Thursday, March 31, 2016

This Is the Life!

With our wonderful guide, Thinh, who showed us Saigon
and was also our guide on the river cruise. Lucky us!
Welcome Aboard the R.V. Mekong Princess

Living on a yacht is an interesting lifestyle. Everything is compact, but very comfortable. Little amenities like bathtubs, television, gourmet kitchens are just not in the picture! Although I have adapted well and actually love living aboard, I do enjoy the luxury of a nice hotel from time to time!

So for a break from the boat – and a required exit from Australia every 90 days – we decided to vacation in South East Asia. As long as we were in nearby longitudes, it seemed like a smart thing to do. It was still a nine hour flight from Sydney to Ho Chi Minh (Saigon). And since we wanted to try a river cruise, the trip up the Mekong to Cambodia seemed to fill the bill.

On the ship's bridge. 
A number of the cruise boats were booked for the time we need, so after a little searching I found a company that doesn’t advertise all over the place: Haimark, LTD. And surprisingly, the office is in the USA. Although this company is a high-end cruise, the cost wasn't much more than the others and the plus was that it is a smaller boat so no mass exodus for excursions.

Keeping everything ship-shape.
The Mekong Princess is a beautiful river boat with only 12 suites so a maximum of 24 guests! The staff numbered 27! Talk about being pampered … And the boat was just launched six months ago so everything was new and beautiful. It was a floating 5-star hotel and I loved every minute of it! And being a new ship, it was beautiful and the amenities well worth the little extra. The staff was outstanding! I highly recommend this ship and company. 
We were even lucky enough to get a tour of the bridge to see how it looks from the Captain's view. He did not speak English so the Pursor translated for us. Look at the size of the lines for this one! I know I couldn't throw one of these to shore. And keeping the whole boat ship-shape is the task of the crew. As you can see, every detail is taken care of - even on the bridge.

We enjoyed the Captain's navigation skills. There was never a rough moment, not even when weighing anchor or docking. He also had to negotiate is way through hundreds of sampans while dodging numerous objects floating in the water.

This is the Captain's view of the river.

Meals were served in a beautiful dining room. Cocktails were available 24/7 in the Cocktail Lounge or on the Sun Deck – or in your room. The rooms were air-conditioned, which made the 87-95 degrees Fahrenheit days bearable. The warm breeze was wonderful on the Sun Deck lounge chairs. There was a library with Internet and computers as well as the Spa and Fitness rooms.

And our suite had a spa tub as well. We were on the top deck so I don’t know what it sounded like below, but I enjoyed the bubbles and water jets every day. Wonderful for me - especially after long hot days of sightseeing. Not to mention months of onboard and marina showers!

The orchids in the room were gorgeous. This one pictured was on the spa tub! And two spa treatments were part of the package so Dennis gave me his. Two massages! Heavenly!

Our fellow passengers were from Canada (2), Germany (8), New Zealand (2) and the USA (4 including us). There were no dress requirements for dinner, although most people showered and changed after the excursions; and life aboard was a comfortable casual style. I didn't need my long gown for this trip!

With open seating, we were able to sit with different people at different meals and really get to know everyone. As always, we enjoyed our conversations with people from other countries.
Take a look at the lovely accommodations:
The suite was beautiful with the French Colonial styling, king bed, television, comfortable chairs and a huge marble bathroom. The staff was constantly checking on everything to make sure all was well: fresh towels several times a day, appetizers delivered to the room at cocktail time and nightly turn-down with chocolates!



They cleaned our shoes whenever we returned from an excursion. Cleanliness and keeping everyone healthy was paramount as there are things on land, in the villages and in the water that are not compatible with most Westerners’ systems.

Hand sanitizer was offered frequently and required upon entering the Cocktail Lounge or the Dining Room. The staff worked very hard to keep us hydrated with bottled water – even for brushing teeth. We were not to use the tap water in the bathroom as it is purified river water. And maybe because they used so much of it in the galley and for baths and showers.

Breakfast buffet with eggs served to order. And, of course,
other Commonwealth and Asian breakfast items were part
 of the daily selections. Cappuccino, anyone? Yes, please!
The lovely dining room.
We had a Butler who took care of the suite and any needs. The house staff was Vietnamese and the dining staff was Cambodian so it was a nice cultural mix offering great service.

The meals were fabulous and caused some grief with our waistlines. There was a suggested Chef’s menu and a Spa menu each dinner as well as ala carte choices and wine of your choice.

At breakfast and lunch, the bountiful buffet served many local flavors, fresh fruits and pastries and a number of traditional choices.

Many selections at the buffet for breakfast and lunch.
Dinner was a served meal.
Our cruise director and local guides kept us organized and on time for the many planned tours to sights, villages, etc. All were friendly and knowledgeable.

Since the Mekong Princess is a small boat, we were able to go into some exclusive area where the bigger ships cannot go. In the Mekong Delta we visited places off the beaten path and rode in sampans, tri-shaws (three-wheeled trucks), horse carts, cyclos, tuk tuks, two-seater canoes, etc. Quite an experience. I refused to ride a motorcycle.

The various places we visited will be highlight in future posts.

The cocktail lounge was air conditioned so many moved
into it after too much sun on the tours or Sundeck.

The Sundeck was a great place to cruise and snooze!

The lounge chairs became hot property.
Sunset on the Mekong River

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