Despite river cruising’s rapid rise in popularity in recent years, most travellers have yet to experience it for themselves. In 2019, less than 2 million travellers embarked on a river cruise globally, compared to 29.7 million passengers who opted for a large ocean liner. Which brings us to the question: Why should one experience some of the world’s most iconic waterways by river cruise rather than on a ocean liner or a land-based tour? Here are 10 reasons of which we think are the most attractive ones to go on a river cruise in Southeast Asia.
01 A River Cruise Is A Great Value
Though the price of a river cruise is by no means inexpensive at first glance, most everything is included in the price and guests won’t be spending much once aboard. Ocean cruisers, on the other hand, can expect to pay an additional 50-100% of their fare on extras such as:
- Excursions and sight-seeing on-shore: All of Heritage Line’s on-shore excursions and transportation are included in the price.
- Full-board or premium cuisine: All meals per day are included in our cruises, including snacks and other bonus delights.
- Beverages: With Heritage Line, for example, the guest receives on many itineraries an included drink package.
- WiFi Internet Access: Internet packages on ocean cruises vary greatly and are mostly very expensive. With Heritage Line WiFi and Internet comes free of charge whilst onboard the ship and is only interrupted in very remote corners of Southeast Asia where there is no mobile network available.
- Automatic gratuity surcharges per person, per day: Whilst this is common practice on ocean cruises to automatically add this to a guest’s final bill or include it in the price, with Heritage Line the gratuities are at guest’s own favour, discretion and level of satisfaction.
Because all of the above being included in Heritage Line’s river cruises (other than gratuity), we believe that luxury river cruising in Southeast Asia has a great value for our passengers. Have a closer look and review our collateral Inclusions & Benefits.
02 Easy Check-In
Compared to checking in at the airport or large cruise ship terminal – both of which have long lines and multiple checkpoints for luggage, documentation and security screening – checking in and out of a river cruise ship is a seamless process.
Skip the crowds and queues (ideal for post-COVID travel by the way). To check into a river cruise, just present your documents to our reception and receive the room key to your luxurious floating home. For embarkation points where a transfer to the ship is required (Saigon and Siem Reap for example), Heritage Line’s tour guide will greet passengers at the off-site meeting point while our staff takes your luggage and delivers it straight to your stateroom or suite. The same procedure applies of cause for check-outs when passengers disembark. For those who prearranged an airport pick-up or drop-off with us beforehand, we’ll even take care of belongings throughout the entire transfer process. Everything from the first touch-point until the last is very easy and comfortable for the passenger regards all of the check-in and check-out procedures.
03 Unpack Once & Pack Light
Probably one of the most under-rated reason to go on a longer river cruise is the big advantage that your hotel or accommodation travels along with you. Didn’t we all experience yet the daily unpacking and re-packing of our luggages when travelling on an itinerary. It feels somehow like being in a contest hurry, moving around constantly from A to B. That does not feel in the end like being on a vacation actually. Forget all of that when opting for a river cruise. For a week or longer you arrive on the ship with your luggage been places into your cabin and it basically feels like you moving in. Unpack once, arrange your stuff as you would do so at home. Everything feels at ease and relaxed and you can fully focus on the experiences laying ahead. Add to that a relaxed dress code on board, so no need to bring along cumbersome formalwear. There is even more to it: Guests in our premium suites can also take advantage of complimentary laundry services and butlers you look after your clothes and shoes.
04 An Intimate Experience
Compared to ocean cruise ships, which may host 3,000 passengers, European river cruise ships typically range from 100-200. Southeast Asian river cruises are even smaller. And here Heritage Line so called USP (unique selling proposition) comes into play. Our highest capacity vessel (Jayavarman) holds 54 passengers only. All of other seven ships can host even less, with some ships only build to carry 12 guests maximum. That means the experiences are really exclusive and intimate with a lot of individual or personal attention for each of our guests. Heritage Line’s staff will remember your name and preferences very often after the first moment of contact. This is an experience many of passengers are on one hand truly amazed of, on the other also very positively surprised as they not have encounter that to that extent before. Hence, the intimate bonds aren’t limited to just the crew. Our passengers tend to be very likeminded with many years of travel behind them, so new lifelong friendships being formed is a common occurrence aboard our ships. It feels very much like travelling with a family after one or two days.
09 Spacious & Luxurious Cabins
River cruise ships tend to have larger, well-appointed accommodation compared to their oceanic counterparts or European river cruise ships. While cabins on major ocean cruise lines typically start at 14-17 sqm (150-180 sqft), Heritage Line’s rooms range from 20 sqm (215 sqft) all the way up to 86 sqm (926 sqft, Anawrahta). Heritage Line guest’s are very often astonished about the size of the rooms when they enter it for the first time.They have reviewed the staterooms online, compared room sizes and amenities but it is still a different thing when stepping into a cabin in real. A regular entry cabin (Superior Stateroom) on our lower Mekong cruise ship The Jahan for example is larger than a top end Suite offered on many of the European river cruise ships.
In addition Heritage Line offers on all ships outside-facing cabins with large windows, and mostly all cabin types on any of our luxury ships are equipped with private balconies. The generosity of available in-room amenities is also adding to the luxury living feeling such as large walk-in shower, Bluetooth speaker systems, bathrobe, sun hat, sandals, mini-bar and more!
06 Inimitable Décor
Because each of Heritage Line’s vessels is painstakingly designed with inimitable décor and outfitting, all feature their own distinguishing charms and characteristics. All across the interiors of our ships—the public areas, cabins and hallways—you’ll find that the countless artworks and artefacts have a story to tell. Hence, Heritage Line is one of the only luxury river cruise operator of which guests can expect a different ambiance and design theme on each of the eight vessels available in our ship portfolio.
While The Jahan’s motifs showcase Indian emperor Shah Jahan’s love for architecture and romantic arts, Anawrahta evokes a bygone era, as told by the likes of George Orwell, with its blend of Burmese tradition and British-Colonial elegance.
07 Fine Dining
While cuisine will vary depending on the cruise line, gastronomy and dining on board any cruise is generally one the most important topic. No other form of travelling than cruising is linked that much to the pleasure of eating and drinking. And aboard each of Heritage Line’s vessels the dining experience is nothing short of extraordinary. We take great pleasure in presenting our guests rich and flavourful local cuisine with regional specialities such as Cambodian Fish Amok or Vietnamese Turmeric Fish (cha ca la vong) as well as international favourites including salmon tartare or herb-crusted rack of lamb.
Fresh local ingredients and quality imported components are brought on board at each port-of-call, so rest assured our guests’ meals are as fresh as it gets. Heritage Line’s multi-course lunch and dinner menus change every day and are sure to rival any land-based fine dining establishments, while a multitude of delicious offerings are to be found at our daily breakfast buffet.
And best of it all – the exquisite full board dining is included in the cost of the river cruise!
08 On-board Activities
Though you won’t find a casino, rock-climbing wall, giant water slide or other amenities featured on large ocean liners, rest assured there will never be a dull moment on a river cruise. The approach regards the life on board and in particular the onboard entertainment or activities are different – especially no such small luxury and boutique ships Heritage Line has in its portfolio.
When you’re not watching the riverine landscapes and wildlife pass by from your private balcony or terrace deck, our crew and onboard travel guides host a variety of entertaining activities for the guests throughout the journey, from enlightening cultural presentations, informative lectures, culinary cooking classes, workshops, cocktail parties and evening galas! There’s also a variety of on-board facilities to take advantage of, including spa, Jacuzzi pools, and various bar and lounges perfect for socializing with your newfound friends.
09 Various Experiences
Many people have a misconception that river cruising may be a boring way of travelling along a waterway. They wonder if there will be enough stimulation, action or activity. Will the views become monotonous and much the same each day? “Ocean cruising is the way to explore the world” is the credo of sea going cruise enthusiasts. River cruising is indeed vastly different than being at sea. There is simply no better way of traveling through and experiencing a destination to the core than journeying on a river. Per day there are various ports of calls or stops which lay also in a comprehensible distance to each other very much in the heartland of the destination visited.The excursions align and blend together well, helping the visitor to build intellectual bridges between two experiences for example. With Heritage Line, for instance, experiences allow for a gradual “education” of the new destination you are discovering. The traveler becomes immersed and builds upon a slow stream of experiences valuable memories that will eventually become part of one’s lifeline. These long-lasting experiences made are probably of a much deeper conception and value versus those made during an ocean cruise. On Heritage Line journeys – be it on the Mekong River or other waterways in Southeast Asia, the guest collects a kaleidoscope of experiences on-shore (and onboard too of cause). Visiting remote communities, seeing and learning new cultural practices, encounter unseen natural phenomena, or simply stumble into a heartfelt encounter here or an unexpected laughter with locals there.
Come and discover the world of Southeast Asia and have these wonderful, exclusive travel experiences yourself. For instance, on an adventurous Heritage Line cruise along the Lower Mekong River destination between Vietnam and Cambodia inclusive of all sight-seeing and excursion at no extra cost. Explore the cruise itineraries.
10 Ever Changing (Riverine) Sceneries & Landscapes
Many travelers choose a river cruise not only because of all the (hopefully) conclusive arguments we have mentioned so far above in our series “reasons to take a river cruise”. But one of the main reasons is without doubt the ever-changing scenery ones sees floating by during a river cruise. There are passengers who are even happy to skip the one or other off-the-ship excitements, just to get as swiftly as possible into this undefinable state of mind when traveling on a boat. We call this the therapeutic “cruising mode” only a river journey can provide. Who can say that from an ocean cruiser?
Whilst meandering on a river almost behind every corner awaits a new permanent impression for the eye. Backdrops are changing continuously, the slow-motion-felt travel pace, the sturdy advancement of the small ship – all this is it that makes one feel like watching a “best-of” travel documentary.
Magnetised you look out to the shores. “What’s happening in this hamlet?” Opposite side – green rice fields as far as the horizon. You focus on this sole water buffalo which does not care or notice anything but the 50cm in front of his eyes. Around the next corner the fisherman on his tiny boat sends over some greetings …one curtain after another falls. Everything is changing, but nothing is changing. Time is moving, but stands still at the same time.
This is the travelling mode that beats all of the other means or ways of exploring a country. It happens by magic as you sit and receive your travel memories. We remember very well one passenger that brought it to the point weeks after the trip: “I did not expect the cruise to be so intense. So intense in a way to have had a holiday experience of another dimension”. We nodded and understood. This intensity has its roots in its slow-paced movements and its in-depth and all-senses activating experience which gives the body and in particular the mind the possibility to enjoy and digest the travelling experience in the moment and far beyond. This is when traveling is becoming recreational.
Some more final reasons for a river cruise…
There are even more reasons why we think a river cruise is one of the utmost travel experiences one can get. We end this series with a few short listed points of which we think are worth to add.
- Charter a cruise ship to enhance and privatise a river journey to make it a one in a life time experience. Heritage Line ship’s have a good size to charter it (f.e. Heritage Line ‘Violet’ has only six rooms for 12 guests). Hence, why not book the whole ship for a private occasions?
- Calm Waters: Many guests suffer from or worry about sea sickness when travelling on open waters. With a river cruise there is nothing like that. It basically feels like staying in a hotel on land. The movement of the ship is close to zero. The shores are always in sight. The waterways are quiet and calm with hardly any waves. River cruising is so smooth and made for anyone.
- Make new Friends: In our opinion a river cruise is also a very good opportunity to make new friends for life whilst traveling abroad. Particularly with Heritage Line. Why we think that? Explore this topic in one of our next article to come soon.