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.
From multi-room suites and divine staterooms to bathrooms with proper baths, accommodation on a luxury cruise ship is sophisticated and swish.
If you thought luxury cruising was beyond your reach, think again. Not only can it offer superb value for money, with lots of inclusivity within the price, but it’s also an incredibly relaxed way to explore the world.
“Luxury cruising continues to surge ahead as it becomes more attainable to a wider audience that would normally travel on the premium cruise lines,” explains Bernard Carter, Senior Vice President and Managing Director, EMA, for Oceania Cruises. “Empty-nesters, in particular, are interested in upgrading their cruise to the more intimate and inclusive experiences that are available at the top end of the market.”
“The luxury cruise market is evolving,” agrees Andy Harmer, Vice President of Operations, Cruise Lines International Association (CLIA), Europe. “The extremely high attention to customer service remains of course, as do the luxurious and spacious ships with their exceptional design and cuisine. But luxury is now also about the ability to deliver unrivalled memories in amazing locations.
“I’m sure the arrival of two new luxury ocean ships this year – Regent Seven Seas Cruises’ Seven Seas Explorer and Seabourn Encore – will not disappoint.
“Luxury is not limited to just ocean cruising either. This year also sees the launch of a number of luxury river vessels from river cruise lines including Ama Waterways, Scenic, Avalon Waterways and Uniworld Boutique River Cruise Collection offering guests new destinations and unforgettable experiences.”