Pandaw River Expeditions Review: Cruise Ship Guide, Itineraries, Bookings & Deals

Pandaw River Expeditions is a renowned cruise company specializing in immersive river expeditions that offer travelers a unique and authentic way to explore some of the world’s most remote and fascinating destinations. With a rich history dating back to its founding in 1995, Pandaw has established itself as a leader in the field of river exploration, earning a reputation for excellence, authenticity, and unparalleled adventure. The story of Pandaw River Expeditions begins with its founder, Paul Strachan, a pioneer in the world of river cruising who was inspired by his love for Southeast Asia and its rich cultural heritage. In 1995, Paul launched the company’s first expedition along the Irrawaddy River in Myanmar, setting the stage for what would become a legacy of exploration and discovery.

In a Nutshell…

  1. Leading Asian River Cruise Company: Pandaw has been a pioneer in Asian river cruising for over 25 years, operating 17 beautiful ships across 6 countries.
  2. Luxury Small Ship Cruises: Pandaw offers luxury small ship river cruises in Asia, exploring captivating waterways.
  3. Destinations Covered:
    • India: Pandaw’s routes in Northern India cover the Lower Ganges, the Upper Ganges (up to Varanasi), and soon the Brahmaputra.
    • Vietnam & Cambodia: The Mekong River reveals a fascinating tapestry of river life, contrasting bustling Vietnam, tranquil Cambodia, and charming Laos.
    • Laos: Explore the scenic Upper Mekong River with its lush jungles, cliffs, caves, and captivating cities like Luang Prabang and Vientiane.
  4. Combo Expeditions: Pandaw offers exciting combination cruise itineraries for an enriched experience.
  5. Land & River Tours: Extend your adventure with specially crafted land excursions pre and post-cruise.
  6. Solo Traveler-Friendly: Cabins with no single supplement allow solo travelers to explore breathtaking destinations comfortably.
  7. Educational Adventures for Kids: Under 18s can join an Asian river cruise during school holidays.
  8. Rivers Covered:
    • Brahmaputra River
    • Ganges River
    • Halong Bay & Red River
    • Mekong River
    • Irrawaddy & Chindwin Rivers
  9. Handcrafted Luxury Ships: Pandaw’s 17 beautifully crafted ships, finished in brass and teak, are works of art.
  10. Legacy and Revival: Celebrating 29 years since its revival, Pandaw continues to explore the great rivers of Asia with passion and expertise.

History of the Pandaw River Cruises

Pandaw River Expeditions, renowned for its high-quality expedition-style river cruises in Southeast Asia, has a rich history dating back to its founding in 1995. The company’s growing fleet comprises traditional-style boats built in Myanmar, Vietnam, and Laos, replicating the 19th-century Scottish-crafted paddle steamers that once plied Burma’s rivers. With a focus on delivering solid, authentic, and eminently comfortable experiences, Pandaw offers a range of immersive itineraries, including those that venture into remote areas, particularly in Myanmar and Laos.

Pandaw’s roots trace back to the reconstruction of the original Clyde-built steamer, Pandaw 1947, which was one of the last boats built for the original Irrawaddy Flotilla Company founded by Scots merchants in 1865. The company was founded by Scotsman and Burma historian Paul Strachan, who has been instrumental in offering river expeditions on both the Irrawaddy and Chindwin rivers, staying true to the mission of building smaller ships to provide unique river adventures in remote areas, especially in Myanmar and Laos.

Pandaw is known for its unique river expeditions, offering immersive experiences in remote areas of Southeast Asia. The company’s commitment to building smaller ships, even as other companies build larger vessels, reflects its dedication to providing personalized and immersive travel experiences tailored to the needs of every traveler. The company’s exploration of the Upper Mekong River through Laos and into China, as well as its sailings on the Red River in Vietnam, exemplify its pioneering spirit and commitment to exploring uncharted waters.

Pandaw’s itineraries focus on local exploration, offering passengers the opportunity to interact with local communities, visit villages, temples, and historical sites, and immerse themselves in the culture and history of the destinations they visit. Each day is filled with excursions that provide a deeper understanding of the local way of life, and expert guides sail along to provide insights into the destination and local culture, enhancing the overall travel experience.

The company’s riverboats, with an ultra-shallow draft, offer spacious and comfortable wood-paneled nautical-style cabins, providing a relaxing environment for passengers. Pandaw’s commitment to inclusivity is reflected in its all-inclusive offerings, which cover meals, local bottled water, guide services, entrance fees, and gratuities for crew, ensuring a hassle-free and immersive travel experience for passengers.

Pandaw’s commitment to providing unparalleled river expeditions, its dedication to local exploration and authentic experiences, and its vision for delivering unique and immersive travel experiences, position it as a leading provider of culturally enriching river expeditions. The company’s remarkable journey and its dedication to innovation and excellence showcase its vision for the future of river cruising in Southeast Asia.

In conclusion, Pandaw River Expeditions’ legacy as a pioneer in river expeditions is defined by its commitment to authentic, immersive, and inclusive travel experiences, exemplifying its dedication to exploring remote areas and providing unparalleled river expeditions.

Destinations of Pandaw River Cruises

  1. India:
    • Pandaw launched three new routes in Northern India, covering the main waterways:
      • Lower Ganges (Hooghly): Explore the historical and cultural richness along the lower Ganges River.
      • Upper Ganges (up to Varanasi): Journey to the spiritual heart of India, where ancient traditions thrive.
      • Brahmaputra: Soon, Pandaw will sail this mighty river, revealing its scenic wonders and cultural heritage.
  2. Vietnam & Cambodia:
    • The Mekong River weaves a mesmerizing tapestry of river life:
      • Vietnam Delta: Bustling and vibrant, it contrasts with…
      • Cambodia: Tranquil and serene, where ancient temples and floating villages await.
      • Laos: A charming cultural contrast, with cities like Luang Prabang and Vientiane nestled along the Mekong’s banks.
  3. Laos:
    • The Upper Mekong River in Laos is a scenic gem:
      • Lush jungles, dramatic cliffs, and hidden caves create an enchanting backdrop.
      • Explore captivating cities like Luang Prabang and Vientiane.
      • Charming villages along the river offer glimpses into local life.
  4. Combo Expeditions:
    • Pandaw introduces exciting combination cruise itineraries:
      • India: A grand tour sailing 19 or 21 nights along the glorious Ganges and mighty Brahmaputra rivers.
      • Inclusive of flights and transfers between Kolkata and Guwahati, this combo cruise lets you experience India’s waterways aboard timeless colonial vessels.
  5. Land & River Tours:
    • Extend your adventure with specially crafted land excursions pre and post-cruise.
    • Discover more of the region’s culture, history, and natural beauty beyond the riverbanks.
  6. Solo Traveler-Friendly:
    • Pandaw offers cabins with no single supplement, allowing solo travelers to explore breathtaking destinations comfortably.
  7. Educational Adventures for Kids:
    • Share an educational adventure during school holidays with your children on an Asian river cruise.
  8. Rivers Covered:
    • Pandaw operates its own luxury small ship river cruise expeditions on:
      • Mekong River (Vietnam and Cambodia)
      • Red River and Halong Bay (Vietnam)
      • Upper Mekong (Laos & Thailand)
      • Irrawaddy & Chindwin Rivers (Burma)
      • Ganges River (India)
      • Brahmaputra River (opening in 2020)
  9. Handcrafted Luxury Ships:
    • Pandaw’s 17 beautifully crafted ships, finished in brass and teak, are works of art.
  10. Legacy and Revival:
    • Celebrating 29 years since its revival, Pandaw continues to explore the great rivers of Asia with passion and expertise.


From its inception, Pandaw has been committed to providing travelers with an authentic and immersive experience that goes beyond the typical tourist trail. Unlike traditional cruise ships, Pandaw’s fleet consists of small, shallow-draft vessels that are specially designed to navigate the remote and often challenging waterways of Asia and beyond. This allows guests to access hidden gems and off-the-beaten-path destinations that are inaccessible to larger ships, providing a truly unique and unforgettable travel experience.

One of the hallmarks of Pandaw River Expeditions is its dedication to preserving the cultural and natural heritage of the regions it visits. The company works closely with local communities and conservation organizations to ensure that its operations have a positive impact on the places it explores. From supporting local artisans and sustainable tourism initiatives to partnering with conservation projects and wildlife sanctuaries, Pandaw is committed to responsible travel that benefits both travelers and the destinations they visit.

Pandaw’s fleet of ships is designed with comfort and convenience in mind, featuring spacious cabins, elegant lounges, and open-air decks where guests can relax and take in the stunning scenery. Each ship is staffed by a team of experienced and knowledgeable crew members who are dedicated to providing personalized service and ensuring that every aspect of the journey exceeds guests’ expectations.

One of the highlights of a Pandaw River Expedition is the opportunity to immerse oneself in the local culture and customs of the destinations visited. Each itinerary is carefully curated to include unique cultural experiences, such as visits to remote villages, encounters with indigenous tribes, and immersive cultural performances. Guests have the chance to learn about the history, traditions, and way of life of the people who call these regions home, gaining insights and perspectives that are impossible to obtain through traditional tourism.

In addition to cultural immersion, Pandaw River Expeditions also offers a range of activities and excursions that cater to travelers of all interests and abilities. From guided hikes and wildlife safaris to cooking classes and temple visits, there is something for everyone to enjoy. Whether exploring ancient ruins, cruising through pristine wilderness areas, or simply relaxing on deck and watching the world go by, Pandaw offers a truly unforgettable journey of discovery.

In conclusion, Pandaw River Expeditions is more than just a cruise company – it is a gateway to adventure, culture, and exploration. With its commitment to authenticity, sustainability, and responsible travel, Pandaw offers travelers a unique opportunity to experience the world in a way that is both meaningful and memorable. Whether cruising along the mighty rivers of Asia or venturing into the remote corners of the globe, Pandaw invites travelers to embark on a journey of discovery unlike any other.

– Reviewed by Contributing Author Silvester Thomson

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N.B. – The information on this review has been compiled by contributing author and Cruise Expert Silvester Thomson for and is provided “as is” for the convenience of online readers. The Sources come from personal opinions, online research on official and unofficial websites, and in some cases with the help of AI generated content. It should not be taken as fact, as it can be mistaken or altered by future ship modifications from the cruise line done after review. does not and cannot verify all information and should not be taken as granted fact. All readers must take measures to find reliable facts by their travel agent or from the official page of the cruise line to verify any doubts.

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