This new ship is Scenic's first purpose-built one on the Mekong River. And the ship itself is gorgeous: picture lots of gleamingly polished dark wood, floor-to-ceiling windows, and flowers — including exquisitely arranged orchids and lotus blossoms — everywhere.
At 68 passengers, it’s smaller than the line’s European vessels, but it is still one of the biggest vessels plying this river from Cambodia to Vietnam. Onboard, there's a gorgeous dining room; a lovely pool; a small spa with two massage rooms, a sauna, and a steam room; a gym; a library; a lounge that also serves casual fare and coffee; and a self-service laundry room. While this may not sound like much, it’s a lot more than most river ships can claim, especially in this part of the world.
What We Love
Truly Immersive Atmosphere: From the décor to the meals and the staff, the line does an excellent job of celebrating the destination. Onboard entertainment includes a musical production by children (organized by a local NGO), a scarf-tying demonstration designed to teach guests how to wear the scarves they were given by the line as gifts the night before, and movies on the top deck that showcase the region. Even the drink menu in the cocktail lounge includes libations that celebrate local flavors, with watermelon margaritas laced with Kaffir lime and a Cambodian iced coffee cocktail with dark rum and sweetened condensed milk.
Small Group Tours: Several days a week, Scenic offers three choices of shore excursions, which range from the historic to the cultural. Best of all, even when only three passengers signed up for our Cambodian cooking class at a gorgeous boutique hotel, the ship still ran the tour and we got a private market tour and a lesson in how to make green mango salad and lemongrass-laden curry.
Spectacular Cabins: It would be hard to find any fault in these cabins. The bathrooms are spacious, with huge showers that come with high-tech showerheads and Ylang Ylang- and lemongrass-scented bath products. The king-size beds are topped with feather duvets, and there are outlets and light switches thoughtfully placed in every night table as well as a pillow menu available. (Sign us up for the “age defying” Vitamin E-treated pillow, please.) The large flat-screen TVs tilt so you can see them from the bed or the couch and the walk-in closets have safes and well-stocked mini bars, which you’re encouraged to ask your butler to customize. Most importantly, the air conditioning is powerful enough to take on those steamy Mekong temperatures.
Thoughtful Touches: With weather that will likely soar close to 100 degrees most days, it’s a pleasure to be handed cold towels and an icy drink every time you board. In addition, there are parasols available on every excursion and, while the Wifi on the ship can be painfully slow, every coach has fast internet access, enabling you to catch up on email as you move between ox cart rides, Buddhist temples, and markets.
Best Known For
All-Inclusive Fares: This line is known for their all-inclusive rates, which include all alcohol, shore excursions, 24-hour room service (a rarity on river ships), personal butler service in every cabin, port charges, all gratuities … even soap in the laundry room.
Floor-to-Ceiling Windows: Throughout the ship, you’ll find giant picture windows that bring the scenery along the river inside. All cabins have convertible balconies with a glass wall that can be opened or closed at your convenience.
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Who It's Best For
Mature Couples: Most of the passengers here are 60-somethings and, on our sailing, all were friendly, social couples from English-speaking countries, ranging from Australia to the U.K. and U.S. (How welcoming are these world travelers? We traveled alone, and one lovely Australian woman said: “We’ve always been watching to make sure you had people to sit with.”)
Don't Say We Didn't Warn You
Check Your Schedule for Angkor Wat: The line’s shortest itineraries don’t include enough time in Siam Reap for a tour of the most famous site in the country so, if this is your first time to Cambodia, be sure to check the schedule carefully before booking.
Asian Food is Tailored to Western Palettes: From pho to summer rolls and fish steamed in banana leaves, flavors are adjusted for the markets this ships serves. Most passengers will find this a welcome decision, but a few intrepid eaters may long for more authenticity and stronger flavors. Still, you’ll find dim sum platters at breakfast, grapefruit-like green pomelo and hot pink dragon fruit on every fruit plate, and bánh mi and spring rolls on the room service menu.
The Beauty Salon Doesn’t Really Do Hair: You’ll see a salon on the ship’s deck plan, but while the crew can do manicures, pedicures, and blow outs any day they can only do haircuts on Fridays, when the ship is docked in Phnom Penh and they invite a local hairdresser onboard.
Sherri Eisenberg is the New York City-based editorial director of ShermansCruise.com.