Happy Birthday to Aqua Mekong! This month, luxury cruise line Aqua Expeditions expanded into Asia with the addition of their new Vietnam and Cambodia river cruise. Previously, the brand’s vessels were only in Peru but Founder and CEO, Francesco Galli Zugaro wanted to see his ships reach new waters by 2014.
“It has always been my dream to offer a similar experience to what captures the imaginations of our guests on the Peruvian Amazon. When I traveled the Mekong between Vietnam and Cambodia I found the next world-class destination I was looking for,” said Zugaro. “I sat with Buddhist monks in their remote villages who will welcome our guests to their gilded temples; I mapped out bike paths along the scenic backwater canals of Vietnam; and explored out-of-the-way river banks in Cambodia where our guests can enjoy private moments away from the Mekong’s bustling life.”
Plans for Aqua Mekong began at the end of 2012 and Saigon-based British architect David Hodkinson of Noor Design took on the project to create the 205-foot luxury cruise liner. Hodkinson is known for his work on five-star hotels and used that expertise to craft the boat with the same high-quality accommodations, public spaces and details that are seen in high-end properties.
With the use of local sustainable materials and artisanal touches, the vessel’s interiors display Mekong’s multifaceted cultures. Home to 20 suites, the first and second decks offer 320-foot accommodations with floor-to-ceiling windows and eight with private balconies. Dual sinks and a large walk-in shower accompany the bathrooms with eco-sensitive technology and natural bath amenities.
Not only is it the first five-star small luxury ship to travel between the Mekong Delta in Vietnam and the Kingdom of Cambodia, but it is also Southeast Asia’s only boat to also offer a library, screening room, fitness center, and observation deck. The social areas are decorated with fresh tropical flowers against the polished wood floors, plump couches, and air-conditioning flows freely (an amenity we’re thankful for). And since only 40 guests including crew are allowed per expedition, the staff can remain extremely attentive to passenger’s needs with a 1:1 ratio.
Providing the menus for the ship, Michelin starred Executive Chef David Thompson of Bangkok’s Nam restaurant, incorporate Southeast Asia’s timeless flavors and ancient ingredients amidst tables laden with fine china and sommeliers nearby. Enjoy the day’s catch, the market’s freshest produce, chilies and Thai basil, or simply go straight for the good stuff: Vietnamese artisanal chocolate fondant.
The Cambodia, Vietnam & Mekong cruise starts at USD $3,000 (per person/night) and ranges from a three- to seven-night adventure. The itinerary takes passengers through Khmer temples of Angkor Wat, Ho Chi Minh City and into the waters of China Beach among other destinations for deeper insight into both country’s cultures, history and natural landscapes.