We are a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, an affiliate advertising program designed to provide a means for us to earn fees by linking to Amazon.com and affiliated sites. Read my full disclosure here.
Last week I had the most amazing, bucket list, trip to Cambodia and Vietnam with AmaWaterways. We sailed on the beautiful AmaDara down the Mekong River. This is an exceptional experience, truly the trip of a lifetime and I’m excited to share my full trip report, And get many lucky travelers on this river cruise!
AmaWaterways AmaDara Mekong River Cruise: Cambodia and Vietnam
I was invited to sail down the Mekong River from Cambodia to Vietnam on the AmaWaterways AmaDara Riches of the Mekong cruise, as this was my host agency’s top producer retreat. About 20 agents, and their guests were invited as a reward for being the top selling agents in 2022.
You know I love my ocean cruises and at this point I’ve been on all those lines (Holland America, Disney Cruise Line, Royal Caribbean, Norwegian Cruise Line) but this AmaDara Mekong River Cruise was my first ever River Cruise!
A river cruise is so unique, and yes, most of AmaWaterways’ ships are in Europe, but they do offer some exotic destinations including this Mekong River Cruise, the Nile, and coming in 2024 the Amazon!
A river cruise down the Mekong River is so much more than just the sailing itself. In addition to being all about the adventure, excursions and cultural immersion, the opportunities to add pre and post cruise tours makes this a comprehensive journey to Southeast Asia.
AmaWaterways’ AmaDara Mekong River Cruise is seven nights. Most of my travel companions spent at least two weeks in Southeast Asia. I traveled with my mom, and we did one night in Siem Reap before the cruise, which was pretty much the minimum amount of time you need to do this trip.
I do wish I had arrived at least another day earlier to adjust to the time difference, recover from the travel and tour more in Siem Reap, so I definitely recommend guests consider a longer stay.
One Night in Cambodia before our AmaWaterways AmaDara Mekong River Cruise
After over 24 hours of travel from New York to Siem Reap (and we did fly on the worlds longest flight from JFK to Singapore), we checked into the Sofitel Angkor Phokeethra Golf & Spa Resort, a luxury five star hotel in Siem Reap, Cambodia.
Those guests who did the AmaWaterways pre-cruise land extension stayed at the Sofitel in Siem Reap Cambodia for a three nights before departing for the ship. Prior to that they started in Hanoi, Vietnam and all the guests raved about the pre-cruise portion of the trip.
I did love the Sofitel Angkor Phokeethra. There are two restaurants on property and Cambodia’s first champagne bar. There is a pool with a swim up bar, spa, and a gym. The rooms were comfortable and had everything you needed! The service was also outstanding.
On AmaDara cruise Day 1 we departed the Sofitel at 8:30 am. After breakfast, we checked in for our cruise at the hotel. The buses for the ship depart from the Sofitel, so if you aren’t staying there, you need to make your way over to that hotel to meet the group.
Getting to the AmaWaterways AmaDara
We traveled on a luxury coach from Siem Reap to where we would meet our ship. The ride was about five hours with two stops. We ordered lunch and they had it boxed for us.
Along the way, our local guide gave us lots of info about the country and he went over the next day’s excursion options. He also explained that Cambodia has two currencies, the Riel and USD, and other interesting facts to help us get oriented to the destination.
AmaWaterway’s AmaDara Mekong River Cruise Excursions
The first afternoon we arrived at the ship, we had another light lunch and got checked into our staterooms. After a few minutes to unpack, it was time to depart for the first excursion! Yes, all the excursions are included and for most activities guests have a choice between a regular and more active experience.
If the activity is easy/regular all around, the whole group will be offered that excursion.
When you leave for your excursion, they hand you a bottle of water, which you can carry in your water bottle holder, and you bring your provided listening device to better hear the guide.
All of the excursions are fully guided. The same guides stay with you (on the ship). We started with three guides in Cambodia and new ones arrived when we crossed into Vietnam.
Each day, you are briefed on the next day’s excursions so you can decide what you would like to do. Each excursion is color coded so before the start time, you stop by the reception desk and pick up your room card, and the color corresponding to what you chose. Usually one option was less active and/or shorter and the other option was longer or had more walking involved.
Examples of the excursions we did:
- Tour of the twin mountain temples
- Buddhist blessing at the largest temple in Cambodia
- Hike to the top of a hill in Oudong
- Tuk Tuk tour of Phnom Penh
- Tour if the S21 prison, now the Genocide museum
- Tour of a Khmer Rouge killing field
- Active walk on silk island and Cambodian silk weaving factory
- Ox cart ride
- Tour of the Royal palace in Phnom Penh and a trip to the central market
- Trishaw ride in a Vietnam village with stops at a silk factory and rattan weaving workshop
- Rice paper and candy making in Vietnam
- Tour of a Cao Dai temple and a walk through an authentic Vietnamese food market
All of the excursions offered are included with your cruise fare. Some days there were two excursion blocks, one in the morning and one after lunch.
Some days we sailed during lunch and one day there was only one excursion.
On the AmaWaterways AmaDara Mekong River cruise, we had one sea day as we crossed from Cambodia into Vietnam.
A note about excursions on the AmaDara – They did want you to fill out a selection sheet the first day but pretty much before each excursion you went to the reception desk and got a card coordinating to the activity you wanted to do. You would then follow that guide out and be on your way.
I loved that you could decide at the time what you felt up to!
On this sailing no one got “shut out” of any excursions. You also could opt to stay on the boat- or in Phnom Penh, you could self-tour, since we were docked at a port right in the city.
In Vietnam, we always docked in the middle of the river, and started the excursion via tender boat, so there really was no option for self-exploration.
Interested in this cruise? Any river cruise? Or maybe a land trip to Southeast Asia? As a full service travel agent, I can assist with all your travel planning needs – CLICK THE BANNER BELOW TO GET STARTED!
AmaWaterways AmaDara Deck Plan
The AmaDara is a very simple ship. There are only three decks, and pretty much the back half of each floor is where you find cabins.
On the front of deck one is where you will find the Mekong Restaurant. On deck two is the Saigon Lounge, and reception desk. At the way back of deck two is a spa treatment room and the Chef’s Table restaurant.
On deck three, you will find the sun deck – this is a covered area with a small pool, lots of seating, and a bar. At the back of deck three are two more spa treatment rooms and a small fitness room.
That’s pretty much it! Nice and simple!
Here is a full ship and room tour I have up on youtube:
AmaWaterways AmaDara Dining
On the AmaDara, there is one dining room, the Mekong restaurant, and all meals are open seating.
Unlike ocean cruising, there is one meal time, one seating, and it’s usually at 7pm for dinner.
Breakfast and lunch have set hours, but the times changed based on the excursions.
When you enter the Mekong restaurant, there are food displays to help you decide what you would like to order. This is a very Asian thing!
Breakfast and lunch have self-service, buffet options, and an ala carte menu as well.
For breakfast, choices include an omelet station, traditional favorites like pancakes, eggs Benedict, and pastries, but there is also a pho station as well!
AmaDara Pro Tip: Order a Vietnamese coffee- a blend of sweetened, condescended milk and the strong local coffee. Also don’t forget about the make your own mimosa bar!
For lunch and dinner a variety of choices were offered – everything from Caesar salad to veggie burgers, to Asian favorites!
Also worth noting, when you are docked for two nights in Phnom Penh, many guests will go out to dinner. The ship can help with making recommendations and reservations. You can get to the restaurant via Tuk Tuk- but be sure to pay your driver AFTER your round trip ride.
Throughout the day, there are always snacks in the Saigon Lounge, and up on the sun deck, a light lunch is offered from 12:30-130.
What’s included on an AmaWaterways AmaDara Mekong River cruise?
Your cruise fare includes your cabin, transportation to/from the ship starting at the Sofitel in Siem Reap, and ending at the Sofitel Saigon Plaza in Ho Chi Minh City, all on board meals, and at least one dinner at the chef’s table.
As for drinks – unlimited bottled water, coffee, tea, soft drinks, local beer and local spirits are included all day.
On board the AmaDara, wine is included only at meals. All wine is imported, so it’s not offered all day. But worth noting, drinks for purchase were very reasonable, around $6 per drink.
Wi-Fi is included but in this part of the world can be spotty. AmaWaterways is planning to add star link, hopefully in 2024.
Otherwise your excursions are also all included. I did tip my local guides but you don’t pay for the tours or entrance fees at the sites. They also included all transportation to the sites, on a large coach bus.
Tips for sailing on the AmaWaterways AmaDara Mekong River Cruise
- Shipboard outlets are European two pin outlets.
- AmaWaterways provides a listening device and water bottle holder for the excursions
- You NEED knees and shoulders covered at many sites. In Cambodia, a shawl will not suffice- bring t-shirts that cover your shoulders.
- Bring cash (USD) for the markets in Cambodia – I didn’t see anyone in the central market accepting credit cards
- Speaking of cash, the USD is an official currency of Cambodia (along with the Riel)
- Bring small bills for tips (drivers, Tuk Tuk drivers, and your local guides)
- Bring an external battery charger and small snacks on excursions
- Although AmaWaterways did provide it, most rest areas do not have toilet paper or soap. I brought tissues and hand sanitizer
- Spa appointments on the sea day (and in general) book up fast, so make them early!
- At the end of the cruise, mandatory service gratuities are $110 per person. Eighty dollars goes to the crew, which can be charged to your ship board account. $30 goes to the cruise manager but must be paid in cash directly to him.
- Laundry is available on board
- When you check in at the Sofitel in Cambodia, the cruise manager takes your passport. It is returned to you the second to last day, after clearing immigration into Vietnam.
- Download the AmaWaterways MyAma app before you sail.
- You can send unlimited postcards to friend and family back home! So bring their addresses, and you can find the postcards in the back of the Saigon Lounge.
- You do need visas for Vietnam and Cambodia. When you book your AmaWaterways cruise with me, I can assist with guiding you on how to do those!
Sailing the Mekong River on the AmaDara with AmaWaterways was truly the trip of a lifetime. If you are interested in this river cruise, or any worldwide adventure do please contact me here. I know all the river cruises and can help you find the best one for you!