Luxury cruise and safari operator Sanctuary Retreats has taken delivery of its new boutique river cruise ship Sanctuary Ananda ahead of schedule.
Such is the strength of demand for Sanctuary Ananda from both trade and consumers that Sanctuary Retreats has also announced that the 2016 programme for the Sanctuary Ananda will go on sale earlier than originally planned, and will now be available from 15th October 2014.
Designed by two Burmese brothers who oversaw the 18-month-long construction at a local shipyard, the vessel is named after the Ananda Temple in Bagan, while her name translates as ‘extreme happiness’ in Sanskrit. The ship has been built by a team of expert craftsmen who used local techniques, indigenous woods, handmade fabrics and traditional lacquer ware, combined with modern technology to ensure she can navigate Myanmar’s rivers.
The Burmese theme is reflected throughout the ship, which features local Myanmar fabrics and artefacts and specially commissioned art in its restaurants, sundeck, and air-conditioned Kansi panorama lounge and Burma Bar. Ananda’s 21 air-conditioned suites will also be influenced by Burmese design, as well as offering a private balcony with floor-to-ceiling windows. In total, the vessel will accommodate 42 guests.
US chef and restaurant owner Michelle Bernstein has been contracted to create a selection of signature Burmese Fusion dishes and a ‘World Travel Comfort Food Plates’ menu for the ship’s restaurants. Bernstein’s cuisine will be offered alongside other traditional Burmese meals, which will be available in the Talifoo restaurant, the Bagan deck, or in the al fresco Mindoon restaurant.
“Sanctuary Ananda brings a new level of luxury to Myanmar’s rivers and we are delighted with the high standards of craftsmanship and beautiful décor delivered by the Burmese shipbuilders,” said Marco Rosa, Sanctuary Retreats’ senior vice president for worldwide sales and marketing. “The ship’s cruises appeal to a high-end clientele who have a genuine interest in the cultural richness of the country and who like their travel agent or tour operator to create bespoke packages combining the cruise with other experiences on land.”
Before beginning her maiden voyage from Mandalay to Bagan in Burma (also known as Myanmar) on 15 November, Sanctuary Ananda will host more than 100 travel agents and tour operators on a series of inaugural cruises.
Sanctuary Ananda will then offer three-, four- and seven-night itineraries on the Irrawaddy River, which flows from the north to the south of Myanmar, and include a range of shore excursions and cultural experiences. The vessel will also sail ten- and 11-night voyages on the Chindwin River to Homalin, the Upper Irrawaddy to Bhamo, and cruise between Yangon and Mandalay. Highlights will include a sunset champagne boat ride at U Bein Bridge and a candlelit riverbank dinner.
Guests will be accompanied by local guides to ensure that they experience the culture and traditions of the Burmese people as they visits sites such as Shwezigon Pagoda, the temples of Bagan, the Sale monasteries, and remote villages. Local experts will also share their customs and stories.