Armed with new safety protocols, these operators are set to resume sailings in a few months’ time.
Let’s face it: cruise ships have received a lot of bad press over the past few months, and that intense media coverage has only compounded the troubles of this hard-hit sector of the travel industry. While it will take some time for cruise lines to get back on their feet, with some companies extending cancellations into 2021, practically all have rolled out new operational standards to give prospective travelers added peace of mind. When international travel in Asia becomes possible once more, the floating hotels will have enhanced hygiene protocols, with staff wearing face masks and physical distancing measures in place, as well as qualified medical personnel onboard. Here are eight Asian itineraries from eight cruise lines that will be going ahead this year.
September 6, 2020: Singapore–Christmas Island–Singapore, from US$681 per person
The 335-meter-long Genting Dream will return to sea in September, when it will make a number of two-night hops between the Lion City and nearby Bintan or Malaysia’s Port Dickson. Travelers wanting a slightly longer vacation can book a five-night cruise from Singapore to the Australian external territory of Christmas Island. Along the way, the ship will call in at the Indonesian pepper- and tin-producing island of Belitung, a less-heralded destination that is becoming known for its white-sand beaches and granite rock formations not unlike those found in the Seychelles.
September 16, 2020: Tokyo–Hong Kong, from US$7,799 per person
Lasting for 14 nights, the Far Eastern Horizons itinerary aboard the Viking Orion stands out thanks to the relatively few days spent cruising at sea and overnight sojourns in four places: Tokyo, the harbor town of Shimizu near Mount Fuji, Hiroshima, and Hong Kong. Other ports of call include Osaka, the hot-spring resort of Beppu, Kagoshima—sometimes compared to Naples for its scenic location directly opposite Sakurajima volcano—and Nagasaki, plus the Taiwanese city of Keelung. All staterooms have private balconies; one complimentary shore excursion in every port is included in the fare, and dining at alternative restaurants on board comes at no extra charge. Viking Ocean is also offering up to US$1,000 shipboard credit per couple.
October 27, 2020: Singapore–Hue–Singapore, US$1,099 per person
This October, Celebrity Eclipse is transporting vacationers on a 14-night return journey that swings by multiple destinations in Vietnam and Thailand. From Singapore, the ship sets a course for Vietnam’s Chan May port, located midway between Da Nang and Hue. Passengers can take a cooking class in the UNESCO-listed trading town of Hoi An, or visit either of central Vietnam’s other two World Heritage sites: the ruined Hindu sanctuary of My Son, or the imperial palace and royal tombs at Hue. Then, the ship will journey southward along the coast to Nha Trang (where the most popular shore excursion is a countryside bike tour) and Ho Chi Minh City. In Thailand, guests have the chance to embark on an insider’s 4×4 jeep tour of Ko Samui or go snorkeling and island-hopping in Angthong National Marine Park. Toward the end of the trip, Celebrity Eclipse will be docked overnight in Laem Chabang (outside Bangkok) before heading back to the Lion City.
Norwegian Cruise Line
October 28, 2020: Yokohama–Busan–Tokyo, from US$1,279 per person
Also scheduled for October is a 12-day voyage aboard the Norwegian Sun, which will sail a circular route to take in three of Japan’s four main islands and briefly make a stop in South Korea. Two full days are spent in Hokkaido, specifically the ports of Hakodate—known for its ocean-fresh seafood and landmarks such as an onion-domed Russian Orthodox church—and the smaller city of Otaru, not far from Sapporo. Leaving Hokkaido, the ship will cruise the Sea of Japan to dock at Kanazawa and then Busan. Holidaymakers have about five or six hours to explore Korea’s second city; the next ports of call are Sasebo, Kagoshima, and Osaka, where an overnight stay in the city gives passengers the chance to hop over to Kyoto. Excursions to Mount Fuji are possible from Shimizu, the penultimate stop on the itinerary.
October 28, 2020: Singapore–Phuket–Singapore, from US$377 per person
Quantum of the Seas was the largest cruise ship of her class when she launched in 2014, but it’s not her size that makes her a popular choice. The myriad attractions on board include a London Eye–inspired gondola, bumper cars, a bar with robot bartenders, and high-tech evening performances at the two-deck-high venue Two70. In late October, the Royal Caribbean ship will depart Singapore on a four-night return trip to Phuket via Penang, where day-trippers might want to enjoy a bowl of assam laksa at Air Itam Market after exploring the hillside temple of Kek Lok Si.
November 21, 2020: Mumbai–Yangon, from US$2,499 per person
This November, the 477-cabin Crystal Symphony will lift anchor at Mumbai to sail south and east toward Myanmar’s former capital on a nine-night journey titled Lands of Enlightenment. Heritage-minded cruises will like the fact that Mumbai itself has a treasure trove of Victorian and Art Deco architecture—the best examples were recently added to the UNESCO World Heritage List—and an overnight stay before the sailing allows guests to see more of the city. The itinerary includes stops in the spice-trading ports of Kochi (a.k.a. Cochin) and Colombo, both home to well-preserved historic districts that retain traces of Dutch and British colonization in centuries past.
November 25, 2020: Singapore–Bali, from US$4,499 per person
This ultra-luxe cruise line still has spots available for Gems of the Java Sea, a 10-day voyage that will appeal to history and nature buffs alike. From the Lion City, the Seabourn Encore will head straight for Semarang, a laidback Indonesian provincial capital that remains off the tourist trail despite its beautiful Dutch-era Old Town and its mouthwatering food. Options for shore excursions here include a guided city tour, a full-day’s outing to the monumental Buddhist temple of Borobudur, or a trip to a 150-year-old plantation and an antique train ride through the Javanese countryside. From Surabaya, the next port of call, travelers can visit the archaeological sites at Trowulan, once the capital of the Majapahit Empire. Also on the cards are excursions to Mount Bromo, West Bali National Park, and Komodo Island.
December 21, 2020: Dubai–Mumbai, from US$2,599 per person
Celebrating Christmas and New Year at sea is just one highlight of the 15-day Souks, Spices & Sands cruise aboard the Sirena, an Oceania ship with 1,368 cabins. In Abu Dhabi, passengers have the option of touring the Al Khatim desert by off-road vehicle or visiting an oasis town, while a dhow cruise awaits in Muscat. After several days at sea, the vessel will dock in the Maldivian capital of Male, where shore excursions range from a scenic seaplane flight to a day spent at the Centara Ras Fushi resort with full access to the facilities. Over in India, intermediate ports of call include Kochi, Mangalore, and Goa, with the Sirena dropping anchor in Mumbai on the morning of January 5, 2021. Oceania is now offering a special deal that includes eight complimentary shore excursions per stateroom and a bonus shipboard credit of US$800.