Published online by USA Today| By Gene Sloan
River line Avalon Waterways is out with a new vessel on the Mekong River that promises unusual comfort, style and intimacy for the region.
Unveiled this month, the Avalon Siem Reap is an all-suite ship that holds just 36 passengers — a small fraction of the number aboard many of the Mekong River ships operated by other major river cruise lines.
Built by local craftsman, the Avalon Siem Reap’s 18 suites each offer 245 square feet of living space and feature the signature “open-air balcony” design that Avalon has been rolling out on ships in Europe. Notably, the suites offer floor-to-ceiling, wall-to-wall panoramic windows measuring 14-feet-wide that slide open a full nine feet, creating the feeling of sitting outside.
In front of each open-air balcony is a private sitting area with a love seat, chairs and table.
Avalon says the Avalon Siem Reap’s small size will allow it to traverse more of the Mekong River than most other river ships in the region. When water levels allow, the vessel will be able to cruise all the way from Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam to Siem Reap, Cambodia (or vice versa), which most river ships on the Mekong cannot do. Siem Reap is the gateway to Cambodia’s famed Angkor temple ruins.