Exploring Cambodia with Scenic Spirit

Exploring Cambodia with Scenic Spirit

Write up by: Gaynor Galbraith Neill, Managing Director Cruise Vacations.

Just a few days from returning from my ‘expedition’ around Cambodia and I still find myself with a sense of peace and a great deal of contemplation.  I have the good fortune of travelling extensively with my job, but this particular journey has left me deeply reflective.

Scenic Group operate both the Scenic Spirit (Scenic Cruises) and the Emerald Harmony (Emerald Cruises) in this region.  With both vessels returning to service for the first time since the Pandemic began, we had the privilege of being guests on the 5-star Scenic Spirit but enjoyed an inspection visit of the Emerald Harmony which was berthed alongside us in Phnom Penh for a few days.  It is striking how thoughtfully designed these luxury vessels are. Both Modern and Classic at the same time. Contemporary and yet through beautiful artworks, sculpture and furnishings embrace the essence of the regions they explore.

The aesthetics are unquestionably stunning but would be nothing without the warm heartbeat created by the incredible team of staff working on board.  The most gentle, humble, warm people I have ever encountered.  English-speaking but always encouraging guests to learn greetings in their language, with a guest-to-staff ratio of around 1:1, there is always someone on hand to serve you, guide you or simply bow gently with hands clasped resembling the Lotus flower. It is impossible not to be drawn in by the gentle and kind nature of the crew and the extent to which this adds to the experience is immeasurable.

Enjoying an itinerary carefully curated by a team of destination experts, this warm and friendly attitude extends beyond the boundaries of the ship. In spite of an hideous history and the horrors inflicted by the Khmer Rouge Regime in the late 1970’s, the people of Cambodia, mostly Buddhist, are a warm and welcoming people.  Scenic ensure through their team of hand-picked local guides, that your experiences ashore are utterly immersive, you momentarily become woven into the day-to-day life of Cambodia.  

Stunning Temples and statues, negotiating the city bustle by Tuk-Tuk, a visit to Silk-Island where they breed Silkworms and hand weave stunning garments with the pure-silk, bustling markets and historical landmarks, a visit to a village to interact with youngsters at a school where they learn English, which they believe is the key to a successful future, and where they take enormous pride in reciting their ABC’s and singing “If you’re happy and you know it”.

For those with an interest in history, a detailed and somewhat daunting visit to the Killing Fields cannot help invoke emotion.  Scenic guests also enjoy exclusive access to Monasteries learning about day-to-day life including a beautiful Blessing for all guests by Monks. Scenic have ensured that whatever your interest, you will leave this region richer for the experience.

With the rainy season just coming to an end, humidity is at about 70%, with temperatures around 32 degrees – there is nothing quite as satisfying as returning to your luxury, air-conditioned sanctuary after your tour, met by your friendly team who hand you a cold drink and an ice-cold washcloth.  Then your biggest decision is what to wear for dinner and how you are going to tame your new hairstyle that resembles candy-floss.

It can only be through their years of tour operating experience that Scenic get the tours and experiences ‘spot-on’. Few longer than a couple of hours, carefully designed to ensure the most enriching, cultural experiences at your destination. For the nay-sayers of cruise travel, all I can add is that there just cannot be a better way to explore this region. A floating-boutique, luxury hotel with exceptional service. Incredible cuisine, optimum comfort of your suite accommodation, the highest standard of health and safety and all-inclusive for your ultimate convenience.  This is in-depth exploration, with your luxury ship as your Sanctuary.


Scenic are committed to sustainable travel with no ‘single-use’ plastic on board. Guests are provided with re-fillable water bottles and your top-quality bathroom amenities are replenished daily in re-fillable containers.


For anyone undertaking this trip I would highly recommend either the pre or post cruise Siem Reap stay which includes accommodation at the stunning Raffles Grand Hotel, fast-track tickets for Angkor Wat, a sunrise experience at Angkor Wat and the exquisite Temple Dinner event.

Angkor Wat at Sunrise


Singapore Airlines fly from Cape Town via Johannesburg. The flight from Joburg to Singapore is just over 10-hours with good connections to Phnom Penh, Siem Reap and Ho Chi Minh City, depending on your itinerary.


Scenic offer voyages/tours in this region of between 7 – 21 nights exploring the best of Cambodia and Vietnam between October and July.  Pre and post cruise extensions are available for these itineraries.


Lightweight linen or cotton clothing and sandals, swimwear, sun-hat, sun-block and insect repellent. Evenings on board are ‘summer smart-casual’.


Available through Cruise Vacations and can be done via your regular, local and trusted travel agent. info@cruise-vacations.co.za 0115140564


If you are interested in the history of Cambodia and the effects of the atrocities of the Khmer Rouge regime then consider watching “First they Killed my Father” available on Netflix and “Don’t think I’ve Forgotten” available by download which will give you insight into this tragic period of history.


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