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Travel: Cruise Asia's Mekong River in five-star luxury
She is authentic, understated and one-of-a-kind. Based on the Mekong River, the 62.4-metre Aqua Mekong is the only five-star luxury vessel for charter cruising between Vietnam and Cambodia. Together with Camper & Nicholsons, BOAT International takes a look on board at what guests get to enjoy and what new experiences are on offer.
Since being built by Saigon Shipyards Co. Ltd in 2014, Aqua Mekong has remained the only floating hotel in the area with a perfected route, range of amenities and services to exceed the expectations of today’s sophisticated traveller. The crew-to-guest ratio is now one-to-one, meaning that all guests are treated to five-star service, hospitality and all-inclusive offerings.
Another part of the service is Aqua Mekong’s expert management by Camper & Nicholsons. With full-boat charters organised by the brokerage firm’s team in Monaco, many yacht owners and clients have already enjoyed an exquisite experience of the culture-rich region. For those looking for a unique venture for a large group, Aqua Mekong can be booked in its entirety for special occasions, holidays or events. The 40 guests onboard Aqua Mekong have the choice of one of 20 divine suites.
With all suites facing outwards and fitted with floor-to-ceiling panoramic windows, all those on board have a front-row view of the river’s powerful waters, tropical jungles, mountain peaks, impressive rock formations and secluded villages. Also, each suite has either an outside balcony or an interior daybed so guests can catch the river and surrounding vistas passing by. Some rooms can also be interconnected to create one larger area for family use, or, an additional suite can be configured as a private lounge.
Staying on board during a cruise comes with the opportunity to indulge in the vessel’s spa treatment rooms or the on-deck infinity and Jacuzzi plunge pool. The fully-equipped gym is always open, as is the nearby luxury spa. If in-cruise shopping is of interest, Aqua Mekong has it covered with its onboard Boutique stocked with bespoke gifts and wares from local craftsmen. Otherwise, the two cinemas – one indoors and one alfresco – and high-tech games room should suffice.
All of this on board Aqua Mekong is decorated with an award-winning interior design by British designer David Hodkinson, who has styled the vessel with many traditional design features, artisanal touches and materials indigenous to the Southeast Asia region in order to keep the vessel non-invasive and ergonomic with its surroundings. So far, the contemporary interior has been recognised worldwide with awards from PURE, Andrew Harper's Hideaway Report and Asia's Hotel Design Awards.
For meal times, world-renowned Australian chef David Thompson has put together the menus using his expertise and specialist knowledge in Thai cuisine. Created with regional cooking methods, dishes of the day include canapes, salads, soups and a vibrant selection of curries such as the crowd favourite steamed red curry of lobster with young coconut and Thai basil. Guests can see the chef’s passion for food in action, as the vessel’s kitchen opens up to offer cooking classes and workshops, but, before that, guests are invited to join the chef’s team to the local markets to learn about locally grown and harvested ingredients first hand.
This isn’t the only excursion available, as a trip aboard Aqua Mekong comes with guided trips ashore to explore the ancient cultures of Vietnam and Cambodia during each day of the itinerary. There are also kayak and bike excursions, as well as four smaller speedboats that accompany the mothership to bring guests closer to the river's local wildlife.