[Editor’s note: The writer was a guest on AmaDara in August 2015.]
The year 2015 was exciting for AmaWaterways as it introduced three new ships to its expanding fleet of river boats. The AmaSerena and the AmaVista were both inaugurated into the European scene with passenger capacities of 164. The AmaDara was introduced to the Asian region in August of 2015 with a passenger capacity of 124.
The ship measures 302 feet with 62 stateroms and a crew of 50. The three passenger decks (no elevator) feature two restaurants, fitness center, beauty salon and spa services, a gift shop, computer stations, as well a swimming pool with lounge chairs and a shaded bar on the top Sun Deck.
AmaWaterways includes house brand alcohol (wine, beer, spirits), water and soft drinks with both lunch and dinner. Premium liquor is available for an extra cost. Land tours and excursions along with all transfers, live cultural entertainment by local dancers/musicians, and daily cultural lectures are also included. Several themed dinners add to the overall ambiance and authenticity. Free Internet and Wi-Fi are available in the lounge and reception areas while in Vietnam and Cambodia.
New Standards For AmaWaterways In Asia
I was a hosted guest on board the inaugural sailing of the AmaDara and excited to experience what is decidedly a new standard in cruising for AmaWaterways in Asia. Fanfare and music were everywhere. All passengers were greeted by colorful lion dancers along with local children and a welcoming band of drums and gongs. It was a glorious way to herald the inaugural of the AmaDara.
AmaDara offers some of the most spacious staterooms and suites on the Mekong. The interior is a luscious blend of sophisticated elegance yet with a garnish of contemporary decor, giving the guest customized modern-day comforts that harmonize effortlessly with the surroundings.
The 62 air-conditioned suites range from a spacious 226 square feet for the Deluxe Twin Balcony Suites to the two expansive Owners Suite at 452 square feet. All staterooms are outside accommodations decorated in a French colonial-style decor that includes an outside veranda combined with a French balcony window.
Personal amenities in the rooms include bottled water, silk robes and slippers as well as AmaWaterway’s branded toiletries that include a dual-purpose shampoo/conditioner, shower gel and body lotion. I was surprised, however, that the toiletries weren’t a renown brand and that a separate shampoo and conditioner weren’t available.
Each of the staterooms have a private bathroom with a glass-door shower, hair dryer, and vanity area. Also available is a mini-bar, DVD player, phone for onboard communications, and a personal safe. For entertainment, each room features a HD flat-panel TV with satellite reception, Infotainment and movies-on-demand.
AmaDara’s Public Spaces
Public spaces are ample and spacious on the AmaDara and include some surprising conveniences you would only expect to find on much larger ships. From a boutique gift shop, workout room, massage rooms, library, and computer stations to two different restaurants that feature Asian and Western cuisine and a sundeck with a swimming pool, the AmaDara packs in a boatload of amenities. And then there is the Saigon Lounge where most of the briefings, cultural lectures, and local entertainment takes place. It’s a great place to read a book, catch up on the internet, or to taste an exotic drink. Premium brand liquors as well as wine and beer are also available.
The main Mekong restaurant serves meals prepared by local chefs consisting of Western cuisine and of course, Vietnamese and Cambodian specialties. Breakfast is a plenteous buffet with an “Action Station” in the corner serving up Pho Soup. This ended up being a favorite with me as the dedicated morning chef customized my soup with plenty of healthy vegetables sans meat. The Fusion restaurant is an alternative dining option that features chef tastings from a special menu. Reservations are a must. And kudos to the AmaDara baker(s) as the bread selection is absolutely divine.
AmaDara Cruise Itinerary
The full cruise and land package consists of a 15-days (sailing 7 days) Mekong Delta cruise from Hanoi to Ho Chi Minh City. My embarkation was in Siem Reap, Cambodia. The package fare includes 22 complimentary land/excursions, plus 2-night Hanoi and 2-night Ho Chi Minh City hotel packages and 1-night Halong Bay boat cruise. Land excursions usually offered a regular and “gentle walkers” version.
The trip started in Hanoi, capital of Vietnam, followed by an excursion to scenic Ha Long Bay where travelers had the opportunity to stay overnight on a modern junk. Next was a short flight to Siem Reap, where travelers spent three days touring Angkor Archeological Park, a UNESCO World Heritage Site. The Mekong cruise started in Siem Reap on the Tonle Sap Lake and included an overnight in Phnom Penh, capital of Cambodia and infamous for the Killing Fields. The river cruise finished in Ho Chi Minh City, where guest stayed for two more nights to see the sights of the city that used to be called Saigon.
A 7-day Mekong cruise only is available from Siem Reap to Ho Chi Minh City and reverse with 14 complimentary land tours/excursions. Hotel nights are extra.
Nice to Know
- On AmaDara cruises, AmaWaterways lines offer discount airfare travel deals on major airlines (without charging Flight Deviation fees).
- Though complimentary Wi-Fi is offered on board the AmaDara in the reception and lounge area, reception is spotty at best – especially when underway.
- Bring a separate hair conditioner if you need more than what a combination shampoo/conditioner offers. With my thick and dry hair, I definitely needed a dedicated conditioner.
- The on-board Gift Shop is available for last-minute purchases. I bought my son two Vietnamese 100 percent silk ties with matching pocket squares and cufflinks. Each set was only US$7.
- While in Siem Reap guests can visit the Orphans and Disabled Arts Association’s Free Village English School, where young children are provided with free English language instruction. AmaWaterways supports this institution that also serves as a community center for the village residents.