Antara has new ways to explore India by river cruise: Travel Weekly

Nicole Edenedo

Nicole Edenedo

Antara River Cruises is making a strong case for why India should be your clients’ next destination to visit in Asia. 

The luxury river cruise line sailing the rivers and inland waterways both large and small in India has a new line of itineraries, from shorter itineraries on the company’s Kolkata-Varanasi route to new travel styles that includes intimate catamaran sailings through Bhitarkanika National Park, plus a new vegan cruise itinerary.

Catamaran Sailings in Bhitarkanika National Park

Travelers looking to fit in a trip to the far-flung reaches of India’s most biodiverse ecosystems before the end of the year have several chances to do so with Antara’s newest catamaran sailings in Bhitarkanika National Park, on the northeastern edge of India.

These catamaran sailings are set in the Brahmani-Baitarani-Mahanadi network of rivers.

Two itineraries currently available: The three-night Cruising in Bhitarkanika voyage and the four-night Amazon of the East journey. Both sail aboard the vessels Bhitarkanika and Mahanadi, which are purpose-built to sail the river systems. 

Onboard, travelers can enjoy local foods that a private chef prepares from scratch. Bedroom suites are contemporary, designed with modern furnishings, original artworks, handloom textiles and luxury linens.

There’s a sundeck with several lounge chairs so guests can watch life in the forest pass them by. The catamarans take their time sailing, cruising slowly through India’s second largest mangrove forest, which enables guests to have a front-row seat to the flora and fauna of the area, including saltwater crocodiles and over 320 species of birds.

Thinking about these catamaran cruises makes me think of canal barge cruising in Europe: Slow speeds, intimate onboard accommodations and up-close views of life along small waterways where larger ships dare not venture.

Departures for these two weekend getaway-worthy itineraries have departures in November and December. Fares for Cruising in Bhitarkanika begin at $1,235 person, while fares for Amazon of the East begin at $1,645 per person.

Walk in the Path of the Buddha

One of Antara’s newest itineraries takes travelers on a spiritual journey in the footsteps of the Buddha.

On the 10-night Treading the Buddha Trail itinerary, travelers will sail between Kolkata and Varanasi, exploring the temples, ancient ruins and educational institutions that are important sites on the path to Buddhism, calling on ports in Sultanganj, Munger and Patna, to name a few.

Site visits include the excavation site of the former Vikramshila University; the granite rock islands of Sultanganj; and the Chandika Sthan Temple, dedicated to Goddess Shakti.

For now, there’s one departure for 2024 in late October, and fares start at $5,085 per person.

Indulge on a Vegan Cruise

Vegan-centric trips are quickly becoming a fixture in travel as a number of suppliers are leaning into plant-based cuisine offerings.

Antara is no different, and the luxury river cruise line is launching its first vegan cruise, which will use locally sourced ingredients to make authentic vegan dishes — meaning no mock-meats or artificial substitutes.

It’s called the Artisans of Bengal — The Vegan Cruise and sails for eight nights roundtrip from Kolkata, with stops that include Bandel, Mayapur and Fulia. No animal products will be used onboard the ship during this itinerary, and Antara means it: Even the crew’s uniforms are made of recycled fabrics, canvas shoes and woven belts.

Sustainability is a big part of Antara’s latest rollout of itineraries. The line is deepening its investment in sustainability practices on the rivers, using local produce; indigenous artisanal food and craft products; and dolphin deterrents.

Tantalizing as this culinary adventure sounds, travelers will have to wait a little longer to get onboard. The first departure for this cruise sets sail Sept. 8, 2025.


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