Mainstream lines debuting on both rivers include Scenic, which launched the 68-guest Scenic Spirit in January and has its first standalone Southeast Asia brochure. With a staff-to-guest ratio of almost 1:1, the 64-guest all-suite ship with facilities including a pool and open-air cinema offers five Mekong itineraries through Vietnam, Cambodia, Thailand and Laos. Sibling vessel Scenic Amber launches on the Irrawaddy in September.
“Our success in Europe has driven us to look for new, exciting voyages for our customers,” said managing director Chris Townson. “Scenic endeavours to be in keeping with trends and the Irrawaddy and Mekong itineraries were a natural progression to achieve that goal.”
Scenic’s mid-market sister brand Emerald Waterways exclusively charters the Mekong Navigator and for 2016/17 offers a collection of itineraries ranging from 14 to 21 days alongside a seven-night Ho Chi Minh City to My Tho cruise. Excursion options including cooking and lantern-making classes, attending an imperial banquet and taking part in a traditional Buddhist water blessing.
In 2015 Avalon Waterways launched two 36-guest vessels – Avalon Siem Reap and Avalon Myanmar – which sail on the Mekong and Irrawaddy, respectively. The line used to offer cruise only prices for Asia, but is now packaging itineraries with flights to make it easier for agents to quote to their customers.
Last August AmaWaterways welcomed the new 124-guest AmaDara to the fleet. Sailing on the Mekong, all 62 cabins have balconies and the ship includes a spa. The line is currently offering free flights and £500pp savings for 11-night itineraries departing in March 2017, subject to availability. Savings are also being offered on the all-suite Myanmar vessel AmaPura.
AmaWaterways operates in partnership with APT, and the Mekong vessel AmaLotus has undergone a refit. All cabins now have a balcony and there’s a new private dining room and Vietnamese-inspired cafe.
Viking, the largest river cruise line, operates a 56-guest vessel on the Mekong and Irrawaddy and head of sales, Neil Barclay said: “It’s a great alternative for agents to suggest to clients who have already cruised around Europe, or for land-based clients looking for an adventurous holiday destination.”
By Jeannine Williamson