Emerald Waterways, Europe’s newest deluxe river cruise company, is once again expanding its river cruises offerings for 2016 to include sailings along the Irrawaddy River in exotic Myanmar. The 16-day journey, which has departures on August 27 and November 7, 2016, is round trip from Yangon, Myanmar’s largest city, visiting 11 ports along the way to allow guests to explore this vibrant and culturally diverse nation. Traveling aboard the Irrawaddy Explorer, guests will visit parts of the country rarely seen by westerners and not accessible other than by river, where they willmeet locals, sample exotic cuisine and experience the rich culture in the bustling city of Yangon as well as the remote villages along the river delta.
The “Mystical Myanmar and Irrawaddy River Cruise” joins the recently announced “Highlights of Vietnam and Cambodia Mekong River Cruise” to become Emerald Waterway’s second Asia river cruise itinerary. Early planners enjoy the valuable rewards of best fares and cabin selection, and, if booked by October 31st, free roundtrip air from major North American gateways. Fares start at $7,175 US/$8,025 CAD per person, double occupancy.
The journey, which includes 10 cruise days and six days of land tours, begins in Yangon (once Rangoon), the former capital of Myanmar. Although the capital city is now Naypyidaw, Yangon remains the people’s capital and economic center of the country. In addition to having time to explore on their own, guests will be treated to a walking tour of this bustling city, where they can take in the incredible fusion of British Colonial architecture and stunning Buddhist stupas for which the country is known. On day three, a short flight to Heho, introduces guests to life in the tranquil countryside. Here, lunch at a winery provides a relaxing break, while a tour of Inle Lake provides an intimate look at into the lives of the Intha people who live there, including the fascinating floating market and Phaung Daw Oo Pagoda -- the lake’s holiest site. Guests then head to Mandalay and the mighty Irrawaddy, where the cruise begins.
In Mandalay, considered the cultural hub of upper Myanmar, a walking tour highlights the many monasteries that populate the area. Guests who rise early get to witness the Buddhist monks in the area collecting daily alms before sunrise. In Mingun, a visit to the all-white Hsinbyume Pagoda and Mingun Bell—the world’s largest, un-cracked ringing bell—reveal much about the religion and history of the area. A ride aboard a horse-cart in Ava uncovers more religious sites, including the teak Bagaya monastery and Nanmyin watchtower, while an excursion to Monywa exposes guests to one of the most intricately decorated temples in the country, with more than 500,000 images of Buddha. In Yandabo, a school trip allows for interacting with local children and learning about daily life in this small village. Stops in Salay, Magawe, Thayetmyo and Prome reveal more of Myanmar’s heritage and natural beauty before arriving back in Yangon for disembarkation.
Launched in September 2014, the deluxe Irrawaddy Explorer is a 188-foot vessel built to accommodate just 56 guests. The ship blends traditional English Colonial style furnishings with modern comforts to reflect the timeless elegance of a complete contemporary cruising experience. Features include a lounge, sun deck, spa, fitness room and library as well as spacious oversized suites to create a genuinely indulgent journey. Each suite offers included luxuries: bottled water daily, flat screen TV with on demand movies, internet access, a safe and air conditioning. All suites have panoramic floor to ceiling windows and glass French doors, and many have balconies. Guests in the Mandalay Suites have daily butler service, which includes nightly turndown service, shoe polishing, and packing upon request; and also receive a one-hour spa treatment, complimentary laundry, and in-suite evening canapés.
Emerald Waterways’ on-board experience includes cultural performances, educational talks and traditional entertainment, while daily excursions are accompanied by local English-speaking guides. Additionally, world-class culinary director Jorg Pennek creates a cuisine that not only reflects local flavors, but also provides a variety of Western favorites with unlimited wine, beer and soda at lunch and dinner.
Launched in 2014, Emerald Waterways caters to the four-star-plus market by using state-of-the-art ships, top quality service and a nearly all-inclusive pricing plan. The company’s approach is designed to minimize guests’ concerns about daily budgets or mounting costs. The cruise fare includes all transfers; all onboard (and some on-shore) meals; unlimited tea and coffee; wine, beer and soft drinks with lunch and dinner; bottled water in the cabins; continental breakfast, pre-dinner canapés and after-dinner sweet treats served in the top suites; WiFi onboard the ship, daily shore excursions – as well as all gratuities, a savings up to $650 per couple on 15-day cruises.