At, we think the best way to help you book your dream holiday is to advise from experience, which is why we regularly send team members on river cruises.

We recently sent the very lucky Natalie Eadon on-board the beautiful AmaDara on a captivating voyage along the Mekong River. Here is what she thought of this AmaWaterways cruise ship and its stunning Southeast Asian itinerary.

First impressions

AmaDara making its way along the river on a Mekong river cruise

The embarkation process couldn’t have been smoother. Our cruise director (Son) was with us from the minute we arrived at our hotel in Vietnam. Our group was really well organised, with colour codes used to sort our luggage and ensure it was ready to meet us when we boarded our ship. We received our cabin keys while at the hotel and a booklet to inform us of everything we needed to know while we were on-board AmaDara.

When we arrived at both our pre and post-cruise hotels we received a drink and a cold towel, which was a lovely touch given the 40 degree heat!

Décor and accommodation

Asian-inspired interior of the restaurant on-board AmaDaraThe pool deck on-board AmaDara seen at sunset

The accommodation was fantastic at every stage of our Mekong river cruise. We started at the Sofitel hotel in Ho Chi Minh City where my room was incredibly spacious, and included a walk-in shower and stunning view over the city. There was a delicious buffet style lunch of authentic Asian cuisine, but my favourite part was the roof top bar which looked out onto the city.

On-board AmaDara we were met by lovely oriental décor, a subtle colour scheme and wooden elements throughout the ship. There was no need for refurbishment and nothing was out of place; the whole vessel kept in great condition.

One of the best things about AmaWaterways’ AmaDara is the fact that all staterooms are balcony cabins with beautiful views of the surrounding landscape. The junior and suite cabins are located on the sun deck (top deck), while my balcony cabin was on deck 2. It was nice and spacious, with an inside chair offering the option to continue admiring my surroundings when the sun was a bit too hot. There was no minibar in my cabin, and a shower rather than a shower/bath combo, but we did manage to view a suite. Suite cabins have larger balconies as well as a bath and separate shower, while all balcony cabins across decks 1 and 2 are identical.

Bedroom area of a sophisticated suite on-board AmaDaraLuxurious bathroom with a shower and bath in a suite on-board AmaDara

At the end of our trip we stayed in the Sofitel hotel in Siem Reap, Cambodia, which turned out to be even better than our first Sofitel! There were beautiful gardens throughout the hotel and a seating area outside the hotel room which looked out onto a pond. When we arrived we were again welcomed with drinks, and this time, traditional dancers at the entrance of the hotel. The décor was very modern throughout and there was plenty of much-needed air-conditioning!

Our meals at Siem Reap’s Sofitel were included in the price, consisting of buffet dining for breakfast and dinner with plenty of local specialities.

Top tip: The mini fridge in our hotel room at Sofitel Cambodia was cheaper than the bar, so it’s well worth getting a drink from here and sitting in the balcony area to take in the view.


Boats sailing along the Mekong river as the sun set and turns the sky pink

The entertainment on the ship was more of a relaxed style. Every night there was a pianist playing a variety of songs, while one night before our excursion to the killing fields we were shown a documentary about the sites. However, my favourite night on-board featured a music show starring staff from each department. Everyone joined in, including the guests who were placed on a judging panel to mark staff out of ten! We then had a party with all the staff and guests. What an atmosphere!

Food and drink

Chopsticks lying next to a bowl of Vietnamese noodle soup with dumplings

There is only one restaurant on-board AmaDara, however, there is plenty of choice: local cuisine alongside the classic burger and chips! The dining is also quite informal, save for one night when you can book into the small 20 person Chef’s Table to enjoy an intimate four-course meal. There is also the option to take a light lunch on-deck.

The standard of the food on my Mekong river cruise was five-star, and there wasn’t one night where we had to wait for our meals. Everyone was able to dine at the same time and there weren’t extra charges for anything. Wine is available at meal times, as are other drinks on request.

On-board package

Boats sailing past cliffs in the bright blue waters of Ha Long Bay

Nearly everything on-board AmaDara is included, even drinks! Charges only come in if you fancy a bottle of champagne or wine, but there were special offers on different bottles of wine every day.

Tips aren’t included in the total cost of your cruise, but these aren’t compulsory and there isn’t a fixed charge you need to stick to. A letter containing tipping guidelines will be sent to your cabin on the final day of your cruise, but this is confidential and you place your money into an envelope before leaving it in a box in the reception area upon leaving the ship.

Final verdict

Monk standing in a temple entrance at Angkor WatA Buddhist temple rising above the trees in Hanoi, Vietnam

Overall, the entire ship was really spacious and the cabin balconies had plenty of room to sit out and watch the world go by. The service was fantastic and extended to our shore excursions, which couldn’t be faulted. Literally every person I spoke to on this river cruise knew my name, which was really impressive! By the end of the week we really got to know the staff and said sad farewells to them. Those who worked on our excursions were amazing as they all live in the area. Everything we learned was first-hand information which made the experience extra special.

I would send customers who love to travel on this river cruise – it’s a real bucket list trip. People from all ages would have a fantastic time: I am only 23 myself and there was a mix of groups on-board, including guests ranging from 20 – 30 years old. There was even a 12 year old boy on holiday with his grandmother.

Would you like to experience the captivating Mekong on-board AmaWaterways’ AmaDara? Take a look at our Mekong river cruise itineraries or speak to our Cruise Concierge team on 0800 197 0854 to find out more about these once-in-a-lifetime voyages.

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About Emma Smith

Emma has more than six years' experience as a writer and has been in the travel industry for over two years. She loves learning of new places and cruise ships coming to market, as well as discovering fun and exciting activities to do while you sail. She has cruised with Royal Caribbean and is looking to get something in diary for 2021! Her favourite things to see on a ship include excellent entertainment, a delicious cocktail menu and extraordinary dining venues.

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