Following Australian-owned Scenic’s phenomenal success on the rivers of Europe, the company adds two new ships to its luxury, all-inclusive fleet for 2016. These will sail the Irrawaddy and Mekong rivers in South East Asia. The first of these is Scenic Spirt, who, with 34 suites, is the larger of the two. Scenic’s trademark style, luxury and state-of-the art design have been adapted to the waterways and culture of South East Asia. And although Spirit is much smaller than the European Space-Ships, with a maximum capacity of 68 passengers, this adds to the atmosphere of five-star exclusivity onboard. Moreover, not only does she retain most of the facilities of the larger ships, she has some new ones of her own - including an open-air cinema!
As it’s an Australian company, all Scenic’s ships are hugely popular with passengers from there and nearby New Zealand, and given South East Asia’s relative proximity to Australia and New Zealand, this will be particularly true on Spirit. However, Spirit is also attracting a similar, mature clientele from the UK and America, many of whom will have experienced the impeccable Scenic service on a European river cruise and now wish to try Spirit’s even more exclusive boutique ambience with a crew to passenger ratio of nearly one to one.
Most onboard meals are taken in Spirit’s main dining room, Crystal Dining Restaurant, on the Jewel Deck. Breakfast and lunch are served buffet-style with the added option to order from the menu. Dinner is a four-course event. A relaxed open-seating policy operates at all meals, although guests tend to wear smart casual attire at dinner. Guests can expect Western favourites and seasonal influences from Thailand, Cambodia, Vietnam, Malaysia and Myanmar on the menus.
Spirit’s casual dining venue, River Café, is found on the Sapphire Deck. Here guests can enjoy coffees, cooling soft drinks, healthy snacks and tasty treats as they admire the passing views.
Fine wines, beers and other spirits are included in the all-inclusive Scenic price.
Spirit’s Sun Deck with its bar, butler service and open-air cinema is a magical setting to enjoy a night under the stars. The elegant Spirit Lounge is also a wonderful place for a pre- or post-dinner drink.
Social events such as welcome and farewell dinners are organised onboard, and some itineraries - such as Journey Along the Mekong - have a themed gala ball. The Scenic Enrich programme provide unforgettable experiences off the ship such as high tea and a puppet show at the famous Raffles, Hotel Le Royal in Phnom Penh in Cambodia.
Whilst onboard, most passengers are content to sunbathe and unwind. The Sun Deck resembles the pool area of an exclusive hotel with its butler service, upmarket sunloungers, bar and streamlined swimming pool. Spirit also has a gift shop, library and a guest laundry, meaning passengers can pack light.
Offshore excursions are designed to bring the magical culture and history of the itinerary alive with activities and tours to suit all tastes, delivered by the very best local English-speaking guides. These include meeting a Vietnam war veteran and a tour of the war time tunnels, a dinner cruise of the Saigon River, a tour of Bangkok’s opulent Grand Palace and a chance to see elephants eating breakfast in Chiang Mai. All costs associated with sightseeing are included.
All cabins across Spirit’s Diamond, Sapphire and Jewel Decks are luxurious suites, decorated in elegant contemporary style influenced by South East Asian design. They come complete with all the facilities you would expect from a five-star hotel.
The Jewel and Sapphire decks are home to 22 Deluxe Suites with an area of 344 sq. ft., featuring private full-length balconies, walk-in wardrobes and large bathrooms.
The Diamond Deck houses two more Deluxe Suites and eight 430 sq. ft. Grand Deluxe Suites which boast even bigger bathrooms, walk-in wardrobes and lounge and dining areas. Finally, the two Royal Panorama Suites at the front of the deck measure an astonishing 861 sq. ft. and have Jacuzzis on the outdoor private terraces, bath tubs in the oversized bathrooms, separate lounge and dining areas and walk-in dressing rooms, providing the ultimate in river cruise luxury.
The Jewel Deck is home to Spirit’s Gym, Wellness Centre, Beauty Salon and Steam Sauna. There is also an elevator to help guests move between decks.
Spirit offers the 15 day Treasures of the Mekong itinerary, which starts with a three night stay in Siem Reap in Cambodia and sails to Vietnam’s Ho Chi Minh City for a two night stay at the end of the cruise. The 16 day Mystical Irrawaddy adventure starts with two nights in Yangon, Singapore and ends in Mandalay after an unforgettable cruise through the magical landscape of Myanmar with its temples, pagodas and ancient villages.
The 19 day Gems of South East Asia itinerary begins with two nights in the cosmopolitan Thai capital Bangkok, before a visit to the beautiful capital of Northern Thailand, Chiang Mai, followed by a three night stay in Cambodia’s Siem Reap, where the cruise to Ho Chi Minh City is embarked on on day nine.
Journey Along the Mekong lasts 20 days and sails from Ho Chi Minh City to Luang Prabang in Laos, broken up with a three night stay in Siem Reap from day 11. The 21 day Treasures of the Mekong and Thai Paradise travels from Ho Chi Minh city to Phuket. Passengers embark in Ho Chi Minh City on day four and disembark on day 11 for a three night stay in Siem Reap. Another 21 day option is the Treasures of the Mekong with Eastern & Oriental Express, where passengers disembark on day 16 to check into this luxury train for a journey through the stunning landscapes of Malaysia.
Essence of Vietnam, Cambodia and Luxury Mekong is an epic 24 day trip. Passengers enjoy a journey through Vietnam from Ho Chi Minh City before embarking Spirit on day 13 for their cruise which ends in Siem Reap. Finally, for the ultimate South East Asian adventure, there is the 29 day Grand Indochina and Luxury Mekong itinerary. Starting with a two night stay in Hanoi, passengers enjoy a magnificent journey through Vietnam, before embarking Spirit on day 13 for the onward journey through Cambodia.