|In the Observation Lounge on Silversea’s Silver Whisper, guests can watch as the ship approaches each port of call.|
Asia’s popularity as a cruise destination has grown over the last few years as people branch out to explore more exotic ports on both river and oceangoing cruises. Here’s a sampling of what is available for Asia-bound cruisers in 2015.
AmaWaterways is cruising into the new year with several new ship announcements and itineraries. The AmaPura will be next off the bat, with the ship due to make its maiden voyage November 24. Expect twin balconies and a rooftop sundeck on the 56-passenger, all-suite ship, which will sail on the Ayeyarwady River in Myanmar. The ship will also be home to the line’s new Myanmar itineraries.
Cruise programs include the 10-day “Golden Treasures of Myanmar” (as well as a reverse option) and 14-day “Hidden Wonders of Myanmar.” Guests can take up an optional post-cruise land extension on Yangon and Inle Lake, or a pre/post-cruise Bangkok extension. The AmaDara is set to make its debut with an inaugural sailing on August 17, 2015. The new ship will be added to the line’s “Vietnam, Cambodia & the Riches of the Mekong” program in 2015. Guests will be able to enjoy a selection of luxury suites and staterooms on this 124-passenger ship as they take part in a 16-day river cruise along the Mekong River.
The waterways of Laos are swelling with the latest in luxe-cruise news. We hear that there is a new 10-night sailing of the Laos Mekong with Pandaw River Expeditions’ RV Laos Pandaw. The itinerary kicks off in November 2015 and offers travelers the chance to cruise deep into the Laos mountains, visiting tribal villages and Buddhist temples along the way. The river steamer will be the 14th ship to join the Pandaw fleet, with 10 staterooms (including one Owner’s Suite).
The Laos Pandaw, sister ship to the RV Kha Byoo launched in 2014, is being custom-built to sail the Upper Mekong with a low draught and additional engine power. Guests will enjoy a “yacht-like” experience with a crew to passenger ratio of 2:1. All excursions, crew gratuities, meals and locally made soft and alcoholic drinks are included. “Laos Mekong” is a three-country expedition, as the itinerary touches Thailand and Burma. Guests will enjoy two nights at the UNESCO World Heritage site of Luang Prabang, with its wood-carved monasteries, and then sail deep into the mountains.
Victoria Cruises, the only American cruise line currently sailing China’s Yangtze River, offers departures year-round with international multilingual cruise directors. All cabins are outside and have private balconies as well as bathrooms with bathtub and shower. There’s still time to take advantage of the line’s two-for-one 20th Anniversary Special: a complimentary cruise for a companion in any Superior Cabin on cruises sailing Chongqing to Yichang (four days/three nights) or the reverse (five days/four nights). The offer is valid through the end of this year.
Also sailing the Yangtze is Uniworld Boutique River Cruise Collection. Included in the standard fare are stays at five-star luxury hotels, Peking Duck Welcome Dinner with wine, gift of a traditional Chinese folk art piece and a framed group photo of your clients and their traveling companions at Tiananmen Square. Uniworld also offers “Timeless Wonders of Vietnam, Cambodia & the Mekong” for cruise clients who seek a more rigorous and expeditionary type of travel experience.
Avalon Waterways’ 2015 Mekong cruises include the 22-night “Fascinating Vietnam, Cambodia & the Mekong River with the “Bangkok, Luang Prabang, Hanoi & Ha Long Bay” itinerary. Clients with less vacation time can opt for the line’s eight-day “Fascinating Vietnam, Cambodia & the Mekong River” itinerary, which visits ancient Angkor, as well as Phnom Penh, Cambodia, and Ho Chi Minh City. Guests will get first-hand cultural immersion as they learn how rice paper, rice wine and traditional candy are made in Cai Be, Vietnam.
Viking River Cruises offers a variety of itineraries in Southeast Asia and China. From their intimate river cruise ship on the Mekong or Irrawaddy, guests can explore timeless riverside landscapes, the architecture of ancient cultures, modern cities and more in Vietnam and Cambodia on the Viking Mekong or Thailand and Myanmar (Burma) on the Viking Mandalay. Viking also offers a trio of China programs that include a cruise along the Yangtze River on the Viking Emerald.
Windstar Cruises will sail new Asian itineraries this winter with Star Pride, the recently acquired and renovated ship that was the former Seabourn Pride. The cruises will call at ports in Malaysia, Thailand, Vietnam, Singapore and China. The ship is one of three motorized 212-passenger mega-yachts to be acquired from Seabourn Cruise Line; the others will enter the Windstar fleet in 2015.
|At Ha Long Bay in Vietnam, Windstar’s Star Pride will offer close-up views of fishing junks and floating villages.|
In addition to upgraded public spaces, dining venues and staterooms Star Pride is introducing the line’s new Destination Suites concept. Each Owner’s Suite showcases a signature Windstar destination with locally themed decor and artwork. Windstar plans to eventually have Destination Suites fleet-wide.
The ship’s relatively small size has benefits for clients heavily focused on “the destination.” For example, when the ship visits Ho Chi Minh City it will dock downtown; larger ships typically must dock about two hours away. It also will sail closer to the coast, providing more scenic sailing than some big-ship itineraries. At Ha Long Bay in Vietnam, for example, Star Pride will sail alongside traditional fishing junks, through scenic lagoons and past floating villages.
Eleven new overland tours are among more than 60 extended mid-voyage excursions Silversea Cruises will be offering in 2015. Unlike a partial-day shore tour, single- or multiple-day inland adventures offer an in-depth encounter with the local people, history, wildlife and natural attractions. In Asia, guests can take part in the four-and-a-half day “Taj Mahal & Jaipur” excursion, leaving the ship in Phuket and rejoining in Colombo, Sri Lanka. Travelers will visit the Pink City of Jaipur, as well as Agra, home to the Taj Mahal and other prominent Mughal monuments. This excursion is available on Silver Whisper’s March 6 voyage.
As part of Oceania Cruises’ 180 days at sea, the Insignia will call at several ports in Asia, including Hong Kong, Singapore, Ho Chi Minh City, Hanoi and Xiamen, China, along with two-night stays in Yangon, Myanmar, and Shanghai.
This past summer marked the inaugural China season for Princess Cruises’ Sapphire Princess, which is home-ported in Shanghai, while Royal Caribbean International made waves in April with the announcement that its big new ship, Quantum of the Seas, would home-port in Shanghai for the spring/summer 2015 season.