Burma River Cruise Yangon to Mandalay, probably with APT

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#1
Wirral, England
1,606 Posts
Joined Apr 2010
We are thinking of doing this cruise, probably with APT as it is offered with Kuoni, who are a good agent in the UK and they can arrange hotels in Burma and Thailand so we can stay about a month or so all told.

Has anyone done a cruise on the Irrawaddy and was it good? We would hope to go for a January departure - is that an OK time of year regards water levels (regards chance of disruption)?

Would also like to hear from anyone who has done a cruise with APT anywhere in the Far East to know how good the company is in those sort of countries. We would also like to do the Mekong at some stage.
#2
Toronto, Canada
655 Posts
Joined Mar 2010
I haven't yet gone; I'm going in November 2018 with Avalon.

What I found in my research is that the cruise portion can cover different parts of the river. I really wanted to do the upper Irrawaddy (the second defile area) and only 2 companies sail up there. One is Pandaw and one is Avalon. Ultimately I chose Avalon because I liked the full width window in the panorama cabin, and they only required a CDN$250 deposit ( and are priced for me in Canadian $) while Pandaw wants 25% upfront which would require immediate cancellation insurance and payment in US $.

I have no comments about APT but compare the stops and make sure that the cruise covers the places you want to see.
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Nomi


Aegean Odyssey, Istanbul to Venice, 2015
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#3
Australia
179 Posts
Joined Jul 2011
We have just returned from our Irrawaddy cruise with APT. We could not fault them at all. We have cruised with Avalon on Mekong and it was wonderful also but we feel Apt was just that one level better. The food on board was excellent with lots of choices and crew were amazing. This was my review of our cruise. We just arrived back in Melbourne last Friday after the most luxurious 14night river cruise embarking the RV Samatha at Yangon and cruising up the Irrawaddy river all the way to Mandalay.
We have had very warm weather around 38 deg everyday but this did not stop us at all. We joined in all the daily activities. Our embarkation went smoothly and after a light lunch and getting settled into our amazing cabin 206 we were put into two groups to go and explore Yangon then on to the 99 metre high Shwedagon Pagoda. First time to remove our shoes and socks (the first of many times) we all got a bit of a laugh about it really. You must wear shoes that are easy to take off and put back on easily as most times there is not somewhere to sit. We returned to the ship and at 6.00pm every night we had cocktail hour and port talk for the following day given by our cruise director Thomas. Lots of laughs and fun every evening in the lounge before dinner was served in the dining room at 7.00pm.now what could I say about the menu each evening. The food on board was absolutely awesome. Desserts were amazing. We have been on a few river cruises but I would have to say the crew on board Rv Samatha know how to please everyone's taste. I would like to give them 10/10.
Waiting staff were always pleasant and helpful. Thet Tet, & Lynn, waited on our table each day and we got to know them very well. They looked after us in every way. It was a joy to be in the dining room for breakfast lunch and dinner. Drinks are all part of the package deal so great wines were served every night or you could order what ever you desired. We were also privileged to be able to dine in the private dining room and indulge in some of Luke Nguyen authentic Burmese favourites joined by eight other guests all served and looked after by a very talented waiter Lynn. Service was amazing.
It was most enjoyable on this cruise as we cruised during the day which meant we saw a lot of the passing scenery and getting lots of wonderful photos. Some days it was a late afternoon walking tour to a market or another day it was exploring a small village by trishaw.
On day five we cruise slowly pass the Akauk Mountains which has Buddha images carved in the stone. I took some great pics. In the afternoon another pagoda. Again we just stopped by the rivers edge overnight. Beautiful sunsets every night and in the morning the sunrises were magic. Next day a ride in a horse drawn cart to the post office then we went to the oldest golf course in Burma. Lots of laughs as we all tried to get a hole in one. On our return to the boat we ready ourselves for another cocktail in the lounge a port talk dinner then our hotel manager Darren presented a quiz evening.
We went to a Buddhist nunnery and Mya Tha Lun Pagoda. Approaching Bagan there are pagodas everywhere you look just amazing and we get taken up to a viewing tower 13 stories high to see the sunset over Bagan. What a wonderful experience along with a couple of drinks and canapés. Next day a visit to a lacquer ware workshop also a temple and another market. Quite a full day. Some of our passengers did take the opportunity to go up in hot air balloons to see the sunrise over Bagan.
Yandabo was a little village which we went for a walk through to see how finely crafted terracotta pots are made by hand. As there had been no rain everything was very dusty so shoes were always quite dirty when we got back on board, so the crew not only helped everyone down the steep banks of the river but when we got back on board they took our shoes and cleaned them for the next excursion. I felt a little bit like a princess sometimes as they cared for us so well.
Another interesting day was another horse drawn cart ride to the Bagaya Monastery then a ferry ride over the river and a coach ride to the world famous U Bein Bridge, the longest teak bridge in the world. We were taken out in sampans to view the sunset. quite romantic with a glass of champagne to celebrate the occasion. ( we did have a few mosquitoes this evening) make sure you take some spray. Next day was a visit to an orphanage which we all enjoyed
so much then a silversmith workshop.also a walking tour to visit the unfinished temple and the largest ringing bell in the world along with Mya Theindan Pagoda. What a full on day but oh we just enjoyed every minute of it.
Our last day in Mandalay sightseeing we visited the Great Mahamuni Buddha then along to Kuthodaw Pagoda where the worlds biggest books are and also the Golden Palace Monastery.
We enjoyed one evening where everyone dressed up in longyis. What a ball we had. Everyone joined in and had lots of fun the crew also had an evening where they all sang and then they got us all up for dancing. Wonderful memories which I don't think I will ever forget. There was another very special evening which was so magical but I won't spoil the surprise for anyone else who may be wishing to go on this amazing cruise and adventure. (Just remember wishes) my eyes still tear up when I remember this wonderful night.
All I can say is if you have been considering this river cruise go for it and I really recommend APT we could not fault anything
We had a few older people on board. They managed quite well with the crew helping them up the river banks but I think if it had been wet at all it may have been a little bit of a struggle. I feel you really need to be quite active and nimble to be able to cope with some of the steps and steep river banks you encounter on the way.
I would like to say thankyou to all the crew of RV Samatha we have had the best time and hope to do more in the future.




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Rhapsody of the Seas October 2010
Radiance of the Seas November 2011
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#4
Florida
3,763 Posts
Joined Feb 2010
We travelled with APT from Hanoi - Halong Bay - Ho Chi Min City - Mekong River cruise - Angkor Wat. It was an excellent experience, would definitely recommend them. Guides were wonderful and happy. They said they were better paid than by other companies, no tipping necessary. Bring single US $ for some of the local people, like the bike and the oxcart driver etc. Guide Bic in Hanoi was outstanding! Hotels were 5 star, restaurants top notch with local high end cuisine.
#5
Jekyll Island, Georgia
101 Posts
Joined Jul 2006
So glad to see other cruisers going on this river. I check this site often hoping to see more discussion on the Irrawaddy. We leave 15 Jan 2018 for our cruise with Vantage.
http://www.vantageadventures.com/our...ney-highlights
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01/2018 - Vantage Irrawaddy River Cruise
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04/2017 - Grand Circle Panama Canal Cruise & Panama
2016 - Grand Circle Hidden Gems of the Dalmatian Coast & Greece
2013 - VRC Magnificent Mekong Cruise/Tour
2007 - VRC China Yangtze River Cruise/Tour
2005 - Holland America Alaska Cruise/Tour
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#6
Wirral, England
1,606 Posts
Joined Apr 2010
Thank you very much for these replies, they are all interesting and I am looking into the other options that have been mentioned.

Keenmolly - thank you for posting your review here, I have just posted on your thread where it was posted originally and have asked some questions if you have time to answer them.

I seem to be having some difficulty finding a UK version of Vantage, but will have more time to search tomorrow. I may need to find a UK agent.
#7
Toronto, Canada
655 Posts
Joined Mar 2010
I believe that Vantage only sells direct, so you will have to find a site.
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Nomi


Aegean Odyssey, Istanbul to Venice, 2015
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#8
1,699 Posts
Joined Sep 2009
Originally posted by tring
I seem to be having some difficulty finding a UK version of Vantage, but will have more time to search tomorrow. I may need to find a UK agent.
Oddly enough, it seems that 'Fred Olsen' (UK focused Norwegian Cruise line for those not familiar with them) handles UK Vantage bookings.

If you Google 'vantage cruises uk' you'll find a link.

You may need to call and ask if they also deal with the non-EU Vantage cruises...
#9
Wirral, England
1,606 Posts
Joined Apr 2010
Originally posted by Mark_T
Oddly enough, it seems that 'Fred Olsen' (UK focused Norwegian Cruise line for those not familiar with them) handles UK Vantage bookings.

If you Google 'vantage cruises uk' you'll find a link.

You may need to call and ask if they also deal with the non-EU Vantage cruises...
I found the Fred Travel agency site last night, (different to the cruise company, but run by same family), by searching for Vantage, but their search system only covers the Vantage European cruises or Irrawaddy cruises by other companies. It was late but I may ring them today.

I emailed a question about UK sales on the US site for Vantage last night - I may get a response from there. APT look good for us though as offered by Kuoni and they could supply some hotels and flights if we want, or will sell as cruise only. We would not want APT flights anyway as we are fussy about flights and times and would want to go for about 4-5 weeks all told.
#10
VA, MD & FL
6,173 Posts
Joined Apr 2006
Originally posted by twototravel
So glad to see other cruisers going on this river. I check this site often hoping to see more discussion on the Irrawaddy. We leave 15 Jan 2018 for our cruise with Vantage.
http://www.vantageadventures.com/our...ney-highlights
We did Vantage Irrawaddy plus Mekong Oct-Nov 2016. All in all a very nice trip. Myanmar was a fascinating country and boat crew was fantastic. 2018 has a new boat versus the one we took, and our trip included Bangkok on both front and back; we went down river - are you going up? Vantage had us on United, but they switched us at our request to ANA (3 inches more leg room on Coach) and we flew in 2 days early to overcome jet lag. No additional cost to us, but that may be because we are President's Club. We told Vantage Air the precise flights we wanted and they said fine, no cost - YMMV.

Thom
#11
Wirral, England
1,606 Posts
Joined Apr 2010
Originally posted by TravelerThom
We did Vantage Irrawaddy plus Mekong Oct-Nov 2016. All in all a very nice trip. Myanmar was a fascinating country and boat crew was fantastic. 2018 has a new boat versus the one we took, and our trip included Bangkok on both front and back; we went down river - are you going up? Vantage had us on United, but they switched us at our request to ANA (3 inches more leg room on Coach) and we flew in 2 days early to overcome jet lag. No additional cost to us, but that may be because we are President's Club. We told Vantage Air the precise flights we wanted and they said fine, no cost - YMMV.

Thom
Interesting you have done both Irawaddy and Mekong with the same company. How did the rivers compare overall? I think the Mekong has been a cruise destination for much longer so are the places visited more touristy and are the rivers in similar terrain? We would like to do both but we have things booked for the next two autumns and It looks like that would be the best time for us as I am asthmatic and the Irrawaddy can suffer from dust/smoke and low water levels early in the year.

I have rang Fred Travel and have been told that someone with a knowledge of that area will ring back - does not seem to be happening though! They sell Vantage in the UK apparently - sometimes specific agents are used in other countries, even for companies who sell direct at home.

I have been able to request a brochure for Pandaw by ringing UK office - they seem very good, are very well established in the country and offer a number of itineraries with shallow draft boats, so would not have problems with water levels south of Mandalay. I have seen a review which says the APT ship had to stop south of Mandalay and people needed to be bussed from ship the last 3 days.

I tried ringing Avalon and got very abrupt message saying no one available. Was able to request brochure from website, but cruise seems to be part of a tour from Yangon with flights in/out of Yangon and hotel base sat end, so may not be suitable for us as we want to take cruise and arranged hotel stays at either end and in other countries. So we need cruise only really.

keenmolly

Thank you for answering some questions on the thread you started. Can you tell me if you had to be bussed from ship for last few days because of low water levels and, if so, how long were those transfers?

Also, I see people do the Yangon sight seeing whilst resident on the APT ship. Can I ask if it was berthed fairly centrally and how long it took to get into the city centre from the berth (I know the big pagoda is a bit further out of the city centre)?
#12
VA, MD & FL
6,173 Posts
Joined Apr 2006
Originally posted by tring
Interesting you have done both Irawaddy and Mekong with the same company. How did the rivers compare overall? I think the Mekong has been a cruise destination for much longer so are the places visited more touristy and are the rivers in similar terrain?...
Myanmar is slowly developing - they are adopting items that improve their lives and seem to care less about other items. Vietnam is 20th Century heading rapidly for the 22nd (sic). Cambodia is in between. Both the areas on the Irrawaddy and the Mekong where we cruised are for the most slow moving flood plains. Note that Vantage charters (maybe once a month in season) and does not own. Vantage Irrawaddy cruise that we were on was scheduled to stop well north of Yangon; we had no water difficulties and followed the schedule. We spent 3 nights at a very nice hotel in Yangon.

Thom
#13
Toronto, Canada
655 Posts
Joined Mar 2010
I think even if the cruise is advertised as including flights and hotels you can arrange for cruise only.
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Nomi


Aegean Odyssey, Istanbul to Venice, 2015
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Uniworld, Tulips and Windmills, Antwerp to Amsterdam, 2010
#14
Florida
3,763 Posts
Joined Feb 2010
None of the stops on the Mekong was touristy. Only one stop in Cambodia (silver smith village) had a few annoying vendors. Ho Chi Min city has a few pushy vendors in front of the old post office across from the cathedral. All the other locals were friendly or went about their business. Photography was easy. When I pointed the camera and asked ok, they smiled, some market women held up their wares so I could get a better picture.
#15
VA, MD & FL
6,173 Posts
Joined Apr 2006
Originally posted by gnome12
I think even if the cruise is advertised as including flights and hotels you can arrange for cruise only.
IME river cruise lines avoid "dynamic pricing", preferring to keep their price line while throwing in cheap / free air or other items. The "free" air is really a discount to move slow selling product as it is not free to the cruise line, but usually they will not reduce the price if you decline it. I am too frugal to throw away free rt air to Asia.
#16
Wirral, England
1,606 Posts
Joined Apr 2010
Thank you very much for all those replies. We obviously need to look into all options and if we add an expensive river cruise to what were already ambitious plans, the trip is more likely to be early 2019, though we may be able to do the Mekong prior to that.

I have found reviews in the review section of this site for APT (both the Samatha and Princess Panhar are used on the Irrawaddy by them). There are at least two reviews of each and they look good.

I will look for reviews of the other companies when I get time.

I found a you tube clip of a Pandaw cruise which may be of interest to others:-

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=yWWUZpSNQjg

I picked it up from a posting made two years ago, so it is not on one of the newer ships.
#17
Wirral, England
1,606 Posts
Joined Apr 2010
Originally posted by TravelerThom
IME river cruise lines avoid "dynamic pricing", preferring to keep their price line while throwing in cheap / free air or other items. The "free" air is really a discount to move slow selling product as it is not free to the cruise line, but usually they will not reduce the price if you decline it. I am too frugal to throw away free rt air to Asia.
I can see that, but a flight would be of no use to us as we intend to do the cruise when we are out there for 4-5 weeks and we refuse to fly during the night, so want flights from Manchester with Emirates and stop offs in Dubai (cruise company will offer cheap flights from London). That is a point for going with APT as they will sell cruise only to Kuoni who can then arrange our flights as we want or just let us book our own flights. A shorter cruise with Pandaw appeals though as we hate being tripped and would prefer much of the time in hotels. Or we may find benefits of the other companies if we look into it more.

Cruise companies charge vast amounts for hotel add ons, compared to what can be booked independently, or even through an upmarket agent.

We would need to have it arranged well in advance to get everything sorted, so are resigned to not getting the best value, but spending a long time over there will bring the per night price down quite a bit as there is only one long haul flight and a number of short hops in and/or between Myanmar and three Thai bases, which are very cheap. Now can we afford this.......................
#18
Jekyll Island, Georgia
101 Posts
Joined Jul 2006
We upgraded to business and Vantage put us on Korean Air from Atlanta. We fly into Yangon via Seoul going over. We are taking the post trip to Laos so to get home we fly via Bangkok and Seoul then back to Atlanta again on Korean Air.
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01/2018 - Vantage Irrawaddy River Cruise
11/2017 - VRC Douro River Cruise
04/2017 - Grand Circle Panama Canal Cruise & Panama
2016 - Grand Circle Hidden Gems of the Dalmatian Coast & Greece
2013 - VRC Magnificent Mekong Cruise/Tour
2007 - VRC China Yangtze River Cruise/Tour
2005 - Holland America Alaska Cruise/Tour
1998 - Nile River Cruise/Tour
#19
Australia
179 Posts
Joined Jul 2011
Hi Tring on our cruise that ended on the 29th March we were able to cruise all the way to Mandalay. Actually they went a bit further on to Mingun where we disembarked to see the unfinished Pagoda and the worlds second largest bell. We then got back on board for a delicious lunch and returned to Mandalay for more local excursions.
Once you have embarked the ship in Yangon and settled in you then get on a bus to go and see the Shwedagon Pagoda not far away but took a while to get there as the traffic is just insane.


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Rhapsody of the Seas October 2010
Radiance of the Seas November 2011
Avalon Panorama Budapest to Amsterdam April 2012
Voyager of the Seas November 2013
Avalon Angkor Mekong River Cruise June 2014
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Celebrity Solstice Feb/March 2015
Voyager of the Seas Nov 2015 B/back
Voyager of the Seas December 2015
Voyager of the Seas April 2016
#20
Wirral, England
1,606 Posts
Joined Apr 2010
Thank you.

Yes we had heard that about Yangon, which is why I asked - I assume it would have taken a very long time to get to the Sule Pagoda part of the main city.

Thinking more about it, we are more likely to do the Mekong first as it seems to be a shorter trip and we can couple it with flying to other parts of Vietnam and a longer stay in Siem Reap. We were planning a land trip initially as we prefer independent travel.

When on an Ocean cruise we ask for table for two, which is easy to get if you book early. We then seem to spend time ashore getting away from the main tourist areas and especially groups of people from the ship - not that we dislike the people, but we like to experience a country as it is. We travel on small ships which dock at ports not even thought about by the cruise lines with the big ships.

We have only done one river cruise,which was 10 nights (Bucharest to Budapest), but only seven nights on the boat (other time in hotels with some free time). By the middle of that week we were feeling very restricted and hated the before dinner talks that were done by a very high spirited, Serbian Cruise Director and the big rush to get showered before that (we opted out of those). When ashore we just wanted to roam off, and one day we just stayed in the local town where the boat was moored and it was lovely. We also had some time on deck where there was just us and one other couple. Meanwhile the other passengers had been bussed most of two hours each way to see yet another church etc. Must admit we had spoken to the Cruise Director previously and she said it was best to miss that day's trip, rather than the next day, which was much a better trip.

We are now back to deciding if we really would be better doing a land tour - spending time in Yangon and Mandalay and allowing time to travel to other places and perhaps add other bases to stay in - perhaps just a short cruise to Bagan from Mandalay and back by road. It is far easier to do the whole cruise, rather than get to grips with all those arrangements though, Decisions decisions............

Thanks again for all the help and information about Myanmar and the cruise.

Barbara