4 Best Asia Cruises

Explore the waterways of Thailand, China, Vietnam and beyond.

Star Clipper Cruises to Asia
Star ClipperCourtesy Star Clipper Cruises

1. THAILAND ISLANDS: Star Clipper

Star Clipper is returning to the Far East in December 2016. Not since 2010 has the 170-passenger sailing ship made Phuket, Thailand, its winter base. Two routes will be offered. The northbound itinerary visits Ko Surin National Park; the granite boulders and white beaches of Similan Islands National Park; the sleepy island of Ko Kradan; and the coves of Phang Nga Bay. Like the northern itinerary, the southern journey also stops at the Similan Islands and Phang Nga Bay, with the addition of Ko Butang and Ko Adang — both known for vibrant coral reefs. Seven-night sailings from $3,260 per person; starclippers.com

2. MEKONG RIVER: Mekong Princess

Haimark's recently launched 24-passenger boat delivers the most extensive spa-themed experience along the Mekong River in Southeast Asia. All guests receive one complimentary spa treatment, plus daily yoga, tai chi and meditation classes, while the spa menu incorporates locally grown products for its Southeast Asian-meets-Western cuisine. As for destinations, the four-night Vietnam, three-night Cambodia itinerary includes visits to the candy-making families and Khmer monks of Ben Tre; a crocodile farm and Cao Dai temple in Long Xuyen; the floating village of Kampong Chhnang; and the Killing Fields of Phnom Penh. Seven-night sailings from $3,499 per person; haimarktravel.com

3. ALL AROUND ASIA: Norwegian Star

The newly remodeled ship returns to Asia for the first time since 2002, adding ports in India and the Gulf. The 2,348-passenger ship departs Istanbul on Oct. 31, 2016, going through the Suez Canal to Egypt, Oman, Dubai and beyond. Beginning Nov. 20, 2016, the ship will continue to Singapore, which, along with Hong Kong, will serve as its departure port for 11- and 14-day sailings in December and January. Stops include Bangkok, Thailand, and Ho Chi Minh City and Nha Trang, Vietnam. Prices vary, ncl.com

4. VIETNAM HIGHLANDS: Angkor Pandaw

As of this June, Pandaw River Expeditions is the first company to carry guests along the Honghe, aka Red River, which forms part of the border between China and Vietnam. Trips depart Halong Bay just outside Hanoi for Vietnam's remote interior highlands where, due to lack of roads, local tribes aren't accustomed to meeting travelers. The 32-passenger vessel replicates the look and feel of a colonial-era steamer — you won't find any pools or minibars. This is a new offering, so the itineraries are fluid, making this trip ideal for travelers seeking a pioneering voyage. Ten-night sailings from $2,860 per person; pandaw.com