This cruise was exceptional. This cruise line thought of everything, our guides were well informed and kept a caring eye on their daily wards. We discovered pottery villages, lacquer basket making, hand woven silk textile mill... the ... Read More
This cruise was exceptional. This cruise line thought of everything, our guides were well informed and kept a caring eye on their daily wards. We discovered pottery villages, lacquer basket making, hand woven silk textile mill... the fabrics were exquisite, many beautiful pagodas and Buddha's. There nothing quite as serene as exploring the river, and watching the sun set on an ancient sacred teak bridge while sipping champagne.
I so enjoyed the people who crossed our path. Very interested and pleasant, obliging in photo shots and quick smiles. I can say the people of Myanmar were the highlight of my trip.
The ship was very clean and tidy and the crew most eager to make your stay comfortable.
The food was 5 star, the chef's outdid themselves and service excellent.
You do need good legs, as stairs were used to get everywhere. Getting off for the excursion required climbing up river banks so work those calve muscles before leaving home.
Evening were spent in the lounge with movies, cards, karaoke and documentaries that were most informative and gave us a clearer insight into Myanmar and its people. Read Less
If you think you've seen it all on your many travels around the world, you clearly haven't experienced the luxury, professionalism, high-end service and tourist savvyness of Amawaterways' AmaPura river cruise along ... Read More
If you think you've seen it all on your many travels around the world, you clearly haven't experienced the luxury, professionalism, high-end service and tourist savvyness of Amawaterways' AmaPura river cruise along Myanmar's sleepy Irawaddy. Just like our seasoned fellow travellers, including geography professors, we were profoundly impressed by the unique combination of must-see tourist sites, such as Yangon's Shwedagon Pagoda or Mandalay, and visits to forlorn villages visibly frozen in time along the river banks. It was this carefully selected juxtapposition of visits to tourism hotspots on one day and strolls through breathtaking colonial villages or fishing hamlets along the river on the next day, which made this trip so unique.
Amawaterways clearly knows about the unparalled advantage it can offer its passengers compared to land travellers: it can anchor anywhere along the river banks, quickly hew a few steps into the pristine slope, and within no less than 20 minutes passengers young and old can disembark to riverbank places no backpacker can reach for lack of land infrastructure. Add to this charming suite-size rooms with great bed and shower, an attentive and tirelessly friendly crew, and, most of all, unparalleled, de-luxe gourmet meals three times a day, plus in between, and you will not want to ever leave this small boutique cruise ship, which soon feels like your own private home.
Chapeau, Amawaterways, you teach widely travelled folks like me that there are still adventures out there definitely worth discovering. And you make responsible and wise use of ever dollar you charge. Read Less
This cruise was the first of the season. Although it was still during the monsoon season, we were lucky in that we only had a half hour delay on one land tour because of rain. It was however very hot and humid throughout the cruise. The ... Read More
This cruise was the first of the season. Although it was still during the monsoon season, we were lucky in that we only had a half hour delay on one land tour because of rain. It was however very hot and humid throughout the cruise. The service and the food was beyond exceptional. I have never had better service or food especially on a river boat. The capacity was 56 passengers, but because this was the first of the season, we only had 9 passengers with 32 crew members. All passengers were solo travelers, and some of the single supplements were waived.
The country is still quite unspoiled, and the people were very friendly. They really need tourism in the country. It's only been since about 2012 that tourism has started to take off. We only saw one other international level river boat during the entire cruise. What you will see is many many pagodas. However the highlight for me was when we visited a local school in the village of Pha Hto. The children had very little, but when the passengers distributed school supplies to them, they were very happy.
There were two issues, one major and one not so much. The major issue for me was that I found out when I tried to fly from Kunming to Mandalay that my visa was not valid. Myanmar has a policy of electronic visas. Unfortunately the on-line company that I chose was a fraud. Their website was meant to look official, but it was not. I was delayed in China for two days while applying for a new visa. During that time, the AMA Waterways staff in Mandalay failed to answer the emergency contact numbers. I was left on my own, but eventually I was able to connect with the cruise at a location I found on my own by reviewing the detailed itinerary. The second issue was the evening before we were to visit Mount Popa, one of the tour highlights in Bagan, we were told that there would be an extremely large gathering of 80,000 pilgrims. We were not going to be allowed to visit. The following day was a bust, as almost the entire itinerary was cancelled. Because of river conditions the boat ties up every night. When traveling downstream from Mandalay to Pyay, I suggest booking odd numbered cabins. Most nights the odd numbered cabins face towards the river. There is some river traffic at night, but it is less noisy than the local riverbank intrusions and the views are worth it. I encourage everyone to visit this country soon, before the country changes too much. Read Less
We traveled on the AMAPura’s 14-day itinerary in January 2016, from Yangon to Mandalay. We included an AMA transfer from Mandalay back to Yangon at the end of the cruise and then continued on a private tour to Viet Nam. We arrived three ... Read More
We traveled on the AMAPura’s 14-day itinerary in January 2016, from Yangon to Mandalay. We included an AMA transfer from Mandalay back to Yangon at the end of the cruise and then continued on a private tour to Viet Nam. We arrived three days in advance of our AMAPura cruise start date. We engaged “Tour Mandalay” for two days of private guide and driver services in Yangon.
This particular cruise itinerary starts with one excursion per day and shifts to two excursions per day or all-day excursions as you move towards Mandalay. Some guests indicated the schedule was too slow at the beginning. An alternative is to start from Mandalay and cruise to Yangon. This would have resulted in enjoying the less active days at the end of the river cruise. Though I understand that due to moving with the river current, the southern cruise from Mandalay to Yangon includes one additional excursion.
An another cruise alternative is to select the 10-day itinerary. The disadvantage of this cruise itinerary is that it requires a six-hour bus trip between Yangon and Pyay. We were fine with the 14-day program.
Travelers should recognize that Myanmar river touring has only recently opened up. Accordingly, some excursion stops on the AMAPura cruise, prior to Bagan, were more focused on seeing local life than spectacular cultural or historical locations. The walking pace of all the excursions was generally slow. There was no distinction between groups for more active versus slower walkers. In addition, there is little accessibility accommodation in Myanmar for those visitors with significant walking limitations or difficulty dealing with stairs. There were no handrails for stairs at many excursion stops. In temple and pagoda visits, shoes must be removed. In many cases, visitors must also remove their socks. Generally, we found the temple and pagoda tiles and floors to be very dusty and it was better to simply avoid wearing socks. Feet wipes were provided by AMA staff after each stop that shoes were removed.
The AMAPura staff – hotel, housekeeping, ship crew - were all very friendly and extremely service oriented. It was nice to be welcomed back by the captain and crew members after each excursion. The food was what I would characterize as hotel quality food – tasty local fruits and vegetables, some Asian dishes and Western selections. Breakfasts and lunches were buffet oriented but also offered some personalized offerings. Complimentary wine and beer were provided during lunch and dinner.
The cruise manager and assistant cruise manager were very good at providing information before each excursion and during the excursions. At some meals, the assistant cruise manager joined a guest table for dining. We particularly enjoyed the personal stories and experiences shared by cruise managers with the passengers.
Our cabin (third level) was nicely furnished. The balcony was convenient, but we rarely used it. We could occasionally hear some noises from the fourth level public areas, such as furniture movement or heavy footed walkers. Generally, this noise wasn’t much of an issue for us. One cabin discovery was that there were no air filters integrated into the individual cabin HVAC system. Some guests with CPAP machines mentioned that their CPAP filters were heavily soiled with 2-3 days.
On-board laundry was available, but our travel clothes wash/dry easily and we tended to do more hand-wash. We strung our portable clothes line with suction cups in our bathroom. I used the one exercise bicycle a few days during the cruise.
In regards to January insect life, we did experience a few mosquitoes in Yangon. We took anti-malarial pills but some guests decided to forego the pills. The weather was often very cool in the early mornings and moderately warm during the day. We didn’t experience high humidity or any rain during the day.
During January, the daily air quality along the Ayeyarwaddy was generally smoke and dust-laden. Including eye drops and cough drops on your packing list is recommended as well as antihistamine drops for itchy eyes. A dust mask may be helpful. Some guests developed respiratory issues during the cruise. A friend traveling with my wife and I developed pneumonia about half way through the cruise. Experiencing difficulty breathing and fever, she was transferred by ambulance from the AMAPura and admitted into a Mandalay Hospital.
As I understand it, this was the first actual medical evacuation in two years of AMAPura operation. The AMAPura cruise manager and hotel staff were extremely attentive and supportive during this incident. The cruise manager and my wife were at the hospital until 1am on the day of patient admission. As my wife and I worked on preparing medical evacuation insurance documentation and visiting the hospital, AMAPura staff were very helpful at arranging transportation (understandably, at our expense) and ensuring we had translation support. We were also extremely lucky that an AMA-related consultant was on-board during the cruise. He provided us Internet access from his laptop (using non-ship Internet connectivity) to reschedule our travel from Mandalay so that we had more time to ensure there was movement on evacuating our friend back to the US.
Third-world hospital conditions are very dissimilar to what one might expect from most US hospitals. The bed in the initial admitting room had a very primitive appearance. Once admitted to a private room, we were informed that you needed to pay in advance, bring your own food and water and hire a private nurse assistant. The bathing equipment was essentially a plastic tub with a ladle. After entering the private room bathroom, I saw what looked like a cockroach scuttling across the floor. Our fellow passengers expressed their concerns and a physician passenger was very helpful in providing guidance and sharing personal supplies he had brought on board (e.g., food snacks, fly swatter). As the Myanmar hospital did not accept credit cards, many passengers offered to loan dollars or Kyat to cover unanticipated hospital expenses (very much appreciated but we were able to deal with the cash requirement). AMAPura also shared ship supplies such as water bottles, toilet paper and tissues.
When attempting to press the hospital physicians to complete the insurance paperwork, we were asked to email the forms to a hospital physician. I did this at 9am after the evening admission and was told to return at 4pm to pick-up the updated forms. My plan was work with AMAPura staff to scan the documents and email them to the US insurance carrier. When we returned at 4pm, we were told the hospital did not have Internet access. Luckily, the English speaking taxi driver (arranged by AMAPura and who accompanied us to the hospital room) brought me to a Mandalay copy shop where I could print out the forms and return to the hospital. This paperwork fiasco set us back one day in respect to updating insurance forms. Once the forms were updated, on-board AMAPura hotel staff assisted me in electronically transmitting the documents via personal cell phone hot spot Internet connectivity.
There are a number of lessons that we learned from this event. I will offer a few suggestions that are more related to third-world travel rather than purely comments on the AMAPura. These suggestions include:
• Bring a printed copy of ALL your insurance claim forms and instructions with you on your cruise.
• Start contact with your travel insurance as soon as emergency medical assistance is requested. We waited until the following day and, in the best case, would have placed us several hours behind on submitting any paperwork. Read the paperwork instructions carefully – it may be that just the assignment of benefits authorization will start the insurance process
• Confirm that you have medical evacuation insurance to your residence area and not just to a local hospital.
• Bring an unlocked GSM phone with you and purchase a local SIM for its use. A Myanmar SIM is very inexpensive and, given poor ship Internet connectivity, it may be critical to arranging assistance. I suggest purchasing additional SIM top-up cards (10,000 Kyat) to ensure enough cellular phone, messaging and Internet time is available.
• Despite the marketing material of travel evacuation insurers, there may NOT be any local/regional emergency personal to accompany a solo traveler back to the US. In this incident, it took several days for the insurer to arrange a nurse to travel from the US to Mandalay to accompany our friend back to the US. Be prepared to deal with this type of delay.
• When dealing with the travel insurer for emergency services, ask that a case manager be assigned to the claim. Othewise, each telephone call will be handled by a call center staff member.
• A local physician may be unwilling to discharge a patient from the hospital to fly home. This may not necessarily rule out discharging the patient to a local western-oriented hotel while an anti-biotic regimen completes and/or evacuation assistance arrives.
• Bring two different ATM cards for withdrawing local currency. I suggest two cards as our friend’s one ATM card was not accepted by multiple machines despite assurances from the US card issuer. We needed to use our ATM card to withdraw sufficient Kyat for the hospital. A short Myanmar hospital stay could easily run about 500,000 to 1,000,000 Kyat ($400-$800USD).
Overall, we enjoyed our AMAPura cruise and would recommend it to others. AMAPura staff provided great on-board services and help during our emergency. The cruise also reminded us that a little advance planning for emergency situations goes a long way. Read Less
Jan 2016 Having just returned from our AMAPURA cruise and our third trip to Myanmar. I have some suggestions for future passengers: Bring warm clothing..early morning or evenings are cool (55 degrees F).For the few of us on deck for ... Read More
Jan 2016 Having just returned from our AMAPURA cruise and our third trip to Myanmar. I have some suggestions for future passengers: Bring warm clothing..early morning or evenings are cool (55 degrees F).For the few of us on deck for sunrise each morning at 6:30AM; wool caps; warm jacket;maybe even gloves. Consider you will need a jacket on plane also. Light weight long sleeve shirts for day use.
Insects few but present at dock in Yangon & Mandalay. Insect repellant needed there. Flashlight since some tours get back at night..and crew is there to help get down riverbank steps dug in sand. In Yangon pre trip watch out for uneven sidewalks with holes. Moldskin to cover delicate feet for shoes/socks off temple visits. I found this very helpful and replaced it prior to each shoes off tour. They provide feet wipes at each temple visit. Some used sandals issue then is dirty dusty streets I use walking shoes with high socks felt more protected but more time to geton/off; took a small shoe horn which was very helpful.
You are watched/helped all the way with crew members on each tour with the cruise director or assistant CD leading. Cold water bottles with bottle holder given out before each tour. Hand use of liquid disinfective prior to entering dining room and dispensed by crew after returning to ship. However a lot of passengers developed significant coughs therefore bring Rx Levofloxacin; Rx cough liquid at night to sleep; Mucinex without DM time release for daytime use to thin out mucous; Afrin to clear ears before plane. Tissues on board ship.
Take bottles of hand santizers and use after each time touching local currency. We used ships very good laundry back in 24 hours.You will not have any internet while onboard, occasional CNN or BBC. Sim cards $5 US dollars so some got internet with their cell phones. Get 1,000 Kyat notes(73 cents) at airport...to use for tips..I got $100 USD worth...left over Kyat used for ships crew tips; money is old/used and dirty but needed for tips to bus driver; tuk tuk; horse cart 1000 Kyat each person for full day and 1/2 for half day tour...Kyat used in small villages for tourist items and in Yangon/Mandalay/Bagan US dollars used for tourist items.
We bought sand paintings $20 each on previous trip..best selection in Bagan. Eyeglasses in Yangon done in 2 hours. Gold leaf art in Mandalay (on ship tour). Silk/cotton scarfs (on ship tour). Bagan: We did a balloon sunrise last time on a land tour and this time hired a guide/$100 US and driver $40 US arranged by ship..sunrise at a temple shoes & socks off; take a towel to put under feet stone while standing before sunrise is very cold before sunrise and wear your winter coats/hats/gloves. We did sunset at a hill (shoes on) no crowds. Came back for breakfast and lunch. Had an amazing day exploring pagodas without any other tourists. Amazing trip..and after going you will see why we went back to this magical land.
Cabin was great with A/C controls; shower modern with hot water after some wait, food was excellent and I put on 12 pounds over 14 days; crew was very helpful and always smiling and knew what drinks you like by the second day. Transfers were smooth. And each day you have a choice of tours at different activity levels. Walking sticks were helpful to some. Read Less
After three flights from Calgary, Alberta to Yangon, Myanmar met at the Yangon Airport by Mojo (Cruise Director Assistant). Asked Mojo about exchanging US dollars to chat and asked Mojo about an approximate amount, he suggested exchanging ... Read More
After three flights from Calgary, Alberta to Yangon, Myanmar met at the Yangon Airport by Mojo (Cruise Director Assistant). Asked Mojo about exchanging US dollars to chat and asked Mojo about an approximate amount, he suggested exchanging $300 US. Received 2 bundles, one of $5000.'s and one of $1000's. These funds lasted through the whole 14 days. Used chat to pay tips on board and $.50 per passenger for 1/2 day, $1 for full day, yes that is for the driver and his assistant total/together.
Transfer with AMA Waterways to hotel Shang-ri-la. Offered an upgrade, which was an upgrade from floor 12 to floor 22. Great views and less noise. Room was excellent (for me), but did not upgrade on return to Yangon. Brunch (breakfast) is included in room cost, buffet for lunch $22.US and Buffet for supper was $27 US (approx.) I found as a single service was poor. Waited 20 minutes for someone to ask if I would like coffee/tea, and another 15 minutes for it to arrive even when DR was quiet.
Discussion (as a tour is referred) day after arrival with a trip to a local market. Walking distance back to hotel, 2 blocks. After two nights we boarded two busses to start our adventure. Three stops along the way (for toilet, drinks at our cost) I believe this trip was 6.5 hours.
Arrival at Pyay brought smiles to many faces. The ship looked great and the crew were ready to assist each of us going down the hill to the ship. We all needed assistance, steps are different heights, and steep at embarkation and disembarkation. The crew would be out making steps in the sand for us to climb.
We did celebrate US Thanksgiving. Turkey was served the one thing missing was mashed potatoes (baked potatoe served), gravy and stuffing. We never left the DR hungry, if you did it was your choice. Four salads, great bread, sweet breads, condiments, WONDERFUL desserts (including 3 kinds of ice cream + toppings), fruit, cheese. Steak, chicken and one other item were served at request if you do not want the Chefs suggestions.
Wonderful entertainment. Beautiful costumes. Our last night onboard with the crew entertainment was the best. The talent was exceptional, Crew showed another side that surprised many. Smith (DR) is a very quiet man, but with a mike in his hand, well he surprised us all.
Disembarkation had us flying from Mandaly to Yangon. Luggage was placed in the hallway for 6:30-7:00, Breakfast served from 7:00-8:00, and we left the ship at 8:00. Flew by prop plane, which was excellent (and I hate to fly) and the flight was EARLY.
We were taken back to the Shang-ri-la Hotel, after two tours. We had a small wait for rooms to be ready and Mojo reminded each of us our wake up call times and transfers.
We were welcomed by a great group of people. This was a ship that gave a feeling of welcome to your home, and that was felt by many in the group. We did have a bug going through the ship and we think nine passengers became ill. Total number of passengers-29, with 2 couples and 1 single canceled.
Country is poor and squat toilets are the norm, with the occasional American toilet. Yes on the ship toilet paper is put into the garbage, not in the toilet.
We had a group of gals follow us on motor bikes to different stops to sell us items. They would not take our money without us making a purchase.
Go with an open mind, this country is changing, but our expectations are different from theirs. Enjoy the smiles, hearing the children laughing, sliding down the sand embankments towards the water and the docking ship, Adults are washing and doing laundry as the ship is docking. Some move sooner then others. Enjoy.
NowRose Read Less
What a fantastic trip! We started in Bangkok ( the hotel could have been next to river) and it was a very long busy day touring. We had toured Bangkok previously so this for us was a repeat.
We flew to Yangon, just a few days after ... Read More
What a fantastic trip! We started in Bangkok ( the hotel could have been next to river) and it was a very long busy day touring. We had toured Bangkok previously so this for us was a repeat.
We flew to Yangon, just a few days after the historic election of "The Lady". A number of the cruises had been cancelled in advance of the election, possibly because there was anticipated problems with the military and the people who support "The Lady". All was calm and we met our tour guides Terry & Duli at the airport who took us to the Sule Shangi-la Hotel, of 5 star class. Perfect location downtown across fromt he Scot Market. Traffic makes it a long trip timewise to the airport, but a very interesting one seeing the people about their daily activities. A tour of the city and then on the 13th off to Mandalay to board our ship.
Our cabin on board was 301 and was very comfortable. The crew and staff are friendly, helpful and very courteous. The food every day was well prepared and presented and very tasty. It was a mixture of choices of Burmese foods and western traditionals. The service was better than I have seen at the best of resorts. The entertainment by the ship's staff was wonderful, and the ship being only 56 passengers (only 37 on our cruise) allowed the making of new friends.
My husband and I were celebrating our 50th Wedding Anniversary and as a surprise to me, he planned a Reaffirmation Ceremony. With the help of our travel agent, all was kept a secret from me but with spectacular outcome. There were 50 longstemmed red roses, there was champagne, the Captain and crew in dress whites on the upper rear deck, rose petals sprinkled along the "aisle", a wedding song in Burmese accompanied by classical guitar softly strummed by one of the dining room staff, and the ceremony completed in English by Eric the Cruise Manager, for the Captain. All of this planned by my husband and completed by the staff of AMA Waterways. I cannot praise them enough for a wonderful celebration.
The CRUISE AND THE PEOPLE
Do not wait too long to visit the wonderful country of Burma. Once the western world influences begin to migrate, things may change.
AMA Waterways provided the most interesting tours to the villages of wonderful friendly people where all of the handicrafts are made by hand. The people are happy, well fed, polite, friendly, industrious and deeply religious. The landscape is dotted with stupas and temples everywhere. Do not miss Inle Lake. It is magical and a very different way of life.
Each time we returned to Yangon to the Sule Shangri-La (3 in all), the staff greeted us and when we flew to Inle Lake they allowed us to store excess bags until our return.
When our tour finished at Paya, it was a long bus ride to Yangon. Hopefully this will be corrected and the boat will sail closer to the city by the next season.
I would encourage everyone to see Burma soon. The country and the people are wonderful. We never felt unsafe or threatened. The local "sales fleas" were minimal. The handmade goods are excellent, lacquerware, lotus and silk weavings, pottery, everything is made by hand and the "factories" are family involved and run homes. You are touring their homes when you see the items they are hand making. Wonderful experience.
I cannot say enough wonderful things about the AMA Pura boat, and cruise staff. Eric, the Cruise Manager,and the staff of AMA Pura hotel, Terry & Duli the tour guides, the Captain of the AMA Pura and crew, provided our group of 12 the most wonderful memorable holiday. Read Less
As a new destination it was difficult to research Myanmar in advance, but we were very pleased with our trip.
The Burmese language is very difficult so this cruise is ideal. You get to see a variety of areas and have the benefit of ... Read More
As a new destination it was difficult to research Myanmar in advance, but we were very pleased with our trip.
The Burmese language is very difficult so this cruise is ideal. You get to see a variety of areas and have the benefit of your cruise mangers to navigate the language barrier for you. I would strongly encourage attendance at the daily cruise directors talk...you are offered a lot of information to assist your understanding of the country and details on dress and other requirements for the next day touring.
It was very warm and humid during our visit (94-96F) so I would strongly recommend sun screen, a hat and quick dry clothes. We did use the ship's laundry once and found it to be reasonably priced and a quick turn around.
When visiting some sites, covered knees and shoulders are required and it is much easier for everyone, if you dress appropriately when departing the ship. We did have a few men who purchases longi's and wore them as required and a few ladies who carried scarves, but it does slow down the process as everyone "dresses" appropriately. Our cruise directors advised us the day before of dress requirements - so it was easy to be prepared.
As has been stated by other reviewers, bring shoes that are easily removed, you have a lot of "shoes off" visits. The cruise staff provided us with wipes to clean our feet at each stop.
Plan to use one pair of shoes for your "off ship" touring and leave them in the assigned room basket as you return to the ship. It cuts down greatly on sand being spread throughout the ship. Guests are provided with a pair of sandals when you first board....be considerate of the staff and other guests and use them or wear a pair you bring, but definitely have a designated pair of "touring" shoes.
The ship staff were outstanding and will do their best to meet your needs/special requests. The food and wine were great and our room was very nice and clean. We only used our balcony twice, the sun was intense. The upstairs deck lounge was shaded and very inviting.
The only negative we encountered was the hallways could be VERY noisy based on guest behaviour. Please be considerate of other guests and complete your good night conversations BEFORE you open the hallway door..everyone is aware of your hallway discussions.
We did the post tour of Inle Lake which was fabulous and I would strongly recommend the post tour. It was very different from everything we saw during our 10 day cruise. There was even an onsite ATM (outside and to the left down a hallway as you leave the hotel entrance) so having local currency was not an issue. We did find a number of places we visited also took Visa which was a surprise, so bring your card when touring.
Myanmar was a fabulous adventure, particularly as it only just opening to tourism. However, as other reviewers have noted, you need to be able bodied to enjoy all it offers. There are lots of steps and uneven surfaces and the heat and humidity can be taxing. Read Less
I wasn't quite sure what to expect as Myanmar is a newer destination for tourists, a poor country and we were there just a few weeks before their election. The people are extremely friendly and welcoming and we felt very safe. We ... Read More
I wasn't quite sure what to expect as Myanmar is a newer destination for tourists, a poor country and we were there just a few weeks before their election. The people are extremely friendly and welcoming and we felt very safe. We were met by our AMAWaterways Cruise Manager at the airport and transferred to the lovely and good location Shangri-La Hotel in Yangon for 2 night stay. We had a 6 hr drive to Pyay to board the AmaPura. This was a long drive, however we saw the country side and our guides provided general information about Myanmar along the way.
The ship was very clean and comfortable and the boarding process was very quick and smooth. The Sun Deck had plenty of loungers, plus a covered area from the sun. The lounge offered lots of seating for everyone. Here is where we had the cruise manager talks, pre dinner cocktails and twice local entertainers came onboard. In the evenings a piano player provided entertainment. The onboard spa offered a variety of massages at a very reasonable rate. The crew onboard seem to always have a smile, they are attentive and wanting to do whatever they can to make our trip enjoyable.
Breakfast was buffet style with an Asian offering along with a variety of pastries, fruit, eggs, etc. Lunch was buffet with a variety of salads, cheese, hot items, Asian dishes plus additional hot items from a menu. Wine and beer is complimentary with lunch and dinner. Dinner is plated from a menu. The first couple nights with dinner was on the rough side, however day 3 onward was very good.
Included shore excursions generally were not too long and we did see a lot of pagoda's and temples -- the tours were easy to handle however you should be able bodied to do this tour. There are steps, uneven ground, hot and humid plus you will be taking your shoes off quite a bit to enter temples and other sites. The great thing is the crew are there to provide you wet wipes to clean your feet before you put your shoes back on. A few special tours to view the amazing sun sets by sampan and going up on a temple in Bagan, and visits to a local school.
Inle Lake is an optional post tour that shouldn't be missed. The hotel used is the Novotel and what a treat to stay on the lake in your own spacious villa. Two pretty full days of touring on the lake with visits to many of the villages to see how life is via small boat. Visits to a silversmith, blacksmith, temples, weaving shops, the village where the Long Neck ladies live and their story plus some very good restaurants. One special surprise was their annual religious festival was taking place while we were there and we got up very early to get into our small boats and sail to where the long boat procession was -- great experience to see this.
This is a destination to visit sooner than later.
The overall experience, sites visited, and exception service from the crew and cruise managers onboard AmaPura sure made it worry free and a trip of a life time! Read Less
I have just returned from a 10 day cruise on the Ayeyarwaddy River in Myanmar on the Amapura and cannot wait to go back. Because of the extremely low river we could not board the ship at the usual spot so there was a one hour bus ride ... Read More
I have just returned from a 10 day cruise on the Ayeyarwaddy River in Myanmar on the Amapura and cannot wait to go back. Because of the extremely low river we could not board the ship at the usual spot so there was a one hour bus ride from Mandalay. The Burmese are incredibly sweet and simple people, always with a smile and a wave. Tun and Thomas - Cruise Managers on the Amapura were terrific. Their knowledge and pride in their country was inspiring and their English was much better than my Burmese will ever be. I have been on 7 river cruises prior to this and the crew of the Amapura were helpful above and beyond the call of duty. It should be noted that this is a third world country and so docking facilities are a bit of a challenge if you have any difficulties with mobility but again the crew will help you every step of the way. Since Myanmar has only experienced tourism for a very short period of time it will only get better with experience, but if you expect the cruise to be like Europe then stay in Europe, this is not the cruise for you. There was an incident with the ship that the crew all stepped up to the plate and had everything set to right in a hour and you would never have noticed that anything out of the ordinary had ever taken place. When I went to the sun deck in the mornings at 5:30 the crew were already cleaning rails and mopping the floors. Having a cabin on the upper deck can be a little noisy since they are underneath the lounge and sun deck so you hear the chairs scapping across the floor. This country gave me a chance to experience very spiritual and special events such as lining up to give the monks food in their alms bowl that I would never experience at home.
Thanks Tun, Thomas and the rest of the crew on the Amapura for being so wonderful. Glad I had the opportunity to see Myanmar in its purest form and I will be back. Read Less
AMA Waterways Myanmar
I've just taken the 10 day cruise up the Irawaddy river. Although I have taken cruises with companies like Regent, Seabourn, Silversea, etc, this is my first river cruise. I chose AMA because my travel agent ... Read More
AMA Waterways Myanmar
I've just taken the 10 day cruise up the Irawaddy river. Although I have taken cruises with companies like Regent, Seabourn, Silversea, etc, this is my first river cruise. I chose AMA because my travel agent said it was highly regarded for luxury river cruising and their literature promoted a "brand new" ship for this cruise whose maiden voyage was in November 2014.
Sadly this does not appear to be the case at all. The ship looks very worn for just four months of service and surely must be a "refurbished" ship. The craftsmanship and finish is very poor and not at all up to the standards which one would expect; for example there are cracks in the ceilings and walls, old and messy caulking through the the ship, bathroom grout which is discolored in places and pieces of tile which are not even, pieces of molding which do not meet and are poorly installed, flooring which is discolored and shoddily varnished, light fixtures are old looking and many have paint overspray. There is very little insulation between rooms ( I heard my neighbor with a hacking cough for 10 days as if she were in my bathroom) and hallway noise and footsteps above are also quite loud.
As far as upkeep and maintenance is concerned, it is obvious that AMA has not brought any of its European or international standards to its local operation here. There are spiderwebs on railings, the balcony outside my room is not clean and neither are the windows on the sliding glass doors, planters have weeds growing in them, flags are tattered and blackened, and bathroom towels are often worn and are soiled. Even more disturbing is the mold and mildew in the showers. It is obvious that no one has ever used a brush to clean it. What are they thinking? I've had cleaner bathrooms at a Motel 6. And some of the A/C vents are dirty and black, particularly in the dining room. All it takes is a moist towel to clean that off. I just don't get it.
Food is mediocre but I'm sure they are doing the best with the ingredients they have. Do not expect the level and quality of food found on a luxury cruise. House wine is acceptable but does not change and becomes monotonous after a few days.
I must say the staff members are extremely friendly and polite and try their best to please. But it is obvious they have not been properly trained in housekeeping and maintenance. I am astonished that AMA has not properly trained them because I'm sure hey have the potential to learn.
I would not recommend this cruise to seasoned, high-end luxury travelers and I would be hesitant to consider any AMA Waterways ship in the future. If you want to see Burma, I would suggest a land-based trip to the highlights (Bagan and Inle Lake) or a luxury cruise which calls on the west coast or Rangoon with excursion options.
This is a long review. Bottom line, I'm positive. Great experience. Go to Myanmar before it is overrun by tourists. Be prepared for dust and smoke and you will see a backward country. The people are wonderful and the sites ... Read More
This is a long review. Bottom line, I'm positive. Great experience. Go to Myanmar before it is overrun by tourists. Be prepared for dust and smoke and you will see a backward country. The people are wonderful and the sites amazing!
The Amawaterways, Amapura in Myanmar is relatively new. Before coming on the 14 day cruise in February 2015, I attempted to find reviews, but found very few, and no photos. I read one negative review, complaining about lack of activity, and a dirty ship. The other review was positive, but not detailed. I can state categorically that there isn't a ton of physical activity, but anyone who's ever cruised either on a river, or at sea, knows that. 14 day, luxury cruises are also not filled with young energetic adults, because of their length and cost...so get that out of your system and enjoy what this is. What this cruise offers is luxurious transport to areas you could never get to on your own, and a knowledgable and friendly staff. The ship is small so you don't overwhelm the small villages along the way.
The Amapura is a great little "ship". Modern and comfortable. The staff almost outnumbers the 50, or so passengers. They are very well trained, energetic and friendly. I have absolutely no complaints. The room (we had a balcony room) is very large and comfortable. The food, while not up to world class gourmet standards, is very good.
As to the cleanliness of the vessel, Myanmar is a smoky, dusty place. The shore excursions all require some walking through sand and dirt, which gets brought aboard. I was up most mornings around 6am and the crew was out scrubbing the decks and handrails, but it's hard to keep up. I would say the ship was pretty clean given the environment. The room was very clean. Decks were all teak, and beautiful. Another review mentioned "dull" wood floors. That person is obviously not a fan of teak. It's an oily wood that does not take varnish well, and looks best when left pretty natural. I personally thought it all looked great.
The shore excursions were amazing. I myself love long distance hikes, so I could have used a bit more exercise, but short of that the excursions far exceeded any expectation I had. They were varied, from pagodas, to monestaries, to markets, to schools. Many excursions were opportunistic, based on our cruise manager's scouting out local happenings that were of interest. The tour guides (Mojo, and Swan) were hard working and certainly knowledgeable. Swan gave a series of lectures in the evening on topics ranging from Buddism, to culture, to mythology. While sometimes a little difficult to understand, Swan had obviously done a lot of research and was well prepared.
Be prepared when you come. Myanmar is a fabulous trip, and the people warm and welcoming. I never felt threatened. However the country has a long history of strife and poverty, as well as an oppressive government. Don't expect to alight from the ship on a dock. All "dockings" were on the sandy banks of the river with a nice climb up the bank into the local town. There is a lot of dust and smoke. Most days include a stop at some sacred location requiring shoes off. Bring easily removable shoes. Also bring sunscreen. Shorts should not be worn into sacred locations. I found a trip to REI before coming for light weight, quick drying, hiking pants, and long sleeve shirts (sun protection) a worthwhile undertaking.
We visited several schools and I wish I had brought more school supplies to donate. These children are beautiful and extremely happy, but they have almost nothing.
If you decide to book this trip you will certainly enjoy it if you keep an open mind and look for the beauty that is here. You can be miserable if you think this will be like a trip to Palm Springs, except in a foreign country.
Inle lake extension: we booked an extension with Amawaterways to Inle lake. I'm very glad we did. Swan, our tour director from the ship, stayed with us. He did a great job and kept us busy with multiple excursions each day, all by boat. We left the hotel each morning around 8am and returned at sunset. The only issue with Inle lake is that it is heavily infested with tourists, unlike the rest of our trip. It will become impossible in a few years as tourist traffic increases. It's a great stop, though. Not to be missed, at least for now.
Logistics: we purchased all our flights, hotels and transfers through Amawaterways. While probably more expensive than doing it on our own (ex: airport to Hotel was $50, on our own it would have been $10), everything was handled flawlessly and easily.
Camera gear: I shoot a lot of pictures. I'm an "advanced" amateur. Myanmar as dusty! Changing lenses on a DSLR outside is ill advised. I brought two DSLR bodies. One with a wide angle 10-24mm, and the other with a 28-300mm lens. That was perfect.
Flights in Myanmar: I was concerned before coming about our scheduled flights from Yangon to Mandaly and back and forth to Inle lake. We flew Yadanarpon airlines, which is apparently owned by the same person who partners with Amawaterways in Myanmar. The airline is relatively new with new ATR turboprop aircraft. They seemed good and safe.
Internet: be prepared for withdrawal symptoms. The boat has great wifi, but for most of the journey there is no connection to the outside world. There is minimal Internet at Inle lake. Two suggestions: check for wifi connections at the better shops you will be in. Some have free wifi. One passenger bought a local SIM card for their iPad. SIM cards can be purchased locally and your cruise guides can help you.
What I would have done differently: (1) packed a little less for one, and brought a few more REI-style quick drying hiking pants and shirts. (2) ditched the tripod. Didn't use it. (3) brought a broad brimmed hat. I brought a ball cap. (4) we brought insect repellent which we really didn't need. Read Less
The river cruise in Myanmar was my 7th cruise with Amawaterways. My first river cruise was to Russia and then several in Europe. Knowing that Myanmar was a developing country and tourism was in it’s infancy, I wanted to be sure that I ... Read More
The river cruise in Myanmar was my 7th cruise with Amawaterways. My first river cruise was to Russia and then several in Europe. Knowing that Myanmar was a developing country and tourism was in it’s infancy, I wanted to be sure that I stayed in safe, “modern” and handsome facilities.
I loved this trip. I am a single traveler and have been joining several land tours the past three years. I must say, without a doubt, that I had the most fun on this trip. The pace was leisurely. Most of the land trips are not called vacations for a reason. This trip was a vacation.
I decided to travel to Myanmar to see the temples and the Buda sculptures. You can go to Amawaterways website to view the day by day schedule. All excursions were included. We saw numerous temples with the mode of transportation varying considerably. Sometimes we drove in a modern buses or vans, but had the most laughs on tuk-tuks, horse drawn carriages or being a passenger biked through the streets of a small town. The itinerary was expertly planned. We visited temples, small villages, schools, a fort, watched pottery being made and had plenty of time shopping in the markets and with the local “greeters” at several ports.
Amawaterways attracts a highly educated, intelligent, professional, fun loving, and open minded group of travelers. Many of us bonded ending up enjoying lots of good times , laughter and making new friends. The passengers on this cruise included people for the United States, Canada, Great Britain and Brazil.
The ship’s interior was handsome with all wood floors furnished with Asian/British colonial style furniture. The cabins and marble baths were huge. The bedding was luxurious. Unlike most hotel rooms, the lighting in our cabins was bright.
One of the many surprising highlights on this river cruise was our interactions with the Burmese people. The Burmese people are very poor, wash and dry their laundry on the rivers edge and live in very primitive homes, but also are very gracious, friendly and extremely hard working. The crew were all Burmese. After a few days the entire crew knew our names, including the house keepers, waiters and cruise manager.
As far as health issues, a wise traveler takes precautions. Myanmar is a developing country. We drank only bottle water and brushed our teeth with bottle water. Our systems have not developed the same antibodies as the local residents. While there was no malaria in the part of Myanmar that we traveled, I had already started taken the preventive measures. Always consult the CDC web site and personal physician on any travels outside your native country.
Internet connection proved to be interesting. The hotel offered free wifi and wifi connections are always standard with Amawaterways River Cruises, when there is internet connections available. Many of us were surprised, even though Myanmar is a poor third world country, with tourism just developing and not even enough money to keep the river dredged, that there was no internet connection on the river.
What a fabulous “vacation”! I would love to come back in a couple of years cruising with Amawaterways. By the way, I am not a travel agent, just a fan of a well organized company.
Our trip was 12 nights on AmaWaterways on AmaPura (2 nights pre cruise in Yangon and 10 nights cruise from Pyay to Mandalay) for December 16 2014. The pre cruise in Yangon stay included 2 nights in the Sule Shangri La. The hotel was one of ... Read More
Our trip was 12 nights on AmaWaterways on AmaPura (2 nights pre cruise in Yangon and 10 nights cruise from Pyay to Mandalay) for December 16 2014. The pre cruise in Yangon stay included 2 nights in the Sule Shangri La. The hotel was one of the nicest in Yangon although our expectations were higher for a Shangri La property. We were a bit disappointed that the pre cruise did not include any meals (lunch or dinner) in Yangon. Only breakfast was included.
We had 40 passengers onboard for this particular cruise.
The transfer to Pyay took all day - about 8 hours. The bus was fine but the toilet stops were not. There really wasn't a good place to stop with western toilets. And lunch was packed by Shangri La and included a sandwich. We had to sit with a bunch of locals in a restaurant stop with less than desirable ambiance.
The boat - upon first glance of the boat, we could not believe it was a brand new ship. It already looked dated and did not really look like the artist rendering on the Ama Waterways website. At first we thought it was a ship that was old and refurbished. Since this was the 3rd cruise for this vessel, we were shocked that it was in such conditions and passed Ama standards.
The room - the craftsmanship was really bad. There were already cracks on the walls and ceilings and it was supposed to be brand new. The caulking was horrible. The wood floors looked dull. It was on its 3rd cruise and already looking like it needed refurbishment.
Other items to note:
- Our windows were dirty and we asked to have them cleaned. However, because of the design, half was covered with rails which makes cleaning very difficult.
- There was a TV but nothing played on it.
- There was a phone but when calling another cabin, the call would cut in and out.
- WIFI was poor even in a big port like Mandalay.
- Shower - water pressure was very low and in the mornings the temperature would vary from barely warm to cold
- Wine/beer is only complimentary during lunch and dinner. Between meals, if you order a beer, it is $2. For the price of the cruise, wine/beer should be included outside of meal times. I really dislike the nickel and diming.
- Gratuities are not included. It is about $300 for 2 people for 12 days for the staff which includes the Cruise Managers. On a lot of excursions, it is a walking tour with just the cruise manager. I think for the price of the cruise, they should add it in and include it so you don't have to worry about bringing cash.
- They ask you to change your currency to kyats because in the smaller towns, the drivers do not like being tipped with USD. There is currency exchange on the ship from USD to kyats.. For tipping on a tour, a bus with a driver would require $1 per person per day.
- It was not as active as we thought it would be. There were only a couple of days where we had morning and afternoon excursions. Most of the days, our excursions were in the afternoon lasting for about 1.5 hours right before sunset. You would get back on the boat and it is dark. Bring a flashlight because sometimes it is pitch dark.
- We are in our 40s and were the youngest on the ship. Most of the people were from the US and in their 60s and 70s.
- Service is very good. The staff get off the boat and help the individuals who have a hard time with stairs. Because of the location, expect some bit of walking.
- Most places you will have to remove your shoes when visiting. However, they always provide wipes for you to wipe your feet.
- There is a lot of dust. You should bring a mask or bandana to cover your nose and mouth for the horse ride in Inwa.
- For U Bein bridge, they arranged for a boat ride with champagne. It was a VERY nice touch.
- In Bagan, our cruise manager took us out to ride on bikes for 1.5 hours and it was the highlight of our trip. Also, one of the options was to watch the sunset by climbing a temple. That was also very nice. Bagan was one of our favorite places. I wished we could have spent a bit more time there and I wished the boat offered the hot air balloon option.
- Breakfast and lunch is buffet. Lunch has a cooking station and it is different every day but a line does form. We really enjoyed the Myanmar cuisine. For breakfast, there was usually soup noodles which was very tasty. There is also an egg station for breakfast.
- In Mandalay, there were ALOT of mosquitoes. I had about 6 bites in our room. Bring mosquito spray. I think this is only an issue when on the boat since we are on the river but on excursions, there weren't many mosquitoes. Also, I did not have any issues in the other ports.
If you are young and looking for an active itinerary, this cruise is not for you. If you like a leisurely pace with activities for a few hours a day, you will enjoy this cruise. For the price we paid, we could have done a land tour much cheaper however because of the lack of desirable hotels, we opted for a brand new ship. But, because of the condition of the boat, we were really disappointed. This was our first AMA Waterways cruise and we were really disappointed with the standards of the ship.
However, looking at the other ships that sailed the Ayarwaddy, this looked to be one of the better ships. I think as more luxurious hotels pop up in Myanmar, you would be better suited to stay on land. The highlights were Yangon, Bagan and Mandalay. The stops along the way was nice from a cultural standpoint but not really highlights of our trip.