Asia, the Far East & China Cruises and Cruise Lines

Asia, the Far East & China Cruises - Choosing An Asia, Far East & China Cruise

Cruise Asia, the Far East & China on Holland America Line

With such modern cities as Hong Kong, Bangkok and Singapore, vibrant village markets, stunning natural landscapes and fascinating cultures, few destinations are as exotic as Asia.

Cruise lines skirt the Asian coast, with popular itineraries calling on Vietnam, Thailand, Burma and Malaysia, a mix of destinations and diverse ports where the settings range from bustling cities to bucolic rural countryside.

Cruises in Asia give passengers opportunities to sample myriad experiences that would be much more difficult to do on a land tour of the region. Asia cruises also allow passengers many chances to indulge in local cuisines, interact with ancient cultures, witness awe-inspring landscapes and explore regions dating back thousands of years. Moreover, Asia cruises give passengers the ability to explore Asia’s exotic cultures from the comforts and conveniences available on Western-style cruise ships.

In the past, Asia was a magnet for small luxury and expedition cruise lines, as well as a must-stop on around-the-world cruises. Recently, however, the large mainstream cruise lines have started to venture into the region.

Cruise Asia - Big Ship or Smaller Luxury Ship?
Big Ship Cruises. Four big ship cruise lines cover all the best Far East cruise itineraries. Princess Cruises and Royal Caribbean base ships in the Far East and Dubai for a series of cruises. Holland America Line and Celebrity Cruises do not base their ships in particular ports, but instead cover the entire region with their longer cruises.

Luxury and Deluxe Cruise Lines: The two luxury cruise lines with extensive cruise programs in Asia are Silversea Cruises and Seabourn.

China - Luxury River Cruise Tours
China River Cruises - Cruise Tours: If China isn’t in your immediate cruise future, it needs to be. It is interesting just how much the luxury river cruise lines show you on a China cruise. Of course, you’ll spend time cruising the Yangtze River on the beautiful river cruise ships, but you will also see much more of China on the land portion of the cruise tour. On board you will find English-speaking staff and meals that alternate between Western entrees and Chinese food tailored for the Western palate. Ashore experienced and knowledgeable English-speaking guides will make your journey a memorable and enriching one.

Mekong River - Luxury River Cruises
Mekong River Cruises: AmaWaterways is pioneering to bring its successful European standards to the Mekong, where there are currently only a handful of operators. See more below from Ralph Grizzle about his Mekong River cruise.

Egypt - Luxury Nile River Cruises
Nile River Cruises: Highlights of a luxury Nile river cruise include the Pyramids of Giza, the Sphinx, stops in Luxor, Dendera and the Valley of the Kings.

Cruise Dubai and the Sultanate of Oman
Dubai Cruises. Dubai, where skyscrapers and ultra-affluent luxury developments rise improbably from the desert of the United Arab Emirates, may not be the most historically significant Middle Eastern destination, but this global city is certainly a contemporary classic. In the well-documented building boom of the past 20 years, Dubai has sprouted some of the most interesting architecture anywhere, and this is definitely a place to pursue comfort and luxury. The Sultanate of Oman is a cruise stop that many will find surprisingly appealing. A pristine and picturesque city on the Arabian Sea at the base of mountains, the port Muscat, the capital, is Omani’s biggest and most modern city, nicely balancing the need to maintain tradition while also keeping pace with the 21st century.

When To Cruise?
Africa, Asia and the Far East are fall and winter cruise destinations for the ocean going cruise lines. River cruises in China and Egypt are offered year-round.

Cruising Southeast Asia

A Vietnamese market vendorby Ralph Grizzle. An award-winning travel writer, and recognized cruise ship expert.

Straddling the seat of a motorbike, my driver and I weave in and out of traffic as we make our way to Ho Chi Minh City’s central market. Traveling at a slow pace, the ride is nonetheless invigorating, with few traffic lights and apparently no traffic laws to impose order. Intersections are chaotic, with motorbikes, cars, busses and pedicabs all competing to make their way through. My driver skillfully brakes, accelerates and toots his horn to glide with astounding finesse through the clutter. ‘You go to market,’ he says, looking over his shoulder at me. ‘I waiting for you.’

For $5, my driver was happy to spend three hours with me, chauffeuring me through Vietnam’s largest city on his motorbike and taking me to the colorful market, where he would wait outside as I browsed the stalls. Inside, knock-off brand name watches, perfumes and clothing, T-shirts, restaurants and butcher shops, where, no kidding, skinned cow tails were being sold as meat. I found the shopkeepers — and indeed the people of Ho Chi Minh City — to be friendly, hospitable and good-spirited. Their most accomplished English phrases: ‘Only one dollar,’ ‘Special for you’ and ‘Come take a look.’

The driver’s fee, his politeness and the city’s vibrancy underscore the appeal of a Southeast Asia cruise. The cost of transportation in port cities as well as food and merchandise is negligible. The people are friendly and welcoming. The cities are exotic, exhilarating and culturally enriching.

‘The best thing about cruising the Far East is the value,’ says Brad Ball, director of corporate communications for Silversea Cruises, which has been operating cruises in Asia for more than a decade. ‘The dollar goes very far. Whether you’re buying household decorative items or jewelry or clothing, it’s amazing how far your dollar will go when compared to the Euro on a Mediterranean cruise.’

Kuching, Malaysia - Cat City. Kuching is old malay language meaning "Cat"The only downside is getting there. Those who travel from North America learn the hard way that we live on a big planet. From my home in Western North Carolina, halfway around the world to Bangkok, I spent more than 30 hours from the moment my flight’s wheels lifted off the ground to touchdown. I flew United Airlines from Asheville to Charlotte to San Francisco to Tokyo to Bangkok. Some of my fellow cruise passengers, I learned later, broke their flights in Tokyo for two or three nights (a good idea if you have the time). And for a journey this far, Business Class air is a necessity.

Cruising Southeast Asia is a good alternative for the winter-weary. With the seasons reversed, it’s summer in the Southern Hemisphere, when it’s winter in the Northern Hemisphere. And though travelers might opt for South America or Caribbean cruises during the Northern Hemisphere’s winter, Southeast Asia is a good alternative for those seeking something truly different. ‘The ports are amazing, and you really can have bragging rights to some of the places you’re going to visit,’ Ball says. ‘It’s just an amazing experience, and cruising is the best way to see the region. If you had to fly between cities, it would be very difficult.’

Ships often overnight in key cities, such as Ho Chi Minh City. During my Silversea cruise this past February, many passengers dined ashore at good (and inexpensive) restaurants. Pre- and post-cruise stayovers are a must, adding hotel nights in gateway cities such as Bangkok or Singapore. I stayed one night at The Peninsula in Bangkok, an elegant hotel in the heart of the city, and another night at the Ritz-Carlton in Singapore.

Ho Chi Minh City turned out to be one of the better experiences of my lifetime of travel. I highly recommend it to anyone capable of making the trip. And if you have even a small sense of daring, hop on the back of a motor bike and pass through one of the world’s most fascinating cities as many of its citizens do — on two wheels.

The Sultan’s Palace
Our cruise on Silver Whisper also took us to oil-rich Brunei, where a sultan rules the small Islamic country on the island of Borneo. The sultan’s palace has 1,788 rooms, 297 bathrooms and is managed by Hyatt Corporation, according to my guide. Ths sultan’s garage houses 3,500 cars, including 500 Rolls Royces. Presumably the most dreaded phrase in the household is ‘Honey, I’ve lost the keys.’