Zawgyi Pandaw has humanitarian roots: In May 2008, after Cyclone Nargis slammed into Myanmar (Burma), killing more than 138,000 people and causing more than $10 billion in damages, the ship was outfitted as a floating clinic as part of the relief efforts. After a few years in port, the ship was completely redone and launched as a river cruiser with six small, but comfortable, cabins in 2014.
In 2015, the 132-foot long ship was modified, adding an upper deck with four more cabins, an observation lounge and a bistro area.
The ship can accommodate 20 passengers as it negotiates the sometimes-treacherous shoals of Chindwin River -- a tributary of the better-known Irrawaddy River -- from Chindwin Monywa to Homalin.
There are six staterooms on the main deck and four on the upper deck. Each is 150 square feet and finished in teak and brass. Beds can be converted from singles to a double bed. In-cabin features include an electric mini-safe, multi-configuration plugs, individual climate controls and generous closet and storage space. Each private bath has a shower and hair dryer. Passengers are welcomed with flowers and a gift. There is daily nightly turndown service and 24-hour laundry service.
There's a welcome cocktail reception as well as a farewell party. A local chef prepares personalized daily meals with lighter/leaner options. Water, coffee, tea, soft drinks, local beer, local spirits and juices are complimentary. Travelers can also order from an extensive list of premium wines.
Onboard features include a sun deck, small library and small curio shop. There is free WiFi available.
Excursions include visits to museums, villages and cultural sites. All entry fees are paid and guests are treated to private transportation and private guides. After excursions, passengers are offered a shoeshine, cold towel service and a drink. Quality mountain bikes are available for independent onshore trips.
Most passengers are British, American, Australian or German. Most are 50-plus.