Want to enjoy the best of both Bengals – the colonial heritage along the Ganga in West Bengal, the mangrove forests of the Sunderbans, divided between two nations, and the lush backwaters of Bangladesh — in a leisurely and luxurious setting? You may have to wait for a year to take a luxury river cruise between Kolkata and Dhaka.
Vivada Cruises, a Kolkata-based company operating cruises both on regular as well as charter basis, is keen to take premium travellers on a cross-country cruise spread over 13 nights and 14 days between Kolkata and Dhaka.
The project has been in the works for at least a year held back by delays on the Bangladeshi side to allow passenger movement and add new ports (for cargo and passenger movement) in the protocol.
“The issue has been on the radar for some time. We hope to remove the roadblocks and create the necessary framework by next year,” said an official in Delhi. As per the current protocol, goods traffic is allowed from Kolkata to Mongla (on the outer periphery of the Bangladeshi Sunderbans) and Narayangunj in Bangladesh. To optimise river transport and tourism opportunity, India proposes to add more ports and allow passenger cruise.
Bangladesh is apparently amenable to the proposal, which was included in the agenda for the Secretary-level meeting, in April. However, the meeting was cancelled at the last moment by Bangladesh. “The river connectivity between the two countries offers immense economic opportunities. However, to start the luxury cruise service, we need to iron out many issues starting from customs and immigration clearance procedures to security,” a source said.
Security is a major concern as the cruise proposes to sail for nearly five days through the mangroves, on both sides of the border, where piracy is a concern. Naturally, both the countries have to create a protocol for safe passage of the cruise to avoid any untoward incident.