The mention of a cruise may bring to mind kid-ridden boats and bad buffets. But Uniworld’s newest line of ships is redefining the idea of nautical travel, in the form of intimate vessels for the boutique hotel crowd. Designed with the elite traveler in mind, every room on board is a suite. That means king-sized beds with French bedding, private verandas and balconies, all-marble bathrooms, and wood finishings hand-carved from local teak.
While competitors would fit over 150 passengers on a ship of this size, Uniworld boards a maximum of 68 guests, meaning, a dip in the infinity pool, a pedicure at the onboard nail salon, or a sip at the sunset cocktail bar feels serenely secluded. If cruise cabins conjure images of close quarters, erase that image –room sizes rival suites from land-based hotels, with sitting areas and generously-sized showers.
The ship weaves passengers from Ho Chi Minh City up the Mekong River through the verdant shores of Cambodia, landing in the resort town of Siem Reap and the gateway to the famed temples of Angor Wat. Curated daily excursions range from watching silk weavers conjure up Cerulean scarves to exploring exquisite Buddhist temples and touring quiet rivers in private Sampan boats. Local guides host a daily educational cocktail hour to speak about region cuisine, daily life in the surrounding areas, and the storied histories of Vietnam and Cambodia.
The ship is all-inclusive—from morning Vietnamese coffee overlooking the river to evening sips of Champagne. Dine on farm-to-table foods in the onboard restaurant, where regional specialties like fresh river fish in a fragrant lemongrass and ginger sauce will be served (though an impressive selection of French cheeses, customized omelets, and fresh pastries are also available for those looking for more Western fare).
Or, dine alfresco in the terrace café, where Banh Mis on fresh-baked baguettes and bowls of rich pho are made to order. Top off each day of sightseeing in the cocktail bar, with a lemongrass gin & tonics or a pina colada (made with fresh coconut milk and pineapple) in hand.
Staff personify luxury hospitality from the dining room team knowing how you take your coffee (and addressing all allergy concerns) to after a day of trekking through jungle paths, the housekeeping staff will whisk away muddy shoes and return them, clean as new, before nightfall.
Below, Ellen Bettridge, CEO of Uniworld, explains what guests can expect from the luxury new ship.
What’s the most requested room?
The Royal Suites are by far the more requested room category, which features a spacious marble bathroom with a window and soaking tub, large living and sleeping areas that are separated by a desk and vanity, a fantastic wrap-around balcony with French doors, butler service, and of course the famed Savoir Beds of England mattress that guests come to love on each and every Uniworld ship.
What’s the usual rate for this room?
The starting rate for a suite is $5,499 for 13 days.
What amenities can guests expect?
Guests can expect all of the lavish and luxe amenities that elevate the sailing to a new level. To start, there are 34 all-suite accommodations making it a super personalized sailing with only 68 passengers. This ensures that there’s plenty of space per passenger, a higher staff-to-guest ratio, and an overall more intimate experience that truly embodies what our floating boutique hotels offer. We’re also excited about high-end onboard amenities like the hair salon, nail bar, sauna, and a stunning swimming pool.
What are a few of your few favorite/special parts about the Mekong Jewel?
My favorite part of the Mekong Jewel is its incredible setting. You have the ability to sit up on the top deck while watching winding scenery pass you by and then go explore the local areas offshore with a very special itinerary that we put a lot of heart into. Whether it is meeting the young children at a local school in Angkor Ban or observing the daily routines of the villagers in Sa Dec, guests get the chance to truly immerse in areas they typically can’t do on their own.
What are a few unique design details?
With Uniworld, sustainability isn’t just a trend, but it is at the heart of our company’s ethos. The Mekong Jewel, along with the rest of our fleet’s Super Ships, is constructed with sustainable and eco-friendly materials including special paint that creates less drag caused by bio-fueling, specially designed ship propellers that increase performance and efficiency, energy-efficient LED light fixtures, automatic air conditioning controls to optimize cooling resources, and water-cooled air-conditioning systems that save energy. The interior is designed with elegance in mind with elaborate colonial-inspired decor throughout.
Of course, any ship that joins the Uniworld fleet will feature thoughtfully designed suite and a connection to place, but what really sets us apart: the experience. Celebrating 100 years in hospitality, service is in our DNA and is threaded throughout every touchpoint of the ship and itinerary, starting with our passionate crew that goes above and beyond to make sure every detail is on point for our guests.
What kind of off-ship excursions can guests expect? What makes them unique?
Each day there is a different offshore featured excursion that gives guests the opportunity to dive deep into the local destination. Some examples include floating on a sampan boat with locals through the floating markets of the Cai Be harbor, or a trip to a factory that makes handwoven baskets and mats from reeds grown on the Mekong Delta. The trips are unique because they give insight into the life and culture of the everyday people of Vietnam and Cambodia in addition to the cultural hotspots.
What’s special about the dining/drinking experiences onboard?
The onboard dining is a unique experience within itself, utilizing an infusion of local flavors matching the supreme craft of our onboard chefs to create a truly amazing dining experience that is reflective of the destination. The two restaurants offer regional cuisine alongside Western staples, so that guests can choose and customize their meals depending on their mood.