Antara Luxury River cruises, a leading river cruise operator in the country, will be launching their scheduled river cruises connecting India and Bangladesh later this year. With this, the river cruise company will have the distinction of being one of the longest luxury river cruises operators in the world connecting National Waterways 1, 2, and Indo-Bangla Protocol Route with an end-to-end river cruise of over 50 days to river cruise enthusiasts of the world.
As per the bilateral agreement reached between India and Bangladesh, the cruise company operated its first official river cruise through the Indo-Bangla protocol route in 2018. The company is set to convert it into a scheduled cruise service starting October-November this year.
Informing this in an exclusive interaction with ETTravelWorld, Raj Singh said that they are readying a brand new ship to operate on the route with all the world-class safety and sustainability standards. “It’s a brand new ship with 18 suites. 80 per cent of the work is over and will be ready for a cruise from October-November this year,” he said.
The ship will sail from Varanasi to Kolkata and from there to Dhaka through the Indo-Bangla Protocol route and then go to Guwahati before ending the journey at Dibrugarh. The new river cruise itinerary has already created ripples in the cruise world. “The first cruise of the ship is already fully booked,” Singh said. He said that the ship will have regular departures starting in the upcoming season.
Singh is also hopeful of launching an overnight river cruise in Bhitarkanika in Odisha this year. Antara Cruises has a 20-year agreement with Odisha Tourism to operate a river cruise in Bhitarkanika. The company will be upgrading the boats owned by the tourism department, he said. “They have to give permission to use the boatyard of the fisheries department to upgrade the boats,” he said.
Singh said that there has been increasing interest among the states to introduce cruise products in recent years. He said that he is currently working closely with states like Kerala, Goa, Rajasthan, and Madhya Pradesh to launch cruise products. “Kerala is very much on the pipeline. There were some technical issues which have been resolved,” he informed.
He said that while each river has its character and cruise products have to be aligned to that character, India with around 111 inland national waterways can be a year-round cruising destination. “It’s a matter of educating people on discovering Indian waterways on world-class ships,” he added.
Singh said that the short cruises of 2 to 4 nights launched by the company to Sunderbans have been received well by the domestic travellers in the last two years. Antara has also launched fixed departures to increase interest among domestic tourists.
Talking about the products, Singh said that the products are designed to appeal to and deliver world-class cruise experiences to cruise lovers. He said that all their ships are zero pollution products with all the advanced features in terms of emissions, waste disposal, etc. The ships are fitted with hospital-standard silencers, international standard STPs, water filtration plants, etc.