One of the newest riverboats plying the Mekong River is AmaWaterways’ AmaDara. I was lucky enough to join the inaugural sailing and experience its regionally inspired décor and cuisine.
I boarded on the Tonle Sap Lake, which is the start of the 16-day “Vietnam, Cambodia & the Riches of the Mekong” tour’s sailing leg, after spending three nights in Siem Reap, home to the stunning temples of Angkor Wat. (The trip began in Hanoi, then flew to Siem Reap after an overnight in Halong Bay. The reverse itinerary begins in Ho Chi Minh City.)
Following a traditional dance and parade welcome, it was time to set sail for our Mekong River cruise. River boats cruise slowly, and it lent plenty of time to explore the teak-laden living room area, where the bar served free-flowing house wine, local beer and cocktails. An onboard pianist accompanies a range of local entertainers that board at various stops, providing a glimpse of local culture. Don’t miss the crew’s talent show, however.
Teak wood continues down hallways to three levels of guest rooms, and like the public areas, the staterooms are equally dressed in southeast Asian style—local artwork and French colonial accents set the tone. AmaDara, built specifically for Mekong River cruises, also features AmaWaterways’ exclusive Twin Balcony concept, featuring both a French and outside balcony in all staterooms. The larger windows and wider balconies are an improvement over other ships. Kids waved and shouted hello from the shore as the AmaDara gracefully floated down the river.
Air conditioning is a saving grace in this steamy locale, but it was nice to open the windows in the morning for a fresh breeze while noshing on my morning bowl of pho. A sprawling buffet and action station prepares cooked-to-order dishes for breakfast and lunch. Delicious meals are presented in artistic fashion, which is not surprising given the cruise company is the only maritime member of La Chaîne des Rôtisseurs, the world’s oldest international gastronomic society. (That’s a big win for foodies!)
One night, I was treated to dinner in the aft of the ship at the Chef’s Table Restaurant, a show kitchen that serves a variety of international cuisine. During the day, the space doubles as a meeting room.
The two nights spent in cosmopolitan Phnom Penh were a highlight. Many travelers book this itinerary to make the sobering journey to witness the Killing Fields and Khmer Rouge museum.
AmaWaterways is an expert when it comes to river cruising, and this new ship falls right in line with the company’s strong reputation.
Take advantage of these tips to maximize your experience on a Mekong River Cruise:
- Explore local culture with included excursions in every port of call—traditional trishaw rides, visiting a Vietnamese rice paper workshop and vibrant local markets.
- Meals are served open seating-style, but there are plenty of tables. No need to rush for a spot.
- Traveling solo? AmaWaterways has introduced individual rates on all sailings, so the rates are reasonable for a single traveler.