River cruise company Uniworld is moving in on the Mekong after chartering Pandaw River Cruises' new 60-passenger vessel River Saigon.
The one-week cruises, sailing between Kampong Cham in Cambodia and My Tho in Vietnam, start in early January 2012 and will be packaged into a 14-night cruise holiday that includes time in Hanoi and Ho Chi Minh City.
Uniworld is joining what is becoming a crowded market. AMA Waterways launched Mekong river cruises on La Marguerite in September 2009 and was so impressed with sales that it ordered a second boat to sail the river.
Called AmaLotus, it launches in September and will also be sold by Ama's sister company APT.
Viking River Cruises has already moved in. They launched Mekong itineraries in January this year after chartering the 66-passenger Tonle from Pandaw.
They are currently offering double discounts of up to £1,000 per person if you book one of next year's 16-day Magnificent Mekong cruise-holidays, which includes seven nights on the river, before June 30 2011.
Apparently River Saigon was going to be called Saigon Pandaw, but was renamed to be more in keeping with the rest of Uniworld's fleet (they also have a River Beatrice, River Ambassador, River Countess and so on). It will have 30 cabins, all 160 square feet and with an outside sitting area.
I suspect it won't look anything like new river cruise boat Antoinette, left, which Uniworld is launching this weekend in Amsterdam.
I'm going over today, to attend the naming ceremony on Saturday (and an ultra-mini cruise) and am really looking forward to seeing this vessel, which seriously reminds me - from this picture anyway - of something from the court of French king Louis XV.
I'll let you know if I change my mind after seeing the real thing.
Antoinette is one of at least seven river cruise vessels launching this year - Viking, Scenic Tours, Avalon Waterways and Ama have the others - and will be sailing eight-day Castles on the Rhine cruises between Amsterdam and Basel.
Dates and prices for Uniworld's Mekong cruises are not yet available.