A Mekong River cruise is an ideal way to explore the Indo-Chinese region consisting of Vietnam, Laos, Thailand, Cambodia and Burma. Ships that ply the route are unlike the big cruise liners in the west. They are smaller in size, flat-bottomed and have little or negligible freeboard. Made of wood with shallow draft, they are agile and are ideal to navigate the river waters of the region. Built for short cruises, the ships have comfortable living and dining areas. Onboard amenities include bars and an observation or sun deck. Here is a selection of ships for a safe and comfortable river cruise.
1. RV Jayavarman
This 700-ton, 4-deck river cruiser is a replica of the cruise liner “Normandie” of the 1930s. The ship can accommodate 65 guests in 2 suites, 11 deluxe staterooms and 14 superior staterooms, all being on the main and upper decks. The interior décor of the ship reflects Indo Chinese and French themes. Amenities on board include the Club 1930 Funnel Lounge & Bar, serving a variety of local drinks and cocktails. Pamper yourself at the Apsara Spa and Beauty Parlor on the Main Deck, soak in the sun on the Sun deck or get yourself a relaxing Vietnamese massage.
2. RV La Marguerite
Designed in the colonial mould, this ship has 38 staterooms and 6 suites. Accommodation is spread over the lower, upper, main and sun decks. The air-conditioned staterooms come with or without a private balcony and have a king-sized bed, bathtub, hot and cold water, television and a mini bar. Located on the sun deck, suites are larger in area and have a jacuzzi as well. There is a pool on the sun deck where drinks and snacks are served while you relax and enjoy the breathtaking scenery. Dining is at the Mekong Restaurant where both local and continental food is available; also check out the restorative powers of local herbs at the ship's spa.
3. RV Indochine
This 50-meter long, 3-deck river cruiser has 24 spacious cabins. All cabins have large windows to give you a panoramic view of the scenery outside, bathroom and abundant closet space. Being a small ship, the atmosphere is friendly, intimate and ideal for a romantic sojourn. The ships restaurant is located on the sun deck and caters for both Western and Asian palates; most dishes are made from fresh local produce. The bar is also situated on the same deck and forms part of a large lounge with deck chairs for you to sit back and view the surroundings.
4. Mekong Sun
This unique ship has a catamaran structure with 2 steel hulls. Extensive use of teak and mahogany lends a rich atmosphere to the ship. The 2-deck ship has 11 classic cabins and 3 superior cabins accommodating 28 guests. All classic cabins have a private balcony and also have a large window that is water facing. The bow facing Superior Cabin has a fantastic view of scenery ahead.
Your choice of ship can make the difference between an extraordinary cruise and a forgettable one; keep these cruise tips in mind and select which one suits you the best.