Vietnam and Cambodia have long been on my wife’s and my bucket list. We’ve just returned from a truly fabulous AmaWaterways trip to these two fascinating countries. The trip was half on land – Saigon (Ho Chi Minh City), Siem Reap, and Hanoi – and half on a cruise on the AmaDara on the Mekong River. We have traveled extensively throughout the world, including numerous ocean cruises and a terrific European river cruise, but this was the best cruise experience we have ever had.
Much of that owes to the fascination of the two countries - the traumas they have experienced in very recent history and their remarkable rebound from them (rarely have we learned so much from a "vacation" trip); the genuine warmth of the people, both trip staff and those on the street; the incredible variety of what there is to see, from dirt-poor communities living on the water and on the banks of the river to vibrant emerging cities clogged with new construction and motor-bike dominated traffic. (Learning how to cross the street was itself a fascinating experience.) Much owes, as well, to the extraordinarily well-organized trip. The trip manager, Mr. Thoai ("Call me Twy, like in 'twice'"), ran the trip like a well-oiled machine, dealing with the innumerable daily chores of moving over 100 people from one place to another, as well as the inevitable unexpected developments, with an ever-present smile. His competence, efficiency, and spirit set the tone of the entire trip.
The week-long cruise on the AmaDara was delightful. The ship's facilities are very good, if not the best we have experienced. We splurged on a "suite," which means a room that was plenty spacious, as opposed to the invariably cramped standard living quarters on a river cruise boat. The staff were incredibly well-trained and their genuine friendliness created an infectious positive attitude on board. The food was easily the best we have ever experienced on a cruise, and we have traveled previously on top-ranked cruise lines. The quality of the meals was remarkable in light of the challenging circumstances of feeding so many people on a cruise on a river in a poor part of Asia, and doing so from tight kitchen facilities. Kudos to head Chef Pheara and his staff who produced several dinners that were worthy of a highly-ranked restaurant in a major city. The quality of the staff and the food contributed to an unusually congenial environment on board the ship. It was easy to interact comfortably with all of our fellow passengers.
Good size with a nice layout. The bathroom was a bit cramped, with the toilet pushing up against the sink. Shower was well-designed.
Enjoyed walking around.
The Royal Palace and its grounds were actually quite impressive, but it was particularly hot that morning. The Killing Fields were sobering but less "difficult" than we expected. The National Museum was not worth the time, unless you're really into statues of the Hindu gods. Walking through the food market was a real treat, and the tuk-tuk ride through town was fun.