10 of the best Mekong cruises for an unforgettable adventure

10 of the best Mekong cruises for an unforgettable adventure

As we sit cross-legged in front of two chanting monks, the heady scent of jasmine blossom fills the air. The fragrant buds are then scattered over our heads as the monks bless us at Vipassana Dhura, the largest Buddhist monastery at Oudong in Cambodia. Outside, curious children giggle and wave as we walk by. These are some of my favourite moments on a Mekong river cruise, where you will be immersed in authentic experiences as you sail through Vietnam and Cambodia. River ships on the Mekong are small and they explore many places untouched by mass tourism, yet you’ll often also get to see the buzzing cities of Ho Chi Minh City and Phnom Penh. Here are ten of the best ways to cruise on the Mekong.

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1. Scenic

You can expect some unusual and memorable shore excursions with this all-inclusive line. On river itineraries combined with a land tour in Cambodia, there’s a magical gala dinner under the glow of coloured lights at Prasat Kravan, a moated 10th-century temple in Siem Reap. You can also visit Phnom Penh’s only rum distillery for a behind-the-scenes tour and tasting, followed by a night-time tuk-tuk ride around the city. You’ll sail on Scenic Spirit, which reflects the luxury of Scenic’s European ships; it has 34 balcony suites and butler service to all the rooms.See more

• Best things to do in Phnom Penh

2. Avalon Waterways


Whether you’ve got seven nights or 17, Avalon offers a range of itineraries to sail on the Mekong. They all include Ho Chi Minh City and Phnom Penh. In the latter, excursions include visits to the dazzling silver pagoda paved with 5,000 silver tiles and with a solid gold Buddha adorned with 9,500 diamonds, or to the sobering Killing Fields. Cruises are aboard the comfortable, 36-passenger Avalon Saigon, which carries fewer guests than many other ships of the same size. Also, Avalon’s beds always face the window — so you never miss any passing views when you’re relaxing in your cabin.


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3. Riviera Travel


Ho Chi Minh City is a beguiling destination and it marks the start and finishing point for Riviera’s 14-night Mekong itinerary. An overnight hotel stay provides plenty of time to join tours to see sights such as the unexpectedly elegant Central Post Office with its vaulted roof. The elaborate design makes sense when you realise it was designed by Gustave Eiffel. On the river you’ll travel on Mekong Prestige II, which has a sun deck and plunge pool where you can relax and watch the ever-changing life on the waterway and its banks.See more

4. Uniworld Boutique River Cruises

Meander down the Mekong in style with the luxury line Uniworld. With its elaborate woodwork and elegant fittings, the 68-passenger Mekong Jewel resembles a floating boutique hotel. There are marble bathrooms throughout and a pair of plush Royal Suites with four-poster beds. Along the way you’ll board traditional wooden sampans to explore the Mekong Delta and sail past floating villages and along small creeks to reach Evergreen Island. Here, there’s a rickshaw ride past houses built on stilts; an essential precaution during the rainy season when the Mekong rises and spills into the communities lining its banks.Book a stay

5. Lotus Cruises



The 12th-century temples of Angkor, the world’s largest religious complex, are among the top sights on a Mekong cruise and Lotus is among the lines offering fully escorted tours to ensure you don’t miss any of the highlights. The scale of the temples outside Siem Reap is awe-inspiring — they include Angkor Wat with its distinctive beehive-shaped towers and Ta Prohm, entwined with massive tree roots. For the best of both worlds, there’s a 15-night itinerary combining a seven-night Mekong sailing and a city break in Ho Chi Minh City, as well as a luxury three-night beachfront stay at the Anantara Mui Ne Resort & Spa in southeast Vietnam.See more

• Best things to do in Vietnam
• Best places to visit in Vietnam

6. Aqua Expeditions


When it comes to cultural immersion, this upmarket line offers a host of ways to get a personal lens on life on and around the Mekong. Aqua Mekong carries four launch boats to take guests on trips along the waterway, plus eight two-person kayaks to paddle into the heart of floating villages and markets. There’s also a fleet of all-terrain bikes for further exploration. Back onboard, the ship has 20 suites with full-length windows to make the most of the passing panoramas and a menu showcasing local flavours and regional produce created by an acclaimed chef.See more

7. Viking

Viking Saigon, which launched in 2022, is one of the newest ships on the river and sister ship Viking Tonle sets sail in 2025. Unlike the majority of vessels which draw on traditional Vietnamese and Cambodian decor, Viking Saigon is furnished in the line’s understated Scandi style. Viking’s 14-night itinerary begins with a two-night stay in Hanoi, the Vietnamese capital. On the Mekong there are plenty of cultural excursions such as a performance of Cambodia’s Apsara dance which dates back to the seventh century and is characterised by graceful hand movements.See more


8. Wendy Wu


Asia specialist Wendy Wu has a fully escorted 16-night exploration of Vietnam and Cambodia. It begins in Siem Reap with a visit to the Angkor temples and a small ship cruise on Tonle Sap lake to visit the fascinating floating village of Kampong Phluk. From here you’ll fly to Phnom Penh to join the Victoria Mekong for a three-night cruise. This contemporary ship carries 70 guests and is very well-equipped, with a spa, infinity pool and swim-up bar. Flying on to Hanoi, the holiday ends with an overnight cruise on the tranquil green waters of Unesco-listed Halong Bay.See more

9. APT


For a real taste of the destination, APT’s excursions include a visit to the colourful food market in Hoi An followed by a private Vietnamese cookery class. The food theme continues in Cai Be, reached from the Mekong, to discover how translucent Vietnamese rice paper is made and even have a go at making it. Moving to Sa Dec, literature fans can visit the home of Huynh Thuy Le, once the paramour of French novelist Marguerite Duras and the inspiration for her book The Lover. If you’ve got time to spare, APT has Mekong land and cruise tours of up to 22 nights.

10. Pandaw


Adventurers who want to head off the beaten track should look at the small-ship line Pandaw. With their shallow drafts, Pandaw vessels can venture further upstream and deeper into the Mekong Delta than those of other lines. Itineraries include a ten-night sailing specifically geared to exploring remote waters and smaller tributaries. On shore tours you’ll be immersed in village life and join locals around a fire pit for evening cocktails and to watch a traditional dance show. Pandaw’s ships, carrying up to 60 guests, are equally atmospheric and hand-finished in brass and teak by traditional craftsmen.

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