Last updated: 03:41 PM ET, Sun July 17 2016

Aqua On The Mekong

The company ups the ante on quality and comfort on Southeast Asia sailings

Vacation Agent | Cruise Line & Cruise Ship | Violet Baron

Aqua On The Mekong

Aqua Expeditions’ river cruise venture in Southeast Asia takes guests several steps higher – in quality and comfort – than the already lofty expectations set by its Amazon River sailings. While the Aqua Mekong design and level of service will be familiar to guests who’ve traveled with Aqua before, everything from the excursion skiffs to the sleek spiral staircases has been given a serious upgrade.

The chief difference between the two cruises is largely a factor of the rivers they traverse: while Aqua Amazon focuses on animal and plant life along the river and its jungle, Aqua Mekong engages deeply with the communities along Cambodia and Vietnam’s shared river, and the excursions take guests out of the water and onto lands that are rich with culture and history.

Accommodations: The ship’s 20 guestrooms are similar in size and amenities, each containing a California King-size bed or two double beds. The 320-square-foot Design Suites have a distinguished and cozy feel, with lamps for soft light and dark wood-paneled furnishings. A gray easy chair sits in one corner, and rooms have either a wide balcony with daybed, small table and chairs, or daybeds set up inside the room. Bathrooms are large, with two sinks and a walk-in shower whose angled panels allow in natural light.

There are two sets of connecting suites on each of the ship’s two floors of guestrooms, each of which can be made into a 640-square-foot master suite whose separate bedroom and living area include four daybeds and a separate balcony space. In all suites, sliding floor-to-ceiling windows open to reveal the sounds of life on the river.

What’s Included: All beers, house wines, and soft drinks are included in the price, while hard liquors and drinks at the bar come at an additional cost. All excursions are covered by the fare, though guests may choose to purchase souvenirs. All meals are included, as is daily laundry service.

Guests can take advantage of a small movie center with a DVD selection, as well as a gym with treadmills and bikes; an outdoor pool, indoor and outdoor bar lounges, and a spa with two treatment rooms and skillful masseuses. Tips are encouraged but not included. The suggestion is $20 per passenger per day for the crew, and $7-10 per passenger per day for guides, payable in cash or credit card.

Best Entertainment: Once guests check in at the port in Phnom Penh, they are greeted with a traditional Khmer Apsara dance, complete with full costume and instrumental and vocal accompaniment. Artfully produced, the dance is performed by local teens trained by a charity that Aqua supports. The silk costumes with expressive masks and detailed jewelry bring to life a fine art once meant for a royal audience.

SEE MORE: TravelPulse interviews Aqua Expeditions' Francesco Galli Zugaro

Favorite Excursion: Aqua brings guests to Kampong Chhnang, a region known throughout Cambodia as the source for pottery. Made of hand-carved and molded clay sourced from nearby mountains, these pots are used locally for cooking. Once the ship’s skiffs reach the town port, guests may opt to ride to the village via motorbike-powered tuk tuks or bike through town on a mini-trip led by one of the guides.

A villager demonstrates traditional methods for palm sugar harvesting by climbing bamboo ladders to the tops of palm trees and collecting their sap. One of the Cambodian guides translates the demonstration, explaining jokes and cultural tidbits. Guests are given a taste of fresh palm sap, and shots of bittersweet palm liquor and sugar.

The tour moves on to another area for a demonstration of the hand-made pottery, where a young woman moves in circles around a mound of clay while she forms it into a bowl. The group watches as small ovens are made from molds, then heads back to the skiffs for a rest.

Dining: Meals are served family-style, with several well-executed entrees inspired by local Cambodian or Vietnamese cuisines. A typical meal includes a mildly spicy curry, Asian salad, freshly caught fish and a bowl of steamed white rice. Alternative options are made for guests with dietary restrictions. Diners may sit alone with their party or as a larger group.

Who Goes on This Ship: The trip is favored by adventurous couples ages 35 to 65. Five percent of guests are families. Travelers are primarily from the U.S., followed by the U.K. and Australia.

Key Selling Points: Aqua offers true five-star accommodations and dining on the Mekong River. Aqua Mekong maintains the feel of a boutique hotel.

Aqua employs a largely local staff, including highly skilled guides who are knowledgeable about the regions visited and personable with both guests and the villagers who present their skills and traditions. This enables guests to see, learn, and do more than would be otherwise possible. The Cambodian and Vietnamese guides share the reins, trading off the lead in each country.


Cruise line: Aqua Expeditions

Ship: Aqua Mekong

Size: 40 passengers, 205 feet long

Entered Service: 2014

Itineraries: "Low Water-2016." seven nights, with stops in Phnom Penh and Saigon

Price: Fares start at $3,660, $4,880 and $6,540 respectively for three-, four-, and seven-night cruises. Prices are per person based on double occupancy.

Contact info:


You may use your Facebook account to add a comment, subject to Facebook's Terms of Service and Privacy Policy. Your Facebook information, including your name, photo & any other personal data you make public on Facebook will appear with your comment, and may be used on Click here to learn more.

Vacation Agent Magazine

A version of this article appears in print in the July 2016 issue of Vacation Agent Magazine.


Latest Travel News

New Orleans Considers Port Expansion

Cruise Line & Cruise Ship

Who, Exactly, Was Paul Gauguin?

Cruise Line & Cruise Ship

Tips For The Solo Traveler

Cruise Line & Cruise Ship

Journeying Along The Columbia River

Cruise Line & Cruise Ship