The Scenic Aura should not be compared to the Space Ships operating on European waterways as some reviewers seem to do. Scenic have done really well creating this experience in Myanmar which is a difficult country to operate in. True, the build quality of the Aura is not the same as the European river boats, however you soon won’t notice because you’ll be under the charm of the excellent crew. Most of them are from Myanmar and are all very professional and friendly. The lounge, restaurant and food is all first class. They will soon get to know if you like a strong cappuccino at breakfast time or a cognac after dinner.
Scenic have put together a number of itineraries involving the river cruise operating both up and downstream. We did the 18 day Mystical Myanmar downstream which includes Inle Lake and a 10 day river cruise. Inle Lake is well worth including if you have time and budget. There is also a cruise only option. The Aura has its two Royal Panorama Suites at the front and not the rear as on the European boats so you can watch the scenery unfold and if your budget allows then we thoroughly recommend at a generous 70 sqm including a large terrace with a Jacuzzi. In fact all of the 22 suites are very large.
You need to be open minded with a sense of adventure to travel in Myanmar, however the visits to villages and towns along the Irrawaddy that have seen few tourists is very rewarding. The local people are curious, shy and very welcoming. The water level in the Irrawaddy varies significantly over the year and disembarking in the dry, hot months of March and April can be challenging if you don’t have good mobility, however the crew including the captain are always there to assist. The off-boat excursions are many and varied and you can choose to do them all or relax on board if you wish. It's a very active program and includes transport by walking, trishaw and horse & cart.
The Royal Panorama Suites are the two premium options on the Diamond Deck located at the front of the ship. Accommodation consists of a separate bathroom, bedroom, lounge room and outdoor terrace. The outdoor terrace has a Jacuzzi, small four seat table and a swing chair. There is ample storage space and two desks. At 70 square metres these are the largest on any cruise boat on the Irrawaddy.
Bagan is Myanmar's archaeological treasure trove with its incredible temple circuit.
There are a number of very interesting things to see around Mandalay although the city itself is not overly tourist friendly.