CruiseBoth Pandaw Cruises and Viet Princess have picked September to kickstart sailings in Southeast Asia.

Mekong river cruises sail into a busy season

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Mekong river cruises sail into a busy season

Two prominent river cruise companies in Southeast Asia are warming up their engines as they restart operations this September to bring guests through the region's waterways after two years of non-operation.

UK-registered Pandaw Cruises and Ho Chi Minh-based Viet Princess Cruiser Corp have picked 9 September 2022 and 22 September 2022, respectively, to kick off their cruise season following the Covid-19 pandemic.

Pandaw Cruises, which operates 17 vessels and one new ship RV Song Hong (launching 2023), will start with its 10-night Halong Bay and Red River expedition. Sailings for Cambodia, lower Vietnam, Laos and India are scheduled for October.

According to James Talbot, sales and reservations manager of Pandaw Cruises, tourism demand for Southeast Asia in general has been much lower this year due to the closed borders in the first half of 2022. 

Pandaw Cruises will start its 10-night Halong Bay and Red River expedition.
Pandaw Cruises will start its 10-night Halong Bay and Red River expedition.

The key challenge now, he noted, is showing international travellers that Asia is open for business and safe for travel in 2022.

“The disruption to flight schedules has also hindered tourists' return but with this situation now improving and with confidence growing, we are seeing the demand return quickly,” Talbot said.

“We are expecting demand to pick up drastically for 2023/24."

Similarly, for Viet Princess, hospitality director Eric Christophe related that following no activity for 30 months, three of their cruise ships and 95% of their crew members are prepared to sail for the new season.

Operating between Ho Chi Minh City in Vietnam and Siem Reap in Cambodia, its three small-yet-luxurious ships are fitted with 14 state-of-the-art suites and has a carrying capacity of 28 to 32 persons including crew members.

During the pandemic, Viet Princess sustained business with the 300-seater restaurant on luxury cruise Saigon Princess.
During the pandemic, Viet Princess sustained business with the 300-seater restaurant on luxury cruise Saigon Princess.

In recent weeks, Viet Princess has recorded growing reservations and if the momentum keeps up, Christophe expects seats to be sold out for 2022.
“Our clients are mostly from English-speaking countries such as the U.S., the U.K., Canada, Australia, New Zealand, as well as South Africa and France,” he shared.

Before the pandemic, Viet Princess had only worked with charter companies, with the ships fully booked all-year round. During the pandemic, Viet Princess sustained business with the 300-seater restaurant on luxury cruise Saigon Princess, which was fully booked.

“However, now we have to be open to FITs as some of those charter companies did not survive the pandemic,” Christophe said, adding that promotions have been ongoing since last year through mails, Visio conference and fairs.

“The result is satisfying so far, as we have signed on a big contract with New Zealand platform,” he said.

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