Smooth cruising down river wild with ‘Antara bespoke charter’

In an interview, Raj Singh, the founder of Antara Luxury River Cruises, tells us more about the niche segment of luxury river cruising in India. He reveals more on a different boutique type of sailing, offering bespoke service, tranquility, and copious onboard space.

Can you tell us more about the river cruise brand, Antara Luxury River Cruises?

Antara, our new brand is an evolution of Heritage River Journeys, the pioneer of Indian river cruising operations for over 15 years, providing enthralling journeys (to mainly international travellers) in luxury sailings along rivers in India. Heritage River Journeys have been lauded as an experiential, luxurious, and a unique way to see India and its hidden gems along riverbanks. We design, build, and operate our own vessels. We wanted to further refine our hospitality services, facilities, itineraries, and ships to allow for more people, across India and overseas, to enjoy this truly immersive Indian experience, a wonderful way to explore the country’s ancient, authentic cultures. So, Antara Luxury River Cruises is the next step in the evolution of Heritage River Journeys. Antara, derived from the Sanskrit word “Antar” meaning “the distinction”, became a source of inspiration for us to make a difference and take you on a journey along the spiritual rivers of India to rediscover yourself and experience the joy of spending time with your loved ones in luxury.

Cruise offers a lot of closed space, given the present situation how then have you been able to ensure hygiene and safety protocols on board.

Although we are called a cruise, this is a different boutique type of sailing offering bespoke service, tranquillity, and copious onboard space. For the guest half the public areas are either partially covered with windows from floor to ceiling or completely open, whilst all the suite cabins feature floor to ceiling French balconies, that can also be opened to the fresh river breeze if desired. The boutique nature of the sailings means there is plenty of private and public space onboard to enjoy, whilst the attentive crew can ensure a luxurious and seamless experience. 

The current times have posed numerous challenges, but Antara has always been an intimate experience and our concept is built around serving from the heart, nurturing strong relationships with our guests, partners, and communities. We do this by being responsible in our actions and to this effect have introduced ‘ANTARA ASSURE” a heightened Hygiene, health, and safety protocol that has been implemented based on local and international health experts and authorities to offer a comforting and enjoyable experience to our guests and offer a safe workplace for our team members.

 Do you have any current booking? Can you tell us a bit about the same?

Beginning this month, we announced ‘Antara bespoke charter’ that is built around curating exclusive, intimate, and unforgettable event experiences for private group holidays, incentives and life celebrations including weddings.  

We have received queries for a family gathering to celebrate a milestone birthday-  Imagine an ultra-luxury ship that is all yours, for you and your loved ones to enjoy, with Michelin inspired dining and beverages, unmatched hospitality, engaging activities for all ages, and the unparalleled experience of watching the scenic riverscapes along the Ganga. Add to this the experience of stopping by untouched destinations for the authentic taste of the local nature, history, or culture.

We have also launched available departures for unique 2-4-day sailings from November 2020 onwards and have received many inquiries.

Have you been receiving enquires for weddings on river cruises?

A wedding is one of the most precious events in ones’ life. Antara crafts bespoke spiritual celebration of the holy matrimony with grandiosity for you to exchange wedding vows with blessings from the Ganges. Your wedding can be customized as per your desire and theme - to be a regal affair on the river or you may want to exchange your wedding vows in the inner sanctums of Terracotta temples at Kalna or the world-famous ISCKON Mayapur.

The ships are the perfect venue for discerning weddings and their guests to enjoy shared discoveries and create unique memories in exclusive settings with privacy all around. We have over ten inquiries for wedding events that are in different stages of conversion and finalization.

How does your company ensure sustainable practices while river cruising?

As a world class ‘Made In India’ firm, interwoven in our base genome are our ancient practices of responsibility, learning and community that guide us across the socio-cultural, socio-economic and socio-environmental spheres -  for a long time now we have been following this more holistic definition that in many ways exceeds the limitations of this more recent Occidental definition - we celebrate the best cultural and natural experiences we have, policies and technologies for energy efficiency and pollution prevention, matched with the software of building strength and capability in our staff and the communities that we promote and are part of - demonstrating excellence in Indian hospitality through every facet from start to finish. 

What is the potential for river cruise tourism in India? Can you share new unchartered river routes that be utilised for river cruise in India?

The Ganga is National Waterway 1 - this is the main waterway of the country which we have elevated to be awarded as one of the best river cruise journeys in the world with the learning of the unique cultural experiences that don’t exist elsewhere - it is such a feeling to feel the freedom inspired form vast spacious landscapes all around, fresh air in the breeze that opens up to the sky, along with the calmness and grace of the water. 

There are plenty of other rivers systems that hold tremendous potential - Rivers in Kashmir connect to different lakes and already have a tradition of houseboats, I believe cruising on boats and small ships on these rivers against the backdrop of snowy mountains and saffron fields can be an unforgettable sight dwarfing even the Swiss scenery.

River Sutlej in Punjab is again ideal for river cruising with its rich birdlife and countryside, 

Gomti in Tripura is another river with Hindu rock carvings on the banks, so the potential is tremendous for river cruising. Then other waterways such as Krishna, Godavari and Cauvery are also suitable.

While considering and exploring sailing on these new river routes is exciting, it is imperative that as a member of this industry, we first chart our operations and working to only bring in sustainable cruising operations that will not negatively impact the destination or the community and a major part of our project report is dedicated towards this.

What marketing and promotional strategies have you undertaken to target domestic tourism?

We have invited trade partners to join us on this journey to forge a new definition of Indian travel experience and by definition shape the new luxury Indian traveller of the future. To this measure, we have strategized to keep our engagement levels very high by offering flexibility and personalization for guests. We also recognize that Luxury River Cruising in India is a fairly new concept, and this will require some amount of handholding and consistent flow of communication to the trade and the consumer at large. Our digital marketing channels have been activated and positioned to reach the right audience.

For over 40 years we have innovated and pioneered entirely new thought streams of expertly research and planned inspiring voyages and travel experiences across our region. For domestic travellers we have just spearheaded a novel selection of pre-scheduled 2-4 night sailing ex Kolkata that will begin from the end of this year, offering rich excursions, joyful on-board activities, luxurious stays that will leave guests rejuvenated and inspired.


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