonowal said the development of this sector would generate employment opportunities in the hinterland.

The launch of the world’s longest river cruise ‘MV Ganga Vilas’ by Prime Minister Narendra Modi on January 13 from Varanasi will herald a new age of river cruise tourism in India, said Sarbananda Sonowal, Union Minister of Ports, Shipping & Waterways and Ayush.

 “The huge untapped potential of river cruise is set to get unlocked with the launch of this service,” added Sonowal. 

The Union minister said this avenue of sustainable development via inland waterways has received a tremendous boost as efforts to augment cargo traffic as well as passenger tourism have borne fruit with encouraging results.

“The MV Ganga Vilas cruise is a step towards unlocking the huge potential river tourism in the country has to offer. Our rich heritage will get further transcended on the global stage as tourists will be able to experience the spiritual, the educational, the well being, the cultural as well as the richness of the biodiversity of India. I believe that this wonderful initiative, under the guidance of Prime Minister Modi, is the beginning of a new era in river cruise tourism in India and strengthening our government’s commitment to enabling Act East, both through policy and practice.” Sonowal said.

The MV Ganga Vilas cruise is a first-of-its-kind cruise service. With support from the Inland Waterways Authority of India (IWAI) under the Ministry of Shipping, Ports and Waterways (MoPSW), the success of this service is likely to enthuse entrepreneurs to explore river cruise in other parts of the country.

The global river cruise market has grown at 5% over the last few years and is expected to constitute 37% of the cruise market by 2027. Europe has been driving growth with approx. 60% share of river cruise vessels in the world. 

In India, 8 river cruise vessels are operational between Kolkata and Varanasi while cruise movement is also operation on National Waterways 2 (Brahmaputra). Tourism activities like river rafting, camping, sightseeing, kayaking and so on are in operation in many spots in the country. 

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Officials say the construction of 10 passengers terminals across NW2 is going on which will further bolster the prospect of river cruise. At present, four river cruise vessels are operational in NW2 while it is operating in a limited capacity in NW3 (West Coast Canal), NW8, NW 4, NW 87, NW 97, and NW 5. 

“As the capital expenditure is pumped to build capacity in the inland waterways, the river cruise is set to grow further with systematic forward and backward linkage for the economy, especially across the banks of the rivers,” officials added.

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