Travel like a king on cruise

Already tickets sold for four years

Travel like a  king on cruise

From Mark Twain to Rabindranath Tagore, the serene and smooth luxury of a river cruise was not missed on anyone.

 While colourful life along the world’s great rivers like the Nile, the Mississippi, the Volga, the Amazon and the Mekong have added vibrancy to such cruises, in India, the Ganga provides more than just a smooth sailing along its course.
Considered the country’s lifeblood, because of the great civilisation along its banks and because of the reverence shown to it, the river has inspired poets, artists, writers and thinkers for ages. As the country’s first luxury river cruise set sail from Kolkata, the soothing journey is likely to provide an inside into the pulsating life on its banks, along with the beauty of a land yet unexplored by the rest of the world.
Launched by Heritage River Journeys Pvt Ltd (HRJPL), a Delhi-based company, along with the US incorporated Haimark, one of the leading river cruise companies in the world, the ship set sail from Kolkata on January 3.

Meandering through the river’s bends, the seven-day journey will take visitors all the way to Murshidabad, once the capital of Bengal, stopping by at various sites of historic interest on the way. And the trip will be held in the lap of ultimate luxury as Ganges Voyager, the vessel, which will host guests on this trip, is nothing less than a floating five-star hotel.


Like vessels Haimark operates in other parts of South Asia, the river ship Ganges Voyager will provide its guests a journey into the “soul of each storeyed setting, visiting cherished and iconic sites by day and enjoying five-star hospitality and luxury by night”. Aboard the Ganges Voyager, guests will be able to enjoy the sanctity of a private suite and world-class dining.  The trip, however, is meant for a lucky few as its 28 suites accommodate 56 people. “We’ve pioneered cruising on the Ganges after 200 years. After the railroad came into India in the 1800s, transportation shifted and almost all river navigation disappeared,” said HRJPL Chairman Raj Singh.
Going by information available from Heritage River Journey officials and the official Haimark website, the first trip was pre-booked by months and bookings not easy to come by. A joint venture

between the private firms and the West Bengal government, the luxury cruise is expected to add value to the state’s growing tourism sector. Kolkata got its first glimpse of the river ship at the Millennium Park jetty on December 30, in the presence of senior ministers and bureaucrats, four days before it steamed off in the direction of Murshidabad.
According to Heritage officials, while most tourists availing the luxury cruise are foreigners, it has already become so popular that the trip has been booked for the next four years. While the trip comes at a pretty penny, Singh, who is Haimark’s India-based partner, pointed out that staying in any five-star hotel during this peak season will not cost any less. “This floating luxury liner offers all thefacilities that five-star hotels offer. There are multi-cuisine restaurants and super luxury cabins along with lounges, dining rooms and conference facilities,” he said.

Annapurna Garimella, the cruise company’s vice president, pointed out that for years tourism in Bengal has remained stuck at Kolkata, ignoring other sites, which have been former colonies of the European powers in Bengal. “Such is the demand that we have commissioned another vessel,” she said. Company officials said that while the Ganges Voyager is already a hit, the Ganges Voyager-II will be launched by January 2016 to ensure more interested tourists can be accommodated.

Throughout the trip, guests will enjoy accommodation aboard the Ganges Voyager, which embody the grace and style of the British colonial era, incorporating modern conveniences and luxuries available in finest hotels. While the ship boasts of 28 spacious, well-appointed suites, the last word in luxury is the Maharaja Suite on the upper deck, which features floor to ceiling glass doors that open onto a French balcony with panoramic views of the passing landscape. The Viceroy Suite, along with Heritage and Colonial suites also open doors to similar kinds of luxury.
The fares are charged per person on double occupancy basis and Maharaja Suite costs $3,699 per person followed by Viceroy Suite ($3,399), Heritage Suite ($3,199), Colonial Suite ($2,999) and Signature Suite: ($2,799). Besides, $129 will be collected from tourist as port charges.

Besides the luxurious suites, the Ganges Voyager also boasts of the East India dining room, which is a tribute to the local cuisine, where guests will enjoy meals as they watch the world pass by. The other highlight is the Governor’s Lounge, which provides a venue to gather with fellow guests, sipping on cocktails and fine wines. The ship also has a sun deck which provides the perfect place to have a cup of tea, relax with a book, or watch the sunset.
Giving a preview of the trip, Singh said that travelling along the river, guests will spend the days soaking in local culture, visiting some of India’s oldest urban settlements, villages, temples and forests and at night they will relax in luxury aboard the Ganges Voyager, dining on cuisines inspired by local and Western tastes, reminiscing the day’s experiences with fellow passengers, or just gazing along the gently passing riverbank. Starting from Kolkata, the seven-day journey will also end at the bustling metropolis.
Heritage officials said that on day one, guests will board the ship for lunch and then taken an afternoon excursion of Kolkata, visiting various tourist sites. As the ship takes off and moves upstream, sailing past areas where British, Dutch, Portuguese, French and other European settlers set up shop since they discovered India. The stops, where guests will disembark to visit sites, will include Bandel, a Portuguese settlement set up in the 16th century, Kalna, famous for its temples and Matiari, a traditional centre for handcrafted brass artefacts, to reach Murshidabad.
The trip will move onward to Mayapur, headquarters of ISKCON and to the French settlement of Chnadernagore, before returning to Kolkata. Bookings can be made through www.haimarktravel.com or designated travel agents across Asia, Europe and North America.

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