By David Wishart, Cruise Critic Contributor
Katha Pandaw is one of the company’s smaller vessels, with a shallow draft that enables it to cruise the Irrawaddy beyond Mandalay, and hard-to-reach sections of the Chindwin River.
The ship has two passenger decks with identical cabins of 170 square feet. All have twin beds, air-conditioning and French windows opening on to a walk-around deck. Bathrooms have good showers, with bathrobes, hair dryers, and slippers provided. Cabins also have desks and safes. There is an onboard laundry and crew clean shoes after excursions.
Passengers spend most of their leisure time on the aft section of the covered upper deck, where they can take in the sights from teak loungers and wicker furniture. This deck also has a small covered deck forward.
Meals are served alfresco at tables on upper deck.. Breakfast is buffet style, preceded by coffee, tea and light bites for early risers. Lunch is served either buffet style or standard sit-down, while dinners are four-course affairs. Produce is fresh, regional and seasonal.
Coffee, tea, soft drinks, beer and domestic spirits are complimentary and served from the bar/library on the upper deck. There is an open-bridge policy.
There is Wifi that is often slow, due to the remote areas traveled. However, some of the riverside towns have internet shops.
Katha Pandaw has one guide who gives briefings at cocktail hour every night, and accompanies the free daily excursions. Local entertainment, such as folkloric dancing and puppet shows, sometimes takes place in the evenings. Tipping is optional.
Overnights usually involve stopping at a riverbank and securing the ship with lines attached to stakes hammered into the sand. Sometimes part of the gangway is little more than a plank and sandbags, making this trip difficult for those with disabilites. But plenty of willing crew are always there to assist. Most passengers see Pandaw as a world away from conventional cruising and take such measures in stride. .