Pandaw grounds India cruises

SINGAPORE, 22 June 2020: River cruise specialists Pandaw will not operate sailings in India during its 2020-2021 season due to the continued threat of the Covid-19 pandemic and feedback from its customer base.

Back in early March Pandaw cancelled all cruises until June 2020 but last week it confirmed in an email to customers it has now cancelled all India sailings until the 2021 to 2022 cruise season.

It means the first sailing of three popular cruise itineraries in India is now bookable in October 2021. The season will end in April 2022.

In the Mekong Region, there are no departures on offer for the remainder of this year for river cruises in Cambodia, Laos Myanmar and Vietnam. But that could change particularly as some countries the Mekong River region ease measures to reboot tourism that is essential for economic growth.

The restart date for Mekong river cruises could be as early as December 2020 or possibly as late as October 2021 depending on local public health conditions, flights restrictions and travel bans. At present social distancing on the river cruise boats could be an issue but as long as there are no flights serve the gateway destinations in Vietnam, Laos, Myanmar and Cambodia the cruises remain moored at their home-base docks.

According to its announcements, the cruise operator is not offering a full refund option for those who have already paid for their Indian cruises. In its email communication, the operator says it is happy to offer a credit for a future cruise to the value of 125% of the existing booking which can be redeemed on any new booking made within 12 months of the cancelled departure.

It’s the very least the river cruise operator can do and could open it to criticism that it should have gone the extra mile and offered the full refund option in its publicity emails.

However, depending on the booking arrangement and travel consumer laws in some countries it may still have to offer a full refund if the customer insists they cannot take up a voucher or the rebooking option for the 2021-2022 season.

“We very much regret any inconvenience caused by these cancellations but hope to welcome you back to complete your expedition in the new season once the global situation has returned to normal.”

As for going forward, Pandaw’s booking scheme offers travellers the option to rebook for next season and then, for whatever reason if they want to change the date of travel or the routing they will have the option to do so within 12 months of that sailing date without penalty but subject to availability of a cabin.

River cruises in India start with a seven day sailing on the Brahmaputra river in northern India for a starting price of USD2,261.