Uniworld Boutique River Cruises’ new ship, River Saigon, began her maiden voyage along Vietnam and Cambodia’s Mekong River on January 19. Guests travelling with Uniworld began their 14-night “Timeless Wonders of Vietnam, Cambodia & the Mekong River” cruise and tour adventure in Ho Chi Minh (Saigon) where they spent two nights at the five-star InterContinental Asiana Saigon Hotel before sailing. The River Saigon offers 30 well-appointed riverview staterooms, so there is a maximum of only 60 guests per sailing, providing travelers with the opportunity to explore the vast Mekong Delta, so rich in human life and endeavor in an intimate manner.
Uniworld’s “Timeless Wonders of Vietnam, Cambodia & the Mekong River” itinerary is designed to take guests on an up-close journey into the heart and soul of these destinations. From the hustle and bustle of Vietnam’s Ho Chi Minh City and Hanoi to Cambodia’s vibrant Phnom Penh and charming Siem Reap – gateway to the legendary UNESCO Angkor Wat temples – to the riverbanks of the Mekong, where life seems to have stood still in time, guests are treated to a 360 degree view of these amazing countries. Whether traveling by way of a luxury sampan to visit Vietnam’s floating river markets, or riding in a cyclo through the streets of Phnom Penh to visit the colorful Royal Palace, or taking a tuk-tuk to the impressive Angkor temples, Uniworld’s guests experience all the regions’ captivating highlights the way the locals do.
Highlights are plentiful from the grandest of temples to the sun setting along the Mekong Delta to a traditional water blessing by Monks. Each of the 13 included excursions is led by professionally trained local experts, who guide groups of no more than 20 people on a journey of discovery. All excursions are carefully crafted to provide as much insight into the culture, so guests can appreciate the sites they visit, such as witnessing the skilled craftsmanship of stone carvers, before visiting the temples of Angkor Wat. Visits to local schools to learn and observe more about the ancient customs such as Apsara dancing – the time-honored Khmer dancing that tells stories and conveys messages using graceful movements, distinctive hand and foot positions, and ornate costumes – are followed by an evening of traditional dining and a full pageantry of an Apsara dance show in a local restaurant. Both on and off the ship, Uniworld complements excursions with several authentic dinners and shows, such as the farewell dinner on the ship, where the staff dons authentic Khmer attire while serving a Royal Cambodian themed dinner; and in Hanoi, where guests are treated to a special dinner featuring live traditional music along with an authentic northern Vietnamese dining experience.
Throughout the journey, guests are sure to be amazed at the resiliency and friendship of these extraordinary people who have endured a history of hardship. Through it all, they remain happy, smiling, and warm. Although Uniworld guests will see some tragic reminders from Vietnam and Cambodia’s past, they most probably will take away from this entire experience a sense of peace and renewed spirit as these countries develop and grow into more prosperous and flourishing nations.
“The success of this program has been overwhelming, and we are so proud to be able to bring people to these amazing countries,” states Guy Young, President of Uniworld. “Because of the demand for travelers to want to experience these regions, we are going to launch another new ship, the River Orchid, in 2013,” furthers Young.
This program leaves an undeniable imprint on travelers. Many of the guests as well as Uniworld chose to give something back to the communities before bidding adieu to the countries they visited, and as such donated clean-drinking wells for some of the outlying villages of Cambodia’s Siem Reap. “It is very important Uniworld gives back to the communities where we operate. It is very humbling that our guests feel the same way,” states Young. “Travel is the greatest classroom in the world, and I feel very fortunate we are able to bring people to places that will touch their hearts forever,” adds Young.
Uniworld’s new “Timeless Wonders of Vietnam, Cambodia & the Mekong” itinerary takes travelers on a 14-night cruise and tour that operates between Ho Chi Minh and Hanoi, Vietnam, and includes Cambodia’s Phnom Penh, Siem Reap, and Angkor Wat. The 7-night cruise runs between Kampong Cham in Cambodia and My Tho in Vietnam. For the land portion of the program, guests spend seven nights in deluxe, five-star hotels with luxurious accommodations, including buffet breakfast, service charges, and porterage. Uniworld’s guests also receive exclusive VIP treatment at each hotel, including private check-in with welcome drinks, in-room welcome flowers and fruit platter, and at the Victoria Angkor Hotel & Spa, each guest receives their own personalized monogrammed bathrobe to keep.