Tag-Archive for » River cruise ships «

Elvis…Far From The Mississippi

It’s 1974. You’re Elvis Presley — many wished that for almost two decades. You’re not at the height of your career, but you’re still packing them in wherever you go. Some people actually are “Elvis Presley”…as impersonators are beginning to pop up. Your country is in an awful war (like there are any other kind), in Vietnam.

Fast forward 42 years.

Elvis is long gone. The impersonators are not. In fact, there are more Elvis look-a-likes than ever. Some of them are even pretty good performers, not just in Vegas and assorted venues ranging from small theaters to street corners.

One is doing it in Vietnam.

His real name is Damian Mullin and he’s an Australian…crikey! He’s the best of Australia’s Elvis impElvis impersonators, having won the Ultimate Elvis Tribute Artist Contest and he has the seal of approval from Elvis Presley Enterprises, which means The King’s company has a financial interest in the performances in…Vietnam.

The event will take place over eight days in September, on board La Marguerite, a river cruise ship that sails under the flag of AmaWaterways through its Australian partners, on the Mekong River in Cambodia and Vietnam.

“It’s an opportunity to present something different with a more intimate atmosphere,” said Jodie Quick, director of The Cruise Gallery, the Australian agency that’s selling the tour. “Most music cruises are on larger ships…[this one] gives passengers the chance to travel somewhere more adventurous and exotic with the comfort of Elvis’ crooning!”

The cruise is called Rockin’ the Mekong.

You can only imagine what Elvis would be thinking.

Today at portsandbows.comCelebrity Solstice back to Australia for 2017-18

Carnival Magic
7 nights
January 31, 2016
Galveston (return): Key West, Freeport, Nassau
Inside: $549
Cost per day: $78

Friday File: AmaDara, A River Intro

While we’re far from experts on river cruising, our trip on AmaWaterways’ new ship (the AmaDara) quickly brought the similarities with — and differences from — ocean cruise ships into focus. Because everything is much smaller, even though river cruises are less modest in price they are more modest in the size of, well, everything — except service, of course, because the crew-to-passenger ratio is so much better. When you spend a week on a river ship, chances are if you don’t know everybody you will at least have a nodding recognition. From our week in Southeast Asia, today’s pictures will give you an idea of what it’s like on board…

AmaDara is one of the bigger (higher) ships on rivers and it comfortably carries 164 passengers.


Five entertainers who entertain only when the ship is in a port, in an all-purpose room on the ship.

The Pool

That is THE pool…the only one, so clearly river cruisers don’t expect to get bronzed by the pool.


Yes, there is a gym and what you see of it here is pretty much what you get — yet it’s rarely busy.


While ocean ships devote rooms for Wi-Fi, the AmaDara’s Internet connections come from here.


Every ship has one lifesaver, at least, and fortunately for all it’s almost always just a decoration.


Our stateroom…a little larger and more plush than a comparable category on the ocean.


This comparative photo shows you what a suite — of which there are few — looks like.


Some things don’t change when you’re on any kind of cruise ship: room stewards’ creativity.

In the news…

• P&O's Pacific Eden to be christened, sail maiden voyage, this weekend
• Vancouver, Boston latest ports to report banner years with crusing

Today at portsandbows.com: Australia — very much a cruising hotspot

Celebrity Millennium
8 nights
May 12, 2016
Vancouver, Inside Passage, Ketchikan, Sitka, Icy Strait Point, Juneau, Skagway, Hubbard Glacier, Anchorage
Inside: $619
Cost per day: $77

A River Cruise With A Purpose

PHNOM PENH, Cambodia — Almost every year, at least, we are reminded of the Holocaust. Seldom, if ever, are we reminded of the “Cambodian Holocaust.”

Need a refresher?

It was the mid ‘70s. It started as the Vietnam War ended, in 1975. It was a grass-roots rebellion headed by Pol Pot and it was intended to improve life for all Cambodians. It turned into four years of murder.

Until we ventured into Southeast Asia to cruise the Mekong River with AmaWaterways, AmaDara-xxwhat little we knew of Pol Pot and the Khmer Rouge we’d long forgotten. In more than three days on (and off) the AmaDara, we learn more than we expected…probably more than we want to learn.

The conventional wisdom has always been that the Khmer Rouge killed two million Cambodians…and Vietnamese who lived in Cambodia.

Nyphea“That,” says Nyphea Khun, the articulate and intelligent tour guide hired by Ama, “is how many deaths were registered. The population of Cambodia went from about eight million to about four and a half million. What happened to almost two million people? Did they just disappear?”

There is a lost generation in this warm and now-friendly country. Children grew up without knowing how to be mothers, because they had none. Grandparents didn’t exist. The knowledge base was undermined — Khmer Rouge soldiers were instructed to kill anybody they thought was educated. A simple thing like wearing glasses was a death sentence.

We meet one educated survivor, in the small village where he lives, not far from here. His name is Oum Son Thon and he survived by pleading ignorance…more ignorance than pleading. He messed up his hair. He escaped into the countryside. He developed callouses on his hands, to look more like a worker, doing what he was told and pretending to be a Oum Son Thonsimple man with no education. He told the Khmer Rouge he was a worker and didn’t know how to write.

He was, in fact, a teacher. 

Somehow he survived. By 1993, after the “outside world” came to Cambodia’s rescue, Thon returned to his village, by then a shadow of what it had been. He had one shirt and one pair of shorts. He taught, for free. Eventually, four of his students graduated from university. Today, he is 81 and he regularly tells his story to passersby, like visitors on a river cruise.

Had we not been on the AmaDara’s inaugural cruise from Siem Reap to Ho Chi Minh City, we’d never have met Oum Son Thon, who speaks no English. We’d never have met Nyphea Khun, the guide. We’d never have learned about the Cambodian Holocaust.

That would have been our loss.

Tomorrow: Prison and The Killing Fields

In the news…

• European rivers Danube and Elbe still struggling with low water levels
• Carnival promotion until Sunday: $40 to spend on board per day per room

Today at portsandbows.com: River cruising in the U.S.

Celebrity Constellation
3 nights
January 4, 2016
Fort Lauderdale (return): Nassau, Key West
Inside: $259
Cost per day: $86

Friday File: All Cruisers On Deck

In case you think a pool deck is a pool deck is a pool deck…well, it’s not true. Cruise aficionados who spend a lot of time soaking up the rays or jumping into pools large and small — or both — believe part of the appeal of a cruise ship is its pool deck. While we’re neither sun worshippers nor avid swimmers, we always take pictures of the pool deck because, well, we never know when we’ll need them for a day like today…


This was when Allure of the Seas was showing its pool deck to North Americans for the first time, in Fort Lauderdale.


You’d probably never use “Italian” to describe this rather modest pool area, but it’s the Costa Diadema and very Italian.

Epic pool

“Unique” has always applied to the Norwegian Epic, and you won’t likely see this kind of artwork in another cruise deck pool.

AmaDara pool deck

On river ships, the pool area is usually secondary and frequently unpopulated, as it usually is on AmaWaterways’ new AmaDara.


“Busy” is always a good descriptor for a Carnival ship’s pool deck, and that was certainly the case on the Carnival Ecstasy.


A “peaceful” area on the Celebrity Reflection enhanced by huge artwork on the walls of a ship know for its artistic impressions.

On the Oceania Riviera, the upper deck is tasteful and understated, with a pool meant for dipping more than swimming.

In the news…

• Mobile, Alabama negotiating to be Carnival homeport for first time since 2011
• Amber Cove port on schedule to open October 6 in Dominican Republic
• Danube, Elbe low water levels still a challenge for river cruisers in Europe

Today at portsandbows.com: Bermuda more popular with Carnival

Carnival Sensation
4 nights
November 1, 2015
Port Canaveral (return): Freeport, Nassau
Inside: $229
Cost per day: $57

About The Laying Of A New Cruise Ship's Keel…

Having never seen the laying of a keel on a cruise ship, we were intrigued by the opportunity to watch the procedure online. It was courtesy of Viking, the river cruise line that's soon to be an ocean cruise line, once its Viking Star is in the water next year.

If you're interested, click here: vikingcruises.com.

It only takes two minutes but be forewarned: about 25 seconds of it is devoted to the "breath-taking moment" — the laying of the keel. The rest is information and Star-keel layingface time for Viking owner Torstein Hagen, whose vision it was to add a 928-passenger ship to the worldwide fleet.

The Viking Star will be an evolution of sorts. Billed as "the ship our river passengers inspired us to build" it hopes to fill one of the remaining niche markets that still exists on the ocean.

And by the way, the Star is sold out for 2015.

Holland America Statendam
7 nights
September 21, 2014
Vancouver (return): Juneau, Skagway, Tracy Arm, Ketchikan
Inside: $529
Cost per day: $75

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