We chose Pandaw over other, more chic cruises because we wanted to a have a more authentic yet luxurious cruise in Myanmar. The RV Indochina and crew did not disappoint.
We were the first to arrive at our ship, and I was worried we might not be allowed on board. Not a problem. The crew welcomed us, took our luggage, and told us that if we wanted our room that would be fine, or we could explore the nearby town (Sailang). We chose to return and came back to a wonderful buffet lunch with our fellow passengers. This was just the beginning of great hospitality the whole crew exhibited. A few items of note...
- The food is outstanding. I would recommend staying with the Burmese cuisine over western style. I have celiac disease. Chef can easily handle gluten-free dining and even wrote a letter in Burmese for me to carry when I left the ship to ensure that I would be safe as I continued my journey.
- I suggest the wine program for lunch and dinner if you are a wine drinker. Our house wines were a choice of South African or wines from Myanmar produced with imported grapes. The "local" Sauvignon Blanc was lovely as was the red blend. Soe Moe and Richard are always on hand to fill your glass and will also top you off before heading to after dinner activities. We did not order off the wine list but I did notice that it has both old and new world selections and champagne.
- Every night there is happy hour with abundant and tasty appetizers on deck. The local liquors - especially the rum made from local sugarcane - are quite nice and included in the base rate. Johnson makes a great drink.
- Our cabin was 206. I would suggest moving back a bit to 208 or 210 on the lower level, or directly above as you will hear anchors up at 6am departures.
- Guide service is included. Tin, our guide, spoke great English and was very informative. He knows about all the sites we went to, answering questions that aren't typical guide-book info, and spoke about what was happening in his country with diplomatic aplomb. Guides are the only people who's tips are not included so please remember to tip them.
- Our cabin was simple but elegant with a well working A/C. Service was morning and evening. We did have to request some additional shampoo once but that was the only thing we ever lacked. Everything was kept very clean and I give housekeeping kudos for giving us a great space.
- Fabian the purser is able to arrange balloon rides in Bagan before the morning excursion. I would suggest adding this to your trip.
- One little "luxury" I haven't had on other lines is shoe cleaning. Our excursions could be dusty or muddy, so the crew cleans your shoes after every outing and leaves them by the door. This was awesome.
- We had a massage therapist on-board. She gave great massages, but her English wasn't the best so it was hard to give direction. This was the one area I could see improvement. But the massages are so good and affordable I had 3 so really, no complaining.
- Expect lots of fun with crew-included dance parties. There was a conga line and sing along on our last night. It felt like the end of summer-camp and will be something I will always remember.
I have cruised with several high-end companies and I have to say I thoroughly loved Pandaw. I can't compare it really to a Uniworld or Crystal Esprit because it is completely different. You won't have the crystal and fine china or gorgeous chandeliers. What you will have is a completely local crew who takes pride in their country and their ship and want to share it with you. Their heart is in giving you the best vacation in anemergingc country and for that I give them 5 stars.
Our cabin was clean and well-appointed but we did hear the engines start in the morning (something I got used to). I would suggest moving upstairs and mid ship.