After Europe’s busy ship-christening season this spring, the river cruise spotlight is shifting to Southeast Asia for the fall, exactly where the most recent lineup of river ship launches is showcasing an ever-escalating level of luxury, service and amenities. So much so that it begs the query of whether this new crop of vessels could really surpass the standards that have been set by Europe’s river vessels.
“It is a really fair question to ask if [the ships at the moment launching in Southeast Asia] are in truth more luxurious that what is on offer in Europe. I wouldn’t say that they are much more luxurious, but it’s a distinct definition of luxury,” stated Tom Markwell, managing companion, sales and marketing and advertising, at Haimark Travel, which this month launched the very first two vessels to set sail for the exotic river and tiny-ship cruise firm.
In September, Haimark launched the 68-passenger Mekong Navigator in Vietnam and Cambodia, and the 16-passenger Irrawaddy Explorer in Myanmar (the nation formerly recognized as Burma), vessels that are helping to usher in a new generation of luxury service and amenities on river cruises in this portion of the planet.
Other individuals are raising the bar larger, as well, such as Sanctuary Retreats’ 42-passenger all-suite luxury vessel the Sanctuary Ananda, debuting next month in Myanmar, and AmaWaterways’ 56-passenger AmaPura, which sets sail in Myanmar in November.
Those will be followed by much more impressive river cruise launches in Southeast Asia in 2015 (see connected story, “The most current batch of Southeast Asia ships“).
Vietnam vs. Vienna
What these new vessels represent is not just continued development in demand for river cruising in Southeast Asia — where new ship launches on Myanmar’s Irrawaddy River are shadowing an initial boom on the Mekong River that began numerous years ago — but an elevation of product in those destinations that is bringing it closer to what river cruisers have come to count on in Europe.
Not lengthy after introducing the Mekong in 2009, AmaWaterways designed a separate enterprise division for its non-European product called AmaVoyages. The idea was to manage expectations a bit — a subtle way to let passengers know that river cruising in destinations such as Southeast Asia and Botswana, exactly where the company has exotic river itineraries, does not mimic the solution in Europe.
It is not that the product is inferior it really is just diverse. In truth, river cruise operators have noted that while some issues are tougher to provide in Southeast Asia, such as decent docking facilities (a challenge that is mostly out of their hands), other factors can be easier, such as higher service levels. And then there is the most significant distinction: the destinations themselves.
“The Mekong, Tonle River and Tonle Lake are a a lot a lot more crucial lifeline for the locals than European rivers,” stated Rudi Schreiner, president of AmaWaterways, about the key waterways of Vietnam and Cambodia on which the company sails.
“In Vietnam and Cambodia most of the everyday life occurs on the water. There are floating markets, floating villages, and fishing is a major source of local nutrition. A lot of sightseeing excursions are by boat, whereas in Europe, the ships are utilised as luxurious floating hotels to take you from city to city. On the Mekong much more occurs on the river than in the towns.”
River cruising in Vietnam vs. Vienna is not surprisingly a vastly difference experience. And despite the economic and infrastructure disparity between Europe and Southeast Asia, river cruise passengers “should not anticipate something subpar” in Southeast Asia, Schreiner stated.
Larger staterooms, greater service
Indeed, as river cruise operators such as AmaWaterways continue to enhance the solution in Southeast Asia, the results mark a consummate adjust from the region’s earlier generation of ships and the sophisticated vessels being rolled out nowadays.
Schreiner noted that the company’s 124-passenger AmaDara, debuting on the Mekong subsequent year with twin-balcony staterooms and two restaurants as an alternative of just one particular, “is a testament to how AmaVoyages is in a position to continuously boost in exotic destinations.”
One more prime example is the Sanctuary Ananda, which Sanctuary Resorts, a organization owned by Abercrombie & Kent, is launching subsequent month in Myanmar. The Ananda marks Sanctuary’s initial project in Myanmar, and the business is providing ample interest to the hardware.
For one, the suites will range from 291 square feet to a 721-square-foot suite, a marked improve in space compared with several European river vessels. That added spaciousness is achievable in Southeast Asia because there are no locks on the waterways and hence fewer restrictions on ship dimensions.
River lines with item in Southeast Asia are also placing a a lot bigger emphasis on service than they have in the past, supplying private butler service for some of the highest category suite guests, for instance.
The spa element is becoming an increasingly crucial component of the Southeast Asia river cruising encounter, as well, and river cruise operators have been steadily amping up their spa service offerings.
“It is the hospitality factor that will let us to surpass European river cruise solution along the rivers of Asia,” mentioned Haimark’s Markwell.
“It is the gentle, sort and most of all sincere willingness to serve the guests that blows veteran cruisers among the European waterways out of the water.”
Comply with Michelle Baran on Twitter @mbtravelweekly.