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7 Pandaw Yangon (Rangoon) Cruise Reviews

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
Embarkation was so easy...no queues, just boarded and taken care of. The cabin is all in teak as is the ship. Nice toiletries. My only complaint is that the water pressure for the shower is not that strong. Plenty of hot water. Note: ... Read More
Embarkation was so easy...no queues, just boarded and taken care of. The cabin is all in teak as is the ship. Nice toiletries. My only complaint is that the water pressure for the shower is not that strong. Plenty of hot water. Note: there is only one plug (European two pin round) so bring an adaptor if you have lots of things to recharge. The food was excellent and inventive. Do try the Burmese breakfast though you can have eggs and bacon et al too. The hash brown potatoes are excellent! Lunch and dinner were 4 course meals. 3 main course selections: European, Burmese, and vegetarian. Bottled water always available, as much as you want. Leo, the Pandaw manager for South East Asia, was on our ship for half of the cruise. He was typical of the kind care and service that all the cruise staff gave to us. Nothing was too difficult. Endlessly helpful, which for me using a cane, was just perfect. Wifi is available on the Sun Deck when possible. Download time varied according to where we were. And while talking about the Sun Deck, I must tell you to try the nuts...excellent! English is sometimes difficult to understand, but that is part of the fun. Take some warm clothing as it is cool in the morning as you near Mandalay. Have lots of Khat 1000 bills...about 60p. I changed $50 at the airport and still had left over Khat by the end of the cruise. They only accept NEW American dollars. Business is done in dollars, absolutely no need for Pounds. They went out of their way to make Christmas and New Year Eve exciting and pleasurable...with gifts for all. This is a relaxing, easy, cruise. The ship holds a maximum of 48 people, but we had only 31, so lots of room. All the excursions were well organised and interesting. I highly rate this cruise and this cruise line. Read Less
Sail Date December 2016
Comprehensive review Our first cruise on the Irrawaddy was on the Road to Mandalay in 1996 and in 2004 we joined a Pandaw expedition cruise from Bagan to Bhamo and enjoyed it so much we waited for Pandaw to start cruising from Yangon so ... Read More
Comprehensive review Our first cruise on the Irrawaddy was on the Road to Mandalay in 1996 and in 2004 we joined a Pandaw expedition cruise from Bagan to Bhamo and enjoyed it so much we waited for Pandaw to start cruising from Yangon so we could complete the navigable part of the mighty Irrawaddy. The full Itinerary can be found here https://www.pandaw.com/expeditions/irrawaddy/ and a shorter version joining the vessel at Prome here https://www.pandaw.com/expeditions/golden-land/ We joined their December cruise-the same boat, and the same cabin of our original cruise. Welcome home... The cruise was 70% full-all English speaking pax, a mix of the UK and the ex-Colonies, and included 7 singles who were quickly assimilated to mix with the couples. A few had travelled to Myanmar before but most were first timers, although seasoned travellers. Ages varied from early 40's to late 70's but age was no barrier on this cruise We were quickly welcomed aboard, our luggage was in our cabin before us and we were soon on the top deck casting off in the Yangon river. CABINS Small but cosy, surprisingly good storage space, good aircon and a compact but good bathroom with shower. Water is piping hot but takes a bit to come through and loo flushing is a bit of an art. Two is good-seven means your technique is wrong. A great feature is having your own lloyd loom seats and table outside so as to watch the river go by, supping a Mandalay sour... Housekeeping was excellent with really efficient make over after breakfast and a full turndown during dinner. Laundry was cheap, efficient and flexible (cool wash, iron then on hanger etc) with an average price of only $2 FOOD AND DRINK Excellent food, a mix of Asian and Western but chef would cater for all tastes and allergies. Buffet breakfast with hot A la Carte and mostly A la Carte lunch and Dinner but with a substantial choice for buffet starter and dessert/cheese. Fresh bread with every meal-we toured the super kitchens and the chef was ever-so proud of his bread maker. There was free seating and generally most moved and mixed, with a few notable exceptions who developed squatters rights on a certain table. All water, tea & coffee, local soft drinks, beer and local spirits are included as is also a cocktail of the day at the briefing before dinner. The local spirits of Gin, Dark Rum, Whiskey, Light Rum and Vodka are excellent and if you were not a wine drinker you could have a zero extras bill after 14 days. The DIY coffee/tea/drinks station on the main deck was open from 6am till late. There was plenty of chairs/loungers on the top deck to seat everyone and when cruising this was the choice of many, whether reading, chatting, drinking, dozing or just watching the river traffic go by. We had film shows, presentations, marionettes, dance troupes on many evenings but nothing late TG -most were whacked out and ready for bed after a long day. THE CRUISE We were blessed with great weather starting in Yangon at 32C and finishing at Mandalay at 28C,cloudless skies with low humidity. Evenings were cool at 15/18C and then, and when the boat was motoring against the wind ,long sleeves were needed. On many days we had two stops and, because of the distance we had to cover, the boat cruised as late as it could before mooring at a deserted river bank before setting off at dawn the next day. Only in Bagan and Saigang did we moor in towns and near other cruise boats. Many of the stops in the early part of the cruise were at small delta villages where we were the only tourists and a curiosity to the villagers who took more photos of us than us of them. Even in remote places there were phone shops and even little stalls sold SIM top ups. Cheap Chinese handsets have flooded the country and many stall holders had phones-some bigger and fancier than ours. The real eye opener was the difference in undeveloped, in tourism terms, towns and villages and Bagan/Mandalay. For the first 9 days we never came across foreign tourists and had the local villages such as Maubin,Danabyu and Myanaung to ourselves. Even major towns of Pyay, Thayatmyo and Magwe were tourist free and as I have already said, we had more photos taken of us in the local markets than we took of the village scenes. We were never approached by sellers, never saw a beggar and the children just wanted to say mingalabar, not expecting pens or sweets. One market lady apologised when her kids said "money" as they had mispronounced "morning" It was a real shock to the system when we hit Bagan and Mandalay when we saw the tourist hoards, most of them being Burmese, not a foreigners! The two big highlights of our cruise was visiting these river towns which are still the real Myanmar and for me-watching and photographing the river traffic which varied from bamboo rafts, through a variety of barges carrying rice or aggregates to the occasional fancy Belmond Gin Palace Cruiser. Every boat, big or tiny waved at us passing-except the Belmond Orcaella pax who could not be bothered to get up from their luxury sun loungers around their pool, nuf said. We were accompanied on the visits by our Burmese guide and also a few crew members to make sure we kept up and did not fall behind. They also helped with local shopping -SIM cards, antibiotics, camera memory cards, gifts etc. The cruise stops cover many places in Burmese history and we visited stupas, village markets, old forts, colonial buildings, agricultural workhouses,potteries, and even a golf course founded in 1885 complete with grazing cattle on the fairways. On return to the boat after each trip our shoes were removed for cleaning, a cold drink was offered and, most importantly we had an antiseptic hand gel-this was also mandatory before all meals. WiFi and MOBILE RECEPTION WiFi was intermittent and only in the main villages when moored and only on the sun deck. There was always a good signal using a local SIM, both for calls and data- there always seems to be a mast on sight along the river. HEALTH Some pax took Malarone, others just sprayed and covered up and there were very few bites-and non on the boat itself. Once we got to Mandalay we were invaded by tiny moths in the evenings. This January in Myanmar, especially in the dry dusty zone, coughs and colds and especially sore throats , were rife everywhere. Wherever and however you travelled, boat, coach or aircraft there were coughs and sneezes everywhere from tourists and locals alike. Most on Pandaw ended up with a sore throat or cough but only a couple had travellers tummy-certainly not due the food coming from the galley. The Purser was very helpful dishing out remedies and also very efficiently treating a couple of cuts-he and the other first aiders are trained by an International medical company. OVERVIEW This is not a inexpensive cruise although many had booked early to get discounts. Some booked direct, some as part of an Agents package and arrived through a variety of airlines and airports-Bangkok, Singapore ,KL, Taiwan etc etc. Other cruises of a similar length could be 50% more . Pandaw is a traditional teak fitted river expedition boat with no pool and certainly no jackets for dinner although many of the ladies dined in very smart casual. As has been reported in other reviews on extended trips, there can be a touch of tribalism towards the end and this cruise was no exception. Nothing serious and not country specific. It did not detract from the pleasure of the cruise-in fact it could be quite amusing to observe. If there was a criticism it is that language skills of the purser and guide were not of the best although one could not fault their efficiency enthusiasm and dedication to our care. Pandaw, as the original cruise company on the Irrawaddy, has found their staff being poached by the many start up cruise companies .There are now 10 cruise companies and 35+ boats plying the Irrawaddy-15 years ago there were 5 boats so the problem will not go away, with the fancy boats paying top $ for the best guides. BUT this was a memorable cruise, good value for money and a delightful time spent on a boat of real character. They are planning short cruises around the delta which we plan to join-and maybe a Chindwin expedition? Read Less
Sail Date December 2015
We just did an exotic 7 days cruise on the Pandaw on the Chindwin River in North West Myanmar. It was absolutely incredible. It was a small beautiful river ship with 5 cabins, the staff was incredible and the food and presentation was 5 ... Read More
We just did an exotic 7 days cruise on the Pandaw on the Chindwin River in North West Myanmar. It was absolutely incredible. It was a small beautiful river ship with 5 cabins, the staff was incredible and the food and presentation was 5 star. if you are looking for a small intimate and attentive cruise, this is it. We visited Nagaland, it was the first time that foreigners could visit this part of the country since the 70's. The people were fantastic! It was truly a very different experience. The company was great to deal with, they organized our interior flights as well as hotel pick up and drop off. I would recommend this company to any one. We will definitely use them again. Read Less
Sail Date September 2015
Our 14 night Irrawaddy river cruise from Yangon by Pandaw Cruise Co. was a disappointing experience to say the least. Perhaps our pre cruise expectation was unrealistic. ( We imagined Myanmar to be full of untouched mountains/trees, ... Read More
Our 14 night Irrawaddy river cruise from Yangon by Pandaw Cruise Co. was a disappointing experience to say the least. Perhaps our pre cruise expectation was unrealistic. ( We imagined Myanmar to be full of untouched mountains/trees, streams , wild birds,animals and of course Buddhistic culture. ) Yes, there were stupas and temples. ( We had to see these on almost every excursion.) But more than anything else we were disappointed at the service and the lack of professionalism shown by the Pandaw cruise Co. 1. I could not drink the coffee they serve on the ship. ( too stale ) The food they serve was one of the poorest in quality . 2. I see staff member eating his breakfast when we have our breakfast. They clean the ceiling of the dining room while there are open plates around for breakfast. 3. The brochure says the price includes tipping of the crew, yet they suggest tipping of $ 5 per day per person. 4. The safety of the passengers are not taken seriously. One passenger fell to the ditch during the trishaw excursion. The trishaw and the driver were on top of this passenger when they fell unto the ditch. I do not know how she was not seriously injured! Other passenger fell and hit her head on the ship. She had a 10cm laceration on her scalp. They brought a doctor who did not know what to do with this problem. I as a surgeon had to clean the wound with Vodka and sew the laceration up with the kit the another passenger brought . 5. I joined their post cruise program. It was very expensive considering the service we received. Yet they booked us the flight which was not a direct flight to Yangon ( to save money ? )   Read Less
Sail Date December 2014
We were very impressed with our cruise on Katha Pandaw on the Irrawaddy River, Myanmar in October 2013. I had read all I could find of the history of this troubled nation, novels set in the country and Yangon newspapers on line in the ... Read More
We were very impressed with our cruise on Katha Pandaw on the Irrawaddy River, Myanmar in October 2013. I had read all I could find of the history of this troubled nation, novels set in the country and Yangon newspapers on line in the months before our cruise. Our itinerary was the least "pagoda heavy", went well beyond the Yangon-Bagan-Mandalay tourist strip and into the farms, small industries and villages of Myanmar. We were not disappointed. Before, during and after our cruise we were overwhelmed by the friendliness, generosity and warm welcome of the people of Myanmar. Pre Cruise: We flew Jetstar from Singapore to Yangon, staying 3 nights at the Chatrium Hotel from where the Pandaw cruise departed at 6 a.m. Chatrium is a comfortable hotel, buffet breakfast, wifi included and all that goes with a 4/5 star hotel. A $US4.00 air-conditioned cab ride to Yangon city centre, $8-10 to the airport. Reviewed on Trip Advisor. www.tripadvisor.com We arranged pre- and post-cruising, transfers, internal air and some guiding with a local agent. After the guide’s introduction we were comfortable exploring Yangon on our own in cabs, on foot, on the ferry and the iconic circular train. Post Cruise: One night Mandalay, two nights Lake Inle before flying out of Yangon. The Ship, Katha Pandaw: Pandaw ships are teak panelled, in the style of colonial river steamers. RV Katha was the smallest of the fleet, 16 air-conditioned, twin bed cabins, with ensuite bathrooms, 6 upper, 10 lower deck. There is no elevator. Cabins are small with adequate storage for our clothes and suitcases. All have sliding glass doors and screened external doors opening to the shared deck. The nights were cool enough in October for us to sleep with the air-con turned off, the glass doors open and the screened doors shut. Bathrobes, safe, unlimited bottled water, hair dryer, shampoos etc and one electrical converter plug provided. No phone, TV, minibar or teamaking tray; hot and cold drinks are available in the bar. Cabins are immaculately maintained and usually serviced during breakfast. Light sleepers should avoid cabins adjoining the crew area and wheelhouse because the crew are up and about earlier than passengers need to be. The ship does not cruise at night so engine noise did not disturb our sleep. There are large shaded open-air sitting and dining areas on the upper deck, always a comfortable temperature, with pull down transparent weather shields (used once). Larger Pandaw boats have enclosed air-conditioned sitting and dining areas. Deck plans, itineraries and much more on the website www.pandaw.com The Cruise 600 Miles, See All Burma: 14 days cruising up the Irrawaddy River from Pyay (Prome) to Katha and down again to Mandalay. We left the Chatrium by air-con coach at 6am to join the ship at Pyay, a six hour drive with two comfort stops. The first, Taukkyan War Cemetery on the outskirts of Yangon, allowed enough time for a quick wander. For us the itinerary was an excellent mixture of archaeology, ancient and modern history, life in Myanmar, performances by very talented local dancers, singers and puppeteers, visits to exquisitely carved teak monasteries, to magnificent pagodas, to local markets, potteries and other small traditional industries, to farms and to villages and some of the schools and medical clinics financed by Pandaw Cruises. In Katha the ship hosted an early breakfast for the local monks. Another highlight was seeing six of the extremely rare and endangered Irrawaddy dolphin from the ship. Dolphin sightings are not guaranteed. The river is the artery of the country. We never tired of being on the upper deck, returning the smiles and waves of the ever welcoming hard-working Burmese. The smiles welcomed us to a moment of their lives, as they worked the fields, tended crops and animals, built bamboo houses, flew kites, fished, washed, swam, carried the production of this fertile valley to the river and loaded boats with drums of oil, bamboo poles, teak logs, vegetables, clay pots, fish, sacks of rice, beans, peanuts, and sacks we could only guess at, then transported these on low barges, small motor boats or bamboo rafts. Passengers: Only 8 of the 16 cabins were occupied by 15 passengers from USA, UK and Australia aged 40-70+, all keen to experience and enjoy every experience the cruise offered. The Crew: The guide and crew’s attention to our comfort, our special needs and wishes was amazing, as good as any cruise or land tour I have experienced, including Silversea, and considerably better than many others. At pagodas a crew member assisted those who struggled to bend to remove/replace footwear, guarded our shoes and distributed wipes for our feet when we emerged. On returning to the boat our shoes were removed and cleaned for us. Our guide on this cruise, San, was outstanding. San is knowledgeable, articulate, fluent in English and alert to British, Australian and American senses of humour. He gave enough information to arouse our interest but never enough to be boring. San had more information for those with a special interest and was happy to answer random questions about life in Myanmar. Through him we were invited to join two wedding celebrations, experiencing again the generosity and warm welcome of the people of Myanmar. Our purser, Than, ran the passenger services very well, ably supported by the stewards, chefs and housekeeping staff. They made it an exceptional experience. Excursions: Included in the fare, except fees for cameras at some sites and for elephant rides. A small tip ($US1/Kyat1000) for local drivers, performers etc. was appreciated but not required. The variety of excursions and events is outlined above. Excursions usually started after breakfast, returning to the ship for a long lunch break and departed again later in the afternoon. We were cool and comfortable on board in the hottest part of the day. In small towns and villages we walked, in the larger cities we had air-con coaches but often we rode trishaws or horse drawn carts (2 passengers per cart) and for the defile, a local boat. All within the scope of two not very fit, 70ish Australians. There was always a crew member to help us climb a steep river bank or hand us into pony cart or trishaw, whether we needed help or not. For those with serious breathing or mobility problems, wheelchairs or walking frames, it becomes more difficult. There are no docks. Every outing we crossed the gangplank and climbed the sandy river bank. If the bank was particularly steep, the crew cut steps for us and offered a strong arm to lean on. The roads and paths we followed were often unpaved tracks or broken pavement or we walked across ploughed fields to villages. Sometimes hills and flights of steps were unavoidable. Meals and Drinks: Meal-times occasionally varied to suit the excursion program. Usually breakfast was 7-9am, lunch 1pm, dinner 7.30pm, after the evening briefing by guide and purser. Tea and coffee, biscuits, fresh fruit and cold drinks were available from 7am. No cabin service or variation of meal times is offered. Breakfast was buffet with an “eggs cooked to order” station, fresh fruit, cereals, toast, pastries, tasty Asian style soups, bacon, tomato with dishes of either noodles, fish, sausages or baked beans. Lunch was soup, delicious breads made onboard, a salad buffet, a choice of three hot mains (menu offered at breakfast) or a hot mains buffet, followed by pudding. Dinner was soup, starter, choice of three mains (menu offered at lunch) and pudding. Every meal had a vegetarian option. We thought the meals were varied and delicious, vegetable, fish, chicken and pork dishes were particularly tender and served with interesting sauces; the curries were excellent but quite mild. I didn’t eat salads till I was quite sure my fellow cruisers felt no ill-effects. They didn’t, and I regret missing two days of super salads. We notified two food intolerances at booking and on arrival and were alerted to any dish that might contain these foods. I do not know how much provision can be made for those with very limited diets or limited food preferences. Soft drinks, local beers, local spirits and mixes were included in the tariff and freely available. Carafes of wine were provided at dinner only. Bottled wine could be purchased from the bar. Dress: Casual. Trousers/skirts below the knee and sleeves covering shoulders were required at some pagodas and feet must be bare to enter pagodas and monasteries. All footwear, including orthotics must be removed, so slip-on-slip-off shoes or flip-flops are good for those who can walk to/from the site in them. We needed a hat, comfortable clothes for hot weather, a waterproof and a light jacket or shawl for cool evenings/mornings and the trip up river to the second defile on a breezy local boat. Our travel doctor advised long sleeves and trousers between dusk and dawn as mosquito protection, so we showered and “smartened up” into these before dinner. Laundry: We were warned that the laundry was done in river water. Clothes were returned in excellent order and charges were very reasonable. Medical: Our travel doctor prescribed a malaria prophylaxis which we took and other just-in-case medications, which we carried along with basic patent medicines and didn’t use any. Seek medical advice before travelling and carry sufficient supplies of your regular medications, “just-in-case” drugs, insect repellent and sunscreen. Money: ATM in Yangon and Mandalay only. We changed some US dollars for kyat on arrival at Yangon airport and later withdrew kyat at ATM in Yangon and Mandalay. We were told to bring only crisp, unmarked, unfolded $USnotes of recent issue but less than pristine notes were accpeted. Pandaw took credit cards for on-board expenses exceeding $200, othersise cash, $US preferred but kyat accepted. We followed Pandaw’s recommendations for tipping the crew. Communications: Wifi was free but available only near bigger cities. The ship’s phone received calls; our Myanmar travel agent phoned me re a booking change. In October 2013, Australian mobile phones did not get signal in Myanmar and foreigners could not buy local SIM cards. We declined a $10/day SIM card rental at Yangon airport. This may change with many visitors coming for the SEA Games in Yangon in December 2013. Conclusion: For us this cruise was perfect. We travel for interesting destinations and appreciate well informed guides. We like to try new foods (from “safe” kitchens) and appreciate clean comfortable cabins with ensuite bathrooms. We want to get out, meet the people and learn about the country. Pandaw worked for us. Images of the river, pagodas in the mist and the smiles of the people are imprinted till Alzheimer’s messes with our brains Read Less
Sail Date October 2013
The cruise started with a busstransfer from Yangon to Prome where we boarded the Pandaw II. From the very first minute the crew took care of us in a wonderful way. We was served a drink, our shoes where cleaned and they took our bagage to ... Read More
The cruise started with a busstransfer from Yangon to Prome where we boarded the Pandaw II. From the very first minute the crew took care of us in a wonderful way. We was served a drink, our shoes where cleaned and they took our bagage to our cabin. This high level of service was maintained during the whole cruise. As we was just 45 passengers the service was very personalized and the style onboard was very informel, no such things as captains dinner etc. The Pandaw II is a wonderful boat made as a replica of the paddlewheel steamer that once cruise the Irrawaddy river. It´s all made of teak and brass but perfectly modern with AC etc. Most of the days we made two stops and visit remote villages up along the Irrawaddy river. Most of those places can only be reached by boat and every one of them had something special, unique, to show us. The Burmese guide, which followed us during the cruise, was very good and had great knowledge of the historic and culture of Burma/Myanmar. Every night there were arrangement on the ship, it could be a lecture of buddism, a cooking lesson or some documentary video about WW2 in Burma. Of course all of the excursions were complimentary and you were free to join them or not. The food was excellent with a large variety tho chose from. All beverage, even beer and liqure are complimentary. All together this cruise was an experience for life and we´ll return in august this year for a new Pandawcruise, this time for the even more remote parts of Myanmar, the Chindwin river. Read Less
Sail Date March 2012
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