Each issue, cruise expert Jane Archer shares her tips on selling a specific area of cruise. This time, she looks at how to sell exotic rivers
At last there is good news for adventurous sorts itching to explore exotic rivers in Vietnam, Cambodia, Laos, India, South Africa and Peru. Two river cruise lines cast off on the Mekong in August after a two-and-a-half-year Covid-induced break, with many more set to follow in the next months. River cruising in these countries is unlike sailing through Europe’s familiar boundaries, with very different sights, sounds and tastes to discover. There are tours to remote communities, floating villages, colourful markets, ancient temples and workshops to give visitors a snapshot of local life. They’ll ride in ox-carts, trishaws and tuk-tuks, be blessed by Buddhist monks, crawl through underground tunnels and sip snake-flavoured rice wine. There are even river cruises that hold the promise of elephant, rhino and maybe even tiger spotting. We’ve rounded up six of the best cruises for culture, cruise/tours and wildlife.
River cruisers hoping for a healthy dose of culture won’t be disappointed in Asia or India where, instead of Europe’s medieval turrets and Gothic cathedrals, they’ll marvel at ancient temples, go local in exotic markets and discover life in villages where westerners are a rarity. Brave souls can try deep-fried tarantulas and crickets; less hardy stomachs will be happier discovering more easy-going local food on board and ashore.
Who? Avalon Waterways
Where? Vietnam and Cambodia
When? February 23 2023
How long? Eight days
How much? From £3,529pp
Avalon guests learn to make traditional Vietnamese conical hats, travel by cyclo and ox cart, and are blessed by monks on this voyage starting in Ho Chi Minh City venturing to the shores of the Tonle Sap Lake and ending in Phnom Penh. It’s on the 36-passenger Avalon Saigon, which features the company’s signature ‘inside balcony’ design. Prices include tips, excursions and drinks.
When? February 24 2023
How long? 10 nights
How much? From $4,360pp (£3,716)
This cruise is on the Mekong, but on a northern stretch, sailing from Chiang Saen in Thailand to Vientiane in Laos. En route there are trips to caves packed with statues of Buddha and waterfalls, village visits and an early morning tour to see monks collecting alms. The cruise is on the 28-passenger Pandaw Sabadee. Price includes airport transfers, excursions and tips.
Port-rich cruises that visit 10 islands or more over the course of two or three weeks are the province of smaller lines. Most chalk up a nice mix of popular ports and yacht-style islands such as Gustavia in St Barts and St John’s in the US Virgin Islands that cannot take big vessels. These cruises tend to sail from within the islands rather than from the US – Barbados is a popular homeport and ideal for UK travellers because there is good airlift.
Focus on India
When? February 6 2023
How long? 13 days
How much? From £6,799pp including flights
Uniworld pairs India’s Golden Triangle – Delhi, the Taj Mahal in Agra and Pink City of Jaipur – with a one-week cruise on the Ganges on this India cruise/tour, which features visits to ancient temples, palaces and the Hare Krishna HQ. The cruise is round-trip from Kolkata on the 46-passenger Ganges Voyager II. Price includes all travel and transfers, drinks, tips and excursions.
Focus on Vietnam
Who? Emerald Cruises
Where? Vietnam and Cambodia
When? February 14 2023
How long? 23 nights
How much? From £4,729pp including flights
Cooking classes, a junk cruise around the limestone karsts in Halong Bay, temples, tunnels, markets and monks await on this Southeast Asia sailing, which starts in Siem Reap, ends in Hanoi and spends a week cruising the Mekong and exploring Vietnam. The cruise is on the 84-passenger Emerald Harmony. Price includes transfers, excursions, tips, and drinks with lunch and dinner.
Clients opting for a wildlife-themed river cruise are spoilt for choice, not just in the variety of places they can go, but in the animals they can see. Rhinos and elephants in India, big game in Southern Africa, exotic birds, sloths and monkeys on the Amazon in Peru. The cruises steal a march on land-based safaris as they’re on small vessels, away from busy game parks, and with just a handful of passengers on board, everyone gets a ringside seat.
Where? Southern Africa
When? February 7 2023
How long? Nine days
How much? From £4,769pp
There’s a bit of everything in this holiday which starts in Johannesburg, ends in Victoria Falls and in-between pairs a lodge with three nights sailing Lake Karibe on the 16-passenger African Dream, with included safaris in search of elephants, hippos, big cats and more. Price includes internal flights and transfers (excluding airport transfers), and drinks at the lodge and on board.
Who? Fred Holidays
Where? Brahmaputra, India
When? March 10 2023
How long? Eight nights
How much? From £2,995pp including flights
River cruising doesn’t come more exotic than this journey through Assam on one of the world’s fastest-flowing rivers, where passengers go on safari on boats, elephants and jeeps in search of turtles, rhino, water buffalo, maybe even tigers. The cruise is on the 46-passenger Mahabaahu from Jorhat to Guwahati. Price includes transfers, tours, entrance fees and one hotel night.