This attention to detail permeates the entire ship. Our stateroom was comfortable – spacious enough for two and the beds felt like sleeping on clouds. One night we took our drinks out on the balcony to watch the sun set as we came into port.
Sunset Sail: Cruising The Mighty Mekong River
24 April 2019
Read Time: 6.3 mins
Looking back, it’s the vibrant colours of the sunsets that recall the river cruise. The fiery sun setting on the sediment-rich waters of the muddied and fertile Mekong Delta set against the tropical greenery along the riverbanks as we sip cocktails in tall glasses on the ship deck. More familiar with sunsets melting into ocean horizons, we sit mesmerised by this molten orange orb in the brilliant blue sky.
Our eight-day APT Luxury Mekong River Cruise was filled with moments like this. Sailing south from Siem Reap in Cambodia to Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam, eight days may seem like a short time to explore two countries in depth, but nothing felt rushed – it’s a journey where the river cruise is the experience.
River cruising is a seductive style of travel where everything is taken care of and at your fingertips. Travelling on the boutique ship, RV AmaLotus, with the same crew on your entire journey creates an intimate experience where the staff really get to know you and what you like. Leo, the bartender, served us gin and tonics no matter where we were on the ship, and waiter Saven would ensure our morning coffee always came with a heart etched in the froth.
Onboard dining was a particular highlight. We savoured a memorable meal at the 20-seat specialty restaurant, Indochine, which is included in the cruise fare. Tip: Book a reservation for Indochine on the first day of your cruise so you don't miss out. The exclusive Luke Nguyen-designed menu included pan-seared rice cakes with XO tiger prawns and pork floss, which drew rave reviews. Like a floating smorgasbord, the cuisine style changed daily to reflect the flavours of the regions we were cruising through with select ingredients sourced from local villages. We sampled a different meal at every lunch and dinner.
Days were spent with a shore excursion in the morning, followed by lunch on the ship as we cruised to a new destination. Afternoons were filled with another onshore activity. The pace of the river hummed as the ship moved at a steady clip to dock overnight and we soaked up the breeze, sights and sounds nightly on the deck.
Each day brought new experiences in different riverside villages – tiny towns off the beaten tourist track with French colonial-era abodes, ornate temples and cathedrals, and colourful markets. On day two, a Buddhist blessing in the former Cambodian capital Oudong set the intention for our trip – open and mindful.
A rickshaw race amid traffic in the Vietnamese town of Tan Chau was a thrill, while an oxcart ride in Kampong Tralach, Cambodia, was certainly a different experience. Some sights are more sombre – the Killing Fields in Phnom Penh provided an insight into the traumatic and turbulent history of Cambodia.
The whole river cruise experience felt as if you were immersed in the destination – a part of the village for a few hours. Children ran out to play with us, and locals invited us into their homes, sharing custard apples and welcoming smiles. Unlike an ocean cruise where you are surrounded by the deep blue, life is happening all around you on the river – you are more engaged with the destination for the entire journey. Even a full day spent cruising on the river flew by between reading on the deck, swimming in the pool, meals on board and those perfect sunset drinks.
The onboard camaraderie was another unexpected benefit of river cruising. Our fellow cruisers were open to chatting and sharing their experiences. River cruisers really are part of a community – one we were welcomed into. We met Karen and Chris, a couple who were on their 11th APT experience, as well as another group of travellers who met on an APT trip years ago and reunite annually for a holiday.
By the time we disembarked at My Tho for our transfer to Ho Chi Minh City, we were river cruise converts. The ease, the organised yet flexible itinerary and inviting onboard atmosphere – this is how we always want to travel.
Words by Ashleigh Conwell & Danielle Luck, marketing managers, Flight Centre.