Asia was made for exploring by water where ships (and boats) can seek out tucked-away hideaways that open a window to awe-inspiring landscapes and rustic communities bursting with local culture.
Follow in the trail of spice traders through these tropical waters along untouched coastlines and deserted islands where the shimmering cobalt sea and bountiful marine life promise to turn cruises through this region into unforgettable adventures.
Koh Kood, Thailand
Relish a desert island idyll on this remote castaway isle off the coast of southern Thailand, the setting for decadent and exclusive “Caviar in the Surf” days organised by luxury line Seabourn. Passengers are ferried ashore for the day, the highlight of which is an unforgettable aquatic beachside cocktail party where chefs hand out caviar canapes from a floating surfboard, which doubles as a serving table, and shorts-clad waiters wade through the shallows, dispensing copious amounts of champagne. Guests enjoy a banquet-style al fresco lunch along with a bar, outdoor massage area and water sports off the beach. This is an exotic paradise at its most seductive.
This slice of island hedonism is featured in select Seabourn sailings including a 12-night Jewels of the South China Sea voyage from Singapore to Hong Kong. From £6,000pp (excluding flights), departing on March 22, 2020 (seabourn.com).
Gili Genting Island, Indonesia
This is an exotic paradise at its best, a speck of lush green floating in gin clear aquamarine waters and one of the intoxicating Gili Islands that sit close to Lombok. Refreshingly, there are no tourist shops, just four tiny fishing villages that make up a close-knit community where everyone knows each other and welcome visitors that sail here aboard the classic tall ships of Star Clippers, which call at the island on Bali cruises. The white sand beaches, non touristy and relatively undiscovered, offer the ultimate escape.
Escape to this outpost on Star Clippers’ Westbound Bali cruises with a one-week round-trip cruise from Bali’s port Benoa including calls at Java and Lombok. From £1,430pp (excluding flights), departing on June 27 or July 11, 2020 (starclippers.co.uk).
Kuril Islands, Russia
Few people are even aware of Russia’s Far East, let alone the mysterious Kuril Islands – a volcanic archipelago stretching for more than 800 miles through the Sea of Okhotsk between northern Japan and Russia’s isolated Kamchatka Peninsula. The islands are a natural bounty of wildlife with sea lions and incredible numbers of seabirds including puffins, auklets and kittiwakes. Passengers can get close to volcanic activity on trips ashore by Zodiac to discover black lava beaches, a sinking volcanic caldera and a magnificent lagoon with steaming fumaroles and hot springs.
Discover these islands on Noble Caledonia’s 15-night Fire & Ice in the Russian Far East package from Seoul to Tokyo which departs on June 1, 2020. From £12, 995pp, including flights (noble-caledonia.co.uk).
Mergui Archipelago, Burma
These relatively untouched isles scattered like precious emerald jewels through the Andaman Sea off the coast of Burma have only opened up to tourists relatively recently. Inhabited by small communities of sea gypsies who make their living from fishing, the islands have changed little since British colonial times, with many still carrying the names of the civil servants tasked with administering them. Pandaw offers sailings aboard a classic 1960s-style motor yacht accommodating just 24 passengers, which stops for snorkelling trips and kayaking jaunts in the crystal clear waters, in addition to visiting the colonial port city of Mergui and Karen tribe communities.
A one-week round-trip sailing through the islands from the southern Burmese port of Kawthaung. From £2,906pp ($3,780pp) (excluding flights), departing April 5, 2020 (pandaw.com).
Batan Island, Philippines
The main isle of the Batanes archipelago brims with a wild rugged beauty of rolling hills, fishing ports and rocky beaches that have given it the moniker of the Ireland of the Philippines. Yet underneath its bucolic glory lies a more devastating story of conflict as Batan was the first island to fall under Japan’s invasion of the Philippines during World War II. Visitors can step into the tunnels, which locals were forced to dig deep into the rocky terrain as a hideout for the troops.
This isle features in a two-week voyage from Palau in Micronesia to Taipei, with other Filipino stops including Pamilacan Island, Coron Island and Luzon Island. From £12,304pp (excluding flights), departing March 2, 2020 (small-cruise-ships.com).
Wayag Islands, Indonesia
If you’re looking for glorious natural splendour, then this collection of jungle-topped limestone karsts in the Raja Ampat archipelago offers it in bucket loads. The fact they are uninhabited and reached only by boat simply adds to the pristine appeal of these finger-shaped isles amid sheltered lagoons and inlets that were simply made for swimming and snorkelling. Regarded as Indonesia’s most stunning seascape, it also offers spectacular, near vertical climbs for daredevils. Voyages to the islands with SeaTrek Sailing Adventures also cross the equator, which prompts a traditional Neptune crossing the line ceremony and mid-ocean dip for guests.
Dip into these islands on a nine-night Jewels of Raja Ampat round-trip cruise from West Papua. Departures in 2020 are offered in January, February, October and December 2020, with prices from £4,537pp ($5,900) (excluding flights) (seatrekbali.com).