YANGON, 22 July 2020: Pandaw Cruises, a leader in river trips in Southeast Asia and India, should be celebrating 25 years of sailing the rivers of Myanmar this year, but celebrations got cut short due to the impact of Covid-19.
The company’s Mekong Region cruises in Myanmar, Laos, Cambodia and Vietnam survived until late March when travel bans grounded airlines worldwide, just weeks before the river cruises began their scheduled annual hibernation during the monsoon months. But Pandaw Cruises’ CEO and founder, Paul Strachan, reports in his July newsletter that “the big question is will we restart (Mekong cruises) in October?”
It has cancelled all the 2020 river cruises in India, offering customers a chance to rebook during the 2021-22 cruise season when Pandaw introduces a new route on the Brahmaputra River in Assam that can be combined with the Lower Ganges through West Bengal cruises to create an “amazing Indian waterway experience”.
As for the river sailings in Vietnam, Cambodia, Laos and Myanmar, the countries remain closed to leisure travel with no hint of when trips can resume. You could say Pandaw Cruises is playing it by ear, hoping the shutdown of airline services and visa services will end soon.
“For the months ahead we are going to take a decision on each sailing at 30 days before the date of departure, and that decision will be based on whether relevant borders are open and it is safe to operate. People who have booked will not be asked for any final balance due until that day and not at the usual 60 days. If we do not operate we will offer a future cruise in its place,” promises Strachan.
It might be little comfort for first-time river cruises, but Pandaw has a loyal following of optimistic cruise enthusiasts. They are more confident that their river excursions in the Mekong River will resume when the monsoon season ends in October.