Last updated: 11:00 PM ET, Wed August 05 2015

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  • Amber Nolan | August 5, 2015 11:00 PM ET

    6 Outstanding Cruises in Southeast Asia

    6 Outstanding Cruises in Southeast Asia

    PHOTO: The Oceania Insignia will depart Oct. 10 for a 15-night ocean cruise visiting ports in Southeast Asia. (All photos courtesy those featured)

    Asia has recently seen rapid expansion in the cruise industry, causing the Cruise Lines International Association (CLIA) to open two regional branches. Southeast Asia in particular is seeing a flurry of new river cruise lines, exciting ocean itineraries, and new ships debuting in remote areas. Here are six exceptional cruises plying the waters of Southeast Asia.

    Coastal Cruise from Singapore to Hong Kong

    Luxury cruise line Oceania is featuring a 15-night ocean cruise departing Oct. 10 that spends most of its time in Thailand and Vietnam. What makes this voyage unique is the ship stays overnight in several major destinations such as Bangkok in Thailand and Saigon and Hanoi in Vietnam – allowing around 30 hours in each.

    On the Oceania Insignia, no detail is overlooked; even interior staterooms include luxurious amenities like plush robes and slippers, Belgian chocolates with nightly turndown service, and a minibar with unlimited soft drinks.

    Pandaw’s New Voyage to Nagaland on the Chindwin River

    Also known as the Irrawaddy Flotilla Company, a merchant ship company with roots dating back to 1865, Pandaw River Expeditions now specializes in inclusive voyages in Southeast Asia. The company is constantly seeking out exciting routes that are off the typical tourism trail, and its new seven-night itinerary to Nagaland on Burma’s Chindwin River is no exception.

    In September 2015 (when water levels are high enough to sail) the Kalay Pandaw, a ship designed with a low draught, will explore the remote region of Nagaland near the Indian border. With just five staterooms, guests feel like they are on their own vessel as it sails from Kalewa to small villages along the river. Excursions include local monasteries and remote communities that are not used to seeing Western travelers.

    Wildlife Expedition in Borneo and Indonesia

    National Geographic (Lindblad Expeditions) is known for exploring the far reaches of the globe, and the 102-passenger, National Geographic Orion was specifically designed for these types of expedition voyages. On a 10-night cruise from Singapore to Bali, the ship stops in far-flung islands in the Natuna Archipelago that are dotted with volcanoes, coral reefs, and soft-sand beaches. The cruise also includes wildlife excursions in other parts of rainforest-rich, Borneo such as Bako National Park and the Semenggoh Nature Reserve. Departures are available in May, August, and September.

    Vietnam and Cambodia on a New River Ship

    Abercrombie and Kent has a nine-night package that includes two nights at the Park Hyatt Saigon in Ho Chi Minh City with a seven-night cruise aboard the new Aqua Mekong, a luxury ship carrying just 40 passengers. The vessel features a chic observation deck with a plunge pool, two spa rooms for massage treatments, and spacious suites with floor-to-ceiling windows or balconies.

    The ship sails the Mekong River to small villages such as Chau Doc, Vietnam and larger cities like Phnom Penh, Cambodia. Excursions include museums, temples, Buddhist ceremonies, artisan demonstrations, and floating villages.

    Halong Bay with Heritage Line

    This voyage allows you to witness the strange island formations in the dazzling jade water of Halong Bay, Vietnam on a two-night voyage. Heritage Line operates the “three sisters” − traditional “junk” ships with a boutique touch and upscale accommodations. You’ll explore the recent discovery of Tien Ong cave that archeologists believe housed the ancient people, as well as Cua Van fishing village to see the lifestyle of the locals. On the “Jewels of Halong Bay” voyage, you can go kayaking, experience a Vietnamese cooking demonstration, take Tai Chi classes, and go biking in a national park.

    New Myanmar Cruise with Avalon Waterways

    Avalon Waterways established itself as a premier river cruise line in Europe, and now the company has expanded its fleet and itineraries. The new, all-suite vessel, Avalon Myanmar, will ply the Irrawaddy River beginning in October 2015. Highlights include visits to a monastery; U Bein Bridge (an iconic wooden walkaway), artisan and silversmith workshops; an oxcart ride to a temple for sunset; and several local village tours. The 16-day package bundles hotel accommodations, a 10-night cruise, and an extension to the remote Inle Lake.


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Amber Nolan Captain’s Blog: Cruise Tips and Advice

Amber Nolan Amber Nolan loves to be on the water, and although she enjoys the fun and excitement of larger cruise ships, she prefers setting sail on smaller vessels to unique destinations. Originally from western New York, this restless traveler has a knack for finding creative ways to travel and befriending interesting characters along the way. On her most recent adventure, she hitchhiked on private aircraft across the United States. She previously served as the cruise editor at Sherman’s Travel but her work can also be found on and USA Today Travel. She current resides in South Florida.
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