When luxury travelers yearn for an exotic vacation, Southeast Asia’s Mekong River beckons with biodiversity, cultural traditions, rural villages, storied cities and UNESCO World Heritage Sites.

Staying in touch with friends and family back home is important for many travelers. Starting in September 2023, guests traveling on Aqua Expeditions’ 40-passenger Aqua Mekong through Cambodia and Vietnam, can do so more easily with the addition of SpaceX’s Starlink Satellite Internet.

Avalon Siem Reap
Avalon Waterways sails a variety of Mekong itineraries. Shown here and below is Avalon Siem Reap, a sister ship to Avalon Saigon. (Avalon Waterways)

Aboard this upscale vessel, guests will stay in air-conditioned, 322-square-foot suites or interconnecting suites that span 644 square feet. Deluxe ensuite bathrooms offer dual sinks, a walk-in shower with overhead rainforest shower fixture. Guests will sleep in premium California king-sized beds (convertible to two twins). They’ll get a good dose of fresh air via patio doors for balconied suites and French windows for non-balconied suites. The vessel’s culinary experience is crafted by Michelin-starred consulting chef David Thompson and the bar menu is by spirits expert Proof & Co.

One unique guest perk? Aqua Expeditions owns and operates a private fleet of four aluminum launch boats on the Mekong River, so guests can set out on highly personalized day trips to landmarks, temples and villages.

Siem Reap ship

For a highly diverse Mekong trip, we’d suggest checking out Scenic’s 20-day “Highlights of Cambodia, Vietnam and Luxury Mekong” between Hanoi, Vietnam and Siem Reap, Cambodia. It includes a seven-night cruise on the 68-passenger Scenic Spirit, a two-day boat cruise in Halong Bay, Vietnam, and more time spent in hotels on land. Guests will sample Hanoi’s hidden food haunts after dark on the back of a vintage Vespa, while in Siem Reap, they’ll attend an exclusive Scenic Enrich gala dinner at an Angkor temple. Separately, a Champagne breakfast at an Angkor temple will support a local NGO bakery school.

We’d opt for the 861-square-foot Royal Panorama Suite, forward on the Diamond Deck. This is the largest suite on the Mekong River. Being high up and forward on the Diamond Deck, travelers will enjoy fantastic views of the passing scenery from their private terrace with outdoor whirlpool and day bed. Royal Panorama Suites also have a separate lounge and dining area, walk-in dressing room an oversized bathroom offering a toilet and separate bathtub and shower. Guests sleep in a luxury queen-sized slumber bed and can select pillows from a pillow menu.

Scenic Spirit
Scenic's 20-day “Highlights of Cambodia, Vietnam and Luxury Mekong” itinerary includes a seven-night cruise on the 68-passenger Scenic Spirit. (Scenic)

For 2023 sailings, Uniworld Boutique Cruises has increased its “Timeless Wonders of Vietnam & Cambodia” itineraries from 13 to 15 days. Guests who will travel from Ho Chi Minh City to Hanoi, or in reverse, will now spend two added days on land in Vietnam’s capital city, Hanoi, at the beginning or end of the cruise. They’ll stay at the Sofitel Legend Metropole Hanoi Hotel and head out for a city tour.

Uniworld’s river vessel, the 68-passenger, all-suite Mekong Jewel is new, luxurious and constructed with sustainable, eco-friendly materials. While aboard, river cruisers will dine at a main restaurant plus an al fresco eatery on the upper deck. Public spaces and venues include a swimming pool, spa, sauna and steam room, gym, hair salon, nail bar, two lounges and a library.

We’d opt for a 924-square-foot Royal Suite, either No. 309 or  No. 310, the top digs on this vessel. Grand Suites are also roomy at 551 square feet. That said, even the entry-level Suites span 339 square feet; those on the Sun or Orchid Decks offer private open-air balconies, while others on the Lotus Deck feature French balconies.

On board the 124-passenger AmaDara, AmaWaterways offers guests one-of-a-kind itineraries including the seven-night “Charms of The Mekong” and “Riches of The Mekong.” Both itineraries can be combined with pre- and post-cruise land packages so guests can explore the ancient ruins of Angkor Wat near Siem Reap, Cambodia; bustling Ho Chi Minh City; plus Hanoi and the natural beauty of Halong Bay, Vietnam.

AmaDara (AmaWaterways)

We like this vessel’s French Colonial décor, accented with richly carved wood furniture and artifacts made by native craftspeople. On board, guests also will discover massage rooms, a fitness room, gift shop, hair salon, sun-deck pool and Saigon Lounge with local night-time entertainment. The Main Restaurant offers local and regional delicacies as well as western cuisine, while specialty dining unfolds in The Chef’s Table. Fares include unlimited complimentary wine with lunch and dinner, as well as house brand spirits, local beer and soft drinks throughout the cruise.

Air-conditioned interior corridors lead to spacious staterooms and suites, most featuring twin balconies. Top digs? Those are two 502-square-foot Luxury Suites, No. 317 and No. 318, which feature a separate sitting area; bedroom area with queen-sized bed; bathroom with double sinks, a separate shower and bathtub; and a French balcony and a private outside balcony.

Viking launched the 80-passenger Viking Saigon in 2022, and in 2023, it operates the 15-day “The Magnificent Mekong” itinerary between Ho Chi Minh City and Hanoi; 16 guided tours are included within the cruise fare. The ship’s interior design reflects understated elegance and clean, Scandinavian global design principles.

AmaDara (AmaWaterways)

Viking Saigon offers 26 French Balcony Staterooms and 12 Veranda Staterooms, all with hotel-style beds. The most spacious, pampering accommodations are the Explorer Suites (ES category). These 735-square-foot suites offer a separate living room with a floor-to-ceiling sliding glass door that opens to a large veranda. This suite’s bedroom also has a queen-sized Viking Explorer Bed (convertible to two twins) with luxury linens & pillows. Free Wi-Fi is available, and flat-screen TVs are positioned in both the living room and bedroom. A large private bathroom has a glass-enclosed shower, bathtub and anti-fog mirror.

This vessel’s Upper Deck fields a pool offering 360-degree views, plus an open-air Sky Bar with shaded seating area. Inside are the Lounge and Bar with floor-to-ceiling glass doors, a Restaurant with floor-to-ceiling windows, a spa, fitness center, library, onboard shop and more.

AmaWaterways guests sailing the Mekong region will look to immerse themselves in the local culture. They can explore a Cambodian Village on an ox cart (above) or visit a Vietnamese rice paper workshop (below). (AmaWaterways)

With a maximum of 36 guests, Avalon WaterwaysAvalon Saigon sails a variety of Mekong itineraries. The intimate, upscale, nonsmoking ship is built to go where some other river vessels cannot. So, it can cruise uninterrupted from Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam, to Phnom Penh, Cambodia (or vice versa), thus eliminating hours of motorcoach travel time associated with some other river cruise ship itineraries. For shore exploration, Avalon offers a choice of Classic, Active or Discovery excursions.

In Cambodia, for example, cruisers can go on an ox cart ride among rice paddy field and learn about the daily farming lifestyle or see craftspeople making silver artwork in a silversmith village. In Phnom Penh, guests will tour the National Museum and Royal Palace with the spectacular Silver Pagoda, as well as watch a song-and-dance performance by kids at a local orphanage. At the hilltop, 8th-century Wat Hanchey, guests can soak in stunning views before walking through the rural village of Angkor Ban to visit with schoolchildren.


Category A and B suites offer 255 square feet of space and have 14-foot, wall-to-wall panoramic windows that open to create a large, open-air balcony. Comfort Collection Beds (king or two twins) have Egyptian super-combed cotton linens as well as a choice of soft and firm pillows. The large private bathroom offers a full shower with glass door, hairdryer, and premium L’Occitane bath amenities.

Long-time Southeast Asia operator Pandaw Cruises offers some unique itineraries including the 21-night “Halong Bay, Red River & Laos Mekong” itinerary. That’s operated by the 32-passenger Angkor Pandaw, or the 28-passenger Champa Pandaw. For those seeking a river cruise with an exotic bent, Southeast Asia’s Mekong River awaits.

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