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AmaLotus Photo Tour
Constructed in 2011, the 302-foot long AmaLotus carries just 124 guests and 50 Cambodian, Vietnamese and international crew members along Southeast Asia’s magnificent Mekong River for river cruise operator AmaWaterways.
Sister-ship to the slightly-smaller La Marguerite, AmaLotus sails weeklong voyages between Siem Reap, Cambodia and Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam – formerly known as Saigon. AmaWaterways offers these departures up as a seven night cruise-only itinerary, or as part of a larger and more comprehensive overland tour lasting 16 days and beginning in Hanoi.
What the glossy brochures and snazzy website can’t tell you, however, is just how life-changing this journey is. The AmaLotus offers an intimate look at two distinct cultures and histories within the rich tapestry that is Southeast Asia – and AmaWaterways has what many may feel is a distinct advantage over their competitors: the AmaLotus and La Marguerite are the only vessels along the Mekong to feature climate-controlled interior corridor access to all staterooms and public spaces.
Let’s take a look at what AmaWaterways’ AmaLotus has to offer:
MEKONG – LOWER DECK
The lowest-accessible passenger deck aboard AmaLotus is home to six Category C Staterooms. These measure a comfortable 226 square feet, and include colonial-style furniture, beautiful hardwood flooring and spacious bathrooms. Owing to their location at the ship’s waterline, these staterooms feature porthole window views mounted on the upper stateroom wall.
TONLE – MAIN DECK
The first passenger deck to run stem-to-stern, Tonle Deck will be frequented by the majority of passengers. The ship’s main Reception area and Mekong Restaurant are located here, along with 22 Category B dual-balcony staterooms. Tonle Deck is also the main embarkation deck aboard the AmaLotus, with port and starboard-side entryways off the main Reception Lobby and bow door access all the way forward.
Located just aft of amidships, the Reception Lobby aboard the AmaLotus is surprisingly stunning. Flanked by a dual-winged staircase adorned with gorgeous wrought-iron railings, the wood-panelled Reception Lobby is utilised as the ship’s main point of embarkation, with doors that open out on both port and starboard sides.
The Reception Desk staff can assist with any needs you might have while onboard, and a small area off to the port side contains daily newspapers and complimentary DVD’s that can be checked out at the Reception Desk for enjoyment in your personal DVD player included in each stateroom.
On the starboard side of the Reception Lobby is the Cruise Director’s desk.
Capable of accommodating the entire passenger complement in a single sitting, the Mekong Restaurant is the main dining venue aboard AmaLotus. Breakfast and Lunch are served buffet style, complemented by a menu of a ’la carte items. Breakfast and Lunch also feature an Asian-inspired “Action Station” located on the aft port side of the restaurant that serves up different local specialities with every meal.
Dinners are menu-based, with a wide array of both North American and Asian specialties. During my cruise, I never had a single meal that wasn’t anything less than spectacular. In fact, most guests seemed to comment on how fresh all the ingredients were. One recommendation: indulge in all the local specialties you can, particularly the soups; even on a hot day, they’re absolutely fantastic!
Category B Staterooms
Tonle Deck boasts 22 Category B Staterooms. These are identical in both size and amenities to the Category C staterooms one deck below, but with the addition of AmaWaterways’ signature dual balconies. Each stateroom features both a French and full, step-out balcony from which the sights and sounds of the Mekong can be enjoyed. The latter isn’t just marketing hyperbole; the sounds that emanate from the villages you’ll pass along the way are nothing short of astonishing, from Buddhist prayers and ceremonies to kids running and shrieking with delight along the shore as the AmaLotus passes by.
SAIGON – UPPER DECK
Saigon Deck boasts 22 Category A staterooms that are identical to those found one deck lower, along with the Saigon Lounge, the ship’s Gift Shop, and a small, under-utilised room all the way forward known as the Panoramic Lounge.
The main social hub of the AmaLotus, the Saigon Lounge is a great place to sit and relax at any time of the day, whether it’s in the morning over a cup of coffee and a copy of the Phnom Penh Post or in the evening over a glass of wine and conversation with newfound friends.
Nearly all of the daily scheduled activities will take place here, but it’s never a challenge to find a seat; the room can accommodate the entire passenger complement of the ship.
Aboard the AmaLotus, local beers, wines and spirits are provided free-of-charge, with only premium offerings carrying an extra fee. Do try the local beers, particularly the Cambodian ones – they’re as good as, if not better than, anything you’ll find in North America.
The Saigon Lounge also includes a small Library and four computer stations that can be used to access the complimentary internet, when available. It’s worth noting that the Lounge itself is equipped with Wi-Fi access, though neither connection should be relied upon. The Mekong can be very remote, and while it’s fantastic that AmaWaterways has taken the step to offer onboard internet access, our experience was that it tended to not work outside of Siem Reap and Phnom Penh.
Just aft of the Saigon Lounge is a fantastic open deck area overlooking the stern of the AmaLotus. It also serves a dual-purpose as the only place in which smoking is permitted onboard.
The Gift Shop aboard the AmaLotus is tucked into a corner on the port side of the main staircase atrium. Despite its diminutive size, it still manages to hold plenty of souvenirs from both Cambodia and Vietnam, and is a great place to pick up that last-minute gift!
Category B Staterooms
Category B Staterooms are identical to their Category C counterpart’s one deck below. The only difference is their physical location on the ship, which some may find desirable as Saigon Deck is the middle passenger deck level aboard the AmaLotus.
It’s shown on the deckplans, yet this small, library-esque room was never used during our voyage. It does, however, provide access to the bow of the AmaLotus, which in turn provides some unique photographic opportunities.
SADEC – SUN DECK
The uppermost deck aboard the AmaLotus, the Sun Deck is Suite Country, with ten Suite category staterooms and two massive Luxury Suites that clock in at over 600 square feet apiece. Regular passengers, fear not! The Sun Deck also has a fantastic open-air lounging area complete with a dedicated bar and even a decently-sized swimming pool for you to enjoy!
All the way aft on Sun Deck is the, well, Sun Deck aboard AmaLotus. Once you get over the blast of humidity coming from the surrounding Mekong, it’s actually quite pleasant here. The canvas awning provides ample cover from the heat of the day, while a small portion of the very stern is left uncovered for sun-worshippers to do their thing.
Numerous padded loungers flank the port and starboard sides of the deck, while high-top tables and casual, high-backed lounge chairs are positioned along the centerline of the ship. Nearly everywhere you look, real plants and fresh flowers give the deck the appearance of a boutique rooftop garden, and a gentle breeze blows across the deck while the ship is underway. A great place to spend an afternoon of scenic cruising!
Back inside the ship, just forward of the Sun Deck is the Spa aboard the AmaLotus – and it’s always busy! There are a total of three treatment rooms clustered along the port side of the Atrium staircase, and prices for all treatments – even a hot stone massage – are astonishingly affordable.
On the starboard side of the Atrium is the ship’s complimentary fitness centre – again, also very-well utilised on my sailing.
On this deck, ten Suites measuring 290 square feet start off the accommodations as you walk forward along the so-called “300 Corridor”, named that way because all staterooms on this deck begin with a three. These Suites can be thought of as a stretch version of the Category A and B staterooms one and two decks below, respectively.
Where the real changes come are all the way forward, in the ship’s two massive 624-square foot Luxury Suites. These include both French and step-out balconies as well as separate living and sleeping areas, and even two bathrooms: one with a standard shower, sink and toilet, and the other with a full-sized bath and glass-enclosed shower.
The AmaLotus is a hands-down winner. It takes no time to fall in love with her numerous wooden accents and colonial styling, and it’s difficult to imagine a more comfortable vessel along the Mekong.
AmaWaterways isn’t the only game in town when it comes to offering sailings along Tonle Sap Lake and the Mekong River, but it’s vessels like the AmaLotus – and her dedicated crew – that really give them the edge over the competition.
Read our Live Voyage Report from onboard the striking AmaLotus as we explore Cambodia and Vietnam, two of Southeast Asia’s most spectacular treasures!
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