The longest operating cruise company in Myanmar and easily the best value for money; for a 3-4 star product, the service on here is exceptional! Due to them having operated in Myanmar for so long, we find the excursions are extremely well-oiled and the cruise captains know the Irrawaddy’s challenging sandbank gauntlet better than anybody. The rooms however aren’t huge and it’s fair to say they’re not very private when the cabin’s curtains are open. This does however encourage passengers to get out and socialise, and judging off the multiple times we’ve sailed with them, this is one of the main things that makes a Pandaw cruise different from any other. Another important point is that, even though the ship is still considered luxurious (certainly by Myanmar standards), it’s not as “bling” or in your face as some of the more high end options. We regard Pandaw as the experienced, slightly more humble option. Although it’s only a small thing, it’s worth mentioning that they have the most powerful showers on the river – you’ll be sure to appreciate this even more after a long, often sweaty day of touring.


As per the Pandaw’s website: “We began in Burma. The unique Pandaw river expedition concept evolved here from the vestiges of the colonial Irrawaddy Flotilla Company. Our first ships were built here and in Burma we learnt to master river navigation at its worst. These lessons were applied to the other rivers of Asia.


Burma, after 1987 renamed by the regime Myanmar, is the largest mainland South-East Asian country and with the greatest variety of scenery from Himalayan peaks to tropical beaches. We have yet to meet a visitor to Burma who does not feel that this is the most beautiful, friendly and culturally interesting Asian country ever visited.


Most of the population live in three great river valleys encircled by impenetrable horseshoes of mountains. River life dominates the country and still to this day forms the main system of transportation, irrigation and from its rich fishing grounds the principal protein source for the majority of the population.


In the river valleys two millennia of Buddhist art, architecture and archaeology survive, including the 3000 standing monuments at Pagan. There is no other Asian country with so vast and varied a range of cultural sites. Almost everywhere there are temples and monasteries, festivals and ceremonies. The Burmese are a deeply pious people and Buddhist activities dominate every aspect of life.


The Burmese are also very warm and friendly people who since Independence in 1947 have suffered terrible impoverishment and deprivation. We do our best to support the local domestic economy and make sure our suppliers and contractors are small local businesses. We are very careful to make sure our clients’ money falls into the right hands. Sanctions and the politically correct refusal of most NGOs and international charities to work in the country has served to exacerbate deprivation and entrench the regime further.


Our Pandaw passengers believe that by visiting Burma we are doing something to help as has been proved by the many schools our passengers have built, not to mention the outstanding contribution made by our passengers after Cyclone Nargis struck in 2008. Most of the Burmese our passengers encounter tend to agree with this assumption. These cruises are the most acclaimed luxury vacations on the Irrawaddy river.”


Pandaw offer 11 cruise options ranging from the 1-night Bagan to Mandalay short cruise and a 10-night ‘Golden Land’ itinerary, which sails you all the way up to the northernmost point of the Irrawaddy. All of the expeditions can be found on the front page of their website (click here), and by clicking on ‘Learn More’ you can access the detailed itinerary and scheduled departure dates. For something truly unique, be sure to have a browse of the ‘Voyage to Nagaland’ programme.


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