Overall we had a wonderful trip on Cruiseco Explorer.
The boat itself is very comfortable and the crew (all of them from the captain down) could not be bettered…always happy and friendly and concerned about our needs and well-being. We were very well looked after, both onboard and ashore, and in the local boat that took over when Cruiseco Explorer stuck fast on a sandbar on the last day northbound for the Second Defile. It had been freed by the time we returned from the Defile some seven hours later! Imagine a few long ropes and all available crew men in chest deep water!
The river environment was a surprise to every passenger; not the lush rainforest we’d all expected, but a dry, flat, sandy landscape for most of the length we travelled. In April the river is very shallow and the boat zig-zags along under the guidance of local pilots and a striped bamboo pole testing the depth as it goes. When we stuck fast on the sandbar the river was only chest deep. We grounded a few other times but were able to get free without too much trouble on all but the one occasion.
The shore excursions were interesting and varied and there were always crew members in attendance, as well as the guides, in case somebody needed assistance or to return to the boat unexpectedly (as one or two did) during the walking excursions. It was very hot!
The boat was only half-full and the crew suggested this was the case for most of the cruises. Cruiseco needs to make its advertising more prominent…there is increasing competition on the irrawaddy River, amongst them the Viking and Amara companies.
Our guides were knowledgeable, but one tended to let his own personal views intrude too often.
Meals onboard were also very good; buffet breakfasts and lunches and a-la-carte dinners. The complimentary wines and local beer were also very good. After dinner entertainment was provided on a few evenings and again it was varied and good fun.
As you know, we booked only the “land” part of the holiday and weren’t told that there was a city tour of Mandalay that commenced from the airport when the main group arrived from Sydney. We had in fact arrived back in Mandalay from Inle Lake only an hour or so before the main group and could easily have joined up with them had we known.
Inle Lake is a must see for anyone travelling to Myanmar.
The Myanmar people are probably the poorest we have ever met in SE Asia , but are also amongst the happiest and most friendly of any, and we were welcomed in some very remote villages by smiles and greetings, and high-fives and laughter from the children.
Gil and Bob.