Ultra Luxury and Exotic cruises return to Asia.

Estimated read time 14 min read

More exotic cruise travel is on the horizon as luxury and ultra-luxury cruise lines are returning to Asia, the world’s largest continent. And they’re doing so in a big way — with robust Grand Voyages and extravagant World Cruises. Guests who love exotic travel are certainly eager to go too. Akin to Phileas Fogg in Jules Verne’s “Around the World in Eighty Days,” some are setting off for Grand Voyages of 40, 60 or 80-plus days. Others are heading out on World Cruises of 100, 150, 180 or even 200-plus days.

Regent Seven Seas Cruises reports that guests are booking longer sailings and to more exotic destinations in Africa, Asia and South America.  While the line’s 2024 World Cruise is sold out, Regent Seven Seas also is offering four new, appealing 2024-2025 Grand Voyages. Among them is the 63-night “Grand Asia Exploration,” a highly exotic itinerary operated by the 732-passenger Seven Seas Explorer.

Sailing in style, with fine dining, sumptuous accommodations and a wealth of creature comforts, luxury travelers will embark the ship in Tokyo, Japan on October 18, 2024. A nine-week voyage will showcase Asia’s many diverse countries before the cruise ends in Sydney, Australia. Along the way, guests can choose from up to 197 shore excursions included within the cruise fare. While the Regent Suite and Seven Seas Suites are wait-listed, the good news is that all other suite and stateroom categories had some availability at press time.

Hoi An, Vietnam

A number of lines will visit Vietnam during their World Cruise itineraries. Shown here is the ancient town of Hoi An in Vietnam. (Getty Images)

Regent Seven Seas offers a 59-night “Grand Asia-Pacific Journey” that departs Sydney, Australia for Tokyo, Japan on January 19, 2024. First up, Seven Seas Explorer will call at several Australian ports, then Alotau and Port Moresby in New Guinea, before heading to Komodo, home to humongous wild lizards aka “Komodo Dragons,” and Benoa (Bali), Indonesia, where the ship will stay overnight.

Next up is Singapore (overnight), Ko Samui and Laem Chabang (Bangkok for overnight), Thailand; Sihanoukville, Cambodia; Ho Chi Minh City (overnight) and Nha Trang, Vietnam; and other destinations in Taiwan, China, South Korea and Japan. Among the highlights are two days in Shanghai, China and visits to Manila and Coron (Palawan), both in the Philippines. Top suites were sold out, but Penthouse Suites (B category), Concierge Suites, Superior Suites and Deluxe Veranda Suites were available at press time.

Another ultra-luxury line, Silversea Cruises reports that its capacity will increase 56 percent by 2024-2025, when compared with 2020. The berth growth reflects recent fleet additions including Silver OriginSilver Dawn and Silver Endeavour, plus the 723-passenger Silver Nova, the line’s first Nova-class vessel, setting sail in summer 2023 and sister Silver Ray arriving in 2024.

As a result, Silversea has sizably expanded its itinerary offerings between March 2024 and May 2025. Ships will visit 120 countries while operating 341 itineraries. Cruisers can expect more than two dozen maiden calls to such ports as Fanjove Island, Tanzania; Port Nolloth, South Africa; and Kahului, Hawaii.

Silversea’s longest 2025 voyage is the 137-day “Controtempo” World Cruise with a strong line-up of Asian ports. Departing Tokyo, Japan on January 13, 2025, the 596-passenger Silver Dawn will call at the Japanese destinations of Osaka, Hiroshima, Beppu, Kagoshima and Naha. Then, the ship sails to Xiamen and Hong Kong, China, with overnight stays at both those ports. In addition, guests will go ashore at multiple ports in Vietnam; Singapore; Phuket, Thailand; Trincomalee and Colombo, Sri Lanka; and Chennai, Cochin and Mumbai, India.

What’s nifty? Luxury Travel Advisor suggests travelers consider Silversea’s optional, small group “overland adventure” during the Asian portion of this World Cruise. On this three-day “Eastern and Oriental Express” package, guests will depart the ship in Singapore, head to the Woodlands Railway Station and settle into their elegant cabin aboard that luxurious train for a two-night stay.

Seated in the Observation Car, they’ll take in the scenic beauty of Malaysia’s landscapes and rural settlements. Then, they’ll dress for an elegant dinner of eastern and western specialties in the Restaurant Car. After dinner, they’ll possibly head for the train’s Bar Car for an after-dinner liqueur, while a pianist entertains. They’ll retire to their train cabin, now transformed into a comfortable bedroom.

After an onboard breakfast, guests will depart at Kuala Kangsar with a local guide. Taking private transportation, they’ll visit a traditional Malaysian rural village, meet the “locals,” peruse a spice garden and taste local delicacies at a small coffee shop. Guests will also visit a rubber plantation and sample the locally produced honey before rejoining the train for a relaxing afternoon aboard. After the train crosses into Thailand, guests will dine again in the Restaurant Car prior to another night’s sleep on board.

River Kwai Bridge
The bridge over the River Kwai in Kanchanaburi, Thailand is one of the top tourist attractions as it was built during WWII. (Getty Images)

On the third day, the tour goers will learn about World War II history while visiting Kanchanaburi and the famous River Kwai Bridge, the Thailand-Burma Railway Center and the Don Rak War Cemetery. Reboarding the train, they’ll then continue to Bangkok, where they’ll be transported to the airport for a flight to Phuket, Thailand, to rejoin their ship.

With all overland and day tour guests back aboard, next up on the “Controtempo” World Cruise itinerary are multiple Sri Lanka and India port calls. Next, Silver Dawn’s World Cruise will head for the Middle East and Istanbul, Turkey, cross the Mediterranean Sea and turn northward to London, U.K. and the Baltic region. Travelers will then explore destinations in Iceland, Greenland and several Canadian Maritime destinations, before the World Cruise concludes in New York. At press time, the 387-square-foot Veranda Suites on Decks 7, 8 and 9, were still available to book; other categories were wait-listed.

The line also sails many Grand Voyages, including a 59-day “Grand Pacific” voyage on the 596-passenger Silver Muse from Melbourne, Australia to Osaka, Japan, departing January 16, 2023. Classic, Superior and Deluxe Veranda Suites were still available to book at press time; other categories were wait-listed. Grand Voyages to such exotic spots as Africa and Arabia are offered in 2024 as well.

Ultra-luxury Seabourn is offering a 145-day “World Cruise: Extraordinary Horizons,” from Los Angeles, CA, to Athens, Greece, departing January 11, 2024. One big perk is the itinerary’s 20 overnight stays in such ports as Singapore; Laem Chabang (Bangkok), Thailand; or Hong Kong. The ship will also stay late into the night at 21 destinations. Both will allow guests a more in-depth shore experience as they can go ashore for dining, entertainment or evening cultural events.

During this extravaganza journey, the 458-passenger Seabourn Sojourn will call at 72 destinations in 28 countries. All full World Cruise guests will receive a gala bon voyage dinner and overnight stay at The Ritz-Carlton, Marina del Rey prior to the ship’s departure from Los Angeles. They’ll also receive three exclusive World Cruise events, a special President’s event and special World Cruise pillow gifts. The full World Cruise starts with a journey to Hawaii and on to the South Pacific prior to calls throughout Asia, the Middle East and eastern Mediterranean.

But if travelers can’t spare 145 days, and they want to focus on Asian history and learning about ancient empires, we’d suggest looking at a bit smaller chunk of that cruise but still quite a robust World Cruise product. That’s Seabourn’s 73-day “World Cruise: Route of Ancient Empires,” with Seabourn Sojourn sailing from Keelung (Taipei), Taiwan, to Piraeus (Athens), Greece on March 24, 2024.

Seabourn Sojourn will call at six Japanese ports of call — Naha; Amami (Naze), Amami Oshima; Kagoshima, Hiroshima, Nagato, Sakaiminato and Nagasaki. In addition, the ship will visit Busan and Jeju (Cheju) City, South Korea. Jeju’s name translates as “Island of the Gods” and we’d suggest cruisers head out to its gorgeous beaches, waterfalls and volcanic rock formations.

For those seeking to explore coastal China, the ship overnights in both Shanghai and Hong Kong, spends a day cruising The Yangtze Estuary and also calls at Zhujiajian (Putuoshan) and Sanya (Hainan) China; the latter is China’s largest island and often characterized as “China’s Hawaii.” Brimming with restaurants, resorts, hotels and shopping malls, it’s also home to the Serenity Coast, Dadonghai, Yalong Bay and Haitang Bay.

What’s to do on Hainan? We’d suggest visiting the island’s 12,800-acre Nanshan Park, developed in 1988 to celebrate 2,000 years of Buddhism in China; cruise guests will see a large Nanshan Temple and other smaller temples and pagodas, plus the world’s tallest Buddhist statue, which is a three-sided depiction of the Bodhisattva Guan Yin rising from the sea. Further out, the newly developed Yanoda Rainforest Park offers boardwalks that wind through massive ancient trees and tropical vegetation.

This Seabourn World Cruise also will include an overnight stay in Halong Bay, Vietnam, plus calls at two other Vietnamese destinations — Danang (Hue) and Ho Chi Minh City, with another overnight there. Guests will also go ashore in Southeast Asia at Sihanoukville, Cambodia; Ko Kood, Laem Chabang (Bangkok)for an overnight, and Phuket, Thailand; Singapore (overnight); and Port Klang (Kuala Lumpur), Penang, and Porto Malai, Langkawi in Malaysia.

In the Indian Ocean, Seabourn Sojourn will visit Colombo, Sri Lanka and the Maldives. Then, the itinerary offers a robust Middle East component — with calls at Salalah, Oman; Safaga (overnight to allow for Luxor exploration) and Sharm El Sheik, Egypt; and Aqaba (For Petra), Jordan. That’s followed by a Suez Canal transit, and numerous port destinations in Israel, Greece and Turkey, prior to the voyage’s conclusion in Athens.

For the 73-day “World Cruise: Route of Ancient Empires,” the 295-square-foot Oceanview Suites and 300-square-foot Veranda Suites with a 65-square-foot veranda were still open for sale at press time; other categories were unavailable. In addition, Seabourn offers many Grand Voyages, plus some lengthy expedition voyages on the new, 264-passenger Seabourn Venture.

Particularly convenient for West Coast residents, Viking offers a 121-day “World Journeys” itinerary in 2024 from Los Angeles to Greenwich (London), United Kingdom. Interestingly, it’s operated both by the 930-passenger Viking Sky on January 6, 2024 and by sister ship, Viking Neptune, just three days later, January 9, 2024. While many suite and stateroom accommodations categories were “sold out” at press time, space was still available, although limited. Viking Sky had the most availability in eight different categories, while only three categories were still being sold for Viking Neptune.

The beauty of this itinerary is that it starts in the Pacific Ocean. First up are the islands of Hawaii, French Polynesia, and then New Zealand and Australia, before each ship will enter Asian waters. In Indonesia, the ships will call at Benoa (Bali) for a double overnight stay, plus spend one day in Komodo, where guests can head out in search of Komodo Dragons or swim and sun at a pink beach.

A call is also made at Semarang, Java, Indonesia. There, we’d suggest collectors of UNESCO World Heritage Sites take a shore excursion outside the city to Borobudur, the world’s largest Buddhist monument, set against a scenic backdrop of four volcanoes. The site’s pyramidal temple is towering, and devotees walk up a clockwise path to the pinnacle; along the way, they’ll pass 2,672 reliefs and 504 Buddha statues.

Also, in Asia, both voyages will call at Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam where guests have three days to explore as the ship makes a double overnight visit. Then it’s on to Koh Samui, Thailand; Singapore (overnight); and Phuket, Thailand. A touring highlight is spending three days in Yangon, Myanmar, where temple enthusiasts will be in seventh heaven. Next is Colombo, Sri Lanka (overnight) and on to India’s Cochin, Goa (Mormugao) and Mumbai (double overnight stay). Heading to the Middle Eastern region of Asia, the ships will call at Jeddah, Saudi Arabia, and Aqaba, Jordan.

A one-day visit to Safaqa affords guests time to visit Luxor, Egypt, prior to a transit of the Suez Canal and to Haifa, Israel (overnight). At Kusadasi, Turkey, guests can stroll through another UNESCO World Heritage Site, the Roman city of Ephesus. That’s followed by an overnight call at Istanbul, Turkey, before the journey continues through the Mediterranean and northward along Europe’s western coastline to London (overnight at Greenwich).

This Viking itinerary will take travelers to 23 countries and 50 guided tours are included as part of the cruise fares. It’s a bit too early for tour specifics. That said, during past Mumbai (Bombay) port calls, Viking has typically offered such options as “Old Mumbai,” “Mumbai’s Markets,” “Mumbai Temples and Lamp Lighting Ceremony” and “Elephanta Caves.” And for an evening of fun in Mumbai, Viking has typically offered a fun “Bollywood Dance and Dinner” outing.

Windstar Cruises’ 312-passenger Star Breeze will head to Asia, operating a 50-day “Star Collector: The Grand Far East Adventure” from Osaka, Japan to Cairns, Australia, departing October 20, 2023. Cruisers will visit Japan, South Korea, Taiwan, China, the Philippines, Malaysia, Indonesia and Australia.

Makassar, Indonesia
Makassar, Indonesia will be a port of call for Windstar. (Getty Images)

In Makassar, Indonesia, not a port that even frequent Asia travelers may have visited in the past, we’d suggest cruisers enjoy a fresh seafood lunch. While dining out, travelers will likely see the locals enjoying a dessert favorite, Es Pisang, which is slices of banana wrapped in thin green dough, shaved ice, syrup and sweetened condensed milk.

Certainly, exploring ashore in Asia delivers unforgettable moments of discovery. Fortunately, luxury lines are now returning and in a big way.

Asia isn’t the only region where luxury lines are creating lengthy voyages. Here are just a few of the many examples. In South America, those seeking a Brazil-intensive, lengthy vacation should check out Explora Journeys’ 30-night “Extended Journey to Brazilian Carnival and Bardo-Worthy Beaches.” Sailing roundtrip from Bridgetown, Barbados, Explora I, which offers 461 oceanfront suites, will depart on January 31, 2024.

Along the itinerary route, the ship will take guests to Devil’s Island, French Guiana and to the Brazilian destinations of Fortaleza, Recife, Buzios, Puerto Belo, Salvador de Bahia, Rio de Janeiro and San Paulo (Santos). Guests can breeze into Buzios as French starlet Brigitte Bardot did in 1964 and go shopping for designer fashions and accessories at Rua das Pedras.

One unique feature? This journey takes guests to many popular South American destinations, but it also, in some cases, calls at those ports a second time later in the same voyage.  Guests enjoy a double overnight (or three days) in Rio de Janeiro heading southbound and then another day ashore in Rio later while sailing north.

For those seeking a strong expedition focus, Ponant’s new eco-friendly Le Commandant Charcot sails a 28-night voyage, “Unexplored Antarctica Between Two Continents” itinerary in 2023 and 2024. For example, departing from Ushuaia, Argentina to Lyttleton, New Zealand on January 7, 2024, the expedition vessel essentially makes a “half circumnavigation” of Antarctica. Given an overnight in Santiago, Chile, the full journey is 30 days. An included air flight is provided from Santiago to Ushuaia.

AmaWaterways’ AmaMora will sail the full length of the Rhine and Danube rivers in 2024. (AmaWaterways)

A few weeks ago, AmaWaterways introduced the river cruise industry’s longest itinerary, the 49-night “2024 Seven Rivers Journey.” Previously, it developed its Seven Rivers concept to represent a lengthy itinerary that typically combined back-to-back sailings on multiple ships. Now, the river line is introducing spring and summer sailings of this immersive itinerary on just one ship — the 156-passenger AmaMora.

The spring sailing will depart from Amsterdam, the Netherlands, on April 22, 2024, and conclude in Giurgiu, Romania.  The summer version will depart from Giurgiu, on June 10, 2024 and head for Amsterdam. These voyages will mark the first time that the line will sail the full length of the Rhine and Danube rivers. The t seven-day delta exploration features six maiden port calls, among them is Giurgiulesti, Moldova, where guests will enjoy a special folkloric event.

We are a family affair. The entire family can head ashore for first-hand cultural, heritage and eco-experiences. One way to do that is on the 274-night World Cruise planned by Royal Caribbean International. Departing on December 10, 2023, the 2,143-passenger Serenade of the Seas will sail to all seven continents. This World Cruise also offer four lengthy segments of more than 60 nights.

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