Vibrant culture, incredible history and stunning scenery – no wonder Asian ocean and river cruises are so popular.
From the temples of Vietnam to the shiny new towers of China, the cultured frenzy of India to the beaches of Thailand, the jungles of Myanmar to the gleaming shopping malls of Singapore, Asia is a monumental place to experience.
The ability of cruises to take in one destination after another in a far-flung part of the world makes it possible to explore the region in a way that you never could on anything other than a backpacking jaunt. And the contrast between sub-tropical coast and glorious, history-packed interior brings a magic like nowhere else.
A report by cruise industry body CLIA in 2014 said capacity had grown by 20 per cent a year for two years running, with passenger numbers ready to top two million in 2015 as new and larger ships arrived.
“Asia has certainly become the cruise holiday magnet,” says Andy Harmer, Vice President of Operations CLIA, Europe. “It’s not just the prediction that China will become the world’s second largest cruise market in just a few years, but also the fact that more ships are moving east to cater for the growing demand from Western guests, including us Brits.
“And what a choice we have – round trips from Singapore taking in such amazing places as Ko Samui in Thailand, Ho Chi Minh City in Vietnam and Penang in Malaysia. And of course let’s not forget Japan and Korea, easily accessible from southern China. The choice of ships is also extensive, from resort style to intimate luxury brands.”
Simone Clark, Managing Director of leading cruise agent Iglu, agrees. “We are seeing a great increase in business to Asia, particularly in Japan and China. People want time to explore so we have put together tailor-made holidays that combine a premium cruise with an immersive land tour taking in such famous landmarks as Xi’an, with its Terracotta Warriors, the Great Wall and Tiananmen Square, and even with a Yangtze River cruise.”
Iglu’s 31-night Majestic China trip (from £2,849pp, full board, with flights, departing 30 October) combines a 17-night Princess Cruises voyage from Beijing to Singapore with a 12-night tour, including a four-night Yangtze cruise and stays in Shanghai, Beijing, Xi’an and Chengdu, featuring all the iconic experiences – panda sanctuary visit, Shanghai river cruise and Great Wall tour.