1. Home
  2. Cruise Lines
  3. Pandaw River Cruises
  4. Pandaw River Cruises Cruise Reviews

57 Pandaw Cruise Reviews

A 14-day river cruise on the Ganges from Varanasi to Kolkata aboard a luxury shallow-bottomed river boat with fascinating daily excursions - if only! We had signed up for an "adventurous expedition" and were to be prepared for ... Read More
A 14-day river cruise on the Ganges from Varanasi to Kolkata aboard a luxury shallow-bottomed river boat with fascinating daily excursions - if only! We had signed up for an "adventurous expedition" and were to be prepared for the unexpected. So I guess we should not have been shocked when we arrived at the hotel in Varanasi with bags packed ready to go on board to be told there's been a "change of itinerary". The first four days of our river cruise were not to be spent on the the river but in two mediocre hotels, bus journeys and an internal flight. So this means we also miss six particularly interesting excursions? Hey, they've arranged a kebab meal in the local Radisson Hotel instead! Pandaw after all only had been operating this journey for three months - and even though only the first two out of 12 trips had succeeded in completing, miracles do supposedly happen on the Ganges so maybe they didn't like to spoil our holiday plans by giving us any advance warning of the possibility of change. And despite having missed about 500 km of a 1200 km river trip, over 40% of the river journey and almost 30% of time living on the boat; and despite the alternative arrangements in no way making up for the losses; and despite missing out on six significant excursions we especially wanted to experience - how foolish to think Pandaw would offer any compensation for loss of value or loss of enjoyment. Once on board, the holiday we paid for began. Our upper deck cabin was well designed with plenty storage. The public spaces were OK but due to the weather in January much of the deck was too cold to be much used so everyone huddled in the saloon. The staff were very friendly and enthusiastic but the service and food were somewhat erratic. Would I recommend this trip? Absolutely not. Pandaw's small print means you will get what you are given, not necessarily what you have paid for. Read Less
Sail Date January 2020
Pandaw is an excellent company and the Ganges has more to offer in the way of palaces, temples and ancient ruins than any other river in Asia. We knew that the ship would actually be run by an Indian management company but the standards ... Read More
Pandaw is an excellent company and the Ganges has more to offer in the way of palaces, temples and ancient ruins than any other river in Asia. We knew that the ship would actually be run by an Indian management company but the standards were as good as other Pandaw cruises: a lovely boat, replica of the 19th century river boats of Asia, excellent Indian food, friendly and highly competent staff. They did the usual Pandaw things, including an evening party on a sandbank with blazing fire, music and dancing (at which the crew were fantastic). The Ganges is pretty dull in itself - the land is flat so you don't see much till a village or temple comes into sight. But the excursions suited us fine, since we love temples and palaces. Highlights were Nalanda, the medieval Buddhist University, Bodhgaya, now a huge centre for Buddhist pilgrimage, and above all Varanasi, where we had dusk and dawn boat trips followed by breakfast on the roof terrace of a riverside palace, now a hotel. Marvellous! The other thing to mention is the reception we were given in small towns and villages. Children and adults were fascinated by us and eager to say hello somehow. And even in the poorest villages colour is everywhere (as well as rubbish). As previous reviewers have said, there were problems. We had to change ship because an engine could not be repaired. And the water level fell too low, so we were stuck on a sandbank for 40 hours and then could make no progress beyond Patna because, with the low water level, pontoon bridges had been slung across the river, too low for us to pass under. This meant that our trip to Patna was a nightmare 3 hours driving though traffic, giving us just 1 hour at the Museum. And it meant we had to abandon the boat there, travelling on by road and plane, staying in (good) hotels, to reach Varanasi on time. I thought Pandaw did extremely well at finding solutions to the problems. Anyone who has travelled much in India knows these things happen, but it is true that our optimism was at times stretched. Another Indian thing was that most of us got Travellers' Diarrhoea. There's nothing new in that in India either. I'd hoped that being on the boat would protect us from that, but it didn't. Read Less
Sail Date December 2019
Third Pandaw cruise after Irrawaddy & Mekong & very disappointing but we were forewarned after many bad reviews. All 19 pax were return custom & we departed in KATHA PANDAW on one engine which precluded us transitting the ... Read More
Third Pandaw cruise after Irrawaddy & Mekong & very disappointing but we were forewarned after many bad reviews. All 19 pax were return custom & we departed in KATHA PANDAW on one engine which precluded us transitting the Farraka lock 11 Dec so we transferred to the KALAW PANDAW 10 Dec to continue. The ship went aground on the afternoon of 14 Dec & remained stranded for 42 1/4 hrs until freed by a tug 16 Dec so nearly two days were lost never to be retrieved. The cruise ended at Putna 18 Dec as the section to Varanasi was not navigable due to lack of water & we completed the trip by road & air. 15 of the 19 pac were sick at various times which suggests standards if food preparation & general cleanliness weren’t “up to scratch”. Shore excursions were very ordinary & the menu was very bland & unimaginative. No alcohol for seven days while transitting Bihar state detracted from the conviviality of the evening meal. Read Less
Sail Date December 2019
As previous very happy Pandaw clients, when the opportunity arose to cruise the Ganges we jumped at it. Did not comparison shop or explore other options such was our faith in Pandaw. First mistake on our part. After paying the balance ... Read More
As previous very happy Pandaw clients, when the opportunity arose to cruise the Ganges we jumped at it. Did not comparison shop or explore other options such was our faith in Pandaw. First mistake on our part. After paying the balance of our not insignificant account, alarm bells started ringing when on 28/10 a message appeared advising that due to problems they were experiencing they would allow a change of date to future sailings without penalty. No offer of refund though. As we had already arranged flights and other travel costs which were all subject to heavy cancellation/change penalties we decided to proceed. Second mistake. Shortly before departure, almost at the 11th hour, a disclaimer appeared on the Pandaw website: "Please Note these river expeditions are operated by Indus Expeditions, not Pandaw, and it is understood that the style and standards may be very different from those offered on Pandaw managed cruises. Indus Expeditions make every effort to offer the highest levels of guest care but it should be noted that given the chaotic but often charming way in which India works these are very different from what you will find in South-East Asia!" Having never heard of "Indus Expeditions" and knowing nothing about them we would never have booked this cruise. I feel Pandaw deliberately kept the fact that they had subcontracted these cruises from their clients. Everyone knows that subcontractors usually never perform to the same standard as the principal. As a small example, no safety briefing was held on embarkation which may be a violation of maritime law. But with no options left we proceeded. The first few days passed without incident and we enjoyed the river scenery. The ship ran aground at one point and it took a tug 2 days to reach us requiring another modification and reduction to the itinerary. Food was generally OK if not special and the shore excursions fairly ordinary. The staff, although obviously new to the job were however exceptional. Unfailingly helpful and cheerful, nothing was too much trouble. Unfortunately, some time around early/mid voyage a gastro intestinal/ upper respiratory bug struck affecting about 80% of passengers, some worse than others. One person told me he had been unable to eat for 5 days. Both my wife and myself were badly affected causing us to miss many meals and excursions (due to the need at all times to be in close proximity to a toilet) including the much awaited dawn cruise in Varanasi. The two extra days post cruise we had arranged were mostly spent in the hotel room. We are mature but fit people and world travellers but sadly were unable to 'take these things in our stride' as suggested by Pandaw. We have never experienced travel illness like this before. We have been home for 3 days and still not recovered, Xmas was a non event for us this year. Read Less
Sail Date December 2019
We have been on eight Pandaw cruises so far and are trying to do a river cruise alternately with ocean cruises. Pandaw is pioneering cruises to places where no one else goes and that’s my kind of stuff: I‘m sick and tired of the ... Read More
We have been on eight Pandaw cruises so far and are trying to do a river cruise alternately with ocean cruises. Pandaw is pioneering cruises to places where no one else goes and that’s my kind of stuff: I‘m sick and tired of the run-of-the mill touristic „offerings“ that are the same with all operators on the same routes. This is where Pandaw delivers, also in Vietnam. The cruise starts at Halong Bay, which has been hugely commercialized over the last few years. Already here Pandaw did a clever thing: By setting a route that bypasses the masses. Going up the Red River and the Black River gives an insight into true Vietnam. The day going through the vast harbour area of Haiphong might be a bit boring and the widespread dredging in the rivers, which will ultimately lead to erosion and extinction of river-life, saddening. The cultural events and the multitude of artisans visited on the shore excursions were just great. On board there was the typical Pandaw offering: Breakfast and Lunch buffets with table service for dinners. A good choice of western and local dishes and all with attentive service. The cabins on Pandaw, although called „state rooms“ are in fact cabins as you would have had them in colonial times, think „Teak and Brass“. Read Less
Sail Date November 2019
We travelled to Kolkata on 10 October , looking forward to Pandaw’s inaugural 14 day cruise up the Ganges to Varanasi. Late in the afternoon of 11 October ( the day before departure ) we were told that the cruise was not going to ... Read More
We travelled to Kolkata on 10 October , looking forward to Pandaw’s inaugural 14 day cruise up the Ganges to Varanasi. Late in the afternoon of 11 October ( the day before departure ) we were told that the cruise was not going to take place . We later found out that the stated reason , namely a closed lock at Farraka , had been known to Pandaw since 4 October ( at the latest ) . Pandaw deliberately concealed this information from their passengers , no doubt to ensure that they travelled to India unaware that the cruise they had paid for was about to be cancelled. On assembling for embarkation on 12 October we were told that our options were (1) a refund for the cost of the cruise , but not of the costs of travelling to India (2) a circular cruise of the Lower Ganges and a refund of the cost of the second week (3) a circular cruise of the Lower Ganges followed by a land based second week , touring Bihar by coach . Though very disappointed with what we were offered we took option (2) , confident that Pandaw would provide us with proper compensation for having failed to provide us with what we had paid for . The week long circular cruise was really very poor indeed . The itinerary expanded to 7 days an itinerary that was scheduled to take 4 , leaving us onboard for stretches of up to 22 hours. The crew , though friendly , were untrained . The food was poor and insufficient . The boat was dirty and started its journey without basic safety equipment such as life jackets and fire extinguishers. The Founder of Pandaw rightly described Pandaw’s treatment of us as “ appalling “ . An employee of Pandaw promised that we would receive “ substantial “ compensation. Disgracefully, when we started to press for compensation, Pandaw changed their tune completely. Their new position is that we are not entitled to any compensation at all : instead we have been offered 25% off our next Pandaw trip , which is of no value to those of us who would never contemplate travelling with them again . Pandaw’s position is that they would have been entitled to provide us with a stationary cruise with the vessel tied up at the bank . We have also been personally rebuked by the Founder for not showing him enough goodwill . He has also threatened us with libel proceedings . Our position is that Pandaw deceitfully concealed from us the fact that our cruise was in jeopardy , failed to provide us with what we had booked and paid for , provided us with a wholly inadequate alternative on a boat that was unfit and unsafe to travel . We have been left £1000s out of pocket and deprived of a trip we had been so looking forward to. We regard the conduct of Pandaw , as having been much worse than the “ appalling “ that they admit to , but also dishonourable and dishonest . Having been so substantially defrauded by Pandaw we will never use them again and will advise all who ask us to steer well clear of them . Read Less
Sail Date October 2019
We have travelled extensively on ocean and river over the last 20 years and have, with the exception of our October Pandaw India trip, always enjoyed our adventures. On two occasions plans went astray but we were adequately compensated. ... Read More
We have travelled extensively on ocean and river over the last 20 years and have, with the exception of our October Pandaw India trip, always enjoyed our adventures. On two occasions plans went astray but we were adequately compensated. This is the first time I have voiced my dissatisfaction in a public forum and I have endeavoured to report the issues as accurately as possible. We arrived in Kolkata in anticipation of the inaugural 14 day cruise to Varanasi. Unfortunately the late finish to the monsoon season and associated flooding closed the lock at Farraka and prevented our boat Katha Pandaw from reaching Varanasi. We were only notified of this closure at 3.30 pm the day before although Pandaw had knowledge of potential problems with our itinerary some days prior. One hour before we were due to board our boat, we were given the option to cancel but we had accommodation, tours and flights booked for the end of our cruise and we felt we were unable to organise an alternate itinerary without any notice or help let alone compensation for consequential losses. In reality there was no real choice. We were told the amended itinerary, which we did not receive for four days, of one week on the boat Kolkata return and one week by air and bus would be “amazing”. Sadly this holiday was far from amazing and far from the luxury as advertised by Pandaw. We made the best of our first week on Katha Pandaw as the scenery along The Ganges was beautiful. However the boat was not safe nor fit for passengers. In terms of safety, electrical sockets were loose, grouting in showers filthy, tiles were falling off bathroom walls and the showers would suddenly lose all cold water with the result that many passengers were scalded, including myself on three occasions. Our cabin was not as comfortable as on previous Pandaw trips. The mattress on the bed was the hardest we have ever slept on and the majority of passengers were complaining. The air conditioner which needed to be on at all times due to the heat and humidity was the noisiest we have ever experienced. Some were held together by packing tape to try and stop the rattling. The compressor went on and off all night and it was very difficult to sleep. There was no usable soap and only a tiny glass bottle with body wash from which it was impossible to get the contents out. We were told that they tried to buy cakes of soap for the cabins but it was a public holiday! Is this the best Pandaw could do!? Even the representative of the Indian management company who visited the boat following multiple complaints admitted that Katha Pandaw was not ready for passengers. And yet there we were! The only conclusion we could come to was that Pandaw had failed miserably in ensuring the boat was fit for purpose. Staff was new to Pandaw and inexperienced, untrained, without name tags but always charming and polite. The food was well below the standard advertised and offered on other boats. The chef had no idea of the amount of food needed to feed 20 passengers and if you arrived a little late for a meal there would be insufficient food. Following complaints, half way through the journey the quantities increased and so did the variety of the dishes offered. However the presentation and quality never approached the food we enjoyed on other Pandaw boats. The dining area was located indoors but the two air conditioners were totally inadequate to cool the room. The lunch buffet was set up outside so food including rice sat in the heat for far too long before the meal. Whilst on board, we received an email from Paul Strachan, the founder of Pandaw, apologising for (and I quote) the “appalling situation” on board which was “far from the standards you would expect from Pandaw”. We continued on with our second week of the itinerary. We flew to Patna in Bihar and commenced a road trip which proved to be a very difficult and stressful week where everything seemed to go wrong. Two of the hotels were disgusting with torn and dirty sheets which looked like they had not been changed after the previous guests, mouldy bathrooms and air conditioners we did not turn on due to the filth inside them. One day we were in the bus for about eight hours so needed to find a toilet and all our guide could find was a disgustingly dirty pit toilet. In all we lost nearly two full days out of seven with air travel together with numerous hours sitting in a bus. The endless difficulties encountered during this week would be perfect material for a film sequel entitled “The Very Worst Marigold Hotel”!! When enjoying the tours organised by Pandaw whilst on the boat, there was always a tour guide and two other staff members one of whom carried the first aid kit. However on our land tour we only had one guide, albeit an excellent one, with no crew member walking at the rear and no first aid kit. Passenger safety was compromised especially taking into account that many were in their 70’s. We flew to Varanasi with three nights at a beautiful resort about 45 minutes from the city. Our luggage came by road and was expected to arrive late afternoon but we did not receive it until midnight. On our last day we arose at 4 am to travel to The Ganges to enjoy a romantic sunrise cruise. There were to be two small boats and two musicians on each but all we got was one large boat, two musicians and a broken engine which meant we were towed along by an underpowered small boat belching black diesel fumes over us. It took us so long to reach our destination that we needed to return straight to our bus and missed the one hour walking tour of the old town area of Varanasi. Yet another disappointment! In conclusion, regrettably the best day of this Pandaw journey was the day we flew home! Read Less
Sail Date October 2019
My wife and I have thoroughly enjoyed 3 prior river cruises with Pandaw, Mekong, Irra waddy and Red river/Halong bay, plus optional Pandaw land tours. On 12th October all that credibility crumbled to dust and blew away. Whilst in ... Read More
My wife and I have thoroughly enjoyed 3 prior river cruises with Pandaw, Mekong, Irra waddy and Red river/Halong bay, plus optional Pandaw land tours. On 12th October all that credibility crumbled to dust and blew away. Whilst in transit from Delhi to Kolkata afternoon of the 11th we received an email from Brett Lemish, Indian area manager of Pandaw, advising due to flooding our 14 day river cruise is not possible, causing changes to itinerary. On 12th October, commencement of our cruise, my wife and I plus 18 other passengers gathered in the Kolkata Oberoi hotel lobby, rooms vacated, bags packed, anxiously awaiting Brett Lemish who informed us at 10am the 14 day river cruise is not possible due to extreme flooding, and the river Farraka lock gates closed. Consequently Pandaw now offered cancellation and refund, or 7 day cruise only and part refund, or a revised itinerary 7 day cruise/ 7 day land tour with Katha Pandaw departing and returning Kolkata, followed by flight to Patna and land tour and short flight on to Varanasi. Brett informed all passengers he would provide us with the amended itinerary the following day, adding it will be very enjoyable. Being "stunned" by this news, and being in Kolkata, bags packed, vacated room, additional holiday itinerary after India, and based on past high standard experienced, with Pandaw my wife and I reluctantly decided to stay for the 14 days. ( we felt we had little choice and such a short time to decide). A BIG mistake. RIVER CRUISE 7 days ( Kolkata and return Kolkata ). Unfortunately the promised revised itinerary only arrived after 3 days cruising, and as the 14 days progressed we realised it lacked detail. We now know it was "scrambled" together. We passengers were testing and refining a "scrambled" itinerary. Pandaw duty of care - Pandaw staff and local Indian contractor knew the river lock was closed 8 days prior to commencement of our cruise, yet Pandaw failed to inform passengers. We were denied the opportunity to review our holiday arrangements. The Indian contractor General Manager (Captain) met all passengers on board the Katha Pandaw about 5 days into our cruise, and informed us it was known the Farraka lock was closed on 2nd/3rd October. He said the boat, having arrived from another country, had been detained in customs bonded area for 6 months, and end of August it was released to his company, leaving only 6 weeks to prepare everything and this was not possible. He stated he had insufficient time before our cruise. His company had never prepared a boat for Pandaw previously, no idea of standards required, apparently no check list provided from Pandaw. Safety - Serious omissions. We set sail lacking life jackets and fire extinguishers, these arrived in a small boat 2 days later. Passengers were given no evacuation procedure instructions/training. Maintenance - Katha Pandaw has many maintenance issues, water pipe leaking from our cabin ceiling as we unpacked our suitcase, then apparently fixed, but during that night water leaked again onto my wife's bed, soaking the mattress. We moved cabin first thing in the morning. Passengers complained of faulty light switches, wall tiles in showers falling off, random and dangerous gushes of very hot (scalding) water . Crew - very polite, but lacked english language and training, very frustrating when trying to order type of tea/coffee/variety of wine. All basic requirements for a river cruise. After 2 days another crew member came aboard and he appeared to have a better understanding. In addition new cooking equipment was brought on board, to be used for breakfast next day, but abandoned as no staff could operate the new equipment, and breakfast then served from below deck. LAND TOUR 7 days. First day predominately travelling to airport, booking in, flight, travelling to Patna. Hotel was "very average" and not to standard we expected. Second hotel Rajgir Residency was disgusting, dirty room, we could not wait to depart. Third hotel Bodhgaya Residency "hotel" was worse, shameful, our window was filthy not outside, but inside with years of dust and grime, bathroom filthy and poor maintenance (bath moved), electrical socket for kettle was "live" not possible to switch off kettle, only unplug. Bed sheet well worn with a tear about 25cm long. We felt grubby and unclean all the time, and could not stop washing our hands and were very happy to leave this dreadful place. A far cry from the Pandaw standard we knew, and expected. Two friends found their pillows were badly stained, and have a photo as memory. If this is best Pandaw can do, then don't do it. We then flew to Varanasi, and taken to " The Tree of Life", a luxury small resort, and had a most enjoyable stay. Only problem being the resort was nearly 2 hours travelling time to the Ganges, by bus/motorised rickshaw/walk to the evening ceremonies. Very interesting ceremonies, and followed by a delightful dinner overlooking the Ganges. All good, but we were all so tired, and by the time we walked/rickshaw/bus we returned to our resort at 11pm, and our suitcase arrived about 11.30pm, by which time we were shattered. Two days later we returned to the Ganges early morning, to experience a gentle river cruise and daily bathing and day to day rituals. Upon arrival we all boarded one large wooden craft, but no working engine. A smaller craft then arrived with an overworked engine disgorging fumes as we were towed, with all 17 passengers, guides, and crew aboard. Due to cruising against the strong current our boat was stationary or going backwards, very slowly forward. The whole cruise taking 3 times as long as planned. This meant we missed the opportunity to walk through Varanasi historical area. On the final day at Tree of Life, purely by chance, a passenger and I, sat down with Brett Lemish, Indian area manager of Pandaw. Brett stated they are dealing with the many concerns we have all raised, and apologised profusely and that Pandaw have engaged consulting electrical and plumbing engineers, maintenance staff and crew training of the Katha Pandaw, after we disembarked in Kolkata This of course is of no use whatsoever for any of our inaugural cruise passengers, now at the end of our 14 day survival. After receiving a very apologetic email from Paul Strachan quote " apologise for the appalling situation you are currently enduring on the Katha Pandaw. I am really sorry about this. " I can truly understand your anger". Judging by Paul Strachan saying how difficult it has been setting up in India, he seems to confuse what Pandaw offer with what we actually received. My wife and I entered into email correspondence with Paul Strachan, Brett Lemish and James Talbot. We requested 50% refund of monies paid, and that we are not interested in 25% from a future cruise ( must be joking ). After very many emails, Pandaw paid usd1000 total and offered 25% discount from a future cruise. We have not accepted their offer. We believe Pandaw senior management have much to answer for. Katha Pandaw was not ready to commence the cruise ( admitted by the Indian Company GM contractor), Ganges was flooded and Farraka river lock closed. So, why not cancel the inaugural cruise ? Never again will we use nor recommend Pandaw. On a positive note, our travel guide for 14 days, Suvendu, was most helpful and knowledgable, and recommend he is provided an assistant, having 20 passengers and 1 guide is too much. Whilst in Varanasi, at night along the Ganges we "lost" a lady passenger, fortunately she was located again. Torches would have been useful. Australian disgruntled passengers Read Less
Sail Date October 2019
This was a new cruise for this boat which was apparently brought from another country and it showed. The crew had little knowledge or interest in their jobs. Their command of English was little to poor. The decks were dirty yet never ... Read More
This was a new cruise for this boat which was apparently brought from another country and it showed. The crew had little knowledge or interest in their jobs. Their command of English was little to poor. The decks were dirty yet never cleaned. The bar and coffee area was always a shambles. The barman, when at the bar, could not understand the wine labels. Self-service was the often required . Dining was far from luxurious. Serves were small and only Indian food was on offer, no Western meals at all. Evening meals were served outside, often seated on lounge chairs which were far too low for dining from. Insects were attracted by light and were a nuisance. The head waiter said that they could be dangerous for us yet we could have eaten inside away from them in much more comfort. He covered our drinks with his bare hands as he delivered them. The promised bikes for shore excursions were never sighted. The two shore excursion guides were knowledgable but unintelligible to us Westerners. The ship's exhausts vented on the side of the ship. Oftentimes the excursion launch was moored against the exhaust outlet which deflected the gases unpleasantly up the the lounge area. This cruise was way over-priced. Another passenger quoted his rating for this as 4 /10. We have written to Pandaw with our complaints and requested a partial refund but to date have not received any acknowledgement or reply. Read Less
Sail Date October 2019
This cruise was chosen as way to see the more rural side of Vietnam and Cambodia and did not disappoint. In fact it went way beyond our expectations. The itinerary is new with many small villages visited, often being transported by local ... Read More
This cruise was chosen as way to see the more rural side of Vietnam and Cambodia and did not disappoint. In fact it went way beyond our expectations. The itinerary is new with many small villages visited, often being transported by local tuk tuk, ox cart or horse cart.The excursions are varied and well run, with a lot of local content , including making pots, basket weaving, cooking pancakes and planting trees. My highlight was one of our 2 school visits and sitting with a 12 year old student, in his open air classroom helping with his lessons. The amenities and space on board were truly amazing. Our cruise was about half full but even if is was at capacity you would never feel crowded. There is space and quiet when needed and a wonderful cocktail hour to mix with others. We dined with everyone on board at at various times during the week and the dining experience was always exceptional. The meals were varied with a lot of local dishes to try and beautifully presented. Lastly, the crew went above and beyond to ensure our safety and the enjoyment of all on board. Be ready for the crew/guest dance on the last night! I genuinely recommend this cruise and can’t wait to try another adventure with Pandaw. Read Less
Sail Date September 2018
We travelled from Bangkok to Rangon (domestic air) and then longtail boat to Kawthaun, Myannmar. The transfer from Thailand to Myannmar was an adventure in itself! Our cruise director was waiting for us at the Kawthaun pier to helpus pass ... Read More
We travelled from Bangkok to Rangon (domestic air) and then longtail boat to Kawthaun, Myannmar. The transfer from Thailand to Myannmar was an adventure in itself! Our cruise director was waiting for us at the Kawthaun pier to helpus pass immigration and then took us, by tender to The Andaman Explorer. The ship was built, in approx 1960, as a Norwegian ice breaker ( but actually looks a little like a naval ship) There are 10 very large cabins. Whilst the cabins vary in shape and location on the ship, they are all priced the same. First in , first choice. Daily cleaning service, fresh towels and nightly turn down. The ship sails among the pristine waters of the Andaman Sea. Every day the ship tender takes passengers to beautiful white sandy beaches for snorkeling in crystal clear waters, We saw colorful corals, sea anenomes, and sea life that helped the imagination think of being in a aquarium. On board kayaks were towed by tender, and we were taken through mangroves, beach paddling and into caves. There are virtually no other tourists in the area. The itinerary is fantastic with plenty of opportunity to jump into the warm crystal clear waters. We visited about 4 small villages to see the life of Sea Gypsies and were often accompanied by local children, wanting to practice their English. As with previous Pandaw cruises that we have travelled on, the service is pretty close to excellent. The crew are warm and friendly and each one makes you feel like a very special guest. Their attention is genuinely sincere. They go above and beyond to ensure that our trip was as comfortable as could be. The chef is a fire cracker. He was young, enthusiastic and danced down the hallways. He has unstoppable energy. The menus are adjusted each trip to accommodate what ever fresh produce is available.Following one village stop, 8 live lobsters were brought on board which was entree the following day. There were only 14 passengers on our trip and the menu was varied extensively each day. Breakfast is a la carte with help yourself to cereals, fruit, and toast to help yourself. After breakfast, a menu is given so that each guest can choose their lunch and dinner. Soups, entrees and appetisers are standard with 3- 4 options for main course. The food was one of the major highlights of the cruise, and their were many highlights. There is no night time entertainment, however after the days activities, most guests were happy to relax and chill out. On our last night we had a party on the upper deck, where crew and a few guests were up dancing.There were no children on board . We would take this adventure again, as we had a wonderful time Read Less
Sail Date February 2018
Took the 7 night river cruise from Yangon to Bagon. I have taken many cruises on larger ships but this was our first river cruise and it was fantastic. The ship was very well done and the crew really tried and could not have been nicer ... Read More
Took the 7 night river cruise from Yangon to Bagon. I have taken many cruises on larger ships but this was our first river cruise and it was fantastic. The ship was very well done and the crew really tried and could not have been nicer or more helpful. The food was some of the best I've had. We almost cancelled because of the issues you read about in the paper and extremely glad we didn't. We also flew to inle lake for 4 nights ( which is another incredible stop) and felt very safe the entire trip. While there you see no evidence of any issues and not going only hurts the local people. Myanmar has only opened to tourism in the last 5 years or so and the people are the most friendly welcoming I have ever met. Do not let the bad press put you off go while it is still un and under developed. Destinations such as this are hard to find. Read Less
Sail Date January 2018
We traveled on a two night sailing from Mandalay to Bagan. We were warned that the evenings may be cool, but we did not expect to have to endure our meals in the freezing cold on an open air deck for both dinners and breakfasts. We asked ... Read More
We traveled on a two night sailing from Mandalay to Bagan. We were warned that the evenings may be cool, but we did not expect to have to endure our meals in the freezing cold on an open air deck for both dinners and breakfasts. We asked if we could be given shelter from the cold wind, but nobody seemed to care. Food was cold before we got it back to our tables. The vegetarian choice was rice with spinach. The all inclusive drinks did not include wine with the meals which was very disappointing considering the price of the trip.The cabins were nice enough, but we felt the excursions provided were pretty mundane. The scenery during the trip was pretty much the same all the time, and didn't have any notable attractions. Just riverbanks and sand banks. The staff were pleasant enough and treated us as guests should be, but they seemed oblivious to our discomfort due to the cold wind on the upper deck. Read Less
Sail Date January 2018
I was absolutely blown away with this company, I loved everything about them. The best part for me was the attention and service I received. As a disabled traveler in Asia, I was worried about getting on and off the boat, and uneven ... Read More
I was absolutely blown away with this company, I loved everything about them. The best part for me was the attention and service I received. As a disabled traveler in Asia, I was worried about getting on and off the boat, and uneven surfaces during tours, but I almost always had an assistant to help me, I cannot believe it. My handholders, as I called them, were so gracious and kind, really looking out for me, and also chatting with me about their country, taking pictures of us. It was even nice to see a new crew member who was also as equally excited about the siteseeing as us, coming with us and taking pictures of his own. The food was perfect. I loved the fresh salads, always fresh fruit, many choices for lunch and dinner. The desserts were beautifully presented by a very exuberant pastry chef- who is also an excellent dancer, singer, and guitar player. I loved our bartender, "MoMo" whose smile always brightened our day when he presented the "drink of the day" at cocktail hour. Local spirits and beer are included, which was perfect for me, others ordered extras like wine and foreign spirits like Campari. Our tour guide Min was outstanding. English that we could all understand easily, and if there was a word he was not sure of, he asked us and corrected his pronounciation- we liked this reciprocal learning. I have travelled on I think 4 other river cruises, all on different lines, and I hesitated to book on a small company, but I think this was my best trip yet! Myanmar is beautiful, the people are the friendliest, the sites are amazing, it is safe, please go! Read Less
Sail Date January 2018
This is a wonderful ship with an excellent staff. Classic wooden boat. There were only 30 passengers on our cruise. Cabins were very large and comfortable, although the beds may be too firm for some. Large luxurious bathrooms. Common rooms ... Read More
This is a wonderful ship with an excellent staff. Classic wooden boat. There were only 30 passengers on our cruise. Cabins were very large and comfortable, although the beds may be too firm for some. Large luxurious bathrooms. Common rooms were very comfortable. Lounging on the upper deck was wonderful. There are lots of steep stairs so you must not have mobility problems. There was a nice mix of ages, from families with teens to retirees. There were no young kids. Dining was only so,so. Tour director was only so,so. His English and communication skills were marginal. Shore excursions were very interesting, and gave a taste of rural Vietnam. Entertainment was minimal, although we boarded on New Years Eve, so a western style band substituted for the usual traditional local entertainment. we were glad we went and would definitely recommend this cruise to anyone without mobility problems interested in adventure. Read Less
Sail Date December 2017
I have cruised many times and even worked on cruises as a performer, so I really know what I like and dislike. The ship was beautifully clean and really looked the part. Rooms were large with lovely decor and well designed. Bathroom was ... Read More
I have cruised many times and even worked on cruises as a performer, so I really know what I like and dislike. The ship was beautifully clean and really looked the part. Rooms were large with lovely decor and well designed. Bathroom was great and loved the design of the shower doors - so practical. Dining room was beautiful and we had reserved private dining which was a real treat for my wife and I. This is something that you must pre-do before embarkment. Entertainment on board was enough and although we would have liked more gym equipment, we could not complain. Maybe a treadmill and fitness trainer could be added to make it perfect. It also would be nice if they had piped music on the sun deck so at night during our cocktail hour it would be a little more romantic, although it was lovely watching the Mekong and it's wonderful moonlight. Service is outstanding and shore excursions were excellent. One of our best cruises!!!!! Thank you Pandaw. Read Less
Sail Date December 2017
This is the first year the Indochina Pandaw has sailed on the Irrawaddy between Mandalay and Bagan (Pagan) giving a range of 7,4 and 2 night cruises. We chose the 7 night which fell over the New Year between December 2017 and January 2018 ... Read More
This is the first year the Indochina Pandaw has sailed on the Irrawaddy between Mandalay and Bagan (Pagan) giving a range of 7,4 and 2 night cruises. We chose the 7 night which fell over the New Year between December 2017 and January 2018 starting from Mandalay. Pandaw offer some cruises with no single supplement and, as we were two female travellers of a certain age who think of ourselves as Destination Dames, this was one of the reasons we chose them. After all, sharing is fine, but a room each for the same price next to each is even better. We were looking forward to a more colonial style, teak ship which was well-appointed and the Indochina Pandaw did not disappoint. We arrived on board and found our cabins to be immaculate and exactly like the pictures. They were comfy, clean, lots of hot water, space to unpack etc. The crew of 24 went out of their way to make us feel welcome as we gathered for the briefing with a welcome cocktail (the first of the many). Going on a cruise is about a journey, not just the stops and this was no exception. Sitting watching the temples, fields, villages and many other ships go by from either the sub-deck or the chairs on the deck outside the cabin was a restful, ever changing experience (even when we had unexpected rain). We could write for ever (and out diaries are quite long) but a typical day has: - Coffee/tea and pastries (they have their own bakery) on deck at 6.00 am if you want to see the dawn and, often, the boat leaving the shore - Breakfast at 7.00-9.00 which is a full buffet including eggs to order. It should be said that the coffee is variable. - The first planned itinerary with the guide -e.g. visiting a temple, a village or a workshop - Lunch was 12.30 and has soup, an appetiser, salads, a main course, sweets and, often, very good cheese. - The second planned itinerary with the guide -e.g. often a walk. The itinerary was very much culturally orientated and designed to show Myanmar traditions, crafts and current ways of life. -Back on the boat cocktails (with nibbles) were at 6.30 on the sun deck and briefing for the next day was about 7.00 prior to dinner at 7.30 (lunch and dinner are heralded by the gong). - Dinner was a three course meal (there was always a vegetarian option and we travelled with gluten free guests who found they bent over backwards to take of them). Try the local wine which was surprisingly good. - Some evenings there was an entertainment such as a dance, puppet show or movie and there was time to relax with a drink before bed. We told you we were there for New Year and the ships crew gave real attention to making it a special event. We had dancing, lights, champagne and fireworks. Watching fireworks and holding a roman candle over the side whilst moored in the middle of the river drinking Champagne will be a favourite memory out of many. We should note that the boat can carry 60, but a combination of the single supplement and the political situation meant that there only 9 of us for the full trip and we were joined for 4 nights Including New Year's Eve) by another 18. We went looking forward to a relaxing and informative trip that combined sailing on the Irawaddy river with tours of local places. It's often easy to find fault with something but we really can't with this trip. The food was excellent, the service and care extraordinary. It may seem trite, but we really did not want to leave - it had truly exceeded all our expectations. Read Less
Sail Date December 2017
We chose Pandaw over other, more chic cruises because we wanted to a have a more authentic yet luxurious cruise in Myanmar. The RV Indochina and crew did not disappoint. We were the first to arrive at our ship, and I was worried we ... Read More
We chose Pandaw over other, more chic cruises because we wanted to a have a more authentic yet luxurious cruise in Myanmar. The RV Indochina and crew did not disappoint. We were the first to arrive at our ship, and I was worried we might not be allowed on board. Not a problem. The crew welcomed us, took our luggage, and told us that if we wanted our room that would be fine, or we could explore the nearby town (Sailang). We chose to return and came back to a wonderful buffet lunch with our fellow passengers. This was just the beginning of great hospitality the whole crew exhibited. A few items of note... - The food is outstanding. I would recommend staying with the Burmese cuisine over western style. I have celiac disease. Chef can easily handle gluten-free dining and even wrote a letter in Burmese for me to carry when I left the ship to ensure that I would be safe as I continued my journey. - I suggest the wine program for lunch and dinner if you are a wine drinker. Our house wines were a choice of South African or wines from Myanmar produced with imported grapes. The "local" Sauvignon Blanc was lovely as was the red blend. Soe Moe and Richard are always on hand to fill your glass and will also top you off before heading to after dinner activities. We did not order off the wine list but I did notice that it has both old and new world selections and champagne. - Every night there is happy hour with abundant and tasty appetizers on deck. The local liquors - especially the rum made from local sugarcane - are quite nice and included in the base rate. Johnson makes a great drink. - Our cabin was 206. I would suggest moving back a bit to 208 or 210 on the lower level, or directly above as you will hear anchors up at 6am departures. - Guide service is included. Tin, our guide, spoke great English and was very informative. He knows about all the sites we went to, answering questions that aren't typical guide-book info, and spoke about what was happening in his country with diplomatic aplomb. Guides are the only people who's tips are not included so please remember to tip them. - Our cabin was simple but elegant with a well working A/C. Service was morning and evening. We did have to request some additional shampoo once but that was the only thing we ever lacked. Everything was kept very clean and I give housekeeping kudos for giving us a great space. - Fabian the purser is able to arrange balloon rides in Bagan before the morning excursion. I would suggest adding this to your trip. - One little "luxury" I haven't had on other lines is shoe cleaning. Our excursions could be dusty or muddy, so the crew cleans your shoes after every outing and leaves them by the door. This was awesome. - We had a massage therapist on-board. She gave great massages, but her English wasn't the best so it was hard to give direction. This was the one area I could see improvement. But the massages are so good and affordable I had 3 so really, no complaining. - Expect lots of fun with crew-included dance parties. There was a conga line and sing along on our last night. It felt like the end of summer-camp and will be something I will always remember. I have cruised with several high-end companies and I have to say I thoroughly loved Pandaw. I can't compare it really to a Uniworld or Crystal Esprit because it is completely different. You won't have the crystal and fine china or gorgeous chandeliers. What you will have is a completely local crew who takes pride in their country and their ship and want to share it with you. Their heart is in giving you the best vacation in anemergingc country and for that I give them 5 stars. Read Less
Sail Date December 2017
This 7-night cruise was part of a two-week visit to Myanmar, and a highlight of it. We boarded at Bagan, having spent a day among its 2000+ temples and pagodas, and sailed upriver to Mandalay, stopping off daily to visit villages, cottage ... Read More
This 7-night cruise was part of a two-week visit to Myanmar, and a highlight of it. We boarded at Bagan, having spent a day among its 2000+ temples and pagodas, and sailed upriver to Mandalay, stopping off daily to visit villages, cottage industries, temples and pagodas. The ship is beautiful and small enough (we had 26 passengers) to feel like a family outing. The teak-lined cabins are cleverly designed to provide maximum storage space and the sun deck is just delightful. But the principal reason for loving the trip was the crew, who couldn't have been kinder, more attentive and generally charming; we were treated like royalty. Food was excellent, too, with a delicious salad buffet at lunch time to accompany the main courses and varied dinner options. Various entertainments - Burmese cooking, traditional dress, films about the Pandaw company's history - were provided for rainy days. Cocktail hour on the sundeck was eagerly anticipated and we were treated daily to a different drink. Read Less
Sail Date October 2017
I am a repeat Pandaw customer and was expecting high quality but this 7 night cruise on the Irrawaddy exceeded my expectations. Food, tours, guide, staff friendliness and kindness- all were just amazing. Nothing was too much trouble for ... Read More
I am a repeat Pandaw customer and was expecting high quality but this 7 night cruise on the Irrawaddy exceeded my expectations. Food, tours, guide, staff friendliness and kindness- all were just amazing. Nothing was too much trouble for the staff and the sight seeing was just fantastic. We saw villages and temples and markets and schools and and and .... we embarked in Bagan and spent 7 nights on the river, disembarking in Mandalay. To a woman and man (there were just 17 of us, with 21 staff!!) we were sad to leave the ship - we had all enjoyed ourselves so very much. Special mention of the ship's purser, who made sure everything ran smoothly, from beginning to end - Myo Naing - a champion !!! If you do just one Asian river cruise, make it Pandaw on the Irrawaddy. Myanmar is a beautiful country with gentle, kind and sweet people. Read Less
Sail Date September 2017
We were booked onto this cruise via our UK tour operator Audley Travel in conjunction with the local agent Tour Mandalay. The trip was fantastic. The crew were so charming and attentive. The accommodation was spacious and comfortable. The ... Read More
We were booked onto this cruise via our UK tour operator Audley Travel in conjunction with the local agent Tour Mandalay. The trip was fantastic. The crew were so charming and attentive. The accommodation was spacious and comfortable. The food was excellent and the tour guide and the excursions we made were interesting and informative. A wonderful experience. We left the harbourside at the old city of Bagan and headed up stream towards Mandalay, stopping en route at the bustling city of Pakokku to see local craft weaving and thanaka (the traditional Myanmar skin care paste) production. On day two we visited the lively village of Yandabo to see their hand made pottery businesses that supply traditional water pots to the whole of the country. Here we also visited a nursery and school set up by the Pandaw charity. It was a charming experience. We wish the trip could have been longer. Read Less
Sail Date September 2017
I have never been on a cruise before but wanted to do a river cruise in Asia. I saw the other reviews about this ship and decided that I should give it a try. I was not disappointed! Everything about the cruise vastly exceeded my ... Read More
I have never been on a cruise before but wanted to do a river cruise in Asia. I saw the other reviews about this ship and decided that I should give it a try. I was not disappointed! Everything about the cruise vastly exceeded my expectations: the room, the excursions, the guides, the food, and, most importantly, the staff. I was expecting a smaller-sized room, but was pleasantly surprised to find a room that was relatively big, with plenty of space to put away clothes. The bathroom was very decently sized and the water pressure in the shower was excellent. Opening your door at any time of the day and looking at the Mekong River truly was awe-inspiring. Even though the rooms had exterior doors, the way the ship was laid out resulted in very little outside foot traffic and noise. There were two excursions that were given on most days, one in the morning and one in the afternoon. All were great and our leaders in Vietnam and Cambodia were friendly, knowledgeable and professional. Head counts were taken at all tours to make sure that all persons were accounted for! The tours were varied in nature and were all enjoyable. Having never been to either Cambodia or Vietnam before, I learned a lot at each tour. All of us soon got used to the post-excursion Pandaw regimen upon return to the ship: taking off your shoes to be cleaned by the Pandaw staff; given hand sanitizer; given a wonderfully-scented cold towel; and being given an ever-changing delicious cold beverage! The food was uniformly excellent. I truly enjoyed the mix of Asian and Western dishes and did my best to sample all. Standouts, however, were the Asian breakfasts, the banana crepes that we had one night for dessert and, yes, the Blue Cheese. In fact, there were a number of persons who commented (and me being one of them) that the Blue Cheese they served was some of the best that they had ever sampled. But far and away the best thing about the cruise was the staff. Simply put, they were all incredible! All were polite, professional, but most importantly, personable. By the time the cruise was over, I felt that most of them were friends rather than staff who were looking after me. I went out of my way to tell Brian, the cruise manager, how good of a job Pandaw did in their hires. There was another cruise ship that moored next to us when we were at Phnom Penh. I asked if I could have a quick look of the ship. Yes, it was a bit spiffy. But in a heartbeat, I felt that I made the right decision in taking the Pandaw cruise. I went to thank all with Pandaw for making this possibly the best vacation I have ever taken!! Read Less
Sail Date July 2017
I had travelled on a Pandaw cruise previously and could not fault it for style, comfort, friendly crew, variety of villages and other attractions to visit, the food, the guides and the comfort of the cabins. I like the small number of ... Read More
I had travelled on a Pandaw cruise previously and could not fault it for style, comfort, friendly crew, variety of villages and other attractions to visit, the food, the guides and the comfort of the cabins. I like the small number of fellow travellers these ships accommodate, and the range of countries they come from. It leads to a friendly, relaxed atmosphere. The first cruise was the downstream Mekong trip which I found very interesting, but the Red River/Halong Bay upstream trip was even better, providing us with an interesting variety of villages and towns to visit as well as the chance to enjoy the spectacular scenery of Halong Bay and other areas off the regular tourist beat. The teak construction and shiny brass fittings give the ships a timeless and classy look. The ships and excursions may challenge those with very limited mobility as there are no lifts but apart from that small inconvenience the cruises cater for most abilities. I can highly recommend Pandaw as a great company to travel with. Read Less
Sail Date May 2017
Our cruise was on the Upper Irrawaddy. This is our 3rd Pandaw cruise in 2 years. They epitomize the benefits and joys of Myanmar experience. The food is great, the itineraries are creative. We faced a couple of crises (caught on sand bars) ... Read More
Our cruise was on the Upper Irrawaddy. This is our 3rd Pandaw cruise in 2 years. They epitomize the benefits and joys of Myanmar experience. The food is great, the itineraries are creative. We faced a couple of crises (caught on sand bars) and the crew is empowered to find solutions. The staff are friendly to the point of knowing passengers quite intimately which guarantees a personalized service, especially at meal times. This does NOT have ocean liner evening options. Pandaw takes you into the heart and soul of this country whose citizens are probably the nicest people on this planet. Despite having already done the Chindwin River cruise last year and Halong Bay/Red River out of Hanoi this year, we have been reminded of why Pandaw fulfills our river cruise needs. We almost certainly will return next year for another Pandaw experience. Children would not find this satisfactory. The clientele on all of our Pandaw cruises have been 'Senior' or close to it. The excursions are not particularly demanding but are VERY rewarding. One day, we found ourselves in the middle of a wedding and a funeral, just a few minutes apart and were urged - by the parties involved - to join them and participate. The interaction and opportunity to meet the Burmans is truly the highlight of our Myanmar experiences. Read Less
Sail Date February 2017
Until 2016 cruises up the Chindwin were restricted to the rainy season when the depth of the river was sufficient. We did not fancy cruising in the rain so we were delighted when Pandaw announced they were putting the low draft Zawgyi ... Read More
Until 2016 cruises up the Chindwin were restricted to the rainy season when the depth of the river was sufficient. We did not fancy cruising in the rain so we were delighted when Pandaw announced they were putting the low draft Zawgyi Pandaw on for cruises in the dry season. We jumped at their offering for 2016/7 New Year cruise and were rewarded by 7 days of warm unbroken sunshine. Ours was an upstream departure which included transfers from a Mandalay hotel or Mandalay airport. We chose the latter, the best choice as it turned out, and caught the 07.30 Myanmar National flight from Yangon (UB103 07.30-08.25) on a brand new 737-800, and were met at Mandalay Arrivals and transferred to the Chindwin in a modern comfortable MiniVan . After stopping off to view the unique Kaunghmudaw Pagoda on the way, we arrived at Pandaw in just over 2 hours. Those who elected to stay in Mandalay fared worse-they were collected from their 4 hotels in a bus – some were on the bus for four+ hours. Now the Zawgyi- only 10 cabins and maximum 20 guests. Ours was full with a wide variety of nationalities-Aussies, South African, Bavarian, Swiss, Austrian, Kiwis and us two Brits, a really great melange. English was the common language and it was great that we all mixed and changed table partners daily so that we all got to know each other, and made friends quickly. No friction or clashes-super. Food was really good, with great breakfasts (full English if needed) with a choice of 3 main courses for lunch and dinner and always salads/soups and cheeses as a starter for lunch with a choice for dinner. Their fresh hot bread would put many hotels to shame. The chef could always provide grilled butterfish or an omelette when needed. Do note that the meat choice was a US portion and only trencherman could manage the steaks, joints and lamb chops. Local beer, local spirits (first class) bottled water and cans of soft drinks are included and available on a ‘help yourself’ basis 24/7 although wine and premium spirits do have to paid for. Unlike other Pandaw boats there is no draft beer-my only regret. However,the complimentary evening cocktail could be lethal. Cabins are comfy and have adequate storage space, good aircon, and being more modern than other Pandaw’s, the shower is large with powerful and constant hot water. Although there are no seats outside the cabins the main sun deck has loungers and plenty of seats for everyone. Laundry service is good and not expensive. WiFi was not fitted (soon to be rectified) but most guests had bought SIM’s for their phones and had good reception most of the time-remarkable as the Captain told us that only in the last year had masts been erected and the towns up the Chindwin connected. Back to the Cruise:- On the first day we took a short coach trip through the important river town of Monywa to see the ancient Thandboodi Temple and the 3 Bawdhi Tahaung statues, all so different to those in Central Myanmar and Yangon. For travellers with Stupa fatigue they were the only ones we visited as the daily excursions for the rest of the week were very much seeing village and river life, with the occasional monastery thrown in. As it was New Years Eve the chefs laid on a special dinner, with champagne. Paul Strachan, the owner of Pandaw, was accompanying us on the mini Kalaw Pandaw with his family and some friends. As we were all knackered from an early start, and would not make it to midnight, he decreed Hogmanay would be at 10.00pm and would be celebrated midstream with fireworks, and all Monywa was greeted with a fine Pandaw display from both boats, each trying to outdo each other. The second day we visited Phowin Taung caves on the Western bank-again so different to others in Myanmar before cruising through stunning countryside before mooring overnight. The Chindwin is special, so unlike the wide Irrawaddy, in that it is much narrower and steep sided as you pass through timber clad hills. River life is fascinating with much commercial traffic including bamboo rafts and teak. The Chindwin is also opening up with the “India-Myanmar Friendship” road being constructed from Kalawa to the India border and there were river boats going North carrying new diggers and construction equipment. Each day there were one or more shore excursions sometimes by tuk tuk, sometimes by pickup and more often on foot over paddy fields to visit isolated villages only accessed by river, there are no roads. Their only access for shopping is the weekly “boat shop” that comes by. We were warned that some villages are seldom visited by tourists and that the young children might frightened-and so it was with a couple of toddlers bursting into tears when they saw us. We were, however, greeted with typical Burmese wide smiles everywhere we went and, in isolated villages, we were always accompanied by a troop of youngsters-a bit like pied piper. The village elders always gave us a guided tour and made us most welcome. We visited three of these remote villages and, to many of us, the visits were one of the highlights as you saw true Burmese life, something that you don’t see on the tourist trail. The bustling river side towns of Mingkin, Kalewa and Mawlaik were all truly fascinating -and we didn’t see another tourist! Even with its 2ft draft our boat could not navigate further North than Mawlaik but we had a wonderful shore excursion in tuk tuk pickups to visit the old Colonial buildings, the golf course and after lunch the elephant sanctuary. The Pyer Swe elephant camp is for retired working elephants and is run by the Myanmar Forestry Commission. One retired tusker and six retired ladies enjoy foraging, bathing and being fed bananas and sugar cane by the visitors. One of the ladies, 50+, surprised her keepers when after 6 months she produced a baby girl! Life in the old girl yet. The youngster is now 6 months old and a right handful. On our last day, at Kalewa, after a walk around the town and its bustling market we had our last lunch on board prior to transferring to our included flight from Kalaymyo airport to Mandalay and Yangon. The transfer, in an old local bus, was quite slow and bumpy for the first hour as the road is being remade as a highway but as soon as we cleared the teak forests it was a good road and we made the airport in 70 mins. A few last remarks Tips are included for the crew although there was a tips box. Most guests also tipped the guide and the purser. The purser Win Myo was excellent as was Min the guide. I also tipped our regular crew shore helper who was always on hand to give my wife, and others, a heave up and down the steep river banks. Some days a few guests rested on the boat as the excursions could be quite strenuous but they had a great time watching the villagers washing and bathing in the river and bringing down their cattle for water. Guests who stayed on board were well looked after with tea and biscuits and access to the free bar. Weather was wonderful for our cruise with 26C day but it could be cool at night and misty in the mornings so ensure you take long sleeve jumpers or wraps. Nobody “dressed” for dinner-casual is the norm and light clothes in the day for ladies and shorts, if not visiting temples, for the men. The boat does not have an internet connection for CC’s so take enough US$ for extras. I would highly recommend this cruise to anyone who wants to experience real Burmese working towns and villages. Go before it changes Read Less
Sail Date January 2017
Already Booked?

Get to know who you’ll be sailing with

Find a Cruise

Easily compare prices from multiple sites with one click