A new ship is like a young girl, a work in progress as she is groomed, improved and tweaked into gracious maturity. Ama Waterways’ latest river vessel, Ama Dara, is a lovely, young lady with great bones that will benefit from the further refinement her owners intend to make.
Googling AmaDara will get you to all of the measurements and details, if that is what you want. Sort of like recreating a baseball game from stats in the paper vs. being in the stands and seeing the action first-hand. To me, how they translate into life aboard for the 124 passengers she can carry is what matters.
So here is how she lives.
Measurements prove her to be the longest, widest passenger vessel plying the Mekong and that means cabins are wider as are public spaces. Basically, cabins are at the stern, public areas at the bow.
Good beds, on the firm side, and good bedding, soft and comfy in the European style with feather duvet and good cotton cover. Beds can be configured as twins or queen-sized.
Closet space is adequate although more hangers are invariably needed for sharing. The bathrobes, one dark taupe silk, the other ecru, both with embroidered dragons on the back, are a definite step above the usual terry or waffled cotton ones.
Individual air conditioning control, gleaming wooden floors and two bags for carrying a bottle of water ashore are a nice touch. However, many guests were taken aback when requested to leave the bags in the cabin instead of taking them home as inexpensive souvenirs.
The two balconies, a French one and a larger one with small table and two chairs, are an Ama Waterways tradition. Great for snapping photos of the awesome sunsets in this part of the world.
Bathroom toiletries – shampoo and conditioner in one, never good – and lighting – inadequate for reading in bed – need, and I suspect will get, tweaking. A full-length mirror would also be nice and for those of us addicted by choice or necessity to the information age, more electrical outlets are a must. Fortunately, power bars with multiple outlets are available at Reception.
The Deck two Saigon Lounge with its bar and easily reconfigured conversation areas is the gathering space. Pre breakfast coffee cravers, talks on the culture, assembling for tours and entertainers to late nightcaps all take place here. Lots of wood and tasteful gilded carvings set an Asian tone while white spaces in between lighten the surroundings to Western tastes. Could use a few pops of color but that, too, will be coming.
Also on Deck two are two spa rooms and Fusion, designed as a small specialty restaurant. It is still finding its cuisine and design focus, and possibly a different name to match, but that and needed décor will come. Reception is here, too, as is a small gift shop with a nice selection at reasonable prices. Tucked in a corner are several computer-equipped workstations
The Mekong Restaurant brought us to Deck one three times a day and no one ever left hungry. Chef Horst and his able crew serve up a remarkable choice of Western, Cambodian and Vietnamese fare. The “Activity” station, where regional specialties are individually prepared, was a real hit, making many new fans of Pho Bo, the ubiquitous soup of noodles, vegetables and protein, for breakfast.
Atop our floating lady is the Sundeck. A bar at one end, a pool at the other and seating in between made it a popular, if windy spot. Pots of flower swing from the overhead cover and the bright blue of the pool brings color to this overall neutral-toned ship. At the aft end of Deck three is the gym and another spa room.
All in all, AmaDara is spacious and comfortable, an elegant new platform from which to watch the worlds of Cambodia and Vietnam float by.