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Asia is the hot cruise ticket these days

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Cruise ships dot the stunning Halong Bay in Vietnam as sunset begins.
(Nicolas McComber / Getty Images)

Princess Cruises recently began selling tickets for the Majestic Princess, its newest ship. But don’t expect to sail out of a U.S. port on the state-of-the-art vessel.

Majestic’s home port will be in the Asia-Pacific region. Its maiden Majestic Grand Asia voyage, a 21-day itinerary sailing June 18 from Singapore to Shanghai, immediately sold out.

Three other Princess ships, out of the line’s fleet of 18, also will sail in the region.

Princess is one of a growing number of cruise lines beefing up their Asian itineraries. The number of cruises and voyages in this part of the world has increased 22% in the last three years, according to Cruise Lines International Assn. data.

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The destination is hot, both in terms of providing new itineraries for U.S. passengers and as a market for cruise lines that want to attract new customers.

The same day Princess began sales of its Majestic Asia-Pacific itineraries, Norwegian Cruise Line announced it was taking delivery of the Norwegian Joy, “the first ship custom-designed for the Chinese cruise market,” a news release said. The ship is expected to welcome its first guests in June.

Norwegian’s fleet of 15 ships focuses mainly on Alaska, the Caribbean, Mexico, New England and Europe.

Royal Caribbean also has started serving the Chinese market, sending its Quantum of the Seas to Shanghai as a home port; other cruise lines have introduced ships in China too.

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Meanwhile, cruise companies continue to add more Asia-Pacific itineraries for a U.S. public that is clamoring for unique voyages.

“At Cruise Critic, we’re seeing an uptick in interest in cruises in Southeast Asia,” said Colleen McDaniel, senior executive editor of CruiseCritic.com. “This is particularly true among passengers who have ‘been there, done that’ when it comes to cruising.”

Besides an increase in voyages by ocean-cruising vessels, Asian river cruising is gaining popularity, McDaniel said.

“River cruises open up destinations like Myanmar or Vietnam to passengers,” she said. “The appeal is visiting an exotic destination in a way that is more comfortable and familiar.

“Passengers who have cruised with lines like Viking, AmaWaterways or Avalon on European rivers are trying out the Irrawaddy or Mekong rivers for a completely new experience,” she said.

River cruising also rings bells for Geraldine Ree, a vice president with Expedia CruiseShipCenters. “It provides an incredible way to get an immersive experience in the region,” she said. “You arrive right in the heart of cities and often get to see many more ports within a single country than you would on an ocean cruise.”

The industry has something for almost everyone, she added. “More and more cruise lines are offering itineraries there to meet demand, ranging from contemporary lines to luxury and river cruises,” she said. “There’s an option for every budget and every type of traveler.”

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Thinking about an Asia-Pacific cruise? Things to consider: Weather may be better November to March; visas may be needed for some countries; immunizations may be recommended some places. A travel agent familiar with the area you’re planning to tour can help you prepare.

travel@latimes.com

@latimestravel


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