The governments of India and Bangladesh are close to finalising a luxury cruise service from Kolkata to Dhaka for tourists.
“Currently, the two countries have a protocol for just the movement of cargo ships across the border. But plans are afoot to sign a new protocol which would allow cruise ships carrying tourists across the border,” Arvind Kumar, assistant director of Inland Waterways Authority of India under the ministry of shipping, said.
Sources said the talks are at an advanced stage and if things proceed as planned, the service for tourists can be a reality by the end of this year.
The Indian part would be monitored by the Inland Waterways Authority of India and Bangladesh Inland Water Transport Corporation will look after it in Bangladesh.
Right now tourists can travel to Dhaka from Kolkata either by bus, train or flights. Cargo ships carrying fly ash and coal also move between the two countries.
If the talks succeed, the 900-km odd route would be covered by a 14-day long trip.
“Vivada Cruises sent proposals to both the state government and the Union government,” Lt Col (Retd) SR Banerjee, a consultant with the company that operates luxury cruise packages on the River Hooghly, said.
According to the plan, tourists would first be taken upstream up to Shantipur in Nadia to see the weaver’s community. On the way, they would visit places including Dkahsineshwar Temple, Chandanangore, Bandel among others.
The cruise would then sail downstream and reach the Indian Sunderbans. It will then cross the border at Hemnagar and sail up to Mongla where they can visit the Bangladesh part of the Sunderbans.
Tourists would also be given a glimpse of the backwaters of Atgor Khuriyana, the ancient city of Sonargaon and Chandpur - a fishing harbour known for its top quality Hilsa fish.
“We are yet to decide upon the tariff. But as it is a luxury cruise it would be a bit expensive,” a senior official said.