From the very start of our Land/River boat cruise our selection of Avalon proved to be the right choice - The hotel choice in Bangkok (InterContinental) and all other land component hotels were excellent 5*. Our least favourite was the ... Read More
From the very start of our Land/River boat cruise our selection of Avalon proved to be the right choice - The hotel choice in Bangkok (InterContinental) and all other land component hotels were excellent 5*. Our least favourite was the Novotel in Ha Long bay, perhaps due to the quality of the others in Bangkok, Siem Reap Hanoi and Ho Chi Minh City. To be fair though, there are not many choices in Ha Long Bay and the Novotel is possibly one of the best hotels there., but we would give it a 4.5 rather than 5.
From the start, our tour Director, Phiem Ho Huu, was absolutely superb and a delightful personality. I believe most regarded him as a friend by the time the cruise ended in Saigon and we bid him farewell. pity he did not accompany us on the land portion to Hanoi.
The small Avalon Siem Reap, is well appointed and the layout is good, and the cabins are extremely large, with wall to wall windows, which we were able to open and use the fan rather than the air-conditioning. It would have been nice to have a bath, with overhead shower rather than just a shower. Nevertheless the shower pressure and hot water availability were excellent.
The Cambodian and two Vietnamese guides were very good, although I did find that I was given some misinformation when visiting the notorious S21 prison in Pnohm Pehn. Nevertheless all the guides were very personable.
We have done a few River cruises previously and chose Avalon as it is one of two boats that usually travel all the way from Siem Reap to Saigon, without having to endure long bus transfers. Unfortunately the water in Ton Le Sap lake was too low and we therefore boarded the Siem Reap in Pnohm Pehn rather than Siem Reap. The transfer was by air, nevertheless, we did go up the Ton Le Sap river so that we did not miss any of the scheduled itinerary stops. We perhaps found the size a little small, as there are times when one prefers to eat as a couple, rather than a foursome and this is not possible. Tables are for four or more. The meals were good with a good selection, however we are gourmands and would not rate the food as excellent.
The staff, especially the dining room and bar staff were excellent and extremely affable. The facilities are very clean and the kitchen absolutely spotless. The wine glasses were constantly refilled at dinner and the quality of wines generally good. Other local free spirits from the bars were quite acceptable and there was a lot of imbibing, especially on New Years eve. The makeup of the passengers was mostly American, with 6 from Oz, 2 from Canada, and 2 from Germany. There were 31 passengers on board (capacity is 36). Mostly in 50's and 60's and well travelled. No children, which for us was a definite positive.
The local tours to villages and towns was interesting and informative although at times we felt that they were staged, which is understandable given that there are many riverboats that visit the villages on a weekly basis.
We thoroughly enjoyed the whole experience, except for the four hour bus trip (each way) from Hanoi to Ha Long Bay. We did discover that there is a float plane service. As there were only 6 of us on this land sector, this would have made the trip worthwhile, especially given that Avalon does not skimp and all other services, and hotels are first rate.
If we have one negative, it is that on the final day, when I reached for our bags under the bed, we discovered several dust balls. The cabin make up service is very superficial.
All in all this Avalon tour of the Mekong was a delightful way to experience Cambodia and Vietnam and well worth the cost. No regrets at all. Read Less