Pandaw to Restart Cruises Next September

The pioneer of small-ship river expeditions in Southeast Asia has been rescued from the brink of closure.

The RV Kalay Pandaw sailing past Myanmar’s Mingun Pagoda. (Courtesy of Pandaw Expeditions)

Fans of the long-running river cruise line Pandaw Expeditions have some good news to cheer about in the year ahead. The Strachan family, who own the company, released a statement on Friday saying they “have managed to secure further finance to cover the lay-up and vessel refurbishment costs for a restart next autumn.” This development comes a month after the Strachans announced the closure of Pandaw due to a lack of funds from the travel restrictions brought on by the Covid-19 pandemic, as well as the ongoing political crisis in Myanmar. At the time, Pandaw said it had “worked tirelessly over the past year to find new investors or other forms of finance to carry the company through, but without success.” News that Pandaw would cease operations was met with hundreds of goodwill messages, while a number of potential investors expressed their interest in acquiring the brand, but the Strachans plan to keep the business in the family.

Pandaw’s founder Paul Strachan said, “If it were not for the incredible support from the members of the Pandaw community, with so many kind words evoking memories of incredible experiences with us, I think we would have thrown in the towel. A big thank you to all our supporters for raising morale after nearly two years of hell.”

The company says bookings for the 2022/23 season have been strong, with many departures sold out. Pandaw destinations such as Cambodia and India are already open to vaccinated travelers, with Laos and Vietnam set to follow in January 2022 ahead of a broader reopening toward the middle of the year. Next September will see Pandaw resume operations on waterways across Southeast Asia and northern India.

Pandaw was first established in 1995 when Paul and Roser Strachan revived the Irrawaddy Flotilla Company to offer cruises on its namesake river in Myanmar. The brand’s first vessel, an original British-colonial era Irrawaddy Flotilla steamer called the Pandaw, provided the template for the heritage-focused design of its subsequent ships built from teakwood and brass. Pandaw’s fleet has since grown to number 17 vessels, and over the years its operations have expanded from Myanmar to Cambodia, Vietnam, Laos, and then India, where the company returned to the Ganges in 2019 after a decade-long hiatus.

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