Mekong Cruises

Mekong River, Saigon & South, Vietnam

Graceful cruises down the mighty Mekong, experiencing authentic river life as you ply between the great cities of Siem Riep, Phnom Penh and Saigon
As classic Asian journeys go, nothing beats sitting on a private balcony as the sun dips into the mighty Mekong, while you glide towards one of Indochina's 3 greatest cities: Siem Reap, Saigon or Phnom Penh. These 2 vessels, intimate but stately, luxurious but unshowy, are the golden ticket. There's Jayavarman, named after Angkor’s most venerated king, a devout Buddhist who built 102 hospitals and numerous temples; and the equally charming Jahan, named after an Indian emperor and patron of the arts. Both are kings of the river, with on-board swimming pools and spas, fabulous food and truly 5-star service.

But perhaps the most enchanting thing about these cruises is the way they combine world-famous sites with everyday village life. You could be gazing on the Royal Palace of Phnom Penh one minute and visiting a working temple the next. Their guides have a real passion for the communities, sharing history and stories as they take you around villages, fish farms, temples and schools. Back on board, there are after-dinner movies and excellent cultural speakers; cookery demos and dawn Tai Chi lessons; aromatherapy oils for hedonists and afternoon teas for traditionalists. A very special way to get under the skin of Cambodia and Vietnam.

Why we chose this partner

  • The flexibility of their offering: a choice of 3, 4, or 7-night routes between Saigon, Phnom Penh and Siem Reap (in either direction)
  • Their ethos: they visit rural communities and support local projects such as weaving workshops and water hyacinth farms
  • Their tour guides are delightful; and travellers are divided into small groups with staggered timings
  • Excursions are designed to give you an understanding of the daily lives of the Cambodian and Vietnamese people
  • The boats are luxurious yet intimate, each with around 25 cabins
  • Rates are all-inclusive, which takes the hassle out of everything

Please be aware

  • During the low water season (typically January-September), the stretch of Tonle nearest Siem Reap is not navigable, so there's a 4-5 hour bus transfer
  • The agricultural river landscape is soothing rather than spectacular
  • The WiFi is good, but you will be out of range on certain days

Best time to go

Visit from November to February, when the heat is less searing and the rainy season is over. November-early December is our favourite time, as it is not too crowded, and you can usually sail all the way into Siem Reap (at other times, low waters mean a long overland transfer from Kampong Cham into Siem Reap). Try and avoid July to October, when humidity is at its peak.

Our top tips

  • Take small cash so that bus, boat and ox-cart drivers can be tipped. We also recommend small presents for the schools you visit.
  • Wear loose clothing; life on board can be surprisingly humid.

Great for...

Family
Honeymoon
Spa
Room: Jaya

Lodging

The majestic Jayavarman is the flagship vessel. Across its 3 decks are a bar and lounges, a dining room in French colonial style, spa treatment rooms and a sauna, an unheated pool and a jacuzzi on the top sundeck. Raj-themed Jahan is equally impressive: meet fellow travellers in the East India Club bar or by the refreshing pool, relax in the Viceroy dining hall, or take a massage in the spa.

Cabins on both ships are beautifully decorated, with sliding glass doors to private balconies, and teak and cane, fabrics and fresh flowers to transport you to another age. Comforts range from espresso machines, music systems and air conditioning to old-fashioned sun hats, binoculars, mosquito nets and hand fans. You can request extra padding for the beds and choose from a variety of pillows.

Jayavarman has 27 cabins (14 on the main deck and 13 on the deck above, including 2 suites with four-poster beds), while Jahan has 26 (16 on the main deck and 10 on the upper deck). All have private balconies and lounges. They range in size and price from Superior Staterooms to Suites, the largest of which are the exquisite Taj Suite and the very English Lord Byron, both with jacuzzis.

The cuisine is equally spoiling. Jayavarman’s Indochina Dining Hall, its tables dressed in stiff napery, features dark wood furniture on a dark wood floor, and a ceiling lit by candle pendants. Next to the bar on the upper deck of The Jahan, meals are served in the Viceroy Dining Hall, an elegant room where sunlight filters onto aqua walls and the white ceiling is bordered with gold. On both ships are tables for 2 if you don’t feel like socialising.

Rates include all meals: buffet breakfast, buffet lunch, afternoon tea (a highlight), and dinner. Both buffets and set menus include fresh, varied and delicious international and Asian dishes; guests speak very highly of the latter. Free beverages flow, from mineral water, teas, coffees and soft drinks to beers, spirits and wines. Excursion restaurant lunches are included, too. And service has been described as 'universally wonderful'.

Activities

Start the day with Tai Chi on the sun deck… end with a nightcap at the bar. During the day, excursions may include (depending on your itinerary):

  • A local boat to Binh Thanh island to visit a small, friendly, sedge-weaving community
  • The rice wine town of Cai Be, known for its French Catholic church and ancient floating market
  • A bicycle-pulled rickshaw ride in the 'fish capital of Vietnam', Tan Chau, where you can test your bargaining skills at street stalls and visit a floating fish farm
  • Exploring the dark side of Phnom Penh as well as the golden Royal Palace, returning to ship through bustling downtown
  • Cruising through Kampong Chhnang, Cambodia’s ‘water world’, with floating villages, stopping off at the island of Koh Oknha Tey to buy silks on the way
  • Spa treatments and a traditional cookery class
  • A visit to the Captain's Bridge on board

Activities include:

  • Birdwatching
  • Boat trips
  • Cinema nights
  • Cooking classes
  • Cycling
  • Dance performances
  • Historical sites
  • Museums / galleries
  • Shopping / markets
  • Traditional cultures
  • Well being
  • Wildlife
Activity: Cai Be
Kid Friendly: Jayavarman - pool deck

With Kids

Children are welcome but must be closely supervised by an adult at all times. All cabins can fit 1 baby cot or 1 rollaway bed, and both boats offer connecting cabins.

Best for:

Babies (0-1 years), Children (4-12 years), Teens (over 12)

Family friendly accommodation:

Cots Available, Extra Beds Available

Baby equipment: Baby cots and high chairs

Remember  baby and child equipment may be limited and can sometimes go astray, so if it is crucial to you, please check with the hotel that it is still available

Transport

Both vessels run 3 cruises, travelling either upstream or downstream:

  • Lost Civilization cruises between Saigon & Siem Reap (8 days)
  • Serenity cruises between Siem Reap & Phnom Penh (4-5 days)
  • Pearl Of The Orient cruises between Saigon & Phnom Penh (4 days)
Departures tend to be on a Saturday (from Saigon or Siem Reap) or a Tuesday / Wednesday (from Phnom Penh).

Transport: The Jahan

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Itineraries