Avid Cruiser Voyages: Asia

An up and coming cruise destination is the subject of this week’s installment of Avid Cruiser Voyages.

Through the Gate: Strolling the Humble Administrator's Garden in Suzhou, China

Through the Gate: Strolling the Humble Administrator’s Garden in Suzhou, China. © 2012 Ralph Grizzle

Asia is perhaps a poor descriptive of this expansive region, simply because so many cruise lines and travel agent booking sites tend to lump Asia cruises for itineraries visiting countries like Japan, China, Thailand, Indonesia, Malaysia, South Korea, and even destinations as far west as India and the United Arab Emirates.

The category “Asian Cruises” may have been applicable a decade ago, when only a handful of North American-based cruise lines tentatively dipped their toes in the Far East. Today, though, the market for Asian cruises has grown tremendously, to the point where the name “Asia” as a destination is no longer all that helpful.

More than 8 million people live in Qingdao, which in 2009, was named China's most livable city.

More than 8 million people live in Qingdao, which in 2009, was named China’s most livable city. © 2012 Ralph Grizzle

But if you’re willing to do a little research, you can find voyages that depart and arrive at Asian ports that offer more ports of call, varied lengths, and ship styles than even the Caribbean can claim.

China's famous Terra Cotta Warriors are just one of the many reasons to take a river cruise through Asia. Photo courtesy of Uniworld Boutique River Cruises

China’s famous Terra Cotta Warriors are just one of the many reasons to take a river cruise through Asia. Photo courtesy of Uniworld Boutique River Cruises

Cruise Lines Offering Asia Cruises

Contrary to popular belief, cruises throughout Asia don’t have to be multi-week affairs; voyages that are as few as two days in duration are plentiful, as are three, four, and even six-night sailings. These aren’t only operated by local lines like Hong Kong-based Star Cruises, either: Some of the quick “preview voyages” are offered by some of the brightest and best ships the North American lines have to offer, including Royal Caribbean’s Mariner of the Seas out of Baoshan; and Legend of the Seas out of Singapore.

For those who have more time (this is, after all, a destination you’ll want to linger in), plenty of itineraries are offered that span a week or more in duration.

Costa Cruises has deployed its Costa Atlantica to Singapore, where she operates a program of short voyages that call on ports in Malaysia and Thailand. In many ways, Costa’s multi-lingual onboard product is well suited to this area, which attracts a mix of North American, European, Australian, and even Asian passengers.

For those who like their destinations further north, Princess Cruises’ has deployed its popular, 1995-built Sun Princess to Japan where she sails on four, six, seven, eight, nine, 12, and 14-night voyages. These explore the best that Japanese ports of call have to offer, with stops in locales like Osaka, Kagoshima, Nagoya, Sakaiminato and more.

Azamara Club Cruises features numerous voyages in the area, but perhaps the largest player in the region — after Royal Caribbean — is Seattle-based Holland America Line, which has been offering Asian-based cruises for years now.

Holland America’s sailings encompass nearly every major destination in Asia, spanning lengths from just seven days to more than a month. The line’s 31-day China, Japan and Transpacific Collector’s Voyage is a veritable tour-de-forcethat embarks in Kobe, Japan and ends more than a month later across the Pacific Ocean in Vancouver, British Columbia.

River Cruises In Asia

River Cruises through China, Vietnam and Cambodia have also exploded in popularity in recent years. These combine a short river cruise with a comprehensive land-tour extension to create journeys that are between 12 and 18 days in duration. Be sure to visit our sister site, River Cruise Advisor.

I cruised the Mekong River with my daughter. Yes, next time she should wear sunglasses at Angkor Wat.

Ralph Grizzle, aka The Avid Cruiser, cruised the Mekong River with his daughter. Yes, next time she should wear sunglasses at Angkor Wat. © 2010 Ralph Grizzle

Getting There & Other Tips For Asia Cruises

Regardless of which cruise you take, plan to spend at least two days pre-cruise at the port of embarkation, regardless of whether it is in Japan, China, Taiwan or any other Asian country.  For one, it will help combat any lingering jet-lag incurred in the journey, and it will give you some extra time to take in the sights of these exotic locales.

Getting to Asia from North America is easier than you might think. West Coast cities like Los Angeles, San Francisco, Seattle and Vancouver all have a multitude of direct flights every day to major gateway hubs like Tokyo, Hong Kong and Singapore.

No matter how you get there, Asia cruises are sure to reward you — and, as we pointed out in the beginning of this post, Asia is a destination much broader than its name implies, meaning that you need not do only one cruise. You can return time again to this region rich in experiences and with endless possibilities.

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