An international luxury cruise ship is now exploring the Sundarbans -- a development that can give a boost to tourism as it goes about showcasing the country's natural beauty.
Silver Discoverer, one of the 10 ships of global cruise operator Silversea Cruises, entered the largest mangrove forest and will explore the deep forest until tomorrow.
The vessel with 61 foreign tourists, mainly from the US, will then leave for Maheshkhali and St Martin's Island.
It will proceed to Ngapali, a beach town in Myanmar's Rakhine State, and end the cruise at Yangon, said officials of the Department of Shipping (DoS) and its local ground handling operator Journey Plus.
The ship is scheduled to do two more voyages between Yangon and Chennai, touching the Sundarbans, next month, said Taufiq Rahman, chief executive of Journey Plus.
Some 72 tourists, mainly from the UK, have signed up for the cruise starting on February 12. The next one is scheduled to begin from February 19 from Chennai, according to the cruise plan posted by the Monaco-based operator Silversea on its website.
The fare starts at $9,500 per guest.
If anyone wants to join the cruise, he/she should make reservations on Silversea's website. It is not possible to get on the cruise mid-way.
Foreign tourists will go inside the Sundarbans through canals with the help of forestry officials, Rahman said.
On January 27, the Silver Discoverer anchored at the Mongla port to visit the Sundarbans with cruisers, also comprising citizens from India, Canada and the Netherlands, reports our Bagerhat correspondent, quoting Harbour Master of the Mongla Port Authority Commander Mohammad Durul Huda.
The ship has anchored on the port jetty for immigration, he said, adding that security had been heightened in the area for tourists. Huda said the tourists are set to visit various attractive spots of the forest, including Hiron Point, Kotka and Dubla in the Sundarbans.
This is the third time Silver Discoverer, which would start for Bali from March 5, has visited Bangladesh.
It came to Bangladesh twice in the first quarter of 2017. Some 162 tourists visited at that time, according to Rahman.
In the next two voyages between India-Bangladesh-Myanmar, 150 foreign tourists would do the cruise, he said.
Rahman said the authorities are providing on arrival visa to the visiting tourists for 15 days.
There is a good prospect of cruise tourism here, according to Rahman.
“Visits by tourists from different countries will not only help improve the image of our country but also benefit the local community economically,” he said, adding that Sri Lanka and Myanmar benefit economically from such cruises.
He demanded a one-stop service from Bangladesh Tourism Board to provide all sorts services including visa processing and customs clearance to facilitate tourism.
Director General of the Department of Shipping (DoS) Commodore Syed Ariful Islam said his office gave clearance to Silversea in November last year and requested the respective agencies to take the required measures. “We want tourism to grow in Bangladesh,” said Captain KM Jashimuddin Sarker, chief nautical surveyor of the DoS.
Cruise ships travel to Bangladesh during winter as the weather remains calm during the period.
Silversea's cruise ship is visiting Bangladesh as per the international treaties and not under the coastal shipping agreement between Bangladesh and India, Sarker said. DoS DG Islam said one cruise vessel wants to come to Bangladesh under the coastal shipping agreement in March this year.