21 August 2015

CRUISE NEWS: Mekong highlights for 2016

Captain Rivers thinks the mighty Mekong River might be the place for a river cruise in 2016, with more choices than ever before. Heres whats new.

APT's new ship AmaDara on the Mekong River.
Photo: APT
APT / AmaWaterways
APT has already introduced a second river-cruise ship on the Mekong, RV AmaDara, which joins sister ship RV AmaLotus on itineraries highlighting Vietnam and Cambodia, and culminating in the magnificent temples of Angkor Wat. AmaDara’s 62 cabins all feature twin balconies and will be located on the top three decks of the four-deck vessel. The ship will also have two restaurants, a swimming pool, fitness centre, spa and complimentary Internet.

Avalon
The new 38-passenger, 60-metre ship Siem Reap also splashes onto the Mekong River, and its cabins will have floor-to-ceiling, wall-to-wall panoramic windows that have retractable screen systems and doors that slide open to the balconies, and make the most of the passing scenery. The ship is a scaled-down version of Avalon’s European Suite Ships, though kitted out in contemporary Asian style. It’s compact enough to sail into both Siem Reap and Ho Chi Minh City, avoiding the long road transfers normally involved at either end of this 12-night river journey through Cambodia and Vietnam.


Evergreen's new ship Mekong Navigator.
Photo: Evergreen.
Evergreen

Evergreen Tours (or Emerald as it is known in the USA) has launched its first program in Vietnam and Cambodia, with tours centred around an eight-day Mekong River cruise on the new ship RV Mekong Navigator. There are 10 cruising dates between February 2016 and April 2017 which can be linked with on-land tours. Mekong Navigator carries 68 passengers and has a sun deck, spa, fitness room, library, lounge bar and restaurant. Tours vary depending on the cruise, but may include a water-puppet show, lantern-making class or cyclo ride through old Hue.


Pandaw

For the first time, travellers can explore northern Vietnam on a 10-night river cruise that sails the Song or Red River delta and its main tributaries, including the Duon and Da rivers. Pandaw River Expeditions’ new cruise on the RV Angkor Pandaw sails deep into the Vietnamese highlands and stops at mountain villages, ceramics and silk producers, ancient Buddhist temples and tribal areas along the way. Hanoi and Halong Bay, known for its limestone caves and spectacular rock formations, are also on the itinerary.


Service on board a Pandaw cruise ship.
Photo: Pandaw
Pandaw also has a new Upper Mekong cruise from this November, mostly in Laos but touching on Thailand and Myanmar too. It departs from Vientiane on board RV Laos Pandaw and lays claim to being the only river-cruise to cross all of Laos. It includes two nights in Luang Prabang, with its sleepy pace and wood-carved monasteries, and heads into the mountains and gorges of the Golden Triangle, with stops at villages along the way, before ending at Chiang Khong in northern Thailand, a two-hour journey from Chiang Rai.

Scenic
Meanwhile, Scenic Tours’ Scenic Spirit launches on the Mekong River in January 2016 for eight-day journeys between Ho Chi Minh City and Siem Reap. Scenic says the 68-passenger ship will offer the largest all-balcony one-bedroom suites on the river, ranging from 32 square metres to 80 square metres for its Royal Panorama Suite, the largest suite on any river-cruise ship worldwide. Scenic Spirit will have four dining venues, pool deck and bar, spa, lounge, sun deck with open air cinema, and guest laundry. Get in before 30 April for early-bird offers.


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