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Cruises to Sihanoukville

Sihanoukville (Photo:Elena Ermakova/Shutterstock)
Sihanoukville (Photo:Elena Ermakova/Shutterstock)

About Sihanoukville

It's likely that you won't be neutral about Sihanoukville. You'll either love it or hate it, depending on how well your shore experience matches your travel style, so plan your day carefully. Why so? Because Cambodia is still struggling to recover from the Vietnam War, followed by the hideous rule of the Khmer Rouge, which murdered 1.7 million people (essentially anyone who was educated), leaving the country in shambles.

If you don't want to risk encountering urchins hawking trinkets or adult beggars maimed by landmines, head straight for a private beach, or stay onboard. If you're ready to immerse yourself in the rich cultural swirl of Cambodia with all its warts, you've come to the right place.

Sihanoukville, originally called Kompong Som, is the only deep-water port in the country. It's located in the south of Cambodia on the Gulf of Thailand, 115 miles southwest of capital city Phnom Penh. The town and its surrounding province are named for King Norodom Sihanouk, who was a major force behind Cambodia's push for independence from France, gained in 1953. In the 1960's, Sihanoukville's beaches became a magnet for jetsetters, counting Jacqueline Kennedy and Catherine Deneuve among visitors.

That all changed in 1970, when the king was deposed and Cambodia fell into civil war. The Khmer Rouge used Sihanoukville's once-chic Independence Hotel for target practice and destroyed local temples. By 1993, elections were restored, and the country began its recovery. Although Cambodia quickly became known for Siem Reap in the north, home to spectacular Angkor Wat, Angkor Thom and other ancient Khmer temples, backpackers also began to discover Sihanoukville's beaches.

In 2004, the first luxury beach property opened, and more development followed. In 2006, the New York Times labeled the area "Asia's next trendsetting beach." Now it's possible to drop more than $1,000 per night at a private-island resort, yet the majority of the local population remains quite poor. The Sihanoukville (Snookyville or Snooky for short) of the backpacker crowd still exists, along with sleazy sectors of clubs and sex workers. But there are also temples to see, as well as a vast, bustling, dirty, fascinating market in Sihanoukville town. International organizations are working to get child beggars off the street and into school, and they have created businesses that employ disabled adults.

There's luxurious Sihanoukville and local Sihanoukville -- just remember to choose carefully which one (or maybe both?) you want to see.

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164 Night
Cruise to Sihanoukville

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Los Angeles
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120 Night
Cruise to Sihanoukville

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San Francisco
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Regent Seven Seas Cruises
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DAY 1: Singapore

14 Night
Cruise to Sihanoukville

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Singapore
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DAY 1: Singapore

15 Night
Cruise to Sihanoukville

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Singapore
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Da Nang, Nha Trang ...
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Princess Cruises
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21 Night
Cruise to Sihanoukville

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Singapore
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Kelang, Penang ...
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Princess Cruises
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11 Night
Cruise to Sihanoukville

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Singapore
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Kota Kinabalu, Nha Trang ...
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Princess Cruises
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15 Night
Cruise to Sihanoukville

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Bali
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Singapore, Koh Samui ...
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Regent Seven Seas Cruises
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21 Night
Cruise to Sihanoukville

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Singapore
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Kota Kinabalu, Nha Trang ...
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Princess Cruises
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28 Night
Cruise to Sihanoukville

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Hong Kong
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Hanoi, Da Nang ...
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Holland America Line
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30 Night
Cruise to Sihanoukville

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Tokyo
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Shimizu, Osaka ...
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Cruise Line:
Regent Seven Seas Cruises
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28 Night
Cruise to Sihanoukville

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Singapore
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Koh Samui, Bangkok ...
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Oceania Cruises
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100 Night
Cruise to Sihanoukville

Leaving:
Melbourne
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Dunedin, Akaroa ...
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Cruise Line:
Crystal Cruises
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28 Night
Cruise to Sihanoukville

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Singapore
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Koh Samui, Bangkok ...
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Holland America Line
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14 Night
Cruise to Sihanoukville

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Hong Kong
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Hanoi, Da Nang ...
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Holland America Line
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15 Night
Cruise to Sihanoukville

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Singapore
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Koh Samui, Bangkok ...
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Crystal Cruises
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78 Night
Cruise to Sihanoukville

Leaving:
Sydney
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Cruise Line:
Viking Ocean Cruises
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92 Night
Cruise to Sihanoukville

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Auckland
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Tauranga, Napier ...
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Cruise Line:
Viking Ocean Cruises
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28 Night
Cruise to Sihanoukville

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Hong Kong
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Manila, Boracay ...
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Holland America Line
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27 Night
Cruise to Sihanoukville

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Singapore
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Koh Samui, Bangkok ...
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Holland America Line
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11 Night
Cruise to Sihanoukville

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Hong Kong
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Nha Trang, Phu My ...
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Cruise Line:
Norwegian Cruise Line
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14 Night
Cruise to Sihanoukville

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Hong Kong
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Hanoi, Da Nang ...
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Regent Seven Seas Cruises
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21 Night
Cruise to Sihanoukville

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Singapore
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Bali, Phuket ...
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Princess Cruises
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75 Night
Cruise to Sihanoukville

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Bangkok
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Koh Samui, Sihanoukville ...
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Cruise Line:
Crystal Cruises
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47 Night
Cruise to Sihanoukville

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Auckland
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Paihia, Tauranga ...
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Regent Seven Seas Cruises
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28 Night
Cruise to Sihanoukville

Leaving:
Hong Kong
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Xiamen, Hundred Islands ...
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Cruise Line:
Seabourn Cruise Line
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Why go to Sihanoukville?

Pros:

Free shuttles are provided between the port and town center, and there are idyllic beaches nearby

Cons:

Street hawkers and beggars are in the area and the port is not safe to walk at night

Bottom Line:

It's an industrial port with tuk tuks and taxis available to the southern beach resorts

Sihanoukville Cruise Port Facilities?

There's really nothing worth walking to from the port. It's about a five-minute walk to the entrance gate, and the few nearby businesses appear targeted to local dock workers. Sihanoukville town is about a 10-minute drive inland, southeast of the port. The beaches are all south and southeast of the port. There's a fair amount of sprawl (casinos, huge wedding banquet halls, budget lodgings) that will likely someday fill in any empty spots between downtown and the beaches.

Good to Know?

At beaches and temples, you'll likely encounter children begging or selling little trinkets. They can be charming and engaging, but international nonprofits advise that you should never buy from them or give them money, because if their begging is profitable, they won't be allowed to attend school. Rather, give to a charity like The Cambodian Children's Painting Project (see "Best Souvenir" section above), which helps kids get an education.

There have been some reports of tourist robberies in the Sihanoukville area. Don't carry a lot of cash, and consider wearing a money belt. Don't tempt drive-by motorbike thieves by carrying a purse.

If you're on foot in Sihanoukville town, be on alert for drivers who don't follow traffic rules, and should you leave the ship for an overland trip, be aware that the road to Phnom Penh (three to four hours away) has seen lots of accidents.

But bad driving doesn't stop at the water's edge. Several tourist deaths have been attributed to unsafe Jet Ski drivers, so be careful when you go for a swim.

Now that we've thoroughly scared you, know that you should also be on the lookout for the Cambodian smile, which is friendly and welcoming -- as are most Cambodians.

Getting Around?

On Foot: Nope, don't do it. Cambodia can be extremely hot, and there's noting of note within easy walking distance of the port.

By Shuttle: Free shuttles typically operate between the port and Sihanoukville town; check with your ship's staff for details and timing. The shuttle drop-off point is across from the main market.

By Taxi and Tuk-tuk: There will be a pack of taxi drivers, tuk-tuk operators and motorcycle-taxi drivers waiting outside the port gates. Negotiate fiercely, and make sure you and the driver can understand each other. We got an all-day taxi with an English-speaking driver for $20 (and liked him so much that we tipped an extra $5).

Currency & Best Way to Get Money?

U.S. dollars are universally accepted. In fact, when you use an ATM, it surprisingly spits out dollars. Euros and Thai baht are also accepted by many establishments. Just be aware that even a small tear in a U.S. dollar renders it useless, so don't accept any bills as change that are damaged if you intend to use them there. You may receive some small change in the local currency, the riel, so for current currency conversion figures, visit www.oanda.com or www.xe.com. There are several banks with ATM's along Ekareach Street, the main commercial hub of Sihanoukville town. Near Serendipity Beach, there's also an ANZ Bank ATM in front of the Golden Sands Hotel on Tola Street, plus other stand-alone ATM's in various locations. Higher-end restaurants and resorts generally accept credit cards, but be prepared to pay cash elsewhere.

Language?

You'll do fine with English at higher-end resorts and the many local restaurants run by expats. Some enterprising taxi drivers have also studied English. Chat up any potential driver to make sure you'll be able to understand each other. When it comes to shopping, non-English-speaking sellers will likely whip out a calculator or cell phone to propose a price. Children hustling for a handout are some of the most astonishing linguists we've ever encountered, able to hit you up in five or six different tongues.

The country's official language is Khmer, a term which also refers to the country's ethnic majority. In Khmer, "hello" is Sew sadday. To say "thank you," tell someone, Awk koun. Khmer isn't tonal, so it's a bit easier than Thai or Laotian. Written Khmer is based on an Indian script, so it's artistic-looking but indecipherable. Fortunately, most relevant signs in Sihanoukville are also written in Roman letters.

Where You're Docked?

Sihanoukville Autonomous Port is two miles from Sihanoukville town and 11 miles from Kang Keng Airport. It's an industrial port with no passenger facilities.


Sihanoukville Cruise Reviews

tjllsimpson
Sail Date: Jan 2019
We took the courtesy bus to the beach. Sihanoukville is in a a very poor area although there is a lot of Chinese investment being poured in which will make a considerable difference. The beachfront area wasn't the... Read More
Sapphire Princess
Bladerunner1965
Sail Date: Dec 2019
Unforgettable experience but the grinding poverty must be seen to be believed.... Read More
Viking Orion
Snoopy55
Sail Date: Nov 2019
Very rough TUI TUK ride. Nice river cruise, beach and drink stop. Visited home of fisherman and rice farmers.... Read More
Sun Princess
dbn
Sail Date: Nov 2019
Hired a taxi for the day.. driver stayed with us for the day and is way cheaper than booking a Princess excursion. You just create your own itinerary on the fly and the taxi driver is happy to oblige... Read More
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