Go on a river cruise in Malaysia

The Melaka River Cruise is popular with local tourists. — Filepic

There are many types of cruises available around the world, and each variety comes with different vessel sizes too. While most of the large cruise ships today remain at port, unable to sail – probably for quite some time – travellers do have other cruising options.

A river cruise, for example, can be a nice experience for folks who are not too fond of being in the open seas. However, some rivers can be quite large too like the Volga River in Russia.

A cruise through Volga usually extends from St Petersburg to Moscow, and will take at least 10 days of sailing on a vessel that fits around 100 passengers. There are five or six stops scheduled throughout the voyage, mostly at small, isolated islands like Valaam, Kizhi and Mandrogi. Each of these islands has its own unique attractions – Mandrogi, for instance, is a living village that showcases traditional Russian architecture, culture and food.

There’s also a cute vodka museum there featuring almost 3,000 bottles of vodka brands from all over the world.

If 10 days on a river cruise in Russia is not what you’re looking for, then head for a short trip to neighbouring countries like Thailand, Vietnam and Cambodia. The Mekong River, one of the longest in Asia, runs through these countries (and a few others), so a cruise should provide an interesting cultural experience.

A full Mekong River cruise can extend up to three weeks(!) but there are also short trips available.

However, as most countries have yet to open their borders and international travel in Malaysia is still not allowed, why not check out some local cruises first? Generally, most cruises in Malaysia do not offer overnight stays onboard the ship or boat, though night trips are available. Some luxury packages even include dinners and cocktails, as well as stopovers at tourist attractions.

The Melaka River Cruise, one of the most popular in the country, is a 45-minute ride on a passenger boat that passes by some of the state’s famous historical sites. It runs from 9am to 11.30pm, so you get the choice of seeing the place during the day or at night, when the river and some of the buildings are all lit up.

In Kota Kinabalu, Sabah, the Sunset Dinner Cruise is a favourite with couples celebrating a special event together (anniversaries, proposals, birthdays, etc). Run by the North Borneo Cruises, the sunset cruise starts at 4.50pm and is about two hours, and includes dinner. If you miss the sunset slot, don’t worry as there is a night sail that starts at 7.30pm, and a morning cruise that goes all the way to some of the nearby islands.

Sabah also has several jungle/nature cruises that takes you along the Kinabatangan River, where you may be able to spot some of the country’s most iconic wild animals like the proboscis monkey and Borneo pygmy elephant. These animals are wary of human presence so they sometimes shy away from the river banks.

Meanwhile, in Penang, you can hire private yacht or boat services and spend a whole day cruising or fishing around the island.

Otherwise, you can also go island hopping – this option is great for groups of families or friends, especially those who don’t wish to follow a fixed tour itinerary.

The same kind of option is available in Langkawi (Kedah), Sarawak, Johor and Sabah, too.

For those who prefer to holiday in the city, there’s always Putrajaya. The man-made Putrjaya Lake is 6.5sq km so it is large enough for a one-hour cruise. There are two types of vessels to choose from: the air-conditioned boats (capacity up to 120) and the traditional boats, or Perahu Dondang Sayang (seats six people). The bigger boats come with dining options.

During the Putrajaya cruise, passengers will pass by many interesting attractions including the Millennium Monument, the Putra Mosque, Cyberjaya and the Tuanku Mizan Mosque.

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cruise , river cruise , Penang , Melaka , Kinabatangan


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