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A heritage trip down the Ganga set sailed from Kolkata with Chief Minister (CM) of West Bengal Mamata Banerjee flagging off the Ganges Voyager-II cruise at Shalboni.

The cruise, which was a highlight at the Global Business Summit, navigated its way from Kolkata to Murshidabad, stopping at historical spots dotting the banks.

The Ganges Voyager-II, third in the fleet of luxury vessels that got completely sold out for next four years to international tourists.

The ship is built in Bengal, at B N Bose Shipyard at Ghushuri, Howrah. The shipyard itself is part of the state’s heritage; I was delighted to find that the shipbuilders on the western bank of the Hooghly are one of the finest ones in the world who developed it cost-efficiently at Rs 25 crore, said Raj Singh, Chairman of Bengal Ganga, who organised the cruise. The company has two other similar cruises from Kolkata, one to Allahabad and the other to Varanasi.

Although Mamata Banerjee inaugurated the vessel at Shalboni on January 6, it actually set sailed from the Millennium jetty in the city on January 14. The seven-night-six-day trip, which cost over Rs 1 lakh, offers amenities like spa, bar, lounge, cafe, restaurant and a library. The ship has 28 luxury cabins, of ethnic theme but catering to international taste, said Gopal Agarwal of Bengal Ganga.

River cruises across the world have caught the fancy of tourists. The beauty of the Hooghly is unparalleled. I am not surprised by the surge in cruise business, given the beauty and heritage along the river, said Principal Secretary (transport) Alapan Bandyopadhay, who has facilitated the growth in riverine transportation.

It was reportedly the CMs idea to showcase Bengal’s culture through heritage cruises. We want to facilitate better utilisation of our grand waterway. The Inland Waterways Authority of India has lined up several projects and Heritage River Journeys Limited plans to put in a sizeable investment in cruises, he added.

The Hooghly cruise included visits to the former Danish colony in Serampore, former Dutch colony at Chinsurah, the ex-French colony at Chandernagore and Portuguese colony at Bandel before ending the journey in Murshidabad.