Day 1: New Zealand –– Ho Chi Minh City
Today, depart Australia for Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam!
Day 2: Ho Chi Minh City
Upon arrival to the airport you will be met and transferred to your hotel for check-in.
Day 3: Ho Chi Minh City Tour – Cu Chi Tunnels (B,L)
After breakfast, you will have a half day tour of Ho Chi Minh City with highlights such as, Notre Dame Cathedral, Post Office, War Remnant Museum and soaking up the atmosphere at Ben Thanh market, one of Ho Chi Minh’s liveliest areas.
In the afternoon we continue on to Cu Chi Tunnels. During the Vietnam War, guerrilla fighters built a labyrinth of narrow tunnels, using them to hide in during bombing raids and to stage surprise attacks. At its height, the tunnel system stretched over 250km from Saigon to the Cambodian border and was three levels deep. Today, the remaining tunnels have become a major tourist attraction, giving visitors a unique understanding of what life was like during the Vietnam War.
Optional Evening Activity (at own expense) – Saigon Dinner Cruise. In the evening, enjoy an authentic Vietnamese dinner on board a Saigon River Cruise. The Saigon River flows from Cambodia through Southern Vietnam before merging into the South China Sea. Dinner on a river cruise offers the opportunity to witness another side of Saigon.
Day 4: Mekong Cruise: Ho Chi Minh City – My Tho – Cai Be (B,L,D)
Today you commence your Mekong Cruise. Meet in the welcome lounge in Saigon and enjoy a drink while the staff welcome you and collect your details for boarding. We bid farewell to the hustle and bustle of Saigon and travel 70 km south overland to My Tho to embark on your luxury floating home for your coming journey along the Mighty Mekong.
Upon boarding the crew warmly welcomes you and you check in to your prepared staterooms. The ship sets sail and your fascinating journey of exploring the Mekong can begin. Lunch buffet is served in the restaurant while the vessel steadily glides upstream to reach the overnight spot.
The afternoon allows you to pass the time on your private balcony or join tea time at the open air bar as the twilight bathes the land of the Mekong Delta into a golden haze. While enjoying you dinner, the ship reaches Cai Be, a small charming town famous for its Catholic French church and manufacturing of traditional crafts and food products. The floating market of Cai Be is getting smaller every year, since trading on the water is shifting more and more into modern central markets. We drop anchor mid-stream near Cai Be. After dinner every evening the cinema features selected classic movies.
Day 5: Mekong Cruise: Cai Be – Sa Dec – Tan Chau (B,L,D)
Start your day like many local people do around Asia with an invigorating Tai Chi class on the sun deck as the sun rises. The morning tour takes you to Cai Be where you can still see some boat to boat trading of local goods such as fruits and agricultural products. Your guide will explain the particularities of this long-lasting dealing culture.
Cai Be is a rustic town crisscrossed by many water canals. We go on-shore to visit a workshop where we learn about and observe how rice paste, rice paper, rice cookies and rice wine is manufactured. Cai Be and its surrounding areas are covered by palm trees and hence the region is also famous for the production of coconut candies. With our local boat, we continue to cruise through the lush and green canal network and can observe farmers working in the fields.
Back on board lunch is served followed by some free time – enjoy a true Vietnamese coffee at the bar or simply watch the life on the riverbanks floating by. In the afternoon, reach the area of Sa Dec where you embark on a traditional local boat and head towards Binh Thanh Island. This island is one of the larger ones in the vast stream of the Mekong. Some communities have settled here and make their living by growing water hyacinths. We visit exclusively, one of those untouched areas. By wandering through the village, get a deep understanding of the native life and witness the manual process of mat making. You’ll also meet an elderly local couple who share their story on life on the island.
Back on board you may like to pamper yourself with a spa treatment or take a dip in the pool on the sun deck. The expert guide offers a presentation on the “Life on the Mekong Delta” as the ship continues sailing to Tan Chau – the border town to Cambodia. We moor mid-stream near Tan Chau.
Day 6: Mekong Cruise: Cross border to Phnom Penh, Cambodia (B,L,D)
Welcome to the fish sanctuary of Vietnam. Begin your day with a hearty breakfast at the dining hall or in the quiet sanctuary of your balcony. Today you’ll take an excursion around Tan Chau, a pleasant, slow-paced town near the Cambodian border with a sizeable Chinese, Kinh and Khmer community.
Once on-shore hop on “xe loi” to explore Tan Chau. A xe loi is a local vehicle which is still used as a taxi in this region. Slowly move around the streets to see all the workshops, houses and domiciles before stopping at the colorful local market near one of the ancient temples. This is the best time to interact with the vendors of this friendly town to practice your bargaining skills.
Board a local boat and cruise past floating houses to finally reach a floating fish farm. This region is the source of fish production to be sold all over the world and you’ll closely see how fish farming works.
Back on board your “home”, set sail towards the Vietnamese-Cambodian border. Get ready for a fascinating and leisurely cruise through the deep Cambodia countryside towards Phnom Penh. The rest of the afternoon is at leisure.
Dinner is served before arriving in the capital of Cambodia around 7pm, docking at the pier of Phnom Penh.
Day 7: Mekong Cruise: Phnom Penh (B,L,D)
Welcome to Phnom Penh – once called the Paris of the East. Despite its rapid development, it’s retained a lot of its rustic charm and elegance.
After breakfast commence a full day sight-seeing tour including the Killing Fields and prison “S21”. Both historic sites display the sad and cruel chapter of Khmer history when once the Khmer Rouge ruled the country with terror and suppression. Having merely changed, it can be a heart wrenching experience.
After lunch, explore the fascinating cultural heritage of Phnom Penh – the Royal Palace with its Silver Pagoda and the exceptional Khmer crafts at the National Museum are highlights. The day trip ends with a “cyclo” ride back to the ship through the bustling streets of downtown Phnom Penh.
In the evening, a professor of the Royal University of Phnom Penh provides a fascination insight into Cambodian modern history. Definitely a highlight as the lecturer had a private relation to the former King of Cambodia and many other high ranking politicians.
Dinner is served on the sun deck, accompanied by an Apsara dance performance. You have to witness the brilliance and richness of this dance along with the soothing sounds of traditional music.
As the evening unwinds enjoy your supper with a good glass of wine and marvel at the skyline of Phnom Penh and the calming flow of the Tonle River.
Day 8: Mekong Cruise: Phnom Penh – Kampong Cham (Mekong) (B,L,D)
Depart before the break of dawn from Phnom Penh towards the small Angkor Ban village up the Mekong River. Wake up to the gentle cruise motion and get ready for breakfast in the dining room.
The Angkor Ban village is famous for its unspoiled community and beautiful, traditional houses. It feels like being transported back a hundred years into an era unaffected by modernity.
Back on board enjoy a presentation of traditional Khmer fashion.
After lunch, cruise further up the Mekong to visit a local school to understand more about the education of the young Cambodian generation (this project is funded by an NGO). The children here are always excited to show their skills in music and art and will bathe you in smiles upon your applause.
Continue by road to the enchanting pre-Angkorian temple of Wat Hanchey (7th century). This small complex sits on a hill top right on the shore with breath-taking views on the Mekong. Another temple on the way is the tiny, colourful monastery of Wat Nokor. Here we might get the chance to engage in a light banter with some of the monks living in the area.
Relax back on board until dinner is served. The boat moors mid-river near Kampong Cham.
Day 9: Mekong Cruise: Kampong Cham (Mekong) – Kampong Chhnang (Tonle) (B,L,D)
During breakfast we sail downstream and stop at the Island of Koh Oknha Tey. Situated in the middle of the Mekong famous for the manufacturing of high class silk products.
By tuk tuk we explore the island with its workshops and learn how silk is processed from its source, provided by little silkworms, to a final top quality product made of original Cambodian silk.
Before lunch the expert guides offer a presentation about “Geography of the Mekong and Tonle Sap”.
After lunch a Monks’ blessing ceremony on board will deliver spirits and wishes of health and prosperity for all.
The cruiser continues its journey, passing the confluence of Mekong and Tonle River towards Kampong Tralach. Gliding through leafy swaths of this jungle-like landscape we reach Kampong Tralach. Children waive enthusiastically while bringing their livestock for a bath in the meandering river.
Later the boat find its anchor spot in the Tonle River near Kampong Chhnang allowing you to observe the interesting and close-by life on shore.
Day 10: Mekong Cruise: Kampong Chhnang – Tonle Sap Lake (B,L,D)
Wake up early to witness this spectacular water-world in the break of dawn or join the Tai Chi class.
Kampong Chhnang, Cambodia’s “water world”, is where everything is on sticks balanced on water rich soil. Arguably the most fascinating part of the cruise in Cambodia.
Visit a nearby rural village and go on a walking tour to see village specialities – Khmer style pottery and the making of palm sugar. Before returning to the boat we explore the local floating villages and wetlands of the region.
Back on board lunch is served as your cruise gently along the narrow and meandering Tonle, towards the Great Tonle Lake. The river opens up to a vast “sea” – known as the biggest fresh water lake in Asia. This lake can only be crossed during high water season (approx. from end-July to mid-November).
In the afternoon, enjoy a high tea as the sun sets before your farewell event. Enjoy dinner, dancing and music with the crew.
The boat moors near Siem Reap.
Day 11: Disembark Cruise – Siem Reap (B)
The Tonle Sap (The Great Lake) is the flowing heart of Cambodia, giving love and life to millions of people. It has more fishes than any other lake in the world and is home to an incredible variety of birds, including rare and endangered feathered life.
This morning your cruise comes to an end. Disembark the ship and take a local boat to the shore, passing a vast floating community.
On arrival at the pier, you will be met by your local guide and transferred to your Siem Reap hotel. The remainder of the day is at leisure.
Day 12: Siem Reap – Angkor Temples (B)
Spend a full day discovering the mystical Angkor temples. The world heritage site with soaring towers and one of the most amazing man-made monuments in the world. Visit Angkor Wat, Ta Prohm Monastery, Angkor Thom, Bayon and the Elephant Terrace.
Day 13: Siem Reap –– New Zealand (B)
Free time before your transfer to the airport for your return flight home.
Day 14: New Zealand
Arrive home today.