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4 Helpful Votes
Sail Date: March 2019
Myanmar on the Scenic Aura 21st Mar 19 -8th Apr 19 We have been on 3 previous river cruises with Scenic. The trip to Cambodia and Vietnam (see my previous review) was so good that we thought it could not be beaten. But the 18 day to ... Read More
Myanmar on the Scenic Aura 21st Mar 19 -8th Apr 19 We have been on 3 previous river cruises with Scenic. The trip to Cambodia and Vietnam (see my previous review) was so good that we thought it could not be beaten. But the 18 day to Myanmar (including land addition) equalled, if not surpassed, that trip. It really was difficult to find any ‘niggles’ so I’ll concentrate on the ‘exceptionals’. 1 – Myanmar is a truly fascinating country. It is about the poorest in South East Asia. Most people may live without electricity, running water or mains sewerage, but we didn’t see one person or child who looked malnourished or badly cared for. Indeed quite the opposite. Everyone was extremely friendly welcoming you with broad smiles. Many wanted their photo taken with my wife who has blue eyes – uncommon in Myanmar. Apparently many people have been put off visiting due to the bad publicity. This trip doesn’t go anywhere near the areas affected We felt very safe walking around on our own. My advice would be COME TO MYANMAR whilst it is still relatively undiscovered by Western tourists. 2 – The Scenic Aura is a pretty new addition to the fleet. Very modern and functional. Only has 22 suites – so maximum 44 pax. There were only 39 on our trip which included a few ‘singles’. Many Australians – but 6 other Brits + Canadians. Even the WiFi worked reasonably well. We had a Grande Deluxe Suite which was very spacious. Even had an area for my laptop that my wife referred to as The Office. The Hotel Director – JOYCE – was particularly good. Food was to a high standard. ‘Egg man’ always there for fresh fried eggs at breakfast. 3 – The standard of the pre and post cruise hotels was exceptional, in particular the Sanctum on Inle Lake and the Melia in Yangon. Truly ‘Top of the Range’ hotels. 4 – Difficult to pick out which excursions we enjoyed the most. But special mention to: - Pindaya Caves and Cookery course at Inle Lake - Longtail boats around Inle Lake visiting the local markets and houses on stilts. - Visiting some of the 4000+ temples of Bagan by horse and cart - Visiting the monastic school in Sagaing where the children all sang to us before we had to sing ‘Old MacDonald’ to them! - BBQ dinner with kite flying and live music on a sandbank in the Irrawaddy. - Visiting the pure white Hsinbyume Pagoda in Mingun - Myanmar’s Taj Mahal - Visiting the U-Bein wooden bridge at sunset in a sampan. Scenic had champagne for us to enjoy as we watched the sunset. 5 – Our guide Sai San was exceptional – both knowledgeable and personable. Everything went like clockwork. We were particularly impressed with the baggage handling on the two internal flights. Put your bags outside your room and subsquently saw them inside your next hotel room. 6 – I see some other reviews complain about the 7 hour coach trip from Yangon to join Scenic Aura at Pyay. The journey itself was quite interesting – in particular the stop at the Allied War Cemetery. The hours seemed to pass quickly and the coach used was very comfortable and spacious. Be aware As I remarked above, Myanmar is one of the poorest countries in Asia. So in many areas visited you won’t get ‘Western’ restrooms, the roads will be dusty and uneven, the markets are busy and smelly. You will witness many scenes of extreme poverty - like women washing clothes and their babies in the dirty river. Men unloading heavy bags of rice for 8 hours non stop in temperatures of 100F+ for a few dollars a day. There are lots of stray dogs in the streets. You will often have to clamber up a steep and dusty river bank to and from Scenic Aura. For us this just added to the experience. But clearly if you are going to get upset about this don’t go! Conclusion All-in-all an excellent holiday which I would thoroughly recommend. Read Less
Sail Date: March 2018
Watched a travel programme hosted by Ray Martin(Australia) and it just switched on a light in our heads. It appealed to us and we just had to see Myanmar(Burma). We arrived in Yangon and immediately was greeted by our Tour Rep ( Sai San) ... Read More
Watched a travel programme hosted by Ray Martin(Australia) and it just switched on a light in our heads. It appealed to us and we just had to see Myanmar(Burma). We arrived in Yangon and immediately was greeted by our Tour Rep ( Sai San) who was very warm and friendly and very knowledgeable about the history of the city and country. The "boat" and our cabin was absolutely fantastic. The food was nothing short of EXCELLENT and was only surpassed by the excellent attentive guests & ships crew, ( Most notably the Captain) who participated in all/many of the antics we got up too! Alas the boats entertainment was lacking with very little input/motivation from those designated to arrange, The service over the entire "Boat was again exemplary but several individuals stand out, most notably "Tintun" (restaurant manager) Sai San (Sam) ,"Saw" & "Tu Tu" kept our cabin in tip top condition. The Irrawaddy river/ shore trips/ports were very interesting, however the relentless tours of the "Pagodas started to wear a bit thin after a while! In closing the trip was as stated absolutely FANTASTIC. We were most impressed by the pictures of our hotel ( Mandalay Hill Resort) but in reality although the reception area was very impressive the rooms looked "tired" and need to be re-furbished. The main dining room was full of biting Mosquito's and were unable to provide some wines & Tea as they were "Out of Stock" Although we appreciated that we were in a foreign country the staff didn't understand basic English and we found reception staff unhelpful! The pool bar was not stocked or rarely manned with the waiter having to go into the main building for drinks etc This is not a cruise for the "Faint Hearted" the people are poor and there is a great deal of rubbish, But that's what this type of holiday is all about! Read Less
42 Helpful Votes
Sail Date: February 2017
RV Samatha review We went on our Irrawaddy cruise, plus a 3 day stay at Inle Lake 15 Feb 2017 to 6 March. I have done a longer than usual review as we found it very difficult to get any information before we went. The Boat The ... Read More
RV Samatha review We went on our Irrawaddy cruise, plus a 3 day stay at Inle Lake 15 Feb 2017 to 6 March. I have done a longer than usual review as we found it very difficult to get any information before we went. The Boat The boat is new to APT refurbished not new. It is well appointed and there is plenty of space. You enter on the Main Deck where the dining room is situated. There are tables down two sides, the inner ones are booths seating 4, and there are tables along the floor to ceiling windows. In the centre is a server area, used for self service items at breakfast & lunch and for the "action station" presided over by the irrepressible Muppet who cooked eggs in the morning and stir fry type items at lunchtime. There is also the private dining room Thuzar seating 12 guests where a special menu designed by Australian chef Luke Nguyen, is served and each guest can book at least twice per voyage. In the foyer area is the reception desk and a shoe rack with numbered baskets one per cabin. On return from a trip you left your shoes here and changed into supplied flip flops or your own "indoor" shoes so we didn't tread dirt over the teak floors. The shoes were then cleaned for us ready for the next jaunt. Also available here was insect repellent for a quick squirt before heading out. There is also a small selection of souvenirs and necessities , toothbrush, Strepsils etc for sale all under the watchful eye of Hotel Manager Darren and the ever smiling receptionist Zin Mar. On this deck are the window cabins, from what I could see they were the same as the balcony bar the balcony itself, I don't know if they had the armchair area. Up a set of teak stairs were the balcony cabins and suites, then up a deck to the sun deck. There was an area under a canopy with seating for at least 60 so plenty of room, in comfy cushioned mock rattan furniture, some throne type seats that were much more comfortable than they looked. A few table and chairs were set out on one side with ashtrays if there were any smokers. Down both sides in the sun were loungers and a few sun beds overlooking the stern. Also in this area is a large whirlpool jacuzzi/ plunge pool. At the front of this deck is the bar/ lounge where early morning pastries and tea and coffee were available, drinks all day and this is where we met each evening for the cocktail hour and briefing. On a few nights there was live entertainment and on a couple of nights films were shown. At the very front was a very popular spa, and a less frequented bijou gym. Food Well how many superlatives can I use. It really was 5 star. The buffet breakfast had fresh fruits, melon, papaya etc, yogurts, cereals and the pastries and breads ( all made from scratch on board) were the best we have had outside France! There was a Burmese hot soup type dish, eggs freshly made any way you liked, bacon, sausage, mushrooms, beans, potatoes, tomato we wanted for nothing. Lunch and dinner were equally sumptuous. There was always two soup and a selection of cold starters. Mains always had a fish dish, a meat dish and a vegetarian option plus at lunch time an action station of freshly cooked things, like stir fry, wontons, pasta etc. The choices also had a European style dish and an Asian style dish. There was also always available steak, chicken breast, salmon and fries. Drinks were all included and were good. Australian, Chilean wines mainly, cocktails each evening at the daily briefing. Beer, spirits and soft drinks and coffees available all day. Water was freely available with at least two bottles in the room at any one time. Staff Superb. There is no other way to describe them. We were almost full, 57 passengers, as we had a number of singletons and 47 staff including the two guides. All without exception were amazing, friendly, helpful, polite and attentive. They all helped out all over the place and went above and beyond on many occasions to ensure everyone was happy. One evening we had a crew show with the RV Samatha band and if enthusiasm and joy won awards there would have been Oscars all round! Our cruise director Thomas was great, we had a briefing each evening about the next day's activities and he was super well organised, everything was thought of. HIs colleague Clement was extremely knowledgeable and so keen to pass on his love of his country and its history. The whole team on the ship turned out at times to help us disembark up bankings and steps and were there with cold cloths and drinks to welcome us back. Weather We went at the end of the dry season, no rain since November. This plus was low humidity the big minus lots of dust added to the woodsmoke and general pollution most people got a hacking chest cough. A saline nasal spray would be useful and some throat sweets. The afternoon temperatures were high 30C Clothes I had bought Craghoppers anti insect/sunblock long sleeved shirts and long trousers which drip dry and dry quickly. these were fine for off the ship. Others though seemed fine with linen sun dresses and sandals! I wished I had brought crops or shorts and something a wee bit smarter for lounging about on the sun deck. Skechers Go Walk slip ons were great to wear without socks and easy to get on and off at the pagodas (they have needed two goes in the washer since we got home!) Cruise We did the Yangon to Mandalay 14 day cruse with a 3 day extension at Inle lake. Before we left home we had a letter from APT a telling us that due to low water levels we would not be able to sail up to Mandalay but would moor 3 days away, still using the boat as a base but continuing our excursions by coach. This was a disappointment but beyond anyone's control. The information we had pre cruise whilst not misleading gave me at least a false impression of what daily life would be like. We had a booklet before we left saying what sights we would be going to see each day, and tips on what to wear off the boat, walking shoes, cool long sleeved long trousered type clothing to avoid bites and the sun, and also for visiting pagodas where you had to take off socks and shoes and cover shoulders and knees. What I hadn't appreciated is that we would actually spend a lot of time on the ship, particularly for the first 4/5 days after leaving Yangon we had one or at the most two 1 or 2 hour trips off the ship. So clothing wise I wish I had taken more smarter daywear for sitting around on deck. Our first day after reaching the ship we had a trip back into Yangon to see the Shwedagon Pagoda but after that the next few days were in the delta area and the trips ashore were mainly to see the old colonial towns from the time of British rule. We visited local markets, saw how local people lived, even on a couple of occasions being invited in to see inside their homes. We found the trips interesting but probably because of the time of year and the low water levels it was often a real climb off the ship up an embankment. Members of the crew from all departments came to help us up and most of us managed it most days, but some landings were very challenging. Our average age I would guess was 65 ish but we had a fair few 80 plus who put some of us to shame. We found everywhere was very dusty, with lots of woodsmoke from cooking fires, or where farmers were clearing their fields. This could be because of the time of year, no rain had fallen since November. Plenty of bottled water was available, and we were given a bottle in a carrier as we got off the ship. But some hard sweets to keep your mouth hydrated might be good idea. A "listening" device was used for trips, with the tour guide using a mike and everyone had an earpiece. A lot of the time we spent on deck watching rural life go by, farmers tending crops, people doing their washing, boats plying their way up and down the river. We have done trips on the Amazon & Orinoco previously and honestly found the sailing down the river quite boring as the rivers are so vast there is little to see, but the Irrawaddy is narrower with much more life on the riverbanks. Higher up the river it was pagodas and stupas that were the attractions, some more interesting than others and we did maybe become a little "stupafied" by the end! We rode trishaws, horse carts and one day even did the vegetable shopping all on our own. In Bagan we took the option of the balloon trip which was stunning despite the early start. The other highlight for us was the U Bien bridge where we watched the sunset from our sampan whilst sipping champagne, much to the envy of less pampered tourists. The last few days of having to go on coaches to Mandalay, Sagaing etc were an eye opener as to what town life was like and how poor the roads were. It was quite tiring, but unavoidable and everything possible was done to make it easy for us. Inle Lake was a beautiful, tranquil place. Still lots to see a little cooler and the air a lot clearer. We had a fabulous time zipping about on boats. A Blog of our trip is here http://www.travelpod.com/travel-blog/jobloor/26/tpod.html& photos of the boat https://flic.kr/s/aHskVHsRfb 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
8 Helpful Votes
Sail Date: December 2016
This was our first trip with Scenic and we were very impressed with their service, staff, food and overall smooth running of their ship in a country where there are many challenges. We joined the holiday in Yangon, staying there for two ... Read More
This was our first trip with Scenic and we were very impressed with their service, staff, food and overall smooth running of their ship in a country where there are many challenges. We joined the holiday in Yangon, staying there for two nights with tours, and then a drive by coach to Pyay to board the ship. The coach trip is around 8 hours long, through villages, farmland and small towns, quite basic roads. There were three stops for refreshments and we had a packed lunch on the coach. Although it was a long day, we felt it was worth it to see the real countryside of Myanmar and not just the touristy places. The Scenic Aura is a new ship but has a few teething problems with the fitting out of the interiors, such as flooring and doors, but no doubt these will be rectified before long. The cabins were very large, we had a cabin on Jewel deck with a large bedroom area and separate lounge with settee and chairs. The shower rooms were the biggest we have seen on a ship. Walk in wardrobe, but hanging space badly designed so could have done with more drawers. Huge safe in top drawer. Storage space in under bed drawers. The food was all excellent. Buffet breakfast with choices of cereal, bread, fruit, yogurt etc and also about 5 cooked options plus eggs. Lunch again was a buffet with soups, salads, 4 or 5 cooked options and a choice of various desserts or fruit or fresh ice cream with a different flavour each day. Dinner was served by the laughing friendly waiters who were all very efficient. There were choices for starters, mains and dessert, or there was always steak, fish or chicken if nothing on the menu suited. All washed down with delicious wines. There was a gym on the lower deck ( which we just looked at through the glass ). also a self service launderette with two washing machines and dryers and an iron for those who did not want to use the ship's laundry service. The top deck is carpeted in artificial grass which is nice and soft under your feet, a jogging track runs round the perimeter. There are rattan style settles and armchairs to sit on but only a small area has any shade. It was very hot when we were there, so it was not possible to sit there for long, we understand however that this will be rectified. The swimming pool is small and very shallow, you cannot swim in it, but it is a nice spot to stand and cool off, maybe with a cool drink from the poolside bar. The lounge area is split in two and doesn't really work as a social area. When a group came on there was only a tiny area for dancing - maybe a dozen people at once, and that meant blocking the access to the bar. A couple of shows were put on round the pool, again with very limited vision, and not a good place to be after dark with all the insects. Just a bad design. Every day there were excursions. We joined everything travelling by mule and cart, trishaw, lorry, coach, boat, ferry and horse and cart. All amazing experiences which brought us closer to the local people. We ate in local restaurants and even cooked our own dinner on two occasions. We would recommend this tour to anyone who wants to see the country as it really is, the river flows through rural and town life and is a breath of fresh air in the 21st century. Although quite expensive, we felt it was extremely good value for the money. Read Less
17 Helpful Votes
Sail Date: January 2016
Jan 2016 Having just returned from our AMAPURA cruise and our third trip to Myanmar. I have some suggestions for future passengers: Bring warm clothing..early morning or evenings are cool (55 degrees F).For the few of us on deck for ... Read More
Jan 2016 Having just returned from our AMAPURA cruise and our third trip to Myanmar. I have some suggestions for future passengers: Bring warm clothing..early morning or evenings are cool (55 degrees F).For the few of us on deck for sunrise each morning at 6:30AM; wool caps; warm jacket;maybe even gloves. Consider you will need a jacket on plane also. Light weight long sleeve shirts for day use. Insects few but present at dock in Yangon & Mandalay. Insect repellant needed there. Flashlight since some tours get back at night..and crew is there to help get down riverbank steps dug in sand. In Yangon pre trip watch out for uneven sidewalks with holes. Moldskin to cover delicate feet for shoes/socks off temple visits. I found this very helpful and replaced it prior to each shoes off tour. They provide feet wipes at each temple visit. Some used sandals issue then is dirty dusty streets I use walking shoes with high socks felt more protected but more time to geton/off; took a small shoe horn which was very helpful. You are watched/helped all the way with crew members on each tour with the cruise director or assistant CD leading. Cold water bottles with bottle holder given out before each tour. Hand use of liquid disinfective prior to entering dining room and dispensed by crew after returning to ship. However a lot of passengers developed significant coughs therefore bring Rx Levofloxacin; Rx cough liquid at night to sleep; Mucinex without DM time release for daytime use to thin out mucous; Afrin to clear ears before plane. Tissues on board ship. Take bottles of hand santizers and use after each time touching local currency. We used ships very good laundry back in 24 hours.You will not have any internet while onboard, occasional CNN or BBC. Sim cards $5 US dollars so some got internet with their cell phones. Get 1,000 Kyat notes(73 cents) at airport...to use for tips..I got $100 USD worth...left over Kyat used for ships crew tips; money is old/used and dirty but needed for tips to bus driver; tuk tuk; horse cart 1000 Kyat each person for full day and 1/2 for half day tour...Kyat used in small villages for tourist items and in Yangon/Mandalay/Bagan US dollars used for tourist items. We bought sand paintings $20 each on previous trip..best selection in Bagan. Eyeglasses in Yangon done in 2 hours. Gold leaf art in Mandalay (on ship tour). Silk/cotton scarfs (on ship tour). Bagan: We did a balloon sunrise last time on a land tour and this time hired a guide/$100 US and driver $40 US arranged by ship..sunrise at a temple shoes & socks off; take a towel to put under feet stone while standing before sunrise is very cold before sunrise and wear your winter coats/hats/gloves. We did sunset at a hill (shoes on) no crowds. Came back for breakfast and lunch. Had an amazing day exploring pagodas without any other tourists. Amazing trip..and after going you will see why we went back to this magical land. Cabin was great with A/C controls; shower modern with hot water after some wait, food was excellent and I put on 12 pounds over 14 days; crew was very helpful and always smiling and knew what drinks you like by the second day. Transfers were smooth. And each day you have a choice of tours at different activity levels. Walking sticks were helpful to some. 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
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
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
5 Helpful Votes
Sail Date: December 2014
We did the 11 night "New Year Celebration" cruise departing 22 December '14. We booked this cruise in January '14 as "Gorges of the Far North" but due to low water levels experienced in December '13 and ... Read More
We did the 11 night "New Year Celebration" cruise departing 22 December '14. We booked this cruise in January '14 as "Gorges of the Far North" but due to low water levels experienced in December '13 and the problems Orient Express (now Belmond) had with that cruise it was changed in September '14 to the "New Year Celebration Cruise" and we went from Mandalay to Bagan. The Orcaella is very well run boat, the crew and staff are all happy and well organised and the Logistic team are excellent. From the moment you arrive till the day you depart the staff are caring for you 24/7. The boat takes a max of 50 passengers but on our cruise we had only 36. We were divided into groups and there was 10 in our group and we had Soe as our guide. He was a friendly knowledgeable young man who spoke excellent English, you could ask him anything, he was a delight and we enjoyed travelling with him. There was a constant supply of bottled water and wet wipes on our bus for our excursions. Our room (507) was a state cabin on the main deck. It was a spacious room with a sitting area as well as a desk, double floor to ceiling glass sliding doors ( great for taking photos of the river action) and a walkin robe. The bathroom had a large shower and double hand basins. There was always plenty of bottled water in the bathroom, the desk and on the bedside tables at night. The AC worked very well. The room was serviced three times a day. There was always a little gift on the bed every night, - including a folding sun hat, a traditional carry bag, a longyi, prayer beads, suncream to name a few. The food was exceptional ! The chef Ban is fantastic, breakfast and lunch are buffet style. At breakfast you can get your eggs cooked anyway you like including poached with truffle oil ! Lunch usually had a theme, eg seafood, local curries, pizza, but there were always cold meats and cheese, a choice of 4 salads and soup. Dinner was always superb, from fois gras to rack of NZ lamb, venison, seafood, fresh pasta, great desserts. Local wine was included with meals. We had a BBQ dinner in a fort and a seafood dinner on a sandbank ! All meals were great, and the food of such good quality, served in wonderful surrounds. Any dietary problems are catered for. The chef made a cake for my husbands birthday and all the staff sang him Happy Birthday Burmese style! Chef Ban is definitely a treasure. Excursions were well planned and very well organised. From horse and cart rides to gondolas at U Bein bridge, a elephant camp to market walks to temples, pagodas and stupas, sunset tours, craft and village tours. You see all facets of Burmese life ! There is some local entertainment organised a couple of nights during the cruise. The staff give lectures on Burma, and there is a recap and a briefing on the next days activities every afternoon. There is a nice lounge area on the top deck, as well as a great outdoor lounge area, both have a bar. There is also a small pool on the top deck as well as the spa and gym. There is a doctor on board and he organises a school visit while you are on the cruise so if you have space in your luggage please bring pencils, crayons etc suitable for young children. Belmond also run a medical clinic in Bagan. If only the Belmond Head Office sent out an email to all its upcoming passengers to bring some school/medical supplies this would make the visit so much more worthwhile ! Bagan is something special. We did the "Balloons Over Bagan" trip on our last day and I think this is a must do. It was the first time in a balloon for us and I think it was the best thing we did in all of Burma. We booked it at the time of booking the cruise, don't leave it till the last minute or you could miss out. It is a fantastic experience. There are quite a few high end cruise operators now in Burma, so there is a lot to choose from. We certainly would do another cruise on Orcaella.   Read Less
1 Helpful Vote
Sail Date: November 2014
The ship name is Viking Orient and leased from Pandaw, but not on the list so I've put the name of the ship as the closest to "Orient". The cruise started in Mandalay, and not Yangon, but there is no such option for the port ... Read More
The ship name is Viking Orient and leased from Pandaw, but not on the list so I've put the name of the ship as the closest to "Orient". The cruise started in Mandalay, and not Yangon, but there is no such option for the port of embarkation so I choose the closest available option- Yangon. Please keep in mind that the opinion expressed here is my personal and could be very different from your personal experience. I'll tell it chronologically with some practical advises as it goes. Flight: we flew from NY to Taipei and from there to Bangkok one day prier to "official" day of arrival- to get used to 12h time difference and to see more. We've used pills "No jet lag" which, probably, helped, because we've arrived to Bangkok at noon in, I'd say, pretty normal condition. We did not purchase transfer from Viking, so we got a taxi to hotel on our own. Here is how to do it: When you leave Custom area, don't go out, but to the right on the escalator, down, and only now leave the terminal (the door will be on your left- 90 degrees to the escalator) and on your right (45 degrees) you'll see few counters with girls. You're getting to any of them, specify what hotel you want to go (the taxi driver usually stands behind her and listen to it). she gives you piece of paper with your destination and info about driver/taxi- (in case you forget something behind or would like to complain), driver takes your suitcases and lead you to his car. The moment he is in it and if he did not turn on the meter, say to him (and this is going for all your future taxi usage in Bangkok) "meter, please!" He will turn it on and it will show 35B. He will ask you "highway"? Tell him "yes" and be prepared to give him 25B on first and 50B on the second stop at the toll booth. At the end of trip (between 35min to 1h, depending on traffic and hotel. Millenium takes longer, Shangri-La is shorter) you need to pay him whatever on the meter 250-300B plus 50B for the girl's booking at the airport. Tip is not expected, but common to round up to the next 10 B. So, 5B-15B tip will do. In general try to use skytrain or Chaya river boats and not taxis, because the traffic in Bangkok is really bad (see about it further) and while taxi is not expensive (most rides in the center should cost between 60B-90B, but you can spend much more time in taxi then exploring.... Before leaving the airport you'll see a lot of currency exchange booths- all of them have the same exchange rate (it was 30.78 on 11/1), so change SOME money, because in the city you'll get better rate. (For example in hotel it was 31.29 and near Wat Triamit 32.2). We've expected to be in Millenium so I've booked it for additional night in advance and on non-refundable basis ($160 including breakfast), so when Viking informed us that Shangri-La will be our hotel, we did not have much choice, but stayed 1 night at Millenium and then 2 nights in Shangri-La. To compare: both hotels are VERY nice, swimming pool & breakfast is better at Millenium, but Shangri-La location is better. There is Wi-Fi in both hotels, but in Millenium it works only in common area. BTW, the time difference with Bangkok - 12h (compare to NY) Day 0. We arrived at hotel, went for short swim and went for two major attractions - Wat Arun & Wat Pho. Wat Arun is much smaller, you can climb to the top (recommended) and then took boat across the river (3B cost, the pier located to the left of Wat Arun) and went to Wat Pho,- it is about 150 feets from the pier- on your left will be the walls of Royal Palace and after 150 feets on your right the entrance to Wat Pho. It is extremely large and beautiful place. Prepare to take your shoes off periodically. It is getting dark around 6pm so about when we were heading back to hotel it was dark. We went to the same pier, caught a boat to "Safam Tsakin"- central pier, about 5 stops. You buy ticket on board, 15 B. Millenium ran free shuttle service from the central pier to the hotel, so when get out at the pier, turn right go the pier on the right, ask, policeman there "Millenium"? and he will tell you when the right boat comes. We did not go for Dinner to Millenium- the prices there....main entry $80-$100 plus service and tax, so we went to the left of hotel by the river and in about 150 feet got to local restaurant where prices were "Thai prices" - main dishes 90B-200B and food was ok. Day 1 (official arrival day) Next morning after having breakfast- very large selection, including a lot of "Chinese breakfast dishes" we took another shuttle from hotel (to the left of complimentary shuttle boat) across the river to "River City" shopping complex (do not bother if you're after shopping- see later; the complex mostly empty) 3.5B cost of the transfer. We were on our way to self-guided walking tour of China town. The first stop was Wat Triamit (golden budda), but it was about 15-20 min walking from the pier thru typical China town When we looked unsure where to turn one of the locals asked (with his hands) what are we looking for and showed us where to go. (In general people in Bangkok where extremely nice and pleasant in communication). wat Triamit was ok. (I'm not going to describe the tour- if interested you can download a lot of different versions of it). Then we've passed a lot of gold selling stores, China town market with plenty of kick-off bags- my wife got 3 for about 400B each- after negotiations, took a river boat to hotel and took a taxi to Shangri La. The official "cruise" has began! At Shangri-La we met Viking representatives Tum & Tango and got keys to our room. We wanted to see traditional Thai dance show so they've recommended one at the nearest hotel (Oriental), but since it was on the short notice, we're informed that the sits will be too far from the show, so we opted for another place $65/p including dinner. We'd be picked up from hotel and dropped off. That place we were told an hour from the hotel. Well, this day we got first hand knowledge of Bangkok trafic: it tooks us 2.5 hour to get there and 20 min to get back! The dinner was nothing to write home about and the show was very interesting and nice! Pick up time was 5.30pm and we've back about 10:30pm. Day 2 At 9am we've first briefing with Viking reps (Tum & Tango), were divided in two buses (total 50 people)- and this division will hold for the whole trip, got "quiet boxes" with spare batteries (keep them, you almost for sure will need them later) and informed about day schedule (10am-12:30am visit to Grand Palace by boat, 6:30pm leaving for the Thai restaurant dinner) and collected $10/p for tips to everyone in Bangkok besides them-selves (this amount seems reasonable, even though it is not acceptable practice in Thailand to tip...). There is no canals included in the tour, even though it was supposed to be included according to Viking brochure. Piece of advise: if for some unlucky reason you're in Tango's group, insist on going with Tum. In my view Tango's English is absolutely is incomprehensible and while he is very nice guy this does not compensate for the fact that you'll be not able to understand his explanations in Royal Palace and/or on the way there. IMHO, he should not have been employed at all. In the afternoon we went for Thai massage (300 B for 1h.) I recommend it- you'll be streched, pushed, pulled, but eventually will feel better. If not go for foot massage - the same cost. And we went for shopping in MBK. This is very interesting place (including food court on 5 fl) and if you've some time to spare, go for it! It is 5 stops by skytrain ("National Stadium" stop), 37 b each way. Dinner was fine,- community style service, most of the dishes too spicy for my taste, but manageable. And it will be your first chance to sit with your companions - stupid and poor people don't go to such cruises so, I think you will (mostly) enjoy it! (in our group the oldest lady was 90y old, the second 86 y.o and my wife - 52 y.o was the youngest one). Day 3. In the morning we got transfered to airport for our flight to Mandalay. It was well organized process, no complains. The fly leaves around 12:30pm, lasts 1:30 h, they feed you lunch (extremely spicy so you better off to make some sandwiches in the hotel). When we arrived, we where met by Andrew & Nan Da- our PD's (program directors). They're going to be with you for the duration of the cruise until you leave from Yangon back to Bangkok. It is not sure that you'll get the same guys- there are 4 PD's for each ship, so which 2 you'll get is unknown. In any case, Andrew's English was easier to understand than Nan Da's, but Nan Da was more open about things and it is hard to say who was better. You can exchange money at the airport, but if you ask PD to do it tomorrow in the city you'll get 3% more for your money. I suggest to exchange only $100 per couple (they suggest twice that much),- a lot of places accept $$$, but some not. In any case you can exchange back or leave it as a tip at the end of the cruise. since it was already too late to go to monastery as planned (it closes at 4pm) we went directly to the ship and all planned things were moved to the next day. the trip to ship takes 45 min. On the bus, PDs will suggest to give $50 each toward tips for everybody not from the ship. At the end of the cruise you'll get the breakdown how that money was spent. We all (besides one couple) agreed and from looking on the breakdown of expenses I strongly recommend to give them only $30 p/p- it seems sufficient enough,- the tip IMHO, was not only exessive in some cases, but also given to some people that simply should not have got it at all. The ship (Viking Orient). Huge disappointment. Not even close to European river ships. The room is too small (about 140 sf), the storage space is very limited, the only "window" is the door that you came thru, but if you keep it open, then, everyone who passes will see inside your cabin. There is no A/C common space and sun deck is too hot during the day. There is also extremely bad acustics in dining room and you need to raise your voice in order to be heard. Put A/C on the "wave" you'll get better cooling. There is no Wi-Fi on board, but 2 computers with slow internet available, most of the time. Nothing blocked. Regarding clothing: don't worry about what to wear to monasteries or pagodas- every day it will be announced what is appropriate and worse case scenario you'll be given something to cover yourself. I suggest to pack light, the dress code is super-casual, no formal nights and no ties, suits, evening dresses- this is not like in Europe. Wear flip-flops, if you can. The schedule looks like that: 7-9am breakfast (very limited choice. You won't go hungry, but this is not Shangri-La) with tea or coffee; 9am -11:30am sightseeeing 12am- lunch. (Very good salads, poor main dish). 3:30pm- second sightseeing. 6pm- coctail hour; 6:45pm briefing for the next day. 7pm dinner. 8:30pm some kind of entertainment- movies ("The Lady"- highly recommend, and "The life of Budda"- put me to sleep), local productions- worth to try and once trivia game. At 10pm the computer is all yours- everybody is sleeping. There is no tea/coffee served during the lunch or dinner- there is machine at the bar where you can get very bad cappuchino or so-so coffee and normal tea. The drinks are included, besides imported hard alcohol (so local Wisky or Rum and local wines and coctails as much as you can). I'm not much drinker so have no clue about quality of any drinks, including beer. The desserts are mostly nothing to write home. BTW, Viking use to issue every traveler name tag (very convinient), but for some reason stop doing it few weeks ago. When you leave the ship for the daily excursions you'll get battle of water; when you come back you surrender your foot wear for the cleaning (do it) and get it in 1/2 h. Regarding sickness: I'm 100% sure that nobody ate anything from outside the ship and still every time someone was sick for 1-2 days. I think the reason for it the spices and the combination of unfamiliar food with drinks. At some point about 9 people were sick and did not show for excursion. Don't use Imodium, but rather Pipto-Bismol. Back to the day 3. At 6:15pm we got briefing with Hotel Manager- Dominiqe from Switzerland. Very nice and open guy. What is important, is that he said that in the area we pass there was no malaria case in the last 5-7 years so you don't have to take any profilatics. Day 4. The full day of Mandalay, including lunch in local (Chinese) restaurant. Very nice. Here you'll get your first real taste of Myanmar,- the city of 3m, looks like oversized village and simply different from Europe or USA. I'm not going to describe what we've seen (mostly), because you'll see it yourself, but rather just prepare you for any logistics or surprises. Day 5. Ava . Here you're going for the first time encounter local vendors,- mostly girls 7-17y old. They will try to sell you some costume jewelry (negotiate) and try to make you feel gilty ("what is your name? will you think about buying? (we're going thru them again) do you remember me? You make me unhappy if you don't buy" etc). My advise: if you like something- negotiate and buy, it is not expensive. If not, then tell them that their happiness is not your concern. The horse ride was unplesant. Amarapura. The visit to monastery is really waste of time; the gandolla ride on the lake is much more interesting. Unfortunatelly because of the time spent in monastery we don't get the chance to walk on the teak bridge. The entertainment: classical Burmese Ballet. highly recommend. Day 6. Your real encounter with village in Burma. Well, if you're after church-castle-palace-square, you'd be better off in Europe. Here it is totally different.... Evening entertainment: lecture about Bagan. While the subject is really interesting the lecturer was falling asleep and was done in 12 min on the subject that could be told hours. Very disappointing. From my later discussion with Dominiq it seems that there is a problem to find English speaking lecturers. Day 7. Bagan. Extremely interesting area, magnificient views. A lot of vendors. Some women bought "elephan pants" $4-$5, T-shirts and other touristic souvenirs. Vendors- see day 5. We dock near reasort where you can get Wi-Fi. Some people went to their coffee shop in the afternoon, but we choose their pool (they did not charge us, but I've heard about $10 fees). Very nice! Entertainment: Puppet show. Could not stand it more than 15 min. Very repetative. Day 8. Another village. Afternoon in Sale with monastery. Day 9. Another village. Afternoon in Magway, by trishaw to Pagoda with very nice view. This was very interesting- the city is not spoiled with tourist attention so we got to feel like on parade. Day 10. Monk blessing on the ship. Works for 26 days. Visit to local market. My wife got "Tanaka" 70c a jar plus some remedy against headachack- another 65c. I bought some bag for my camcorder- $3. In the afternoon we went to Minhla port- total waste of time and another small town. Day 11. Visit to local school where they made serious reception for us with dances, meals etc. (The tip money that left over get contributed to this school) Day 12. We get to Pyay and this is the last stop. For some reasons instead of going by ship to Yangon (160miles), they choose to get there by bus - 7 hours of not pleasant ride. We visited Shwe San daw Pagoda- very interesting and archeological museum- really nothing. Afternoon on your own. But it is so hot that no desire to go and explore more of that town. Disembarkation briefing. Tips: Viking recommend about $200 to crew (per couple) and the same to PD. In my view it is really exesessive,- I think 1/3 to 1/2 of it will do. To crew you can put it on credit card, but to PD only in cash. could be given later in Yangon. Dominiq also collected from everyone e-mail addresses and distributed list with it. Day 13. After breakfast we hit the road to Yangon and by 3pm we're there. Yangon, is the first normal town you'll see. A lot of traffic, normal streets & shops, even supermarket, squares with fonutain. Nice. We went for a swim & then to downtown- very close. The dinner in hotel is included, a lot of selection, but nothing to eat.... Day 14. The climax of the trip Shewdagon pagoda. Unforgettable! It is good thing that we started from Mandalay, because have we started from Yangon everything after that would be really downhill. At the top we got calendar for 2015 (50 cents) with the pictures of Pagoda. Extremely beautiful (both)! In the afternoon we went to supermarket to get idea about local production. Rum- 80 cents bottle. the other imported things are on par with US. Farewell dinner at hotel. Day 15. Moving back to Bangkok. 1 hour flight. The time difference with Birma 1/2h (compared to Bangkok). The same Tango met us, transfer to hotel, return your head pieces and we done. Day 16. Flying home! All in all was very interesting trip. Read Less
5 Helpful Votes
Sail Date: November 2014
One could classify this trip as an adventure. Not recommended for beginners. I enjoyed it, my husband did not like it. It began in Bangkok. The guides there spoke poor English. I would recommend doing tours on your own thru the hotel. ... Read More
One could classify this trip as an adventure. Not recommended for beginners. I enjoyed it, my husband did not like it. It began in Bangkok. The guides there spoke poor English. I would recommend doing tours on your own thru the hotel. Those were wonderful, in a private car and with people that knew what they were talking about. A flight to YANGON followed. There we had a good and enthusiastic guide. Do not venture in the streets alone. Broken down, dirty, just like Calcutta. Nothing to buy. Take a taxi everywhere or the heat will get the best of you. This was followed by a 7 hour, uncomfortable bus ride cross country. Hideous bathrooms along the way. Boarded our ship "Mandalay" there. Not up to viking standards. Food wasn't very good. Only oriental menu served. 11 days on the Irrawaddy River. Beautiful sunrises and sunsets. Culture shock along the way. Hot, searing hot. Cabins have AC. Loved visits to some villages and temples. Lots of Pagodas. Hated walking barefoot on their dirty floors. Under no circumstances drink the water. Rinse your toothbrush with bottled water regardless what the hotel manager says. You can get sick there. Naldo take malaria meds and vaccinate against hep A and B, tiphoid. Bugs are everywhere at night when we stop for the night. In spite of all this, it was enjoyable. Do not travel there in poor health. Mother just got their first X-ray machine in Mandalay. No medical care of any kind. You would have to evacuate to bangkok or Singapore. Buy insurance! Read Less
5 Helpful Votes
Sail Date: November 2014
This is a small river ship. On our cruise it was staffed, 2 staff for every passenger. The operator Belmond is running the ship like the Four Seasns hotel. They just knows how to say yes to passengers requests. We asked to open the gym ... Read More
This is a small river ship. On our cruise it was staffed, 2 staff for every passenger. The operator Belmond is running the ship like the Four Seasns hotel. They just knows how to say yes to passengers requests. We asked to open the gym early, to walk back from a tour, for special meals, etc. The answer was always yes! For example: When returning from a tour they collected and wash your shoes. The food was unbelievable good. It was carefully prepared and there was a large enough selection. We stopped in little villages which seemed have not seen many tourist. My knees are not great, walking down hill can be challenging, but always there was a staff to lend a should to make my down hill journeys save. Our room was large enough with two large windows from which we could watch our journey down the river. Read Less
7 Helpful Votes
Sail Date: October 2013
We were very impressed with our cruise on Katha Pandaw on the Irrawaddy River, Myanmar in October 2013. I had read all I could find of the history of this troubled nation, novels set in the country and Yangon newspapers on line in the ... Read More
We were very impressed with our cruise on Katha Pandaw on the Irrawaddy River, Myanmar in October 2013. I had read all I could find of the history of this troubled nation, novels set in the country and Yangon newspapers on line in the months before our cruise. Our itinerary was the least "pagoda heavy", went well beyond the Yangon-Bagan-Mandalay tourist strip and into the farms, small industries and villages of Myanmar. We were not disappointed. Before, during and after our cruise we were overwhelmed by the friendliness, generosity and warm welcome of the people of Myanmar. Pre Cruise: We flew Jetstar from Singapore to Yangon, staying 3 nights at the Chatrium Hotel from where the Pandaw cruise departed at 6 a.m. Chatrium is a comfortable hotel, buffet breakfast, wifi included and all that goes with a 4/5 star hotel. A $US4.00 air-conditioned cab ride to Yangon city centre, $8-10 to the airport. Reviewed on Trip Advisor. www.tripadvisor.com We arranged pre- and post-cruising, transfers, internal air and some guiding with a local agent. After the guide’s introduction we were comfortable exploring Yangon on our own in cabs, on foot, on the ferry and the iconic circular train. Post Cruise: One night Mandalay, two nights Lake Inle before flying out of Yangon. The Ship, Katha Pandaw: Pandaw ships are teak panelled, in the style of colonial river steamers. RV Katha was the smallest of the fleet, 16 air-conditioned, twin bed cabins, with ensuite bathrooms, 6 upper, 10 lower deck. There is no elevator. Cabins are small with adequate storage for our clothes and suitcases. All have sliding glass doors and screened external doors opening to the shared deck. The nights were cool enough in October for us to sleep with the air-con turned off, the glass doors open and the screened doors shut. Bathrobes, safe, unlimited bottled water, hair dryer, shampoos etc and one electrical converter plug provided. No phone, TV, minibar or teamaking tray; hot and cold drinks are available in the bar. Cabins are immaculately maintained and usually serviced during breakfast. Light sleepers should avoid cabins adjoining the crew area and wheelhouse because the crew are up and about earlier than passengers need to be. The ship does not cruise at night so engine noise did not disturb our sleep. There are large shaded open-air sitting and dining areas on the upper deck, always a comfortable temperature, with pull down transparent weather shields (used once). Larger Pandaw boats have enclosed air-conditioned sitting and dining areas. Deck plans, itineraries and much more on the website www.pandaw.com The Cruise 600 Miles, See All Burma: 14 days cruising up the Irrawaddy River from Pyay (Prome) to Katha and down again to Mandalay. We left the Chatrium by air-con coach at 6am to join the ship at Pyay, a six hour drive with two comfort stops. The first, Taukkyan War Cemetery on the outskirts of Yangon, allowed enough time for a quick wander. For us the itinerary was an excellent mixture of archaeology, ancient and modern history, life in Myanmar, performances by very talented local dancers, singers and puppeteers, visits to exquisitely carved teak monasteries, to magnificent pagodas, to local markets, potteries and other small traditional industries, to farms and to villages and some of the schools and medical clinics financed by Pandaw Cruises. In Katha the ship hosted an early breakfast for the local monks. Another highlight was seeing six of the extremely rare and endangered Irrawaddy dolphin from the ship. Dolphin sightings are not guaranteed. The river is the artery of the country. We never tired of being on the upper deck, returning the smiles and waves of the ever welcoming hard-working Burmese. The smiles welcomed us to a moment of their lives, as they worked the fields, tended crops and animals, built bamboo houses, flew kites, fished, washed, swam, carried the production of this fertile valley to the river and loaded boats with drums of oil, bamboo poles, teak logs, vegetables, clay pots, fish, sacks of rice, beans, peanuts, and sacks we could only guess at, then transported these on low barges, small motor boats or bamboo rafts. Passengers: Only 8 of the 16 cabins were occupied by 15 passengers from USA, UK and Australia aged 40-70+, all keen to experience and enjoy every experience the cruise offered. The Crew: The guide and crew’s attention to our comfort, our special needs and wishes was amazing, as good as any cruise or land tour I have experienced, including Silversea, and considerably better than many others. At pagodas a crew member assisted those who struggled to bend to remove/replace footwear, guarded our shoes and distributed wipes for our feet when we emerged. On returning to the boat our shoes were removed and cleaned for us. Our guide on this cruise, San, was outstanding. San is knowledgeable, articulate, fluent in English and alert to British, Australian and American senses of humour. He gave enough information to arouse our interest but never enough to be boring. San had more information for those with a special interest and was happy to answer random questions about life in Myanmar. Through him we were invited to join two wedding celebrations, experiencing again the generosity and warm welcome of the people of Myanmar. Our purser, Than, ran the passenger services very well, ably supported by the stewards, chefs and housekeeping staff. They made it an exceptional experience. Excursions: Included in the fare, except fees for cameras at some sites and for elephant rides. A small tip ($US1/Kyat1000) for local drivers, performers etc. was appreciated but not required. The variety of excursions and events is outlined above. Excursions usually started after breakfast, returning to the ship for a long lunch break and departed again later in the afternoon. We were cool and comfortable on board in the hottest part of the day. In small towns and villages we walked, in the larger cities we had air-con coaches but often we rode trishaws or horse drawn carts (2 passengers per cart) and for the defile, a local boat. All within the scope of two not very fit, 70ish Australians. There was always a crew member to help us climb a steep river bank or hand us into pony cart or trishaw, whether we needed help or not. For those with serious breathing or mobility problems, wheelchairs or walking frames, it becomes more difficult. There are no docks. Every outing we crossed the gangplank and climbed the sandy river bank. If the bank was particularly steep, the crew cut steps for us and offered a strong arm to lean on. The roads and paths we followed were often unpaved tracks or broken pavement or we walked across ploughed fields to villages. Sometimes hills and flights of steps were unavoidable. Meals and Drinks: Meal-times occasionally varied to suit the excursion program. Usually breakfast was 7-9am, lunch 1pm, dinner 7.30pm, after the evening briefing by guide and purser. Tea and coffee, biscuits, fresh fruit and cold drinks were available from 7am. No cabin service or variation of meal times is offered. Breakfast was buffet with an “eggs cooked to order” station, fresh fruit, cereals, toast, pastries, tasty Asian style soups, bacon, tomato with dishes of either noodles, fish, sausages or baked beans. Lunch was soup, delicious breads made onboard, a salad buffet, a choice of three hot mains (menu offered at breakfast) or a hot mains buffet, followed by pudding. Dinner was soup, starter, choice of three mains (menu offered at lunch) and pudding. Every meal had a vegetarian option. We thought the meals were varied and delicious, vegetable, fish, chicken and pork dishes were particularly tender and served with interesting sauces; the curries were excellent but quite mild. I didn’t eat salads till I was quite sure my fellow cruisers felt no ill-effects. They didn’t, and I regret missing two days of super salads. We notified two food intolerances at booking and on arrival and were alerted to any dish that might contain these foods. I do not know how much provision can be made for those with very limited diets or limited food preferences. Soft drinks, local beers, local spirits and mixes were included in the tariff and freely available. Carafes of wine were provided at dinner only. Bottled wine could be purchased from the bar. Dress: Casual. Trousers/skirts below the knee and sleeves covering shoulders were required at some pagodas and feet must be bare to enter pagodas and monasteries. All footwear, including orthotics must be removed, so slip-on-slip-off shoes or flip-flops are good for those who can walk to/from the site in them. We needed a hat, comfortable clothes for hot weather, a waterproof and a light jacket or shawl for cool evenings/mornings and the trip up river to the second defile on a breezy local boat. Our travel doctor advised long sleeves and trousers between dusk and dawn as mosquito protection, so we showered and “smartened up” into these before dinner. Laundry: We were warned that the laundry was done in river water. Clothes were returned in excellent order and charges were very reasonable. Medical: Our travel doctor prescribed a malaria prophylaxis which we took and other just-in-case medications, which we carried along with basic patent medicines and didn’t use any. Seek medical advice before travelling and carry sufficient supplies of your regular medications, “just-in-case” drugs, insect repellent and sunscreen. Money: ATM in Yangon and Mandalay only. We changed some US dollars for kyat on arrival at Yangon airport and later withdrew kyat at ATM in Yangon and Mandalay. We were told to bring only crisp, unmarked, unfolded $USnotes of recent issue but less than pristine notes were accpeted. Pandaw took credit cards for on-board expenses exceeding $200, othersise cash, $US preferred but kyat accepted. We followed Pandaw’s recommendations for tipping the crew. Communications: Wifi was free but available only near bigger cities. The ship’s phone received calls; our Myanmar travel agent phoned me re a booking change. In October 2013, Australian mobile phones did not get signal in Myanmar and foreigners could not buy local SIM cards. We declined a $10/day SIM card rental at Yangon airport. This may change with many visitors coming for the SEA Games in Yangon in December 2013. Conclusion: For us this cruise was perfect. We travel for interesting destinations and appreciate well informed guides. We like to try new foods (from “safe” kitchens) and appreciate clean comfortable cabins with ensuite bathrooms. We want to get out, meet the people and learn about the country. Pandaw worked for us. Images of the river, pagodas in the mist and the smiles of the people are imprinted till Alzheimer’s messes with our brains Read Less
3 Helpful Votes
Sail Date: March 2012
The cruise started with a busstransfer from Yangon to Prome where we boarded the Pandaw II. From the very first minute the crew took care of us in a wonderful way. We was served a drink, our shoes where cleaned and they took our bagage to ... Read More
The cruise started with a busstransfer from Yangon to Prome where we boarded the Pandaw II. From the very first minute the crew took care of us in a wonderful way. We was served a drink, our shoes where cleaned and they took our bagage to our cabin. This high level of service was maintained during the whole cruise. As we was just 45 passengers the service was very personalized and the style onboard was very informel, no such things as captains dinner etc. The Pandaw II is a wonderful boat made as a replica of the paddlewheel steamer that once cruise the Irrawaddy river. It´s all made of teak and brass but perfectly modern with AC etc. Most of the days we made two stops and visit remote villages up along the Irrawaddy river. Most of those places can only be reached by boat and every one of them had something special, unique, to show us. The Burmese guide, which followed us during the cruise, was very good and had great knowledge of the historic and culture of Burma/Myanmar. Every night there were arrangement on the ship, it could be a lecture of buddism, a cooking lesson or some documentary video about WW2 in Burma. Of course all of the excursions were complimentary and you were free to join them or not. The food was excellent with a large variety tho chose from. All beverage, even beer and liqure are complimentary. All together this cruise was an experience for life and we´ll return in august this year for a new Pandawcruise, this time for the even more remote parts of Myanmar, the Chindwin river. Read Less

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