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

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