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Pandaw river cruises

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Chesapeake Bay
Level Contributor
2 posts
1 review
Pandaw river cruises

I am considering a Saigon-Siem Reap Cruise on one of the Pandaw vessels. I am also considering the longer "Upper Mekong" variant. I can go either upstream or downstream depending on the dates available.

Would appreciate experience information on those who have taken the cruise, and also the name of a US Travel Agent who may have booked for you.

101 replies to this topic
Level Contributor
3 posts
3 reviews
1. Re: Pandaw river cruises

Beware if the cruise says fully booked, it actually means cancelled, cruises do not depart if there are too few cabins booked, they then show the cruise as full. We booked to go on the 9-16th September and the cruise was cancelled seven weeks before departure. We had booked all our flights around the dates, and were left high and dry by Pandaw. they wanted to move us to the following week in the opposite direction. It would have cost one thousand pounds to change all our flights for the four of us. The owner initially said he would compensate us but then refused to communicate on the matter. He just expected us to rebook the following week. When we finally cancelled after two weeks of silence of he then emailed me accusing us of being the customers from hell, and said that it is no wonder the scots loath the English

Level Contributor
67 posts
5 reviews
2. Re: Pandaw river cruises

My recommendation is to take the upriver cruise and have Siem Reap and Angkor as the cruise goal. As one travels through the delta and heads north, the river becomes quieter and incidence of electrification becomes less. Therefore at night the sky is wonderfully dark and the smell of incense from temples occassionally wafts over the upper deck. The extended Mekong section is also worth doing even though there is some backtracking.

Booking with Pandaw is a little interesting as some of their sailings are sub-contracted out to other tour operators who may or may not fill the ship. On our vessel there were mostly French nationals out of Paris and a smattering of "others" that were booked to fill the manifest - actually made for a great group but not for everyone.

Even though the number of English speakers was about 15, there were always English speaking guides for the trips off the ship. Every one of these trips was memorable.

We booked through AMPAC travel in Seattle - talk to Gene.

Kyneton, Australia
Level Contributor
22 posts
33 reviews
3. Re: Pandaw river cruises

I did the Pandaw trip from Saigon to Siem Reap in March 2006, and it was outstanding. I cannot recommend it highly enough. The food was great, the cabins spotless and spacious, the crew and guides most attentive, and the on-shore excursions were fabulous. I travelled solo, and didn't feel left out or out of place. The passengers were about 1/3 American. 1/3 Brits, and 1/3 others (Europeans and Australians). They were a great bunch of people apart from four Mormon couples who kept pretty much to themselves. The passengers numbered 57. I'm now looking forward to doing one of their Irriwaddy cruises.

Level Contributor
21 posts
101 reviews
4. Re: Pandaw river cruises

I have just travelled on the MV Mekong Pandaw and without a doubt found it to be one of the best journey experiences I have ever had. Fellow passengers were all pleasant and made for good company, a mix of Spanish, English and American. The staff could not have been more genuine in their enthuasism and were always polite and attentive. The food was nothing short of amazing. Breakfast was a buffet, including both hot and cold choices, for lunch, you were offered soup, a buffet salad selection, and a choice from the menu. Dinner was even better. Everything was extremely fresh, lots of fruit, still warm baked bread and cookies. The staterooms were lovely. Brass and teak everywhere, spotless, spacious and comfortable. The viewing deck allowed an unobstructed view of the Mekong, and staff always offered complimentary refreshments whenever I went there to relax. Excursions were well planned, always ran on time, and the guides were knowledgeable and helpful. I booked directly on the internet with Pandaw Cruises. All inquiries I made were promptly replied to. The terms and conditions are clearly outlined and the website provides useful information to ensure your journey will be a wonderful experience. I enjoyed my time so much, I have already booked to do another cruise with the Pandaw in 2009. The owner works in partnership with local communities to support schools, medical centres, orphanages, and assists in the preservation of historic sites. After the devastation in Myanmar, he converted boats to hospitals and mobilised medical support teams to provide urgent care, and arranged for convoys of trucks to deliver food and water to remote communities. I am really impressed with this company.

Wayne, IL
Level Contributor
15 posts
67 reviews
5. Re: Pandaw river cruises

I just returned from the one week Siem Reap to Saigon cruise on Tonle Pandaw and loved it! I am a 50 year old American travelling with 22 year old son. Only 15 passengers! Mostly Australians with an English woman, a Dutch couple, and a Danish family with 2 school-age boys. I had done extensive research beforehand and knew what to expect but my expectations were exceeded. Group met at the Raffles Hotel in Siem Reap (snotty, rude even, service - overcharging everyone for tea and soft drinks that they initially said were complimentary) and we were transferred by bus to the Tonle Pandaw. Long 5 hour bus ride with rest stops, snacks, box lunches. Some fellow passengers had the impression we were going directly to ship and they were a bit upset. Where you can board ship depends on water level - verify this if its important to you.

Agree with previous posters' positive remarks about food and service and excursions. They showed two movies during the cruise in the Saloon, had local dancers one night, had a free cocktail of the day each day. Other diversions and briefings kept us engaged.

When you return to the ship after excursions you remove your shoes and they wash them and return them to your cabin to keep the ship clean. Many passengers went barefoot by choice - very relaxed life onboard. Some wore "smart casual" for dinner, others did not. They accommodated special food requests and gave us lots of bottled water. Other thoughtful touches included Raid spray, umbrellas, cold towels. They seem to have thought of all our possible needs.

Nice spa onboard, a couple exercise machines, a small shop, paperback book exchange, some games and CDs.

If you possibly can, book a cabin on one of the upper two decks. Lowest deck has porthole only and no outside seating on promenades.

I would not hesitate to travel with Pandaw again!

Level Contributor
4 posts
24 reviews
6. Re: Pandaw river cruises

Hi - I recently came back from a Pandaw river cruise - I did the upper mekong trip through Unbound Expeditions (www.unboundexpeditions.com)

They were a good company, Australian though - not from the US and were doing some discounts. they may be worth contacting.

The trip itself was incredible, the river was everything i dreamed of. my father served in Vietnam so it was a good way to see the country he often spoke about... Amazing. Pandaw were excellent, and one of the best cruises I have ever been on.

Highly reccomended!.. Enjoy!

Perth, Australia
Level Contributor
2 posts
73 reviews
7. Re: Pandaw river cruises

Ican not speak highly enough of this cruise. I recommend doing the trip from Saigon to Siem Reap - start in the hustle bustle of Saigon and end with the tranquility of the temples and slower pace of Siem Reap. December was a great time to do this cruise - no rain, cool (well mid 30's - its all relative) and the water is beginning to subside after the wet season, so still lots of water around.

The "RV Indochina Pandaw" is a beautifully fitted out boat, with lots of wood panelling and flooring replicating the original river boats. A large comfortable shaded sundeck,with a bar in operation all day (local spirits and beers, soft drinks and tea and coffee complimentary - wines and top shelf reasonably price). Cool comfortable dining room. Spacious, comfortable, airconditioned cabins with spacious bathrooms. Plenty of room - you can socialize or enjoy your own company.

Staff on the boat could not do enough to help. Friendly, professional.

Local guides very knowledgeable and enthusiastic. Be prepared to learn about Cambodia's religion - Buddhism with Hinduism and Animism.

Great shore excursions to see local villages, schools, temples, orphanages, cities with recent history, markets.........

Caravelle Hotel in Saigon an easy walk to the markets, but also metres from great shops that are not expensive (and close to money changers, although $USD is accepted everywhere on the trip).

Raffles in Siem Reap in quintessentially "old world". You feel as though you are the most important person in the world. Certainly the drinks and food are expensive by Cambodian standards, but you are getting an experience. Local restuarants are but a short "Tuk-Tuk" ride away ($2USD). Look out for the ones supporting the street kids and orphanages - food is great and very cheap ($3USD for a main). Check out the night markets in the cool of the evening.

Sad to have finished. Want to go again.

Mernda, Australia
Level Contributor
17 posts
79 reviews
8. Re: Pandaw river cruises

I came across you review re the river cruise along the Mekong on the Indochina, Pandaw Cruise. My husband and myself have booked this cruise in June 2010. Starting in Saigon and making our way to Seim Reap.

We are so looking forward to this, now even more so after reading you comments.

Just one question, how did you organize you monies ? which was the best way especially on boards???? Looking forward to hearing from you.

Thanks Dara58.

Oh sorry one more thing, did you have plenty of time whilst visiting the famous Angkor Wat Temple?

Perth, Australia
Level Contributor
2 posts
73 reviews
9. Re: Pandaw river cruises

Take $USD. You can change this into the Vietnamese Dong at Money Changers near the hotel - look for the ones with "59" displayed somewhere. However, you can use the ATMs, which are available in the bigger cities. When I was there the exhange was $1USD to approx. 20 000 Dong. It was easy to use and convert using simple calculations. However, the USD is widely accepted everywhere in Vietnam and Cambodia. I used the Dong in Vietnam and $USD in Cambodia - no problems. Try taking small notes, you can a small amount into small notes on the boat.

Laundry is cheap and good on the boat - great if you want to travel light - more room for the very inexpensive scarves, bags etc.

All drinks and food are included on board, except for wine, imported beer (the Tiger and Local "BaBaBa" beer are fine) and top shelf spirits - so you can have many gin and tonics as you like!

The Cambodian Visa is organized on board before crossing the border - this cost $25 USD. Will be charged to your account on board, which gets paid at the end of the boat trip - Visa, MC and $USD are accepted as payment.

We spent an afternoon at Angkor Wat - an absolutely awe inspiring place. To me this seemed plenty of time - we stayed for sunset which was magnificent. We also visited Angkor Thom, Ta Prohm (the temple being taken over by tree roots) and a number of other temples. All equally awe inspiring. If you have time try the helicopter ride - gives a great overview of all the temples. $135 USD pp - can be organized through the conceirage at the hotel.

It will be hot, but try to respect the dress guidelines when visiting the temples - shoulders and knees covered.

Keep an open mind and enjoy the culture, the people, the food and everything else that the countries have to offer.

Mernda, Australia
Level Contributor
17 posts
79 reviews
10. Re: Pandaw river cruises

Thank you so very much, for taking the time and replying back to my questions so quickly. Very much appreciated.

This has been very helpful to us. Again Thanks.

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