From drinks with former headhunters in Brunei to a monk induction ceremony in Myanmar, ultra-luxe Crystal Cruises has crafted a titillating roster of new Crystal Adventures for 2014 Asia voyages. Monasteries, rainforests, royal residences, and tuk-tuks are among the 40 new shore-side outings showcasing both off-the-beaten-path port calls and major urban centers in Malaysia, Brunei, Myanmar, Indonesia, Japan, and India. Both Crystal Symphony and the recently-redesigned Crystal Serenity will be sailing 14 voyages in the region – twice as many as 2013 – from February through spring 2014, with a Crystal Symphony return in late fall. In all, the ultra-luxe line is offering nearly 200 Adventures throughout Asia, with options to book them with Private Car and Driver in most ports.
Excursion highlights include:
Bandar Seri Begawan: Awe at Brunei’s varied lifestyles, from the Sultan’s Palace — the world’s largest residential palace – to more traditional homes, such as that of an over-water village and a longhouse, where former headhunting Ibans will welcome you with drinks, music, and dance.
Yangon: Witness the Novitiation Ceremony that inducts 1000 male “Novices” into Buddhist monk-hood at the Kalaywa Monastery.
Kota Kinabalu: Trek the rainforest of Malaysia’s first UNESCO World Heritage Site, Kinabalu National Park; crab fish from a thatch-roofed raft while cruising through mangroves; or learn island traditions such as making robes from tree bark or a Malay bread called roti canai.
Lombok: At Bali’s less-touristed sister island, learn about the local craftsmanship of ikat dyed fabrics and pearl production or visit a traditional Sasak village, where men still sleep outside their thatched houses to protect their daughters from being kidnapped into marriage.
Surabaya: Explore the archaeological ruins of the 14th century Majapahit Empire or watch women handroll Indonesia’s renowned clove cigarettes.
Makassar: Travel to a 17th-century king’s traditional adat house for food and dance from local villagers, visit the Dutch East India Company’s Fort Rotterdam, or sightsee via pedicab.
Andaman Islands: Tuk-tuk to Britain’s former jail for Indian revolutionaries or learn about local agricultural arts at a spice farm and rubber plantation.
Okinawa: Design traditional fabrics at a textile factory or hike the 900,000 stalagmite and stalactite-filled Gyokusendo Cave, the Orient’s largest cave of its kind.
Penang: Stroll the 130-year-old Waterfall Gardens, then savor a cocktail at the prestigious Eastern & Oriental Hotel, the precursor to Singapore’s famed Raffles Hotel.
Tokyo: Participate in eastern Asian shodo handwriting and a traditional sado tea ceremony at a Japanese garden, or tour sites of more recent history, such as Nissan’s Global HQ and the Cup Noodles Museum.
Malacca: See Dutch, Portuguese, and Malay architectural differences in attractions such as Stadthuys, Christ Church, Villa Sentosa, and “Mini Malaysia” cultural park or watch the harvesting of palm oil and rubber at local plantations.
In addition to the day trips, two new multi-night Overland Adventures are offered from Shanghai and Chan May, visiting Xi-an and Beijing, China on the first and Hue, Hoi An, and Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam on the latter.
In 2014, five- to 15-day all-inclusive voyages are available to/from Bali, Singapore, Hong Kong, Kota Kinabalu, Ho Chi Minh City, Beijing, Tokyo, Osaka, Nagasaki, and Shanghai starting at $1,520/person if booked by February 28, 2014. Per person credits of up to $800 toward air travel are also available on select Asia cruises.