International cruise liner “Silver Discoverer” dropped anchor in Khulna to visit the Sundarbans on Thursday.
The cruise ship carrying 95 passengers made port at Hiron point after exploring the hill-laden island of Moheskhali on Wednesday.
Towfiq Rahman, chief executive of Journey Plus – partner of Silversea Group – told the Dhaka Tribune that the first-time visitors via the sea route marvelled at the natural beauty of Sundarban.
Towfiq said: “The visitors comprise 42 Americans, 24 British, seven Canadians, six Australians, two Russians and several more from France, Switzerland, Italy, Spain and other European countries.”
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The ship will leave Sundarban on Friday afternoon for India to Kolkata.
The cruise liner – owned by the Monaco-based Silversea Group – arrived at the biggest mangrove forest’s Hiron Point on Thursday morning.
Tourists took a look around on small boats in different rivers and canals which riddle the forest.
Towfiq also said, “The tour organisers are reluctant to share further details over security concerns.”
The Silver Discoverer began its journey from Colombo. The cruise will conclude in Kolkata after a four-day stint. Each tourist expenses $10,750 for the 14-day tour package, said Towfiq.
The voyage titled “Colombo to Kolkata Asia Expedition Cruise,” started on February 11. After several years of efforts by Journey Plus, a Bangladesh tour operator, Silversea agreed to open new routes in the region adding Bangladesh.
According to the Silversea website, there are two routes operating in the Bay of Bengal. One is Colombo-Kolkata via Cox’s Bazar and another is Kolkata-Thailand via Bangladesh and Myanmar.
The tourism sector took a great hit after the terrorist attack on Holy Artisan Bakery in Gulshan last year. Local tour operators expressed their optimism regarding the cruise liner’s visit as a turnaround.
Journey Plus authorities also confided that a hundred-strong contingent of tourists will board the cruise to visit the Sundarbans on March 1 on a Kolkata-Phuket route.
The government had announced 2016 year as tourism year while the ruling party strongly tried to convince foreign tour companies about operating in Bangladesh. The Silver Discoverer’s visit shows signs of a new trend.
A number of spokesperson from local tour operators concurred that the cruise had put Bangladesh on the world’s cruise map. They also said this initiative may inspire many more to visit the world’s longest sea beach and world’s largest mangrove forest.