Big changes are coming to Thailand’s cruise sector over the next few years, as the government focuses on turning the destination into more than a just a port of call. Currently, the country welcomes 75 ships a year from 26 cruise lines. Of those, only a few are permanently based in Asia, such as the Star Cruises and Princess vessels. Costa Cruises, Silversea and Seabourn make regular visits throughout the year, while Holland America Line and Royal Caribbean are increasing their deployments. Phuket will become Star Clipper’s homeport from December 2016. As most of Thailand’s major ports are already top tourist destinations, cruisers are able to experience the best of the country during one-day visits. In Ko Samui, visitors can enjoy Thailand’s famous elephant trekking, riding an elephant through jungles and local plantations. Phuket has cultural and religious attractions such as Wat Chalong, the biggest and most ornate of the island’s 29 temples. There are also water activities, such as snorkelling in the Andaman Sea, and local culinary treats to be enjoyed in Phuket City. In Bangkok, cruisers can take shore excursions to the Vimanmek Mansion Museum, the world’s largest teakwood building.
PLACES TO STAY
Bangkok is full of fantastic hotels. The Sofitel So is a hip design property in the centre of the city where the room attendants are dressed in designer gear and known as B Boys. For a more laid back charm choose a property on the banks of the Chao Phraya, like the luxe Mandarin Orientla. In Phuket, the four-and-a-half star Sri Panwa Phuket Resort is close to the port and spread over 16 hectares, with two pools, a tennis court and sauna.