While I’ve yet to detect the telltale aroma of wet paint, there’s no denying Emerald Harmony is a fresh and exciting new addition to the Mekong River.
My wife and I have joined 73 fellow passengers heading up the river from Vietnam to Cambodia. It’s only Harmony’s fifth voyage since being launched at the end of August and our eight-day cruise is part of Evergreen’s 13-day ‘Majestic Mekong Discoverer’ itinerary.
My shipmates are an eclectic crew, coming from the UK, Canada, Spain and Japan, but the majority are Aussies. Ages range from the mid 40’s to the mid 80s, highlighting the ever-decreasing demographic attracted to river cruising.
We kicked off the trip with a couple of days in Ho Chi Minh, a bustling, sprawling, totally enthralling city of 12 million people. This gave us time to visit the somewhat haunting Cu Chi tunnels and sample some delicious street food before embarkation.
But it’s the ship we’ve come to see and after just a 15-minute drive from our hotel, we catch our first glimpse of the ship we’ll call home for the next week.
Our Panorama Balcony Suite is on the fourth deck and is bright, spacious and comfortable. There’s Evergreen’s trademark drop down window which allows you to bring the outside inside and the big bed is super comfortable…even if you almost need a stepladder to climb into it.
With any new and large piece of machinery there’s bound to be teething troubles. An irksome light sensor occasionally turns the bathroom into a disco, but we’re big fans of the large shower and ‘magic button’ which illuminates the main mirror.
Food is a major part of any cruise experience and aboard Harmony there’s always an ample sufficiency, as my mum used to say. Dinners are often ‘themed’ so you’ll try French, Chinese and local cuisine during the course of your cruise. Fortunately, there’s a pool and a gym where you can work off the excess.
The daily excursions are experiential and fascinating glimpses into local life, calling variously at bird sanctuaries, pagodas, a silk factory and a village renowned for its silversmiths.
Touring the daily market in Kien An Cung, where all manner of animals, vegetables and everything in between are on sale, doesn’t get more authentic. The locals are seemingly as curious about you as you are about them and the riverbank is lined with smiling, waving onlookers fascinated by this sleek new vessel passing them by.
All of the above are good reasons for you to consider this trip for your next holiday…but the piece de resistance is the crew.
Starting with Mirko, the extremely helpful cruise director and filtering down to his ever-smiling staff, you’ll feel like a part of their family and parting will be such sweet sorrow.
This is my second Evergreen cruise (the first was through southern France) and apart from being on an entirely different continent, the smaller, more intimate nature of Harmony is a tantalising option.
Traveltalk is a guest of Evergreen Cruises & Tours.
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