The cruise line industry’s growth is being fueled by a rapid increase in Asian cruise tours, according to a 2017 report by Cruise Lines International Association (CLIA). Travelers who wish to see destinations in Asia by water have more options each year to find the Asian cruise tour that fits their needs, whether it be short cruises, long cruises or river cruises.
Here are three highlights from the CLIA report to note as you plan an Asian cruise tour.
If you travel to Asia, you’re in good company
There were 12 percent more cruise ships deployed in Asia in 2016 than in 2013, and the number of cruises offered increased by 22 percent in that same period. Even if you cruised in the region just a few years ago, you will find it it will be much easier to find cruises now. The number of cruise calls in the region has tripled since 2012, and passenger capacity alone increased in one year from 2 million to 3.1 million from 2015 to 2016.
Think of starting and ending the cruise within Asia
The majority of Asian cruise tours originate in the region, and with good reason – that’s where the customers are. There were nearly 800,000 more cruise line passengers from China in 2016 than there were in 2012. Overall, almost half of the 2.1 million Asia regional cruise tour passengers were Chinese. While you can find cruises that include Asia in round-the-world itineraries, on average it is much more common to find cruises that never leave Asia. You’re also more likely to have a more in-depth travel experience in the region if you go for an Asian-based cruise.
The most affluent countries have the most popular ports
While the increased popularity of river cruising has opened up destination options in countries with extensive river systems like Vietnam, Cambodia and Myanmar (formally known as Burma), Asian cruise tours still favor mega-cruises to industrialized ports. Japan, China and South Korea are expected to continue to welcome the most port calls in the foreseeable future.
Here are a few more things to know if you are considering your first Asian cruise tour.
Narrow Your Focus
There are 48 countries in Asia, and even sub-regions like Southeast Asia could take a lifetime to explore. Even if you hope to catch a few countries on your tour, always consider paring down your focus. It’s important to keep in mind that Asian cruise tours often take a long time between ports and while docking at ports, so the more you can keep your trip hyperlocal, the more time you’re likely to spend on land. If you’re planning an Asian cruise tour, start by thinking of a country to explore and begin to look for cruise line options that go to that country’s ports.
Expect crowds at attractions
A monsoon or a typhoon will not make for an unforgettable Asian cruise line vacation. Because of this, Asian cruise tours on the whole will bunch up itineraries from November to March to avoid the rainy season. This means that you will likely not have the site of a sacred shrine or ancient palace to yourself. Asia is a vast and varied place, and a traveler can certainly find quiet locales to explore, but such an experience is much less likely with an Asian cruise line.
Read up on current events when you book your cruise
In a region with 48 countries, there is bound to be some political instability. A few years ago, anti-corruption protests in Thailand brought travel in Bangkok to a standstill. No region of the world avoids trouble, and it’s good to know the geopolitical issues of the day as you consider your cruise.
Asian cruise tours are a young industry
This is both good news and bad news. The upside is that you are likely to find new opportunities every month, and there likely will be fierce competition among cruise lines competing for your dollars. The downside is that, as with any industry rapidly ramping up, there is likely to be some instability in the marketplace as the winners and losers are sorted out among the 31 cruise lines operating in Asia.
This is why it’s good to work with a AAA travel agent to book your Asian cruise tour; it’s vital to work with someone who knows the lay of the land of the Asian travel industry.
Have you taken an Asian cruise tour? Do you have any tips to add? Leave your comments below.