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River Cruises in India

Posted on 04-Oct-2022 by Deesha Jhaveri
River Cruises in India

It is said India owes the existence of its thriving civilization, and even its name, to the river Indus. And not just her, India is blessed with many major rivers that flow through the length and breadth of the country, breathing life for miles and miles along their riverbanks. The largest of India’s rivers are the Ganga and Brahmaputra, flowing through some of the most fertile regions in the world. A huge part of north India flourished over centuries owing to the fertile plains formed due to the river deposits that today house some of India’s largest and oldest cities.

Taking a journey through these rivers is like experiencing the journey of the birth and re-birth of the Indian civilization. Lapping up on this unique opportunity, multiple home-grown cruiselines have introduced luxury river cruises on the Ganges and Brahmaputra rivers where you can experience the ‘real’ India visiting offbeat villages and towns. Here are some of the key ports that you can look forward to visiting on a river cruise journey on these two mighty rivers:

On a Ganges River Cruise:

Kolkata: The City of Joy, Kolkata, is one of India’s grandest cities that flourished on the banks of the Hoogly river (as the Ganges is known in Bengal). Not only is Kolkata the capital of the state of West Bengal, it was the erstwhile capital of the country during the days of the British Raj. Kolkata has forever been the epicenter of culture, innovation music and theatre in the country. Notable landmarks in the city include the remarkable Victoria Memorial, the Howrah bridge, Kalighat, and the storied Dakshineshwar Kali Temple. Most short Ganges river cruises start and end in Kolkata.

Sundarbans: A hundred and ten kilometers east of the dense city of Kolkata, lies the world’s largest delta formed by the confluence of the mighty rivers Ganga, Brahmaputra and Meghana – the Sundarbans. Today, this majestic stretch of land stands as the world’s last remaining lock of tidal and halophytic mangrove forests. Literally translated, the word Sundarban means a ‘beautiful forest’, and, with a massive 4264 sq. km. in India alone (the remaining stretch is in neighbouring Bangladesh), the Sundarbans indeed do justice to their name. This magical place is most renowned for being home to the Royal Bengal Tiger, who rules this land unequivocally over the thousands of tributaries and creeks that crisscross the mass of the forest, breathing life into its every inch. If given a chance to explore the Sundarbans, you can spend your time experiencing the surreal sight of river dolphins, indulge the ornithologist in you at the Sajnekhali Bird Sanctuary or take a night safari to witness the mysterious phytoplankton.

Chandernagore: Chandernagore – meaning ‘Moon Town’ got its name due to shape of bank of the Hoogly river that resembles a half moon. With an eclectic twist of the bygone era of a French Colony and its Bengali heritage, this quaint town offers a very distinct flavour of its own. The riverside promenade is lined with multiple beautiful colonial era structures, chief among them being the Sacred Heart Church. Other attractions include the Patal Bari (a half-submerged mansion in the river Hoogly, Rani Ghat, the Peachy Pavillion and the City of light district.

On a Brahmaputra River Cruise:

Guwahati: A city that has flourished on the banks of the Brahmaputra river, Guwahati is one of the first ports of call on most Brahmaputra river cruises. This city is the one connecting link to the seven north-eastern sister states and the largest metropolis in that part of the country. The hills surrounding the city house the famed 10th Century temple dedicated to goddess Kamakhya and an ancient seat of astronomy known as Navagraha, the temple of the nine planets. The small Umananda temple, dedicated to Lord Shiva, is on an island in the river. Other major attractions in and around the city area include Assam State Zoo, the Pobitora Wildlife Sanctuary, archeological ruins and a silk-weaving center.

Kaziranga National Park: Right in the heart of the north-eastern state of Assam lies a spectacular 430 square kilometer area sprinkled with elephant-grass meadows, swampy lagoons, and dense forests – the Kaziranga National Park. This haven is now home to more than 2200 Indian one-horned rhinoceros (approximately 2/3rd of all of the world’s population are found here). Untainted by industrialization, this piece of forest land is a rare preserve that has succeeded in not only preserving the species, but also increasing their population through their earnest conversation efforts. And breathing life through all of it is the mighty Brahmaputra river.  This is a port of call on multiple cruises on the river, and if given the opportunity, one should take the chance of taking a safari to the National Park.

Majuli Island: One of the most mystical places on the itinerary on a Brahmaputra river cruise, Majuli is  a pollution free river island that is, quite literally, shaped by the Brahmaputra river. The river’s sand and silt deposits constantly reshape the local landscape of the island with its fast moving current. With its own unique history and culture, the island is known as the cultural capital of the state of Assam. At the heart of Assamese culture since the 15th century, Majuli is replete with a number of Satras (white monasteries) where the famous Matia Khora dance performed daily by the monks is a key attraction.

As with every sector relating to exploring Incredible India, there are a few key players who have been torchbearers in unearthing the thrill of river cruising within the country. While river cruising has been popular in Europe, Egypt and Vietnam, the Indian river cruising industry is still nascent but growing in popularity with discerning travellers as a unique vacation experience. Here are a few of the key luxury river cruise operations in the country with details of their itineraries:

Assam Bengal Navigation: The unquestioned pioneer of river cruising in India, this Indo-British venture is the largest of its kind with four cruise ships and a houseboat in its arsenal. ABN commenced cruising way back in 2003 on the Brahmaputra and in 2007 on the Ganges making this the oldest domestic cruise line in the country. They offer exclusive cruises designed specifically to explore Assam’s rich culture and history with all the comforts of luxury cruising.

Antara Luxury River Cruises: Antara Cruises offer exclusive luxury cruising on the river Ganges through their ships the Ganges Voyager and the Ganges Voyager II. With the aim of revolutionizing river cruising in India, Antara seeks to marry domestic cruising with the panache of international luxury cruising. They offer all-suite river cruises with personalized butler service and high-end amenities set to enhance passenger experience. Imagine looking over the pristine ghats of Varanasi while on a ship, or sailing through the innumerable tributaries of the Sundarbans surrounded by dense forests!

MV Mahabaahu: The MV Mahabaahu is a luxury vessel that offers experiential cruises on the Brahmaputra. The vessel can accommodate 46 people in 23 cabins (two suites, two luxury cabins, seven deluxe cabins and twelve superior cabins) and is spread over 5 decks including the open sundeck. It’s sun deck has been designed keeping open spaces in mind, for guests to laze around in a giant swimming pool or simply enjoy the bounty of their surroundings. Its ship further comes with its own in-house salon, spa, sauna and massage parlors, bars, lounges and multiple enhanced safety features for a seamless experience.

Here is a summary of the cruise itineraries offered by these companies for the winter 2022-23 season.

Cruise Ship Name Departure Port Ports of Call Date(s) & Duration Price (USD)/ (INR)*
Assam Bengal Navigation ABN Charaidew II
Brahmaputra Taster
Guwahati, Assam Guwahati; Kaziranga; Pobitora; Sualkuchi; Vijaynagar 22 Nov,
20 Dec (2022)
1780 USD
Assam Bengal Navigation ABN Sukhapa
Brahmaputra Cruise
Guwahati, Assam Guwahati; Jotiabari; Kaziranga; Nameri National Park, Arunachal Pradesh; Nilachal Hill; Tezpur 28 Oct,
02 Dec (2022)

10-14 Days
2380 USD
Assam Bengal Navigation ABN Sukhapa
River Island Cruise
Silghat, India Dhansiri Mukh; Dibrugarh; Horu Charai; Jorhat; Kaziranga; Majuli Island; Silghat 04, 15, Nov
09 Dec (2022)
3115 USD
Antara Cruises Ganges Voyager
Europe on the Ganges
Kolkata, West Bengal Bandel; Bansbera; Belur Math, Kolkata; Chandannagar; Kolkata; Serampore, Kolkata 20, 27 Dec (2022)

1 – 5 Days
75000 (INR)
Antara Cruises Ganges Voyager
Secrets of the Sundarbans
Kolkata, India Bony Camp, Sunderbans; Kolkata; Namkhana; Sudhanyakhali 16, 23, 30 Dec (2022)

1 – 5 Days
1,00,000 (INR)


*Note: Cabin prices cited are minimum prices for basic cabins and exclude port fees, taxes and are subject to change.

It is heartening to see that river cruising – which was once the exclusive domain of Europe, is now seeing a new chapter open here in our very home, touching parts of India’s culture and legacy by sailing on our mighty, unencumbered rivers. It truly is an experience unlike any other to watch the distant sight of an Indian city first from the ship and then see it grow and flourish the closer you get to the port. Embark on a unique vacation exploring India like never before, all from the comfort of your luxury cruise ship. And you never know, you might get to see the Royal Bengal Tiger in the Sundarbans while trying to take a selfie.

Head over to our page to find more information on these cruises and to get the best deals.

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