The sleek Irrawaddy Explorer is the newest and most luxurious of the three cruise ships of Ayravata Cruise Company to ply the great Irrawaddy River of Burma and even before it leaves the dock it takes you into another world: the elegant, stylish era of the colonial period.
As soon as you are in the reception area, you have stepped into the past, created with its décor of a beautiful art nouveau stairway, old-style furniture, the gleaming hardwood floors, potted plants and classic light fixtures. The theme is carried into the whole interior of the ship including the 28 luxurious suites, the Writers” Lounge, the ‘Custom House’ dining room and even the Spa room and Fitness Center.
The twenty-eight luxury suites are named Mandalay, Kipling, Orwell and Maugham, all with floor-to-ceiling glass doors to enjoy the magnificent views of the Irrawaddy River. Each suite comes with its own unique artwork where for the duration of the cruise you are living in another time and place but with modern conveniences.
The sun deck is where you are cooled by the breeze sweeping over the river, where you can sunbathe, read or just enjoy the light on the water and the sun on its journey turning the sky into a painter’s palette of gold and crimson.
The Writers’ Lounge, spacious as it is, has the ambience of the private study of a writer of the past. Strategically-placed comfortable sofas give enough privacy to enable you to imagine Somerset Maugham thoughtfully smoking his pipe in one corner or Rudyard Kipling amiably telling his tales to a few enraptured guests or George Orwell trying to hide behind a newspaper.
Meals in the old-world charm of the dining room with its lazily-turning ceiling fans are not in the old colonial traditions of broiled beef and rice pudding, but of modern western haute cuisine, the best of Asian food with the freshest ingredients it demands, as well as the most delicious of popular standards. The menu is created by a talented foreign who has years of experience on the best cruise liners of the world and prepared by local Chefs. Best of all, the Kitchen often takes passengers for a stroll through local bazaars selling fresh and luscious fruits and vegetables.
Other stops take you to see the marvels of the country ranging from the famous temples and images to less-known 17th century wall paintings of Hpowindaung Caves, to a potters’ village, a town with the first ever golf course in the country, old wooden monasteries, craftsmen’s workshops etc.
On board, there is a Fitness Center with State-of-the-art equipment and also a spa for messages with creams made from healing and fragrant barks. There are also otherl events presented for your amusement, such as a lesson on how to cook some local dishes, how to securely tie the longyi waist garment, how to grind the traditional Thanakha bark paste, and how to ‘play’ the cane ball game of grace and balance. On longer cruises there are lectures on culture and traditions and performances of classical dance and marionette shows.
Any cruise on Irrawaddy Explorer is not only about discovering the essence of the country but to do it in luxurious comfort while living the dream in the elegance of a past era.