Mainland Asia

The enigma of China lies in its contrasts. Centuries-old pagodas rub shoulders with modern skyscrapers. Traditional teahouses where steeping is a slow art stand alongside fast food establishments. Amid its subtleties, China wears its grand monuments on its sleeve, from Beijing’s Great Wall and vast Forbidden Palace to Shanghai’s Pudong skyline and Bund promenade, lined with colonial-era buildings. More colonial splendor can be found in the grand mansions of Qingdao, the stunning university in Xiamen and the gleaming white facades on the island of Haikou. One of the most magnificent experiences to be enjoyed in China is arriving in Hong Kong’s Victoria Harbor, overseen by a forest of glittering skyscraper and dotted with sampans and junks.

Colorful and diverse, India is home to sacred rivers such as the Ganges, Mughal treasures like the venerated Taj Mahal and stately vestiges of the British Raj. In Chennai, ancient and sacred structures blend with colonial buildings and churches. Cochin was built on a spice trade that still thrives today. Goa is celebrated as the center of the Portuguese settlement that flourished here for 450 years. And Bombay of old, Mumbai, is a major cultural center, home to grand monuments and a rich history. Just offshore, the island-nation of Sri Lanka, where tea plantations drape softly rolling hills, is graced with British colonial treasures.

Russia holds a prominent place in the eastern reaches of Asia. Its eastern ports provide an authentic glimpse of remote outposts and striking landscapes. The fishing center of Petropavlovsk-Kamchatsky on the Kamchatka Peninsula is surrounded by a ring of UNESCO-recognized volcanoes and the island of Korsakov shares a heritage with its Japanese neighbors.

South Korea, too, boasts some of Asia’s most remarkable sites and a welcoming culture. In Seoul, the Five Grand Palaces of the Joseon Dynasty, adorned with vast plazas and meticulously kept gardens, stand as testaments to a feudal past. And Busan, the nation’s cosmopolitan “second city,” has been built on 17 centuries of history.

Maritime Southeast Asia

The nations of Maritime Southeast Asia, known as the East Indies to the European trade of the 16th century, are spread across a vast archipelago between mainland Southeast Asia and Australia. Cruising into these rich and colorful cultures opens doors to a side of Asia that has long had an intimate relationship with the sea. Indonesia’s 17,000 islands comprise most of the region. The island of Bali has long lured travelers seeking serenity, arts and spiritual awakening. On Java, Borobudur, the largest Buddhist monument in the world, strikes an imposing pose. The nation’s capital of Jakarta was the center of the Dutch East Indies spice trade. And there’s no shortage of breathtaking beauty on tropical Lombok, where artisans ply their crafts, and on Komodo, home to its infamous and magnificent giant lizard.

Malaysia offers two vastly different experiences. Along the country’s namesake peninsula, long-held traditions and big-city skyscrapers vie for your attention in the robust capital of Kuala Lumpur. George Town, on the island of Penang, recalls its Taoist heritage in brightly colored clanhouses. Meanwhile, on Borneo, the Malaysian city of Kota Kinabalu is the gateway to the island’s famed orangutans and lush mountainous terrain.

A trio of other island nations reveals the diversity of the region. In the Philippines, a palm-fringed archipelago of American, Chinese and Spanish influences, the capital of Manila has preserved or restored the treasures of its Intramuros Old Town. Brunei, with its capital Bandar Seri Begawan, is one of the richest nations in the world. And the modern metropolis of Singapore, the island-city-state draped in green spaces, offers an enriching mix of Indian, Chinese and Malay cultures.

Southeast Asia

Indochina, as it was once known, has long been romanticized for its sinewy rivers coursing through lush jungles, gilded temples and palaces, and ancient ruins of long-expired Khmer and Champa empires. Today, it remains an intoxicating region of welcoming people, fascinating cities and remarkable history.

In Vietnam, Da Nang stands as a major cultural center, but its sleepy past as a backwater village blanketed with fertile rice paddies lives on in the city’s outskirts. Ho Chi Minh City, formerly known as Saigon, offers a heady mix of French and Vietnamese cultures, where baguettes are sold alongside pho soup.

Thailand’s capital of Bangkok opens a window to Old Siam with its glimmering gilded temples, Grand Palace and atmospheric floating markets. A lively beach culture is also on offer in this country known as “The Land of Smiles.” The island of Koh Samui is a paradise of long sand beaches, spectacular coral reefs and swaying coconut trees, and Phuket, with its sweeping vistas and azure waters, is known as the “Pearl of the Andaman Sea.”


In Japan, the energetic capital of Tokyo is a spellbinding blend of neon lights and tranquil Shinto shrines. The symmetrical cone of Mt. Fuji watches over the city. Also within view of the iconic volcano, Shimizu is the original burial place of the nation’s first shogun. Second in size and cultural splendor only to Tokyo, Osaka is home to ancient shrines that attract countless pilgrims. Culinary aficionados are attracted to Sapporo for its rich market culture and traditional cuisine. The historic city of Kagoshima enjoys a mild climate and palm-lined streets. And no cities in the world compare to Hiroshima and Nagasaki for their phoenix-like resurgence after suffering the destruction of atomic bombs during World War II. Offshore, Ishigaki Island provides a glimpse of tropical Japan with its warm climate and azure waters, and Okinawa, once home to a medieval capital, is today renowned and studied for the longevity of its many centenarians.

View our Ocean Cruises to Asia.