Cruises: Riverboat no shows in India

BANGKOK, 14 January 2019: River cruise specialist Pandaw suffered a New Year setback as it was forced to cancel some Ganges sailings this month.

One of its river cruise boats, Katha Pandaw, was apparently snarled by red tape in Yangon, Myanmar, delaying its departure for sailings on the Ganges in India that were due to start this month.

Passengers booked on the Katha Pandaw’s January and February departures were offered a full refund or rebooked other cruises.

Red tape snags kept the vessel at anchor in Yangon River, while issues over exporting the vessel from Myanmar were resolved.

It resulted in the ship’s sailings on India’s Ganges scrubbed clean for January and February.

Katha Pandaw has now been released by Yangon harbour authorities and will sail from Yangon later this week.

Pandaw clamed most passengers impacted by the cancellations, January and February, were offered alternative Pandaw river expeditions in other destinations, or on land tours arranged for them within India. 

March and April departures are still going ahead it reported, but considering the time it takes to transfer a vessel from Myanmar to India, the company must have alerted passengers much earlier that it was unable to meet its January sailing schedule.

Pandaw, who pioneered river expeditions in India back in 2009 but later dropped out of the country’s inland sailing market, says it is now committed to “re-engaging with the this most appealing of destinations.”

Sailings on both the lower Ganges, out of Kolkata, and the upper Ganges, as far as Varanasi, are now nearly fully booked.

A second bigger vessel will join the Katha Pandaw on the Ganges this September. A third vessel, Kalaw Pandaw, is also scheduled transfer from Myanmar to India.

The transfer of two river cruise boats from Myanmar to India could be indicative of a decline in consumer demand as the cruises rely heavily on European travellers.  Trips from Europe to Myanmar have dropped significantly mainly as a consumer response to human rights abuses against the Rohingya ethnic minority since 2015.  

Elsewhere in the Mekong Region, Pandaw is expanding its riverboat sailing It launched a third vessel in Laos last October, the Sabaidee Pandaw, which sails up river to China.

With strong booking trends emerging for all of its Mekong ships, the company plans to launch a fourth vessel in Vietnam and Cambodia for the 2019-20 season.

Pandaw is the pioneer of boutique river expeditions throughout Southeast Asia, but mainly focusing on remote rivers and coastal routes in Myanmar, Thailand, Vietnam, Cambodia, Laos, China and India.

The original company, known as the Irrawaddy Flotilla Company was founded in 1865, and acquired by Paul and Roser Strachan in 1995, when it was renamed Pandaw, after the discovery and acquisition of the last remaining Clyde-built steamer of the same name.

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