Lonely Planet Writer

New era dawns as luxury cruise ship docks in Bangladesh for the first time  

Ask people what Bangladesh is famous for, and you might hear: tea, tigers, rice fields, rickshaws. What you probably wouldn’t hear is: cruise ships. But all that may be about to change.

Busy and vibrant Sadarghat in Dhaka
Busy and vibrant Sadarghat in Dhaka Image by Mohammad Rukunuzzaman/500px

On 22 February, the luxury liner Silver Discoverer, run by cruise company Silversea, became the first cruise ship to visit Bangladesh, as part of a 14-day sailing from Colombo to Kolkata. Passengers spent three days on and around the tropical island of Maheshkhali, visiting beaches, Hindu and Buddhist temples, and Sundarbans National Park, home to an estimated 400 royal Bengal tigers.

Boatman in Sundarabans National Park, Bangladesh.
Boatman in Sundarabans National Park, Bangladesh. Image by rahul rahman/500px

While much of Bangladesh is covered in forested hills and waterlogged rice fields, the coast is blessed with spectacular beaches, including the world’s longest natural sand beach, running for 120km along the coast at Cox’s Bazaar. St Martin’s Island, in the far south of the country, even has a fledgling scuba diving scene, with a coral-island landscape more commonly associated with the Maldives or Southeast Asia.

St. Martins Island, Bangladesh.
St. Martins Island, Bangladesh. Image by ryuivst/Getty Images

Freshwater cruising, however, is nothing new in Bangladesh. The paddle-ship service known as ‘The Rocket’ has been plying the waters of the Meghna Delta from Dhaka to Morrelganj since the 1920s, using the same vintage paddle steamers that once ferried colonial sahibs (gentlemen) and memsahibs (gentlewomen) when Bangladesh was part of the British Raj.

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