We sought the opportunity to explore Myanmar before the western world changes it forever. APT's Irrawaddy cruise on RV Samatha looked like a great option to achieve the objective. Apart from three detracting matters (two of which ... Read More
We sought the opportunity to explore Myanmar before the western world changes it forever. APT's Irrawaddy cruise on RV Samatha looked like a great option to achieve the objective. Apart from three detracting matters (two of which coincidentally took place after the review questionnaires had been submitted!), this cruise would have been rated "excellent". Service delivered by crew (particularly Zin Mar, Lynn, Than, Myo, Bo, Muppet and Thet Thet) was exceptional. Cruise Director (San) and his guide (Clement) provided great information and entertainment. Cleanliness throughout the vessel was exceptional, and food and beverage quality and range could not be questioned. All of these aspects exceeded any expectation we had - brilliant.
But, the three detracting features were considerable. Firstly, the ship crew (responsible for daily sun deck preparation) would do so between 5:30 and 6am daily. This entailed significantly heavy walking above the main cabin deck, banging of deck rails removing insects from overnight, wiping down and dragging deck furniture across the deck. When raised with the Hotel Manager, we were told that the matter would be addressed with the ship crew - but nothing changed. Very annoying.
Secondly, through the final full day when docked in Yangon, the Engineer took a decision to address some water filter matters. This resulted in showering water (taken directly from the somewhat dirty Irrawaddy river) remaining very dirty for approximately eight hours - including the period through which preparation for final night celebrations were required. We'd been told the shower water was taken directly from the river, but sufficiently filtered for safety. The water we were delivered on this day could only, in our opinion, represent a considerable health risk. This wasn't good enough.
Finally, our personal itinerary from APT stated we'd be transferred on disembarkation day to the Sule Shangri La hotel, and subsequently to the airport, given our onward flight was not until 5:30pm. When disembarkation arrangements were made on RV Samatha, the process changed to us not being transferred to the hotel, but rather advised we could stay in the Samatha lounge until our 2pm transfer directly to the hotel (we were two of eight people affected by this). Whilst this wasn't our preferred option, we nonetheless accepted it. However, it seems the next cruise (back to Mandalay) had been booked by a private tour group, and the organiser of that group appeared to take complete control of the vessel from around 11:30am. This person didn't want our remaining group to be visible to oncoming passengers. We were "banished" to the restaurant area first, and then into the private dining area in order that we were out of the way, and not visible. It felt a little like house arrest. Only when our transfer arrived were we "allowed" to leave the enclosed private dining area for disembarkation. It should be added that it's entirely understandable the private tour group sought this level of isolation - but extremely disappointing that APT effectively created this situation by not transferring us to the hotel in the first instance.
We'd gladly recommend APT's Myanmar experience - but now being aware of these three detracting matters we'd certainly explore alternative providers if the opportunity arose again. Read Less