By Francesco Galli Zugaro
As we move closer to the launch of Aqua Mekong this Fall, we felt it was the perfect time to invite some top press from Australia and the U.S. to view the cruise ship as it receives its finishing touches in the shipyard.
Two journalists, Justin Paul from Virtuoso Life and Rebecca Thistleton from the Australia Financial Review were the lucky media representatives to come aboard. Here is a look at their whistle-stop journey with us.
First things first… We began our tour on the roof of Aqua Expeditions’ new office in Phnom Penh, Cambodia looking out over this fantastic city. Our view encompasses all of Phnom Penh’s major historical and cultural sites as well as a clear view of Tonle Sap River and the dock on the Mekong River which is one of our embarkation points on Aqua Expedition’s Mekong River cruises.
It was great to have so many of our Aqua Expedition’s team together for this behind the scenes tour of the Aqua Mekong cruise experience. With offices now in Cambodia, Singapore, and Peru, it is ever more challenging coordinating everyone’s schedules for face-to-face meetings but we try to make it happen whenever we can. For me, it is incredibly important that all of our team, no matter where they are based, understand the vision behind our launch of the Aqua Mekong and our standards for delivering an exceptional Mekong River cruise experience for our guests.
Next we head off to meet Joe, the “Spirit Evangelist” from Proof & Co, a collective of spirit experts and cocktail creators charged with developing our onboard cocktail menu on the Aqua Mekong. Proof & Co is extremely well known in the Asian drinks industry for its track record creating of innovative drink experiences. Joe gave us a sneak-peek into what our guests can expect when travelling onboard the Aqua Mekong – a collection of cocktails incorporating traditional spices, fruits and vegetables from riverside markets and showcasing the rich flavors, colors and cultures of the Mekong River basin. Our drink menu will also feature the leisurely and romantic drinking traditions of colonial Indochina, something we hope our guests will enjoy.
Later we visited the shipyard in Ho Chi Minh City where the painting team are putting the final coat on the exterior of the Aqua Mekong – not long now until we are in the water!
Next stop… a helicopter tour across the Tonle Sap Lake and over the Temple Complex of Angkor Wat. Our flight seeing tour of the Cambodian countryside and the Mekong River basin demonstrates just how vast the cruising area of the Aqua Mekong really is and gives us a “bird’s eye view” of what the riverfront landscapes look like from the air.
And this is where our group left me stranded in the middle of the Mekong… only kidding…here you can see and feel the full force and width of the river… its truly incredible and just helps to remind us about what inspires us about this mighty river in Southeast Asia.
We hop on a local boat and travel up the upper Mekong River to show our journalist friends more of the highlights from our Aqua Mekong cruise itineraries. On this journey to Kratie – a small riverside town in Eastern Cambodia – we are in search of the Irawaddy River Dolphin. We were in luck! A school of 70 dolphins played in the water just beyond the boat.
Oddly enough, the Irawaddy River Dolphin isn’t a true river dolphin but an oceanic dolphin that lives in waterways near coasts, the mouths of rivers and in estuaries. Over time these dolphin have established subpopulations in freshwater rivers, including the Ganges and the Mekong. In addition to potentially seeing these dolphins on our Mekong River cruises, guests that privately charter the Aqua Mekong will have the option to search for local wildlife like these creatures as they are able to completely tailor their specific Mekong River itineraries – something we hope will be really popular with guests travelling together for group vacations or family celebrations.
On the way back to Siem Reap, we stumble across this magnificent Cambodian bridge built in the 11th century and still is in almost perfect condition.
Last but not least, we took our VIP guests to meet Eric Raisina, the haute couturier who is designing our Aqua Expedition’s team uniforms at his Siem Reap atelier. Eric was born in Madagascar but has travelled the world thanks to his incredible skill with silks and other natural textile materials including studying in Paris and designing for the likes of Yves Saint Laurent and Christian Lacroix. We will share lots more on this exciting collaboration once the designs are finalised but you can catch a glimpse by looking at the models standing to the left in the photo above.
There are so many different elements to our Aqua Mekong story and hope that you are enjoying it. We’re getting more and more excited as we get closer we get to the launch of our third cruiseship at Aqua Expeditions. Check back here soon for our next post!