Our favourite cruising holidays
For many, the word “cruise” brings to mind silver-haired retirees, multi-storey liners, and questionable on-board entertainment (that, or Top Gun). There’s a time and a place for both, but neither of those is the type of cruise we’re talking about here.
In Southeast Asia, cruising is about getting beyond the main sites and into the remote hinterlands. It’s about soaking up riverside life on a Mekong Delta cruise, or taking a private charter cruise to palm-fringed, jewel-like islands that feel like no human has ever set foot there. It’s about river cruising to tiny jungle villages inaccessible by road, and discovering cultures untouched by mass tourism.
From overnight Halong Bay cruises to multi-day Irrawaddy river cruises, below are just a few of our favourite waterborne adventures in Southeast Asia.
Isn’t cruising a bit 'vanilla'?
Cruises come in all shapes and sizes, and they’re not just for people of a certain age! In Southeast Asia, cruising is mainly about exploring areas that are only accessible by water, often in wild and remote corners that are far from the beaten path. Cruise itineraries typically include plenty of stops to visit villages, temples and islands, and will often include a programme of cultural lectures and demonstrations to help you better understand the places you’re visiting.
How big are the ships?
The cruises we recommend are those that take you away from touristed areas and into otherwise inaccessible parts of Asia, so don’t expect any five-storey, Mediterranean-style liners here! Instead, boats will be traditional wooden riverboats (on rivers), yachts (on the sea), or Chinese-style junks (at Halong & Lan Ha Bay). Sizes range from five to about 30 cabins, depending on the route and vessel.
What’s the food like on a cruise?
All meals are included while you cruise, and ships vary in their offerings from informal buffets to top-of-the-range fine dining — though we’ll never recommend a cruise where the food isn’t delicious! At both ends of the spectrum, expect a range of local dishes, as well as the occasional Western classic. Ships can cater to dietary requirements with prior notice.
When is the best time of year for a cruise?
Cruising is highly season-dependent, and the best time to go depends on which cruise you’re looking at. In Vietnam, Halong and Lan Ha Bay (in the north) and the Mekong Delta (in the south) cruises run throughout the year. River vessels, by contrast, have very fixed schedules. Some routes can run year-round, with tweaks between the high and low water seasons, but some run during the high water season alone. If you’re interested in including a cruise in your itinerary, chat to your consultant and they’ll be able to discuss specific dates.
How long are the cruises?
Cruises can vary from overnight (in Halong and Lan Ha Bay or the Mekong Delta, for instance) to much longer, multi-day routes. The classic Mekong cruise from Ho Chi Minh City to Siem Reap takes seven nights, and some of the expedition cruising in Laos and Myanmar can run to 14 nights. Most cruising areas have a good range of shorter and longer cruises, and we can advise you on the best boats and itineraries for your particular needs.