It’s the very latest attempt by river cruise lines to gain a competitive edge on the luxury-sated inland waterways of Asia.
When the Mekong Princess is launched in September, she will lay claim to being the region’s first “spa concept” ship – meaning all 12 suites will be occupied by passengers who want to be pampered with treatments, yoga and meditation, plus culinary delights by world-class chef, Jorg Penneke.
The Mekong Princess, operated by Haimark Travel with a 1-1 staff ratio, is just the latest new ship to boast five star amenities.
The rush to Asia’s rivers is creating a growing market for such products.
The Aqua Mekong launched at the end of the last year with renowned Australian-Thai chef David Thompson in its galley, and its owners told ASEAN Cruise News it was doing well with forward bookings from clients who had sailed on its sister ship on the Amazon.
The Mekong is fast becoming the most competitive inland waterway in Asia. Pandaw already has four vessels on the Mekong. APT and Scenic Tours see the potential and have announced new ships that will sail in Cambodia and Vietnam.
Scenic Tours announced The Spirit last year, which it describes as “akin to a five-star floating hotel” with 34 balcony suites, a steam spa, a pool and an open air cinema. Its owners also claim some of the biggest cabins on the river.
While the ocean liners seem to be focused on thrill-seeking experiences, the trend on river cruises is to add luxury amenities to the marketing list.
The Sanctuary Ananda, which launched in late 2014, offers Thai massage, reflexology sessions, facials, and body scrubs in the Thambyadine spa while coasting along Myanmar’s Ayeyarwady and Chindwin Rivers.
All this activity comes as the Mekong prepares to go through a pivotal growth phase, which intends to unlock the potential of the region to the rest of the world.
The river reaches deep into Cambodia, Vietnam and Laos, giving cruise passengers the chance to visit three cultures and many experiences.
“Today, villages and towns in the Greater Mekong Subregion are benefiting from the arrival of tourists where there were none before,” said Jens Thraenhart, newly appointed Executive Director of the Bangkok-based Mekong Tourism Coordinating Office.