Most of your river cruise bookings are undoubtedly being made for river cruises on the great rivers of Europe, but for those clients of yours who have “been there, done that,” there’s a new kid on the block over in Asia—the Irrawaddy in Myanmar. Last August, we reported that AmaWaterways would start sailing in Myanmar starting this November, and during the recent Cruise Shipping Miami, which took place in Miami Beach back in March, we had the opportunity to sit down with Rudi Schreiner, president and owner of AmaWaterways, and Kristin Karst, executive v.p. and co-owner of AmaWaterways, to talk about what passengers can expect when they sail down this romantically laced waterway.
The trip, which sets off on its first sailing on Nov. 24 on the 56-passenger AmaPura, will offer two itineraries—the 10-night Golden Treasures of Myanmar, and the 14-night Hidden Wonders of Myanmar, sailing through such ports as Mandalay, Amarapura, Bagan and Salay. Along the way, clients will have the opportunity to explore fabled cities, Buddhist monasteries, small villages, and markets, among a treasure trove of other hidden gems. “I would say that when we were [in Myanmar] the first time, I was a little surprised,” says Schreiner, “because I expected something like Cambodia or Laos, a little more sleepy, and when we came to Yangon, it was a hustling, bustling city with about nine million people. The countryside is still sleepy and nice, beautiful. Around Bagan, there are beautiful charming towns, whereas Mandalay is a busy, busy city with a couple million people. It is a very peaceful country, over 90 percent Buddhist.”
Karst adds, “It’s moving, because you feel that you are away from this civilization. I don’t believe this will change in the next five years, because even though river cruising will take off there, the ships are so small, so it will not be crowded in the next few years. What comes in 10 years is another story….”
The beauty of the destination is truly inspiring, but the onboard lifestyle is no slouch either. On board the AmaPura, passengers will notice spacious accommodations, as Schreiner notes that the smallest stateroom is 280 sq. ft. “Initially, we were going to build a much larger ship, but due to the water levels, we built a smaller ship,” and what are essentially suites. Each suite offers a private French balcony, a step-out full balcony or twin balconies, and the decor matches the beauty of the passing scenery. During the sailing, passengers enjoy cultural shows highlighting the region, a puppet show and lectures pertaining to Burmese culture.
In 2015, the Golden Treasures of Myanmar itinerary has starting rates at $4,899 (land-only), with sail dates in January, March, April, September, October, November and December. Rates include 2-night pre-cruise hotel accommodations in Yangon, including breakfast; transfer from the hotel in Yangon to the ship in Pyay; 10-night cruise; and 1-night post-cruise hotel accommodations in Yangon, including breakfast. The Hidden Wonders of Myanmar, running in February, April and December 2015, starts at $6,399. ●