Prefer a private jet and boutique hotel to a jumbo or multinational chain? Then small ship sailing should be on your travel hitlist, and the meandering waterways and breathtaking bays of Southeast Asia offer the ideal destination to experience the small ship difference…and decadence.
“Australian and New Zealand cruise travellers are known for seeking out unique and off-the-beaten track adventures in exotic destinations, and in the post-pandemic return to travel we’ve also seen heightened demand for small-group travel, charter voyages and sailing on intimate ships which offer an ambience and experiences just not possible on larger vessels,” explained Andreas Schroetter, Director of Sales and Marketing for Heritage Line, one of Southeast Asia’s leading luxury boutique cruise lines, which operates a fleet of seven opulent ships accommodating just 12 to 54 guests in Vietnam, Laos and Cambodia.
“Cruising with a boutique operator such as Heritage Line offers guests unprecedented access to onboard experts in each destinations history, culture and cuisine, as well as an opportunity to truly unwind and enjoy a sense of serenity – and the stunning scenery – in a way that just can’t be achieved on traditional larger cruise fleets.”
In Southeast Asia, advantages of small ship river cruising include:
- Visiting more remote ports inaccessible to larger vessels, and which may be logistically challenging or cost-prohibitive to explore for individual travellers, and rivers such as the Lower Mekong are home to many hidden tiny villages that can’t even be accessed by land. “This is especially true in Southeast Asia where infrastructure is less developed,” advised Schroetter. “Small vessels can access areas rarely visited by outsiders, such as ports along the Upper Mekong in Laos, our newest destination launching in August 2023, where our guests will be among the first able to visit some settlements.”
- Discovering destinations without dominating them by wandering into ports largely unnoticed for a more authentic experience and enhanced connection with local communities. “Small ship voyages invite guests to respect the daily life and cultures of local communities by exploring without intruding, travelling more sustainably, and not leaving a significant footprint,” said Schroetter.
- No queues boarding or disembarking the ship, no crowds at mealtimes or cocktail hour, and no trouble securing bookings for everything from spa treatments to yoga and cooking classes. “Cruising slowly, in supreme comfort, offers a sense of tranquility that takes travelling to another level,” added Schroetter.
- Easy access to onboard experts and guest speakers for destination, cultural and historic enrichment, making the educational element of the cruise much more powerful – and rewarding.
- Exceptional, personalised service with staff who will know your name, and your preferences – unlike the relative anonymity of larger vessels.
- Small ships often equate to larger accommodation, making the onboard experience ultra comfortable with plenty of space for travellers to settle into their ‘home away from home’. Heritage Line’s individually designed suites are not only generous in size, but include a range of unique local artworks, textiles, and artisan handicrafts to showcase a true flavour of each destination.
- Vastly reducing the environmental impact and carbon footprint of your journey.
- The opportunity to enjoy the camaraderie of like-minded travellers, and to forge lasting friendships.
Incredibly intimate – meet Heritage Line VIOLET
Among Heritage Line’s opulent fleet, Heritage Line VIOLET is the most petite vessel, and among the most exquisite. Showcasing an opulent French-Indochinese design with exotic dark timbers, rich silks and velvets, painted ceilings, and ornamental artefacts, she is home to just six spacious suites, all with oversized bathrooms and picture-perfect private balconies, and is designed for romantic voyages – hello honeymooners – or the ideal choice to book for a private group sailing.
On board guests can dine on (included) multi-course a la carte meals in the cosy restaurant, sip cocktails in the sophisticated bar, unwind in the library lounge, enjoy a private alfresco or in-suite dinner, share a couples’ spa treatment or complimentary steam bath, or lounge on a roof deck sunbed – and with just 12 guests on board – there will never be any need to jostle to secure a spot.
Heritage Line VIOLET sails one and two-night circuits of Halong Bay where guests can take a small bamboo boat trip to explore one of the bay’s last floating fishing villages, discover the ancient Tieng Ong and Sung Sot caves, visit a floating pearl farm, paddle the marine landscape by kayak, take a refreshing dip off the sandy beach at Ti Top Island, or just sit back and enjoy the bay’s magical ‘blue hour’ on board with a cocktail in hand.
Combining culture and culinary excellence – meet Heritage Line GINGER
Renowned for her focus on culinary delights, Heritage Line GINGER features a glass-walled restaurant and a new open kitchen with live cooking stations, transforming every meal into a visual feast.
Featuring 12 spacious designer suites with luxe bathtubs or jacuzzis with built-in ‘soda spa’ systems to soothe the skin, Heritage Line GINGER’s interior décor is inspired by traditional Vietnamese heritage. The ultra-generous Regent Suites, Blue Phoenix and White Crane, are the jewels in her crown, boasting spacious balconies, bathrooms with double vanities, large jacuzzis and gold-leaf ceilings. Days on board begin with tai chi on the open-air terrace and activities to try in between guided shore excursions include cooking classes in the open kitchen, relaxing in the heated pool with jacuzzi jets, or squid fishing with the crew after dark – then watching the chef prepare your catch for a late-night supper.
A world of wellness onboard – meet Heritage Line YLANG
Heritage Line YLANG is renowned for her expansive onboard wellness sanctuary, which combines a multi-room spa and Wellness Studio where guests can join yoga or tai chi classes, take part in a mindful tea ceremony, or participate in a guided ‘Singing Bowl Meditation’ ritual to promote a good night’s sleep.
Home to just 10 extra-spacious suites decorated to reflect the four seasons, the ship’s premium Regency Suites are the pinnacle of small ship luxury, with separate lounge areas, front facing balconies, private outdoor jacuzzis with in-built lava stone ‘soda spa’ systems, and dedicated butler service. Dining on board reflects Ylang’s wellness theme using only the finest seasonal products and ingredients, and guests can choose to enjoy a romantic, candlelit dinner on their own private balcony.
Heritage Line GINGER and Heritage Line YLANG sail one or two-night itineraries in tranquil Lan Ha Bay, which is famed for its spectacular scenery, jade-green water, labyrinth of islets, and hidden beaches. Highlights of these captivating circuits include kayaking secluded ‘Frog Lake’, visiting a family home in a floating fishing village, or taking a cycling tour through the charming, untouched villages of jungle-clad Cat Ba Island – a designated biosphere reserve with more than 1500 plant species, 78 bird and 20 reptile species, deer, monkeys, and civets.