What's the Hot Cruise Spot?

October 20, 2000

A multiple choice question...

A. Europe

B. Hawaii

C. Far East

Did you guess Europe? Nope, Europe's been hot for a couple of years (despite a brief interruption by the badly timed Yugoslavian war that disrupted some itineraries). Hawaii? Well, no. Hawaii, as reported by Travel Weekly earlier this week, may be worried about cruise ship gridlock but that's more because its ports don't have facilities than because it's the next St. Thomas. The answer, then, is the Far East, which until recently --- and except for world cruise itineraries -- has been a destination reserved for high-end small-sized luxury ships.

A daunting destination for many travelers, intimidated by high plane fares, a really really long flight, and a myriad of languages not based on Latin and bearing no similarities with English, the Far East is a perfect cruise destination. It’s a classic sampler opportunity: spend a day or two in ports, such as Singapore and Hong Kong and Shanghai and see which you’d like revisit.

But now the regular, one-or-two-week vacationer can, for a reasonable fare, hopscotch from Vietnam to China to Malaysia to Hong Kong.

Look who’s going there now:

In March, Royal Caribbean’s Legend of the Seas is sailing a 14-night itinerary to and from Singapore, with stops in Phuket, Thailand, Penang, Malaysia Ko Samui, Thailand, and Vung Tau, Vietnam. Cost begins at $1,915.

In March, Princess’ Regal Princess sails a 15-day Singapore to Beijing course with stops in Bangkok, Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam, Hong Kong, Shanghai and Nagasaki.

Renaissance Cruises launches Orient cruise tours than range from 15 - 35 days. The more manageable 15 day voyage goes from Singapore to Hong Kong via Bangkok, Ho Chi Minh, Da Nang, and Canton. The Orient itineraries run December 7 -February 5 aboard R2. Rates begin at $1999. Air is available for $999 from West Coast gateways of San Francisco and Los Angeles.

Beginning next spring, Seattle-based Cruise West is launching three Far East voyages aboard its new flagship Spirit of Oceanus (formerly the Renaissance V). Options include a two week cruise from Bangkok to Hong Kong that traces the coasts of Thailand, Vietnam and southeast China. Another itinerary is even more exotic, cruising from Hong to Sapporo by way of Siberia, China and Korea. A third sails north from Hakodate to Russia’s Kurile Islands and then across the Bering Sea to Alaska. Fares have not yet been announced.

Worried about airfare? Before you book with your cruise line's air add-on program, it pays to shop around. We've seen fares to Singapore as low as $599 roundtrip from San Francisco.