Cruise Asia

Cruise Asia

From families to adventure-seekers to luxury travelers, there’s something for everyone cruising the Far East.

By Heidi Sarna

The Far East is a sprawling, spread-out region that stretches from tropical Indonesia at the equator to cooler climes thousands of miles north in China and Japan. A cruise is the most convenient way to get an overview. Unpack once and your floating hotel hits the highlights of several countries in the span of anywhere from four to 14 days.

Beaches and temples are the main draw through much of Southeast and East Asia, though in some cases it can take two or three hours to get to them unless you’re cruising on a small ship that can navigate rivers leading to places like Bangkok and Ho Chi Minh City.

Living in Singapore for the past eight years, I’ve cruised throughout the region in ships large and small, luxurious and low-frills, with and without my school-age sons. Here are six of the ships I’ve sampled, each offering their own way to explore Asia.

Volendam: Affordable Elegance

Holland America Line’s 1,440-passenger Volendam is an appealing mid-sized ship with traditional touches like a classic navy-blue hull, wraparound outdoor Promenade Deck, and a large library and Internet café stuffed with books. Volendam offers extras that similarly priced ships don’t, such as canapés served in the lounges before dinner, fancy high tea in the dining room, and exotic Asian fruits in the buffet from rambutan to jackfruit to papaya. The homemade pastries, cookies, and breads are also above par.

On a recent cruise over the New Year’s holiday, the pizza, nachos, french fries, and burgers served poolside were big hits with my sons, who also enjoyed video games and supervised activities in the playroom. Families of four can easily share a standard cabin, which are larger than those aboard other mainstream lines, and come with perks like shower/tub combos and DVD players.

Volendam sails 14-night cruises between Singapore and Hong Kong, which include Ha Long Bay and other ports in Vietnam as well as Cambodia, Thailand, and an overnight in Bangkok, as well as round-trip Singapore itineraries, which includes several ports in Malaysia and overnights in Myanmar and Singapore.

SeaTrek: A Prop in a Pirate Film

SeaTrek Sailing Adventures explores the Indonesian archipelago with two ironwood sailing ships built in the style of traditional Indonesian phinisi (or Bugis) schooners. Last year, I sailed aboard the appealing, quirky 16-passenger Katharina along the coasts of Java and Sumatra.

Life centered around a giant wooden table up on deck where I’d chat with shipmates while sipping cans of the local Indonesian Bintang beer and swooning over moody sunsets. We snorkeled above moray eels and sea turtles at…

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