Before you decide to go on a Yangzte Cruise there are some facts you need to know. On the Yangzte River you can either sail downstream from Chongqing to Yichang and that takes 3 nights or 4 days or you can sail upstream from Yichang to Chonqing in 4 nights or 5 days. The shore excursions are almost the same but you’ll find that the shorter downstream cruises are actually more expensive than the longer ones – this is because the Chinese themselves much prefer to do the downstream cruise as going with the flow of water brings good luck, so there is more demand for this version.
You can do a long cruise from Shanghai to Chongqing and that takes 8 nights and 9 days and if you have plenty of time and money it’s a great journey. The scenery between Shanghai and Wuhan is not very eventful but there are lots of interesting excursions and on board activities. Only one company does the long cruise, the American-owned Victoria Cruises which has the largest fleet on the Yangtze of 8 ships. The largest and newest ship is the Victoria Jenna which was built in 2009 with a capacity of just over 300 passengers. All the other Victoria ships carry around 200 passengers, their cabins all have balconies and range from 14 sq/m on the Victoria Anna to 19 sq/m on the Victoria’s Rose, Liana and Sophia. The on-board service is all run to Western standards with a Western Cruise Director and Western food with buffet lunches and silver service dinners.
My first visit to the Yangtze River was in 2001 when I sailed from Chongqing to Wuhan with one of the best cruise companies at the time, Regal China. They owned three ships, Princess Jeannie, Princess Elaine and Princess Sheena, all built in Germany for cruising on the Volga and Dnieper Rivers in Russia. When the USSR collapsed the 3 ships were swiftly sold to China for cruising on the Yangtze. The service on the ships was faultless but cabins were tiny at 9 sq/m and as they were originally for Russians the beds were like military bunk beds, very hard ! The partition walls between the cabins are very thin so expect to hear next door’s conversations. There were no bathtubs on the ships, and few of the cabins had a balcony.
Recently The Yangzte Explorer has upped standards on the river when the old and tired East Queen was transformed into a really luxurious ship. The cabins are the size of suites on other vessels at 32 sq/m with balcony, satellite TV and superb service.
Century Cruises has brought out 3 new ships in the last 3 years, and the other 2 in its fleet were both only built in 2003. Their cabins are between 22 and 25 sq/m, all with balconies, western buffets for breakfast and lunch and a Chinese banquet for dinner. Most of their ships even have a lift! They are a good deal cheaper than Victoria Cruises, but as they are mostly chartered by a large UK/US river cruise company, named after a famous race of Scandinavian explorers, they are not very well known.
Please bear in mind there are another cruise companies on the Yangtze River like President, Splendid, China Dragon Cruises, Chongqing New Century Cruises and even though the price is much better than aboard those ships I’ve mentioned above bear in mind these companies cater for Chinese travellers and you may end up as the only Westerner on the cruise.
Shore excursions on the Yangtze River can be changed at the last minute due to river conditions but usually you visit Fengdu the ‘ghost’ city, cruise through Qutang, Wu, Xiling Gorges, the Three Gorges, and cruise through the famous new dam and visit the museum there. Depending on local conditions, alternative shore excursions or day trips may be added –
– Shibaozhai , a 12-storey wooden temple dating from the Qing Dynasty, you can climb to the top up the narrow and steep staircase.
– Boat trip along the Daning River through the ‘Lesser’ Three Gorges which is a real treat as the water is crystal clear here and you get to see real life on the Yangtze.
– the Chinese Sturgeon Museum.
On the longer 8-night cruise you can visit Wuhan and you should visit the Provincial Museum with its huge collection of bronze chiming bells. If you stay long enough you can enjoy a free performance of replica bells which still produce a magnificent musical experience.
For more information about the Yangtze River Cruise please email Tara@ReadyClickAndGo.com