Review: Myanmar River Cruise
Cruise - River Cruise
Down the Irrawaddy in Myanmar
76 people found this review helpful
APT RV Prrincess Panhwar – 14 Nights Irrawady River Cruise, Myanmar (Burma).
Whilst advertised by APT, this cruise is operated by Travel Marvel.
Princess Panhwar is a new river cruiser and we sailed on its second cruise from Mandalay to Yangon. This boutique cruiser has 36 cabins on two decks with either a French Balcony on the lower deck or an Outside Balcony on the upper deck. We had an outside balcony which proved worthwhile as you sit enjoying the many awesome sunsets. Every cabin is air-conditioned and this was extremely effective and quiet and is furnished with a double or twin beds, a writing desk/dressing table, plenty of wardrobe and drawer space and a safe and flat-screen television. Whilst wifi is advertised as available in the public rooms it is to all intents and purposes non-existent due to communication difficulties in Myanmar. This was the cause of major frustration amongst passengers and APT/Travel Marvel need to give priority to sort out this problem.
Besides a spacious Sun Deck with lots of seating but no deck pool or plunge pool, the public areas include a spacious air-conditioned lounge and dining room. There is also a small spa and a rather basic exercise room (treadmill, cross trainer and basic step machine).
The onboard service is excellent. Rooms are kept spotlessly clean. Copious free bottles of mineral water are provided daily and a water carrier is loaned to each passenger for carrying a bottle on shore excursions. The dining room offers an extensive selection of interesting, ethnic, international food for all the three meals. Wine, beer and soft drinks are offered free of charge with meals.
The Irrawady has a sandy river bed and this generates the occasional problem with sand banks. Indeed we were stuck on one for some time, which provided an entertaining few hours until we were released by a river barge. This, however, gives rise to another problem. At the end of our cruise we learnt that the next cruise from Yangon would not be able to sail all the way to Mandalay due the changing depth of the river and the sand banks. Passengers would have to be coached to Mandalay from an indeterminate point. Thus it is essential that you check on this aspect when considering this cruise, but this must not put you off an otherwise beautiful and fascinating cruise. One should also note that due to the changing river levels there are no established mooring jetties (apart from at Mandalay and Yangon). Instead passenger have to negotiate sandy (and at times steep) river banks wholly helped by all the crew members who line the access and help passengers on and off. Passengers can cope with this without too much of a problem and, indeed, so did some passengers with restricted mobility. If, however, you rely on a wheelchair, zimmer frame or other mobility aids you will be unable to manage this.
The overall itinerary is extensive and busy with several interesting included daily excursions that give you an excellent insight into all aspects of life, living, customs and traditions of Myanmar and its charming people who are delighted to meet and greet tourists with a smile and a wave. Visits to local markets and schools are included and here practical gifts such as pencils etc are welcomed. The welcome by the children is a real joy to experience. As the cruise progresses there are also periods of rest and relaxation on board. In this respect, the local cruise director and his other two guides are most helpful, attentive and informative. Besides guiding excursions, they also offer a programme of on board lectures covering all aspects of Burmese and Buddhists life and traditions. Don’t expect any stage entertainment but instead there are craft demonstrations and a folklore dancing show; a puppet show; the film The Lady (over two evenings) about Aung San Suu Kyi.
As far as spending money goes, besides any drinks on board and any laundry, Myanmar is dirt cheap. Most basic purchases are US $1.00 or local equivalent. A good quality T shirt in the market at Yangoon will set you back $5. In sum you don’t need much. Bills on board can be settled in US $ or Kyats but beware that if you pay by credit card, there is a hefty 4% charge.
Everyone on board does their utmost to make this cruise enjoyable with a most helpful attitude.
Visiting Myanmar in this way enables you to see it in its raw and authentic state. It is a country of aspiration and, whilst poverty abounds, you will be fascinated by what you encounter and see. I’m sure you’ll enjoy every moment.
76 people found this review helpful
This review is solely based on the opinion of a Silver Travel Advisor member and not of Silver Travel Advisor Ltd.