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Antara Ganga Vilas, offers the world’s longest river cruise journey

Antara Ganga Vilas is the newest art-deco boutique ship an epitome of luxury

Antara Ganga Vilas is the newest art-deco boutique ship an epitome of luxury.

Antara Ganga Vilas — the world’s longest river cruise journey from Kashi (Uttar Pradesh) to Dibrugarh (Assam) via the Sundarbans and Bangladesh is an epic 51-day cruise that will sail along the Ganges and the Brahmaputra.

The 51-day cruise aboard Antara’s newest art-deco boutique ship, Antara Ganga Vilas, is a fantastic opportunity for anyone looking to explore South Asian culture along some of its most ancient regions and systems. Perfect for leisure travellers, history buffs, culture enthusiasts, and nature lovers, the cruise further allows for a hop-on and hop-off option for those who would like to travel only on specific segments. 

Antara Ganga Vilas

Adding insight on the unique concept, Raj Singh, a pioneer in luxury river tourism and Founder-Chairman of Antara Luxury River Cruises, says, “Each experience has been designed by me for fellow enthusiastic travellers. The historic route has been finalized with the support, assistance and cooperation of the Governments of India and Bangladesh that are working together to ensure a seamless journey between the two countries.” 

 Along the journey, each day will have an offshore and onshore experience. Starting at Varanasi, with short day trips to the sites along the way, the cruise will meander the Ganges’ waters stopping at world heritage sites and ancient places in Uttar Pradesh and Bihar and into West Bengal for deep insights into its colonial influences and regional traditions. Cruising through the world’s largest mangrove forest, UNESCO-protected Sundarbans, the ship enters Bangladesh. Shopping from the floating markets of Barisal onwards to Bagerhat which houses the famed 60 dome mosque to Sonargaon, the heritage town in the country. The journey will continue from Dhaka into the Jamuna to the north of Bangladesh and turn east to re-enter India at Dhubri, embracing the Brahmaputra for the Assam leg of the trip, sailing through the wild and numerous cultural sites along the way.

The lounge, the restaurant and the sun deck are the major public areas.  The restaurant is in Aquas and blues with some mustard yellow hits. The lounge is a careful calibration of shades of burgundy with teal and orange counterpoints. The sun deck is light and airy with modern cane furniture and space for performances and yoga.

Exploring Traditional Treasures

Apart from the scenic vista that the travellers can enjoy, Raj Singh adds, “Our guests can visit Matiari where they watch brassware and textiles in the villages being hand-created, they walk on the same grounds on archaeological sites that date to over 2,500 years. Next, they can venture to Vikramshila, one of the largest Buddhist universities alongside Nalanda and Bhagalpur for its centuries-old Tussar silk weaving traditions. The fascinating colonial, Dutch and French influences and architecture across the interiors of Bengal, the raw untouched beauty across the Bangladesh-India border with the Sundarbans, precious arts and artisan visits where guests can engage with and talk to them- we have so carefully curated the entire journey, each stop, and every experience. A real insight into understanding this special region whilst enjoying the phenomenal riverscapes that the revered Ganga and Brahmaputra offer.”

Reflecting upon the artisans and the craft techniques that have lived along these ever-changing yet seemingly eternal riverbanks, Annapurna Garimella, an art historian and Director of Antara Cruises adds, “Life and civilizations began along these rivers, and artistic expression is the most powerful reflection of a culture. The cruise explores so many of these facets whether in food, textiles, architecture or agriculture. Sailing through this vast landscape is to immerse oneself into the culture of this land we now call India.”

Design Nuances  

Built in the mid-20th century modern style, the 18-suite Antara Ganga Vilas is a luxurious amalgamation of refined texture and simple elegance. Each room is inspired by a colour-square painting by Bauhaus and Black Mountain designer-teacher Josef Albers and all fabrics, linen, furniture and serve ware are made in India, and some are even made along the river. Large ceiling-to-floor guillotine windows bring enchanting river views into the ship’s expansive spaces, further enhancing the feeling of moving within and yet observing a riverscape in motion. 

The ship is designed to handle all major challenges. The height and width allow for passage under low bridges; its engines are powerful enough to steady the ship, its tonnage is calibrated to sail with a minimum depth of water and there are RO and STP plants on board to make sure there is an ample supply of drinking water and all used water is treated before it re-enters river. The ship is designed with a refrigerated garbage room so that no dumping happens along the way. It has a massive walk-in freezer for hard-to-access food items, and crew accommodations on the main deck for easier service for passengers and the comfort of the crew.

Each of the 18 suites is a connection to the work of Josef Albers, the renowned Bauhaus and later Black Mountain College artist and teacher and his paintings which were theoretical statements on colour, perception, and consciousness are incorporated into the rooms.

The bed has cushions of gyasar, the famed, historical brocade of Varanasi woven by the city’s weavers for Himalayan Buddhist monasteries. These create a focal point for contemplation when sitting at the chair by the window as does the Tantric art of the contemporary artist Anil Chandran. The bathrooms too are evocative of the era’s interest in ceramics and wood. The furniture throughout is all teak, and its forms, silhouettes and colour are exploring the work of mid-20th century designers but from the perspective of a present that has to imagine that work in India and on the river. Most of the rooms and the entire ship celebrate hand built in India.

For those seeking adventure, Antara Ganga Vilas enfolds the wealth of experiences throughout the journey.

Company: Antara Cruises, a brand of Heritage River Journeys Pvt. Ltd.
Designers: Annapurna Garimella, Andrea Massari, TTT Architects
Design Co-Ordination: Sindhura D. M. of Jackfruit Research & Design
Shipyard: B. N. Bose and Company

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