World’s Longest River Cruise ‘Ganga Vilas’ to be Flagged off from Varanasi
Photo: PIB

River cruise tourism in India is set for a quantum leap with the launch of world’s longest river cruise ‘Ganga Vilas’ from Varanasi on 13 January 2023. Traversing through 27 different river systems with 50 tourist spots, the luxury cruise will cover a distance of 3,200 kms between Varanasi in UP and Dibrugarh in Assam via Indo Bangladesh Protocol route. MV Ganga Vilas will put India in the river cruise map of the world.

Inland Waterways Authority of India, Ministry of Shipping

India has a very rich river system which offer avenue of sustainable development via inland waterways by augmenting cargo traffic as well as passenger tourism. The MV Ganga Vilas cruise is a step towards unlocking the huge potential of river tourism in India. Tourists will be able to experience spiritual and cultural traditions and the rich biodiversity of India, en route, from Kashi to Sarnath, from Majuli to Mayong, from Sunderbans to Kaziranga. This cruise packs an experience of a lifetime.   

The MV Ganga Vilas cruise is curated to bring out the best of the country to be showcased to the world. 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 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, 18 suites on board with a capacity of 36 tourists, with all the amenities to provide a memorable and luxurious experience for the tourists. The ship follows sustainable principles at its core as it is equipped with pollution-free mechanisms and noise control technologies. 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 1st March, 2023.  

The itinerary has been designed to showcase the rich heritage of India with stop overs at the places 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 cultural 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 Bay of Bengal delta, famous for Royal Bengal Tigers, as well as Kaziranga National Park, famous for one horn rhino.

The MV Ganga Vilas cruise is a first-of-its-kind cruise service.  

The global River cruise market has grown at ~5% over the last few years and is expected to constitute ~37% of 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 operation in many spots in the country. The construction of 10 passenger terminals across NW2 are 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 limited capacity in NW3 (West Coast Canal), NW8, NW 4, NW 87, NW 97, and NW 5.  

Inland Waterways Authority of India, Ministry of Shipping

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