Thursday 11 September 2014

Mekong River Cruise pioneer, Naidah Yazdani.


CF Mekong River Cruises is not only the most experienced cruising company on the Mekong but the biggest. Six years as the Asian Director of the largest luxury river cruise company in Cambodia, UK born Naidah Yazdani has an encyclopaedic knowledge of cruising on the Mekong. Here are his insights.

Naidah, you have been operating since many years successful cruises up the Mekong River and you must have witnessed a tremendous amount of development in the region. What makes this cruise so special?

This cruise is special in many ways. There has been tremendous development on the Mekong and this mighty river has seen many new ships that have entered into the fray. But our cruise vessels are special and they cater to a niche market. For one, all four of our vessels are able to navigate the marvelous Goa canal and reach the heart of Saigon. Similarly, our ships are able to cross the Tonle Sap during the high water season and reach Siem Reap.

Secondly, our Toum Tiou and Toum Tiou II ships have no parallel on the Mekong. They are more like private yachts and are quite dissimilar from other river cruise vessels. They are small, intimate, cosy and comfortable.

Thirdly, our rates are very competitive and they also cater largely to the middle-income and upper-middle income earners – those who would normally not enjoy a luxury cruise due to its traditionally high price.

You were the pioneer, being the first offering cruises on the Mekong over a decade ago. Now we see many new ships, all claim to be setting a new standard of luxury. How do you see the developments since then?

We are highly grateful to the other players who have come on-shore. This is because it is demonstrative of the Mekong as a global river cruising destination. Our ships are cosy and charming and there is definitely a market for the authentic experiences that we offer passengers. Our boats are small and agile and thus, we are able to cruise to the nooks and crannies of rural Vietnam and Cambodia during excursions. This gives our passengers an unadulterated glimpse of the real Indochina.

Will this create capacity over supply at the upper end of the market, and will the rivers become clogged with ships and over stretch the available dock space and availability of high standard local service staff?

More and more people are gravitating towards sea and river cruising for their vacations. Say 20 to 30 years ago, sea and river cruising were the exclusive domain of the wealthy. Today, it is becoming more and more accessible to middle-income earners.

As to skilled local staff, there is a vibrant and throbbing tourism and hotel industry in Cambodia. The luxury hotels in Cambodia serve as a superb training ground for our staff. For example, many of our staff are former hotel employees who cut their teeth in luxury hotels in Phnom Penh and Siem Reap.

Also, there are several hotel training schools in Cambodia which will provide the industry with quality staff.

There are a great number of opinions as to the best time to take a cruise and whether up or down stream is best, please share your opinion with us.

It is difficult to say, really. Some passengers prefer to end their cruise in Siem Reap where they will stay on for a few more days to quaff the beauty of the Angkor temples. Others prefer seeing the temples before embarking on the cruise which will end in the bustling city of Saigon. As to the best months, my advice for those without school-going children is to take the cruise during the low-season because like all other cruise vessels, we offer generous discounts during the low-season.

Naidah, great insights! Thank you for your time and all the best for many more new cruise projects to come!

8 days/7 nights, Angkor to Saigon from US$ 953 per person.
Main deck, sharing. Full board accommodation, including coffee, tea & drinking water.
For the detailed itinerary:

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