Sail Date: January 2014
Preface: I am a 'hard marker' and very critical where I think the tour operator could be better. Having said, I have absolutely ***NO*** substantive criticisms to make after our 2 week tour, starting in Hanoi. Our guide met us ... Read More
Preface: I am a 'hard marker' and very critical where I think the tour operator could be better. Having said, I have absolutely ***NO*** substantive criticisms to make after our 2 week tour, starting in Hanoi. Our guide met us at Hanoi airport late at night (having met other straggling incomers during the day) and this set a precedent for individual and collective caring under his shepherding for the next 2 weeks -- nothing short of superlative. From Florence Nightingale to facilitator to problem-solver to advice on restaurants to guiding itself, Thien's leadership was beyond-ordinary. We all felt very well looked-after and safe. If I have a criticism, it could be the micro-management of one's time so as to get everyone organized for each side-trip. However, if we weren't time-managed, we would never have seen and experienced as much of the sites and the local culture as we did in the time available. Take one's pick! As a previous commentator said (and I agree with just about 100% of what he said, (and I'm trying not to repeat it), there were some 'dodgy' landings in remote locations, but staff did their best. If you have disabilities, double-check before you leave. The side-trips they chose for us sounded very ho-hum in some instances (snack factory, brick plant???) but none of them was to be decried after the event. They have carefully chosen those that exemplify the local customs and everyday working lives of the locals to very good effect. If you go, don't opt out! You may be nicely surprised! There are many, many bright young children who (especially in Cambodia) are short of good teaching (largely because of the extermination of the professional, middle-classes by Pol Pot). Whereas I became a little "orphanaged-out" and not a little pressured as to the generosity I could willingly bestow to thoro'ly deserving causes, even I (as a hard-nosed bastard with Scottish blood) found my heart and soul touched. so much so that I plan to return a year hence to teach, as a volunteer, English & whatever else they can draw from me as a reasonably widely educated person in my 70s. If you don't want your heart and soul touched, don't go on these side-trips, but I challenge you! As to the "main-course" visits, such as Angkor Wat itself, museums, obligatory national monuments, etc., hang in there! The guides were very accomplished in informing you of the histories concerning each, and -- if you are willing to learn -- each paints a pixel in the big picture of what has forged these countries. Expect to come back exhausted, yet fulfilled, better educated and appreciative of these historic cultures and their evolution to the present day. R.K. Thank you Viking, and especially to our Thien. Read Less
3 Helpful Votes
Sail Date: November 2013
For anyone considering this trip, my recommendation is to do it! I think this was a great way to see a complex area, and some of the independent travelers I met on the way were jealous of the things I was able to see by travelling on the ... Read More
For anyone considering this trip, my recommendation is to do it! I think this was a great way to see a complex area, and some of the independent travelers I met on the way were jealous of the things I was able to see by travelling on the River. First off, I would like to give the bad parts... This was my 2nd River Cruise, the first being a Uniworld Cruise in Russia, which was a fabulous trip and my only comparison. - I was disappointed in the lack of Internet. I feel petty in saying this, but I was part of a Medical Conference, and considering that I had satellite Internet in the middle of no where Russia...having the ability on this trip to handle no more than 5 Ipads while sitting in a city of 2 million seems pathetic. - Same could be said for TV- though I never use it, it seems silly to have one in each state room and have no channels.. A note on people with disabilities...I think that as long as you do not need a wheelchair, this trip is doable. I was concerned about the lack of an elevator on the boat- that is how difficult it is for me to get around- yet with a lot of help, I was able to do almost all of the excursions. The idea of walking up the dirt steps of a river bank were intimidating, but with a line of crew helping me, it was easy as cake. The buses also had nice short steps in and out. The temple climbing of Siem Reap, excursions on Halong Bay, and the "gentle slope" up to Wat Hanchey were the most difficult, but the guides were great at letting me know what they thought I would be able to do. The greats: - I thought the food was great. My favorite being the lunch salad buffet- I could eat just that every day, and forget a main course. I enjoyed the free local beer, and the white wine not so bad, just try not to be picky! The evening desserts were the only disappointment, but with the delicious fruits the rest of the day more than made up for that- I did fine with less sweets! - The staff were amazing- especially in the dining room. By Day 2 they already knew my preferences. - Amazing guides, Amazing Cruise Director Thoai who saw a giant group of us through 2 weeks of transfers, flight, changes, etc - for our land portion, we had simply Amazing Stays at Sofitel Metropole in Hanoi, and the Sofitel Siem Reap- awesome hotels that deserve 1 week stay themselves. Sheraton in Ho Chi Minh City also a pleasant surprise- in a great location, amazing food and views! the in-betweens: - My favorite parts of the tour were: Hanoi, Siem Reap, Kampong Cham area of Cambodia, Phnom Penh. Working our way south, I felt that the trip became more repetitive, and the Mekong Delta was disappointing- I am not sure if this was just that the other areas were so good, or that this area was lacking for tours - I agree with others that the tour groups should be divided by speed/ abilities- so the slow did not have to worry about being slow, and the fast could see more and be happy - I was solo, stayed on the lower deck. I loved my room, even though I did not have a balcony like the others- I was only in the room to sleep, so this was fine. My only complaint about this level was the noise- as the crew also live/ function off of this level, so I heard a lot of traffic go by. Also, the first room I checked out (005) smelled like diesel so I could not stand that.. The shower was always hot, the bed very comfortable, the AC very strong, the room was very adequate in size for 1 person! Biggest tips: If you are going all this way - definitely do a Land tour. I could have done without HaLong Bay, but Siem Reap, Hanoi, and more time in Ho Chi Minh were great ideas. I liked going North to South, it was a culture shock to start in Hanoi and end in the modern Saigon, but I liked it that way. It also helped me build up to the humidity Read Less

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