Any tour company can take you from one place to another but it takes a company that is at the top of its game to put together a crew that took us on our tour of Vietnam, Cambodia and the Mekong. Mr. Thoai, the Cruise Manager, ran a very professional program but was sensitive to passenger needs and desires. He was very concerned that people had the best time possible. The same can be said for Mr. Thant, Mao, Virak and Minh. They knew the local history and events and wove their personal experiences and knowledge into their presentations to make them memorable. It was those people and their empathy and concern for passengers that put this cruise over the top for us.
The agenda was the same as most of the others operating in this area. We chose AMA because of their inclusion of Ha Long Bay and a night on a junk as part of the tour. It was a definite plus! Another bonus was the pool on the AMALotus. We didn't use it a lot but it was certainly nice to take a dip at the end of a hot, humid day, of which there were many.
We chose the lowest deck with a balcony for the river portion of the cruise. I didn't see any reason to pay for an upgrade to a higher deck. Our cabin was quiet and convenient to all parts of the ship. I would not, however, want a cabin on the lowest deck without a balcony. We didn't use the balcony but the extra light it allowed in was worth the price.
The two Sofitel hotels in Hanoi and Siem Reap were outstanding. The food, room quality and service were top notch. While the Sheraton in Saigon didn't quite measure up to the exclusivity of the Sofitel hotels, it was an excellent hotel as well. The food in the breakfast and dinner buffets was absolutely amazing. We had to think very hard to remember having anything as good.
Being Canadian, we had to order US dollars to spend in the markets, for tips and the like. We ordered $1s, $10s and $20 but the next time I would cut down on the $20s and get $5s. I'd probably go with $100 in $1s to start. We were told you could change money while on board but we didn't take advantage of it. For us, it was cheaper to get the money through a bank in Canada than to use an ATM while travelling.
We arranged our flights so we arrived a day early and left two days later. It was a wise decision. The day at the start allowed us to wind down and relax after the almost 30 hours traveling while the two days at the end gave us a chance to see some things in and around Saigon, e.g., the Cu Chi tunnels (recommended).
Overall a great trip! We will definitely go with AMAWaterways again.