The journey through Vietnam & Cambodia is a worthwhile trip. The tours provide an insight into the daily life of the people in the cities and countryside. The activities, such as the rickshaw, oxcart rides, visit to the markets, blessing by the Buddhist monks, seeing the production of silk, bricks, rice paper, coconut candy & rattan mats are most interesting.
We obtained the multiple entry Vietnam visa by using VISA ON ARRIVAL, over the internet. We paid a US$19 fee (on credit card) for the letter of invitation. On arrival at the Hanoi airport, we presented the letter, a passport photo and our passports. After a short wait, we paid a US$50 cash pp (per person) 'stamping fee' for the visa in our passports. This worked well.
The Cambodian visa was obtained by our AMA tour guide. You hand him your passport, a passport photo and US$20 cash pp. The guide handles the rest at the Siem Reap airport.
In November the weather was very hot (30 degrees Celsius) and humid. Light cotton, loose fitting clothes are essential. We washed shirts often. Closed in shoes are best for all tours. You are required to remove shoes at some sites. A hat is a good idea -â€" umbrellas and rain ponchos are supplied on the ship.
We took bug spray, but found we really didn't need it. It is advisable to take an antibiotic, Imodium, pain tablets, stomach remedies and cold/flu medications. None of these are available on the ship.
Take an ample supply of US$1 and US$5 bills. You will find it difficult to acquire small bills on the trip. AMA recommends tipping each service (rickshaw, oxcart driver, bus & boat driver, etc.) US$1 pp, so you can go through a lot of $1 bills. It seems the US dollars are accepted everywhere -â€" however, change is in local currency. ATM machines do not dispense US dollars in Vietnam (only in Cambodia).
The Sofitel Hotels are very luxurious. An extensive breakfast buffet is included. The hotel in Siem Reap is like paradise -â€" a gorgeous resort. Restaurant prices in the hotels in Hanoi and Saigon are high. Siem Reap prices are inexpensive. There are many local restaurants recommended by the tour guides.
The ship has been sailing for 11 weeks at the time of our cruise, and they are still experiencing many problems. The following is a list of several:
- On arrival the ship had a strong smell (like diesel fuel) everywhere. We believe this was a disinfectant/insecticide used throughout the ship, and the smell never went away.
- The quality of the food is poor. For example, dry bread, crystallized ice cream, limited choices and poor wine.
- Buffet line is congested, not enough serving utensils, flies on the food, toaster is hopeless and on and on.
- The ship is in poor condition for being new. Some rooms were infected with bugs, air conditioners didn't work properly and security safes are not bolted down.
- The ship vibrates excessively and is very noisy when travelling.
- At one point or another during the week most passengers were sick with colds, flu or stomach issues. We think this was related to the lack of sanitation and hygiene on the ship.
- We didn't bother attending the entertainment in the evening, as it didn't sound appealing. We heard from others that it was poor.
- DO NOT book a room on the bottom level with a porthole. It is dark and noisy due to the proximity to the crew quarters.
- Most of the tours are accessed from the ship by tender boats. This involves some gymnastics to transfer from one to the other. The only ship docking is in Phnom Penh.
- The quietvox receivers used on the tours were junk. They seldom worked and the guides were constantly changing batteries.
- All tour guides are English speaking, however they are very difficult to understand.
- The tours are timed well -â€" just the right amount of time is spent at each site. Walking distances are not long. There is always time for shopping at the conclusion of the tour.
This is our fourth AMA cruise. We were disappointed with the ship. The service, quality of food and beverages, ambiance, communication with crew, cleanliness, entertainment and our room fell short of our expectations. This cruise did not meet the high standards of our previous cruises with AMA in Europe.