We wanted to see a part of the world that was completely new to us and we had never been to Asia. Previous reviews and my desire to visit where my brother served during the Vietnam War led us to choose the Charms of the Mekong on the AmaDara. We did the complete program with pre-cruise in Saigon and post-cruise in Siem Reap, Hanoi and HaLong Bay. It was first class all the way.
I loved that the itinerary was not all about temples and tourist sites. We got wonderful glimpses into the lives of the people and got to experience visiting homes and schools which was probably our favorite part of the trip.
First, let me echo all the positive comments from previous reviewers. The hotels during the land portion are some of the finest we have ever experienced. We especially loved the Sofitel in SIem Reap. The AmaDara is a beautiful ship. Our cruise was not sold out and we were given the option to upgrade our cabin at a tremendously reduced rate, but having looked at the more expensive options decided ours was just fine. All the cabins are in great shape and beautifully decorated. Other reviewers commented that there wasn't enough storage, but we didn't have that issue. We brought collapsible plastic hangars and they helped tremendously. The food on board was top notch and the staff were warm, friendly and very welcoming. Our Cruise Director, AK, was with us for the entire 16 days and handled every situation with grace and class. He made it all look easy, and I'm sure it wasn't. Markus, the Hotel Director on the ship, missed his calling as a comedian. It is apparent that the staff respect him and know the meaning of customer service.
The guides in both Vietnam and Cambodia spoke excellent English and were grateful we chose to visit their countries. They each had personal stories to tell which brought the recent history of both countries to life, sometimes in very disturbing ways. Each stop was valuable and offered glimpses into the lives of the people in the regions we visited. The trip to HaLong Bay was a delight, but we wish it had been two nights.
The other passengers ranged in age from 40s to 70s. All were in fairly good shape, which is good because there are lots of stairs to climb and uneven pavement. Most were from the US, Canada, Australia and England. They were respectful (mostly) and we enjoyed getting to know them.
Here are some things I didn't read in previous reviews that would have been helpful to know:
1. It is really hot and humid!! I was the envy of all my fellow travelers.because I brought with me a battery operated device that went around my neck and had little fans at either end. They can be found on Amazon for about $35
2. They tell you that you need to have your shoulders and knees covered when you visit temples. What I didn't understand was that also applies to sites they consider sacred in any way. There were very few days when we didn't need to follow "dress code", and I didn't pack appropriately for that. Also, for women, you have to be careful that your tops are not revealing.
3. You need to carefully plan for your tips and bring new dollar bills (or Vietnamese Dong) for tips and purchases at smaller markets. They are happy to have dollars in Cambodia, but not Vietnam.
4. You will spend a lot of time on buses, and the roads are not always in great condition, so you might want to bring a Kindle or other device where you can increase the font to make up for the bumps. You will also want snacks. We bought trail mix packets and protein bars at Costco and were happy we had them.
I hope you enjoy your Mekong/Vietnam/Cambodia experience as much as we did.
This cabin was fine. We liked being above the water line. Every now and then we heard the anchor chain, but it wasn't really an issue.
We were here for two days and had several outings on our own included a dinner in town. Riding the tuk-tuk at night was an experience all on its own!