Wendy Wu Tours is to build its first river cruise ship.

The $10 million Victoria Mekong will be billed as four-star and offer three, four and seven-night cruises on the Mekong from 2020.

The 35-cabin ship will be sold through third-party operators as well as Wendy Wu Tours.

The operator, traditionally known for touring and tailor-made holidays in China, is joining forces with a Vietnamese company, which is part-funding the new ship for an undisclosed sum.

Cruises will go on sale either late this year or in 2019.

Founder Wendy Wu said: “The ship will be good-value, very comfortable, but not necessarily luxury. There is still demand that needs to be filled [on the Mekong river] and it means we can control our own destiny.”

The operator, which is 20 years old this year and enjoying “record sales”, is making its first foray into ownership in the river cruise sector after difficulties in pairing up third-party cruises with its own land itineraries for clients.

UK managing director Mark Bloxham admitted: “We have always been frustrated trying to get the perfect cruise to fit the perfect tour.”

The ship will take an alternative route to many of the popular Mekong cruises, starting and finishing cruises at Can Tho in southern Vietnam’s Mekong Delta region, rather than Ho Chi Minh City, and Phnom Penh, the capital of Cambodia.

Shore excursions will focus on offering an experience of local life, while onboard entertainment will include cultural performances and a gala dinner. Facilities will include a restaurant with an open kitchen, a lounge bar, swimming pool with pool bar and sundeck, a spa with a massage service, library and games room. There will be 33 ‘deluxe’ 25sq m cabins and two 45sq m ‘VIP suites’.

The operator launched in the UK in 2005 offering holidays to China, and now also offers trips across southeast Asia, Japan and India. This year it started tours to South America for the first time.

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