AmaLotus Cruise Review by John_in_Austin: AMALotus Mekong Cruise
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AMALotus Mekong Cruise
We took this tour in January 2011 which is during the dry and cool season. Most of the comments that others have left are quite accurate, but I will add some additional emphasis to some issues.
This was our sixth river cruise and second with AMA Waterways. The AMALotus is a new ship, but perhaps the worst river cruiser we have ever been on. This includes river cruises we have taken in China and Egypt, as well as Europe. Staterooms are comfortably sized, but the selection of furniture was not very functional. Other than a closet with hangers, there was literally no place to put your things.
The bathroom was excellent, but we consistently had a major problem with the shower water temperature. It varied repeatedly from scalding hot to icy cold regardless of the faucet settings. Rooms had a nice HD flat screen TV, but no satellite reception. Wireless was limited to the lounge and was good when we were moored or in port.
One reviewer stated their air conditioning More was excellent. Our's was not. Our room was over 90 degrees for the first two days. The situation only got better when it became cloudy and cooled off outside. The air conditioners are individual to each room and only run when you have your room key card in the key slot on the wall that turns on the lights. OK for saving energy, but IMHO the air conditioners were undersized for the job and not able to do the rapid cool-down required if they were being turned on and off in this manner. Many people got an extra key card from the staff so they could have the a/c run all the time. That helped a little, but not completely.
Meals were good but not great. The only complaints we had was that the free local wine at meals was really bad, and the freshly baked breads pretty much amounted to the same bland white and rye each day.
Someone mentioned the QuietVoxs were junk. Ours worked OK (as they have on many other cruises we have taken). But there was a major problem with the batteries constantly wearing out after a few hours of use. I noticed that AMA was using a cheap Chinese battery; perhaps rechargeables or quality batteries would have been better.
Out land tours varied. Most were really great, but somewhat similar (tours of local villages). For most excursions we needed to use tenders. A few of them were very difficult to board and we considered unsafe (life vests were rotten, seats were not attached to the tender, tender was overcrowded). In a number of places where we disembarked from the AMALotus directly to shore, we literally had to walk a plank to get off or on.
In conjunction with the cruise, we had land tours and hotel stays in Hanoi, Siem Reap, and Saigon. All which were well done. We also had a tour to HaLong Bay and spent a night on a Junk. The trip out to HaLong Bay and back could have been arranged a little better. We were rushed in places to hit departure times or meals, yet had other times when we basically just sat and waited on the bus or at a rest stop. Overall, I think the timelines and activities on the trip could be better optimized.
Our local guides were all knowledgeable and had an excellent English vocabulary. However, a few had difficulties with pronunciation and we could hardly understand them.
Last, let me second the reviewer who commented on excessive tips. I have never been on a land cruise or river cruise where the staff and guides reminded us so often to tip--to the point of it becoming an annoyance. AMA Waterways needs to pay decent wages to their guides, bundle the tips into their own fees, discourage begging for tips, or take whatever other steps are necessary to end this annoyance.
Bottom Line: Vietnam and Cambodia were great. The AMALotus was only OK. AMA Waterways needs to get this trip better organized. Less
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Cabin review: A
Cabin was roomy, but with little space to unpack except for the closet with hangers. Furnishings lacked drawers and shelves. Bedding was excellent. Bathroom was very nice and large, but shower temperature was VERY erratic. Nice flat screen TV connects only to a DVD player; no satellite service is available. No wireless in rooms, but avaiable in the ship's lounge. Our cabin had serious air conditioning problems (which were also encountered by some others). Balcony is only large enough for one chair because it is designed to allow space for a "second balcony" which is just french doors with no outside area. This second balcony is useless and just takes away room from the real, useable one.