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La Marguerite Cruise

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Apr 6th, 2010, 03:07 AM
  #1
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La Marguerite Cruise

This trip report will coverbr /> AirAsia flight Melbourne to KL.
Tune Hotel KL Airport.
AirAsia flight KL to KCM.
Sofitel Plaza Ho Cho Minh
8d/7n cruise on the La Marguerite.
Pavillon Indochine in Siem Reap.
Mekong Express Siem Reap to Phnom Penh.
Pavillion Hotel in Phnom Penh.
Bourgainvillier Hotel in Phnom Penh.
Sorya Transport Bus Phnom Penh to HCM.
Taxi rip off in HCM
Jetstar HCM to Melbourne(with change in Darwin).

We booked our Airasia flight in November at a cost of $52 plus taxes of $67 (incl. Dep. Tax) a total of $119. We added on Meal $7, 15 kg bag allowance $10, and choice of seat $10., a total of $146AU. The secret seems to be to watch for their specials. The choice of seat was well worth it as I wanted an aisle seat and my travelling companion a window. We chose seats 4 from the rear. Here the 3-3-3 configuration has changed to 2-3-2. with the aisle much wider enabling you to walk passed the trolley tray. Good seats back there-highly recommended. We had no problems with AirAsia nor through emigration and customs at Kl. In fact emigration and customs ( and bag pick-up) was so quick I was amazed--maybe late in the day ,no other flights,and late in their shift.

Tune Hotel.
Had no trouble finding the 1Ringit transfer bus to the Tune Hotel on the outskirts of the airport. Reception was courteous and swift. Room is so small but for an overnight stay and at that low price is quite adequate, except that we had a water feature for the night, that is the air conditioner leaked at the rate of 1 drop a second and made a mess of the floor. The water luckily flowed into the bathroom and down a hole .We were so tired we didn't complain and it didn't end up a problem. In the price is breakfast which was coffee and sandwich.The Tune has a 24 hr. cafe selling beer etc and small meals so we were able to relax and indulge after our flight. recommended highly but only for that convenient overnight stay.
Next will be the organised chaos of Airasia KL to HCM
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Apr 6th, 2010, 03:43 AM
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Hi jamesexton_1
Have been waiting for your trip report. Hard to believe that after all the planning and discussion on "FODOR'S" that your holiday is over!!!!
I always say that half the fun of a holiday is the planning and research before you go.
Our trip in Sep will be similar to yours..but we will be on the Jayavarman. We haven't booked our flights or hotels yet - so will be very interested in what you did.
What a great price you got for your flight to KL - Did you arrange same ..yourself?
Looking forward to reading "the organised chaos"!!!!
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Apr 6th, 2010, 05:05 AM
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Hellencallie Looked up your profile, Aussie,Grandparent and rode the elephants in Chang Mai, so we have all that in common, (the grandparent thing)helps to put what age group we are in.
The lcct part of KLM airport mainly only caters for Airasia, which has about 12 departure gates(ho ho)for international flights.All the gates are in one hall which is about 40 metres wide.The gates(doors) are set up 1-2 gap 3-4 gap etc.With say 6-7 pending departures all lined up behind these doors,we were finally called almost on time for our flight.You also need to picture that just out side those doors is a narrow covered passageway running alongside the tarmac to where all the planes are parked. This also includes the ones that have just landed. When we walked along that path to our plane which was probably 8-10 bays,we passed probably three incoming flight passengers.When we reached where our plane was it wasn't ready to board. We stood there for probably 15 minutes waiting to board. All this time there were incoming flight passengers trying to get though us hoard. After 15 minutes we were told that there was a slight engineering problem and we would have to return to an isolation transit lounge.The intermingling of passengers meant that when we were ushered into this lounge I wasn't sure how many extras we had picked up and how many we had lost.. It turned out that over the next 40 minutes every once in a while some strays realised they had been hijacked and got themselves out (they were probably incoming passengers).My main concern wasn't how many "foreigners" we had in there but how many of ours we had lost.After an hour we were recalled and somehow we managed to have the right compliment of passengers on the plane. With all the chaos we were only one hour late arriving in HCM after an uneventful flight. Again in taking into account the cheapness
of these internal Asia flights I can only highly recommend
them.Airasia only have ladder gangplanks and a lot of the walk on the tarmac can be in the open and a considerable distance (not good if its raining).
Stop Press:- Airasia today have Melb to Kl. for $199 compared to our $119. This is still very cheap.
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Apr 6th, 2010, 05:53 AM
  #4
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Thought this flight was only a 50 min. flight instead it was 1.50 Didn't realise there was a one hour difference in the time zone.Again I think they were all wanting to knock off in emigration and customs as we were again so quick though with our luggage waiting for us.Negotiated a $10 taxi fare to Sofitel but I felt so sorry for the time it took through friday night 5.30pm peak hour I gave him $15. Sofitel was our only upmarket splurge in accommodation as it was where we were being picked up for the cruise. Spent 2 nights there. The size of the bed would definitely not fitted into the room at Tune.The only complaint there was that like a lot of places the staff are trained to do things by rote. After a tiring day we were sitting up in bed at 8.30 watching t/v when the knock on the door wanted to turn the bed down. Had a bit of trouble telling her we were already in bed, even though I was only in jocks. The same thing happened the next night at 9.30.This time I told her my mum stopped tucking me in when I was 3.I know I should have had the do not disturb sign out.On our free day we hired a guide for a half day tour of the city highlights.I can highly recommend the guide and at the end of this bit I will leave particulars.We were taken to places reasonably in close proximity to the Sofitel (at our request) We visited the War Remnants Museum,Reunification Palace,Notre Dame, The Post Office, and a Chinese temple complex.The guide was exceptionable good speaking very good English.His name is Nguyen minh hoang sa (Sa).email address [email protected]
Phone 84 91 390 6004.
Not wanting to pay $3.00 for our Sofitel frig. beers we found a "hole in the wall" place at the back of the hotel where we were able to communicate somehow that we wanted 6 local beers (each night) for 80 cents each.
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Apr 6th, 2010, 06:51 AM
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are we neighbours, james? I think so. I'm reading along here, very interested in the oncoming Marguerita... lol. Tell me, did you see, hear anything about the mysterious Jayarvarman cruise while there?
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Apr 6th, 2010, 08:48 AM
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Dogster, I live in Elwood Melbourne so I don't know whether we are neighbours or not. No we didn't see anything of the mysterious Jayarvarman, but I do believe it is there somewhere.Will get to the La Marguerite cruise tomorrow with a lot of positives but also some very bad negatives.
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Apr 6th, 2010, 08:51 AM
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Great. I love a cruising disaster story.
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Apr 6th, 2010, 08:57 AM
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me too.....
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Apr 6th, 2010, 09:21 AM
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We're all a bunch of vultures.
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Apr 6th, 2010, 02:03 PM
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I read a couple of reports on Trip Adviser about Jayavarman ... they were both very positive.. I also viewed a vidio on Utube. All my research so far has equated Pandaw, La Marguerite and Jayvarman equal.
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Apr 6th, 2010, 02:37 PM
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The Jayavarman is up and running. It docked in mid march in Phnom Penh and a friend of mine had a chance to inspect it and make comparison to the Marguerite which she had visited awhile ago when docked here. It is smaller with 24 cabins and 2 suites. Each cabin have their own balcony and the rooms are quite large, nice décor and with an adequate size bathroom and of course a/c. The public areas are of good size and the restaurant and bar looks nice and there is a spa. No whirlpool like on the Marguerite,but everything looks a little more luxurious.
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Apr 7th, 2010, 04:09 AM
  #12
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Registration for the cruise was at the Sofitel Plaza and we left in 2 buses for the boat at 12 noon.
On arrival at the La Marguerite, after being allocated our cabins we proceeded to the restaurant for the first of many memorable feasts.
I'm not going into detail here of all the shore excursions we did except to say that they were well managed and our guide was superb.
The Positivesbr /> The boat is new and well appointed.The cabins and en-suites quite adequate. The meals were superb,breakfast and lunch were smorgasbord with the evening meal a la carte comprising of starters,a choice of 2 entree, a choice of 2 mains, and a choice of 3 sweets.
Included in the price was all local beers wines and spirits.There was never any limiting of the supply. There were 3 or 4 local beers which I found all o.k. The red wine was another matter. I tried one the first day and I thought it was turpentine.Every one else had the same feeling the first day but by later days everybody was drinking it except me.Its amazing the attraction of a free drink. I swung on to the local rum and with ice found it quite palatable.The waiters and bar staff,except for their limited English, were very good.
Pool,spa,sauna(when would you need it in that climate),adequate lounges and seating ,massage room,work out area and dining room were well appointed.
I would recommend the boat and the cruise with some provisos.

When we booked we were aware of this cruise being the last of the high season and we had tried to get a reservation either on an earlier high season or the next cheaper one in the low season. We were aware that depending on the water levels in the Mekong and particularly the Tonle Sap Lake that the itinerary may have to be changed. A warning to future travelers is to avoid any period when the water levels may be low irrespective of which boat, and in the years to come with the massive dam building up-stream this will become a longer period and greater problem.It would seem to me that the 3-4 day cruise to Phnom Penh might be the way to go and then do add ons from there depending on how things are for the Lake etc.. Our itinerary was changed immensely because of the low water levels(we ran aground twice anyway).We never got to visit Kompong Cham or Tonle Sap Lake. Some of the replacement itinerary seemed to be quickly substituted. We did cruise up the Tonle Sap river as far as Kompong Chhnang and after an excursion there we retreated to where we disembarked on the last day. Whereas on the original itinerary we would have had a 1 hour bus ride into Siem Reap we had a 5 hour ride.
There was also a feeling of abandonment at Prek Kdam. The disembarking in my view was quite dangerous as we were descending a ladder for 15-20 feet at a very sharp angle.I'm 70 and know the correct way is backwards. The couple after me were both in their 80's and had no one to assist them.We got them down safely. Then there was a muddy incline up the bank which we all needed some assistance on. Then there was a 300 metre walk to where the buses were.There were Tuk Tuk there at a small price for the transfer but we thought it should have been arranged. When we got in the bus I was very aware that on this trip we would need water. I saw none on board.I asked the cruise director who up until then hadn't been sighted but arrived with his hand out for his tips.He assured us there was water which turned out there wasn't any until the independent guide arranged some for us. When we arrived at Siem Reap at the Meridian which was the drop off point we were told by the guides that our luggage which was is a separate truck had been held up by the police and should be arriving in 15min. The guides then left. We then waited another 3/4 hour with no connection to our cruise for our luggage to arrive. Fairly poor even though I know they have another cruise that is in the process of starting.
The last point which will be the most contentious of all especially for our American brothers is to do with tipping.
When we signed up for this cruise the price as I recall was inclusive of "port charges ,other taxes and gratuities". Seems to me and a number of other people this was quite explicit.The first thing we noticed when we got on the boat was that there was a notice that suggested the tipping amount should be $10 a day per person and that it should be put in the appropriate box.This was separate from what was expected to be given to the two guides and the cruise director.What concerned us Australians on board was that we have no problem with tipping for service.We see the "$" you give the maitre de when you enter the auditorium as a bribe. If you dont tip you are up the back if you do you get good seats.We believe and I hope I get backing here is that tipping is for legitimate service. Here in Australia we pay our lower paid workers a "liveable wage". I think the minimum now is about $16.00 an hour.when i go to a restaraunt and the bill comes to $83 you put in $90 and walk out .Similarly with taxis you round up to some reasonable amount.
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Apr 7th, 2010, 04:20 AM
  #13
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We were concerned also as to the split up of the pool of tips that were to be received. It took some doing but we found that all the salaried people,the captain. the purser, the hotel manager all were to get equal shares. This is so wrong, very little filters down then to those giving the service. What we then did was search out those that gave the service and tipped them ,also giving a lesser amount into the pool because there were some lesser paid workers behind the scene probably on starvation pay that required some assistance. But it hurts that the captain will get some of that.
I await criticism
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Apr 7th, 2010, 07:46 AM
  #14
 
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There are anumber of cruise lines that are very clear that all gratuities are included in the cruise price. These cruise lines do not solicit tips. To state that gratuities are included and then have a $10 per day tip "recommendation" (plus tips to two guides a cruise director) is deceptive. And I agree with you that any tip money should go to the low-paid behind the scenes people.
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Apr 7th, 2010, 09:27 AM
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When you say 3-4 days is the way to go - is that what you did or was your cruise longer? I initially got interested in going to Vietnam when I received a brochure from AMA Waterways for a trip that spends 7 days on La Marguerite. After researching here that did seem too long & I ended up putting together a trip independently. Seems like 7 days if the water is low would be nearly impossible or not very pleasant, at any rate. Speaking of rate - no surprise but the AMA trip was crazy expensive compared to the DIY version.

It sounds like the ship at least was very nice, if not the tipping rip off.
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Apr 7th, 2010, 01:34 PM
  #16
 
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well, I think all tipping is a rip-off, but I'd like to make sure James has it right in this instance: here's the company website:

http://www.indochina-sails.com/?a=faq

And here's what is says: Gratuity: US$10 per passenger per day.

That's purdy clear. I'm not suggesting our intrepid reporter has it wrong however - but I'd like to know his source for the 'the price as I recall was inclusive of "port charges ,other taxes and gratuities" bit.

If it was written and so clearly understood, it must have been in your passenger contract, and at least ONE of you must have carried that documentation. So I'm confused.

Apart from that james, verrry interesting. Your negatives are not very negative, provided you jump the tipping issue and the low-water. I've also sailed that route, both high and low water two and a half times. Seven days, if the tour is running fine - is about right. I've sailed twice low water, once high. High is better - but something tells me you were fed a little bit of that special tourist hokum. FIVE HOURS to Siem Reap. Whoa! Something is seriously wrong here.

I'm still trying to work out HOW a 5 hour bus trip ensued.
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Apr 9th, 2010, 11:30 PM
  #17
 
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Well ...dogster really put stop to this trip report ...
I've been waiting for more stories from jamessexton-1 or comments from other Mekong River travellers!!!!

Thought dogster would ask James s if the beds were comfortable!!!!!! Maybe a little hard !!!

James I hope you enjoyed your holiday - and the tipping and low river didn't spoil it for you. I am glad that we are going in September. Thankyou for your report.
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Apr 10th, 2010, 12:25 AM
  #18
 
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lol well, I didn't mean to, helen. Did what I wrote seem rude? I hope not. I was just tackling the negatives. It seems a shame if james' holiday was spoilt by a misunderstanding. Spoilt by an untruth is an entirely different thing.
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Apr 10th, 2010, 05:34 PM
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jamesexton - Don't pay any attention to what dogster says. He can be mean, rude and ignorate at times. Continue with your report as to date it has been very interesting.
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Apr 10th, 2010, 06:50 PM
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Let us all unite, under the inspired leadership of Scotters, to elimination all traces of ignoration from Fodor's...
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