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Cruise Guide: Asia bound – Cruise lines unwrap exotic Far East itineraries

By Mike Coleman

Southeast Asia. The name alone conjures up a host of images from giant Buddhas and gilded temple spires to neon-lit cities.

Look for eight of the most popular and luxurious cruise lines in the world – members of the Cruise Lines International Association, the chief marketing arm for 19 lines and some 17,000 North American-based travel agencies – to offer itineraries ranging from nine- to 30-plus days aboard 14 ships in 2006 and 2007.

Cruise travelers will enjoy varying opportunities to sample local cuisine, explore ancient cultures, witness landscapes and survey unexplored regions dating back thousands of years on a series of itineraries calling at ports in Indonesia, Malaysia, Singapore, Thailand, Vietnam, China, India, Korea and Japan.

Luxury operator Crystal Cruises will be returning to Asia in 2007 after a two-year hiatus with four destination-rich itineraries, including its first Singapore-Dubai cruise. From March through May, Crystal Symphony offers two 14-day journeys exploring China, an 11-day cruise spotlighting Vietnam and the 16-day Singapore to Dubai itinerary with three days in Myanmar (Burma).

In 2007, Cunard Line’s Queen Elizabeth 2 will call at Chan May, Vietnam; Bangkok; Cochin and Mumbai (Bombay), India; and Sri Lanka on her 108-day world cruise. Queen Mary 2 also visits Asia as part of her 80-day maiden world cruise. Ports of call include Singapore, Kuala Lumpur and Cochin.

In spring 2007, Holland America Line’s Statendam sails a 20-day Australia, Southeast Asia and China itinerary followed by three 14-day Hong Kong to Osaka cruises that feature overnights in Beijing and Shanghai. Amsterdam features Asia segments on its 105-day world cruise and its 64-day Asia, Australia and Polynesian Explorer itinerary in fall, 2007. After a successful inaugural season, look for Oceania Cruises’ Nautica to return to the Far East later this year through 2007. From late November through March, the ship sails on 15- to 35-day itineraries with more than 40 overnight calls, including Bangkok and Vietnam’s Hanoi and Ho Chi Minh City (Saigon).

Princess Cruises, meanwhile, will be offering a series of 16-day voyages that visit China, Japan, Hong Kong, Vietnam, Singapore and Malaysia departing October 26, November 11 and 27, 2006.

Regent Seven Seas Cruises’ Seven Seas Mariner calls in Southeast Asia on two segments of its 96-night Grand Asia Pacific voyage, departing Vancouver Sept. 13, 2006, and three segments of its 107-night voyage, departing Vancouver Sept. 5, 2007. Seven Seas Voyager offers a 14-day Singapore to Hong Kong segment during its 2007 world cruise. 

Seabourn Cruise Lines’ Seabourn Spirit will again be offering its popular 14-day Asian Capitals and Vietnam voyages between Singapore and Hong Kong, offered from December through April 2007. The itinerary features the line’s caviar in the surf beach barbecue at Ko Kood, Thailand.

And, from late November 2006 through March and again in December 2007, Silversea Cruises’ three ships will sail on itineraries of nine to 16 days that call at ports in Singapore, China, Thailand, Malaysia, Indonesia and Vietnam. Offerings include routings between Singapore and Hong Kong; Hong Kong and Bangkok; and roundtrip Singapore sailings.

Still can’t get enough of the region? Look for a number of cruise lines to enhance their onboard programming with local cuisine, entertainment and enrichment lecturers.

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