A Traveller’s Smile: 4 Days Great Yangtze Cruise on the Yangtze River
China is a vast land full of myth and wonders. This is the top reason why Mr. Gautam Sen (over 70 years old) decided to travel solo for 13 days in China.
I am Stephanie Kuang, Mr. Gautam Sen’s China travel consultant. We have interacted with each other throughout and customized a 13 days’ itinerary covering Beijing, Lanzhou, Dunhuang, Xian, Guilin, Chongqing, a Yangtze River Cruise from Chongqing to Yichang on board the Victoria Anna, a short sightseeing in Yichang and lastly Shanghai. After the tour, Mr. Gautam Sen shared three detailed and interesting travel stories with me and one of them was Yangtze River cruise experience. Follow him for inspiration and ideas.
18th April - Boarding Victoria Anna at Chongqing Chaotianmen Port
I landed in Chongqing in the morning and took a half day city tour to Eling Park, Ciqikou Ancient Town and Three Gorges Museum. After the visit to the Three Gorges Museum, we headed for the jetty from where the cruise ship was moored. As we got down, I took the help of a porter to carry my luggage to the ship. The ship was far down and with the help of Diana, my local guide from yangtze-river-cruises/China Discovery, I descended the stairs without much difficulty. At the end of the stairs my name was checked against their register. They had some difficulty in locating my name. With the help of Diana they found my name and we proceeded to walk across the pier to the jetty. Here my passport was checked. And we had to work through the plank to the boat. The climb to the ship was easy and there were helping hands all around. Boarding the ship should not pose a problem with elderly people like me, provided they are reasonably fit.
Victoria Anna Cruise Ship
Considering that the Victoria Anna is a river cruiser, it has excellent facilities. It has two restaurants. In deck 2 is the large Dynasty dining room for all the passengers except those in Deck 5 suites. On Deck 6 is the A la Carte Dining Room reserved for those travelling in suites or those who have paid an extra amount to access this restaurant. The name of the restaurant is misleading. There was no a la carte menu at least when I was travelling. All meals were buffets.
There are two elevators which go up to Deck 5. There is a flight of stairs to reach Deck 6 and the A la Carte Restaurant. There is a three-story atrium lobby - from Deck 2 to Deck 4. The reception is on Deck 2 while on the other two levels of the atrium are gilt shops. On Deck 5 is the Yangtze club – a fairly large lounge with bar and where all the lectures and performances are held. Next to the Yangtze club is the chamber of the ship doctor Dr Xu and adjacent to it the massage room. On deck 5 there are two games room mainly for Mah-jong. On deck 1 is the gym. All the cabins have private balconies and TV.
Registration and Cabin Upgrade
We landed at the fairly crowded Reception in Deck 2 as the passengers tried to check in. Soon my turn came and I found the Standard cabin in which I was booked was in the 2nd Deck. With my experience of earlier cruises, I knew I would not be able to see much and enjoy even less. I was offered an upgrade to the deck 4 Executive suite for USD 300.
The cabin was lovely with a drawing room that opened to a private balcony. There was a separate bedroom with a Kings Bed. Both the Drawing room and the bedroom had TVs. There was electric kettle and complimentary tea and coffee sachets. There were two Acs one in the drawing room and the other in the bedroom. They were working very well and in fact I had to shut them off before retiring for the night.
The toilet was in the Western style and had a bathtub and shower. The upgrade cost seemed well worth it. I also paid 250 yuans to upgrade my dining options to the Deck 6 restaurant. It would be much less crowded and much less noisy.
The Chongqing Riverside
I stood at the balcony watching the Yangtze River, the Chongqing waterfront and the boats plying by. As evening was drawing to a close and darkness was slowly creeping in, the lights came on illuminating the river front. It was a very lovely sight.
Dinner at the Dynasty
As I was feeling a bit hungry I went down to have my dinner. In the Dynasty located at deck 2. This dinner wasn’t included and was ala carte. In the midst of the dinner there was an announcement requesting the passengers to the Yangtse Club on Deck 5 for important announcements. I requested the steward to keep the food which I would have later after attending the meeting.
The German director of the Ship, Frau Marion introduced herself, the captain and the other important members of the staff. She gave excellent information on where the life jackets were kept in the cabins, where the laundry bags were located where and when to place the laundry bags for those wishing to use the onboard laundry service. She also mentioned that those who wished to do their own washing can use the toilet basin and dry them in the balcony. She also announced that the breakfast would be at 7 am, the buffet lunch at 12 noon and dinner at 7 pm.
Her clear crisp directions helped us throughout the cruise. I then returned to the Dynasty Hall and the food was brought out from a warmer. This is excellent service. I then returned to my cabin to find a printed leaflet mentioning the next day’s activities had been placed in the cabin. I continued watching the Chongqing River till the ship started sailing around 9 pm and the riverfront slowly started fading away. Afterwards, I watched the news on CNN and BBC before turning myself in for the night.
19th April - Yangtze River Cruise to Fengdu & Shibaozhai
After my travels around the country, I really wanted to relax, catch up with my accounts and update my notes on the travel. However, as the breakfast starts at 7 am, I set my alarm for an early morning start. As is my habit, I went for my bath and around 6:30 am headed for the Yangtze Club, deck 5 to have a cup of coffee.
For breakfast I had to climb the stairs to reach Deck 6 where the buffet was being served. Table arrangements are posted at the entrance to the Dining Room. I was conducted to a large round table where I was alone. The breakfast buffet was fine.
Ghost City excursion
At 8 am there was a shore excursion to the Ghost City of Fengdu. I did not jointhe excursion as it entailed climbing 400 steps. After all my main intention was to relax and watch the mighty Yangtze River flow by. However I could not but notice the masterful manner Frau Marion handled the eager passengers keen on visiting the Ghost City and had tea and hot towels ready for those who had gone on the excursion.
Lecture on Chinese Medicine and Massage
I was suffering from some discomfort in the feet and so I attended a lecture on Chinese Medicine by the ship doctor Dr. Xu which was interesting and gave a good insight to Chinese Medicine. In Beijing I had gone to the China Academy for Chinese Medical Sciences and had purchased some medicines prescribed by the doctor there.
Later I took a foot massage at the Massage centre on Deck 5, run by the doctor. It certainly gave considerable relief.
Lunch was at 12 noon and when I came to my allotted table I found a couple and their 12 year sitting in the table. We soon picked up a conversation. They were originally from Uzbekistan and settled in Australia. I was lucky as I was planning to visit the country.
The food was plentiful and excellent. There was a Western and a Chinese spread. In the afternoon at 3:15 pm there was a Welcome Reception by Captain Fang where appetizers and refreshments were served. Frau Marion was there to ensure everything went off like clockwork.
Shore Excursion to the Red Pagoda of ShiBaozhai
At 4:15 the ship docked at ShiBaoZhai and there was a free shore excursion to visit the Red Pagoda. I decided to join as the excursion as the pagoda is orginal and not reconstructed. We assembled in front of the reception and under Frau Marion’s supervision we were divided into different groups according to the language spoken. Each group had a guide who could speak the language of the group who were mainly Chinese. Frau Marion accompanied our group who also had the Uzbek family down to Deck 1. With German efficiency she ensured that we left the ship with our English speaking guide without any hitch.
After crossing the pontoon bridge to the shore, our guide led us through a steep road towards the temple. The street was lined with shops trying to sell various articles to the ship passengers. Before reaching the pagoda there is swinging bridge which has to be traversed carefully.
On reaching the Red Pagoda, I decided not to climb the 99 stairs to the top. I took many pictures of this lovely pagoda, I then decided to return to the ship alone. On the way I found some elderly people from our ship who were taking a breather and had decided not to climb the stairs of the Red Pagoda. On the way I purchased a small stuffed Panda.
Chinese Dynasties Show
The dinner was at 7 pm followed by a lovely performance by the ship’s talented crew. The performers were introduced and the dresses and dance of the different Chinese dynasties lucidly explained by Captain Fang. The leaflet for the next day’s program was placed in the cabin.
20th April - Yangtze River Cruise through Three Gorges
The sky was overcast and there was a shore excursion to the White Emperor City. I did not join the excursion as it would involve climbing 200 stairs. Instead I again had a foot and body massage.
Through the Three Gorges
Stephanie sent me a text message advising that there is strong wind in the Yangtze River and was she right! A fierce wind was blowing when around 11:30 AM or so we entered the 8 kms long Qutang Gorge. Along with a few brave hearts had positioned ourself on the small deck in front of the Yangtze Club. The sight as we entered the Gorge was spectacular. However the fierce wind hit us on the face and the drizzle made it difficult to take photos. In spite of all that I did manage to take some photos. As we passed the different Gorges, Andy, a local guide pointed out the important features of the Gorge. While passing the Wu Gorge we saw the Goddess peak through the mist and rain.
In the afternoon, after lunch, there was an excursion to the Goddess Stream in a smaller vessel. As it was drizzling, I did not join the excursion. I went to the Yangtze Club on Deck 5 and had a cocktail called Slow Boat to China. It was a nice drink and named after the very popular Rosemary Clooney and Bing Crosby song of 1950s. "I'd like to get you on a slow boat to China".
Today we had the Captain’s farewell dinner and the director explained in details the departure procedure. The diner was quite lavish with Duck in Orange Sauce, and lovely Pineapple cake.
Following the dinner there was a very nice performance by the highly talented staff.
21st April - Disembarkation in Yichang
I had my luggage packed and left it outside my door as I wanted the ship to transfer the luggage to Yichang. Those who wanted to carry it themselves did not put their luggage outside the door.
After breakfast, on returning to the cabin, I found that my luggage has been taken away. I went to the Reception Area where we were divided into groups according to the language spoken. I along with the Uzbek family were in the English speaking group. We were led by an English speaking guide down to Deck 1 and then easily transferred to a smaller vessel. Although smaller than the Anna it had all the facilities. There were shops in Deck 2 and on Deck 3 large sitting areas, cabins and an observation deck.
After a while we went to the 3 Gorges Dam the largest dam of its kind in the world. It was interesting to see how the vessel which was at a much higher level was slowly lowered to the lower level of the riverby elevators. As I was to understand later only the Victoria Cruise company ships were allowed through the dam as the movement of passenger vessels is still on a test basis.
On arrival at the Yichang pier there a large number of steps leading to the land and the coach stops. There were a number of coaches all lined up for the different groups. Our guide led us to our coach and we soon departed for the 3 Gorges Project.
" Hi, I'm Stephaine, Mr. Gautam Sen's travel consultant! Are you interested in Mr. Gautam Sen's 4 days Yangtze River Cruise experience with Victoria Anna? Want to know his 13-day trip itinerary, accommodation, transportation or other arrangements? Feel free to contact me, and I will be glad to tell you more stunning stories about the places he visited. Or, if you want to customize a China Yangtze tour on your own, I'm always ready to help at any time! "
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