Antara Luxury River Cruises, a first-of-its-kind luxury river cruise brand in India, has been launched by HemantMediratta, who has joined the brand as Co-Founder and Chief Operating Officer under the expert guidance of Raj Singh, Founder and Chairman – Group, Antara Luxury River Cruises & Heritage River Journeys.
Mentored by Raj Singh, well-known and respected in the international river cruising industry and a veteran of the tourism industry of India, Antara will introduce the concept of luxury river cruising in the domestic Indian market. Speaking about the concept, Singh says, “Heritage River Journeys is well-known internationally. Our new brand – Antara – is focused on the domestic market, wherein the company and quality of service have already been established.”
Introducing the brand, HemantMediratta says, “Antara stems from the word ‘antar’, which means difference or distinction, and it’s our effort to make a difference to the journey of a guest when they sail on a river cruise. Not many Indians have experienced river cruising or even cruising for that matter. However, it’s very intimate and an epitome of luxury. With Antara, the intent is to take guests to untouched destinations. We have two ships — Ganges Voyager and Ganges Voyager II, which are all-suite vessels. It’s an all-inclusive experience, which means everything is taken care of, be it meals, drinks, experiences, excursion guides, etc.” He adds that a personalised butler service is also available in each room.
“We sail on the Ganga from Kolkata and we can go up to Varanasi and even Dhaka. Our typical cruise itinerary is 7 nights for international travellers, but for Indian travellers, to initiate them into luxury river cruising, we have special 2 to 3-night itineraries. Hence, currently, we are selling them as bespoke charters, wherein special events like milestone birthdays, bachelor parties, or pre-wedding events and even weddings can be done. While we don’t know when the situation will be normal, for Christmas we have one departure planned and for New Year as well there is a 3-night departure,” Mediratta shares.
Passionate about river cruising, Singh says that the experience is quite different from that of sea cruising. “Local people are involved and we offer experiences in villages and small towns. With only 28 rooms, we can offer intimate journeys,” he elaborates, adding that they are adhering to all safety and hygiene protocols with systems in place, apart from having duly trained staff. When it comes to promotions through the travel trade, Mediratta says that “the intent is to build the business through the travel trade model and popularise the Antara brand not only domestically but internationally, too. We have direct consumer activation plans as well.”
A peek into the future
Commenting on expansion plans, Singh says, “We will be coming up with a new ship called Ganga Vilas, which will be unique. As for expansion, our targets are Kashmir, Punjab and even Kerala backwaters. We have done our research and we are probably the only ones who have anMoU with the Ministry of Shipping, Inland Waterways Authority of India.”