Assam Bengal Navigation (ABN), a pioneer in luxury river cruises on the Ganges and Brahmaputra, will resume operations from November 2020, post the COVID-19 lockdown. The Indo-British company is a part of the RARE India Community of conscious luxury hotels and travel experiences in India and the subcontinent. ABN has gained recognition in the international travel community since its launch in 2003 for creating unique, authentic, community-engaged luxury expeditions on two of India’s greatest rivers. The company has announced three new shorter river cruise itineraries that have been designed specifically for Indian travellers. These three or four-night river cruise experiences have been designed specifically for domestic travellers who want to experience the natural and cultural beauty of the two majestic Himalayan rivers in their backyard, in the luxury of a boutique traditional river boat.
According to Shoba Mohan, Founder, RARE India, “At a time when cruising has come under a lot of censures, river cruising by Assam Bengal Navigation company from its inception in 2003 has focussed on benign operations with minimum impact on the environment and riverine ecosystems while highlighting culture and community along the way. All this with no compromise on comfort and luxury, an enviable achievement.”
Regarding the new cruise itineraries, ABN’s Director Antara Phookan said, “We are introducing two short Brahmaputra River cruise itineraries – ‘Brahmaputra River Vignettes’ and ‘Dancing Monks & Riverine Culture’. The former is a 3-night introduction to the majestic river culture while the latter is a 4-night cruise that also introduces you to the monastic culture of Majuli River Island. These two short river itineraries are best combined with a wildlife discovery of the Kaziranga National Park and a stay at our safari eco-lodge – the Diphlu River Lodge. On the lower Ganges, we are launching the Hooghly river itinerary ‘Bengal Memories’, which will be a 3-night introduction to the historic colonial charm of Bengal.”
The Brahmaputra River in the world river cruising map is known as an adventure cruise with authentic experiences of wildlife and indigenous tribal cultures along the river. This mighty transboundary river offers experiences that range from tea plantations to wildlife – with 5 national parks along the river in Assam and 18 wildlife sanctuaries. It is the only navigable river in the world from which one can see snow-covered mountains on clear winter days and chance upon the one-horned rhinoceros from private cabins or the open sundeck of the cruise ship. With Kaziranga – a UNESCO World Heritage Site, temples, monasteries, tea plantations, migratory birds, freshwater dolphins and tribal villages to encounter through the cruise, CNN declared this cruise as one of the top 10 adventure river cruises of the world.
ABN’s newly introduced Brahmaputra River Vignettes is a three-night cruise from Guwahati to Silghat aboard the luxury vessel ABN Charaidew II. Combining visits to temples and important historic sites, as well as a chance to discover a traditional Assamese village, this cruise is for those who want to discover unique and unknown places in India in the luxury of a cruise on the Brahmaputra river. Passengers will wake to panoramic views of Assam’s natural beauty and discover the region’s history at Tezpur, Assam’s oldest city and cultural heart. They will also get to taste an array of exciting cuisines from Assam with an introduction to indigenous tribal cuisine, seldom before tasted outside of this region. A highlight of this cruise is a BBQ under a starry night on one of the shifting sand islands, which pops up every year and is a unique feature of the Brahmaputra.
The Dancing Monks & Riverine Culture is a 4-night cruise from Silghat to Neamati aboard the luxury vessel ABN Charaidew II. On this luxury cruise up the Brahmaputra river, passengers will discover the rural idyll of Majuli, one of the world’s largest river islands and a microcosm of Assamese culture. To witness the ‘dancing monks’ of Majuli perform Sattriya, a graceful dance from Assam originating in the 15th century is to live in a time warp. Every morning, guests wake up to panoramic views of Assam’s natural beauty and through the day will have opportunities to immerse themselves in tribal culture. Guided walks into riverside villages of indigenous communities, savour tribal cuisines and taste various blends of Assam teas are some experiences on the ABN cruises. On a lucky day, guests might spy on the endangered Gangetic river dolphin – a wondrous sight on the Brahmaputra river. Two scheduled departures have been announced so far for this cruise. The first cruise will commence on December 3, and the second one on December 29.
On the other hand, the Ganges in the world river cruising map is known as a historical cruise that is a cultural immersion of life and livelihoods along the Ganges. A cruise on the Ganges is considered to be a cultural voyage of old colonial towns, grand heritage monuments, regional museums, exquisite terracotta temples, UNESCO World Heritage Sites, riverine villages and artists’ hamlets. ABN’s new 3-night cruising itinerary, the ‘Bengal Memories’ covering Kolkata-Mayapur-Kolkata aboard the luxury vessel ABN Rajmahal, has been specially designed to give travellers a taste of West Bengal’s rich heritage along the Lower Ganges or Hooghly river. Passengers will take idyllic walks on the river bank, stroll through the Danish colony of Serampore, visit the imposing Shia Imambara that overlooks the river as well the ISKCON temple at Mayapur, which upon completion will be double the size of St. Peter’s Basilica in Rome. They will also visit the intricately carved terracotta Hindu temples of Kalna and Chandernagore, a charming riverside town that was in French possession even after India’s independence from the British. A highlight on the Ganges cruise is the wholesome Bengali cuisine on board the ship with the chefs cooking up iconic dishes of Bengali and regional cuisine. Seven Scheduled Departures have been announced so far for this cruise. The first cruise will commence from 13th November, followed by November 17, November 21, December 11, December 15, December 23 and December 30.
In view of the ongoing pandemic, ABN will take all the safety and social distancing measures as per the directives of the World Health Organization and the local health authorities. Before boarding guests and staff will be subjected to routine checks, guests are required to submit a self-declaration form to the cruise manager stating that they are Covid-19 Safe. All passengers and crew members will have to maintain a physical distance of 2 meters and face masks in public areas and during excursions will be compulsory. The ABN cruise ships are large and spacious with ample room for privacy and for guests to maintain distance. There are expansive open sundecks to lounge in as well as fairly large ship cabins with panoramic French balcony windows. Moreover, the dining will be set in 2 groups per meal so that social distancing can be practiced efficiently.
As per Antara Phookan, “To welcome guests onboard, our cruise managers and crew will take all the necessary precautions as per the global river cruising standards to ensure that every guest is taken care of in the safest manner possible whilst enjoying the comforts of our boutique river cruises on the Ganges and the Brahmaputra Rivers.”