Cruise beyond money matters

BANGKOK: Heritage Line a river cruise operator in Myanmar is a mite shy about sharing its prices online so discovering just how amazing the latest offers are becomes problematic for the online booker.

But there is definitely demand for river cruises in Myanmar from travellers who want to explore rural scenes beyond the popular urban destinations; Yangon, Mandalay and Bagan.

Just this week a Singaporean traveller asked me what I thought about cruising between Mandalay and Bagan?

Heritage Line – Anawrahta MY – The ship

Pricy perhaps?  So I decided to follow up on a Heritage Line promotion that dropped into my email box by browsing its website.

Heritage Line – MY Anawrahta – Deluxe Staterooms

Heritage Lines doesn’t help to dispel the pricy tag perception with what appeared to be a hide-and-seek tariff. When you think you have cracked it the website tells you to “download details” only to discover there is a footnote in the PDF that tells you to shoot off an email to a sales executive, or stay none the wiser.

After sending an email to the company’s sale team in Vietnam,  a delayed email response offered links to information on the website that had not been visible during  earlier web browsing. A puzzle indeed; now you see it, now you don’t , almost magical.  But after rubbing my eyes and revisiting the site three times I now believe in miracles.  All relevant information to book a cruise is on the  “media” page down to departure dates and cabin plans.

Out jumped a rabbit from the hat. The starting price of US1,380 per person for a low season two- night/three-day cruise, Mandalay-Bagan, is revealed.  For the peak high season the three-day cruise to Bagan shoots up to USD2519, October to March. The cruise is offered in both directions.

The cruise line uses the words “fantastic discounted specials” for the longer expedition cruises on the Chindwin or to the northern Ayeyarwady, but the website would be more likely to inspire travellers if it answered the riddle of what is the bottom line of a 25% discount without any further ado?

What we can fathom is that to gain the 20 to 25% discount on a Myanmar Cruises, the booking must be made from now until 15 October for a sailing period ending 30 Dec this year and resuming again sometime in January to April 2018.

The discount applies for four, three, and two-night cruises in deluxe and deluxe executive cabins on the company’s Golden Land Voyage and Ancient Capitals itineraries.

To confuse the playing field, an online travel website, Luxury Myanmar River Cruises,  (no connection to the cruise line) claims to have a 40% discount for a Myanmar cruise.  Probably, an out-dated flash sale , but like Heritage Line it requires a an email enquiry to start the ball rolling.

After emailing various cruise companies in Myanmar without success, a TripAdvisor fan commented: “I am wondering if I have to book cruises via a tour agency? The cost of a week-long cruises on both the Chindwin and Ayeyarwady are quite pricy so again wondering if agents can do it cheaper.”

Heritage Line – MY Anawrahta – Deluxe Staterooms

The answer to that is probably yes. Cruise packages are not floating to the top of searches on or Expedia. They are still in the domain of the travel agency community  where pricing  will be fully revealed in due course.  Not exactly the stuff to inspire the Millennial generation.

Heritage Line’s version of what looks like a hide-and-seek promotion is available for Myanmar cruises from Mandalay to Bagan (or vice versa).

The Ancient Capitals cruise, Mandalay – Bagan covers options of two to four nights onboard.

In its sales pitch the company explains Myanmar’s Irrawaddy River, also known as the Ayeyarwady, rises among Himalayan glaciers and flows freely for almost 2,200 km through the country to spill out into the vast Indian Ocean, this river is a witness of contemporary history. It’s an impressive experience to spend time on this river in the heart of Myanmar.

Heritage Line – MY Anawrahta – Hintha Hall Restaurant

Typical trip  Mandalay to Bagan

The river boat, Anawrahta, departs Mandalay on the first day of a three-day sail, heading for Sagaing and Ava ancient capitals of Myanmar

Sagaing, a former royal capital of Ava is well-known for its 16 span cantilever “Ava bridge”, built in 1934 by the British, which connects the two old capitals.

On the second day of the cruise the river boat heads out of Ava for Yanderbo a small riverside village best know for the  signing of the Treaty of Yanderbo, that ended the first Anglo-Burmese war in 1826.

Day three sees the river cruise complete the journey to Bagan.

Apart from classy dining and cocktails sipped in a bar appropriately named after Kipling, cruise guests can enjoy yoga classes on the main deck, or they can participate in history lessons that explain the significances of the riverside towns they pass on the cruise. There are shore sightseeing trips to handicraft villages and cultural attractions.

Heritage Line – MY Anawrahta – Kipling’s Bar

At the close of  the two night-three-day trip, passengers hop off the riverboat at Bagan to continue their holiday by road, rail or air. Or they might linger in Bagan, hovering over the ancient pagodas slung from a hot-air balloon, which beats standing on your tips toes trying to capture that inspiring sunset photo of Bagan’s landscape.

The trip can also be made in the other direction starting at Bagan and ending in Mandalay.

The 65-metre, Anawrahta, manned by a crew of 46, sails the Ayeyarwady in Myanmar, year-round. Built to resemble a British-Colonial paddle-steamer, it features three decks and 23 all-balconied cabins and suites.

Who owns Heritage Line?

Heritage Line – MY Anawrahta Ship

There is no relevant company information on the website’s “About Us.”

Travel Age West, an influential US trade publication, stated in a 2015 report on Heritage Line that it understood corporate ownership was under the umbrella of Trails of Indochina.

However, an email from the company’s director of sales received after this report was posted,  noted that “Heritage Line is an individual entity, privately owned and not under the ownership  of Trails of Indochina . Heritage Line is independent and a single brand.”

(Source: Heritage Cruise website information as of 24 August)