Asia: a diverse destination for all cruise passengers

Operators offering itineraries in and around Asia discuss the region’s cruise appeal

Asia: a diverse destination for all cruise passengers

Setouchi Tourism

Port Tower is a 108-metre-high observatory tower in the port city of Kobe in Japan

By Laura Hyde |

From the cosmopolitan cities of Hong Kong, China, and Tokyo, Japan, to the rural rice paddies of Vietnam, the unspoilt beauty of the Phi Phi Islands in Thailand and historic sites like the Great Wall of China, there’s no shortage of attractions to visit once passengers disembark in Asia. A cruise around Asia is not just sailing from one port to another; the world’s largest continent offers passengers endless diversity.

“The main attraction of sailing to Asia is the enormous amount of diversity offered,” explains Tony Archbold, vice president of sales for Asia-Pacific at Crystal. “Whether you are talking climate, history, food, architecture, shopping, art or entertainment, every country in Asia offers something different. So, a cruise through Asia is a voyage of discovery for all your senses.”

Nick Hughes, sales director for UK and Europe at Princess Cruises, also highlights the enormous variety available in an Asian itinerary, pointing to the range of different shore excursions guests can experience.

“Cruise passengers can visit the tranquil beaches of Thailand, the vibrant city of Vietnam’s Hoi An, and the mesmerising Supertree Grove in Singapore, all on one cruise,” says Hughes. “Princess’s Asia cruises circumnavigate around southeast Asia and Japan, which is best experienced on a cruise. The majority of Princess’ Asia voyages are on Diamond Princess, our ship built in Japan, for Japan. The ship boasts incredible Japanese features such as the Izumi bath, making exploring the country seamless and relaxing, whilst immersing guests into the rich culture and history both ashore and onboard.”

Helped by the bespoke design of Diamond Princess, Japan has proved to be a particularly popular destination for Princess Cruises in the region. The cruise operator is introducing its guests to one of the country’s most famous natural wonders in one of its recently announced itineraries.

“Our recently announced 2025 Japan cruise season includes a ‘Spring Flowers’ cruise, taking guests to all four main islands and following the predicted blooming season as it moves south to north,” says Hughes. “Moreover, guests sailing to Japan with us will have the chance to enjoy four unique Japanese festivals throughout August: Aomori Nebuta Festival; Kochi Yosakoi Dance Festival; Tokushima Awa Dance Festival; and Kumano Fireworks Festival.”

For cruise guests who want to discover more of Asia, Crystal’s 58-night cruise from Bali to Singapore enables passengers to visit almost every Asian country.

“Departing in February 2024, this itinerary is deep exploration into Asia, allowing guests to experience the very best of this fascinating region,” says Archbold. “Our 13-night voyage onboard Crystal Symphony touches the southern tip of Japan then goes to Taiwan, the Philippines and Borneo, finishing in Singapore. This gives guests a taste of north and south, of the bustling Hong Kong, the multiculture of Singapore or the quiet beauty of Boracay or Puerto Princesa.”

While ocean cruise operators are focused on providing coastal and island-hopping itineraries, river cruise lines are exploring the region’s many waterways.

“In Asia, almost more than anywhere else in the world, life unfolds along the riverbanks,” says Brad Bennetts, head of sales and business development at APT and Travelmarvel. “This makes cruising its inland waterways one of the most exciting, authentic and immersive ways to explore this exciting region. A river cruise ship can dock in the best locations to optimise explorations on land, where the fascinating history of destinations such as the Cu ̉ Chi Tunnels in Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam and Phnom Penh and Siem Reap in Cambodia are brought to life with unique access and insights from expert local guides.”

APT and Travelmarvel has a number of signature journeys in Vietnam and Cambodia for 2024, including the 15-day ‘Vietnam and Cambodia Highlights’ cruise onboard its new ship, Mekong Serenity. The itinerary visits 11 destinations, with highlights including a special sunrise experience at Angkor Wat in Cambodia and dining at Vietnam House in Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam.

“Mekong River cruising has always been our most in-demand Asian product, but we’ve been stunned by the uptake of bookings since going on sale, as they have exceeded all expectations,” says Bennetts. “We are truly delighted to be back, operating again in the region. The excitement to renew our operations in Vietnam and Cambodia wasn’t just internal; we knew from customer feedback that demand for the region was building over the last two years, when long-haul travel was still not an option for most [due to the Covid-19 pandemic]. After putting our Asia 2023-2024 programme on sale, bookings exceeded all expectations, and I can only see this accelerating as we move into 2024.”

“Asia is a dream holiday destination,” he adds. “These dream holidays, which might have felt out of reach for so long, are finally here for the taking, and no one wants to waste more time.” 

This article was first published in the 2024 issue of Cruise & Ferry Itinerary Planning. All information was correct at the time of printing, but may since have changed. Subscribe to Cruise & Ferry Itinerary Planning for FREE to get the next issue delivered directly to your inbox.

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