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I Sailed on the Longest Luxurious River Cruise within the World — This is What It Was Like

The Ganges is to India what the Nile is to Egypt and what the Euphrates is to Mesopotamia: It is the beating coronary heart of the vacation spot’s cultural and financial life. Flowing greater than 1,500 miles from the Himalayas to the Bay of Bengal, the Ganges nurtured the Hindu holy metropolis of Varanasi for hundreds of years. It was on these banks that the Buddha preached his first sermon in 528 BCE, and it was alongside these waters that the British constructed the primary capital of the British Raj, Kolkata.

The place the river flows via land, it shelters a number of the most endangered aquatic fauna on the planet, and the place it meets the ocean, it spawns one of many largest mangrove forests on Earth. And but, by no means has a luxurious river cruise sailed the Ganges — no less than not one which in comparison with world-class river itineraries in different elements of the world.

This modified final 12 months, when India’s Antara Luxurious River Cruises launched an epic itinerary down the Ganges and its sister river, the Brahmaputra. Masking almost 2,000 miles in 51 days, it’s the longest river cruise on the planet.

This is what it is like.

The Operator

Kolkata-based Antara Luxurious River Cruises operates the tour, a subsidiary of the Unique Heritage Group, which has been concerned in luxurious journey in India for the final 30 years.

Raj Singh, an Indian wildlife knowledgeable and luxurious journey pioneer, is among the many journey promoters of this journey, as is Andrea Massari, a Singapore-based cruise knowledgeable who has beforehand managed luxurious river cruises on the Irrawaddy River in Myanmar with Ayravata Cruises and the Mekong River in Vietnam with Pandaw Cruises. An architect by coaching, Massari oversees the know-how of the cruise ships. A 3rd director is Annapurna Garimella, an artwork historian, designer, creator, and physician of philosophy from Columbia College, who oversees the design components of the cruise.

The group owns 4 luxurious cruise vessels deployed on shorter luxurious cruises till now.

The Itinerary

The cruise begins on the holy metropolis of Varanasi in central India. Whereas right here, visitors witness Ganga Aarti, an awe-inspiring ritual carried out at sunset every day on the banks of the Ganges. On this custom, a cohort of monks supply ritual prayers in honor of the river, which is worshiped as a goddess in Hinduism. 

With flickering flames of multi-tiered brass lamps dancing in opposition to the night time sky, the deep, harmonic thrum of conch shells piercing the air, and the mantra of soul-stirring mantras floating over the water, the Ganga Aarti is a spellbinding efficiency of a residing custom that has continued unbroken for hundreds of years.

As soon as departed from Varanasi, the cruise journeys downstream and to greater than 50 exceptional locations, together with UNESCO World Heritage Websites, pure parks, and historic metropolises. Kaziranga Nationwide Park is amongst these particular locations, residence to greater than two-thirds of the surviving inhabitants of the endangered one-horned rhino, in addition to Majuli — the biggest river island on the planet.  

mlharing/Getty Photographs

Different main stops alongside the route embrace Bodh Gaya, the place Buddha attained enlightenment and some of the vital pilgrimage facilities for Buddhists all around the world; Kolkata, often known as the Metropolis of Pleasure, as soon as the capital of the British Raj in India and residential of Nobel laureates Mom Teresa and Rabindranath Tagore. Kolkata can also be the epicenter of the worldwide jute trade, accounting for the majority of its manufacturing and export.

Murshidabad and Sualkuchi — two cities well-known worldwide for his or her mulberry silk textiles — are additionally vital itinerary stops. Company get to see the artwork of sericulture (silk manufacturing) up shut and the craft of weaving a number of the best silk textiles on earth.

Dhaka, the capital of Bangladesh, is a bustling metropolis of crafts, tradition, and delightful Islamic structure. The cruise spends 15 days in Bangladesh earlier than reentering India. 

MD MARUF HASSAN/Getty Photographs

Within the Sundarbans — the biggest mangrove forests on earth and residential of the endangered Bengal tiger — visitors are aware about one more UNESCO World Heritage Web site. Mangroves, comprised of timber that develop in saline water, usually the place rivers meet the ocean, are biodiversity hotspots and act as enormous carbon sinks, serving to fight local weather change. It’s an ecological surprise to behold firsthand.

The cruise ends at Dibrugarh, a metropolis within the northeastern Assam area of India identified for its eponymous Assam tea. Well-known for its sprawling tea estates, Dibrugarh produces a lot high-quality tea that it is called the Tea Metropolis of India.

All that is along with the exceptional views visitors can anticipate whereas onboard the boat, with the geography and the panorama altering as you sail. Animal recognizing is undoubtedly seemingly, because the Ganges is residence to all kinds of natural world, together with the endangered Gangetic dolphin, otters, no less than 15 species of freshwater turtles, and three forms of crocodile, together with the critically endangered gharial, discovered solely within the Ganges.

The Vessel

The MS Ganga Vilas is a luxurious vessel accomplished in Artwork Deco type. At greater than 200 ft lengthy and almost 40 ft extensive, it’s a vessel made for small, intimate journeys quite than huge, boisterous excursions.

Courtesy of Unique Heritage Group

There are 18 luxurious suites right here, and so they unfold throughout three decks with a capability to host 36 visitors in whole. Every suite has floor-to-ceiling French home windows for optimum views. For an much more expansive perspective, visitors can head to the sundeck to sunbathe, take part in a yoga session, or simply chill out.  You would possibly spot river dolphins leaping out of the water for those who’re fortunate. 

The restaurant onboard seats as much as 40 visitors and serves Indian and Continental fare. There’s additionally a spa and a fitness center obtainable. The vessel can also be residence to a reverse-osmosis water plant, which gives recent and secure consuming water. Its hospital-grade silencers guarantee a noise-free cruise expertise for visitors and the river’s fragile fauna. 

Courtesy of Unique Heritage Group

Courtesy of Unique Heritage Group

To additional be sure that the vessel causes the least stress on the river’s ecosystem, the operator makes use of sea vessel-grade oil-water separators to make sure that the oil is separated from the water within the vessel’s discharge. Premium sewage therapy vegetation be sure that no contamination of the river water happens from the waste generated on the ship. No plastic is used on board; water is served in aluminum water bottles, which visitors can take as souvenirs. 

Tickets for the 51-day cruise begin at $16,500 and could be booked right here.

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