A cruise on the Irrawaddy river is a unique way to experience Myanmar. Beyond visiting land sights, cruises provide for an up-close look at the riverside villages that depend on the water for their livelihood.
Not to be confused with the less expensive Irrawaddy River ferries, cruises range in length from two-day/one-night to more than three weeks. The cruises can be classed as either upmarket or very upmarket. There’s no single departure point for Irrawaddy River cruises; most leave from Mandalay or Yangon, but others start in Bagan and even Bangkok (on land). All cruises include stops in Bagan and Mandalay (the shorter cruises run back and forth between the two). Essentials Meals and drinks are included in the cruise price but snacks are not. You’ll be able to pick these up in Yangon or at the more populated port towns. Anything ordered on the ship not included in the meal plan must be paid for in cash. You will definitely need to bring your own sunblock. You should arrive in your cruise’s departure city one day before your ship is set to sail, even if your cruise doesn’t depart until the following evening. Included in many cruises’ pricing is one night in the departure city, but be sure to confirm with your individual operator.
Most of the boats that ply the Irrawaddy are bi-level; some are cruise ships while others are colonial steam-ship style. Each ship has between 5 and 30 cabins, accommodating 10 to 60 people. The cruise lines stop in different places, but all cover Bagan and Mandalay. Unless otherwise indicated, all prices listed are per person for a double cabin during high season.