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Cruise to Sunderbans getting more luxurious

From September this year, the company that runs the only major luxury cruise in the region in association with the WBFDC is eyeing foreign tourists in a big way, reports Jaidev Majumdar.
None | By Jaidev Majumdar, Kolkata
UPDATED ON MAY 10, 2007 06:14 AM IST

The luxury cruise to the Sunderbans is getting more luxurious. From September this year, Vivada Inland Waterways Ltd—the company that runs the only major luxury cruise in the region in association with the West Bengal Forest Development Corporation (WBFDC)—is eyeing foreign tourists in a big way.

Vivada has so far made about six trips to the Sunderbans, with tourists as well as international tour operators familiarising them with the potential of Sunderbans as an eco tourism hotspot. Vivada claims that it has also received a lot of enthusiastic feedback from international tourists at the recently concluded Internationale Tourismus-Börse, Messe (ITB) at Berlin —billed as one of the largest travel trade show in the world. Following the feedback, Vivada has made the necessary makeover in its cruiser called “Paramhamsa,” to suit the palate of the international tourists.

M.V. Nath, chairman of Vivada, told Hindustan Times that the company has been taking a lot of overseas marketing initiatives to popularise the 3 nights and four days cruise including appointing of Strategic Research & Marketing group in New Delhi and a UK-based marketing agent in London to do the promotions.

R Sushila, executive director of Vivada, says that the 32 cabin Paramhamsa is now fully decked up for the occasion, complete with plush rooms and exotic cuisine. Beginning from the jetty at Strand Road, the vessel will travel along small and picturesque locales of Budge Budge, Falta, Raichak, Diamond Harbour and Kakdwip. With a stopover in the fishing town of Namkhana, the vessel will cruise through the Hatania-Doania river passing through numerous rivers, tributaries and creeks that make Sunderbans so unique. En route, the vessel will also stop at Bhagabatpur crocodile project exclusively for the crocs and Lothian Islands for a timeless walk amid the mangrove forest.

The watchtower at Bonnie Eco Tourism Camp offers a bird’s eye view of the dense mangrove forests underneath and a stop in a typical Sunderbans village Bali has been planned to give the tourists a feel of the local life. A canopy walk at Dobanki and a three centuries old temple at Netidhopani are added attractions to the cruise.

According to Ms Sushila, the cruise has been meticulously planned to give tourists an experience of a lifetime. While paintings by local painters are both displayed and sold on board as souvenir items, the food fits in seamlessly with the adventurous journey. Seafood is a major attraction with a dedicated section on crabs, lobsters and fish, both in buffet and live counters. Ethnic Bengali food is also cooked by specialists.

“Every season has its own charm in the Sunderbans but the monsoon is a treat. The hilsa is most tasty and there is always an element of uncertainty that will thrill the adventurous to the core,” Ms Sushila says.

The cruise is priced at $245 (lower deck) and $295 (upper deck) per person excluding taxes. “International tourists cannot complain on the price as we feel it has been kept quite reasonable with facilities that live up to the international standards,” Ms Sushila says.

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