River Cruise Boom Continues as Line Adds Second Mekong Vessel

February 1, 2010
Bookings have been so strong on AMAWATERWAYS' Mekong river cruises in Vietnam and Cambodia that the cruise line has announced it is building a second Mekong vessel. The news comes just five months after the launch of its first Vietnam and Cambodia programme on the 92-passenger MS La Marguerite (pictured right).

The still-unnamed new-build is expected to debut in spring 2011 and will operate seven-day cruises between Ho Chi Minh City and Siem Reap, traveling through Vietnam and Cambodia.

"Our program, which launched in September 2009, has been extremely successful, and that is what prompted us to build a second ship," AMAWATERWAYS' president Rudi Schreiner told Cruise Critic.

AMA doesn't actually own its first Mekong-based vessel, La Marguerite; it simply takes an allocation of cabins. The new vessel, however, will be co-owned with three Vietnamese investors, giving AMA, currently the only mainstream river cruise operator on the Mekong, fuller control of the project.

The new riverboat will be slightly larger than La Marguerite, at 90 meters in length compared to 71 meters, with 62 cabins instead of 46. "The Mekong is an enormous, wide river and we looked closely at La Marguerite and decided we could build a longer vessel," explained Schreiner. The look, however, will be similar, with the new ship featuring the stunning polished wood, colonial-style interiors already found on La Marguerite.

Passengers can take the seven-day cruise as a stand-alone or add on an optional land tour that takes in highlights of the two countries including Halong Bay in Vietnam and the temple complex of Cambodia's Angkor Wat, one of the largest archaeological parks in the world.

The new vessel is part of AMAWATERWAYS' aggressive expansion programme; the company has launched ships in Europe in 2006, 2007, 2008 and 2009, with one due in 2010 and another in 2011. AMA isn't the only river operator keeping the shipyards busy; competitor Avalon Waterways launches two vessels this spring, while luxury German line Premicon has three ships under construction with options for a further three.

But so far, AMA has the Mekong largely to itself, leaving others to focus on Europe and to an extent, the Yangtze. "AMAWATERWAYS is definitely set on the Mekong for the long-run. It's going to be a prime focus for us in the next couple of years," said Schreiner.

--by Sue Bryant, Cruise Critic Contributing Editor