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Dreaming of a Southeast Asia cruise? This is everything you need to know

Dreaming of a Southeast Asia cruise? This is everything you need to know

It’s a region that’s so enticingly close yet so exotically far removed: Southeast Asia. This vibrant and varied wonderland of beach resorts, islands and tropical cities is more easily accessible than you might think, particularly when you set off from Australia on an Asia cruise adventure.

Of course, the handy proximity of Southeast Asia - as opposed to, say, the Mediterranean - doesn’t mean that the average Aussie cruiser can just up and go immediately. It’s still a bit of a voyage to get there, and a cruise to Southeast Asia will take longer than a domestic or South Pacific itinerary - yet, more and more lines are offering Asian itineraries, including P&O, Princess and Holland America.

So while you start putting plans in place for a fantastic Southeast Asia cruise, why not depart with us on one now? Granted, it will be imaginary - but the brain is a powerful thing. Get onboard our unspecified ship and we’ll guide you through the hotspots of Papua New Guinea, Indonesia, Singapore and beyond.

Bid Brisbane farewell

Swimmers cooling off on a hot busy summer day in Southbank.

For the purposes of our daydream cruise, we will depart from Brisbane - but Sydney and Fremantle also offer Southeast Asia cruises. Step aboard your beautiful vessel and settle in - the buzzing but laidback capital of Queensland is a fantastic place to leave Australia behind, and since you had a bit of time before departure you took your time exploring Southbank after a couple of days of fun and frivolity in the theme parks and on the beaches of the Gold Coast.

But now you’re on the ship, and it’s pulling away from Portside in the Brisbane River. Heading out of the rivermouth as the sun begins to go down, you enjoy a cocktail, take a requisite photo of said sunset and cocktail combo, and then settle in for a few days of relaxation. Itineraries to Southeast Asia generally kick off with a day or two at sea, as there is quite a way to go. You use the time to relax completely, explore the ship and gear up for the sights, sounds, scents and excitement of your cruise to come.

Awestruck in Alotau

Papua New Guinea Tribal Dance Celebration.

Papua New Guinea is a reasonably new feature on cruise itineraries, but we head there first - despite being technically in Melanesia, it’s a handy stop on the way into Asia. Waking up in Alotau, a quiet provincial capital in Milne Bay, you look over the rolling green hills of an entirely new place, one that not many people are fortunate enough to visit! After breakfast, you take a stroll into the city and enjoy the local handicraft and produce market. The highlight here is the friendly Papua New Guinean people. You are filled with warmth and connection as you  wander and explore the sights and sounds.

A shore tour takes you out of Alotau to see a little more of the country and its natural delights. Unfortunately this (imaginary) cruise isn’t here at the right time to take in the National Canoe and Kundu Festival, so instead you get on a pre-booked tour to find out what village life is like in MIlne Bay. Scenery is a fantastic part of Papua New Guinea, but you know it’s the personal and cultural encounters that will stick with you.

Bustle in Bali

Seaside relaxing retreat in Bali, Indonesia at sunset.

Fast forward a day or two and open your eyes to find you’ve arrived in beautiful Bali, Indonesia’s most famous holiday hotspot. Rugged hills, sandy beaches, rice growing on lush terraces and colourful urbanity meet your senses and you instantly understand why it’s so popular with travellers of all kinds - including cruisers. You peruse the comings and goings of Benoa where the ships dock, as you prepare for a great day ahead.

The tourist highlights of Bali require a drive from Benoa, so you step onboard the tour you’ve booked and head out. This time it’s a tour of the various points of interest in Denpasar, Bali’s capital, and you quickly immerse yourself in the bustle of this surprisingly big and busy city. On the way back, you stop to shop in the village markets. You are blown away by Celuk and Tohpati and their amazing wares, known for their gold and silver jewellery and Batik prints.

Before you get back on the boat, you make time to try out a Bintang beer. The cool lager is a welcome contrast to the tropical heat and as the favoured drink in Bali, it’s a fantastic way to cap off your time in Indonesia’s holiday playground.

Sophistication in Singapore

View of Marina Bay Sands from across the water at sunset, in Singapore.

You thought Bali was busy until you arrive in world class Singapore. Ships dock in one of Singapore’s two state-of-the-art cruise terminals, and in the case of our current (imaginary) cruise, it’s the Marina Bay Cruise Centre - near Sentosa Island and a short trip into the very centre of the action. The vibe in Singapore is unique, blending western influences, cutting edge modernity and Chinese, Malay and Indian cultural flair.

Because there’s so much to do here, you haven’t pre-booked a tour. Instead, you jump on an MRT and head to some of the city’s highlights - like you read about in a Singapore cruise review. For a dose of shopping for both high fashion and discount outlets, you browse the fabulous boutiques of Orchard Road. Next, you take in the spectacle that is Universal Studios, following it up with an incredible lunch at the buzzing bar and dining scene at Clarke Quay. You then pounce on the opportunity to sip on the birthplace of a Singapore Sling at the famous Raffles Hotel and then meander around and enjoy the razzle dazzle of the Marina Bay neighbourhood right where your ship is docked.Knowing you simply can’t see it all in one day, you take mental notes of where you will visit the next time you’re in incredible Singapore.

After your busy day soaking up the cosmopolitan excitement of Singapore, you’re so ready for the relaxation that comes part and parcel of a cruise holiday. A busy day of playing tourist, then a lazy day at sea - cruising in Southeast Asia is all about the balance!

Pictures in Phuket

Long boats tied to the shores of the stunning Ko Phi Phi Leh Island in Thailand.

Pulling into Patong, the part of the isle of Phuket where the cruise ships dock, you disembark for a day of enjoying the beauty and beaches of this most famous Thai beach resort. It’s simply gorgeous, so with a fully charged camera, you head out ready to take travel magazine-worthy snaps to make friends and family at home envious.

The cruise lines offer all kinds of shore tours, but you have one thing on your mind - beach! You hop on your organised transport and are full of buzz and anticipation as you make your way to one of Phuket’s many island gems - this time, you have opted to visit renowned Ko Phi Phi Leh Island, where “The Beach” was filmed, for the ultimate instagram-worthy pictures. You consider doing one of the many amazing activities - scuba diving, snorkelling, etc., but today you’re all about the chill - so you pull up a piece of sparkling white sand, take a dip in the tropical blue waters and just take it all in.

Heading home

Relaxing setting out on deck aboard a floating cruise ship at sunset.

This Southeast Asian cruise is on its way back to Australia, but you can’t help but dream of the many other incredible spots to visit in the region - so you head down to customer services and book another. This time, you make it a real one!

The few days at sea on the return journey are full of reflection and excited chatter as you soak in the experiences and unwind one last time before getting off the ship and back into real life. You watch the ocean waves pass by, make the most of the facilities onboard, and eat enough to keep you going for a month or two.

Once your imaginary Southeast Asia adventure has run its course, take a look at our Asia cruises to keep the dream alive.

From party cruises in the Baltic to a classy Cunard voyage, I’ve been lucky enough to experience the full spectrum of cruise life. Onboard you’ll probably find me by the pool with a doorstop sized book in one hand and a mojito in the other, or sampling an array of delicious foods.

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