The Heart of Cambodia & Vietnam with Sapa and Luang Prabang - Northbound 2018

24 Day River Cruise from Ho Chi Minh to Luang Prabang

2018 Information. Switch to 2019 »

This magical river cruise along the Mekong River will take you to Vietnam, Cambodia, and Laos, showing you the culture and local traditions of each country and the must-see sites along the way.

Your adventure begins in bustling Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam, where you’ll get a taste of the culture first-hand with a Vietnamese cooking class and go on a fascinating excursion to the Cu Chi Tunnels, an extraordinary network of tunnels used extensively during the war. Immerse yourself in the everyday life of locals with a stroll through a busy market, and visits to a family’s home for a cotton-weaving demonstration and a local workshop to see how rice wine and traditional candies are made. In Cambodia, visit the famous sites, such as the temple of Wat Hanchey, providing spectacular views, and take part in a traditional water blessing with local monks. Enjoy an ox cart ride around the Cambodian countryside and meet a local farmer to learn about his daily life. Siem Reap offers the magnificent Temples of Angkor—ancient ruins that are a display of architectural complexity and grandeur unlike anything else in the world. See the most famous temples here, such as Angkor Wat, honoring the Hindu god, Vishnu; and the Bayon temple, which features some 200 mysterious faces carved in its many towers. Enjoy an inspiring Aspara dance performance and other treasures of the city.

Fly to Hanoi and explore the famous sites, such as the Old Quarter, where peddlers have traded goods for centuries on its 36 ancient streets. Next, a remarkable 2-night cruise along Ha Long Bay will show you its beautiful Limestone Islands. In Sapa, an important marketplace for the area, visit one of the famous Weekly Markets where homemade goods are sold and the ethnic minority groups of the area wear their colorful costumes. Luang Prabang, a UNESCO World Heritage Site, lies at the confluence of the Nam Khan and Mekong Rivers. This well-preserved ancient town represents the heart of Laotian culture. Your sightseeing will show you the famous sites, such as Wat Xieng Thong, considered the most beautiful monastery in the city. The perfect ending to an unforgettable river cruise vacation!


Dates & Prices Get A Quote Book Online

Highlights & Sightseeing

Day 1 Arrive Ho Chi Minh City: welcome to Vietnam

Day 2 Ho Chi Minh City: walking tour of the city’s landmarks; visit the famous Rex Hotel for a drink, War Remnants Museum, and Ben Thanh Market; cooking class

Day 3 Ho Chi Minh City: Cu Chi Tunnels excursion

Day 4 Ho Chi Minh City (Embarkation): onboard welcome reception

Day 5 Vinh Long–Cu Lao Gieng: visit a local workshop and see how rice paper, rice wine, and traditional candy are made in Vinh Long; visit a sampan-making family and interact with a Catholic priest in Cu Lao Gieng

Day 6 Chau Doc–Long Khong A, Vietnam–Cambodian Border Crossing: visit a local fish farm and the religious sites at Sam Mountain in Chau Doc; walking tour of Long Khong A with cotton weaving demonstration

Day 7 Phnom Penh: sightseeing by private cyclo, including the Royal Palace, Silver Pagoda, and the National Museum; afternoon at leisure; show by children from local orphanage

Day 8 Phnom Penh: visit the Tuol Sleng Genocide Museum and one of the Killing Fields

Day 9 Wat Hanchey–Angkor Ban: visit Wat Hanchey and partake in a traditional water blessing by local monks; walking tour through Angkor Ban village with school visit

Day 10 Konpong Louang–Kampong Tralach: visit the silversmith village of Konpong Louang; ox cart ride through the countryside and visit a local farmer’s home in Kampong Tralach

Day 11 Siem Reap (Disembarkation): visit Angkor Wat & Banteay Srei

Day 12 Siem Reap: visit Angkor Thom, Bayon Temple, Ta Prohm, and Les Artisans d’Angkor; Apsara dance performance

Day 13 Siem Reap–Hanoi: fly to Hanoi

Day 14 Hanoi: visit Ho Chi Minh’s mausoleum, One Pillar Pagoda, Ho Chi Minh Museum, and Temple of Literature; lunch at Koto; electric cart ride through the Old Quarter; water puppets performance

Day 15 Hanoi–Ha Long Bay (Embarkation): drive to Ha Long Bay; visit Cua Van floating village

Day 16 Ha Long Bay: cruise the bay; visit Titop Island, Luon Cave, and Dark and Bright Cave; opportunity to explore by kayak

Day 17 Ha Long Bay (Disembarkation)–Hanoi: visit Sung Sot Cave; drive to Hanoi

Day 18 Hanoi–Sapa: drive to Sapa; visit a local market

Day 19 Sapa: visit Ta Van village, Lao Chai village, Silver Waterfall, and Heaven Gate

Day 20 Sapa: visit a weekly market and a Red Dao village

Day 21 Sapa–Hanoi–Luang Prabang: drive to Hanoi; fly to Luang Prabang

Day 22 Luang Prabang: visit Mount Phousi, Wat Mai, the National Museum, and Wat Xieng Thong

Day 23 Luang Prabang: day at leisure

Day 24 Luang Prabang: end of vacation

Meals

  • American breakfast daily
  • 15 lunches
  • 12 dinners
  • While on board the ship, enjoy complimentary wine with lunch & dinner and complimentary coffee, tea, soft drinks, local beer, and local spirits throughout the day.

Day-By-Day Itinerary

(B) = Breakfast   (L) = Lunch   (D) = Dinner

Day 1

Arrive in Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam

Welcome to Ho Chi Minh City, still known as Saigon to many. Hotel rooms are available for mid-afternoon check-in.

Day 2

(B, L, D)

Ho Chi Minh City

This morning, enjoy a WALKING TOUR of the city’s famous and historic landmarks as you stroll through the heart of the city along Dong Khoi Street (formerly Rue Catinat) past Ho Chi Minh Square, the Municipal Theatre, the Central Post Office, and Notre Dame Cathedral. Stop at the Rex Hotel for a refreshing DRINK at the popular ROOFTOP BAR where the U.S. Military held the infamous “Five O’Clock Follies” during the war. Next, visit the WAR REMNANTS MUSEUM, followed by BEN THANH MARKET, the largest and oldest in the city. For lunch, participate in a hands-on VIETNAMESE COOKING CLASS. Head into the classroom and learn how to prepare different local dishes and the techniques necessary to recreate them once you return home. Last but not least, sample your delicious creations! The afternoon is at your leisure to explore this lively city. Tonight, enjoy a special welcome dinner.

Day 3

(B)

Ho Chi Minh City. Excursion to Cu Chi Tunnels

This morning, leave the city and drive through vast expanses of rice paddies to visit the CU CHI TUNNELS, an extraordinary network of tunnels more than 120 miles in length that was used by the Viet Cong as a hideout and secret village during the war. Here, you will learn about how the tunnels were constructed and have a chance to walk through a section to experience what life would have been like underground. Return to Ho Chi Minh City and enjoy the rest of the afternoon and evening at your leisure. Maybe stop at the famous rooftop bar for a drink at the Caravelle Hotel.

Day 4

(B, L, D)

Ho Chi Minh City (Embarkation)

This morning, transfer to the port on the Saigon River and board your river cruise vessel to start your CRUISE up the Mekong River through Vietnam and Cambodia. Get acquainted with the ship and relax before your welcome reception this evening.

Day 5

(B, L, D)

Vinh Long–Cu Lao Gieng

This morning, board a sampan for a scenic cruise to Vinh Long. Upon arrival, visit a LOCAL WORKSHOP to see how rice paper, rice wine, and traditional candies are made. Other surprises await for those who are brave! After lunch on the ship, enjoy scenes of daily life along the river near Cu Lao Gieng via sampan. Stop at a LOCAL HOME, where a skilled family works together to hand-craft sampans for a living. Then, ride a specially designed MOTOR CART to one of Vietnam’s oldest churches for a special INTERACTION WITH A CATHOLIC PRIEST.

Day 6

(B, L, D)

Chau Doc–Long Khong A–Cambodian Border Crossing

After breakfast, walk through the LOCAL MARKET and absorb the atmosphere as locals are busy buying and selling fish, meat, and produce. Then join a sampan excursion down the backwaters of the Mekong to the religious sites at the base of SAM MOUNTAIN. Along the way, see traditional floating homes, speedboat merchants, a market selling dried goods, and more. After lunch, a sampan brings you to the village of LONG KHONG A, where cotton weaving is a well-preserved tradition. Spend time at one house for a COTTON-WEAVING DEMONSTRATION and a chance to talk with the family. Return to the ship and head for the Cambodian border.

Day 7

(B, L, D)

Phnom Penh

The capital city of Phnom Penh retains its French charm to this day. This morning, your sightseeing tour by PRIVATE CYCLO includes visits to the ROYAL PALACE with the spectacular SILVER PAGODA and the NATIONAL MUSEUM, featuring an outstanding display of Khmer artifacts. The remainder of the day is at your leisure to enjoy the city. Just before dinner, children from a local orphanage will put on a SHOW featuring local song and dance.

Day 8

(B, L, D)

Phnom Penh

Sightseeing this morning provides a glimpse of the atrocities inflicted on the Cambodian people by the Khmer Rouge regime. Visit the TUOL SLENG GENOCIDE MUSEUM, a former high school that housed over 17,000 prisoners. Of this number, it is believed that fewer than 15 survived the torture and avoided being sent to the Killing Fields. You will also visit one of the KILLING FIELDS, where more than 200,000 people were killed by the Khmer Rouge. After lunch, depart Phnom Penh and enjoy some time at leisure on the ship.

Day 9

(B, L, D)

Wat Hanchey–Angkor Ban

This morning, visit WAT HANCHEY, a temple dating back to the 8th century and the Chenla Empire. Located on a hilltop, enjoy stunning views of the surrounding area and partake in a TRADITIONAL WATER BLESSING given by local monks. After lunch, enjoy a WALKING TOUR through the rural village of Angkor Ban. Here, you will see traditional Khmer houses and visit a LOCAL SCHOOL.

NOTE:
The climb to Wat Hanchey features a steep incline. If you feel you are unable to make the climb, you will be driven to the top by car.

Day 10

(B, L, D)

Konpong Louang–Kampong Tralach

Today, start your sightseeing at the SILVERSMITH VILLAGE of Konpong Louang. Here, you will see talented craftsmen use age-old techniques to turn pure silver into works of art. Continue on to Kampong Tralach for an OX CART RIDE past rice paddy fields and the beautiful Cambodian countryside. Along the way, stop to MEET A LOCAL FARMER and learn about his daily life. Return to the ship for lunch. This afternoon, cruise up the Tonle River to Tonle Sap (Great Lake). After the rainy season, this massive body of water can cover around 10,000 square miles and is the perfect breeding ground for fish, which play a vital role in providing food for people living on the lake.

NOTE:
During low water conditions, generally mid-December to August, we will not be able to cruise up the Tonle River to Tonle Sap. Low water conditions vary from year to year so this will be evaluated on a cruise-by-cruise basis.

Day 11

(B, L)

Siem Reap (Disembarkation)

This morning, arrive in Siem Reap and start your sightseeing of the TEMPLES OF ANGKOR, considered by many to be the most spectacular architectural ruins on Earth! Constructed between the 9th and 13th centuries, the temples were built around the Khmer interpretations of Indian religious and political beliefs that ultimately evolved from Hinduism to Buddhism. The complex architectural grandeur of the Angkor temples is arguably unmatched among ancient ruins anywhere in the world. First, visit the best preserved and most famous of all the temples: ANGKOR WAT, honoring the Hindu god Vishnu. Featuring five trademark towers and stunning bas reliefs, it has become a symbol of Cambodia. Then, visit BANTEAY SREI, a unique temple dedicated to the Hindu god Shiva. Unlike other temples, it is built on a small scale from red sandstone, which can be carved like wood. This evening is at leisure to explore charming Siem Reap—or stay to witness sunset at Angkor Wat!

NOTE:

During low water conditions, generally mid-December to August, we will not be able to cruise across Tonle Sap to Siem Reap. In these cases, we will fly from Phnom Penh to Siem Reap and sightseeing will begin in the afternoon. No included sightseeing will be missed. Low water conditions vary from year to year, so this will be evaluated on a cruise-by-cruise basis.

Day 12

(B, D)

Siem Reap

Today, continue your sightseeing of the Angkor temples by TUK-TUK. Start at ANGKOR THOM, where you will explore BAYON TEMPLE. One of the few Buddhist temples in Angkor, it features some 200 striking faces carved in 54 towers and impressive bas reliefs. Next stop is TA PROHM, which, unlike the other temples, has been left relatively untouched. Tree roots grow over and through the ruin walls, allowing you to experience the temple with the same wonder as the early explorers who discovered it. Next, stop at LES ARTISANS D’ANGKOR, a development project teaching young adults traditional handicraft techniques. The rest of the afternoon is at your leisure. This evening, enjoy a PRIVATE APSARA DANCE PERFORMANCE, where the ancient Khmer culture is brought to life by talented dancers, singers, and musicians.

Day 13

(B)

Siem Reap–Hanoi

Today, transfer to the airport and fly to Hanoi. Upon arrival, transfer to your hotel for the night.

Day 14

(B, L, D)

Hanoi

This morning, take time to look at the life of Ho Chi Minh, the father of modern Vietnam. First, visit the MAUSOLEUM and the humble cottage from which “Uncle Ho” ruled Vietnam until his death in 1969. Next on the agenda: ONE PILLAR PAGODA, the HO CHI MINH MUSEUM, and the Presidential Palace. Stop at the infamous “Hanoi Hilton” before continuing to mystical Hoan Kiem Lake, where you will enjoy a brief guided walk. Also visit the ancient TEMPLE OF LITERATURE, over 900 years old and Hanoi’s first university. Lunch is at KOTO, a non-profit restaurant and hospitality program that trains local street children in restaurant skills they can use to find a job and build a stable life. After lunch, enjoy a ELECTRIC CART ride through the fascinating Old Quarter, 36 ancient streets where peddlers trade as they have for centuries. An early dinner this evening is followed by a fascinating performance of Hanoi’s renowned WATER PUPPETS, a traditional art form dating back to the 11th century.

Day 15

(B, L, D)

Hanoi–Ha Long Bay

Travel from Hanoi through the fertile countryside to Ha Long Bay, a UNESCO World Heritage Site. Located in the Gulf of Tonkin, the bay is dotted with more than 3,000 limestone islands carved into fanciful shapes by the action of the water. Board the luxurious Paradise Elegance for a TWO-NIGHT CRUISE on the bay. After lunch, visit the CUA VAN FLOATING VILLAGE, home to more than 700 people. You can visit by bamboo raft with the locals or in a kayak under your own power. Enjoy scenic sailing for the remainder of the day before anchoring for the night.

Day 16

(B, L, D)

Ha Long Bay

Continue exploring the bay. Visit TITOP ISLAND, where you have the chance to swim or climb 400 steps to the top for stunning views. You will also visit LUON CAVE by your choice of boat or kayak. At DARK AND BRIGHT CAVE, you can explore by bamboo raft with the locals or by kayak. After a day of exploring, consider a spa treatment or simply relax for happy hour prior to dinner!

Day 17

(B)

Ha Long Bay–Hanoi

This morning, relax onboard or visit SUNG SOT CAVE, considered one of the most beautiful in the area with its magnificent formations. Afterwards, return to Hanoi and check in to your hotel. The remainder of the day is at your leisure.

Day 18

(B)

Hanoi–Sapa

Today, transfer to the hill-station town of Sapa known for its mountain scenery, rice fields, and colorful ethnic minorities. This afternoon, join a walking tour of this small town and visit the LOCAL MARKET.

Day 19

(B, L)

Sapa

Your day starts with a visit to TA VAN and LAO CHAI villages, to see the traditional way of life of the Zay and Black Hmong ethnic groups. These ethnic groups live together here under the watch of Fansipan Mountain. The Zay live a sedentary lifestyle and choose land near the valley’s bottom for growing wet rice. The Hmong have historically preferred higher elevations for corn farming but recently they’ve started gradually moving to lower land and learning from others like the Zay. After lunch, visit the beautiful SILVER WATERFALL and ascend the highest road in Vietnam to HEAVEN GATE for stunning views of the surrounding mountains and valley.

Day 20

(B, L)

Sapa

This morning, visit one of the famous WEEKLY MARKETS. Here, the local ethnic minority groups wear their most beautiful costumes as they sell and trade their homemade products. The Flower Hmong group is most recognizable with their colorful dress. After a quick photo stop at the China border, visit Taphin village, home of the RED DAO people who migrated from China starting in the 12th century. The Dao women are recognizable by the bright red turban they wear and, in some cases, shaved eyebrows. Tonight, consider exploring Sapa and stop at the famous “Love Market,” where local Hmong and Dao come from their villages for the chance to see one another and perhaps go on a date!

Day 21

(B)

Sapa–Hanoi–Luang Prabang, Laos

This morning, drive to Hanoi and board your flight for Luang Prabang. Upon arrival, transfer to your hotel.

Day 22

(B, L)

Luang Prabang

Today, enjoy a full day of sightseeing in this UNESCO World Heritage Site. Begin your morning by ascending MOUNT PHOUSI for beautiful views over the city and Mekong River. Then walk through the historic town center stopping at WAT MAI, famous for its 5-tiered roof built in the traditional style of Luang Prabang. You will also visit the NATIONAL MUSEUM and WAT XIENG THONG, often thought to be the most beautiful wat, or monastery, in the city. The remainder of the day is at your leisure to explore further. Perhaps consider a sunset cruise on the Mekong!

Day 23

(B)

Luang Prabang

Today, enjoy a full day at your leisure.

Day 24

(B)

Luang Prabang

Your vacation ends with breakfast this morning.

Ship Details

Siem Reap
Saigon

Siem Reap

The all-suite Avalon Siem Reap, one of our incredible new Suite Ships®, was specifically designed to offer the best river cruise experience on the Mekong River. She is the only ship in the industry cruising from Ho Chi Minh City to Phnom Penh (or vice versa) eliminating hours of motorcoach travel time, which means you enjoy more cruising along the Mekong River!

The ship has been meticulously crafted to offer all the modern features you expect, yet it retains the colonial charm fitting to Vietnam and Cambodia. While the number of guests on the ship may be small, the ship isn't. Built as long and wide as other ships that carry twice as many guests, the public spaces never feel congested. From the air-conditioned Panorama Lounge to the open-air observation lounge, there is plenty of seating and spots to relax. Plus, our lounges are located at the front of the ship, not the back, so no matter where you sit you'll always have a great view.

Our crew embodies the spirit of you first, no matter what. From the reception staff and bartender to wait staff and room attendant, we always deliver exquisite service that's comfortable and friendly, never stuffy! With Avalon, our ship becomes your home away from home.

Included Amenities

  • Air-conditioned Panorama Lounge
  • Spacious, open-seating dining room
  • Complimentary Wi-Fi access in the lounges (where signal is available)
  • Fitness Room
  • Non-smoking staterooms & ship interior
  • Open-air observation lounge with shade system & premium lounge chairs
  • Bar serving premium spirits, wine & complimentary coffee, tea, soft drinks, and local beer/spirits throughout the day
  • Spa treatment room
  • Library and games

Staterooms & Suites

Category A & B - 245 sq. ft.
Features
  • Comfort Collection BedsSM, featuring premium mattress covers
  • Soft & firm pillows
  • Nightly turn-down service
  • 14' Wall-to-Wall Panoramic window measuring that opens to create a large Open-Air Balcony®
  • Spacious closets with shelves for ample storage
  • Alarm clock
  • Bathrobes & slippers
  • In-room safe
  • In-house telephone
  • Egyptian super-combed cotton linens, blankets & European-style duvets
  • Choice of bed configuration (two twins or one king)
  • Bedside tables with reading lamps
  • Large private bathroom featuring full shower with glass door, hairdryer, and premium bath amenities
  • Easy under-bed luggage storage
  • Writing desk/vanity with mirror & comfortable chair
  • Complimentary bottled water
  • Individual climate control
DECK PLANS

Saigon

The all-suite Avalon SaigonSM, our newest Suite Ship® in Asia, was specifically designed to offer the best cruise experience on the Mekong River. She is one of only two ships in the industry, along with her sister ship the Avalon Siem ReapSM, cruising from Ho Chi Minh City to Phnom Penh (or vice versa) eliminating hours of motorcoach travel time, which means you enjoy more cruising! The ship has been meticulously crafted to offer all the modern features you expect, yet it retains the colonial charm fitting to Vietnam and Cambodia. While the number of guests on the ship may be small, the ship isn't. Built as long and wide as other ships that carry twice as many guests, the public spaces never feel congested. From the air-conditioned Panorama Lounge to the open-air observation lounge, there is plenty of seating and spots to relax. Plus, our lounges are located at the front of the ship, not the back, so no matter where you sit you'll always have a great view. Our crew embodies the spirit-you first, no matter what. From the reception staff and bartender to wait staff and room attendant, we always deliver exquisite service that's comfortable and friendly, never stuffy! With Avalon, our ship becomes your home away from home.

Included Amenities

  • Air-conditioned Panorama Lounge
  • Spacious, open-seating dining room
  • Complimentary Wi-Fi access in the lounges (where signal is available)
  • Fitness Room
  • Non-smoking staterooms & ship interior
  • Open-air observation lounge with shade system & premium lounge chairs
  • Bar serving premium spirits, wine & complimentary coffee, tea, soft drinks, and local beer/spirits throughout the day
  • Spa treatment room
  • Library and games

Staterooms & Suites

Category A & B - 245 sq. ft.
Features
  • Comfort Collection BedsSM
  • Soft & firm pillows
  • Nightly turn-down service
  • 14' Wall-to-Wall Panoramic window measuring that opens to create a large Open-Air Balcony®
  • Spacious closets with shelves for ample storage
  • Alarm clock
  • Bathrobes & slippers
  • In-room safe
  • In-house telephone
  • Egyptian super-combed cotton linens
  • Choice of bed configuration
  • Bedside tables with reading lamps
  • Large private bathroom featuring full shower with glass door, hairdryer, and premium bath amenities
  • Easy under-bed luggage storage
  • Writing desk/vanity with mirror & comfortable chair
  • Complimentary bottled water
  • Individual climate control
DECK PLANS

Hotels

Mekong River Cruise
Siem Reap
Hanoi
Ha Long Bay
Sapa
Luang Prabang

 Optional Excursions

The following optional excursions are examples only for this vacation. These may or may not be offered, and availability is subject to days of operation and seasonality. Please select a departure date to view optional excursions and pricing for a specific date (due to currency fluctuation, pricing shown is subject to change until purchased).

Price Ranges

$ ($50 USD and under)
$$ ($51 - $100 USD)
$$$ ($101 - $150 USD)
$$$$ (Over $150)

No Excursions are available at this time.

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Cruise Details