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.
Relatively large cabin for river boats. Well appointed, exceptionally clean. Shower a little difficult to operate. Ask the staff for assistance. Odd numbered cabins are best for downstream travel. Single supplement was waived on several of the lower deck cabins. Lower deck is less expensive and still very good.