4 Must-Experience Small Ship Cruises in Southeast Asia
Posted By : Threeland Travel / Getting around Vietnam & Indochina
Discover Southeast Asia's natural wonders and communities up close aboard small ship cruises. At Threeland Travel, we specialize in authentically local experiences that immerse you in the region's stunning landscapes and vibrant cultures.
This post highlights 4 top-rated small vessel cruises that are a must for fully appreciating the best of Southeast Asia. From the majestic Mekong River to Indonesia's hidden Gili Islands, you'll witness untouched beauty at a leisurely pace, blending in with locals and learning about traditions firsthand.
On these intimate cruises, enjoy personalized service, chances to connect, and a relaxed way to see breathtaking Halong Bay scenery, pristine Boracay beaches, or the islands of Lombok. Whether you seek history or idyllic island life, these journeys will create lifelong Southeast Asian memories.
Browse our recommended cruises, then let our specialists help plan an unforgettable holidays to Vietnam aboard a small ship. Welcome to Southeast Asia!
Experience small ship cruises in Southeast Asia
I. Mekong River Cruise
The Mekong River winds through Southeast Asia’s most stunning and culturally diverse landscapes. A cruise along its waters between Vietnam and Cambodia immerses you in this unique way of life.
Cruise the mile-long Banteay Chhmar river pier in Thailand’s Siem Reap province, passing lush greenery and quaint riverside towns. Venture to inland floating markets to experience how locals shop straight from boats. Stop in Sa Dec to explore charming French Colonial architecture.
During shore excursions in towns like Tan Chau and Chau Doc, meet friendly Vietnamese families and learn skills like making rice noodle paste. Onboard lectures provide a history of the Khmer Empire and regional traditions.
At night, dine under the stars as the boat anchors in remote locations. The slow pace of river cruising is the best way to fully appreciate the ever-changing scenery and interact with communities still steeped in tradition along the Mekong. Many tours end in Cambodia’s Phnom Penh, providing a memorable introduction to this cross-cultural region.
We highly recommend Threeland Travel's Mekong River cruises for a special cultural experience connecting Vietnam and Cambodia. Threeland's small boats offer an intimate look at river life.
II. Halong Bay Cruise, Vietnam
Halong Bay is one of Vietnam’s most spectacular natural wonders, featuring over 1,600 limestone islands rising from emerald waters. A cruise allows intimate exploration of this UNESCO World Heritage site.
Spend two or three days discovering hidden gems accessible only by boat. Kayak between towering rock formations fringed with beaches or through breathtaking secluded lagoons. Stop for a picnic lunch on a private island.
Many cruise itineraries include a night aboard the vessel under a sky full of stars, with activities like cooking classes. Others focus on action with activities like rock climbing and cave adventuring.
Excursions feature scenic hikes to lofty caves like Surprise Cave, filled with stalactites. Swim and snorkel through clear water teeming with marine life. Learn about Halong’s formation over millions of years while taking panoramic views.
Cruise ships range from small junk-style boats with just a handful of cabins to larger vessels with amenities like spa treatments. All offer a comfortable way to unlock Halong Bay’s magic up close amid luxe outdoor and dining areas.
We highly recommend exploring this UNESCO wonderland on a Threeland Travel’s best Halong Bay cruise. Our small ships are perfect for intimate discovery, and our expert guides will make your experience unforgettable. Get in touch to start planning today!
Image source: orchidcruise,com
III. Boracay Island Hopping, Philippines
For a quintessential Philippine island experience, Boracay is hard to top. A day cruise allows hopping between its beautiful neighboring islands and beaches.
Board your cruise at the main pier in Boracay town for a fun day of snorkeling, swimming, and lounging ashore. Your first stop may be idyllic Balatero Beach on Boracay's northwest tip. Then motor to nearer islands like Tigers or Bulabog to discover hidden coves.
Much of the cruising is spent anchoring off beaches for swimming, kayaking and simply relaxing with panoramic ocean views. Popular spots include White Beach's powdery sands and Pulanga Beach's relaxed surf camps.
Lunch might be a barbecue grilled on the white sand of Punang Beach. Afternoons are perfect for snorkeling coral reefs rich with tropical fish. On larger boats, massage and spa treatments are available.
By evening the cruise returns to lively Boracay, where you can stroll stalls selling souvenirs or enjoy street food. This island-hopping day ensures making the most of Boracay's natural beauty from the water.
Image source: (googleusercontent,com)
IV. Gili Islands Cruise, Indonesia
Just off the northeast coast of Lombok lies the idyllic Gili Islands - Gili Trawangan, Gili Meno, and Gili Air. A cruise is an enjoyable way to island-hop between these three tropical gems.
Board your private charter boat in Senggigi, Lombok to begin exploring the Gilis' white-sand shores and turquoise waters. The 45-minute cruise passes views of pastoral Lombok countryside.
Start with the lively beach parties and shops of Gili Trawangan. Next, see the mellow vibes of Gili Meno where confident reef sharks cavort near shore. End on eco-minded Gili Air for uncrowded snorkeling.
Cruise staff arrange island activities like mountain biking, hiking volcanic cliffs, massage, and luxury accommodations. Watersports include glass-bottom boat rides, sailing, fishing, and great snorkeling with plenty of marine life.
Savor grilled seafood lunches on deserted beaches. Soak in the islands' natural beauty, take an art class, or learn about local livelihoods like seaweed farming and fishing.
This up-close cruise lets you fully experience the utter paradise of the hidden Gili pearl necklace.
Image source: floreskomodoexpedition. com
V. Safety Tips for Cruising in Southeast Asia
While cruising in Southeast Asia is generally very safe, a few precautions can enhance your peace of mind.
- Photocopy important documents and keep them separate from originals in case of loss or theft.
- Use hotel/cruise line safes to secure passports, cash, and electronics when not in use.
- Be aware of unexpected weather - tropical storms can occur so check forecasts regularly.
- Use sun protection liberally as UV rays are strong near the equator. Stay hydrated.
- Only drink bottled water provided by cruise lines or from sealed containers.
- Be cautious about alcohol consumption - Southeast Asian lifestyles tend to be moderate.
- Beware of pickpockets in busy tourist areas. Only carry minimal cash, keep bags zipped.
- Avoid unnecessary displays of expensive cameras/jewelry which could attract theft.
- Check cruise ship security protocols and attend safety briefings seriously.
- Stick to excursions arranged by cruise lines for assured standards and safe environments.
- Register with your embassy in case of emergency during travel.
- Consider travel insurance that covers medical evacuation if needed.
Being sensible and vigilant will help focus on fully enjoying the amazing experiences cruising Southeast Asia has to offer. Let the crew know if you have any other safety questions!
Whether you seek vibrant culture, untouched nature, or tropical island relaxation, these four small ship cruises offer an unparalleled Southeast Asian experience. From steaming along the iconic Mekong to discovering underwater seascapes in the best Halong Bay cruise, each itinerary delivers intimate access, authentic interactions, and memories to last a lifetime.
By choosing a smaller boat, you'll also minimize your environmental impact and travel carbon footprint. Kicking back on the water is the best way to unwind and appreciate the region's mosaic of landscapes, traditions and welcoming people at their pace.
Are you ready to set sail on your own Southeast Asian cruise adventure? Threeland Travel can custom plan your ideal itinerary, with options for all budgets. Our experts are standing by to discuss dates that fit your schedule, help book accommodation and activities, and ensure a seamless trip.
Contact us today to start planning holidays to Vietnam, your small ship voyage of discovery through Southeast Asia's stunning countries and islands. We guarantee an experience you'll always remember aboard our recommended cruises!