Cruising around Asia: The newest frontier for luxury, expedition and small-ship journeys


Not that each destinations are wild or remote, however. Small ships have started to eat well-populated (though seldom cruised) ports like Kota Kinabalu in Malaysian Borneo, Sihanoukville in Cambodia and Beypore in southern India. Popular destinations including the Thai islands will be explored within a new way: Star Clippers cruises the Andaman Sea under sail, stopping off at uninhabited islands in Ko Tarutao National Park. In other words, there’s more to explore in the past on Asian cruises.


One of Asia’s best expedition destinations is true on our doorstop. Indeed, some cruises sail there from Australian ports which include Darwin or Cairns, nevertheless the archipelagos of south-east Asia remain, usually, unexplored by Australians. Indonesia, the Philippines and Papua New Guinea wouldn’t get better because of sea exploration though, featuring thousands of scattered islands and atolls, a venerable seafaring historical background and abundance of colourful local cultures and vivid festivals. Rich marine ecosystems take on unique terrestrial wildlife like komodo dragons, orangutans and birds of paradise. Cruise infrastructure is pretty undeveloped, but nimble small ships can access indented coastlines, villages, dive reefs and wrecks and even 200 kilometres perhaps of PNG’s Sepik River. The 36-passenger True North tackles the latter along with remote PNG destinations including the Louisiade Archipelago, notable for scuba-diving. Expedition cruiselines just like APT, Heritage Expeditions, Ponant and Silversea even have itineraries to PNG and islands beyond.

While more cruises are now exploring Indonesia too, the Philippines remains an untapped cruise destination, with companies like Azamara, Coral Expeditions, Seabourn and Silversea visiting very rarely. Its karst islands remember fondly the a lot more touristy Halong Bay in Vietnam, though together with the added pleasures of coral reefs and white-sand beaches. The caverns and underground river of Puerto Princesa National Park offer an unusual subterranean landscape that is explored by Zodiac.


These neighbours often feature together on itineraries and, although many cruise companies experience big port cities, small-ship companies are notable for visiting lesser-known stops too. Many

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