The Mekong River, which runs through Cambodia and Vietnam, is one of river cruising’s most moving experiences. Sprinkled with UNESCO World Heritage sites and authentic villages that have been largely unaffected by mass tourism, the Mekong as a river cruise region has grown from being a niche product into something that is gradually being sought out by increasing numbers of travelers from around the world.
Meeting part of that demand is Australian-based river cruise and tour operator Scenic, which launched six separate cruise-tour itineraries along the Mekong this year. Ranging in length from the 8-day classic Luxury Mekong cruise to the thorough 22-day Essence of Vietnam, Cambodia & Mekong Cruise, Scenic’s first foray into the region has already proven to be a successful one.
Aside from the comprehensive itineraries that have been designed to fit a wide variety of budgets and, let’s face it, vacation schedules, much of this success can be attributed to the custom-built, 34-suite Scenic Spirit.
Launched in January, Scenic Spirit was designed expressly for Mekong river cruising. At the same time, she was also designed to more heavily emulate the luxurious, all-inclusive product that the line has been crafting on the waterways of Europe. Many companies operating on the Mekong do so using ships that, while nice, were never meant to fully emulate the style of product offered on European river cruises. Traditionally speaking, this meant small staterooms, limited public rooms, and décor that didn’t quite gel with the rest of the fleet.
Scenic’s aim was change all that. Develop a ship for the Mekong that is every bit as luxurious as the line’s company-owned ships in Europe. Give guests more – of everything. More space. More public venues. More choice.
Carrying just 68 guests, Scenic Spirit features suites that range from a generous 350 square feet to a positively massive 865 square feet. The latter refers to the spacious Royal Panorama Suite that includes its own spacious balcony and separate sleeping and living areas, along with a walk-in closet and a full-sized Jacuzzi.
Scenic is known for its high level of inclusiveness, and that translates to the company’s itineraries in Southeast Asia. For first-time cruisers looking to experience Asia, knowing that everything is included can make a difference in terms of peace-of-mind; it’s one less thing to worry about. Simply step off the plane and let your vacation begin.
If you’re worried about the length of time it takes to get to Ho Chi Minh City or Siem Reap, Cambodia from North America, here’s a thought: Asian flights can stop over in a variety of places, including Tokyo, Seoul, and Hong Kong, to name a few. If you’re concerned about jet-lag, consider spending a few days in one of the aforementioned to acclimatize or, spend a few days in Siem Reap or Ho Chi Minh City – both cities worthy of your vacation time.
Departures for 2016 are still available, though your preferred suite may be sold out – it’s best to look at a handful of departure dates to begin with. Scenic is already taking bookings for the Mekong for 2017, and planning that far ahead gives you plenty of flight options to choose from, along with the pick of your preferred hotels.
Scenic is changing the way travelers from around the world cruise the Mekong. The real test will be to see if other lines follow suit and develop their own custom programs. For now, Scenic is charging along to the head of the pack.