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 Asia - China Yangtse River with Victoria Cruises

Along the River of Heaven

by Ursula and Eldrid Retief

A journey of a thousand miles begins with but a single step, says an old Chinese proverb. For Victoria Cruises, an American-managed company, that initial step involved the third longest river in the world – China’s spell-binding Yangtze.

The year was 1994 when the Victoria I proudly edged out of port, its operators “testing the waters”. Would the pull of the river’s magnificent scenery including its Three Gorges fill the ship with travelers eager to include the Yangtze as one of those must-see things to do along with The Great Wall and Forbidden City? Would the sleek new ship and the sizable investment pay off with a tide of increasing interest in what one famous poet called “The River of Heaven?”

The answer was quick in coming and today Victoria Cruises has a fleet of six ships. In April 2006, it launches the Victoria Anna, the largest ship in the company’s fleet with the highest passenger capacity and the most suites of all vessels on the Yangtze. The Victoria Anna has 154 cabins and suites.

The Three Gorges are still on the line's itineraries. But, now there are itineraries of four to nine days – the Grand Yangtze Discovery, Three Gorges Explorer and Three Gorges Highlights, and other seasonal specials.

“The Yangtze goes right through the heart of China, and it also runs through the heart of Chinese civilization, right through her history,” said James Pi, founder and president of New York-based Victoria Cruises. “We sell the total river from Chongqing to the Zhenjiang dock near Shanghai. From the Three Gorges and the Three Gorges Dam to Mt. Huangshan and Nanjing.”

The “feel” of China is evident in a myriad of ways aboard the ships ...... informative lectures, painting demonstrations, acupuncture demonstrations, Tai Chi and lessons in the Mandarin language, calligraphy and the making of silk kites.

Superbly-prepared Chinese cuisine and Western selections are served (during a single seating) in the Dynasty Dining Hall on each ship with American-style breakfasts, buffet luncheons, and Chinese banquet-style dinners including a welcome cocktail party and a sumptuous Captain’s farewell feast on the last evening. Afternoon tea is also offered to passengers.

In 2004, Victoria Cruises introduced a new generation of state-of-the-art sailing vessels with premier and classic ships. Premier ships (the Victoria Katarina, Victoria Empress, Victoria Prince, Victoria Queen and Victoria Star) are new or newly-rebuilt ships featuring enhanced facilities such as private balconies in every cabin, more spacious public areas, and a higher level of comfort, sophistication and décor throughout the ships.

In the Classic ship category is the Victoria Rose (rebuilt in 2001). Although smaller than the other ships in the fleet, the Victoria Rose maintains the same high quality standards of the company’s other vessels.

All vessels in the new generation of ships boast the same deluxe style and décor from tastefully appointed cabins and elegant atriums with sparkling chandeliers and gleaming woods to an overall décor throughout of American and European influences with Asian accents. Victoria Cruises’ vessels are completely air-conditioned, including all cabins. Each ship is smoke-free, except for a small, designated smoking area in the Yangtze Club as well as on the outside decks.

Each ship features Internet access, HBO and BBC broadcasts, the Dynasty Dining Room, beauty salon, fitness room, library, gift shop and elegant Yangtze Club for colorful cultural presentations, traditional fashion shows, and the sounds of traditional Chinese music. All ships maintain the highest international safety standards.

Intriguing Itineraries Along the Magnificent Yangtze River

Victoria Cruises offers a variety of itineraries of varying length, with journeys between four and nine days.

The nine-day Grand Yangtze Discovery itinerary brings travelers on an intriguing journey between Chongqing and Shanghai. In addition to the Three Gorges, highlights include exploring the city of Nanjing, with its historical significance as the seat of the imperial court by the first Ming emperor, and shore excursions to cloud-misted Mt. Huangshan, a beloved retreat of emperors and poets boasting unusual rock formations and cliffside pine trees.

The Three Gorges Highlights itinerary between Chongqing and Yichang encompasses the famed Three Gorges – Qutang, Wu and Xiling – showcasing dramatic scenery, deep valleys, verdant landscapes and stunning vistas; shore excursions of the Small Gorges with visits to either Daning River or Shennong Stream Gorges; Shibaozhai; and the Three Gorges Dam Site, the world’s largest construction project and an engineering marvel.

The eight-day Three Gorges Explorer program takes travelers roundtrip Chongqing-Yichang-Chongqing and offers different shore excursions in each direction. In addition to the Three Gorges and Three Gorges Dam, guests can visit Shibaozhai, known for its 400-year-old, 12-story wooden pagoda, the “ghost city” of Fengdu, Yichang, and New Zigui, a new city built to accommodate families relocated as a result of rising Yangtze waters.

For more information contact Victoria Cruises at (800) 348-8084, (212) 818-1680; fax (212) 818-9889 or send an e-mail to [email protected] or visit it at

Photo courtesy Victoria Cruises

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