Thirty-two foreign tourists who will go on the world's longest river cruise, MV Ganga Vilas, on its maiden journey were accorded a warm welcome in Varanasi on Tuesday.
Prime Minister Narendra Modi will flag off the cruise from Varanasi in Uttar Pradesh to Guwahati in Assam on January 13 via video conferencing.
A Varanasi district administration official said the foreign tourists were welcomed at the Ramnagar terminal with garlands and tunes of shehnai. They will visit various religious and historical places in Varanasi before setting out on the cruise.
The journey covers around 3,200 km in 51 days to reach Dibrugarh in Assam via Bangladesh, traversing across 27 river systems in the two countries.
In a tweet, Uttar Pradesh Chief Minister Yogi Adityanath said, "Symbolising the speed, power and strength of 'New India', this river cruise will add new chapters of unity in 'Ek Bharat-Shreshtha Bharat."
Special efforts have been made for extending all possible comforts to the tourists in the journey with minute details worked out to provide them once-in-a lifetime experience, officials said.
Giving details of the cruise, its director Raj Singh said this five-star moving hotel has 18 suites with the capacity of 36 tourists. Apart from this, it has accommodation for 40 crew members.
The cruise has also been fitted with facilities such as spa, salon and gym.
To enjoy this luxury, a tourist will have to pay a fare of Rs 25,000 to Rs 50,000 a day. The total cost for the 51-day journey will come to around Rs 20 lakh for each passenger, Singh said.
The cruise is equipped with a pollution-free system and noise control technology, Singh said.
There is an STP plant on this cruise so that no sewage flows into the Ganges as well as a filtration plant which purifies the Ganga water for bathing and other purposes, he said.
On January 13, Prime Minister Modi will also inaugurate a 'Tent City' on the banks of the Ganga river in Varanasi.
The initiatives drew criticism from Samajwadi Party president Akhliesh Yadav.
In a tweet in Hindi with a photograph of the cruise, Yadav said, "Now will the BJP take away the jobs of the sailors as well? BJP's policy of earning money by making religious places tourist sites is condemnable. People from all over the world come to experience the spiritual splendour of Kashi, not for luxury. BJP will no longer be able to cover the darkness of real issues with external glare."
According to a statement from Uttar Pradesh Tourism Minister Jaiveer Singh issued in Lucknow, the cruise will cover 50 tourist destinations including world heritage sites, national parks, river ghats and major cities like Patna in Bihar, Shahiganj in Jharkhand, Kolkata in West Bengal, Dhaka in Bangladesh and Guwahati in Assam.
As many as 36 tourists from three countries, including Switzerland and Germany, will be seated in the cruise, he said.
Terming the river cruise a new chapter of tourism in India, he said that in future, other rivers of Uttar Pradesh will be connected.
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