Take Your Family On An AmaWaterways Mekong River Cruise
By Nancy Schretter, Editor
Families and multigenerational groups are seeking enriching family vacations that allow their children to learn about the world in a memorable way. Exploring Vietnam and Cambodia together is certainly that kind of trip. Family vacations here provide an incredible combination of learning, adventure and unique cultural experiences.
Travel logistics and the stresses involved in planning such an exotic trip can appear daunting for families, however. That’s why a growing number of families and multigenerational groups are putting their Southeast Asia vacations on cruise control by taking an extraordinary family river cruise on the Mekong River. River cruises are the easiest and most enjoyable way for families and multigenerational groups to explore Vietnam and Cambodia. It's like seeing these countries via your own floating family-friendly boutique luxury hotel, complete with well-designed excursions and outstanding guides.
Selecting the right cruise line for a family river cruise vacation is critical, so it’s important to research your options wisely. Care must be taken to find a cruise line that is truly committed to families as well as adult travelers. That’s one of the many reasons why AmaWaterways is the top choice for family and multigenerational Mekong River cruises. “AmaWaterways is a family company and we do our utmost to help all our guests, including families, create the memories that last a life time,” said Kristin Karst, executive vice president and co-owner of AmaWaterways. “Our ships have always welcomed children ages four and up, as we believe it is so important for young people to be exposed to new places, cultures, languages and ideas,” Karst added.
If you’re searching for your next bucket list adventure, here are seven great reasons to take your family on a Mekong River cruise with AmaWaterways:
1. Awesome Adventures. An AmaWaterways Mekong River journey will be one of your family’s greatest adventures, so put this trip on your family vacation bucket list. There are so many unique experiences offered on this river cruise. Kids and adults will enjoy navigating along Southeast Asia’s streets in trishaws and tuk-tuks, sailing through bustling waterways in wooden sampans, and even taking two-person rides in oxcarts driven by local farmers in Cambodia’s Kampong Tralach. Crossing the streets in Ho Chi Minh City and Phnom Penh can be an adventure, too. Luckily, once we learned how to cross the thoroughfares “like sticky rice,” transiting the busy roads became a breeze. Hiking around the Ta Prohm “Tomb Raider Temple” in Angkor and trekking in the dark to watch a spectacular sunrise at Angkor Wat are two more memorable adventures on an AmaWaterways Mekong land and river cruise vacation. Navigating through narrow portions of the Cu Chi Tunnels outside Ho Chi Minh City and being allowed to hold a massive python in Cai Be were two more of my favorite exciting experiences on this trip.
2. Historical and Cultural Enrichment. Family travel can make a lifelong impression, enabling children to learn about other cultures and truly become citizens of the world. An AmaWaterways Mekong River cruise allows adults and children to immerse themselves into a world that’s very different from their home. Authentic cultural experiences are definitely a key part of this trip. Families may awake to the sounds of wedding music from a nearby village, roosters crowing, or the sounds of splashing as men bathe their oxen in the river. Along the Mekong, guests can watch locals gracefully casting their nets into the river to catch fish and see kids playing in the water and waving as the ship passes. While wandering through local markets, guests are often quite astounded to see live eels and crabs, along with skinned rats and freshly slaughtered pigs. We enjoyed bargaining for intricately woven silk scarves and other treasures at these local markets, then saw how they are crafted by skilled artisans on our AmaWaterways excursions. History, sometimes beautiful and at other times tragic, is also part of this journey. We marveled at the gilded treasures at Cambodia’s Royal Palace and enjoyed walking through the National Museum, with its outstanding Khmer art collection. Yet we also visited one of Cambodia’s infamous Killing Fields and the Tuol Sleng Genocide Museum, where we learned about the millions of Cambodians who perished in the brutal horrors of Pol Pot’s Khmer Rouge regime. These visits added a deeper perspective to our travel experience, but parents should evaluate what is most suitable for their children’s ages. Alternative excursions are readily available.
3. Personalized Local Connections. While travelers may choose to visit Vietnam and Cambodia for a wide variety of reasons, it’s the personal connections with the AmaDara staff, guides and locals that will steal your heart. This is one of many areas where AmaWaterways excels, making the experience more deeply meaningful. There were so many opportunities to interact with local people and we were thrilled when they occasionally invited us into their homes to learn more about their lives. We enjoyed the conversations that took place as we walked through small villages - like the chat with a grandmother chewing betel nuts as she sat at a tiny market with her daughter and grandchild - and joining in with children playing soccer in rural Angkor Ban. In Koh Dach, often called “Silk Island,” we visited a local Cambodian school and helped children practice speaking English. There, we were paired with a 12-year-old girl who wants to be a doctor. It was heartwarming to work with her and hear how hard she works to achieve her goals. AmaWaterways also sponsors the ODA Free Village English School in Siem Reap, with over 600 children enrolled.
4. Unforgettable Transformational Experiences. Some of the most important travel experiences are those that provide us with different perspectives, a broader understanding, and deep connections with different cultures. These transformative trips can shape the way we look at the world, leaving us forever changed. Memories from our AmaWaterways Mekong River journey are indelibly etched into my mind, particularly the blessing we received at one of Cambodia’s largest monasteries in Oudong and my conversations with two of the seven Tuol Sleng S-21 prison survivors during our visit. The interactions we had with local people taught me so much about the strength of the human spirit, generosity, and the power of forgiveness. These are valuable lessons for children and young adults as well. “Both Vietnam’s and Cambodia’s modern history involved incredible hardships, yet their peoples’ resilience is inspiring and provides so many lessons to young people that no text book could begin to explain,” said AmaWaterways’ Kristin Karst, who has sailed the Mekong on AmaDara alongside families and multigenerational groups. “I really encourage families to make this journey together as I have watched first-hand the transformational effect it has had on many young people,” she added.
5. Stress-Free Ease of Travel. AmaWaterways makes exploring Vietnam and Cambodia easy for families with their outstanding Mekong River cruises and superbly designed pre- and post-cruise land tours. Every little detail is taken care of from start to finish, allowing parents, grandparents and children to relax and make memories together. Built in 2015, the luxurious AmaWaterways AmaDara is a French colonial treasure filled with burnished wood hallways, a pool on the top deck, and spacious staterooms accommodating up to 124 guests. Our well-appointed room had a large bed and two twin balconies – a French balcony and a traditional balcony with an outside seating area perfect for watching the river go by. On an AmaWaterways Mekong River cruise, families simply unpack once and enjoy their trip. Family-friendly food choices and included tours in morning and afternoon make the cruise experience work well with kids. In addition, AmaWaterways’ staff and guides orchestrate their tours so that guests have personalized experiences and arrive at popular “must-see” sites at the optimal times to avoid the crowds.
6. Excellent Guides and Staff. The knowledgeable guides on AmaWaterways’ Mekong River cruises are simply extraordinary, sharing highly personal information and insights that make the destinations come to life. The ship’s Saigon Lounge serves as a meeting point for excursions every morning and afternoon. The caring AmaDara staff and crew also work closely together to create a relaxing, family–style environment on board. Led by Marcus, the ship’s superb hotel manager, the staff quickly gets to know guests by name and caters to their needs. Service comes from the heart on AmaDara, making the experience unique and memorable. Coming back on board AmaDara each day truly feels like coming home.
7. Outstanding Commitment to Family Travelers. AmaWaterways’ commitment to family and multigenerational travel is exceptional, resulting in numerous travel industry awards. In fact, a number of the cruise line’s innovative family-related initiatives have paved the way for today’s growth in family and multigenerational river cruising. AmaWaterways co-owner Kristin Karst was named the Family Travel Association’s 2018 “Person of the Year” for her vision and work in this area. “AmaWaterways is a family company and we do our utmost to help all our guests, including families, create the memories that last a life time,” said Kristin Karst. This is certainly true on AmaWaterways’ Mekong River cruises, and both adults and children will learn and experience so much on this trip. “Whether it’s the entrepreneurial tuk tuk or oxcart driver, the children in the village schools or the orange-robed novice monks, each one opens doors to new understanding of different cultures and ways of life – lessons so important as we prepare our children to be the leaders of tomorrow,” Karst added.
For more information on AmaWaterways and their river cruise itineraries, visit their website at www.amawaterways.com.
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