Asia's Top Cruises
Haven’t got fourteen days to spend on a boat? Or the budget to fly to a faraway port? Luckily there are plenty of cruise options here in Southeast Asia, and many of them well under a week long.
Exploring Halong Bay isn’t particularly groundbreaking, but aboard the Emeraude— which combines colonial decor touches like brass fans, beadboard walls and hardwood floors with hotel luxuries like air conditioning, en-suite bathrooms and an onboard spa—views of the bay’s enormous karst formations come with onboard cooking classes, numerous excursions to caves and fishing villages and activities like kayaking and rock climbing. Choose from the one-night or two-night itinerary. emeraude-cruises.com.
A UNESCO World Heritage Site and the world’s largest mangrove ecosystem, the Sunderbans are packed with fauna like kingfishers, herons, estuarine crocodiles and the elusive Sundarban tiger. Vivada Cruises does cruises ranging from three to seven nights. Trips originate in Kolkata, and itineraries include visits to local villages, guided walks through mangrove forests and excursions to wildlife watchtowers. While the cruiser is more deluxe than luxury, it has a sun deck, spa and sauna facilities and air-conditions, river-facing cabins. sunderbancruises.com.
More than just luxury travel by train, The Orient Express also does short cruises up and down the Irrawaddy River on its luxury riverboat The Road to Mandalay. Travel either between Mandalay and the trading post of Bhamo, famed for its bustling market and mountainous location, or Mandalay and Bagan, home to over 5,000 temples and pagodas built by the Buddhist kings of the 11th and 12th centuries. Cozier than an ocean-liner, the ship nevertheless contains colonial-themed cabins, a restaurant and bar and a wellness floor with fitness machines and aromatherapy treatments. Cruises range from three nights to 11 nights. orient-express.com.
Mangrove-lined riverbanks, coral-fringed islands and cascading rapids are just some of the natural scenery promised aboard the Orion II, which trails the coastline and part of the Kinabatangan River in eastern Malaysia’s Sabah. Operated by Australian outfitter Orion Expedition Cruises, the luxurious 88-meter vessel was given an extensive overhaul in 2009 and now boasts 50 staterooms, starting from a comfy 20 square meters. Shore excursions on the Zodiac small boats are a delight, delving deeper into the Borneo rainforest for encounters with the indigenous Rungus tribes, orphaned orang utans and even the rare pygmy elephant. orionexpeditions.com.
At 91 meters, the 62-cabin Yangzi Explorer is much more modest than the colossal liners plying the Three Gorges region of the Yangtze River. Its high staff-to-guest ratio (130 crew members to 124 passengers) assures an intimate cruising experience, while comfy beige-and-white suites, each measuring upwards of 26 square meters, feature private balconies. Sailing between Chongqing and Yichang, the 600-kilometer journey offers arresting vistas of the area’s geographical marvels—the towering, mist-topped cliffs look like replicas from Chinese scroll paintings; and even crossing the 181-meter high, 2.3-kilometer long Three Gorges Dam, which remains a controversial project, is impressive. yangziexplorer.org.