Cruise Borneo, Vietnam and Thailand
The route: Beginning and ending in Singapore, this cruise ticks off modern cities as well as tropical jungle and blissful beaches. The 14 day journey stops at Bintulu and Kota Kinabalu (Malaysia), Muara (Brunei), Ho Chi Minh City (Vietnam), and Bangkok and Koh Samui (Thailand).
The experience: From its “Supertrees” to its hawker markets, Singapore is one of Asia’s most exciting cities. Home to cutting-edge galleries and performance spaces, jaw-dropping tropical gardens and atmospheric neighbourhoods, there are plenty of reasons to linger in the city-state pre- or post-cruise. Once you step on board Azamara Journey you can look forward to carefully curated shore excursions in each Southeast Asian port visited.
In Malaysian Borneo, Bintulu is the gateway to Similajau National Park, a protected habitat for nesting green turtles. Watch them digging in the sand while learning more about their fragile ecosystem, which is also home to dolphins, crocodiles and some of Malaysia’s most colourful birds. Or slide into a longboat and visit a traditional fishing village stilted over the water where you’ll enjoy lunch in the homes of locals.
The ship is tendered in Koh Samui just long enough for you to pull on flippers and snorkel around the island’s crystal-clear lagoons. On land, excursions take you to the Big Buddha overlooking Bang Rak on the north-eastern tip of the island, as well as into the rainforest where you can cool down at Na Muang’s spectacular waterfalls.
The ship: Azamara Journey is among the most stylish mid-size cruise ships at sea. With a capacity of just 690 guests, the ship offers staterooms of varying levels of luxury. Fitted out to resemble boutique hotel rooms, they come with ocean views, plush bed linens, and ensuite bathrooms stocked with French amenities.
Azamara Journey’s facilities include restaurants, bars and cafes as well as a full roster of live entertainment. But where the ship stands out is in its well-curated enrichment program, which includes seminars and lectures by guest speakers, wine appreciation classes and cooking demonstrations.
The ship’s new Sanctum Spa is focused on wellbeing for the body and mind, with treatments ranging from an oceanfront massage to manicures, teeth whitening, barber services and acupuncture.
Getting there: There are direct flights to Singapore for a number of Australian cities, including Sydney, Canberra, Melbourne, Brisbane, Adelaide and Perth.
The details: NRMA’s Borneo, Vietnam and Thailand itinerary aboard Azamara Journey includes on-board meals and select drinks, entertainment and more.
Golden Myanmar and the alluring Irrawaddy
The route: This 10 night river cruise aboard Avalon Myanmar from Bagan to Bhamo along Myanmar’s Irrawaddy River includes stops at a number of fascinating ports, Mandalay, Amarapura and Kyun Daw among them.
The experience: The onshore excursions offered on this intimate river cruise are designed to be immersive and insightful, with a number of insider experiences that enlighten you on the local way of life. Beginning in Yangon, a sunrise walking tour leads you to one of Asia’s most significant Buddhist shrines: Shwedagon Pagoda. Shwedagon’s dozens of spires and statues reach to the sky, encircling a magnificent stupa crowned by 4,351 diamonds weighing 1,800 carats.
Flying north, you reach Bagan on the banks of the Irrawaddy. The ancient capital is now a World Heritage Site, home to more than 2,000 temples, spires and stupas. Watch the sun rise from the top of a temple and then watch it set from the back of an ox cart, with plenty of shrine-hopping across the ancient city’s arid plain in between.
It’s the ideal entrée to 10 nights on the Irrawaddy. Along the way you’ll visit a monastery and present alms to the monks and see their lunch ritual in Kya Hnyat, and stroll through a tractional pottery-making village to learn about their age-old craft. In Mandalay, meanwhile, days on shore are split between marvelling at gilded temples, and watching traditional dance or weavers at work.
The ship: The intimate size of all-suite Avalon Myanmar means she is able to reach part of the Upper Irrawaddy larger ships cannot. The beautiful interiors nod to Burmese tradition, with silks, rich timbers and local art throughout.
Public spaces include the open-air observation lounge and air-conditioned Panorama Lounge, both located at the front of the ship to guarantee great river views at all times. Staterooms are extremely comfortable thanks to Egyptian cotton bed linens and a selection of pillows to choose from, panoramic windows that open to a spacious balcony, large private bathrooms and ample storage and wardrobe space.
Getting there: There are flights from a number of Australian capital cities to Bangkok. From here, it’s a short flight to Yangon in Myanmar.
The details: NRMA’s Golden Myanmar & the Alluring Irrawaddy is a 10 night cruise along the Irrawaddy River, with excursions, meals and beverages included, as well as three nights in Yangon pre-cruise.
Tahitian treasures with Celebrity cruises
The route: Departing Honolulu in Hawaii, this 17 night Celebrity Solstice cruise journeys around the Pacific, stopping at Maui, Papeeete (French Polynesia), and New Zealand’s Bay of Islands, among other ports, before arriving in Sydney.
The experience: Celebrity Cruises is applauded for its diverse roster of on-shore experiences, designed to cater to different tastes and lifestyles. But when it comes to the South Pacific, water-based activities steal the show. Arriving at New Zealand’s Bay of Islands, you can opt to go kayaking, mountain-biking, parasailing, scuba diving or even swimming with dolphins.
In Maui, all eyes are on Haleakala, the world’s largest dormant volcano. Tours here can be as active or relaxing as you like, with hikes and gentle strolls part of the experience. If the season is right (December to March), you can opt to go humpback whale watching instead.
In French Polynesia languid lagoons with both white- and black-sand beaches surround the volcanic island of Moorea. The only thing to do when you arrive here is dive in and meet the archipelago’s colourful tropical fish. Many full days spent at sea, which means you have plenty of time to make the most of the ship’s extensive facilities.
The ship: Having undergone a recent refurbishment, Celebrity Solstice is an easy choice when it comes to cruises with multiple days at sea. The ship has a number of attractions that set her apart, including the first lawn club at sea, an expansive spa and sauna facility, as well as a hot glass show.
All staterooms are fitted with comfortable beds and ensuite bathrooms – some also come with private balconies. Concierge Class adds a number of niceties including 24-hour room service, complimentary minibar beverages and interactive TV. Food is another highlight on Celebrity Solstice, with specialty restaurants dishing up everything from French fine dining to contemporary Asian fare.
Getting there: There are flights to Honolulu from a number of Australian capital cities, including Sydney and Melbourne.
The details: NRMA’s Tahitian Treasures with Celebrity itinerary includes a 17 night cruise aboard Celebrity Solstice, plus two nights in Hawaii pre-cruise.