Vietnamese cruise line Lotus Cruises is launching what it claims to be the “first luxury ship” on the Upper Mekong in Laos in 2021.
Mekong Muse will be the line’s third ship and will be available for UK agents to book from November 25.
Mekong Muse will feature 14 cabins split into three categories. Thee will be six Visa Suites, six Signature Suites and two Grand Suites.
Cabins will be the largest available on this section of the Mekong, with Vista Suites measuring 20sq m and Grand Suites to 32sq m.
Other areas onboard will include a restaurant, lounge bar, observation area, herb garden and jogging track on the sun deck, with Indochina-inspired design.
It will sail 10-night itineraries from Chang Saen in Thailand to Vientiane in Laos and clients will be able to book a five-night trip taking in either half of the sailing.
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Pandaw is currently the only other line in the UK offering sailings on this part of the river, which is narrower and less accessible than the Lower Mekong.
Uniworld has chartered the line’s existing vessel, Mekong Navigator, for the last two years and will charter its newest vessel, Mekong Jewel, from January 5 for 22 weeks.
Marco Rosa, the founder of representation company Plateau International, said: “We’ve seen huge demand for Laos worldwide, and this has been the driving factor in Lotus’ decision to launch a ship here. It’s an amazing destination and it’s still very untouched.
“The scenery is much more dramatic than the lower part of the Mekong, and in the north, there are barely any tourists, so we expect strong demand.
“We believe there isn’t much of a similar level in the region – the product is very limited at the moment and there aren’t really any other luxury options available.”
“We’re still finalising specific excursions for Muse but we want to be different and go to the more authentic places,” managing director Chi Vu told Travel Weekly.
“We’re still researching and visiting local houses and schools to see where we can bring people. We want to go to places Pandaw doesn’t go to and give people a unique experience.
“We see no other river ships up to the standard we want (to offer).”
A new online reservations system is launching in January that will allow agents and consumers to book cruises direct with the cruise line. Currently, bookings have to go through email via the office in Ho Chi Minh City.
The moves mark part of a wider expansion plan for the family-run company; two more Mekong ships are being planned for 2022 and 2023, and president An Vu said ocean cruising could also be on the horizon.
Speaking to Travel Weekly on board a special sailing for agents and operators on Mekong Navigator this week, he said: “We’re looking at the possibility of expanding into the ocean. We don’t mean 4,000 passengers – we mean boutique coastal cruising.
“It could be around Japan, China, Thailand, Vietnam, the Philippines. There’s a lot out there in Asia and we have ambitious plans to expand.”