|The Huc Bridge in Hanoi; among the new cruises, some begin or end in the city.|
Vietnam and Cambodia, once off-limits to U.S. leisure travelers, are more active than ever on the tourism front. They have a built-in appeal for Asia travelers who have “been there, done that” and are seeking new realms to explore, and also for curious baby boomers who lived through the turmoil engendered by events in the region decades ago and now wish to see these countries in a different light.
For clients intrigued by these emerging destinations, but not yet ready to commit to a land vacation, river cruises provide the perfect solution. These excursions, primarily along the Mekong River, combine the comfort level of a familiar experience—a cruise—with the adventure of exotic new ports and places. Of course, clients can also opt for more tried-and-true experiences such as seeing China via the Yangtze.
You can also target European river cruise enthusiasts looking for something different; suggest they swap castles and medieval villages for misty Asian mountains and vibrant floating markets.
River cruises in Asia are fast gaining popularity among American travelers, and in order to meet the demand of this rising niche market, the world’s top river cruise suppliers have unveiled new ships and itineraries for the upcoming 2012 season.
Avalon Waterways will sail a brand-new itinerary for the 2012 season aboard the brand-new Avalon Angkor. The 14-day Fascinating Vietnam, Cambodia & the Mekong River cruise leaves Ho Chi Minh City for Bangkok.
This unique cruise takes travelers to off-the-beaten path villages and delves deep into the cultures and histories of Southeast Asia. Excursions include a visit to Phnom Penh, which is home to the Tuol Sleng Genocide Museum and one of the Khmer Rouge Killing Fields.
The seven-day cruise portion of the journey also comes with port excursions such as a visit to the Governor’s Palace and Temple of Literature in Vinh Long; seeing a local fish farm and taking a walking tour through an outdoor market in Chau Doc; checking out the silk weaving tradition, Khmer Houses and Buddhist Monastery in Prek Bang Kong; receiving a traditional water blessing on a hilltop in Wat Hanchey; and taking an ox cart ride past rice paddy fields in Kampong Tralach. Note: Travelers can add excursions to Luang Prabang or Hanoi and Ha Long Bay.
The new Avalon Angkor will provide an intimate setting, with just 16 staterooms. The Avalon Deluxe Staterooms measure at 172 square feet and open to the outside with floor-to-ceiling, sliding glass doors and balconies. The ship is also outfitted with a Sun Deck, 24-hour bar, dining room, massage area and fitness equipment. Agents can contact Kathy Cook (866-270-9850), manager of Inside Sales for the Globus family of brands, for details.
Uniworld is gearing up for the 2012 season with two new Asia itineraries. The first is a 15-day Timeless Wonders of Vietnam, Cambodia & the Mekong river cruise from Ho Chi Minh City to Hanoi. Archaeology buffs will flip over this cruise, which winds its way through the heartland of Southeast Asia. The itinerary includes stops at the Cu Chi Tunnels; three nights in Siem Reap, Cambodia, where travelers will explore Angkor Wat; and two nights at the InterContinental Westlake in Hanoi, a base for touring Vietnam’s capital city.
Uniworld will also debut a 24-day Grand Asia & the Mekong cruise and tour, which departs in Beijing and sails to Hanoi. This epic journey begins with three days in China’s capital, followed by a flight to Xi’an to see the Terra Cotta Army. Then it’s off to Hangzhou for two nights and to Shanghai for two days of guided tours.
Travelers then fly to Ho Chi Minh City for two days. There they will board the brand-new River Saigon, which debuts in January. The cruise will follow the mighty Mekong and visit the Killing Fields in Cambodia as well as Angkor Wat. The entire journey ends with a two-night stay in Hanoi.
The River Saigon, with a capacity of just 60 guests in 30 deluxe staterooms, will sail both Southeast Asian itineraries. French doors give way to a promenade, while common areas include a lounge, restaurant, sun deck, library, massage room, exercise equipment and a boutique. International buffets are available for breakfast and lunch, with sit-down dinners in the evening.
Travel agents can contact Wesley Bosnic ([email protected]; 818-382-2730), vice president, revenue management and strategic development, for more information.
Yangtze River specialists Victoria Cruises will undergo fleet-wide maintenance this winter, which will include the renaming of two of its older vessels. The Victoria Prince will emerge as the Victoria Sophia, named after owner Pi’s mother. The Victoria Empress will be renamed Victoria Grace, after Pi’s daughter-in-law.
The new names are meant to reposition the fleet in light of the company’s recently unveiled Executive Deck program. This luxury option has seen tremendous success in the U.S. More than 70 percent of Victoria Cruises’ U.S. business has opted for the Executive Deck accommodations, which include white glove concierge service, enhanced accommodations, access to VIP areas and à la carte meal service.
Travel agents should contact Sales Manager Tom Antonucci ([email protected]; 212-818-1680, ext. 335). Among tour operators booking the Executive Deck program are Avalon, Orient Flexi-Pax, Pacific Delight Tours, Ritz Tours, Travcoa and Uniworld.
While AMAWaterways does not have any new itineraries for the upcoming season, it is set to unveil a brand-new vessel early this month. The 124-passenger MS AmaLotus is AMAWaterways’ newest and largest ship on the Mekong. Its Suites measure 624 square feet, while its 10 Junior Suites have 290 square feet of space. The Standard staterooms are 226 square feet. Ninety percent of staterooms have balconies, while every room comes with a minibar, kimonos and slippers. Public areas include a main restaurant serving Asian and Western specialties, Saigon Lounge, gift shop, and fitness center, spa, plus a swimming pool and bar on the Sun Deck.
MS AmaLotus will sail the Vietnam, Cambodia & the Riches of the Mekong itinerary, which begins in Hanoi, ends in Ho Chi Minh City, and features excursions in Ha Long Bay, Siem Reap, Phnom Penh and relatively unknown Tonle Sap Lake and Cai Be.
Travel agents can contact Dennis Lee (800-626-0126), Mekong product manager, for details.
|The new Avalon Angkor has an intimate onboard setting with just 16 staterooms.|