Asia is the next leg of the journey in Storylines' Ultimate World Cruise Itinerary, whereby we explore the destinations requested by our residential community on board MV Narrative. It's a huge region full of exotic destinations, modern cities with futuristic skyscrapers, diverse cultures and intriguing history.
If you’re searching for the best luxury cruise in Asia, you should know that the most exclusive way to travel the region is by owning a home on a sustainable ship built for residential life, and hopping on and off when you please.
We have split the region into two posts: Asia and Southeast Asia. The requested destinations for our Asian cruise itinerary are:
- Maldives outer islands
- Coastal India
- Sri Lanka
- Preah Sihanouk
- Lazy Beach Koh Rong Samloem
- Koh Rong Marine National Park
- Ho Chi Minh city
- Hong Kong
For the more broad responses, such as India, specific ports featured here are based on our extensive research, although the exact itinerary has not yet been set. Following our previous post exploring Africa, the next logical port of call as we cruise to Asia would be the Maldives, southwest of India.
Maldives (outer islands)
The Maldives consists of around 1200 low-lying islands about 220 miles southwest of India. The Maldives is a popular and romantic destination with its signature overwater bungalows, crystal clear waters, coral reefs, fine white sand and palm tree-lined islands. The Maldives has also become a popular surfing destination with excellent sets found on the outer reefs.
Cruise liners exclusively arrive in the Maldives at the densely populated island capital, Male. However, visitors rarely stay in Male and instead opt to head straight out to one of the tropical islands as the highlight of the Maldives is the underwater sea life. Boat excursions are available all day and can take you around the islands. Many islands are uninhabited, so if you want to completely get away from it all, you can have an island all to yourself; just speak to a travel agent at the port. If you decide to explore Male, be mindful to dress conservatively as it is majority Muslim.
Maldives & Male highlights:
- Male walking tour: This two-hour tour takes you to all the city's main attractions, including the Grand Friday Mosque and the National Museum.
- Underwater world by submarine: Explore the underwater multi-hued gardens with over 2,000 species of colorful fish, reef sharks, moray eels, and rays from inside a submarine.
- Maldives diving: Cruise to one of Male coast's best dive sites, where you can expect to see colorful coral, clownfish, green sea turtles and more.
- Maldives snorkeling: Charter a boat to Hulhumale Island to snorkel in the crystal clear waters and see an assortment of coral and marine life.
- Beach escape to Centara Ras Fushi Resort: Escape to an adults-only resort for the day to savor local delicacies, drink, relax, swim and snorkel.
- Full-day North Male Island Hopping: Includes tours of Huraa and Himmurfushi islands with snorkeling expeditions in between.
- Maldives Boat Charter: An excellent option for a group who wants to explore the Maldives on their own itinerary.
The two destinations requested for India were India and Coastal India. We have selected popular ports on this vast continent, such as Mumbai to represent India and Goa to represent Coastal India. There is always a possibility that more ports could be added to the itinerary to see more of this incredible (and immense) country.
MV Narrative would likely dock at Ballard Pier, about a ten-minute drive into the city center. Taxis are available from the terminal. Mumbai, formally known as Bombay, is the sixth most populous city in the world, with approximately 23 million people. Be prepared for some hustle and bustle and the frenetic energy the city is known for. Mumbai is also rich in culture, historic architecture and incredible food. The city boasts three UNESCO World Heritage sites, including the Victorian and Art Deco buildings built in the 19th and 20th centuries.
- Ride a rickshaw: This is your 'when in Rome' moment. Riding a rickshaw is such a fun way to see the city. Just be prepared for that organized chaos traffic and slightly crazy driving.
- Gateway of India: An arch monument built in the early 20th century to welcome King George V from England. Ironically, it was also where the last British troops departed India in 1948, therefore marking the country's independence.
- Mumbai Taj: One of Mumbai's best-known buildings also has the best contemporary Indian cuisine in the city at the Masala Kraft restaurant inside.
- CSMVS Museum: Learn about Mumbai's fascinating history and culture in the museum dedicated to the Prince of Wales in the Victorian era.
- Elephanta Island: One of Mumbai's UNESCO World Heritage sites, you need to experience the hand-cut temples carved into rocks over 1,500 years ago. One of the best things to do in Mumbai.
- Chhatrapati Shivaji Terminus: Besides being the largest train station in India, the terminal is also an incredible example of Gothic Architecture and another of Mumbai's UNESCO sites.
- Global Vipassana Pagoda: This one is a day trip which is well worth it. It is the world's largest stone pagoda dome and meditation hall, which houses relics of Buddha.
- Four Seasons Rooftop Bar: Head here for sundowners with the best views over the city.
- Train or Plane to Taj Mahal: Agra, home of the famous Taj Mahal is located in the middle of India. Your best option is a 2-hour flight (or a 22-hour train ride for the more adventurous).
Goa is a state in southwestern India and is a popular holiday destination for Indians and international tourists alike. There's a lot going for Goa with its fascinating history; a melting pot of Hindu, Islamic, Buddhist, and Portuguese empires evidenced through the charming architecture in old town and ancient temples in the jungle. But it's mostly known for its beautiful palm-fringed sandy beaches, delicious seafood, and happening nightlife.
It also has Mormugao Goa Cruise Port meaning MV Narrative can visit if she so desires. The port is about 45 minutes from old town, and your only real transportation option is taxi. You must haggle hard for a fair fare, and about US $25 is a good aim.
- Old Goa: Visit old Goa and Panjim for a slice of history and incredible Portuguese architecture. The old churches in particular, are a sight to see, including Bom Jesus, St Francis, Chapel of St. Catherine, Se Cathedral, and Church of Our Lady of the Rosary.
- Archaeological Museum: Fascinating collection of artifacts from the Animist cult that flourished here centuries ago. Also, view portraits of the Portuguese viceroys who occupied here.
- Shop the markets: Goa is a shoppers paradise with a fantastic array of markets, including the famous flea markets, fish markets, clothes markets, herbs and spices markets, and night bazaars.
- Dudhsagar Waterfalls: This spectacular 310-meter waterfall is deep within the Western Ghat Mountains.
- Fontainhas: This UNESCO-certified heritage zone is the oldest of Goa's well-preserved Portuguese quarters.
- Singbal's Book House: This bookstore housed in a heritage building dating to 1936 is Goa's oldest and a local legend. Stock up on some books for your next cruise at sea.
- Gunpowder: Arguably Goa's best restaurant. Dine here for a style of Indian cuisine like no other. Cocktails are top-notch, too.
- Scuba at Grande Island: MV Narrative could possibly anchor close by here. If not, there are dive tours from the mainland.
- Colva Beach: A busy beach with an exciting hub of activity, including water sports, bars and home to the legendary Our Lady of Mercy church.
- Butterfly Beach: A secluded beach away from the main party beaches. You can either trek here through dense forest or organize a boat ride. Either way, the journey is worth it.
Sri Lanka is increasingly becoming a popular tourist destination due to its incredible natural beauty and unique local delicacies. Sri Lanka is one of the top ten global bio-diverse hotspots worldwide and has a reputation for the best wildlife safaris outside of Africa.
Colombo has a convenient cruise terminal at Queen Elizabeth pier, only a 15-minute walk to the town center. Taxis and shuttles are also available. Colombo is a unique cultural mix of Indian influence with relics of Portuguese, Dutch, and English settlements. On foot, you can easily explore the center, aka Fort, which has a mixture of old colonial buildings and contemporary architecture. The city is divided into 13 districts; the two must-see neighborhoods are Fort (District .) and Pettah (District 11). Just take your time to stroll these lovely old colonial neighborhoods and use tuk-tuk to get around.
- Walk around Fort: Here, you will view beautiful old colonial buildings such as the Clock Tower, Old Galle Buck Lighthouse, and St. Peter's Church, among others.
- National Museum: Learn about Sri Lanka's ancient history and culture in their largest museum, which dates back to 1876.
- Wander around Pettah: Pettah is one of Colombo's oldest districts and is a hive of activity engaging all the senses. It can be overwhelming but needs to be experienced.
- Independence Memorial Hall: Escape the hustle and bustle of Colombo's streets in this peaceful place dedicated to Sri Lanka's independence from the British.
- Buddhist Temples of Sri Kailawasanathan Swami Devasthanam Kovil: Colombo's oldest temple is simply a work of art. South Indian-inspired architecture, the level of detail in the design and artwork, both interior and exterior, is awe-inspiring.
- Galle Face Green: This beach and sea promenade are perfect for strolling or relaxing to watch the sunset over the sea at the end of the day.
Sri Lanka highlights:
- Wildlife Safari: Depending on how long we stay in port, you can possibly organize a Sri Lankan wildlife safari, complete with jungle lodges and treehouses. Expect to see elephants and leopards, among a myriad of other animals.
- Kandy: Located in the middle of Sri Lanka, Kandy is considered by many to be the best city, with its stunning lake surrounded by spectacular hills and nature.
- Dambulla: You can arrange a tour from Colombo to this ancient UNESCO World Heritage site Sigiriya, the ancient rock fortress. Also experience a tropical elephant safari along the way.
- Arugam Bay: Head here for those looking for a beautiful beach with great surf and a relaxed Seminyak, Bali-kind of vibe.
- Volunteer at an Elephant Sanctuary: It is essential for us to contribute to conservation efforts in the places we visit. One of the ways you can do that in Sri Lanka is by volunteering or donating to an elephant sanctuary such as the Pinnawala Elephant Orphanage, Millenium Elephant Foundation, Udawalawa Elephant Transit Home or the Elephant Freedom Project (which is against elephant rides and elephant tricks).
Although the next stop on the list of requested destinations is Singapore, we have a sneaking suspicion that Thailand's Phi Phi Islands, Phuket, and/or Bangkok would be a welcome addition to the itinerary.
To get through to East Asia, let’s cruise through the Malacca Strait past Kuala Lumpur, where we reach one of the busiest and most significant ports in the world: Singapore.
Ships dock at the Singapore Cruise Center on Sentosa Island which has been recently remodeled and has all the facilities you need including shops, post office and cafes. Sentosa is a popular tourist destination with beach clubs, theme parks, and historical sites. It is attached to Singapore Island by a bridge, and you can find taxis at the terminal. Alternatively, you can catch a cable car that offers a terrific view over Sentosa and Singapore.
- Fort Siloso: If you are a fan of history, head to Fort Siloso at the northwest tip of the island. The walk there is pleasant enough with a treetop footbridge. They have transformed the fort into a museum about Singapore's defense against the Japanese during WW2. It's fascinating and free.
- Beach clubs: If you're keen to kick back and relax at the beach, Sentosa has plenty of beach clubs where you can order food and cocktails to your lounge chair and umbrella.
- Adventure Cove Water Park: If you have kids, be sure to take them to this ginormous theme park with many fun rides, slides, and a variety of pools. Moreover, it's a refreshing break from the hot and humid Singapore climate.
- Cable Car: The cable car has two lines; one takes you to various attractions on Sentosa Island, then another line takes you across to Singapore.
- Marina Bay Waterfront: Stroll along the famous promenade and take in the city skyline, as well as a plethora of dining, shopping and interesting modern architecture. And there are mist sprays and fanned breeze shelters to cool you down along the way.
- Marina Bay Sands: Head up to the Skypark Observation Deck with a restaurant, bar, and an infinity pool overlooking the bay and city.
- Gardens on the Bay: This modern and innovative green space is vast, covering 101 hectares in the middle of Singapore. It is divided into three sections; Central Garden, East Garden, and South Garden.
- Night Zoo: Take the family to the world's first nocturnal wildlife park!
Cambodia is a place full of lovely people, many still feeling the effects of the Killing Fields and Tuol Sleng Prison, now a museum in Phnom Penh. However, it was not specifically requested by our residents, nor was Angkor Wat; one of the ancient seven wonders of the world and a UNESCO World Heritage site. However, we suspect there will be residents keen to visit both Angkor Wat and the Killing Fields. As such, we have provided some overland tour ideas from Sihanoukeville to Phnom Penh and Siem Reap.
Preah Sihanoukville, Koh Rong Island, Koh Rong Marine National Park, and Lazy Beach
Preah Sihanoukville is located in the Gulf of Thailand and is a popular holiday destination for Cambodians and international tourists. The region has Koh Rong Marine National Park, which encompasses Cambodia's best islands and beaches. The cruise terminal is at Sihanoukville and tuk-tuks can take you into town. Lazy Beach is located across the bay on Koh Rong Samloem Island and is divine. It has the whitest sand and the most aquamarine turquoise waters imaginable.
Preah Sihanoukville highlights:
- The Led Zephyr: This ultra-cool restaurant, bar and guest house hosts live music and stand-up comedy with excellent food and local craft beer.
- Otres Beach: If you do happen to stay on the mainland and are looking for a quieter beach with upscale accommodation, then catch a tuk-tuk here.
- Ream National Park: This tropical paradise only 18 km from the city center has incredible biodiversity and abundant wildlife, including mouse-deer, rhesus monkeys, turtles, Sarus cranes, dolphins, dugongs and many more. Some are rare and endangered species that are thus preserved and protected.
- Island Hop: Speed ferries will get you to both Koh Rong and Koh Rong Samloem Island off the coast of Sihanoukville. These islands offer excellent scuba, snorkeling, jungle trekking, and some of the best beaches in Cambodia.
- Lazy Beach: As previously mentioned, Lazy Beach is one of the best beaches and perfect for, well, being lazy.
- Koh Rong Marine National Park: Cambodia's first marine park takes in Koh Rong Marine in seven islands and covers 202 square miles in the Gulf of Thailand. Depending on regulations, MV Narrative may or may not be able to explore and anchor in the park.
- Angkor Wat: For those who just want to see Angkor Wat, your best bet is to get a direct flight from Sihanoukville to Siem Reap.
- Phnom Penh & The Killing Fields: Dark tourism is disturbing but is a great way to learn where humanity has failed, as well as gain a deeper understanding of the Cambodian people. Fly direct from Sihanoukville to Phnom Penh, which is worth visiting in itself. Seek out tours for Tuol Sleng Prison museum and The Killing Fields.
- Phnom Penh, Mekong River & Angkor Wat: For those who want to see it all, we suggest flying direct to Phnom Penh, do your sightseeing and then book a Mekong River cruise to Siem Reap which includes Cambodian culture experiences, crocodile safari and Angkor Wat.
The locations requested were "Vietnam", "Ho Chi Minh city", and "Hanoi" for the cruise itinerary. Vietnam is a narrow strip of a country bordering Cambodia on the South China Sea. Many Asia cruises make their way here, especially to Halong Bay's emerald green waters and limestone cliffs. Coming from Cambodia, the next port of call is…
Ho Chi Minh city
Ho Chi Minh city is a bustling metropolis of approximately 10 million people that never sleeps. Larger cruises cannot make it up the Saigon River to the city center, aka District 1, or Saigon. As such, MV Narrative would likely dock at Phu My Port, roughly a 1.5-hour drive to the city. You will need to get a taxi at the gate and agree on a price first. Once in the city, most of the main tourist sites are in District 1 and within walking distance. Here are some insider tips:
- City Hall: Walk around District 1 to discover the main sites, including this grand French Colonial Style architecture building modeled on the Hotel de Ville in Paris.
- Reunification Palace: also known as Independence Palace, the building's architecture is more impressive from the inside than the exterior.
- Notre-Dame Cathedral: Another remnant of French colonization, the cathedral is modeled on the famous church in Paris.
- Hotel Majestic: If you want to stay overnight in the city, consider this French colonial style hotel and landmark that overlooks the Saigon River.
- War Museum: Get an incredibly eye-opening account of the Vietnam War from the Vietnamese perspective.
- Ho Chi Minh City Museum: Come here to learn about Ho Chi Minh's life, which includes his upbringing as well as documenting his time traveling the world, learning and finding a way of freeing Vietnam from the restraints of colonialism.
- Ben Duoc relic of Underground Tunnels: For the more adventurous seeking to discover the underground Saigon, this is a labyrinth of tunnels that played a significant role in the war.
- Street Food: Ho Chi Minh is renowned for some of the best street food in the world. There are several Saigon street food tours which include hands-on cooking classes.
Hanoi is Vietnam's second-largest city and the capital located in the north of the country. The city is inland on the Red River, and the Hon Gai International Passenger Cruises Terminal serves Hanoi at Halong Bay, about 105 miles east of the city. However, Ha Long Bay, a UNESCO World Heritage site, is Vietnam's most outstanding attraction. We highly recommend taking a ferry from the terminal to Cat Ba Island, the bay's largest, about a 40-minute journey. It's a great place to hike into the jungle, see the critically endangered white-headed langur monkey, and get breathtaking bay and island views.
Those wishing to venture into Hanoi, which is definitely worth seeing, plan for the 3-4 hour drive and arrange accommodation in Hanoi for a night or more to fully experience the city. Here are some recommendations for both Hanoi and Halong Bay.
- Hanoi Old Quarter: Explore this historic area on foot and take in the narrow streets, colonial architecture, and delicious street food for just a few bucks.
- The Temple of Literature: Visit this 1000-year-old complex, originally built as a center of learning and is now an inner-city sanctuary full of ornate pavilions and manicured gardens.
- Thang Long Water Puppet Theater: If you want to experience Vietnamese culture, then you simply must head here for a show, which involves the telling of local legend by puppets in a pool of water... trust us, just see for yourself.
- The Museum of Vietnamese History: Learn about Vietnamese history from the Champa and Khmer Kingdoms to French colonization and the Vietnam War in this uniquely beautiful mix of Chinese and French architecture buildings dating back to 1925.
- Lotte Tower Observation Deck: Head 65 floors up for the best views over Hanoi.
- Famous train street in Hanoi: Bit of a tourist trap but this train traveling down a narrow street inches from people's front doors has to be seen and photographed. Just don't attempt a selfie while standing on the railway.
- Imperial Citadel of Thang Long: This UNESCO World Heritage Site was the center of ancient Hanoi, a fascinating relic of Vietnam's history and of cultural importance.
- Banh Mi 25: Taste this world-famous sandwich in its most authentic and delicious form.
Hong Kong is the only destination requested in the land of the Great Wall and Shanghai. Hopefully, we can dock here as it's one of the iconic harbors for cruises and a great note to finish this post on.
Not only is cruising into Hong Kong harbor a joy with its sprawling skyscrapers flanked by mountains and national parks, but the Hong Kong Cruises Ocean Terminal is super impressive and highly convenient. Located at the tip of the Southern Kowloon Peninsula in the Tsim Sha Tsui District, it is within walking distance to many of Hong Kong's tourist attractions. For those that enjoy shopping, you disembark into an enormous harbor city shopping complex; part of the terminal building. Make sure you are back on the ship's upper decks for the nightly 8pm laser show, not to be missed.
Note: Be mindful of Hong Kong's new national security law and anything posted on social media relating to the government of China.
Hong Kong highlights:
- Tsim Sha Tsui Promenade: This famous promenade is right on your doorstep as you disembark, and features excellent harbor and city views and plentiful shopping, dining and bars.
- Star Ferry: A must-do when visiting the city, the Star Ferry takes you between the Kowloon Peninsula and Hong Kong Island.
- Hong Kong Museum of History: Get an epic 400 years of Hong Kong history from prehistoric times to the modern era.
- Victoria Peak: Another must-do, Victoria Peak is Hong Kong's highest vantage point and features the famous 2-mile-long Peak Circle Walk.
- Ocean Park: This amusement park has it all; a zoo with pandas, an aquarium with sharks and dolphins, roller coasters, carnival games, and a cable car (a child's paradise).
- Disneyland: For those with children on board, now is your chance to treat them to the happiest place on earth; Hong Kong style.
- Nan Lian Garden: Head here to escape the hustle and bustle at a 9-acre tranquil garden full of manicured trees, lotus ponds, and Chinese architecture modeled after the Tang Dynasty.
- Lantau Island: Similar to Singapore's Sentosa Island, Lantau is a tourist and children's playground with beaches, amusement parks, and historical sites.
- Repulse Bay: One of Hong Kong's most exclusive areas with the most excellent beaches; head here for a swim followed by a drink at the iconic Repulse Bay Hotel, which has hosted the likes of Marlon Brando and Ernest Hemingway.
That's it for this leg. Be sure to join us on the next voyage, where we sail east past Taiwan and South Korea then on to Japan.
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