Two years ago we booked our first river cruise we had seen advertised in a local newspaper.  This was the Avalon Myanmar Cruise, sailing in February 2018.  Previously our overseas holidays were usually based on bus tours or rental car, but this Myanmar cruise has definitely changed our minds.

Upon stepping off the plane at Yangon we were met by our guide Dorothy who took us to our very nice Hotel in Sule where we stayed for 2 nights, then flew to Bagan with Dorothy & other ‘shipmates’ to be met by Mark Nicholls, our Tour Director, then travelled by coach to our beautiful home for the next 10 days.

We wish to say that Mark was exceptional in his knowledge of the country we were in, and making the voyage the best holiday we have ever had.  He, Dorothy & all the crew bent over backwards to make us all feel special. Mark’s attention to detail was evident. Every day was full of interesting places to see and people to meet. Some evenings we had entertainment, also talks and dvd’s on Myanmar life.  We loved our holiday and would go back again but there is a big wide world out there to visit. 

We have no hesitation in recommending Mark and his company True Vacations to anyone wishing to book a cruise – it is the best way to travel.  You’ll be treated like royalty.

We wish Mark all the best for his new endeavour.

Annie & Peter Deakin

In my observation there are Tourists, Travellers and True Travellers. True travelers are those people who are one step ahead of everyone else, who welcomes adventure to places not yet discovered by the masses. If you are that type of person or have clients that are those type of people then you need to send them to Mark Nicholls and True Vacations to experience the beauty of Myanmar (formerly known as Burma). 

For me, it was the most magical trip of my life! The people are lovely! The landscape (full of Pagodas) are stunning and having Mark introduce us to the people and culture, made this trip fascinating! The ship was gorgeous. The staterooms are large with all amenities of luxury. Safety was (and is) not an issue. Not only did I feel safe as a single female traveler, I felt empowered to explore the upper Irrawaddy river – truly parts unknown! The key was the overall organization, Kudos to all!

Nancy Paredes,
Proudly a TRUE traveller  

Nancy Paredes

We booked a tour of Myanmar with True Vacations. From the moment we landed at Yangon airport we were made to feel like VIP’s! The coaches were new and comfortable, hotels were first rate and our local guides were well-informed, very friendly and efficient. It was a perfect vacation!

Dr Jeffery Gifford

Travelling is a passion of mine, I love touring the world and I’ve seen lots of it from all different angles. I have had lots of good experiences as well as the not so good. As I set-up and take my tour groups around this beautiful planet, one thing that I always notice are people and operators that pay attention to detail. Mark Nicholls of True Vacations is an excellent example of someone who goes “the extra mile” to make you feel comfortable and appreciated. Mark definately crosses his “T’s” and dots his “i’s.” Mark is very enthusiastic, knowledgeable and makes you feel like one of his friends and understands how to to help you get the most from your travel experience. No one does it better!

Peter Banks

Yeah Mark!

I had the privilege of experiencing the world of Myanmar. I appreciate the time and effort you put into taking care of our group. You made sure that we were comfortable and well taken care of! We had a great tour guide who was well educated with interesting information and he made sure we were safe at all times! 

The Land, the water and the people of Myanmar are beautiful. It was amazing to see some similarities from the Myanmar Culture and my own Diné Culture, which I have grown to love. The Art works of the buildings were incredible and very meticulous in their designs. The waters of the Irrawaddy River were sacred and it was a treat to see the river dolphins!

Again, I appreciate your time and effort that you put in to accommodating our group! I do look forward to another trip to serve the children and people of Myanmar!

Ashley Smith

I am a moderately well traveled individual, having been in 55 countries and every continent except Antarctica.  I’ve benefited from the expertise of many fine tour guides, tour directors and cruise directors, but one stands out from the rest of the pack: Mark Nicholls. 

In 2018 I took a trip to Myanmar and cruised the Upper Irrawaddy River with Mark as our Cruise Director.  It was the best trip of my life!  This was due in large part to Mark’s excellent organization and people skills as well as his attention to detail.  He saw to it that this was a trip of a lifetime, seeing to our every need and whim. Mark was also excellent at “winging it,” throwing in additional novel experiences as unforeseen circumstances arose. 

For example, we were to have an evening witnessing local traditional dances with accompanying music, etc. The season had been particularly dry and the Irrawaddy was running low, exposing various sandbars, dunes, etc.  Leave it to Mark! While we had been scheduled to go ashore for this, Mark said “Hey guys, let’s dock next to a sandbar and have our event there!” It made all the difference in the world. What could have been a dry presentation evolved into an experience with all of us joining in on the dancing and whooping–all on a sandbar in the middle of the Upper Irrawaddy River! A joyous night for all. 

Mark’s knowledge of the ship, the country and its people, as well as the needs of his travelers, was unparalleled in my experience.  He saw to every detail–no nuance escaped his attention. 

On a personal note, I required some medication to address some physical discomfort that I was experiencing.  At the very next docking, Mark commandeered a local taxi and got me to a pharmacy for the required elixir.  Situation solved, no problem for Mark. 

His respect for the people who worked for him, as well as the devotion he showed his passengers, was in evidence throughout the trip.  What a terrific Cruise Director, what a terrific guide, what a genuinely wonderful human being!

Gary W. Harner

Mingalabar Mark,
Greetings from Yangon! 
Andrzej, Hans, Robert and myself would like to thank you once more for having made our Myanmar adventure super special. We admire you for your constant enthusiasm (8 months in a row!), detailed information and building and maintaining a product that should be the absolute pride of Avalon.

This was an unforgettable and inspiring experience for us and you made us want to taste more of it: Mekong & Ganges are now on our wish list.
We wish you all the best for the future and will be in touch again.
Best regards from all of us,


Hi Mark:
It has been just about a year since we met you on the Irrawaddy River Cruise and have thought about you and the trip many times.
Each time I buy a new jar of Tumeric I remember your interesting lecture about various healthy things to eat and must tell you I thought it was the most interesting talk on the ship.
Know you meet many people on your journeys, but we just wanted to let you know you made a difference in the enjoyment of our trip and would love to hear what you decided to do.
Warm regards,
Ralph & Lynn Davis

Ralph & Lynn

Dear Mark,
We had the pleasure of sailing with you through the Mekong in October 2012.  It was one of the most memorable experiences we’ve shared in our travels together. 
    We thought we’d get in touch to let you know that we are again traveling with Avalon, this time in Myanmar starting March 28th in Yangon. Looking for information online, we found that you have been the cruise director on that itinerary and we are all excited to see you again because you did such a great job making sure that 2012 trip went smoothly and was so educational and fulfilling
    We can’t tell you how excited we are.  It is going to be wonderful to see you again and to travel with you.  Thanks and see you soon.
From, Ken Schwinn (for Susan, Denice and Adam)

Ken Schwinn (for Susan, Denice and Adam)

Thank you for a wonderful tour cruise on the Irrawaddy.  We enjoyed it every bit as much as the cruise with you on the Mekong.
I love the way that you lead tours.  You communicate beautifully, your knowledge and understanding of the culture. You are fond of the locals and you helped us get to know this wonderful country and its delightful people.
It was great to see you again. I would travel anywhere with you!