This was our first cruise with Avalon. We decided on the FASCINATING VIETNAM, CAMBODIA & THE MEKONG RIVER WITH BANGKOK, HANOI & HA LONG BAY – SOUTHBOUND. Since we were traveling so many hours to get to Asia, we decided to add the Bangkok, Saigon and Hanoi extensions onto the trip. This was an absolutely amazing trip and it is hard to find anything that we didn't enjoy. The hotel properties that Avalon uses are excellent and all include breakfast. The boat - just perfect! When you are in your cabin you feel as if you are in a fancy hotel room - great storage, full size bathroom, king bed and of course wall to wall window door that you can watch the river go by. The boat has 18 cabins - so a maximum of 36 people - we had only 32 on our cruise. It is a small boat - only two floors, one dining room, one indoor (A/C) panarama lounge and an outdoor lounge, both at the front of the boat.
Our cruise director, Phiem made the cruise memorable (he only does the southbound one) He was Vietnamese, spoke English almost perfectly, was very enthusiastic, personable, charismatic, and aimed to please. The local tour guides he hired were also very good. The best part of having a small boat was you got to know everyone on board as well as the staff and by the second day, all of the staff knew your names! The boat was able to cruise parts of the river many river boats cannot. We had excellent tours along the way, stopping right along the banks of small villages, using temporary gangplanks to get on shore. With all of the tours (included in price) you were able to really experience the land, culture, people and foods up close and personal. On each of the excursions we used a variety of local transportation: from tuk-tuks to cyclos, ox carts, etc. Busses were only used for excursions that took us way out of town. Phiem always had tons of water for us along the way...you will need it as it is very hot.
The food on the boat was also excellent. There was always a nice variety of local and continental food choices at each meal. Nice wines were served with dinner and well cocktails were always available at the lounge bar - all included. Evening activities included some local children doing a dance performance and also some movies...The Killing Fields, Good Morning Vietnam etc - very pertinent and fun - popcorn was served -like watching a movie at home! By the way, the staff is also very musically talented.
You can get laundry done on the boat for a pretty reasonable price. There are massages available on the boat - my husband had one and raved about it.
Wonderful cabin.Some slight noise when the anchor was being lowered, but that was almost always during the day and made no difference. All cabins in both category A and B are identical. A is on the second floor, B on the first floor. I would not pay the difference for the upper floor, but be sure not to pick the first two front cabins over the anchors.