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29 Ho Chi Minh City (Saigon) to Asia Cruise Reviews

Had always wanted to visit Vietnam / Cambodia but wanted to do it guided. had never been on a Scenic Cruise before but the “all inclusive” Scenic package really appealed. To be truthful I had no idea how all inclusive it would be ... Read More
Had always wanted to visit Vietnam / Cambodia but wanted to do it guided. had never been on a Scenic Cruise before but the “all inclusive” Scenic package really appealed. To be truthful I had no idea how all inclusive it would be but if you chose not to buy souvenirs or a drink in a bar when off ship then there was very little need to take cash. We budgeted for some spending but returned home spending very little at all. They say inclusive but I did not expect top shelf drinks including a gin menu, yes a menu there were that many to choose from. Food allergies were no problem either with a super attentive and highly skilled chef ensuring wonderful food. The level of service from all staff was exceptional, every cabin has its own butler, unpacking and room service drinks ....you don’t have to lift a finger. Great excursions and truly caring and memorable guides. In one word.....FAULTLESS......highly recommend Read Less
Sail Date August 2019
We were looking for a river cruise experience and the Heritage Line delivered via the Jahan and the Mekong River cruise from Ho Chi Minh City to Seim Reap. The group met at a lovely hotel in Ho Chi Minh City to conduct our check-in ... Read More
We were looking for a river cruise experience and the Heritage Line delivered via the Jahan and the Mekong River cruise from Ho Chi Minh City to Seim Reap. The group met at a lovely hotel in Ho Chi Minh City to conduct our check-in activities before heading upstairs for drinks and refreshments. A pleasant bus ride to the embarkation point followed although the sight of embarkation is a bit industrial and leaves a bit to be desired. The staff were wonderful from the beginning and that continued throughout the journey. I can't say enough about the quality of the staff aboard this vessel whether it be the sailors, the room attendants, chefs and food and beverage staff. They were all happy, cheerful, extremely helpful and above all else happy to engage with guests on conversation and stories about their life in both Vietnam and Cambodia. They were also interested in where we came from and we thoroughly enjoyed our conversations throughout the trip. The guides were exceptionally helpful on our morning and afternoon excursions and everything flowed smoothly and all activities went as planned. Keep in mind what is being offered is an opportunity to experience how the Vietnamese and Cambodian people live on the Mekong Delta and in some cases it is quite raw and confronting. Having opportunities to visit local schools as part of our excursions and interact with young children wishing to learn English was great fun. Visits to markets, pagodas, silk farms, pottery producers, rice and palm wine producers, floating markets, fish farms, weavers were some of the activities undertaken on excursions. Food on the Jahan was exceptional with both Western and local options available and again I cannot overemphasise how good the chefs and staff were in catering to those with food preferences and health issues. They certainly went above and beyond on this cruise. Bottled water was provided as part of the cruise fare and we were never wanting with drinking water during hot conditions weather on the ship or on excursions. Our cabin was spacious for two people and included a bedroom, sitting room as well as a normal sized bathroom. We also had a little balcony which we enjoyed for quiet moments as the ship was cruising. The ship is fitted out in colonial Indian style and there are a number of public spaces for watching the scenery go by such as the library/lounge as well as the forward observation room. The bar on the top deck has a wide selection and it was also a pleasant space to have a drink and watch the movements on the river. Early morning tai chi before breakfast was very relaxing for the early risers. Ultimately we were not able to sail all the way to Seim Reap because of low water levels at that time of year but this didn't come as a surprise as we were warned at the time of booking and again advised immediately prior to boarding that it was unlikely this could occur. A luxury bus was able to then take us from our point of disembarkation to Seim Reap in a couple of hours which in itself was a pleasant trip. Our final night involved a special dinner and concert from the staff and was thoroughly enjoyed by all. Evening activities included presentations regarding local culture, geography and history as well as some cultural dances and movies. All of this allowed us to thoroughly enjoy the group of people whom we met on the ship and collectively enjoy a wonderful experience. We will certainly look at the Heritage line in future for other cruises they may offer. We highly recommend this cruise to others seeking a destination somewhat different to others on the cruise itinerary. Read Less
Sail Date June 2019
Overall it was a wonderful start to our extended trip in SE Asia. I selected this boat based on the positive reviews but also the fact that it is the only boat small enough to generally sail the entire route HCM city to Siem Reap without ... Read More
Overall it was a wonderful start to our extended trip in SE Asia. I selected this boat based on the positive reviews but also the fact that it is the only boat small enough to generally sail the entire route HCM city to Siem Reap without the extended bus ride other river boats take. This is a huge benefit thought be aware that really this is only the case from August-October, maybe November if you are lucky-- depends on water levels but this year we sailed the end of October and were the last boat of the year to do the entire route-- and seeing the Tonal Sap is really pretty. If water levels are too high they will fly you to Phenom Penn which still beats the six hour bus ride other lines take-- that is just too much for a seven night cruise. On this review I will focus on the questions/concerns I had before I booked. Pros --36 passenger boat no issue, it was actually really fun you got to sit with and really know everyone on board. Most people 55-75, leaning toward the older part of the range, but literally everyone active and well traveled. We all got along so well, it really did feel like a group of friends traveling together by the end. --Absolutely amazing top quality hotel choices for those doing 13 nights with hotels in Ho Chi Minh and Siem Reap-- almost everyone does this land/cruise package and I would highly recommend this. We travel in top quality usually boutique hotels and for larger hotels could not have asked for more-- amazing, huge rooms with a local feel and superb breakfasts. The Reverie in HCM is the top rated and most expensive hotel in the city and everyone (mostly all first class travelers) said it was the nicest hotel they have ever been in-- over the top posh and comfortable, great views, friendly service, nice location. The Park Hyatt is nicer than any US Hyatt with fresh dim sum along with so many other things for breakfast-- food and room very lux and so far beyond a US Hyatt. --Rooms on boat large for a ship and lovely (be careful when comparing sizes many ships include balcony is square footage which is misleading). Bed was a bit hard for me but they immediately put on a topper that made it perfect. --Service on boat fantastic, couldn't ask for more. --Great, low priced massages onboard-- book early for best times. --Great mix of cities and villages on itinerary. Even if a particular day does not sound appealing you will be surprised. I was not super excited about going to the killing fields and the genocide museum but it was not what I expected and one of the most memorable days of any trip I've taken. The killing fields are heartbreaking with a tower full of skulls dug up and stories that will change your life. There is more to see than I expected, and the history will hit home far more than any movie or book. Bring a colorful hairband or ribbon/beaded bracelet to leave on the posts at the pits where bodies were dug up as a tribute to the dead. Our guide on Avalon named Hiek told us how the conflict affected his family and village, words and stories I will never forget. The genocide museum is not a dusty old museum but the actual buildings where people were tortured and detained; it is difficult and overwhelming but you will feel the history here, especially with a guide who knows how to bring it alive with reverence as does Hiek. --Overall atmosphere was social, fun and comfortable. Days were well organized, both guides were very different but excellent. --Cruising the Mekong really worth doing but keep in mind it is a working river and the beauty is in the people and the backroads and really immersing yourself in the local experience-- if you are looking for a pristine, pretty experience this is not the trip for you. However, cruising is one of the most efficient ways to see real village life and fishing villages as well as the highlights of Cambodia. The villages are amazing with moms running out to show off their babies, kids excited to see you (we saw no begging or asking of money anywhere), and overall a way of life I had no idea still existed today-- whole extended families living in rough shacks, getting to the village on single poles they walk over water, etc. I thought the afternoon visiting a local school and helping the kids with their reading would be hokey but it was lovely. --Tip: if you are like us and enjoy the backroads more than palaces, use your free time on this voyage wisely. For example, in Phenom Penn we saw highlights like the palace with the ship in the morning. In the afternoon we asked a Tuc Tuc driver to show us where the locals lived and frankly it was a shock at first with garbage strewn streets and rusting shacks. However it became fascinating with tiny winding streets and places where we were the only non locals. The driver was so delighted with our request that he took us to his home for a beer to meet his wife, cousins, aunt, uncle, etc. all living in two rooms and very proud of it because they could only own this home due to the uncles business. It was an amazing afternoon and we got to see how an average family lives, see how family oriented they are as a culture, ask so many questions about why all the trash, etc. it was a highlight of the trip. In HCM the day we arrived and there were no activities with the ship we made a point to walk to a local massage place very highly rated rather than the hotel spa and got a two hour massage for $28. Just walking on our own and getting an authentic Vietnamese massage (best massage of my husbands life) in a clean local place (Temple Leaf Spa only 10 minute walk from hotel) with lovely tea served before and after was a joy-- its such a big part of the culture and walking on our own a different way of seeing the real city. We recommended it to the only young person (33) on the boat with him mom and he also just loved getting local vs. structured tours. That night we had booked ahead a street food tour on vespas, selecting a vendor that goes to five different districts and to where the locals go. This is something you must do in SE Asia to really understand the culture-- ride on the back of a motorbike and try street food with the locals. The traffic will not scare you at all once you understand it-- half the bikes have kids and whole families on them, the speed is slow and while it seems a maze, there is no aggression or road rage, it is a communal flow with the right of way readily given. It is beautiful, peaceful, and eye opening to be on the back of the motor bikes-- we did it three times. The same with crossing the street, not scary as people claim, simply walk slowly and the drivers will move around you. Our trip would not have been the same without street food either and we are super hygienic. Beside the fact that the food is delicious and unique it is a critical part of a culture where most folks are in homes with minimal ability to cook and eat two meals a day out. We sat with the locals at tiny tables, listened and learned. Yes we used hand sanitizer, took supplements to keep our immune system healthy, and if you are squeamish I would bring my own chopsticks, but the trick as the tours know is to go to places where you are eating food immediately after it is cooked. And oh my god the crab claws with friend chilly peppers-- astounding. On our first night of the trip we literally broke all food rules for street food-- had fresh veggies, dairy, ice, etc. Never got the tiniest tummy ache on a 25 day trip. On this first day in HCM before the cruise agenda kicked in we had a ball with so many surprises like the "lady boy" impromptu show in the streets as we ate street food with the locals. Seriously it is these side trips that a cruise could never do that made our trip. In Siem Reap I have to recommend the tour we did the last full day (we flew out on our own to Hanoi that night). After seeing the major temples for two days with Avalon which were amazing but super crowded, we did a vespa tour called beyond Angor-- it took us to back roads and temple not yet reconstructed where we were literally the only ones there-- best pictures we took, great local experience to balance our more formal days with Avalon-- saw a magical side to Siem Reap we would have completely missed if we didn't supplement the ship itinerary. Also in Siem Reap if you are a serious foodie- on your night off go to Embassy restaurant-- $36 for an 8 course exquisite meal in a one of a kind restaurant started by two women who against all odds made it to the top of the culinary institute-- one of the best meals of our lives and just super special experience in so many ways, each course a work of art. Make reservations ahead of time! -I would go northbound because Siem Reap is truly the highlight Cons (all minor in the scheme of things but be aware to set expectations) -Food was fresh and simple but below our expectations. It felt like they were cutting corners on protein. For example every day at lunch they usually had a noodle or soup they were preparing on the spot as a main course but it was almost weird the way they handled protein. For the soup, which again is the main course, they would literally deliberately count out three (very tiny) pieces of chicken (like 1" x 1") in the water to cook whereas even the most simple local restaurant would be full of chicken. For a noodle dish one day it had shrimp but small shrimp cut into smaller pieces-- for a whole serving you would literally get maybe two shrimp cut in pieces. There were other side dishes but often only one had meat and we noticed they only put a small amount out at once and didn't replenish much. One day the only meat besides the soup was chicken pieces. Lunch period was an hour and a half. We got there with an hour left. The chicken crock on the buffet table contained about four small pieces of chicken-- three wing tips which are usually thrown out because there is literally no meat on them and a weird piece of cartilage with a bit of meat. In the time we were there it was never replenished. Sure we could have asked for more meat to be put into the soup when they prepared our serving or asked for more chicken to be brought out but you shouldn't have to do that every time! If you are a dessert person it is also an issue. At lunch each day it was the same thing-- tiny squares (like petit four size) of cake and a simple pudding or mousse. Dinner desserts were again usually a very simple plain pudding no variety. Only on the last night did we get a nice dessert. Dinners were better but kind of repetitive with a lot of simple curries. We learned to order whatever was marked as "chef recommends." If you are a foodie you won't hate the food, it is fresh, but absolutely nothing memorable and breads are all lousy. Every single night at dinner you get a choice of one very basic (like hamburger bun) soft white roll or a soft white roll with something sprinkled on it. Food ranged from fair to good with only one very good dinner which was the last meal onboard. --Most of the tours and included tour food are great ,but there was a couple of tacky overly touristy things that we try to avoid. The included group dinner in HCM is excellent but the included group dinner and dance performance in Siem Reap is so bad I would honestly skip it even though if you are going northbound it is your last meal with the group. The dance show was like the worst local dinner theater you can imagine-- a total tourist place where the performers were calling it in and not very talented. The food was also the worst kind of tourist trap food and the wine undrinkable-- we barely ate and felt it was very inconsistent with the standards of the rest of the trip. The other day that is like a tourist trap and does not become Avalon is that day at the silver making village. First of all it is one of those fake workshops where the work being done is for show. There is no real silver here, just silver plating and everything they sell (don't buy here!) is the exact same stuff the local kids are selling on the street for half the price-- literally the same packaging on the identical earrings etc.-- clearly all bought from the same supplier probably in China and you can get in every tourist shop. Avalon really loses some credibility here encouraging you to buy only at this place, clearly getting a kick back and misleading their customers. They try to say it is better quality and and the only place in the village they can guarantee quality but when I pointed out it was not made locally and the packaging clearly plastic and exactly the same as the kids, they couldn't contradict me and looked uncomfortable. If you really want to buy something note that the locals with trays of silver who follow you around that day will follow you right to the ship and the price will be 1/3 by the time they get to the ship. Same again with the place they take you for snake wine and to watch rice cakes being made. It is fun to watch the rice cakes and candy being made but do not buy anything but the rice cakes and candy there and ask for the price first-- all other items are the same as the local markets at three times the price plus when you check out they will overcharge you by double the prices marked. Tip: best place to buy souvenirs and designer knock offs is the night market in Phenom Penn, half the price of the same stuff in Vietnam. Also when negotiating in the markets in Vietnam (no need to in cambodia, everything is so cheap) don't listen to the ship when they tell you how to negotiate I think they told us to offer half then come in the middle but you wouldn't believe the Vietnam markets and how they try to upcharge tourists-- I wanted a knock off bag for my daughter that started at $185 and got it for $20. The best quality things we saw were in the old town section of Hanoi but not inexpensive at all. And nothing in the markets or where the ship takes you is handmade, there is just a lot of fake workshops around to give you that impression. Overall, a few annoying things and they could definitely upgrade the food. Bottom line though is that we loved this trip and would do the whole thing on Avalon again because the pros far outweigh the cons and there is no packaged trip that will ever be as non touristy as we would like. Read Less
Sail Date October 2018
Having done Scenic from Amsterdam to Budapest, this cruise caught our attention. Because it was an area of the world we had not been to before and we had already done one cruise in Europe with Scenic. The whole trip was wonderful ... Read More
Having done Scenic from Amsterdam to Budapest, this cruise caught our attention. Because it was an area of the world we had not been to before and we had already done one cruise in Europe with Scenic. The whole trip was wonderful from start to finish. As flights were included, we flew on Cathay Pacific and arrived in Saigon with no problems. The transportation to the hotel was quick and efficient. We arrived around noon and our room was ready. Which was great as we quickly freshened up and went exploring and found a quick bite to eat. We met our guide Ngoc and the group we would be spending time with for dinner that night. Dinner was a set menu and very tasty. The land tours/portions (Saigon and Siem Reap) were excellent. The local guides used in Cambodia were a wealth of knowledge. Ngoc our Vietnam guide and Tour Rep on the ship was also a wealth of knowledge and always made sure we were doing well. The food from start to finish was excellent. Never lacked for something to eat. The good on the ship was well varied and plentiful. The staff was excellent on the ship. Always eager to serve and made sure you had a good time. The tours were informative, enlightening and all around excellent. Riding around in a Tuk Tuk or the Ox cart was fun. Safety was always the main concern on any tour. Especially when crossing any of the busy streets or walking over uneven ground. Overall had a great trip and would highly recommend it. Read Less
Sail Date January 2018
Wanted to see and learn about viet nam. Could not do it in a better fashion than a vrc. It was outstanding from a historic,cultural and shopping point of view. Returned home being much more knowledgeable about vietnam and throughly ... Read More
Wanted to see and learn about viet nam. Could not do it in a better fashion than a vrc. It was outstanding from a historic,cultural and shopping point of view. Returned home being much more knowledgeable about vietnam and throughly enjoyed the trip. The tour guide was excellent. He was very knowledgeable about the history and was honest in his assessment. Service on board was great as usual with the quality of food being outstanding! The land portion was well organized and the hotels were first class. most of the land excursions were of interest but not all of them. However the balance was great. The captain was always present and interacted with the passangers which made the atmosphere much more friendly. We have certainly cultivated new friends as a result. I would strongly recommend this one to friends who want to do something different and learn a lot about a country rich in history. Read Less
Sail Date January 2018
I have cruised many times and even worked on cruises as a performer, so I really know what I like and dislike. The ship was beautifully clean and really looked the part. Rooms were large with lovely decor and well designed. Bathroom was ... Read More
I have cruised many times and even worked on cruises as a performer, so I really know what I like and dislike. The ship was beautifully clean and really looked the part. Rooms were large with lovely decor and well designed. Bathroom was great and loved the design of the shower doors - so practical. Dining room was beautiful and we had reserved private dining which was a real treat for my wife and I. This is something that you must pre-do before embarkment. Entertainment on board was enough and although we would have liked more gym equipment, we could not complain. Maybe a treadmill and fitness trainer could be added to make it perfect. It also would be nice if they had piped music on the sun deck so at night during our cocktail hour it would be a little more romantic, although it was lovely watching the Mekong and it's wonderful moonlight. Service is outstanding and shore excursions were excellent. One of our best cruises!!!!! Thank you Pandaw. Read Less
Sail Date December 2017
We chose this cruise on L'Austral as the pre and post cruise land tours gave us the opportunity to visit both the amazing Angkor Wat in Cambodia and Bagan in Myanmar. Both of these tours were fantastic and we saw so much. We ... Read More
We chose this cruise on L'Austral as the pre and post cruise land tours gave us the opportunity to visit both the amazing Angkor Wat in Cambodia and Bagan in Myanmar. Both of these tours were fantastic and we saw so much. We very much enjoy travelling on the small ships these days, we find Ponant suits our taste and you do get to know the crew and many of the other passengers on such a small ship. With the choice of the casual buffet on Deck 6 where you can dine inside or out,or the more formal restaurant on Deck 2, you have the best of both worlds. Cabins are very tastefully decorated in muted tones and there is a seperate toilet to the bathroom which proves far more convenient. Whilst you do not have the selection of entertainment found on the larger ships, we find the smaller production shows quite adequate. The shore excursions offered onboard are usually very good and Ponant quite often provide some of the excursions free of charge. Overall we would definitely recommend Ponant especially the expedition cruises. Read Less
Sail Date October 2017
Our travel agent said the Aqua Mekong Explorer was the best of the ships on the Mekong River. We saw some other vessels that were good-looking on the outside at least. Whatever, the cruise we experienced was wonderful. It's a very ... Read More
Our travel agent said the Aqua Mekong Explorer was the best of the ships on the Mekong River. We saw some other vessels that were good-looking on the outside at least. Whatever, the cruise we experienced was wonderful. It's a very modern ship. Good-size rooms, decent-size bathroom, air conditioning worked well, which was very important, and the food was excellent. Good maintenance. One criticism: the air conditioning in the bar/meeting room wasn't working. Very uncomfortable. The ship carries about 40 passengers, but we had only 16. There was a Vietnamese and a Cambodia guide. Both spoke good English and were very helpful. We had only a four-night cruise, as the ship cannot go all the way to Siem Reap during low-water season. Each day there were one or two trips in the ship's skiff, which would take us along the shore of side streams and adjacent waters and sometimes into villages and towns. The guides were very informative, and considerate of my physical limitations. My only regret was that we didn't have a full week on the cruise. Read Less
Sail Date April 2017
For many, a cruise means a huge ship, large crowd and the related stuffs therein. Then there is the other type of cruise: a small boat with a small number of guests, friendly staff and meticulous personal attention. The Coral Discoverer ... Read More
For many, a cruise means a huge ship, large crowd and the related stuffs therein. Then there is the other type of cruise: a small boat with a small number of guests, friendly staff and meticulous personal attention. The Coral Discoverer turned out to be such a boutique. My wife and I joined the South China Sea run from Ho Chi Minh City to Hanoi, covering the long stretch of Vietnamese seashore, 22 January through 3 March 2017. The meticulous planning and attention to detail were obvious from the moment we gathered at the Saigon Opera House, Ho Chi Minh City. We handed over our baggage and boarded the coach to the ship docked near the city centre. The small crowd facilitated quick clearance of immigration formalities. We attended the Captain’s welcome reception that evening in the Explorer Bar. At the top deck, with drink in hand, and the spectacular panoramic view of the nighttime Ho Chi Minh City all around, the experience was enchanting. Then we moved to the spacious dining hall at the lower level. The majority of the gusts seemed to know each other. It turned out that they had shared past cruises in the Coral Discoverer itself or in one of the two other ships of the Coral Expeditions. The number of returning guests was impressive and was a testimony to the quality of the cruises. The sumptuous dinner was informal, enlivened with friendly discussions, and lingered on about three hours into the night. This set the pattern for every subsequent evening: drinks at one of the bars, then a leisurely buffet with affable banter. Food and wine were excellent and plentiful. In the bar, the selection of spirits was superb; the cocktails were tasty. We enjoyed a beautifully appointed Bridge Deck Balcony Stateroom. The toilet is necessarily small, but properly planned, exquisitely appointed and well stocked with toiletries. Lazing on the balcony, casually taking the view, when the boat sailed, anchored or docked was an exhilarating experience. The ship is spotlessly clean, both public areas and private quarters. For a ship of this size, the facilities are remarkably lavish: three bars, a lounge cum presentation room, an exercise area, a sun deck and even a small library. Moving around was not difficult even for the elderly. Vietnam has a rich and troubled history. The cruise arrangement did justice to that heritage. Every day we docked or anchored near an interesting seaside town or village. The day started with a lavish Continental and hot breakfast in the ship. The Discoverer has a unique boat for transporting guests to the seashore, when anchored away from the coast. The Xplorer is securely docked to the ship at the back. The guests could just walk into this boat from the main deck. Then it goes down smoothly as an elevator cab to the water and glides to the shore. The boat rides were unique opportunities to enjoy scenic beauty and to see the seaside life. On land, we travelled in comfortable coaches, savouring scenic beauty and wowing at the rich historic legacy. Prominent among them were the cable-car ride up the Lin-son Truong Pagoda and the climb on foot to the huge Reclining Buddha statue. A visit to Vinh Moc Tunnel and the Benh Vien Hospital Cave of the Viet Cong rekindles the poignant history of the nineteen sixties. The Hue Citadel, Ha Long Bay, Sung Sot cave, Titop Beach and the steep climb to the top of the hill, Lan Ha Bay and the Cat Ba National Park were among the attractions we visited. When the plans demanded lunch or dinner on shore, impeccable arrangements waited for us. The tour team meticulously arranged every detail and took care of the entry fee for the attractions, eliminating any delay. An expert tour guide was travelling with us. Also included in the team was an expert on Vietnam. He made audiovisual presentations on history, social issues and life in general in Vietnam. Rough weather disturbed the cruise arrangement one day. Nevertheless, an equally interesting fallback plan was in place seamlessly. Another unique feature was the open bridge policy. The bridge of a ship, as the cockpit of a commercial aircraft, is a sensitive area. However, Coral Expeditions has an open-bridge policy in their ships. We enjoyed the experience of watching the captain navigating the ship, sitting on a nearby comfortable sofa. The dedicated team, at every level, is probably the greatest asset of this ship. Informal, pleasant and friendly, they were at the spot, at the time when a guest needed help. Read Less
Sail Date January 2017
We wanted to experience the culture and beauty of Vietnam, Cambodia and the Mekong Delta; and what better way than on a beautiful river boat. The Jayavarman is just that. The staff was excellent and we were spoiled for the entire week. ... Read More
We wanted to experience the culture and beauty of Vietnam, Cambodia and the Mekong Delta; and what better way than on a beautiful river boat. The Jayavarman is just that. The staff was excellent and we were spoiled for the entire week. Nim, Panny and Makara were delightful. The cabin decor was elegant with adequate space, and a veranda with wonderful views. Amazing sunrises and sunsets. The ship's atmosphere was relaxing with a large open air deck to view the river and surrounding land. There areas to lounge or to socialize on the top 2 decks. The upper deck had chaise lounge chairs and a small pool. There were Tai Chi classes on the upper deck every morning. There is also a spa available for messages, manicures, pedicures, etc. WiFi was available at no extra charge, which was unexpected but nice to have. The food was excellent and abundant. Without previous notice, the chef catered to my husband's dietary needs of gluten free meals. He even prepared individual pastries and cakes. The dining hall was stylish and classically decorated. Service was great. The chef hosted a culinary class where the guest participated and learned several dishes including spring rolls. It was a lot of fun. Excursions were really interesting and very personal. We visited floating markets and small villages where we interacted with the local people; and learned about their way of life. The cultural experience was unforgettable. We visited the Killing Fields and the S21 Prison in Phnom Penh, an experience that won't soon be forgotten. We visited the Green School and the children were so excited and fun. Local families shared their homes and stories. I would definitely recommend the Heritage Line's Jayavarman cruise. Read Less
Sail Date November 2016
This cruise on the Mekong Navigator was through Evergreen (Emerald) tours Great modern ship with very good facilities, fantastic dining and service. While cabins were roomy and clean, there were issues with the cabins we stayed in ... Read More
This cruise on the Mekong Navigator was through Evergreen (Emerald) tours Great modern ship with very good facilities, fantastic dining and service. While cabins were roomy and clean, there were issues with the cabins we stayed in (VS201 & 202) due to poor design of the ship's anchor system. We unfortunately were put into cabin VS201 (our friends in VS202) at the nose of the ship, which was hopeless for trying to sleep in due to the anchor chain constantly rubbing and clunking against the metal chute that it passes through. This was not an issue when tied up dockside, however there were about 5 nights where we anchored in the river which was when we had to put up with the loud metal on metal noise as the ship swung about the anchor, due to wind and river currents. The chute needs to be lined with hemp rope or similar to prevent the rubbing and clunking noise when at anchor. Facilities such as the bar and gym were very good. Entertainment was a bit light on as well, could have done with soloist singing & playing the guitar or games in the late afternoon such as Trivia in the bar. Shore excursions were great with a lot of interaction with locals in villages and cities that we visited. The guides did an exceptional job and knew their history really well. Transport for excursions were well organised and at times exciting, especially the tuk-tuk tours of Phnom Penh. Read Less
Sail Date April 2016
There are a few different companies that offer similar cruises up the Mekong, but we had sailed with Viking River Cruises in the past and were happy with them. I booked the April sailing, the last of the season because we could not sail ... Read More
There are a few different companies that offer similar cruises up the Mekong, but we had sailed with Viking River Cruises in the past and were happy with them. I booked the April sailing, the last of the season because we could not sail earlier. This meant that we had to deal with the summer heat, which made the trip uncomfortable at times, but still well worthwhile. We took the 3 day Bangkok pre cruise extension and the 2 day Halong Bay post cruise extension. I would recommend both if you have the time, since the 12 hour difference in time from North America causes some jet lag that needs to be overcome. Both places are worth a visit if you travel that far. We enjoyed the company of 52 other passengers, most were about the same age group of active 60 and 70 year old travelers. We got along well. The ship (boat) is very nice, built for Viking by Pandow, and is named Pandow Tonle, after the Cambodian Lake of that name. Cambodian regulations did not allow Viking to put their name on a boat until they have done business there for many years. Perhaps they will design and built a new vessel in the future, but this one was just fine, and described in detail in previous reviews. We enjoyed the stops along the river and the activities Viking included. There were many opportunities to shop. We were always glad to get back to the air-conditioned boat because the temperatures were usually in the 90's or even 100 F, with high humidity. By the time we got to Phnom Penh some people opted to miss some trips because of this, but we did not want to miss anything. The "Killing Fields" were a must see, there were few people that did not lose a family member during this time. It really makes an impression. So my only complaint was the heat, and we knew that it would be bad in April, and the locals said that it was worse than usual for this time of year. Our cabin was fine, but the air-conditioner was working full time and an electric fan in the cabin would have helped in the early evening. Most of all, I was impressed with how this part of the world has recovered from the times I was there between 1965 and 1974. I could not recognize Saigon, only a few of the buildings. Read Less
Sail Date April 2016
Hi everyone: First let me say that I have no "axe to grind" with Crystal. I have cruised with them once previously, and did not have a negative experience, as I did this time. Secondly, when I let our Crystal cruise consultant ... Read More
Hi everyone: First let me say that I have no "axe to grind" with Crystal. I have cruised with them once previously, and did not have a negative experience, as I did this time. Secondly, when I let our Crystal cruise consultant know how disappointed we were about a number of items, she had the staff on the ship meet with me immediately. INTERNET Look, it may sound silly to complain about slow internet on a cruise, but hear me out, please. Yes, unless the weather is absolutely atrocious, you have no business streaming videos while on a luxury cruise on the other side of the world. But, it's not unreasonable to check emails--especially in this day and age. On the Serenity, it often would take minutes--yes minutes--for an email to open, or a simple web page (like CNN) to load. This is in contrast to Royal Caribbean: their internet is as fast as what I have at my home: you can stream videos on it no problem. This issue has to be addressed. FOOD Definitely acceptable, but very disappointing for the price you are paying. I am comparing the food on Crystal to that on Oceania and Seabourn. On this cruise it was a distant third. STAFF Very friendly and attentive. While they couldn't do anything about the slow internet and my disappointment in the lack of dessert variety, they were very attentive in listening to my complaints. ROOM Very nice. No issues. MISC. Maybe it was my fault for not realizing, or maybe it was not advertised--I don't remember--but the ten day cruise I was on was a portion of a "round the world," 90 day cruise. This meant a much older crowd than I would have preferred. These passengers were quite cliquish: if you weren't on the 90 day cruise, you weren't anybody. This isn't Crystal's fault, but I felt they should have advertised the longer cruise. Very poor television selection. Adequate DVD rentals available for your room, however. Entertainment: I prefer magic and comedians, both of which were absent, but other guests no doubt enjoyed the musicals and shows. Read Less
Sail Date March 2016
We chose this cruise and land excursion to get a good understanding of the culture of SE Asia. Unlike others I found the ship quaint and it fit the area we were traveling in. While the stairs were steep and there were some tall banks ... Read More
We chose this cruise and land excursion to get a good understanding of the culture of SE Asia. Unlike others I found the ship quaint and it fit the area we were traveling in. While the stairs were steep and there were some tall banks to climb. The itinerary stated that this trip was for people that could climb stairs and navigate uneven terrain. Viking went out of their way to accommodate people that were physically challenged. The food was excellent on the ship. There were two meals that were served away from the hotel and the ship that were less than spectacular. I would suggest that Viking revisit those locations. Excursions were excellent. The only excursion that I would do away with is the one to the lacquer factory. It turned out to be a shopping stop a a cheap souvenir shop. All of the rest of the stops were extremely interesting. We also found our tour guide Lee to go out of his way to insure that we having a good time. He was well trained and very knowledgeable about all the areas and history of the region. Viking also brought in secondary guides in parts of Vietnam and Cambodia. The tour included a visit to a school and a orphanage. Most of the people on the tour only went to the orphanage. I would suggest that one of these tours be replaced with an alternate excursion. Vikings plan to include all excursions as part of the tour makes it easier for planning and keeping the group together. Read Less
Sail Date February 2016
After enjoying some 20 cruises on Oceania, Cunard, Norwegian, Crystal, Holland-America, and Silver Sea, we think we have a pretty good grasp of the industry and what a paying passenger should expect. Le Soloeal, owned by the French line ... Read More
After enjoying some 20 cruises on Oceania, Cunard, Norwegian, Crystal, Holland-America, and Silver Sea, we think we have a pretty good grasp of the industry and what a paying passenger should expect. Le Soloeal, owned by the French line Le Ponant, is the the worst run cruise ship I have ever seen. Paying for Le Soleal is like throwing your money away. The problems go to the policies (which means the company is horrible as well) as well as the clueless staff (which could be the company’s fault, the fault of the ship’s manager, or both). I hate when people criticize without specifics, so I’m happy to give them. Here we go. 1. This is advertised as an all-inclusive ship and advertises fine wines and spirits as included in the price. Nothing could be further from the truth. The 1 or 2 wines available are cheap and unheard of. There is no single malt scotch. There is no Bourbon. The only Brandy is too cheap to drink. 2. Even when you go to the list available for pay, the prices are jacked up terribly. Usually a ship that is all-inclusive gives you decent prices for upgrading as you get sort of a credit. Not here. Not only is the list overpriced, it features only one American Red and one American White – both from the Robert Mondavi Private Selection line which, while it sounds good and probably fooled the incompetents running this Line, is a low line wine. A comment here: For many of the wines for sale the list has a Parker score. Many are 90 or above, but the Mondavi Chardonnay is 84. Can you imagine having one American wine on the list and bragging about an 84? Stupid. There are others in the mid 80’s. Why have them there at all? 3. This ship has only about 200 passengers and a crew ration of 1:2, which is too low in the first place for a so-called luxury ship. More importantly, most crew members have no idea about anything outside their particular job, and often not then. a. The first afternoon neither the reception desk nor the staff in the 6th floor lounge had any idea if there was shipboard music being played later in the evening. And the poorly put together daily notice said nothing about it. Turned out there were entertainers in both the 6th floor and 3rd floor lounges. b. At the lunch buffet shrimp was offered. We asked the servers about sauce, and none knew what was available and had to go find out. c. Upon check in, we were put in the lounge on the 3rd deck, being told rooms were not ready. About 30 minutes later as friends of ours told us they were in their room I went to the front desk and was told by the hotel manager they would come get us when they started taking people to rooms. As he is telling me this, those boarding were indeed being taken to their cabins right in front of my face. So we just went to ours on our own. It was ready, but no luggage at 4:00 in the afternoon on a ship with only about 100 cabins. I went and found the luggage and brought it in. d. On the night of the captain’s reception they ship’s newsletter said a Gala dinner would begin after the reception and they would not serve until all were seated. There was no indication of what time that would be. The front desk told me I could actually dine at any time after 6. She was shocked when I told her it was now 6:25 and the restaurant was not open yet. She called and told me it would open at 6:45. It actually opened at 6:37. e. Here is a clueless hotel manager story that will make you smile. When we complained that we were told there were fine wine and spirits aboard the ship, he asked us, with a quizzical look on his face, where we heard or read that. He said he only offers wine and spirits. They may not be so fine. Dumb? 4. At dinner on the 3rd night we ordered the lamb on the menu. After about 10 minutes the waiter told us they were out. We had ordered a bottle of wine to go with the lamb, but the staff wasn’t trained well enough to understand any problem with this. So we ordered steak skewers and as we were finishing, out came lamb for the table next to us who ordered well after we did. We asked a captain what happened and he said they did not know they had more lamb and it took the chef 20 minutes to find out. We told him we thought that was incompetent and he sent a higher up who first said the other table ordered first, which was not true, and had so been confirmed by the captain. Caught in a lie, he attempted to say it took 25 minutes to thaw the lamb. No one understood that all they had to say to us was wait a few minutes while they check things out. They are simply incompetent on the ship. IMPORTANTLY, this was the second time this happened. They ran out of baked salmon at lunch and told everyone they had no more only 20 minutes into a 90 minute restaurant opening. As we left, there sat the dish. The host of that room said they convinced the chef to make more. Shouldn’t have run out in the first place. 5. With regard to the ship’s entertainers/musicians, the newsletter never tells you who is entertaining where. So we know nothing about them or where they might be at any given time. This is unfair to the passengers and entertainers, and shows a total lack of understanding on the part of the crew. Every other cruise line gives you this information. 6. The group we were with had many people (over 25) in the 6th floor lounge one evening. We were actually playing the piano, and all were singing. At midnight the bartenders closed down and left. Never seen that on a ship. 7. At the so-called Gala dinner, the server put my salad fork back for me to use again when I finished the salad. I had him get me a new one. Then, someone was not thinking on the mussels curry dish as we had to use our hands to open the mussels. What a mess. The chargers on which this dish sat were naturally covered with shells and liquid from the broth. Were they removed? No. At least not until we requested it. 8. Unbelievably, in both dining rooms there is a table for the ship’s officers, who sit by themselves and ignore all their passengers. I cannot remember such rudeness and obvious lack of thought on any other ship. 9. The ship scheduled a mandatory safety meeting followed by a mandatory life jacket drill at 5:45 and 6:00 respectively the first day. Obviously, people took their life jackets with them. Some of the crew allowed them in the room during the lecture and some made us take them back to our cabin saying we could not bring them until 6:00, of course meaning we all had to leave the lecture, go to the room, get the life jackets, and come right back. You would think this is a comedy, but the people on this ship are just this disconnected. Also, the drill was help at a time we were in port and people were not required to be on board for another 8 hours. Finally, even tho the drill was designed to show us how to put on the life jackets, the notice sent out asked us to come with them already on. 10. They are so cheap on this ship. We have already written about the spirits and wine that fall into this category, and the fact that the bartenders close shop at 12 even when passengers are out. In the morning they advertise fresh squeezes orange, grapefruit, and tomato juice. Think they have this during the day at the two cocktail bars? Nope. Too cheap, as we say. Cruise another line - really. Read Less
Sail Date November 2015
My wife had wanted to see Vietnam and Cambodia for sometime and we were able to tie this into a reunion in the Australia. Because this was and land and river cruise adventure we were able to see and experience much of the region. The ... Read More
My wife had wanted to see Vietnam and Cambodia for sometime and we were able to tie this into a reunion in the Australia. Because this was and land and river cruise adventure we were able to see and experience much of the region. The ship was exceptional in all areas and perfect for the region. It is not a large ship but is very comfortable with exceptionally well appointed cabins. Food was very good and included opportunities to taste local cuisine. The use of san pans to move us to the ports in Vietnam was well done and required minimum athletic ability to board. Once on board it was a comfortable ride to shore while the local guide gave interesting information and side lights about the pace we were visiting that day. The ships wifi was sufficient to be able to keep in contact. Ports and excursions were different than in Europe. Some ports in Cambodia other than Penom Phen were reached by pulling up to a river bank. Excursions were varied and all informative and enjoyable. The only downside was the heat and humidity. Since we expected the weather, we had prepared for it by exercising ahead of time. Land tours in Hanoi were well managed with buses and motorized rickshaws. The rickshaws were used in the old city because the roads are original and not very wide. Entertainment before and after the cruise was very good. The two countries both had their own flavor in the dining and entertainment. Overall we felt the trip was exceptional and was another Viking success story that will keep us coming back to Viking Read Less
Sail Date October 2015
Cruising the Mekong in his small ship is like being on the Orient Express except you are afloat. Cruising the Mekong is probably the best way to see the vibrancy, colour and rhythms of life that the Vietnamese and Cambodian people have ... Read More
Cruising the Mekong in his small ship is like being on the Orient Express except you are afloat. Cruising the Mekong is probably the best way to see the vibrancy, colour and rhythms of life that the Vietnamese and Cambodian people have been following for generations. Here you experience slices of life and photographic opportunities every minute to capture the essence of Vietnam and Cambodia. The activities and land trips are well spaced out with time to absorb each new experience. We never felt rushed or pressured. The staterooms are exquisitely furnished and finished and we all have private balconies, but the oldie worldie teak and cane, fresh flowers and rich fabrics cast you back to an older era. The staff are superb. Friendly and happy to share their stories. The guides who take you around the villages, fish farms,temples and give amazing talks at night are knowledgeable, passionate and happy to answer any questions. Tri our Cambodian guide was incredible as was our Vietnamese guide on the same trip. We taught them all Kiwi and Australian so it was bro this and bro that and a whole lot of fun and the food was exceptionally good with 9 staff in the kitchen and a good variety of Western and Asian food over the 8 days. Presents on the end of our beds each night added to the thrill of the journey. Read Less
Sail Date September 2015
Joined the ship in Saigon for a 3 night / 4 day cruise to Phnom Penh. Cost was approximately £500 (GBP) per night for a double cabin. Passengers met for registration at the Intercontinental Asiana in Saigon. It was disappointing that ... Read More
Joined the ship in Saigon for a 3 night / 4 day cruise to Phnom Penh. Cost was approximately £500 (GBP) per night for a double cabin. Passengers met for registration at the Intercontinental Asiana in Saigon. It was disappointing that Pandaw did not arrange for coffee to be available during what turned out to be a 2 hour wait for transport to the ship. Not a good first impression. That said, instead of the expected 2 hour bus ride to My Tho on the Mekong delta to meet the ship we had a 10 minute ride to Saigon Port and the bonus of an extra half day on the water as we proceeded down the Saigon River to the Mekong delta from there. This included a spectacular sunset. The ship itself is very beautiful and well maintained. There are 16 double cabins - and our cruise had 28 passengers. All were middle aged (or older) Europeans, Australians or Canadians. The atmosphere was friendly and enjoyable throughout with free seating at meals and all local beers and spirits included. Cabins are spacious and the bathrooms amazingly large and functional with an excellent shower. Without exception, the staff are wonderful. On the downside, the excursions and the food were slightly disappointing, especially given the price paid for what is classed as a "top of the range" cruise. The fact that the cruise took place during the lunar New Year (Tet) meant that the river was not its normal bustling self and the floating market had everything except any floating markets!! The excursions ashore were not particularly interesting (and not as advertised) - again maybe due to Tet - though it was always good to get off the ship and stretch ones legs for a couple of hours. The food was OK but nothing to write home about - interestingly we had much better on a 1 night cruise in Halong Bay (which cost half as much per night). We also thought it slightly mean that a "house wine" could not be provide for dinner. All-in-all a very enjoyable experience, though a little expensive for what it was. For us, 3 nights was certainly enough. Read Less
Sail Date February 2015
We did a land/river package with Avalon starting in Ho Chi Minh City and ending in Bangkok, with 7 days aboard the Avalon Angkor. We went northbound along the Mekong and Tonle Sap rivers, and then across Tonle Sap Lake -- from Ho Chi Minh ... Read More
We did a land/river package with Avalon starting in Ho Chi Minh City and ending in Bangkok, with 7 days aboard the Avalon Angkor. We went northbound along the Mekong and Tonle Sap rivers, and then across Tonle Sap Lake -- from Ho Chi Minh City to Siem Reap. Our cruise director was Mark, a New Zealander who clearly and dearly loves this part of the world. His lectures and choice of movies was spot on and riveting. He's read a lot of books about the region, as well as spends months at a time in the area, so was very informed about the geo-political situation and presented information in a non-judgy and very interesting way. We had separate local guides -- one for Vietnam, one for Cambodia and then a third in Cambodia who specialized in the Angkor temples we visited after disembarking the ship in Siem Reap. My husband loves large ocean liner cruising and this was our first river cruise. It is quite different than ocean cruising, but I picked this trip because I loved the sound of the itinerary. There are larger ships that claim to cruise the Mekong, but I liked the Angkor because it's small size saved us a long motorcoach ride. And, its small size did afford the opportunity to sidle up to banks, throw a rope out and tie to a tree. We stopped at amazing little villages along the way, both in Vietnam and Cambodia. We were exposed to locals and their crafts, including -- in Vietnam -- making rice paper, popped rice and noodles, coconut candy, snake wine and bricks, as well as visiting a local "fish farm" which was not at all what I expected. In Cambodia, we went to a village where silk weaving is a craft handed down through generations, and another where making intricate silver products with ancient designs is the local norm. Thus, the itinerary is very enriching as you do become immersed in local crafts, culture and traditions. Our guides were all spectacular and caring. You could tell that for each of them, it was important to share the culture and make us all fall a bit in love with the places we visited. The Mekong and Tonle Sap were surprising and lovely. The staff on the ship were amazing. Within a matter of hours, they knew everyone by name and for most of us, what drink we'd likely want after returning from an excursion. They met us with cold towels and warm smiles. No matter the need, they sought to satisfy it. We broke something on board and of course they had Super Glue for us. They even offered to do the repairs. During the day local beer and sodas and coffee flow free and wine is served with dinner. There are local spirits for purchase, but we were happy with the beer and iced coffee. The food was plentiful and usually very good. Breakfast was mostly Western options, lunch and dinner always included a Western choice but we tried to sample the local dishes. The fish and fruit were the best. Our cabin felt small but was adequate. We were on the top deck and had the bed configured as one bed and there were side tables with lamps on each side. There was a small desk in the corner by the door. There is no balcony and we tended to leave our shutters and drapes closed as other passengers would walk past our cabin to get to the front passenger deck. Each cabin has its own AC. The first cabin we were assigned to, the AC wasn't working properly. They do have spares on board but because the ship wasn't fully booked, we moved into a different cabin. The bathroom was surprisingly spacious, including a very large shower with plenty of hot water (though truthfully, it is so warm in this area of the world that most of the time, I just wanted a cold or luke warm shower). The water pressure was great. Bottles of water were plentifully supplied for cabin use as the water in the bathrooms was not potable or suitable for brushing teeth. My husband is a bit of a room snob so he felt we were barely above camping, but again, there's a big big difference between this ship and an ocean liner. The public areas were well equipped with chairs and always kept neat and tidy. The bar was accessible to all and we were also invited to use the air conditioned dining/movie room whenever we wanted. My husband and I are 51 and were the youngest in our group, but everyone on board were savvy travelers and in good condition. It was also wonderful to have a group that was respectful of group meeting times. Anyone wanting to be immersed in the culture and really see what life along the Mekong is like would enjoy this cruise. Those looking for lots of amenities may not be as psyched about it, but I absolutely loved it and thought the ship was really pretty and well maintained. By far the best part was the thoughtful planning and delightful guides and staff. Read Less
Sail Date October 2014
Before booking this kind of holiday please make sure it is for you. If it is what you want it is great, if not you could very well be disappointed. My husband and I cruised on La Marguerite 9-16 September 2014. Our first disappointment was ... Read More
Before booking this kind of holiday please make sure it is for you. If it is what you want it is great, if not you could very well be disappointed. My husband and I cruised on La Marguerite 9-16 September 2014. Our first disappointment was that we in our mid 50s were the youngest on board. On booking we had asked about ages and told it was mixed, but most were 70+. The ship is very nice, but not a lot of space to move about. Food was excellent but the lack of activity made it hard to enjoy it, as I never felt that hungry. All the staff were sweet and attentive - faultless in every way, and the boat was immaculately clean. The Vietnamese cruise director was incredible - Son - he could sell you anything - each day raising our hopes about the 'beautiful' things we were going to see, and though on each trip we were disappointed, we still believed him again next time. Without his lead there may well have been dissatisfied voices, but no-one wanted to upset him I think! the local guides who travelled with us had excellent English and tried hard, but they had little to show us. The real problem was the excursions. There really is nothing to see along the way, in Vietnam the river is wide and brown, the shore the same old farming land or village slums and rubbish, and most of the other boats you pass are large dredgers. In Cambodia it is slightly better, no dredgers. I didn't find anything beautiful to look out at. the sky is cloudy all the time, creating oppressive heat, then at some point each day there is a torrential down pour which can last hours. If you are on an excursion at the time, bad luck, put on a mac and get on with it. Mud everywhere! The daily excursions are to villages and to look at the homes of the people - so poor and full of rubbish - schools, markets (with some quite unpleasant sights) and temples, that are neither ancient or attractive. By the end of the week about half of the party had given up getting off the boat! If you want to see the real life of the local people, can face the dirt, smells and rubbish, and like sitting around chatting on the boat with free drinks and good food, and amateur evening entertainment - including poor copies of dvds - then this is for you. If you are expecting luxury, 5*, freedom to walk around on lovely excursions (during the briefing each night Son told us that the excursion would involve about 500 mtrs walking and 10 or so steps to climb - you get the idea - not meant for those with energy or no walking issues) then choose something else. As I said before - if this is what you are looking for you will love it. I felt we had been missold - or maybe I should have done more research before booking rather than relying on the travel agent and glossy brochure. Read Less
Sail Date September 2014
We went on the 12 day vietnam Cambodia tour including 7 nights river cruising. Started in Saigon at Sheraton, had a wonderful Luke Nguyen inspired degustation at Xu, absolutely faultless! Went to the Tunnels which was an eye opener, ... Read More
We went on the 12 day vietnam Cambodia tour including 7 nights river cruising. Started in Saigon at Sheraton, had a wonderful Luke Nguyen inspired degustation at Xu, absolutely faultless! Went to the Tunnels which was an eye opener, especially when one person at the tunnels told us he had lived in the tunnels for 12 years during the vietnam war...unbeleivable!!!!! Did an amazing cookery class in Saigon. Breakfast at Sheraton was brilliant, our guide in Saigon was great. After 2 days we got on the boat, which was in good condition, aparently only a couple of years old, I believe. The staff on the cruise were very good and tried to learn our names and what we liked to have, they tried hard to please. The food was okay, and the steak was excellent although sometimes a little rare. The salads became a bit boring and the menu was a bit limiting. The wine was often off or undrinkable, however each time we complained of this, which was often, they would replace with a slightly better wine that was not off. This was a bit tiresome and would have preferred that APT supply at least bottled wine of a better quality so often we purchased bottles wine. My husband complained, but it still kept happening. Vietnam and Cambodia was an eye opener, as to the amount of poverty, but the people seemed to be happy and clean. We were shocked by how the war had affected so many and cruising along you get to see the poverty which was very sad. The tour guides and cruise director had great sense of humour and spoke pretty good english. Some of the tours were too drawn out and could have been done in half the time, which often made it boring.i.e. In Siem Reap, we got up at 4.00 am to meet at 4.45 to go to Angkor Wat to take photos, which was a few minutes drive away, after getting tickets and after a short walk in, although the day was cloudy I still managed to get some nice shots. We then stood around doing nothing, and some wandered over to have a coffee or champagne and at 7.00 oclock , I was too bored by the waiting and went back to the hotel on a tuk tuk and advised the tour organiser of this. Whilst I was having breakfast I noticed several other people also did the same as me. The bus ride to Siem Reap was supposed to be 5 hrs, and we were told a few days before that they had been working on the bridge for the past couple of years and we could not go upstream any further and the trip could be perhaps 5.5 hrs. It was a very unconfortable 6.5 hrs, the road had been damaged by flooding some time previously and the road was extremely bumpy and dusty. We stopped twice for a toilet stop and were not given any lunch even though we started off at 8.00am but were told to purchase a snack at the WC stop, which consisted of chippies, biscuits etc. We got to the hotel and were told a club sandwhich with beer or softdrink had been organised but at our cost I thought this was not well handled by APT. A 6.5 hr bumpy dusty bus trip should have at least had a meal supplied by APT during the ride, especially when they had known the length of time it would take and what the road was like, as the floods had happened several months ago. .After the long and dusty bus ride some of our luggage was completely covered in dust and when at the hotel we put a back pack on the bed, which left a filthy brown mark, as it did on my clothes. The Sofitel in Siem Reap was very very nice in a beautiful setting. I had a cookery class, except they cancelled, even though there were 8 people wanting to do it and was booked in for a massage as a 2nd choice. APT later arranged a cooking class, at our cost, and we had to cancel the massage as it was at the same time, and could not make another time. The cooking class was nice and we had a lovely meal there. We were unable to get a return flight from Siem Reap and had to stay an extra night so we chose not to take the APT included flights and got a $500 rebate and purchased business class, although we cld not get a connecting flight from Singapore to home and also had to stay extra time there. We had been met at the airport in Saigon by APT, but we were only 1 couple out of 3 couples that were not given a delivery to the airport by APT as were leaving, but fortunately Sofitel,( as we chose to stay in a suite), kindly offered to take us there in their hotel car. Although we are avid small ship cruisers, and had not done any river cruising before, we have thought a lot about the trip since leaving and will probably try a river cruise in Europe at some stage, as we had met a lot of wonderful people on board Amalotus which made for an amazing time.   Read Less
Sail Date July 2014
My wife and I just returned from our Feb/Mar AMA Lotus cruise, south to north, a few weeks ago. My wife and I were very happy with this cruise. The “Con” remarks below are meant as constructive and hopefully would not lead anyone to ... Read More
My wife and I just returned from our Feb/Mar AMA Lotus cruise, south to north, a few weeks ago. My wife and I were very happy with this cruise. The “Con” remarks below are meant as constructive and hopefully would not lead anyone to think that they should not take this trip. This trip is a little different from AMA Waterways North to South tours. The main thing is that on the North to South version, you spend a night in Hanoi and the next day you are bused to Ha Long Bay for an overnight on a Junk. The next day, you are taken directly to the airport for a flight to Siem Reap. Your port of entry into Cambodia is via the Siem Reap Airport and you can do a Visa-On-Entry. On the South to North version, you cruise up the Mekong Delta and enter Cambodia via one of several river stops. You cannot do a Visa-On-Entry this way and must have a Visa Stamp in your Passport. I actually requested both of the required Visa’s directly from the Vietnam and Cambodia in Washington, D.C. You will save a hundred dollars or more this way and the applications can be found on their websites. It was very easy to do. Be sure to request a Multi-Entry for Vietnam. I’ve reviewed many restaurants in both Saigon and Hanoi on TripAdvisor (Semi-OldTraveler). There are some great places to eat in both cities. After our tour with AMA Waterways, we stayed on for several days in Hanoi. There we toured with Hanoi Eco Tours. Another very good group. They also can be found on TripAdvisor. A small note, AMA Waterway only gives you about 1 day each in Saigon and Hanoi. This is normal with most companies. It is not enough time to see these cities. So I would recommend that you plan on arriving a few days early and also stay a few days after to really get the most out of this tour. Pro: 1. AMA Waterways provided very good transport between airport/hotel and vise verse if you are arriving outside normally scheduled transfer periods, if you book it through them. In both Saigon and Hanoi, the airports are about a 55 – 60 minute drive either way and taxis’ needs to be researched before you get to Vietnam if you are planning on going that route. AMA charged us $60 each way for special transfer which is about what taxis’ will charge, so I’ve been told. Worth the money. 2. Hotel section in Saigon, Siem Reap, and Hanoi are all 4 – 5 Star properties. Siem Reap is to die for and most of our group would have liked to spend the balance of the trip there. 3. AMA Waterways only gives you a couple of hours at each of the temples in Siem Reap. As it turned out, this is more than enough time. 4. Rooms and other facilities on the AMA Lotus were all pretty good (except for the two front cabins which are next to the anchor chain locker.) No major complaints there as they warned us before dropping/raising the anchor. 5. Food in the hotels was what you would expect from these types of properties, i.e. very good. Food on the AMA Lotus was pretty good and you get a good International menu with each meal. 6. The cruise director and all of our guides were very good. On day one, you are broke up into smaller groups to accommodate the smaller buses and you will normally stay with that group throughout the tour. We heard a complaint about only one guide outside of our group. 7. AMA Waterways tries hard to make it easy during the many transfers on/off the boat, hotel check-ins, and border crossings. Con: 1. Being notified of a last minute change to the schedule (arrived with our final package/tickets days before departing) was not necessary as AMA knew about the changes for weeks prior. It could have presented a problem with Visa’s had we not been persistent in determining our Cambodia entry point. See #3. below. 2. The drink policy on-board the boat was not as AMA advertised including our Welcome Letter on the boat. Wine and beer are only free during lunch/dinner in the dining room (not in the lounge) and other liquor (whiskey, vodka, gin, and rum) are free only as long as you drink their local brand and don’t mix any other alcohol with it, i.e. no free martinis. When brought to the Hotel Manger’s attention on the boat he said that the letter was incorrect and would need to be changed. There website posted the same information. 3. There was too much confusion over the point of the Cambodian border crossing on the south to north bound trip prior to getting our Visa. The company that AMA recommended to process the paperwork for us assumed we were going into Cambodia via the Siem Reap Airport which was wrong. I and my TA got two different answers directly from AMA before getting the correct entry point. As a side point, it is very easy to apply for the Visa’s yourself (multi-entrance for Vietnam and single for Cambodia) and you will save a couple hundred in additional processing fees. 4. The Wi-Fi on the boat left much to be desired. There was absolutely nothing on the TV. They did have some old movie DVDs if you wanted them. It would have been nice if they would have maybe had some news feeds. We saw satellite and other TV antenna’s in most places we sailed so it should not have been a problem. 5. At the Wat Hanchey stop, many of us felt that we were scammed by the locals and AMA should have forewarned us. Ladies were selling packages of 10 children’s books in a clear wrapper for $5.00. If you buy them and distribute to the children standing around, the children take the books back to other women where they are rewrapped and sold again. Even the Buddhist priests were turning them back in for resale. 6. Final bill on the boat was provided in Vietnam Dong vice US currency. This resulted in another transaction/conversion fee by my credit card company. In all my years of traveling with US based cruise companies, the final bill has always been in US dollars. Two of the hotels, Saigon and Siem Reap quoted the final bill in both currencies and even the Junk in Ha Long Bay billed us in US dollars. 7. The tour director made a pretty big deal out of providing sandwiches for us at the Siem Reap Airport prior to our flight. They were horrible and we got a small meal on the airplane which would have been adequate. 8. On the flight between Siem Reap and Hanoi, some couples could not sit together (think rows different). There really didn’t appear to be any excuse for this as AMA knows far enough in advance of the flight to book your seats together. 9. This last one and I’m not sure it is AMA’s fault but ultimately, they are in charge. All one morning our guide had bad audio equipment to contend with. I belief that all of the land portions of the tour is subcontracted by AMA and the subcontractor provides the equipment. It was only the one morning and the guide was on the phone constantly trying to get better equipment (it was her transmitting unit). After 3 replacements, she finally was given a working unit after lunch.   Read Less
Sail Date February 2014
This cruise from near Ho Chi Minh City to Kampong Cham was part of the Viking Magnificent Mekong tour. By comparison with European cruise ships, Tonle Pandaw is a boutique experience. The cabins are well-designed and comfortable, with ... Read More
This cruise from near Ho Chi Minh City to Kampong Cham was part of the Viking Magnificent Mekong tour. By comparison with European cruise ships, Tonle Pandaw is a boutique experience. The cabins are well-designed and comfortable, with excellent storage. The dining room is a good size and the food overall was excellent. The sundeck is a delight, especially in the afternoons and evenings when a river breeze cools the passengers, and has its own bar and restroom. The downstairs meeting room is functional for movies and talks. The staircases are rather narrow and especially up to the sundeck are steep. The crew all provide excellent service. Internet access can be rather patchy unless close to the server in the Saloon Bar. I found the excursions interesting throughout but they can definitely be a culture shock for unwary Westerners. Only people with good mobility and health should attempt this cruise, unless they are happy to stay on board and not get to the sundeck, movies, talks and excursions. Getting off the boat can be a struggle at times due to steep banks and lack of formal staircases. The company – a mix of Americans, British, Canadians and us two Aussies – was very amiable. Tummy bugs were rife and our Tour Director kept telling us to avoid the salad and ice – just eat hot, cooked food and drink bottled water. This cruise was part of a longer tour that began in Ho Chi Minh City and ended in Hanoi. Best part was actually Angkor and the temples. We did an extension to beautiful Ha Long Bay. I loved Hanoi too, a mix of French and Vietnamese. Read Less
Sail Date January 2014
If you re interested in a combination land cruise in Vietnam and Cambodia along with Halong Bay Junk cruise and 7 day river cruise on MeKong,this was a great option. Hanoi is starting point and all hotels were 5 star here and in Seim Reip ... Read More
If you re interested in a combination land cruise in Vietnam and Cambodia along with Halong Bay Junk cruise and 7 day river cruise on MeKong,this was a great option. Hanoi is starting point and all hotels were 5 star here and in Seim Reip and HoChiMinh city.Bus used in each town very nice with great tour guides,drivers,etc. Halong Bay junk was only mediocre with small cabin,poor lighting,and so so food The cool,cloudy weather didnt help,but still glad we went and area was beautiful. Flight to Seim Reip short and Cambodia visa could be taken care of before hand with cruise manager($20 ea.plus passport photo).We did get our own Vietnam visa ahead of time. Tours to Anghor Wat and other temples can be a challange to those not in good physical condition,,very hot,lots of climbing,uneven ground and loads of tourists.Wonderful to see and explore but was tired after am tours and took pm tours off to rest by pool.Do take tuk tuk to town and explore.We ate in 2 good restaurants recommended by our guides(do ask). Loved visiting the small towns along river banks and seeing the friendly kids and kind adults who tolerated us wandering thru their villages.Do bring some small gifts for kids(not money). We took small boats to floating villages,toured market areas,visited pagodas,monastery.Most days had both am and pm tours,so you are kept very busy. Amalotus is a great ship,fantastic crew,nice rooms,good food.We parked next to the Pandaw(Viking ship) and ours was much newer with outside balconies.I wish they had screens on balcony door to keep open at nite(but unable to now due to bugs coming in). The ship had 4 major groups onboard and they tended to stick together for both tours and dinner.This can be a little difficult if your group isn t cohesive.It was difficult to mingle since others spoke different languages(with different guides and sometimes different meeting places for lectures,etc).This was very different from other river cruises I ve been on.For me,a little to structured. HoChiMInh city and Pnem Penh were both great to visit and very crowded too.Hard to wander around due to traffic,especially the motorbikes.We took taxis or tuk tuks. I would recommend AMA for Vietnam and Cambodia,but do a lot of online research,look at videos,read reviews,etc.This would not be my choice for first cruise,appeals more to the well traveled cruiser not overwhelmed with visitng a 3rd world country. Read Less
Sail Date December 2012
Now we have experienced an Orion Expedition, we won't be going back to a large cruise line! The Orion II reminded me of a grand, old lady -- elegant, stylish, but still warm and inviting. The cabins were luxurious and exceptionally ... Read More
Now we have experienced an Orion Expedition, we won't be going back to a large cruise line! The Orion II reminded me of a grand, old lady -- elegant, stylish, but still warm and inviting. The cabins were luxurious and exceptionally comfortable. The availability of a connecting cabin was much appreciated especially travelling as a family with teenage children. The restaurant was cheerfully chic, and the food simply amazing every single day; second to none. We certainly made use of the gym (to run off those calories consumed -- the desserts were superb!) and various family members enjoyed the offerings of the ship's boutique and gift shop, and the pampering room for a facial and a massage. Yoga sessions run by Ewa, the ship's resident yoga instructor, were a wonderful way to start the day if one was up early. The Ship's management and engineering crew were professional and proficient in their duties, but added to the convivial atmosphere in all interactions with passengers; we were in expert care. Housekeeping, Galley, Restaurant and Bar staff were warm, welcoming, caring and incredibly efficient. Our head Chef always put in a personal appearance at dinner time and usually had an anecdote or two from his experiences at the local markets in obtaining our very enjoyable dishes. The crew member heading up the entertainment amazed us with his versatility and broad repertoire on the piano, in song and trivia. Despite children being relatively uncommon passengers on the Orion II, with the usual passenger range somewhere between 35-75 years, every member of the crew made my children feel welcome. With accommodation for around 100 guests this smaller expedition ship was able to visit places not accessible to larger cruise ships, which only added to the sense of adventure and exploration. Zodiac excursions were a highlight ensuring 'up close and personal' interactions with places of interest and wildlife. The Expedition team were experienced professionals with a huge wealth of travel, photography, flora and wildlife experience between them. Expedition team members were resourceful and flexible in adapting day activity plans around weather conditions when necessary, exceeding the options on the original travel itinerary. The guest lecturer and photographer, Nick Rains, was extremely generous in his time and expertise. We also had the pleasure and hidden gem of Sue Flood, a world renown photographer and wildlife film-maker, who captivated audiences with her lectures and behind the scenes in the making of some of the BBC greats Planet Earth and The Blue Planet. It was our first visit to Vietnam, and our first cruise with the Orion Expeditions. We look forward to exploring more destinations around Australia and New Zealand coast and beyond, with our first choice being Orion Expeditions, which offers value for money considering the exceptional experiences.   Read Less
Sail Date April 2012

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