7 Things You Need to Know About Cruising in Asia

by Heidi Sarna

7 Things You Need to Know About Cruising in Asia

by Heidi Sarna

Asia is a vast continent made up of many different countries, each with unique customs — and weather patterns. Before you splurge on a cruise in this expansive region, here are seven tips to help you navigate the sometimes complicated waters.

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Ha Long Bay, Vietnam / iStock.com / Lena Serditova
Boheydulang Island, Malaysia
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1. Think big.

Asia is a massive region that stretches thousands of miles in all directions. Given the size, cruises tend to target specific areas: Those sailing between Singapore and Hong Kong focus on Vietnam, while others stick to the eastern Indonesian archipelago. Still others follow Japan's coastline or hug the western shores of Malaysia and Thailand. In addition, river cruises in the region are increasingly popular, too, with choices on the Yangtze River in China, the Mekong River (which flows through a variety of cities), and the Irrawaddy River in Myanmar. 

Asia is a massive region that stretches thousands of miles in all directions. Given the size, cruises tend to target specific areas: Those sailing between Singapore and Hong Kong focus on Vietnam, while others stick to the eastern Indonesian archipelago. Still others follow Japan's coastline or hug the western shores of Malaysia and Thailand. In addition, river cruises in the region are increasingly popular, too, with choices on the Yangtze River in China, the Mekong River (which flows through a variety of cities), and the Irrawaddy River in Myanmar. 

Fans at a market
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2. It's hot (and wet).

Monsoons affect the overall weather patterns in the region, and the heat and humidity in ports near the equator (Indonesia, Singapore, Malaysia, Cambodia, and Thailand) can feel oppressive year-round. Know when to go. Cruise destinations in Asia typically have two seasons: dry and wet, and their timing varies across the region. 

 

Monsoons affect the overall weather patterns in the region, and the heat and humidity in ports near the equator (Indonesia, Singapore, Malaysia, Cambodia, and Thailand) can feel oppressive year-round. Know when to go. Cruise destinations in Asia typically have two seasons: dry and wet, and their timing varies across the region. 

 

Floating market in Bangkok
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3. There will be culture shock.

Cruising in Asia definitely gets you out of your comfort zone. The large cities are modern and bustling, while visiting small villages can feel like going back in time. Brace yourself for poverty and litter, often near main tourist draws. (In many parts of Asia, rich and poor often coexist.) Your senses can be overwhelmed, with sights, sounds, and tastes that are very different from what you are used to back home, which makes the experience all the more valuable.

Cruising in Asia definitely gets you out of your comfort zone. The large cities are modern and bustling, while visiting small villages can feel like going back in time. Brace yourself for poverty and litter, often near main tourist draws. (In many parts of Asia, rich and poor often coexist.) Your senses can be overwhelmed, with sights, sounds, and tastes that are very different from what you are used to back home, which makes the experience all the more valuable.

Traffic in Ho Chi Minh City
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4. Carsick? Be careful.

Expect very long (two- to four-hours each way) bus or taxi rides in heavy traffic between many industrial cruise terminals to the main attractions, including at the ports for Bangkok, Thailand; Ho Chi Minh City, Hanoi, and Hue, Vietnam; and Beijing, China.

 

Expect very long (two- to four-hours each way) bus or taxi rides in heavy traffic between many industrial cruise terminals to the main attractions, including at the ports for Bangkok, Thailand; Ho Chi Minh City, Hanoi, and Hue, Vietnam; and Beijing, China.

 

Wat Traimit in Bangkok
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5. Take time for temples.

Fascinating and diverse Buddhist and Hindu temples, shrines, and pagodas are a huge draw of an Asian cruise. Don't miss the ones in Siem Reap, Cambodia; Bangkok, Thailand; Cochin, India; Java, Indonesia; and Yangon, Myanmar. But don’t assume that all Asian ports feature spectacular temples, either — unfortunately, Malaysia's are not very impressive.

Fascinating and diverse Buddhist and Hindu temples, shrines, and pagodas are a huge draw of an Asian cruise. Don't miss the ones in Siem Reap, Cambodia; Bangkok, Thailand; Cochin, India; Java, Indonesia; and Yangon, Myanmar. But don’t assume that all Asian ports feature spectacular temples, either — unfortunately, Malaysia's are not very impressive.

Beach in Bali, Indonesia
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6. Beach lovers should choose wisely.

Asia's beaches often cannot compete with those in the Caribbean or the South Pacific. Some are volcanic with black sand, others narrow and rough, and many more are strewn with litter. Fortunately, there are a few fabulous exceptions that are worth seeking out: Langkawi, Malaysia; Da Nang, Vietnam; Ko Samui, Thailand; and the southern coast of Sri Lanka.

Asia's beaches often cannot compete with those in the Caribbean or the South Pacific. Some are volcanic with black sand, others narrow and rough, and many more are strewn with litter. Fortunately, there are a few fabulous exceptions that are worth seeking out: Langkawi, Malaysia; Da Nang, Vietnam; Ko Samui, Thailand; and the southern coast of Sri Lanka.

Rice fields along the Mekong
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7. Prepare for natural beauty.

From the Mekong River Delta's rice paddies, to the stunning marine life for snorkelers and divers in eastern Indonesia's Raja Ampat archipelago, to the craggy limestone formations in both Halong Bay, Vietnam and off Thailand's western coast, Asia features an abundance of natural wonders that are often overlooked in favor of cultural offerings — but shouldn't be.

From the Mekong River Delta's rice paddies, to the stunning marine life for snorkelers and divers in eastern Indonesia's Raja Ampat archipelago, to the craggy limestone formations in both Halong Bay, Vietnam and off Thailand's western coast, Asia features an abundance of natural wonders that are often overlooked in favor of cultural offerings — but shouldn't be.

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