From impressive skylines and cities to less-visited backdrops and ancient treasures, clients can discover a cruise that’s full of Eastern promise.
Most Far Eastern cruises operate in winter and spring, although some are year-round. Many leave from Hong Kong or Singapore – cities that are on many people’s wish list.
Lesser-visited ports could include Tianjin, gateway to Beijing for the Great Wall of China and Tiananmen Square; Yokohama for Japan’s capital, Tokyo, where itineraries can include a traditional tea ceremony or a visit to Mount Fuji and the sulphur springs; or the commercially important East China Sea island of Taiwan.
However, they are unlikely to remain a secret for long. The Far East is growing in popularity and is now the second-most visited destination for Brits behind Europe, according to Princess Cruises.
Princess sales director UK and Europe, Rachel Poultney, said: “The feedback we have from guests is they love exploring and experiencing completely different Asian cultures, and then having the comfort and familiarity of our ships to fall back to at the end of the day.
“The likes of Singapore, Hong Kong and Vietnam are proving mainstays of guests’ Far East bucket lists. Japan is consistently well regarded. We offer visits to firm favourites, including Mount Fuji and the spring flower festivals, as well as lesser-known landmarks such as Tokyo’s sprawling Tsukiji Fish Market and the hot spring baths of Aomori.”
Crystal Cruises has two Far Eastern itineraries in 2019, including maiden calls to Japan’s scenic Hualien and the unspoiled beaches of Ishigaki. In 2020, Crystal will expand its Far East offering with a collection of spring and autumn Asia sailings on Crystal Symphony around South East Asia, Singapore, China and Japan.
Crystal Cruises’ senior sales and marketing manager, Elaine Gillard, said: “Cruising the Far East is a safe and hassle-free way to see a region that some people may find daunting. Far East cruises appeal to everyone as they are so diverse and there are so many different people, cultures and cuisines to discover and explore.
“You can also see so much in a relatively short space of time, which is important for those who can’t take long holidays.”
Far Eastern waterways
The Far East is also perfectly explored on a river ship, as recently highlighted by Channel 5’s Cruising With Jane McDonald, which featured an AmaWaterways trip along the Mekong River.
AmaWaterways managing director, Stuart Perl, said: “These itineraries are ideal for those who have travelled with us in Europe and are looking for something a little different or further afield.
“For those booking pre- or post-land programmes, our cruise manager meets them at the start of the trip and accompanies them on the land tour as well as the cruise. This is very reassuring for some guests and is a great selling point to help agents sell the land arrangements and gain more commission.”
Fit for a Princess
Princess Cruises has a 12-day Southeast Asia & Japan option, departing Singapore on 2 February 2019 on Diamond Princess, calling at Ho Chi Minh City and Nha Trang in Vietnam, Hong Kong, then Taiwan, and the Japanese ports of Osaka, Shimzu and Tokyo. Prices from £1,470pp for an inside stateroom, excluding flights.
Pandaw’s 10-night The Laos Mekong itinerary touches the Thailand and Burma borders at the Golden Triangle, departing from Vientiane, with highlights including the UNESCO site of Luang Prabang. From November 2018, a third ship, RV Sabei Pandaw, will operate the route. Prices from £2,882pp on selected dates in 2018 and onwards.
Crystal Cruises has a 13-night South China Sea Collection itinerary from Singapore to Hong Kong (porting overnight), then visiting Koh Samui and Bangkok in Thailand, Sihanoukville in Cambodia, and Ho Chi Minh City (overnight) and Chan May in Vietnam, on Crystal Symphony. Prices from £4,260, departing 26 April 2019.
Cruise and stay
AmaWaterways offers a 15-night escorted trip from Ho Chi Minh City to Hanoi, comprising a seven-night cruise and land arrangements for the rest of the trip, including two pre-cruise nights in Ho Chi Minh City, three nights in Hanoi and one in Ha Long Bay. Prices start at £3,963pp for a 28 September 2019 departure.
Avalon Waterways will expand its Far East river programme next year, with the introduction of a 15-day Colourful India and the Ganges itinerary. Highlights include a city tour of Delhi and an excursion to the Taj Mahal. Prices start at £5,771pp, including flights, transfers and shore excursions, departing 7 September 2019. Other dates in February, October and November 2019.
See the light
For the first time, luxury 50-passenger river vessel The Strand Cruise takes in Myanmar’s annual Thadingyut (or Lighting Festival), a three-day celebration to mark Buddha’s descent from heaven, coinciding with the full moon. The four-night cruise departs Bagan for Mandalay on 22 October 2018, taking in traditional celebrations. Prices start at £778pp, cruise only.
Marella Cruises’ 14-night Eastern Sunrise 2 adult-only cruise on Marella Discovery departs Dubai and visits the Indian ports of Mumbai, Mangalore, Mormugao for Goa and Cochin for Kerala, then Colombo in Sri Lanka, Sabang in Indonesia, and Langkawi in Malaysia. Prices from £1,850pp, all-inclusive, with flights departing 7 December 2018.
One fell swoop
Take in pretty much the whole of the East – and a lot more besides – on a 94-night Southampton Far East Round Trip on Queen Mary 2, which also visits Europe and the Middle East. Far Eastern highlights include Seoul, Hong Kong, Beijing, Singapore, Kuala Lumpur and Colombo, with inside staterooms starting at £9,249pp, departing 10 January 2019.