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A guide to Cambodia

28th September 2015

With so much to see and do, Southeast Asia is becoming an increasingly popular region for UK holidaymakers who wish to embrace an entirely new culture.

Countries such as Vietnam, Burma and Thailand offer a variety of amazing experiences, from their unique local cuisine to their fascinating cultures and beautiful surruounds. Southeast Asia has everything you could wish for in your annual river cruise.

Cambodia is another beautiful corner of Southeast Asia which can be experienced on a river cruise. If your desired itinerary features Cambodia, here are a few things you'll need to know before you go.

 

The History

Cambodia sits on the banks of the Gulf of Thailand and shares a border with Vietnam to the east, Laos to the north and Thailand to the north-west. Phnom Penh is the capital of Cambodia with a population of around 1.5 million.

Cambodia has experienced somewhat of a checkered past and has suffered significantly since the fall of Angkor in 1431. This was a vast empire unrivalled in the region and was the dominant force for over four centuries but since its abolition it has been plundered. Colonised by the French in the 19th century it came under the rule of the Khmer Rouge in 20th century.

Rising to prominence in 1968, this regime was known for its brutality and led by the notorious Cambodian revolutionary Pol Pot. Civil wars and conflicts with Vietnam took its toll on the country with the Khmer Rouge forcing the entire population of Phnom Penh to work as slaves in the countryside. Cambodia became effectively cut off from the outside world.

Not until United Nations-sponsored elections in 1993, did the country begin to recover. With the Cold War at an end, there was hope in Cambodia with Pol Pot being put on 'trial' as the reign of Khmer Rouge was almost over. By 2002, the country held its first-ever local elections and is now one of the most investor-friendly places in Asia.

Tourism has increased as people from all over the world travel to Cambodia to cruise the Mekong and see the beautiful Siem Reap.

siem reap cambodia

Customs and Traditions

Despite its hardships, the Cambodians are very proud people and over the years have developed a unique set of traditions which are from both Buddhist and Hindu influences.

Cambodians tend to greet each other with a friendly 'Chumreap Suor'. This normally involves a Sampeah which is a pressing of the palms together before the chest and then a slight bow before politely saying 'Chumreap Suor'. While this is the traditional greeting, it is acceptable for foreigners to shake hands with the locals.

On your travels, you will no doubt be treated to a traditional dance. There are many forms of dance in Cambodia but the most well known is Robam Apsara, first introduced during the 1960s but allowed to blossom over the generations.

phnom penh cambodia

Currency

Cambodia deals in the Cambodian riel with the current exchange being 6,458 riel to the pound.

Food and Drink

Like with all of its Southeast Asian neighbours, Cambodia has delicious local food. A long-running feature of Cambodian food is prahok, a local fish paste, which is used in a lot of dishes. It has a fairly strong flavour so it is something that may take a bit of time getting acclimatised to. One of the most well-known dishes in Cambodia is amok, a coconut milk curried meal made with chicken, fish or shrimp and slightly less spicy than its Thai counterpart.

Another favourite among the locals is prahok kties, a fried dish with belly pork.

Looking for something a little healthier? Than opt for machu kroung, a flavourful sweet and sour soup with fried lemongrass, saffron and a variety of meat and vegetables making up a very tasty broth.

Try the noodle soup known as k'tieu which is traditionally enjoyed at breakfast. This pork, beef or seafood soup can set you up for the day. If you have room leftover then indulge in some Cambodian sweets known as pong aime.

Mekong River

Stay Safe

Cambodia has become a much safer place for tourists over the past couple of decades. Today, it remains a friendly country to visit. With this in mind it is still advised to remain vigilant when in large cities, particularly at night. Petty theft such as bag snatching is fairly common in the capital so it is wise to take extra care and be discreet with possessions.

While the likelihood of being a victim of crime is relatively low it is always worth taking some spare money for emergencies.

With careful planning and a few essential know before you go tips, a cruise of Cambodia can be a once-in-a-lifetime experience that you will never ever forget.

Browse our Mekong River Cruises and sign up for our new Asia brochure today.


5 Reasons to river cruise with Emerald

7th September 2015

Launching in 2014, Emerald Waterways are a brand new UK based river cruise line with a fleet of five stunning state of the art ‘Star-Ships’. Cruising some of the best rivers in the world, Emerald Waterways have a fantastic selection of destination rich itineraries and provide guests with a deluxe and comfortable home away from home.

Designed with space and comfort in mind, Emerald’s Star-Ships provide a relaxing atmosphere for up to 182 guests. Every cabin comes fitted with a window so you never have to miss the idyllic river views, and with five types of contemporary cabins to choose from there is something to suit all tastes.

We were lucky enough to step onboard and experience the amazing quality of Emerald Waterways first hand and have compiled our top 5 favourite features for you below.

The Destinations

Danube River Germany

Emerald’s European cruises can take you along some of the continent’s most beautiful waterways including the Rhine, Danube and Saone. With ample opportunities to step ashore, join excursions and port talks, you’ll get a fantastic introduction to each new destination along the way. From historical landmarks to pretty villages and towns, the selection of ports are magnificent.

“I loved how in each of the destinations, not only would there be expert guides to help bring it all alive, but the personal radio headsets mean you can benefit from all their knowledge at your own pace” – Margaret McCorriston, Iglu River Cruise Product Manager.

Keep Active

Emerald Waterways Star-Ship pool

Keeping active is a breeze both on and off the ship during an Emerald River cruise. There are plenty of opportunities for walking as you explore each new destination along the way, with bikes available for those hoping to cover more ground. Onboard you’ll find a small gym, river view walking track and even a heated swimming pool.

Unwind

For quiet times you can enjoy the privacy of your comfortable cabin or suite. Check out the onboard book selection or catch a movie in the impressive onboard cinema.

“I was absolutely blown away by Emerald, I thought having seen many of the latest Ocean ships like Anthem of the seas, I’d seen it all – but the attention to detail, service, and innovations like the alfresco swimming pool by day that transforms into an intimate cinema by night were really impressive” – Dave Mills, Iglu Cruise Commercial Director

Keep Connected

Emerald Waterways

We are always on the move so staying connected is important to us. Free Wi-Fi onboard meant we could keep connected at all times and share our journey photos and updates straight away.

Eat Well

The Reflections restaurant kept us smiling throughout with delicious cuisine echoing the tastes of the rivers regions. Breakfast was either enjoyed at the daily self-service buffet or top deck in the sunshine. A resident Egg-Chef is also on hand providing speciality breakfast choices. Complimentary coffee and tea kept us fuelled for our excursions and we also enjoyed eating ashore to experience a taste of local life.



Have you been on an Emerald River cruise? Let us know your highlights in the comments below

Browse our Emerald Waterways river cruises

See the latest news for Emerald Waterways including two new ships!


How to plan your first river cruise

4th September 2015

Updated March 2017

 

Whether it be exploring the delights of Southeast Asia sailing along the Mekong or discovering the wonders of Europe on the Rhine, river cruises are a great way to see the world.

With carefully planned out itineraries and excellent hospitality onboard, venturing along one of the world's most famous rivers is a great way to enjoy a holiday. It could even be a break from the traditional beach holiday or city tour that you tend to go on. On these cruises, not only will you visit some beautiful places but also see some glorious sights en route.

If you are planning your first river cruise, there are probably a few things you will want to know before stepping aboard. Here is our handy guide to your first river cruise adventure.

 

Picking your location

river cruise far east


The first thing you need to be considering is where you want to go and there are a huge amount of cruises to choose from spanning the globe. You can pick from Asia, Africa and Europe with all the trips ranging from 7 night voyages to 16 night adventures.

There is a wide selection to suit all tastes. Why not explore the likes of Holland, Germany and Austria with a cruise of the Rhine or see a different side of Spain and Portugal with a trip along the Douro? Eastern Europe can be covered with a Danube Explorer holiday which visits other nations such as Hungary and Slovakia.

You can travel a bit further to the likes of Vietnam and Cambodia to get a flavour of Southeast Asia. Even sail along the mighty Mississippi discovering the southern states of the US, there is simply so much choice available.

You will need to be aware of the travelling time involved. European cruises will include either flights or Eurostar travel to your first port of call while the longer cruises will involve longer trips to reach your starting point. So you need to decide what type of holiday you want to experience.

Read more in our blog about exotic vs European river cruising.

 

How long to go for?

Each cruise is tailored with a special itinerary in place, ensuring that you get to see all the best bits during your river cruise. The majority of European cruises span seven nights, including either flights or Eurostar connections, making them very manageable. The further afield trips in the likes of Asia, Africa and beyond are much longer. The latter gives you the chance to recover from long flights and ensure you have overcome jet lag before you set sail. Many of them will include a couple of nights stay in a hotel, giving you the opportunity to not only recharge the batteries but experience cities such as Siem Reap or Beijing before hopping on the cruise.

What to pack

what-to-pack-river-cruise


This will no doubt be one of the first thoughts that crosses your mind when preparing for your first river cruise. You will get many chances to step off the ship and explore plus there will be many chances for dressing up and donning your smart attire.

Life aboard a river cruise is a laid back and casual affair but there are a number of formal evenings where a dress code may be required - so pack your best glad rags for these occasions. We also recommend low heeled shoes and comfortable footwear for when exploring the towns and cities during your holiday. Something for rain or shine is advisable and always pack sun block no matter the time of year.

Most of the ships are are fitted with onboard Wi-Fi so you can stay connected and upload photos whilst you sail. Ask your cruise sales expert about plug sockets in case you need to take an adaptor for your appliances.

Food and drink

food and drink river cruise


You will be treated to some of the finest food around as all cruises serve breakfast, lunch and dinner at no extra charge. However, you may want to take a bit of extra money to treat yourself while ashore or to dine in a speciality restaurant.

You can not go to the likes of Southeast Asia or mainland Europe without trying some of the local delicacies. So while all food onboard is catered for, don't miss out on the delicious cuisine you can find at port.

Any river cruise will be one to remember, make sure you are thoroughly prepared before setting sail and ask your agent for more information.

 

Browse our river cruises or find out exactly what's included in your river cruise.


Things to do and see in Amsterdam

1st September 2015

Amsterdam is one of the most unique cities in the whole of Europe.

Interspersed with canals and a hugely liberal way of life, the Dutch capital tends to be high up on many a bucket list. Originally developed as a small fishing village in the 12th century, Amsterdam has turned into one of the most cosmopolitan, hippest places you're likely to find. It even boasts a small medieval centre which has been recognised as a UNESCO World Heritage Site.

Many River cruises of both the Danube and the Rhine begin in Amsterdam offering the perfect way to start your adventure by exploring this magnificent city.

So what is there to do for a day or two in Amsterdam? Here are our suggestions of what's not to be missed before you set sail through the rest of Europe.

Rijksmuseum

Rijksmuseum museum Amsterdam

Start your day with a trip to the Rijksmuseum, the largest of its kind in the whole of the Netherlands. Opened in 1800, it began life as home to a collection of art from all over the country. It moved around quite a bit during its early days before finally relocating to its current home in 1885, a building designed by Dutch architect Petrus J.H. Cuypers in a neo-Renaissance style.

Many recognise Rijksmuseum as being one of the most breathtaking in all of Europe and it is in the enviable position of displaying some world renowned pieces of art. Amongst the amazing collection of around 8,000 objects is Rembrandt's 'Night Watch' as well as several paintings by Vermeer, van Dyck and Jan Steen.

You will also be able to visit the newest exhibits following the museum's ten-year renovation, which was completed in April 2013.

It is open throughout the year with entrance charged at around €17.50 (£12).

Van Gogh Museum

Right at the top of many people's to-do lists when they come to Amsterdam is visiting the Van Gogh Museum. Honouring one of the most well-known and popular artists the world has ever seen, this is a showcase of Vincent van Gogh's (1853-1890) very best work. From paintings to drawings to letters, no stone is left unturned when discovering his incredible artwork.

Opened in 1973, the museum has quickly become one of the most popular in Europe with 1.6 million people visiting it every year. There are over 200 paintings and 500 drawings of Van Gogh's housed here, along with other works from fellow Impressionists and Post-impressionists around at the same time.

The museum is charted chronologically representing different periods in Van Gogh's life - The Netherlands, Paris, Arles, Saint-Remy and Auvers-sur-Oise. They are set in a wonderful space meaning you can take your time simply admiring this great collection of work.

Open throughout the year admission is around €17.

Oude Kerk

If you are looking for more of a spiritual experience then head to De Oude Kerk (The Old Church). Ironically situated in Amsterdam's Red Light District, this huge, monumental church is a symbol of the national character of Dutch Protestantism. It also symbolises the tradition and the present-day of the city.

Standing in the city since 1213, Oude Kerk is one of the very few Protestant churches with unique architecture. From the sculpted misericords in the choir to the impressive gravestones that line its floor, it really is a sight to behold. The focal point of the church is the 17th century grand organ which plays a major part in a series of concerts throughout the year.

Oude Kerk opens all year round with admission prices starting from €5.

Anne Frank House

Canal at Anne Frank house


Tucked in an unassuming Amsterdam suburb is the home of Anne Frank. The building at Prinsengracht 263 became a residence synonymous with the second world war and the Nazis' occupation of the city. Anne lived there for over two years with her family writing a diary to account the goings-on of the time.

Being sheltered there, they were exposed in August 1944 and deported to various concentration camps, with only Otto Frank of the group surviving the war and going on to have his daughter's diary published. In 1960, the home was converted into a museum and visitors are able to see into the exact room where the Frank family hid from the oppression of the Nazis.

While the room remains empty, visitors will still feel the atmosphere of the time.

Amsterdam Brown Cafes and Canal Walks

Amsterdam canals


With a long day of sightseeing behind you, it is time to relax a little and unwind and this is where Amsterdam comes into its own. There are over 1,500 restaurants, cafes and bars dotted across the city but for a true taste of local way of life is to visit one of the many brown cafes.

They are a quintessential side of Amsterdam culture. Known as bruine kroeg in Dutch, they are characterised by their dark wood interiors and smoke-stained walls. Relax with a wide selection of beers and borrel hapjes (typical bar snacks), before moving on to a restaurant later on in the evening.

Crown your day in Amsterdam with a stroll under the stars as you wander through the canals, just keep an eye out for hurried cyclists. Biking is a very popular form of transport in the city.

Visit Amsterdam on a relaxing Rhine river cruise. Browse our Rhine River cruise deals


Vietnam - Everything you need to know

25th August 2015

Southeast Asia is becoming a hugely popular destination for British holidaymakers.

Thailand and Singapore have typically become hotspots for the younger generation, Cambodia, Indonesia and Laos are favourites among backpackers, but there is one nation that has crossed over all different tastes - Vietnam.

From its stunning temples and pagodas to the glorious scenery around Sa Pa to cruising on the Mekong River, Vietnam is such a wonderful country to visit. So what do you need to know about this corner of Southeast Asia? Read on for our Vietnam fact file.

Hue Vietnam

The Country

Vietnam is situated on the furthest eastern point of the Indochina Peninsula and is bordered by China, Laos, Cambodia and shares a coastline of the South China Sea. It has a population of around 90 million with the Kinh people making up the majority of its ethnic demographic.

The country was originally part of Imperial China but became independent following victory against the Chinese in the Battle of Bach Dang River in AD 938. Over the years Vietnam has been occupied by the French and Japanese before expelling the former in the First Indochina War.

Following the end of the Vietnam War in 1975 both North and South Vietnam were reunited with Hanoi being named as the capital city. Nowadays it welcomes people from all over the globe as they visit historic Citadel in Hue, the Long Son Pagoda in Nha Trang and, of course, the mighty Mekong.

Mekong River

Customs and Tradition

The Vietnamese are hospitable, proud people and over 4,000 years of civilisation has developed a number of customs and traditions. One of which is to recite a myth which says they descended from the dragon lord Lac Long Quan and the female heavenly angel Au Co.

Such is their hospitality that should you be invited into their homes at meal times they will share whatever food is available. They are also prone to providing guests with the best portions as a gesture of close friendship. If you happen to be a visitor in their home you should come prepared with a gift.

Religion plays a huge part of Vietnamese culture with the majority of people in the country practising Vietnamese folk religion. This form is not an organised religious system but more local worship traditions devoted to the than, translated as spirits and gods.

Currency

Vietnam deals in the Vietnamese Dong with the current exchange rate having 33,654 dong to the pound.

Food

Vietnamese food is one of the huge plus points about visiting the region. This is quintessential Southeast Asian cooking and is a delicious treat when rounding a full day of sightseeing or river cruising.

Make sure to try Pho, a noodle soup which is a staple of Vietnam containing vegetables and either beef or chicken, Ca Kho To, a caramelised fish dish served in a clay pot, Banh xeo, a savoury sizzling or even Banh Cam, one of the most beloved desserts the country has to offer.

Rice Fields in Vietnam

Stay Safe

While Vietnam is a relatively safe place for tourists you need to be aware of thieves and pickpockets, especially at some of the nation's most famous sights. Areas such as Ho Chi Minh City, Hanoi and Nha Trang are home to thieves who snatch handbags, mobile phones, cameras etc. Be sure to do your research as the country is susceptible to scamming so be careful when shopping and eating in places which don't have the price written down. Make sure you take some extra cash with you to cover for any unforeseen eventualities.

Sign up for our new Asia brochure for more information about cruising all over this exotic continent.

Experience Vietnam


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