While Southeast Asia certainly doesn’t lack for adventures and rugged experiences, there are also ways to enjoy the region in luxury and comfort. If designing a trip focused on luxury, leisure and comfort, then there are few better ways to achieve this than on a luxury cruise, whether on the ocean or the river.
Ha Long Bay is of course Vietnam’s most famous cruise destination, with boats being the only way to truly experience the natural wonders of the Heritage Site. The ships come in all shapes and sizes, from cheap, rugged and shabby to extravagant and luxurious, which is what we’ll be focusing on in this article.
Ha Long Bay is the premier cruise destination in Southeast Asia.
There are hundreds upon hundreds of cruise operators in Ha Long, but among the 5-star options, the ones that come most highly recommended are the Orchid cruise, the Mon Cheri Cruise (featuring connecting rooms, great for families) and the romantic Aphrodite Cruise where the food is simply divine. All these have similar room arrangements, with most being double or twin and containing private balconies. Excepting alcohol, the cruises are all inclusive, and services and activities like spas, cooking classes and meditation/yoga are common on-board.
If you’re looking to design a longer cruise package than the 3 days and 2 nights spent in the Bay, then Pandaw Cruises operates a route that starts in the Bay, before heading the Kinh Thay, and Thai Binh Rivers, before finally entering the mighty Red River and carrying your guests upstream, deep into the highlands, where you’ll see spectacular views and visit many different ethnic minority villages.
A Mekong cruise is both a lovely way to experience the region along the river, and a great way to travel between the four countries.
Finally, for more river cruises, the Mekong Delta is the place to go. You can either spend a few days traversing the river on the Vietnamese side with Pandaw Cruises, or make the journey from the Delta to Phnom Penh, a service offered by Heritage Line. This is by far the best way to make the trip from Vietnam to Cambodia, as it lets you admire the scenery along the river on the way. Another option for this route is the Aqua Mekong Cruise, which additionally allows you to extend the trip all the way to Tonle Sap Lake and Siem Reap.
As far as luxury on the Mekong goes in Laos, the Mekong Pearl Cruise is the clear winner. Taking you between Vientiane and Luang Prabang, the ship is brand new, only having been christened in late 2017, and the cabins are a gorgeous mix of luxury and authentic Southeast Asia, with wood panelled walls, floors and ceilings.
The Andaman Bay offers plenty of great spots for cruises.
In Thailand, luxury cruises primarily ply the waters of the Andaman Bay, and we think Kuoni is a standout as their cruise is actually a giant sailboat. They offer two routes, both centred on Phuket and the nearby islands, as well as making quick stops in Northwest Malaysia.
If you’re looking for a bit of everything, Seabourn’s cruise from Bangkok to Hong Kong might be what you’re looking for. The cruise makes stops in Sihanoukville, Cambodia, and Ho Chi Minh City, Da Nang and Ha Long Bay in Vietnam.
All in all, ocean and river cruises are by far the best way to experience Southeast Asia in luxury or comfort. With the ones mentioned here, you can craft both packages spent leisurely on the deck or more adventurous ones with many stops and activities, enough to suit any type of luxury-traveller.