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71 Helpful Votes
Sail Date: February 2017
We just got back from a wonderful trip on the Siem Reap Riverboat from Siem Reap to Saigon (Ho Chi Minh City) in February, 2017. There weren’t many reviews of this boat and I had so many unanswered questions prior to leaving that I ... Read More
We just got back from a wonderful trip on the Siem Reap Riverboat from Siem Reap to Saigon (Ho Chi Minh City) in February, 2017. There weren’t many reviews of this boat and I had so many unanswered questions prior to leaving that I really wanted to help others thinking about taking this trip. This review is long, but I have broken it down into sections so you can skip to what interests you. First, it’s important to note that my husband and I have primarily gone on ocean cruises. We did take a short Riverboat cruise on the Yangtze though. Generally, this trip was very interesting and enlightening. The quality of the facilities and excursions were excellent and I would highly recommend it to anyone interested in visiting this area. I think that seeing the two countries from the vantage of the Mekong River was a great way to tie the trip together. It was an unforgettable journey! Passenger Composition: We were 31 people on the tour; mostly Americans, with around 6 Canadians, 3 from New Zealand, and 1 German (although 1 Canadian and 1 Kiwi were originally from Germany). Three of the men were former service men who served in Vietnam during the war. Most of the people were over 55, however, there was one younger couple. It was a very cohesive group. Avalon likes to think of their passengers, as it is a small ship, as a “family” and, in fact, it does start to feel that way. Tour Guides: We had a wonderful Avalon Guide/Manager the entire trip. Ho Huu Phiem is an incredibly organized, professional, knowledgeable and genuinely caring person who goes out of his way to make sure that everyone’s needs are addressed. He notices everything. This is so important and is one of the reasons the trip was so fantastic. Phiem is the Avalon representative on only the South-bound journeys. There is always another guide with the group as well, who is a specialist in the country you are visiting. Those guides were good, not great. The Riverboat: General: The Siem Reap is a small and well maintained boat. The Staterooms are all the same, the only difference is the floor you are on. We had #108 on the first floor. The layout of the room is beautiful. The bed faces floor to ceiling windows which open completely, you really feel like your whole room is a balcony. The linens are lovely, the bathroom is fairly large and there is plenty of storage. The boat is very clean and in fact, after walking around along the river (shore excursions), the crew takes your shoes and cleans them before you can enter the ship. The public spaces are very nice to gather in and there is room to sit on your own or gather and visit with new friends, both inside and outside. Crew: The Siem Reap has an incredibly wonderful crew who go out of their way to please everyone. If they don’t understand your request, they ask Phiem to help them, because they really want to do a good job. Food: With a mixture of both local and western choices for all meals, it would work for the most finicky or adventurous eater. I have a very touchy stomach and the chief would make special bland food for me. My husband, who has an iron gut always asked for a bowl of chilies to add to his food! We also had a Vegan and a Vegetarian; there were always choices that looked delicious for them as well. There were lovely baked goods and the tropical fruit choices were fantastic. Internet: I was really concerned prior to the cruise that I wouldn’t be able to access the internet. I know it’s a vacation, but there was an issue at home I needed to keep abreast of so I was worried prior to the cruise after reading Avalon’s information that said it was spotty and they may not have access. However, every day I was able to access the internet. Sometimes it wasn’t as fast as others, but I could get an email every day. The internet was generally available only in the lounges; however, those with Staterooms adjacent the lounge may have access. We were below and adjacent the lounge and most days I could access the internet from the Stateroom. Itinerary: I really enjoyed this itinerary. Because of the heat and humidity, Avalon generally had two – three hour tours; one early in the morning, then a break and another tour of the same duration in the afternoon. Having a break to rest and refresh was well thought out. The first two days of the trip were in Siem Reap with tours of several temple complexes. What an incredible site! I do think if you can arrive a day early than the official start date of the tour and sign up with an independent guide to see Angkor Wat at sunrise is well worth the extra time. The Avalon Tour goes after sunrise and I am glad I went to see that wonderful view of the temple at sunrise! The excursions on the Riverboat were fantastic. We went to different villages, on all different modes of transportation. We had an opportunity to engage with some of the people in the villages both planned by Avalon and spontaneous. One important note is that since Avalon is a small ship with only two stories, it can go down portions of the River that the larger ships like Viking and Ama Waterways can’t access. Therefore, there weren’t other ships visiting the villages we visited. Some of the excursions were difficult and made your heart ache for what man has done to man, but at the same time, you get a real flavor of the strength and endurance of the people. It was an experience that I am so glad to have had. Since it was very hot and humid, Avalon made sure that everyone had plenty of water and encouraged everyone to stay hydrated. Additionally, they frequently handed wet towels to refresh us. Dress: It was really all over the map. Some people were casual the entire time. Others dressed a little nicer for dinner. Really, you could do as you pleased. Laundry was available for a fee in the hotels and on the ship. It should be noted that it wasn’t inexpensive. For example, on the boat it was $1.50 to wash a T-shirt or ladies panties. Land Accommodations: Both hotels selected by Avalon were of very high caliber and were centrally located. Flight Arrangements: We arranged our own flights as when we compared prices with Avalon, we could do it for less money and the schedule we wanted. We did arrive a day and half earlier than the trip officially began. Read Less
5 Helpful Votes
Sail Date: February 2017
Our cruise was on the Upper Irrawaddy. This is our 3rd Pandaw cruise in 2 years. They epitomize the benefits and joys of Myanmar experience. The food is great, the itineraries are creative. We faced a couple of crises (caught on sand bars) ... Read More
Our cruise was on the Upper Irrawaddy. This is our 3rd Pandaw cruise in 2 years. They epitomize the benefits and joys of Myanmar experience. The food is great, the itineraries are creative. We faced a couple of crises (caught on sand bars) and the crew is empowered to find solutions. The staff are friendly to the point of knowing passengers quite intimately which guarantees a personalized service, especially at meal times. This does NOT have ocean liner evening options. Pandaw takes you into the heart and soul of this country whose citizens are probably the nicest people on this planet. Despite having already done the Chindwin River cruise last year and Halong Bay/Red River out of Hanoi this year, we have been reminded of why Pandaw fulfills our river cruise needs. We almost certainly will return next year for another Pandaw experience. Children would not find this satisfactory. The clientele on all of our Pandaw cruises have been 'Senior' or close to it. The excursions are not particularly demanding but are VERY rewarding. One day, we found ourselves in the middle of a wedding and a funeral, just a few minutes apart and were urged - by the parties involved - to join them and participate. The interaction and opportunity to meet the Burmans is truly the highlight of our Myanmar experiences. Read Less
4 Helpful Votes
Sail Date: January 2017
This was our 4th experience with Avalon river cruises and each one has been a wonderful experience. This ship was beautifully designed and decorated. Particularly memorable highlights were… · the sunrise and balloons ... Read More
This was our 4th experience with Avalon river cruises and each one has been a wonderful experience. This ship was beautifully designed and decorated. Particularly memorable highlights were… · the sunrise and balloons over the temples at Bagan...magical! · The sunset over the teak footbridge we viewed from sampans . · The children in the Monastery school doing the Hokey Pokey with a guy couple from our group. · The fire pit and local dance troupe on the sandbar at night. · The spectacular Buddhas and temples. · emotional experience with the founding Nun at the Nunnery. · The pass through the 2nd defile. · Sai entertaining and serving us great drinks on the ship We feel so privileged to have had the opportunity to experience this amazing culture with informed tour guides and service oriented crew. While all the crew were so professional and helpful, we particularly want to acknowledge Mark and Dorothy Bauk. Mark kept the whole trip on track and was always willing to share a story and take care of our every need. He is an excellent communicator with a great sense of humor, incredibly competent, and a very likeable person. Dorothy is just a real sweetheart and a genuinely caring person….we so enjoyed our time with her on the trip. She is extremely intelligent, well organized, and has an incredible knowledge of the history and present state of the country. After we left the cruise and were spending our last couple days in Yangon, she went "above and beyond" by arranging for me to have a tailor made longyi and blouse, taking several of us jewelry shopping, and taking us out for dinner at an incredible restaurant on the lake. Read Less
1 Helpful Vote
Sail Date: December 2016
This cruise was exceptional. This cruise line thought of everything, our guides were well informed and kept a caring eye on their daily wards. We discovered pottery villages, lacquer basket making, hand woven silk textile mill... the ... Read More
This cruise was exceptional. This cruise line thought of everything, our guides were well informed and kept a caring eye on their daily wards. We discovered pottery villages, lacquer basket making, hand woven silk textile mill... the fabrics were exquisite, many beautiful pagodas and Buddha's. There nothing quite as serene as exploring the river, and watching the sun set on an ancient sacred teak bridge while sipping champagne. I so enjoyed the people who crossed our path. Very interested and pleasant, obliging in photo shots and quick smiles. I can say the people of Myanmar were the highlight of my trip. The ship was very clean and tidy and the crew most eager to make your stay comfortable. The food was 5 star, the chef's outdid themselves and service excellent. You do need good legs, as stairs were used to get everywhere. Getting off for the excursion required climbing up river banks so work those calve muscles before leaving home. Evening were spent in the lounge with movies, cards, karaoke and documentaries that were most informative and gave us a clearer insight into Myanmar and its people. Read Less
4 Helpful Votes
Sail Date: November 2016
We wanted to experience the culture and beauty of Vietnam, Cambodia and the Mekong Delta; and what better way than on a beautiful river boat. The Jayavarman is just that. The staff was excellent and we were spoiled for the entire week. ... Read More
We wanted to experience the culture and beauty of Vietnam, Cambodia and the Mekong Delta; and what better way than on a beautiful river boat. The Jayavarman is just that. The staff was excellent and we were spoiled for the entire week. Nim, Panny and Makara were delightful. The cabin decor was elegant with adequate space, and a veranda with wonderful views. Amazing sunrises and sunsets. The ship's atmosphere was relaxing with a large open air deck to view the river and surrounding land. There areas to lounge or to socialize on the top 2 decks. The upper deck had chaise lounge chairs and a small pool. There were Tai Chi classes on the upper deck every morning. There is also a spa available for messages, manicures, pedicures, etc. WiFi was available at no extra charge, which was unexpected but nice to have. The food was excellent and abundant. Without previous notice, the chef catered to my husband's dietary needs of gluten free meals. He even prepared individual pastries and cakes. The dining hall was stylish and classically decorated. Service was great. The chef hosted a culinary class where the guest participated and learned several dishes including spring rolls. It was a lot of fun. Excursions were really interesting and very personal. We visited floating markets and small villages where we interacted with the local people; and learned about their way of life. The cultural experience was unforgettable. We visited the Killing Fields and the S21 Prison in Phnom Penh, an experience that won't soon be forgotten. We visited the Green School and the children were so excited and fun. Local families shared their homes and stories. I would definitely recommend the Heritage Line's Jayavarman cruise. Read Less
21 Helpful Votes
Sail Date: October 2016
We booked the Upper Mekong Cruise (Laos to China) offered by Pandaw which advertised the route as from Laos' Vientiane to China's Jinghong City, Xishuangbanna region in Yunnam Province. It was advertised as a luxury river cruise ... Read More
We booked the Upper Mekong Cruise (Laos to China) offered by Pandaw which advertised the route as from Laos' Vientiane to China's Jinghong City, Xishuangbanna region in Yunnam Province. It was advertised as a luxury river cruise on the brand new Laos Pandaw boat which accommodates 20 passengers. One of the main reasons for us booking the cruise was to see the beautiful sceneries along the Mekong River, in particular China's Xichuangbanna region which is a popular holiday destination for seasoned travelers. Two months before sailing, we learned that the Laos Pandaw did not have a powerful engine to make it up river to China. Pandaw, claimed in its website that they built a brand new ship named the Yunnam Pandaw which later changed its name to Champa Pandaw. It claimed that the ship has twice the horsepower of the Laos Pandaw and can take 28 passengers. We boarded the ship in Laos's capital Vientiane at noon on October 19, and quickly learned from the previous cruise's passengers that their voyage was cut short by 2 days due to the fact the Champa Pandaw's maiden voyage never made it to its final destination in China's Jinghong, the capital city of Xishuangbanna Region. Our voyage started on time with half a day tour of Vientiane as schedule but was informed by the ship's manager that the upstream itinerary has been changed substantially due to the experience gained from the previous upstream and downstream cruises. The 1 day schedule visit to Burma (Myanmar) was cancelled, reason given as not safe region to visit. Before the start of the tour we understood that the schedule may be subjected to change but we still felt disappointed with substantial revisions of the itinerary even before the start. Sailing up the Mekong to Luang Prabang, Laos' tourist town, took 4 days and the boat was advancing slowly. Reason given was low water level due to the Chinese side not releasing water for the boat to go on normal speed. The captain on board only speaks Laotian, not English, and communication with passengers was mainly from the the cruise manager and the tour guide (Laotian). We missed the ship lock time slot at the Xiaburi Dam and was delayed by almost 18 hours. Sailing from Luang Prabang to the Golden Triangle continued to be slow. We visited a few Laos poor villages along the way, and moored before sunset on the river bank as the Champa Pandaw cannot sail at night. There appears to be no radar, GPS or satellite communications on board. Passenger can access the ship's wi-fi for free and internet connection depends on whether the ship can receive any cell tower signal. Overall, 50% of the time there is no internet connection. There is little on board activities aside from the visits to the poor Laos villages. Only 1 lecture by the tour guide on Laos history and culture, 2 food demos, and 1 tour of the ship's quarters on the 14 days itinerary. No organized fitness, music, performances or dancing activities. Plenty of lounge space for book reading and chatting. Embarkation in main ports are typical of river cruises but on the river banks to small villages, good footwear, strong legs and walking sticks are required. The crew did a good job in helping passengers to embark. At the Golden triangle, we only visited the Opium Museum, which is worth while. After the Golden Triangle, the ship sailed into many strong rapids, and was barely able to negotiate a few of them. When we reached the Chinese border, there is a strong rapid that the Champa Pandaw's engine was unable to bring the boat across. In two days, the captain failed to cross in six tries, while other ships and freighters did the crossing. In the last try, we were told to get off the ship to reduce weight. It was quite difficult for a group of seniors passengers to wear life jackets and climb up and down the ladder to get to the pebble beach landing. After the last try, we were told the engine was burned and a speed boat from China picked the passengers up and sailed the rest of the journey to Jinghong, our final destination in a speedboat. There was no way to enjoy the river banks sceneries on board the speed boat as compared to a river cruise boat. We were put up in a hotel for the last night of the cruise and as we wasted two days in running the rapid, we did not have a chance to do sight seeing in Xishuangbanna as originally scheduled. Overall, while the Champa Pandaw offered good services and excellent food on board of this voyage, the planning of the whole trip was poor. It appears that the ship does not have the power to run the rapids, it was not well equipped with communication gear to contact headoffice, and since the maiden voyage, the ship was never able to make it to Jinghong. The itinerary was frequently changed and we still don't understand why the scheduled Burma visit was cancelled due to safety reasons, yet we were told to land on the Burmese side when the ship offloaded the passengers to reduce weight. We paid a fair price for the trip but we feel that the value for money did not live to expectation. We feel that the company has not done adequate preparation on the equipment side, and have not learned from the Laos Pandaw experience while still market the segment to Jinghong as its final destination. We hope the company can offer some explanations. Read Less
4 Helpful Votes
Sail Date: April 2016
We chose this cruise because we really enjoyed our Viking cruise in France, and the excursions covered a lot of sights we wanted to see. Unfortunately, this one didn't go as well as our French cruise. There were many problems on the ... Read More
We chose this cruise because we really enjoyed our Viking cruise in France, and the excursions covered a lot of sights we wanted to see. Unfortunately, this one didn't go as well as our French cruise. There were many problems on the Emerald: Moldy smell in many areas: rooms/hallways. Had to change rooms to the second alternative room, because the first alternative room also smelled moldy. Room attendant, Marvin: We ran out of toiletries, including toilet paper. He didn't replenish them. Had to call desk for more. His cart was outside our room everyday. One day I took a soap because we were low, and the cart contents never changed. Every day, everything was neatly arranged and full, except for the hole left by the one soap I took. I don' think anybody got new toiletries. He never cleaned the rug. It was filthy by the end. I put a dirty bathroom glass in the center of counter to exchange for a clean one. He just put the dirty one on an old coaster and put it behind the faucet as if it were a clean glass. I left my robe on the couch one day. He just wadded it up and put a pillow over it to cover it. Basically all he did was make the bed every day. He didn't understand anything we tried to say to him. Fiona was an excellent server, as was Alice. The main emcee gentleman was pretty impossible to understand. Also, the Shangri-La hotel in Guilin was not a good choice. It was overrun with children, and if you didn't like seafood, the food choices were just vegetables. I had tomatoes, olives and bread for dinner. It's a good thing I decided against the chicken, because a fellow passenger told me the next day that it had made him sick. Also, towels and toiletries were on the skimpy side. All other hotels were wonderful. Ray, our guide, was outstanding, and totally saved this trip! He made all the shore excursions fun. (Unfortunately, nobody could make the Chinese Acrobat show fun. It was not terribly acrobatic, or interesting.) Other shows were good. Read Less
18 Helpful Votes
Sail Date: April 2016
The Viking Emerald is not the usual Scandinavian design, it is definitely Chinese. Beautifully decorated with shops where you can have silk clothing MADE on board, watch a very good artist paint, and more. The staff is polite and ... Read More
The Viking Emerald is not the usual Scandinavian design, it is definitely Chinese. Beautifully decorated with shops where you can have silk clothing MADE on board, watch a very good artist paint, and more. The staff is polite and attentive. The meals, really special. We did tour to Xian. I was blown away by the warriors , and the Great Wall really impress. For me this was not a vacation. It was a lot of walking every day. I came home tired but very happy we went. The population in China is shoulder to shoulder. The traffic was hair raising. Our driver was good and our tour director was outstanding. He had an answer for almost all question the 29 of us could ask and his patience was unending. This was a wonderful trip and I encourage you to go. Take good walking shoes, rain jacket and sunglasses. Happy travels Read Less
2 Helpful Votes
Sail Date: March 2016
My mom and I chose to travel with Viking to China because we had heard great things about Viking tours, and wanted to travel with a reputable company. When we looked at the available cruises we chose the 'cruise' from Beijing to ... Read More
My mom and I chose to travel with Viking to China because we had heard great things about Viking tours, and wanted to travel with a reputable company. When we looked at the available cruises we chose the 'cruise' from Beijing to Shanghai. One thing that appealed to us "virgin" cruisers was that there were hotel stays prior to and after the cruise portion. We had a few days in Beijing and Xian before the cruise and got to explore The Great Wall, Tiananmen Square, The Terra Cotta Warriors, and other fantastic places, all while staying in five-star accommodation. Then we boarded the Viking Emerald, we enter into a beautiful atrium and our taken to our stateroom-spacious and has a great veranda. The Yangtze River provided a beautiful backdrop as we cruised, and it was wonderful to enjoy sitting on our veranda. The food onboard was delicious, and I loved that at every meal there was a local cuisine option. The crew was amazing, and talented! The entertainment on board surpassed my expectations. The shore excursions were well thought out and gave a view of China that we couldn't get in the larger cities- I particularly loved the lesser gorges tour because our guide had lived there her entire life and she described the culture. Even when we couldn't go on one of the excursions (due to a weather/lock schedule issue), the staff on the boat went out of their way to plan some last minute entertainment, including a free alcoholic beverage, so that we would still get a great experience, even if it wasn't the one we had planned. It has been over six months since we traveled, and my mom and I still are talking about all of the wonderful experiences we had in China. I am normally an independent traveler, but I am so glad I traveled with Viking because I know I would not have seen a quarter of what I saw with them, or with the ease that everything was handled. I have recommended this trip to everyone I know, and I would gladly go on this trip again! Read Less
1 Helpful Vote
Sail Date: March 2016
I have been on three previous Viking river cruises and just love them. Am no longer interested in ocean cruises now that I have done the river ones. Our program director was the best, Mu Mu. She engaged all of his daily and the crew ... Read More
I have been on three previous Viking river cruises and just love them. Am no longer interested in ocean cruises now that I have done the river ones. Our program director was the best, Mu Mu. She engaged all of his daily and the crew as well with singing and dancing. We loved her. We were so lucky to have 14 of us passengers and 28 crew members. truly pampered and spoiled. The food was excellent, not spicy, which was very helpful. presentation was wonderful and service was great. Loved all the daily tours we took with the wonderful air conditioned buses. Dominique the hotel manager was wonderful as well. My only suggestion is that the young lady who was the massage therapist got a bit too personal along our buttocks. It wasn't intentional but we Western ladies are a bit more reserved and we did mention it to each other. We would have liked for the air conditioning unit to go down to 15 deg. C. It was unusually hot during that week, l00 every day and it was difficult for the unit to keep up. Our rooms were lovely and the boat was also spotless and the service was wonderful. Our drivers were very careful and I appreciate having two crew members come along on each of our tours. It kept me from wandering off into the paths of the motorbikes!! I really loved Bagan and the last shrine with the 582,000 Buddha images. Also appreciated all the cold water on hand. Would highly recommend this cruise to my friends. In fact, two sets of friends have already come to see me, look at my pictures and inquired about our trip. Next stop Amazon or Ganges!! Read Less
10 Helpful Votes
Sail Date: February 2016
We chose this cruise and land excursion to get a good understanding of the culture of SE Asia. Unlike others I found the ship quaint and it fit the area we were traveling in. While the stairs were steep and there were some tall banks ... Read More
We chose this cruise and land excursion to get a good understanding of the culture of SE Asia. Unlike others I found the ship quaint and it fit the area we were traveling in. While the stairs were steep and there were some tall banks to climb. The itinerary stated that this trip was for people that could climb stairs and navigate uneven terrain. Viking went out of their way to accommodate people that were physically challenged. The food was excellent on the ship. There were two meals that were served away from the hotel and the ship that were less than spectacular. I would suggest that Viking revisit those locations. Excursions were excellent. The only excursion that I would do away with is the one to the lacquer factory. It turned out to be a shopping stop a a cheap souvenir shop. All of the rest of the stops were extremely interesting. We also found our tour guide Lee to go out of his way to insure that we having a good time. He was well trained and very knowledgeable about all the areas and history of the region. Viking also brought in secondary guides in parts of Vietnam and Cambodia. The tour included a visit to a school and a orphanage. Most of the people on the tour only went to the orphanage. I would suggest that one of these tours be replaced with an alternate excursion. Vikings plan to include all excursions as part of the tour makes it easier for planning and keeping the group together. Read Less
1 Helpful Vote
Sail Date: September 2015
I thought this tour was exceptional. The organization of everything by Viking was wonderful; everything went very smoothly. The hotels were 5-star; the food was wonderful - on land and on the ship. Roy was a great escort. The sights ... Read More
I thought this tour was exceptional. The organization of everything by Viking was wonderful; everything went very smoothly. The hotels were 5-star; the food was wonderful - on land and on the ship. Roy was a great escort. The sights were amazing. It has to rank among my top three trips ever! We stayed at the Westin Beijing Choayang which was very nice. Traffic in Beijing was horrible; it took us probably 3 times longer than necessary due to the traffic jams. Luckily, that was figured into the planning and we got everywhere on time. The Beijing Opera was interesting but not a "must see". There were big crowds on the Great Wall and in the Forbidden City but not too overwhelming. On the Great Wall, it would be very crowded and then somehow people dispersed and you would feel like you were there on your own. In Xian, we were at the Crowne Plaza. The Tang Dynasty Show itself was very good but the food was just okay. The TerraCotta Warriors were wonderful! It was pretty crowded there but the pits are large so you could always find a spot for some good viewing. When we arrived at the ship, we were welcomed by music and a dancing dragon. Staff was there to escort us to our cabin which was pleasant. We did get a dehumidifier which helped; all we needed to do was ask at the front desk. The dining room was quite pleasant and all the meals on board were very good, though they did have some specialties one night , like phoenix legs, chicken feet and pig snout which we didn't try. Staff was very attentive and our wine glasses were never empty. The onboard enrichment activities were okay. Some of the talks about China seemed somewhat rambling and the mah jongg lesson had most of the groups sitting too close to one another. The painting demonstration was good as was the cooking demo. We enjoyed the staff cabaret. My husband enjoyed the tour of the Three Gorges Dam while I thought the tour of the Temple of the Golden Ox was good too. It was here were I did some shopping and got a good deal on some scarves. The Shibaozhai Temple was fascinating and the view from the heights there was wonderful. In Shaghai, we were at the Jing'anShangriLa. The room was magnificent as was the view from the 54th Floor. Here, we were able walk in the area and found a Buddhist Temple and a market to occupy our morning before we left for the airport. The best part of the tour though was all the wonderful people we met. Everyone in our group was very friendly and enjoyable to be with. Read Less
Sail Date: August 2015
As usual, Viking arranged five star hotels and an excellent guide! Our hotel in Shanghai, The Fairmount Peace Hotel was beautiful and right across the street form the Bund, or River Walk. The ship was not as nice as the longship we cruised ... Read More
As usual, Viking arranged five star hotels and an excellent guide! Our hotel in Shanghai, The Fairmount Peace Hotel was beautiful and right across the street form the Bund, or River Walk. The ship was not as nice as the longship we cruised on in Holland, but it was clean and the staff was excellent. Our cabin was very roomy, and we enjoyed our verandah as we cruised down the Yangtze River. Tibet was the most unusual place we have ever been! I loved the people dressed in traditional clothes. The food in our hotels was great, but the restaurants we visited all seemed to serve the same food, and it was rather bland. I did like the Chinese hamburgers-pork loin on a steamed bun. I know the restaurant on the way to the Summer Palace was convenient, but the food was not good. The Shanghai Acrobats were incredible, as was the show in Xian. The Terra Cotta Warriors were a highlight for me, and The Shangri-La Hotel in Xian was the nicest hotel I have stayed in. The Green Fish restaurant at the Ritz Carlton in Bejing was great. The Three Gorges tour was beautiful. The tour guide can make or break a trip, and our tour guide Richard was the very best! He looked after every member of our group of 32, and shared his heartfelt memories of growing up in China. He recapped the next day's plans each day and arranged our many flights, making it as easy as possible for us all. Read Less
5 Helpful Votes
Sail Date: June 2015
Don’t think of this three-week odyssey as a vacation, but as a journey. It’s not an easy trip for several reasons, but the payoff comes in surprising ways along with a few pretty significant downers. The 21-day Roof of the World ... Read More
Don’t think of this three-week odyssey as a vacation, but as a journey. It’s not an easy trip for several reasons, but the payoff comes in surprising ways along with a few pretty significant downers. The 21-day Roof of the World cruise/land “vacation” offered by Viking River Cruises, which we took, included the Hong Kong/Guilin supplemental portion. Start your trip in Beijing because you’ll want to get that portion completed. It’s a very important and interesting part of the experience—Tiananmen Square, the Forbidden City and the Great Wall—but it is exhausting and Beijing is not very interesting. This is a difficult trip physically and there are almost no accommodations for anyone that can’t walk or stand for eight hours a day and that is very evident in Beijing. The Chinese obviously don’t believe in sitting and there are virtually no benches, chairs or even surfaces to rest your bum—besides, you are walking pretty much non-stop in heat, humidity and staggering air pollution. There are approximately 22 million people in Beijing and there are about 8.5 million in New York City, just to give you a comparison. We didn’t see the sun for three days and there are simply lots and lots of people everywhere. Viking does an admirable job considering everything they must juggle. Their best asset is, without a doubt, their people. Our guide, Jenna, was fabulous—knowledgable, kind, smart and always working. Her English was perfect and her attitude admirable given the Chinese Government and the hundreds of variables she managed daily. Coming in second to Jenna was the quality of the hotels. We stayed at several Shangri-la hotels and two Fairmont hotels and they were all exceptional. The breakfast buffets at these hotels were the best of all the food offered on the trip. Often, we also ate dinner at the hotels and while it got a little old, you could eat the food. That was not always the case on the cruise and in the local restaurants. You get pretty tired of the same Chinese, lazy Susan, family-style offerings such as limp tasteless book choy. Drinks also seem to be an issue. Wine is pretty non-existent, beer is served (ONE per customer) and they’ll take you down if you ask for a second soda. Budget for your liquor consumption and figure nothing is included. Viking does a great job with the baggage, transfers and details associated with what turned out to be seven intra-China flights, endless bus rides and interference by the Chinese government. Just as we were to leave for our cruise portion of the flight, we were informed a portion of the Yangtze River had been closed. This necessitated us taking two domestic flights in one day, topped off by a five hour bus ride that put us boarding at 3:00 a.m. After the five hour ride, we were told we should “tip the bus driver”. Really? I didn’t want to use him in the first place and I’m responsible for the government closing the river? Tipping is something of a concern. It is endless. I don’t mind tipping, but every bus driver, every local guide, porter and handyman?? We tipped Jenna more, because she was worth it, but you are “advised” to tip $15 a day, per couple for the tour guide. If you are on the trip for 21 days, that is $315. There is vitally no internet. None. No Facebook, CNN or Google. Sometimes, when the stars and moon align and it’s 3:00 am, you might get Yahoo in the larger cities. The entertainment is not worth mentioning because, while very pleasant, are the same people who clean your room. The Emerald riverboat is old and clearly not of Viking quality. The towels are dripping with loose threads and the sheets are worn thin. The bathroom is small and dated. The balconies are small with chairs that are capable of eating your flesh and the food less than. The staff are generally eager to please and have a reasonable command of English. We saw a lot of China and that was great. Viking did an amazing job fitting everything into the schedule. We personally hated all the “factory tours” that resulted in a “shopping opportunity” but people bought, so I guess it’s part of the program. The Terra Cotta Soldiers were amazing and Lhasa a true highlight. We both got very sick with the altitude sickness so plan on bringing medication. The hotel had a doctor, but it ran about $300 extra per person to get treated. Shanghai was a wonderful surprise (so different from Beijing) and Hong Kong was stunning. The quick trip to Guilin was worth the effort because the ride down the Li River was exceptional. There was just so much to see and you do start to understand the different Chinese thought process. We were a small group—21 in our group and 18 in a companion guided group—together because our itinerary included Tibet and most on to Hong Kong—and that provided a surprising upside. You get to know the people well and, while I wouldn’t have selected many of them in a general sense, it was a fabulous group of interesting people—aged from 22 to 80 years. The people absolutely made the trip—and Jenna was the glue that made it all possible. Take this trip for what it is—a journey with lots of average Chinese food, exploring emerging tourist sights and highlights of cultural enrichment, coupled with the great need to be adaptable while getting to know a variety of great folks. And, train physically before you go! Read Less
3 Helpful Votes
Sail Date: June 2015
Although this is presented as a cruise the time on the water is only half of the trip. Nor did we embark at Shanghai but the option to choose Chonqing is not in the menu. This was our first experience of cruising since both my husband ... Read More
Although this is presented as a cruise the time on the water is only half of the trip. Nor did we embark at Shanghai but the option to choose Chonqing is not in the menu. This was our first experience of cruising since both my husband and I suffer from seasickness and had not thought it wise to try the oceans! The "Imperial Jewels of China", from Beijing to Shanghai is a once in a lifetime trip. It could hardly be called a "holiday" since leisure time is extremely limited at the beginning and end. Excursions to the "must do" sites such as Tiananmen Square, the Forbidden City, the Great Wall, the Terra Cotta Warriors etc set off very early in the day to try to avoid the worst of the crowds (not apparently successful!) so leisurely lie in bed is not on the programme. And even on the ship the excursions and activities are time consuming. But apart from the endless crowds and the rather disappointing weather this is an amazing experience. The vastness of a country you see only a portion of, the different culture, the overwhelming scenery - so different as you pass through different regions, the seething crowds ...... The cruise part of the itinerary we enjoyed immensely despite a couple of wet days. Unused to the possibly more luxurious cruise ships we found The Emerald more than comfortable and the crew delightful. If you want more luxury stay put in the hotels that Viking arranged for the rest of the trip! We were unfortunate since the night we embarked at Chongqing was the night that the Chinese cruise ship went down in the Yangtze with the loss of about 400 lives. This impacted on our timetable but the crew were more than helpful and reassuring. We had hoped to be sunbathing on our stateroom balcony but sadly the weather was not that kind. In fact we saw the sun on few occasions which, coming as we do from Andalucia in Spain, was disappointing. The pollution in the big cities hides the sun and the weather systems down in the mountains mean the sky is often grey with heavy cloud and drizzle. So don't take this trip if you want luxurious leisure or if you have difficulty in walking for long periods of time or if bad weather might put you off or if you are allergic to crowds. Take it if you want to experience something totally different and have your mind blown by the "Imperial Jewels of China", it's something you will never forget! P.S. The Viking tour guides are fantastic, particularly ours, the lovely "Johanna", and make things run like clockwork even on such a tight and demanding schedule. Read Less
13 Helpful Votes
Sail Date: May 2015
What a greeting we got the window to board was one hour we had come from Tokyo by bullet then a Taxi that did not know were the port was then we got out of the Taxi two crew took our bags and lead us to the gangway very nice touch, on ... Read More
What a greeting we got the window to board was one hour we had come from Tokyo by bullet then a Taxi that did not know were the port was then we got out of the Taxi two crew took our bags and lead us to the gangway very nice touch, on entering the Ship 23 min early we were treated to you are early sit there till your cabin is ready , our party was made up of a 86 year old a 70 & a 60 year old the attitude shown was rude abrupt discourteous and not a credit to the French people it followed on with the reception counter staff also French The cabin was great but no list is given on what is included in you package and what is paid for the most of the cabin crew & restaurant staff are great not French the off handed French restaurant manger falling over the French customers but keeping away from the Australians Food quality could not be described a fine dining it had its moment but over all was not up to P&O at half the cost P&O , Carnival Line & Princess Line are able to handle 2500 passengers boarding in four hours this boat could not handle 200 Read Less
1 Helpful Vote
Sail Date: March 2015
I have just returned from a 10 day cruise on the Ayeyarwaddy River in Myanmar on the Amapura and cannot wait to go back. Because of the extremely low river we could not board the ship at the usual spot so there was a one hour bus ride ... Read More
I have just returned from a 10 day cruise on the Ayeyarwaddy River in Myanmar on the Amapura and cannot wait to go back. Because of the extremely low river we could not board the ship at the usual spot so there was a one hour bus ride from Mandalay. The Burmese are incredibly sweet and simple people, always with a smile and a wave. Tun and Thomas - Cruise Managers on the Amapura were terrific. Their knowledge and pride in their country was inspiring and their English was much better than my Burmese will ever be. I have been on 7 river cruises prior to this and the crew of the Amapura were helpful above and beyond the call of duty. It should be noted that this is a third world country and so docking facilities are a bit of a challenge if you have any difficulties with mobility but again the crew will help you every step of the way. Since Myanmar has only experienced tourism for a very short period of time it will only get better with experience, but if you expect the cruise to be like Europe then stay in Europe, this is not the cruise for you. There was an incident with the ship that the crew all stepped up to the plate and had everything set to right in a hour and you would never have noticed that anything out of the ordinary had ever taken place. When I went to the sun deck in the mornings at 5:30 the crew were already cleaning rails and mopping the floors. Having a cabin on the upper deck can be a little noisy since they are underneath the lounge and sun deck so you hear the chairs scapping across the floor. This country gave me a chance to experience very spiritual and special events such as lining up to give the monks food in their alms bowl that I would never experience at home. Thanks Tun, Thomas and the rest of the crew on the Amapura for being so wonderful. Glad I had the opportunity to see Myanmar in its purest form and I will be back. Read Less
8 Helpful Votes
Sail Date: March 2015
AMA Waterways Myanmar I've just taken the 10 day cruise up the Irawaddy river. Although I have taken cruises with companies like Regent, Seabourn, Silversea, etc, this is my first river cruise. I chose AMA because my travel agent ... Read More
AMA Waterways Myanmar I've just taken the 10 day cruise up the Irawaddy river. Although I have taken cruises with companies like Regent, Seabourn, Silversea, etc, this is my first river cruise. I chose AMA because my travel agent said it was highly regarded for luxury river cruising and their literature promoted a "brand new" ship for this cruise whose maiden voyage was in November 2014. Sadly this does not appear to be the case at all. The ship looks very worn for just four months of service and surely must be a "refurbished" ship. The craftsmanship and finish is very poor and not at all up to the standards which one would expect; for example there are cracks in the ceilings and walls, old and messy caulking through the the ship, bathroom grout which is discolored in places and pieces of tile which are not even, pieces of molding which do not meet and are poorly installed, flooring which is discolored and shoddily varnished, light fixtures are old looking and many have paint overspray. There is very little insulation between rooms ( I heard my neighbor with a hacking cough for 10 days as if she were in my bathroom) and hallway noise and footsteps above are also quite loud. As far as upkeep and maintenance is concerned, it is obvious that AMA has not brought any of its European or international standards to its local operation here. There are spiderwebs on railings, the balcony outside my room is not clean and neither are the windows on the sliding glass doors, planters have weeds growing in them, flags are tattered and blackened, and bathroom towels are often worn and are soiled. Even more disturbing is the mold and mildew in the showers. It is obvious that no one has ever used a brush to clean it. What are they thinking? I've had cleaner bathrooms at a Motel 6. And some of the A/C vents are dirty and black, particularly in the dining room. All it takes is a moist towel to clean that off. I just don't get it. Food is mediocre but I'm sure they are doing the best with the ingredients they have. Do not expect the level and quality of food found on a luxury cruise. House wine is acceptable but does not change and becomes monotonous after a few days. I must say the staff members are extremely friendly and polite and try their best to please. But it is obvious they have not been properly trained in housekeeping and maintenance. I am astonished that AMA has not properly trained them because I'm sure hey have the potential to learn. I would not recommend this cruise to seasoned, high-end luxury travelers and I would be hesitant to consider any AMA Waterways ship in the future. If you want to see Burma, I would suggest a land-based trip to the highlights (Bagan and Inle Lake) or a luxury cruise which calls on the west coast or Rangoon with excursion options.   Read Less
1 Helpful Vote
Sail Date: February 2015
We picked this trip, since Myanmar was an entirely new and exotic destination. The Shangri La hotel in Bangkok was beautiful. We flew to Mandalay for a short tour and where we boarded the boat. The accommodations are very simple, but ... Read More
We picked this trip, since Myanmar was an entirely new and exotic destination. The Shangri La hotel in Bangkok was beautiful. We flew to Mandalay for a short tour and where we boarded the boat. The accommodations are very simple, but practical. It was the same flat bottom style on the Irrawaddy as the Vietnam/Cambodia trip on the Mekong. The food was fresh and delicious - we liked the many local dishes on board. Everything is casual and open seating. Every day we stopped at different villages, with something to see or learn at each one. We saw so many Buddhas and beautiful Temples and Pagodas, with monks and monasteries everywhere. We learned about the history of the country. The education resources are very limited. Politics were bad, but recently things seem to have improved a bit. We had lectures, a movie, various talks, guest monks and craft persons on board. People in the villages were often poor, but seemed very friendly and got by OK. We were on all kinds of fun transportation. Our guide, Dorothy, was wonderful and so full of interesting information. She taught us all, much about her country and often surprised us with a song, a small gift, or a funny story. When we returned from dusty walks, the crew on our boat collected our shoes and sandals we wore and returned them cleaned off to our doorsteps! Nice! We ended Myranmar in Yangon for a couple of nights and then flew back to Bangkok. The only negative was that nearly all 50 of the guests ended with respiratory infections- coughing mostly. Perhaps from so much dust, close quarters, and sharing of serving utensils on board. We were not warned until we were on the ship about the minimal emergency health resources on the trip. Luckily no one had an emergency. Also, minimal wifi available along the river, except in hotel stops. There are 3 main levels on board- access by steep stairs only. Top level is shaded. Read Less
4 Helpful Votes
Sail Date: February 2015
Synopsis. This is a long review. Bottom line, I'm positive. Great experience. Go to Myanmar before it is overrun by tourists. Be prepared for dust and smoke and you will see a backward country. The people are wonderful and the sites ... Read More
Synopsis. This is a long review. Bottom line, I'm positive. Great experience. Go to Myanmar before it is overrun by tourists. Be prepared for dust and smoke and you will see a backward country. The people are wonderful and the sites amazing! The Amawaterways, Amapura in Myanmar is relatively new. Before coming on the 14 day cruise in February 2015, I attempted to find reviews, but found very few, and no photos. I read one negative review, complaining about lack of activity, and a dirty ship. The other review was positive, but not detailed. I can state categorically that there isn't a ton of physical activity, but anyone who's ever cruised either on a river, or at sea, knows that. 14 day, luxury cruises are also not filled with young energetic adults, because of their length and cost...so get that out of your system and enjoy what this is. What this cruise offers is luxurious transport to areas you could never get to on your own, and a knowledgable and friendly staff. The ship is small so you don't overwhelm the small villages along the way. The Amapura is a great little "ship". Modern and comfortable. The staff almost outnumbers the 50, or so passengers. They are very well trained, energetic and friendly. I have absolutely no complaints. The room (we had a balcony room) is very large and comfortable. The food, while not up to world class gourmet standards, is very good. As to the cleanliness of the vessel, Myanmar is a smoky, dusty place. The shore excursions all require some walking through sand and dirt, which gets brought aboard. I was up most mornings around 6am and the crew was out scrubbing the decks and handrails, but it's hard to keep up. I would say the ship was pretty clean given the environment. The room was very clean. Decks were all teak, and beautiful. Another review mentioned "dull" wood floors. That person is obviously not a fan of teak. It's an oily wood that does not take varnish well, and looks best when left pretty natural. I personally thought it all looked great. The shore excursions were amazing. I myself love long distance hikes, so I could have used a bit more exercise, but short of that the excursions far exceeded any expectation I had. They were varied, from pagodas, to monestaries, to markets, to schools. Many excursions were opportunistic, based on our cruise manager's scouting out local happenings that were of interest. The tour guides (Mojo, and Swan) were hard working and certainly knowledgeable. Swan gave a series of lectures in the evening on topics ranging from Buddism, to culture, to mythology. While sometimes a little difficult to understand, Swan had obviously done a lot of research and was well prepared. Be prepared when you come. Myanmar is a fabulous trip, and the people warm and welcoming. I never felt threatened. However the country has a long history of strife and poverty, as well as an oppressive government. Don't expect to alight from the ship on a dock. All "dockings" were on the sandy banks of the river with a nice climb up the bank into the local town. There is a lot of dust and smoke. Most days include a stop at some sacred location requiring shoes off. Bring easily removable shoes. Also bring sunscreen. Shorts should not be worn into sacred locations. I found a trip to REI before coming for light weight, quick drying, hiking pants, and long sleeve shirts (sun protection) a worthwhile undertaking. We visited several schools and I wish I had brought more school supplies to donate. These children are beautiful and extremely happy, but they have almost nothing. If you decide to book this trip you will certainly enjoy it if you keep an open mind and look for the beauty that is here. You can be miserable if you think this will be like a trip to Palm Springs, except in a foreign country. Inle lake extension: we booked an extension with Amawaterways to Inle lake. I'm very glad we did. Swan, our tour director from the ship, stayed with us. He did a great job and kept us busy with multiple excursions each day, all by boat. We left the hotel each morning around 8am and returned at sunset. The only issue with Inle lake is that it is heavily infested with tourists, unlike the rest of our trip. It will become impossible in a few years as tourist traffic increases. It's a great stop, though. Not to be missed, at least for now. Logistics: we purchased all our flights, hotels and transfers through Amawaterways. While probably more expensive than doing it on our own (ex: airport to Hotel was $50, on our own it would have been $10), everything was handled flawlessly and easily. Camera gear: I shoot a lot of pictures. I'm an "advanced" amateur. Myanmar as dusty! Changing lenses on a DSLR outside is ill advised. I brought two DSLR bodies. One with a wide angle 10-24mm, and the other with a 28-300mm lens. That was perfect. Flights in Myanmar: I was concerned before coming about our scheduled flights from Yangon to Mandaly and back and forth to Inle lake. We flew Yadanarpon airlines, which is apparently owned by the same person who partners with Amawaterways in Myanmar. The airline is relatively new with new ATR turboprop aircraft. They seemed good and safe. Internet: be prepared for withdrawal symptoms. The boat has great wifi, but for most of the journey there is no connection to the outside world. There is minimal Internet at Inle lake. Two suggestions: check for wifi connections at the better shops you will be in. Some have free wifi. One passenger bought a local SIM card for their iPad. SIM cards can be purchased locally and your cruise guides can help you. What I would have done differently: (1) packed a little less for one, and brought a few more REI-style quick drying hiking pants and shirts. (2) ditched the tripod. Didn't use it. (3) brought a broad brimmed hat. I brought a ball cap. (4) we brought insect repellent which we really didn't need. Read Less
3 Helpful Votes
Sail Date: February 2015
Joined the ship in Saigon for a 3 night / 4 day cruise to Phnom Penh. Cost was approximately £500 (GBP) per night for a double cabin. Passengers met for registration at the Intercontinental Asiana in Saigon. It was disappointing that ... Read More
Joined the ship in Saigon for a 3 night / 4 day cruise to Phnom Penh. Cost was approximately £500 (GBP) per night for a double cabin. Passengers met for registration at the Intercontinental Asiana in Saigon. It was disappointing that Pandaw did not arrange for coffee to be available during what turned out to be a 2 hour wait for transport to the ship. Not a good first impression. That said, instead of the expected 2 hour bus ride to My Tho on the Mekong delta to meet the ship we had a 10 minute ride to Saigon Port and the bonus of an extra half day on the water as we proceeded down the Saigon River to the Mekong delta from there. This included a spectacular sunset. The ship itself is very beautiful and well maintained. There are 16 double cabins - and our cruise had 28 passengers. All were middle aged (or older) Europeans, Australians or Canadians. The atmosphere was friendly and enjoyable throughout with free seating at meals and all local beers and spirits included. Cabins are spacious and the bathrooms amazingly large and functional with an excellent shower. Without exception, the staff are wonderful. On the downside, the excursions and the food were slightly disappointing, especially given the price paid for what is classed as a "top of the range" cruise. The fact that the cruise took place during the lunar New Year (Tet) meant that the river was not its normal bustling self and the floating market had everything except any floating markets!! The excursions ashore were not particularly interesting (and not as advertised) - again maybe due to Tet - though it was always good to get off the ship and stretch ones legs for a couple of hours. The food was OK but nothing to write home about - interestingly we had much better on a 1 night cruise in Halong Bay (which cost half as much per night). We also thought it slightly mean that a "house wine" could not be provide for dinner. All-in-all a very enjoyable experience, though a little expensive for what it was. For us, 3 nights was certainly enough. Read Less
3 Helpful Votes
Sail Date: December 2014
Our trip was 12 nights on AmaWaterways on AmaPura (2 nights pre cruise in Yangon and 10 nights cruise from Pyay to Mandalay) for December 16 2014. The pre cruise in Yangon stay included 2 nights in the Sule Shangri La. The hotel was one of ... Read More
Our trip was 12 nights on AmaWaterways on AmaPura (2 nights pre cruise in Yangon and 10 nights cruise from Pyay to Mandalay) for December 16 2014. The pre cruise in Yangon stay included 2 nights in the Sule Shangri La. The hotel was one of the nicest in Yangon although our expectations were higher for a Shangri La property. We were a bit disappointed that the pre cruise did not include any meals (lunch or dinner) in Yangon. Only breakfast was included. We had 40 passengers onboard for this particular cruise. The transfer to Pyay took all day - about 8 hours. The bus was fine but the toilet stops were not. There really wasn't a good place to stop with western toilets. And lunch was packed by Shangri La and included a sandwich. We had to sit with a bunch of locals in a restaurant stop with less than desirable ambiance. The boat - upon first glance of the boat, we could not believe it was a brand new ship. It already looked dated and did not really look like the artist rendering on the Ama Waterways website. At first we thought it was a ship that was old and refurbished. Since this was the 3rd cruise for this vessel, we were shocked that it was in such conditions and passed Ama standards. The room - the craftsmanship was really bad. There were already cracks on the walls and ceilings and it was supposed to be brand new. The caulking was horrible. The wood floors looked dull. It was on its 3rd cruise and already looking like it needed refurbishment. Other items to note: - Our windows were dirty and we asked to have them cleaned. However, because of the design, half was covered with rails which makes cleaning very difficult. - There was a TV but nothing played on it. - There was a phone but when calling another cabin, the call would cut in and out. - WIFI was poor even in a big port like Mandalay. - Shower - water pressure was very low and in the mornings the temperature would vary from barely warm to cold - Wine/beer is only complimentary during lunch and dinner. Between meals, if you order a beer, it is $2. For the price of the cruise, wine/beer should be included outside of meal times. I really dislike the nickel and diming. - Gratuities are not included. It is about $300 for 2 people for 12 days for the staff which includes the Cruise Managers. On a lot of excursions, it is a walking tour with just the cruise manager. I think for the price of the cruise, they should add it in and include it so you don't have to worry about bringing cash. - They ask you to change your currency to kyats because in the smaller towns, the drivers do not like being tipped with USD. There is currency exchange on the ship from USD to kyats.. For tipping on a tour, a bus with a driver would require $1 per person per day. - It was not as active as we thought it would be. There were only a couple of days where we had morning and afternoon excursions. Most of the days, our excursions were in the afternoon lasting for about 1.5 hours right before sunset. You would get back on the boat and it is dark. Bring a flashlight because sometimes it is pitch dark. - We are in our 40s and were the youngest on the ship. Most of the people were from the US and in their 60s and 70s. - Service is very good. The staff get off the boat and help the individuals who have a hard time with stairs. Because of the location, expect some bit of walking. - Most places you will have to remove your shoes when visiting. However, they always provide wipes for you to wipe your feet. - There is a lot of dust. You should bring a mask or bandana to cover your nose and mouth for the horse ride in Inwa. - For U Bein bridge, they arranged for a boat ride with champagne. It was a VERY nice touch. - In Bagan, our cruise manager took us out to ride on bikes for 1.5 hours and it was the highlight of our trip. Also, one of the options was to watch the sunset by climbing a temple. That was also very nice. Bagan was one of our favorite places. I wished we could have spent a bit more time there and I wished the boat offered the hot air balloon option. - Breakfast and lunch is buffet. Lunch has a cooking station and it is different every day but a line does form. We really enjoyed the Myanmar cuisine. For breakfast, there was usually soup noodles which was very tasty. There is also an egg station for breakfast. - In Mandalay, there were ALOT of mosquitoes. I had about 6 bites in our room. Bring mosquito spray. I think this is only an issue when on the boat since we are on the river but on excursions, there weren't many mosquitoes. Also, I did not have any issues in the other ports. If you are young and looking for an active itinerary, this cruise is not for you. If you like a leisurely pace with activities for a few hours a day, you will enjoy this cruise. For the price we paid, we could have done a land tour much cheaper however because of the lack of desirable hotels, we opted for a brand new ship. But, because of the condition of the boat, we were really disappointed. This was our first AMA Waterways cruise and we were really disappointed with the standards of the ship. However, looking at the other ships that sailed the Ayarwaddy, this looked to be one of the better ships. I think as more luxurious hotels pop up in Myanmar, you would be better suited to stay on land. The highlights were Yangon, Bagan and Mandalay. The stops along the way was nice from a cultural standpoint but not really highlights of our trip.   Read Less
17 Helpful Votes
Sail Date: December 2014
Our 14 night Irrawaddy river cruise from Yangon by Pandaw Cruise Co. was a disappointing experience to say the least. Perhaps our pre cruise expectation was unrealistic. ( We imagined Myanmar to be full of untouched mountains/trees, ... Read More
Our 14 night Irrawaddy river cruise from Yangon by Pandaw Cruise Co. was a disappointing experience to say the least. Perhaps our pre cruise expectation was unrealistic. ( We imagined Myanmar to be full of untouched mountains/trees, streams , wild birds,animals and of course Buddhistic culture. ) Yes, there were stupas and temples. ( We had to see these on almost every excursion.) But more than anything else we were disappointed at the service and the lack of professionalism shown by the Pandaw cruise Co. 1. I could not drink the coffee they serve on the ship. ( too stale ) The food they serve was one of the poorest in quality . 2. I see staff member eating his breakfast when we have our breakfast. They clean the ceiling of the dining room while there are open plates around for breakfast. 3. The brochure says the price includes tipping of the crew, yet they suggest tipping of $ 5 per day per person. 4. The safety of the passengers are not taken seriously. One passenger fell to the ditch during the trishaw excursion. The trishaw and the driver were on top of this passenger when they fell unto the ditch. I do not know how she was not seriously injured! Other passenger fell and hit her head on the ship. She had a 10cm laceration on her scalp. They brought a doctor who did not know what to do with this problem. I as a surgeon had to clean the wound with Vodka and sew the laceration up with the kit the another passenger brought . 5. I joined their post cruise program. It was very expensive considering the service we received. Yet they booked us the flight which was not a direct flight to Yangon ( to save money ? )   Read Less
20 Helpful Votes
Sail Date: December 2014
We did only the river cruise part of a broader package that AmaWaterways provides. We heard generally good things about the land portions of the package. Overall, the cruise was enjoyable, but it got off to a rocky start with an unexpected ... Read More
We did only the river cruise part of a broader package that AmaWaterways provides. We heard generally good things about the land portions of the package. Overall, the cruise was enjoyable, but it got off to a rocky start with an unexpected 7-hour bus ride over bumpy roads with only a tiny sandwich and an apple for lunch. Many passengers seemed in a bad mood by the time we got to the boat, but this was soon lifted by the welcoming high tea immediately after boarding. The food on the boat was quite good and provided in large quantity and variety. The complimentary wines with lunch and dinner were mediocre at best. The 24-hour free beer was icy cold and much appreciated. The number, length, and variety of shore excursions was extremely well done; enough to keep us entertained without overtaxing us. There was no charge for these excursions, though small tips for drivers and guides were encouraged. The local guides were very good as far as we could tell. Our own guide in Cambodia, Adam, was excellent. He was charming, full of information, and always happy to answer questions or banter with passengers. We learned a lot about the people who live on the river and the recent history of Cambodia and Vietnam. The entertainment on board was OK but not great. The best event was a funny crew talent contest. There were 2 or 3 masseuses who seemed quite busy. The massage was very good and cheap as well. A high point for me was just sitting on our balcony or the upper deck and watching the riverbank roll by, with all the floating villages, fishing boats, and barge traffic. Very peaceful. A major negative was the wi-fi connection, which was available only in one lounge and was so slow as to be essentially useless. The biggest negative for us is the deceptive description of the cruise itinerary on the AmaWaterways website. For us, a highlight of the cruise itinerary was sailing down Tonle Sap Lake, the largest freshwater lake in southeast Asia. According to the website, departure from the Siem Reap hotel would be at 11:00 am. There was a note on the website that in "low water season" departure would be at 7:30 am via a 5-hour bus ride to the other end of Tonle Sap lake, because the boat cannot sail on Tonle Sap in low water. We made sure that we did NOT book our cruise during low water season, which is February through June. We called AmaWaterways a couple days ahead to confirm the 11:00 am departure and were surprised to hear that departure had been changed to 9:00 am. More importantly, instead of boarding at Siem Reap and crusing on Tonle Sap, we had to take the long bus ride mentioned above (7 hours not 5) and missed Tonle Sap altogether. We checked a website run by the government of Cambodia, which reported that water levels in Tonle Sap were not low and were in fact average. We asked some of the local tour guides and they told us that the boat almost NEVER sails on Tonle Sap lake and that passengers almost always have to take the 7-hour bus ride. In fact, we were told that in all of 2014 only one cruise actually departed from Siem Reap. This is in sharp contrast with the wording on the AmaWaterways website. Read Less
15 Helpful Votes
Sail Date: December 2014
To set the record straight the Mekong Navigator is owned by and operated by Haimark Ltd located in Colorado with luxury river boats in Southeast Asia. The very good to travel with, Lueftner Cruisers, from Austria, with their excellent ... Read More
To set the record straight the Mekong Navigator is owned by and operated by Haimark Ltd located in Colorado with luxury river boats in Southeast Asia. The very good to travel with, Lueftner Cruisers, from Austria, with their excellent European river boats, does not own the Mekong Navigator but, instead, represents Haimark in Europe. You can look it up. We're river cruisers and have a few under our belts. We rode the Mekong Navigator in December, 2014 as part of a very good 17 day Gate 1 Travel trip through Vietnam and Cambodia with a 2 day extension in Bangkok. We met the river boat at My Tho in the Mekong Delta after a roughly 2 hour drive from Saigon (as the locals insist on calling it). We understand that the Mekong Navigator is a new boat in late 2014 and it is quite luxurious with an outstanding crew especially the folks you interact with the most (dining room, bar staff and butlers...yes, butlers, but not for all of us...just the suites). We were told that they are all Cambodians with good english for us foreign-language-challenged Americans and good memories because they remember your names. The cabins are spacious and well appointed. I really like the cabins on the Lueftner boats in Europe and these, to my taste (not my wife's), seemed a bit much. You can judge. Very good, large bed. Fancy bathroom, shower, no tub unless you book a suite. French balcony, unless you book a suite. Plenty of window. Good a/c and ceiling fan. Bottled water provided. There could have been more drawer space for some, but we managed quite well. The boat is kept exceptionally clean. After off boat excursions we were greeted on the stern or mid-ships with wipes for our faces and hands, a drink and, for certain shore excursions, sandals so that we could leave our shoes to be cleaned and returned shortly to our rooms. And, by the by, we never had a bug problem either on board on during our shore excursions (this was in December, when it wasn't too hot). I suggest that you review their trip details online to understand the off board excursions. I can say that they were well organized and the guides provided in Vietnam and especially in Cambodia were first rate; none better. Wifi on board was always available in certain places, not in the cabins. However, it could be very slow depending on where the boat was. A favorite place was on the top deck under the roofed section outside the bar. The food on board was good, not great, not of European river boat quality. I'm not showing a preference for western chow, we just thought the flavoring wasn't as good as it could have been, but it was still good. I'm a bit of a picky eater and the selection was always varied enough that I had no troubles. Tables in the dining room typically seat 6 people and, as I said earlier, the wait staff is super excellent and friendly. Meals were always looked forward to because of them. Being a river boat there was little on board entertainment. You get to know your fellow passengers...good or bad...and almost always good. However, we were entertained one night by a group of young teenagers from a Cambodian orphanage who performed traditional dances. There was also a crew dance show one night that encouraged volunteers from the passengers. A note: we were able to get our Cambodian visas on board when we stopped at the Vietnam/Cambodian border for a couple of hours. The total fee was US$40/person, cash. This didn't agree with the amount on Haimark's website, but that's what it was. Tipping on board is at the end of the trip. I strongly suggest that you do your research to compare to other SE Asia river boat trips before leaving. You might want also to have enough cash available to split the allocation the way you want it and not all by credit card and they split it their way. We highly recommend this trip, this boat and this crew. It was a very good time. Read Less

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