Avalon Siem Reap exclusively sails the waterways of Southeast Asia in Vietnam and Cambodia, including the Mekong and Tonle Sap rivers. At three decks -- only two of which are available to passengers -- it's one of the shorter riverboats that sails the area, generally enabling it to fit under bridges and power lines some other ships cannot. Accommodating only 36 passengers, Avalon Siem Reap provides an intimate sailing experience, and travelers quickly bond over the shared activities. Cruises feel personal and genuine.
The ship itself is clearly Asian in design, with art that reflects the region. Dark, manufactured wood floors as well as touches of genuine mahogany wood fill the public spaces and cabins, while linens and area rugs feature bold floral patterns. The ship is stunning and has passengers feeling comfortable and pampered at the same time. That's no accident; crew, including a dedicated cruise director who quickly will become your trusted go-to for everything, encourage a casual vibe. This starts with the shedding of shoes when you walk onboard. To preserve the gorgeous floors and cut down on tracking in all sorts of outdoor elements, passengers remove their shoes when they enter the ship, and crew members clean the soles, returning them later in the day. Most passengers wear socks, slippers or even go barefoot onboard. (It's a little odd at first, but by the end of your cruise, you'll be loath to wear actual shoes.)
The light-and-bright Panorama Lounge, along with its adjacent sun deck, are highlights onboard. The lounge space, with floor-to-ceiling windows all around it, is the spot for hanging out, especially when weather is too hot or wet. Passengers also lounge here to check the internet. Likewise, the sundeck is perfect for scenic cruising as well as catching the magnificent sunsets and sunrises over the waterways. Service in both spots is excellent; waiters know your drink order by the second day and intuitively have your beverage waiting for you. In fact, service all over the ship is wonderful, with staff comfortably interacting with passengers in a friendly yet respectful way. (Consequently, the ship's crew talent show feels more like a family reunion than a cheesy canned show.)
While the ship serves as the backdrop for a good portion of your vacation, the true star actually is the itinerary, which generally begins with a pre-cruise tour and ends with several days ashore as well. The tour program is smartly designed, with emphasis on seeing the big highlights -- Angkor Wat and the Killing Fields, for example -- as well as the opportunity to interact on a meaningful level with locals. You'll likely first meet your cruise director at your hotel. This is also where you'll meet your tour guides, who stay with you the entire time you're in their country. These individuals become essential to the cruise experience, sharing history, demographics and personal stories that help passengers better understand the region. Avalon has done an excellent job hiring skilled tour guides who speak excellent English and understand passenger questions, concerns and needs.
Cruises on Avalon Siem Reap are not designed for people with mobility issues. The itineraries aren't doable for anyone requiring a wheelchair, as roads and sidewalks (if destinations even have sidewalks) are pitted and broken, and they're often on uneven surfaces. Additionally, many excursions require getting into and out of unusual modes of transportation, such as ox carts, sampans and tuk tuks. The riverboat doesn't have an elevator, and even getting on and off the ship would be difficult for people who need wheelchairs or walkers.
All cabins on Avalon Siem Reap are identical, and at 245 square feet are spacious and feel luxurious. Suites feature prints of Asian flowers, massive orchids (yes, they're real) and incredible 14-foot French balconies that open across the length of the room. These windows also have sheers and room darkening curtains, so sleep won't be disrupted. A signature for Avalon Waterways, beds face the windows so you can watch the world go by in comfort. (You can choose two twin beds or one king bed arrangement.) Beds have premium mattresses as well as thick cotton sheets and duvet coverings. All furniture is dark wood, as is the impressive inlay wood ceiling.
Each cabin includes a desk, two nightstands and a seating area comprising a love seat, chair and table. There's also a large wardrobe that has hanging space and shelves for smaller items. (There are no drawer units in cabins, so we used our nightstands for storing small clothing.)
Bathrooms are exceptionally large, and they feature marble and faux marble finishes, a big sink, mirror, shelving space, toilet, a hair dryer and oversized glass-enclosed shower. In fact, it's one of the biggest we've seen on a river ship, and it includes rainfall and adjustable showerheads as well as a small ledge for propping up your foot when shaving your legs. Shampoo, conditioner, soap, shower gel and lotion are included, as are shower caps and sewing and vanity kits. The only minor knock on the bathroom is a lack of space to hang damp items -- and you'll find you have many damp items after a day out in the humid, often rainy climate. Two bathrobes and two sets of slippers are provided as well. The slippers will become a new set of shoes, as most passengers wear these onboard as a way to avoid tracking outside dirt across the ship. Water from the bathroom sink and shower is not potable, so Avalon provides unlimited bottled water for things like drinking and teeth-brushing.
Additionally, cabins feature mini-refrigerators stocked with water, soda and local beer. If you have preferences about what you want to drink, let your cabin steward or cruise director know. You'll find adequate outlets, which will accommodate U.S. or European plugs throughout the cabin, though there are no USB ports. There's also a flat-screen TV; reception is spotty, so you might get a signal less often than you'll get one.
Avalon Siem Reap has no connecting cabins, nor can any cabin accommodate more than two passengers. Cabins on Deck 1 are offered for a somewhat cheaper rate than those on Deck 2, in large part because the lower-level cabins are in closer proximity to the ship's anchors, which make noise when deployed. Still, this is a quick occurrence and no one on our sailing complained about the noise.
The menus offered on Avalon Siem Reap reflect the food people eat in Southeast Asia. It's a wonderful way to learn about food cultures from not only Vietnam and Cambodia, but also Thailand and Myanmar, for example. Passengers tend to be somewhat adventurous with their choices, though we generally found there was a relatively small variety. And by the end of the cruise, some passengers were craving Western options like pizza or hamburgers, which simply aren't on the menu. Still, cuisine, for the most part, is delicious, and portion sizes are just right, so you can try a bit of everything without feeling stuffed. Service is also incredible; staff memorize your names before the end of the first day, empty plates are removed immediately and glasses are never empty for long.
No room service is offered onboard, though if someone is ill, crew will arrange to have food sent to the cabin.
The Dining Room (Deck 2): The Dining Room is the only true dining venue onboard. Located on Deck 2, the restaurant is decorated with huge, intricate carved wooden panels on its walls. It also has two large paintings depicting daily scenes in Southeast Asia. A small, oval buffet sits in the middle and is used for breakfast and lunch. A hot bar, where food is made fresh and kept warm, is located at the front of the restaurant. Seating is around tables of four to six and is open, meaning passengers can sit wherever they want at any meal. (Though by the end of our cruise, passengers seemed to have their "usual" spots and meal companions.) Lunch and dinner are announced with a gong.
An international breakfast is served early in the morning to sync up appropriately with excursions, which generally start around 8:30 a.m. Breakfast is buffet style and features a variety of hot and cold items, such as toast and pastries, fruit, cereal, muesli, cold cuts, oatmeal, salad, soup, baked beans and various juices. Passengers can order made-to-order eggs from a hot station, which also features a rotating selection of items such as pancakes, French toast, fried noodles, breakfast potatoes and grilled tomatoes.
Lunch also is served buffet style. Every day, it includes a small salad bar with a selection of toppings and dressings, a premade sandwich option, a hot and cold soup, cheese and crackers, fresh fruit and bread. The hot bar features a daily made-to-order noodle selection, so you might eat Vietnamese pho one day, and Cambodian glass noodle soup the next. You can also pick from items such as fish, taro root, mashed potatoes, braised pork, curry chicken and steamed river spinach. Hot options rotate daily and are heavy on Asian dishes.
Dinner is the only seated meal of the day, and it's served at 7 p.m. It can be a fairly long affair, often taking from 90 minutes to two hours. The four-course meal begins with an appetizer option, such as Thai salad or shrimp cocktail (though this one isn't at all like the Western version of the cruise ship staple; instead, it's more like a deconstructed salad). Then, comes the soup course, which usually includes one Western choice, like tomato or potato soup, and one Asian choice, such as oxtail. Passengers usually have four options when it comes to main choices, and that might include pad thai, Cambodian fish amok or a Vietnamese seafood pot. For those looking for a break from the Asian menu, "Western Options" are offered daily and include chicken breast, spaghetti and salmon. Desserts include items like mango ice cream topped with pineapple and blue Curacao or a fruit plate.
Vegetarian options as well as more heart healthy choices are marked on the dinner menu, as are the chef's selections. Passengers with dietary restrictions can be accommodated for all meals, but they need to make note of those restrictions when they book their cruise and follow up with the cruise director right away in person. Avalon Siem Reap has gluten-free soy and oyster sauces and can prepare rice breads so Asian dishes can be modified to accommodate gluten-free diets, for example.
Panorama Lounge (Deck 2): For early risers (and there tend to be a number of these on Avalon Siem Reap), the Panorama Lounge offers some pastries, tea, coffee and juices from roughly 5:30 a.m. until breakfast time. During the day, you can visit the lounge to grab treats like cookies, dried fruit and nuts. Appetizers are served here during the daily cocktail hour.
Dress onboard Avalon Siem Reap is totally casual. In fact, you don't wear shoes most of the time; passengers instead opt for slippers or flip-flops at the request of Avalon staff trying to keep the ship's gorgeous wood floors clean. (Slippers or other clean shoes are required in the dining room.) During the day, when the boat is in port, passengers wear layers to keep the sun and bugs off. (Pack sunscreen and bugspray.) Shorts, pants, T-shirts, flip-flops or tennis shoes, dresses and skirts are all common. Keep in mind, visits to temples and palaces require passengers to have shoulders and knees covered, and a scarf thrown over a tank top isn't sufficient. Pack breezy linen pants, capris and blouses to ensure you adhere to the dress requirements. Onboard, comfort reigns supreme. Shorts and tees are acceptable at all times, even in the dining room. The ship is air-conditioned, so a light sweater or jacket is a solid accessory indoors.
Your cruise fare on Avalon Siem Reap covers your cruise, excursions and unlimited local beer and local spirits, soft drinks, coffee, tea and bottled water. It also covers wine at lunch and dinner. Your cocktails during the nightly cocktail hour also are covered. Confused as to what's included? The bartender and wait staff onboard will let you know if you order something that costs extra.
Items like spa treatments, gratuities, visa fees, airfare and transfers are not included. Avalon suggests you pay $7 to $9 per person per day for the cruise director as well as $10 to $12 per person per day for the ship's crew. You can prepay these before your trip via credit card, if you wish. Otherwise, you can pay onboard at the end of your trip by cash only. Spa treatments don't include gratuity, but plan to tip around 10 percent.
The U.S. dollar is the currency onboard, and it's widely accepted in ports throughout Cambodia and Vietnam. Bring crisp bills that don't have tears, holes or inkmarks on them to spend in port; many restaurants and vendors won't take blemished bills. You'll likely receive change in local currency; bring small bills so you aren't stuck with a pocketful of money you can't spend when you head home.
Avalon tips all drivers and guides for shore excursions, so you don't need to pull out cash at the end of a daytrip. Still, plan to have a few dollars handy for exceptional service (like when you're riding in a pedicab) or to donate to monks who perform blessings for passengers.
You're also on your own for buying school supplies for a visit with schoolchildren. (Purchasing school supplies is optional, but you'll feel out of place if you visit the school empty-handed. You can buy supplies in bigger cities rather than pack them from home.)
You'll take at least one shore excursion every day on Avalon Siem Reap, and on many days, two excursions. All excursions are included in the price of your cruise fare. The first excursion will take place right after breakfast, the second usually after lunch. Most excursions will get you back to the boat to have meals onboard, if you desire. Because there are only 36 passengers onboard, everyone participates in the same excursions. The group size makes it mostly manageable, though in some cases you'll feel a bit crowded.
The variety of excursions is excellent, with some tours done by bus to visit temples and others dropping you off right in the heart of towns and villages. Having mobility is a must for almost every excursion. You'll be climbing steps, walking on dirt or pitted roads, and climbing into and out of various modes of transportation, such as tuk tuks, pedicabs, motor scooters and ox carts. There's always a "gentle walking" option, but even this one requires the ability to take stairs and navigate through sometimes tricky passages and difficult terrain.
A local guide leads you on your excursion, and he or she will stay with you the entire time you're in the country. (If your cruise takes you to Cambodia and Vietnam, you'll have one Cambodian guide, then one Vietnamese guide, or vice versa.) Your cruise director also joins you on every excursion, so you'll always have at least two people guiding you. Passengers wear earpieces, and guides speak into a microphone so even at the back, people can hear what's going on.
Excursions take you to the biggest sites, like Angkor Wat in Siem Reap or the Killing Fields in Phnom Penh, but they also take you to small villages to learn about how locals live and work. You'll visit bustling markets, schools and silversmith shops. You'll learn how artisans ply their trade and how English is taught to 80 children of various ages. These excursions will make you feel like a traveler who has gained great knowledge and intimate insight into Southeast Asia and its people. The favorite on our cruise was a visit with schoolchildren learning English; passengers read texts with the kids and helped them with their pronunciation. It ended with a sharing of songs.
Daytime and Evening Entertainment
Entertainment onboard Avalon Siem Reap takes place a couple of times each trip, and it often overlaps with the enrichment program. Movies -- documentaries or Hollywood films -- are shown once or twice, and popcorn and refreshments are offered. (Don't be surprised when a few passengers fall asleep during the films, a sign of a day well spent.) A crew talent show is a must see, and the dance party is also fun though will totally depend on the mix of your passenger group. Otherwise, there's the nightly cocktail hour.
Enrichment is where the programming on Avalon Siem Reap excels. Each night, an enrichment activity is offered. One night, it might be a visit from orphans who perform a cultural dance, and a demonstration on the myriad uses for scarves in Cambodian society another. All of the enrichment activities are well thought out, with the aim being to provide passengers a deeper understanding of the area's culture. Passengers on our sailing commented that the variety of enrichment options was exceptional, and they appreciated the opportunity to learn about things like traditional Apsara Cambodian dancing. Audience participation is encouraged, but not in the heavy-handed way that can make shy Westerners uncomfortable.
When guests are brought onboard to entertain, plan to have some small bills for tipping. While Avalon says it's not required, virtually every passenger opts to give a little something at the end.
Because the itineraries offered on Avalon Siem Reap put passengers in port early every day and have them doing tours in the morning and afternoon, the nightlife onboard is relatively sedate. Many passengers head to bed right after dinner or after a quick nightcap. Still, those who stay up head to the Panorama Lounge, where service is extraordinarily friendly and prompt.
The Panorama Lounge (Deck 2): You'll find only one lounge onboard, and it's open from early in the morning until the evening. Essentially, if passengers are awake, it's open. Floor-to-ceiling windows surround the large lounge, which feels light and airy. Beige chairs and serene yellow banquettes are topped with pretty green floral pillows. Low, glass-topped tables are set so passengers can casually chat between meals or at cocktail hour, which runs from 6 to 7 each night. A small, curved wooden bar sits at the rear port (left) side. The space is comfortable, and passengers, who tend to be social, gather here throughout the day.
In the morning, it's the spot to grab coffee, tea or a pastry before breakfast. In the afternoon (or often in the late morning), passengers gather here ahead of lunch to grab a beer. Before dinner, the space hosts a cocktail hour, where hors d'oeuvres are served while the cruise director goes over the next day's agenda. After dinner, it occasionally hosts entertainment events, like movies (with popcorn!).
Avalon Siem Reap has one sun deck, located at the very front of the ship on Deck 2. The area is covered to protect passengers from sun and rain, both of which are quite common on all itineraries. Passengers can relax on wicker chairs and wooden loungers, topped with green cushions, while ceiling fans cool things down. The sun deck is the best spot to catch the sun rising or setting over the river. The space is used more lightly than the adjacent Panorama Lounge, perhaps because the heat can get somewhat intense there. Waiters and waitresses swing by occasionally to offer drinks, but it's just as efficient to visit the bar and order.
The ship has a reception desk, located on Deck 2, where passengers can make spa appointments, settle up their bills and generally ask questions. In the Panorama Lounge, you'll find a small selection of fiction books, games and a daily roundup of the international news. The "library" also offers a limited number of books related to history of the region.
The ship doesn't have a laundry facility, but passengers can send out items for laundering and pressing at a per-item cost. The ship has no internet cafe, but Wi-Fi, though naturally spotty because of the remote itineraries, is complimentary and available in the public spaces onboard. It's especially poor when multiple passengers are trying to log on at once, so if staying connected is a must, plan to get up early or stay up late. A small shelving unit stuffed with goods for sale -- jewelry, handbags, cards, wood-carved puzzles and jewelry boxes -- is located on Deck 2. Pay for your purchases at the reception desk. You can also borrow a USB drive loaded with movies such as "Good Morning Vietnam," and "The Killing Fields," from reception. The drive plugs into the USB slot of your in-cabin TV.
Kids can sail on Avalon Siem Reap, but it's rare to see any onboard. The ship has no children's facilities or programming, nor does it provide a special menu for kids. The programming and itineraries are geared toward mature travelers, and only those children with a more adult mindset will enjoy cruising on Avalon Siem Reap. There are no connecting cabins, nor are there cabins that accommodate more than two people.
Passengers on Avalon Siem Reap are generally 60-plus and are well traveled. You'll share a sense of adventure with your fellow passengers, who hail mostly from the United States, Canada, New Zealand and Australia. The environment fosters a multinational passenger experience, and tour guides make references in miles and kilometers, and pounds and kilograms, for example. English is the language onboard. During the summer and early fall, expect a more diverse section of passengers. In November and December, you'll find mostly Americans. Children are permitted to sail, but the length and intensity of the itineraries means kids onboard are rare.
Number of Crew:24
Crew Nationality: International
Officer Nationality: International
Language(s) Spoken:< Multiple Languages
OverviewThe new Avalon ship cruising on the Mekong is specifically designed to offer an intimate experience with a maximum of 36 guests, so you can truly immerse yourself in the culture, people, and sights along the Mekong River. Built by traditional craftsmen, the ship mixes modern comforts with the colonial charm associated with Vietnam and Cambodia. Time on board delivers a refreshing experience, as all cabins open to the outside and the large indoor lounge and open-air observation lounge offer great panoramic views. The design also allows her to be the only ship sailing all the way from Ho Chi Minh City to Siem Reap (or vice versa). This eliminates over 7 hours* of motorcoach travel time to and from your ship, which means you get to enjoy more cruising! *Depending on water levels.
Dining InformationDinner Gratuity Policies Gratuity Policies