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For the uninitiated, cruising in Asia is all about discovering the people and the culture while enjoying the rustic scenery. The region continues to draw travellers in with its unique experiences.

The number of Australians visiting Asia’s rivers is growing, and new ships are launching each season – its most popular cruising time arrives this month.

Whether it be walking through villages alongside a riverbank, meeting artisans, visiting temples or making your way through fresh food markets, Asia is an amazing place to cruise.

What’s new

The Mekong River welcomed Evergreen Cruises’ first ship outside of Europe, the 84-guest Emerald Harmony last month and Wendy Wu Tours’ first ship the 35-cabin Victoria Mekong is sailing her first itineraries in December.

In 2020, three more ships will join the river. Uniworld’s Mekong Jewel is due to set sail on January, Travel Marvel is introducing a new ship RV Apsara in July and APT’s AmaMekong is debuting in October.

Lines like Scenic are offering new itineraries that combines tours and cruises through China and Korea. Pandaw is also offering a new 21-night combination itinerary that cruises the Red River and Laos Mekong, connecting the two with a flight.

Pandaw, responding to the surge in demand on the Ganges River, introduced its third river vessel to India in February this year. The 18-cabin Kindat Pandaw will join her sister-ship Kalaw Pandaw that is already offering river cruises on the Ganges. Meanwhile, the line’s Katha Pandaw is also new to Kolkata this year.

In 2020, the line expands operations to include sailings on the Brahmaputra River and will again operate further upstream to Dibrugarh.

The best time to book

So when is the best time to book river cruises in Asia? We spoke to travel specialist Global Journeys to find out.

“To ensure your preferred cabin and to take up the best Earlybird offers available, the best time to book an Asian river cruise is at the time of brochure release,” says Georgie Walpole, Operations Manager of Global Journeys.

“Release dates vary by operator, so best to keep an eye on your favourite or contact your Travel Advisor. River cruises in Asia typically run between September/October through March/April, differing depending on the country.

“There are limited departures left for 2019 and with offers for some operators expiring this month and limited time offers for others, 2020 sales are well underway so people should book sooner rather than later for 2020 cruises.”

If you are able to travel at short notice, now is also a good time to snap up last minute deals on Asian rivers for 2019.