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4 Helpful Votes
Sail Date: July 2004
Yangtze River, Victoria Queen July 3-7 YiChang to Chungqing I took a four night upstream Yangtze river cruise on the Victoria Queen. The cruise started in YiChang and traveled upstream to Chungqing. I took this cruise as part of an ... Read More
Yangtze River, Victoria Queen July 3-7 YiChang to Chungqing I took a four night upstream Yangtze river cruise on the Victoria Queen. The cruise started in YiChang and traveled upstream to Chungqing. I took this cruise as part of an extensive 22-day adventure tour with Overseas Adventure Travel, which is owned by Grand Circle. As this is a review of the cruise portion of the tour I won't be discussing the details of the land portion of the trip. As there are many choices for travel in China, I would like to point out that if you like traveling off the beaten track, enjoy traveling with a very small group of 16 people or less, are interested in learning first hand about the culture and people and are in fairly good physical condition then you should consider Overseas Adventure Travel. The trip was fantastic. We had 15 travelers and 2 guides and a driver. We all received personal attention from the guides, we could do extra-unplanned activities with the OK of the group and nearly everything was included. The Yangtze River Cruise Ship - The Victoria Queen was rather typical on the exterior of other ships sailing the Yangtze. The Victoria Queen was ~12 years old but had recently been expanded and refurbished for cruising the Yangtze. Everything looked fresh and new. There was no smoking on board except outside on the back of the ship, so there were no bad odors onboard. This ship has five public decks and no elevator. If walking up and down stairs is a problem, then this may not be the ship for you. The dining room is on floor 1, there are rooms on floors 1-4, mini suites on floors 2-4 and suites on floor 2 and an observation deck on floor 5. On floor 3 there is a library/ lecture room. On floor 4 there is a work-out center, card room, beauty parlor, and the Yangtze Club, which is the bar, internet center, entertainment venue and best observation area on the ship. Cabin - I stayed in cabin 303 on the starboard side of the ship. This cabin was right next to the bridge at the front of the ship. The cabin was spacious. I had the cabin to myself and had lots or space. All cabins were at least 210 sq ft and had a balcony, which was the width of the cabin and only two feet deep. Just wide enough for the two patio chairs. I would like to point out that if you have a choice you should try to be on the north side of the ship if you are traveling during the summer. This way you can sit on your balcony in the shade of the ship. China in the summer was hot during the day. It typically reached 95F during the day. It was still comfortable sitting outside during the day as long as you are sitting in the shade. Keep this in mind if you have a cabin choice. The cabin had two comfortable twin beds. Each bed had two fluffy and soft pillows. The sheets were soft and the bed was topped with a duvet. This was the most comfortable bed I slept in, in all of China. The room had great air-conditioning. It didn't seem very adjustable. I kept it on most of the time and was comfortable. The room had a TV with HBO and several other English speaking news channels. The TV was located high up the wall and was viewable from the two beds. There was no refrigerator, but I asked the room stewardess Annie for ice and an ice bucket full of ice appeared and was refilled with ice twice a day throughout the cruise. There was a small closet and bench for placing your suitcase. There weren't many drawers for storage that I can recall. There was a desk and chair. The bathroom was quite large. There was a sink and large countertop, WC and large tub/shower combination. There was always plenty of hot water. The room was supplied with high quality shampoos, shower gels, soaps and lotions. Food - The food was very good. But if you are expecting all the choices, and quantities typical on an ocean cruise then you may be disappointed. Breakfast and lunch were buffets. There were western and Chinese choices and lots of fresh fruits and veggies. I always found many things to try and enjoyed most of the selections. Dinners were served family style at the table. Most dishes were Chinese, but I feel that most people would find the food fairly good. There was nothing "unrecognizable, squiggly or slimy". There were also some western items served. There were always ~10-15 different dishes served and no one went hungry. Deserts we not spectacular. Deserts were rather bland or else were fresh watermelon. The meals came with your choice of bottled water, regular Coke, regular Sprite, hot tea or coffee. Beer and wine were available. The selection was sparse and the cost fairly high. I skipped the shipboard offerings and bought the local beer, which I enjoyed on my balcony. My only complaint with the dining room, as they seemed to rush you through meals. Before you were finished they would whisk away your plate, or utensils. It was aggravating. I can understand the employees trying to get their work done so they can have some free time. It just felt very rushed. Hey, I'm on a cruise. I expect to be able to linger over dinner, enjoy desert and a cup of tea. Also note that coffee and tea is available in the Yangtze Club every morning from 6:00 to 7:30 am. I always took advantage of this while checking my email, about 10 feet away at the internet center in the Yangtze Club. Service - The service was fabulous. Everyone was friendly and greeted you as you walked by. The cabin, as well as the entire ship was immaculate. There's not much to say other then it would be difficult to have better service on a ship. Entertainment - There were two cruise directors on the ship, Monika Pichler and Ernie Kemm, two river guides, Jacky Qin and Michael Sun, a kite master, painter, and medical doctor and Tai Chi instructure, Dr Liu. What!? a medical doctor is an entertainer? Yea, sort of, Dr Liu gave a lecture and demonstration of Chinese medical treatments like acupuncture, massage and suction cups. The Chinese medical treatments were available to the passengers as well as western medicine. The lecture from Dr Liu was very interesting. Try to be the person he demonstrates on. Unfortunately I don't think he will demonstrate on you if you are female, as you must remove your shirt! The cruise directors were very friendly and efficient. The Ernie Kemm was a talented singer and piano player and entertained the crowd daily. The Monika Pichler was a wealth of knowledge and very open with information about the ship and the Yangtze. Monika also seems to know the idiosyncrasies of the internet service onboard. She can help you if you are having trouble. The river guides seemed adequate. Maybe it was just me, but I don't need someone to tell me that a rock formation looks like an elephant. There were lots of interesting facts I'm sure. I just avoided listening to the river guides and sat in peaceful quite on my balcony. Tai Chi lessons were given every morning in the Yangtze Club and were well attended. There were lectures and demonstrations by the kite master and painter. I skipped these, so have no comment. Every night there was a show put on the cruise staff. I attended these and even though they were not professionals they were interesting. There were fabulous Chinese costumes, dancing, recorded music and a staff/cruiser talent show. There was the Captain's welcome aboard cocktail party held in the Yangtze club on the first evening, that was very nice. Sparkling wine and hors d'oeuvres were served. We all toasted to an enjoyable cruise and had a great time. Internet - There were four laptops available for internet access in the Yangtze club. The cost was 50 Chinese yuan or $6.00 for the entire cruise. I jumped on this offer and think it was well spent. The service is dialup and could be extremely slow while cruising through the gorges. Never the less I was able to check my email, write a few emails and post to the Cruise Critic board so it met my needs. Since there were so few people on board, computers were always available. I never had to wait for a computer. Access is limited to 20 minutes if people are waiting. But this never occurred on my cruise. Tours- Everyday there was a tour. Everyone left the ship and took the daily tour. The tours were divided up by the groups you were traveling with. So since I was traveling with a group of 15 people, we toured daily with our OAT group and trip leader. The tours were lead by the Victoria Cruise trip guide and a driver. Here is a summary of the three tours I took. 1. Three Gorges Dam - This tour was excellent. We took a bus to an area just river from the spillway. You could see the completed powerhouse, the spillway with the powerful water and mist and the in progress second powerhouse and cofferdam. Next we drove to a lookout point above the dam which had a great model of the river and dam project and a great lookout for taking pictures. While driving to the lookout and back we went over the ship locks which we would be traveling up as soon as we returned to the ship. I purchased a small finely carved beach wood lion at the gift shop at the lookout point for about $6.00 that I really love. Be sure to bargain. 2. Lesser Gorges scenic area - Another excellent trip! We took a boat through the Shennong stream where we saw monkeys and wooden coffins in the walls of the gorge. This was very cool. The walls on both sides are the river are very steep and covered with vegetation...beautiful. After about 40 minutes we got off the large boat and got into small wooden boats. We were dragged upstream by these very buff guys. When we reached the top we turned around and rode the rapids down. Lots of fun and very pretty. We got back on the larger boat, and made the return trip to the Victoria Queen. 3. Wanzhou, Relocation City and the Three Gorges Museum - really lame. This tour took us to the Three Gorges Museum. Not so good. This museum featured the story of the wooden coffins such as we saw in the lesser gorge the previous day. Kind of a let down after seeing the real thing. Next we went to a families apartment. Very uncomfortable experience and not too interesting. Families in old brick primitive structures are forced to relocate to modern, spacious apartments due to the dam. Seemed like a good thing to me. Finally taken to a rip-off store selling silk clothing. Don't buy here. It's about 5X more than you will pay in Hong Kong. I should mention that if stairs are a problem then getting off the ship and climbing up the 300 stairs to get to the tour bus could be an issue. I'm relatively young and in fairly good condition, but I can tell you that going up the 300 steps had me puffing and sweating. Embarkation and Debarkation were not an issue on this ship. You walked on, you walked off. No problem. This was a fabulous trip that I really enjoyed. Hope this review gives you some idea of what a Yangtze River cruise will be like. It was relaxing, interesting, and slow paced. But a Yangtze River cruise is the only way to see this part of China the will be undergoing dramatic changes during the upcoming years. Laura Read Less
6 Helpful Votes
Sail Date: October 2007
"Magical China & the Yangtze River". We traveled with a group of 28 and we, personally, booked a mini-suite. The ship, tho' new is already showing wear. Amenities are scant. The reception, dining, bar, and deck areas are ... Read More
"Magical China & the Yangtze River". We traveled with a group of 28 and we, personally, booked a mini-suite. The ship, tho' new is already showing wear. Amenities are scant. The reception, dining, bar, and deck areas are lovely and always kept clean. The crew is friendly, and many are very talented. The entertainment was wonderful (costumes, dance routines, etc). The shore excursions were well-planned and very interesting! The extra displays of art, goods-for-sale on deck 3, seemed distracting. The nail salon was not prepared to do anything except manicures; they'd didn't know how to nail fills. They struggled to put the beds into a king configuration (linens were for twin beds not king). The use of the top level dining room for suite guests was very nice --- breakfasts were very good throughout the cruise. Lunches and dinners in the main dining room all five days were extremely disappointing. The food was not good and we normally love Chinese food and in the past, have been eager to try new foods. We're rethinking this, given this ship's menu and food preparation. There was no alternative selections when the food was poor. There was lots of left-over food and people were not eating --- that should have been a clue to the food manager and chefs. Yet, the poor selection of food for lunches and dinners continued throughout the entire cruise. The Yangtze River and Three Gorges Dam were most interesting. The ship was comfortable and overall, very pleasant. If it wasn't for the poor food, we would have rated this ship much higher. They have work to do and must be ready to meet the needs of Western travelers if they want to continue to attract the tourists on this ship line. We are not new travelers to either riverboats or ocean liners -- if meals are not good, that spoils the trip and the reputation of the ship line! We hope the food service for the Victoria Anna improves for future travelers! Read Less
1 Helpful Vote
Sail Date: May 2008
Asian Trip April 21 - May 24, 2008 Yangtze River Cruise Shanghai - Chongqing May 4th - Rebecca our Shanghai guide took us to the Holiday Inn and saw us onto the bus that would transport us to Nanjing and the River Cruise Ship Victoria ... Read More
Asian Trip April 21 - May 24, 2008 Yangtze River Cruise Shanghai - Chongqing May 4th - Rebecca our Shanghai guide took us to the Holiday Inn and saw us onto the bus that would transport us to Nanjing and the River Cruise Ship Victoria Prince. Normally we would have boarded in Shanghai but due to a bad storm on May 3rd the Navigational Authority required all river passenger ships to tie up. Thus the Victoria Prince stayed at the dock in Nanjing and bused the disembarking passengers from there to Shanghai. The bus ride to Nanjing took 4 hours; however, boarding the Victoria Prince was a case of just walking down the gangplank and onto the ship. We checked in and obtained our room key as if it was a hotel by simply walking up to the desk giving them my name and being welcomed. The Victoria Prince is an older ship but well maintained. Our home for the next 2000km or 8 days while we sail up the Yangtze River to the head of its navigable waters. The lobby on the main deck held the Purser's Desk - where all ship related business was conducted and money exchanged - the gift shop plus a crafts corner, where artists worked on their crafts which were for sale. The dining room where we enjoyed buffet style breakfasts and lunches with family style served dinners was at the front of the ship with wrap around windows. There was a single seating for each meal and we sat at round tables. We enjoyed our tablemates a couple from Australia and a couple from San Francisco. The food was good and plentiful but other than breakfast mainly Chinese and came with your choice of nonalcoholic beverages. Up on deck 4 we found the lounge at the front of the ship where we enjoyed all the shows/lectures put on by the staff, the bar and the internet stations. Also on deck 4 there was a beauty salon, a library at the rear of the ship, and a card/games room as well as the Dr.'s office. The top deck was open with chairs and lounges. Our cabin was small with twin beds either side of the patio door to our balcony. We had a small closet but only 2 drawers so storage space was at a premium. The bathroom on the other hand was large for a cruise ship with a shower tub combination. Each deck had a desk at the head of the stairs which was manned seemingly 24 hours a day so that all passengers needs could be quickly attended to. The biggest negative was the lack of an elevator on the ship. However the staff did everything they could to help Dad by locating him in a cabin on the main deck, setting up a table in the lobby for us to play cards so Dad did not need to climb up the stairs to the lounge or card room on Deck 4. At our ports of call the ship provided a wheelchair for Dad as China is a walking type of country. Victoria Prince staff even carried the chair off the ship and pushed Dad to the tour bus, then were there to meet us on our return to push the chair back to the gangplank. All of the port tours are part of the river cruise package. The tours were all well planned and lead by local guides. I especially liked the Yellow Mountain excursion. The staff put on entertainment most evenings in the lounge. My favorite was a fashion show of various ethnic costumes. In the mornings and afternoons that we were aboard ship lectures on China, the Yangtze, the Three Gorges Dam Project and Chinese Medicine were conducted. I felt that the staff and Victoria Prince looked after us very well and would definitely recommend this river cruise. In fact on Mother's Day a large cake decorated with "Happy Mother's Day" was served in the lounge at Tea Time then as we entered the Dining Room that evening each lady was presented with a flower. There was of course the Captain's Welcome Party one evening where a lovely buffet of hors d'oeuvres was set up in the lounge and cocktails were served. The Captain came around to welcome us all individually. At the Captain's Farewell Dinner the Captain again visited each table to thank us for sailing on Victoria Prince and to wish us all a safe journey home. On another evening everyone celebrating a Birthday or Anniversary was honoured with cakes being brought in for each person celebrating and then they were given a scroll commemorating the event. I am very happy that I insisted on the full river cruise all the way from Shanghai to Chongqing rather than the abbreviated 3 or 4 night version that only travels thru the 3 gorges. The time on the Yangtze was not only relaxing but interesting and entertaining. Also the opportunity to visit Yellow Mountain was a definite highlight of the whole China trip for me. May 5th Nanjing Our morning tour was to visit the Dr. Sun Yat-sen Mausoleum. Led by Dr. Sun the Chinese people brought down the corrupt rule of the Qing Dynasty in 1911 to end 2000 years of the feudal monarchy system. The majestic Mausoleum which is regarded as the most outstanding in Chinese modern architectural history was completed in 1929. The structures, along with the mountain ascends gradually along with the central axis line running from south to the north. Traveling along the marble road, firstly you will arrive at half-moon square in the south of the Mausoleum. It is understated and modest, while endowing grandeur to the Mausoleum. Then at the entrance to the mausoleum stands the great marble Paifang (memorial archway) on which is written 'Bo Ai' meaning 'love'. Through Paifang there is 480 m long marble walk lined on both sides with pine and cypresses trees. high and 27. The Frontispiece has three archways, each of which has a pair of symmetrical enchased copper gates. Four Chinese characters are inscribed on the lintel over the doorways written by Dr. Sun Yat-sen meaning 'the world is commonwealth', which fully explains the cause he struggled for during his life. Following this gradual sloping walkway we arrive at the stairs which lead upward to the tomb of Dr Sun. We returned to the ship for lunch and then headed out again to the Confucius Temple and time to wander the market stalls which surround this temple. In front of the temple was this golden tree which is revered for good fortune/wealth. Across from the temple is a canal. With of course houses lining both sides of the canals and plenty of bridges to provide easy crossing. That evening the Victoria Prince sailed from Nanjing to Huang Shan a distance of some 240km. It always amazed me how fast the Victoria Prince was at casting off and being under way the minute the last passenger boarded the ship. Not even time enough for the final person to finish climbing the 1 flight of steps up to the Main Deck. May 6th Full Day excursion to Huangshan ("Yellow Mountian") Yellow Mountain (Huangshan) Yellow Mountain, is undoubtedly China's most celebrated mountain for all its grandeur and beauty. In 1990 it was declared a World Natural and Cultural Heritage by UNESCO . Within an area of 154 square kilometers, the mountain offers a crowd of peaks. The mountains are a body of granite, often with vertical joints. When it is cloudy the pinnacles loom in mists as if they were illusionary. When the sun shines, they unfold in all their majesty and splendor. We were lucky to have a sunny day. Because of its peculiar terrain, the Yellow Mountain's climate is marked by a vertical change, and the vertical distribution of vegetation is also distinctive: plants on the summit, on the middle levels and at the foot belong to the frigid, temperate and subtropical zones respectively. There are more than 1500 species of plants, of which trees comprise one third. Here you will find century-old pines, firs, ginkgoes, Chinese torreyas, Chinese sweet gums, nanmus, camphor woods and the precious Magua trees, remnants of the glacial era. The Yellow Mountains abound in flowering plants; many of them are rare ones, such as Goddess Flower, the Yellow Mountains Azalea as well as camellia, plum, lily, crape myrtle, orchid, Spring Heralding Flower and so on. It has a rich store of medicinal herbs; more than 300 kinds are found here; the notable ones being glossy ganoderma ginseng, Chinese gold thread rhizome and Chinese cinnamon. Maofeng tea of the Yellow Mountains is well known at home and abroad. This day at the Yellow Mountain was definitely a highlight of the trip. After our long bus ride to the foot of the gondola car we rode to the top of the mountain on the longest cable car in Asia the ride taking 15 minutes. Once at the top we walked down the stairs to a hotel for lunch. Of course what goes down must also go us. So after our lunch it was back up the stairs to return to the gondola station the only way down. Everything needed at the top comes up the gondola cars and is then carried by hand to its destination. Here is a photo of men carrying construction sand for concrete to the hotel site where an expansion is underway. May 7th Enjoyed a relaxing day cruising on the Yangtze River. This was a rainy day; one of the few days of rain and poor weather we had. We travelled some 493km to reach Wuhan our next port of call. We arrived in a little late at about 8pm. Guides and buses were waiting for us to whisk us off to visit the stone museum. May 8th - Cruising the Yangtze River with time for a manicure and a body massage. In the afternoon we played cards while we watched the Yangtze River Life unfold. Every time you find a flat bit of river bank it is utilized as a ship building yard. Ships loaded with a special type of straw grown by the farmers for use in the pulp & paper industry generally carried a load that was stacked higher than the wheel house thus the Captain is sitting on top of the wheel house on a chair steering with a rope attached to the wheel. At all times there were dozens of ships sailing the river right along with us; coal ships, cargo container ships, several barges tied together to be pushed by 1 ship. Even an old style "Junk". And of course everywhere were the small sampan's used by the locals for everything. The dredging of the river is constant as the Yangtze is a shallow river with the currents bringing down tons of silt from upriver. Along the shore we saw the coal bins where the mines deposit the coal ready for pick up by the ships. The coal loads by gravity feed down an open trough and then falling onto the ship. Not much pollution here! Fishing by the locals; catching their dinner or just enjoying themselves is constant. Wash day for people living close to the Yangtze means a rock and a scrub brush. May 9th Arrived Yichang at around 11am for our passage thru the Gerhou Dam locks. Built as the experimental dam of the Three Gorges Dam Project Gezhouba Water Conservancy Project is located 38 kilometers away from the TGP. When the Yangtze River goes through the Nanjin Pass, the river suddenly becomes a lot broader, widening from 300 meters to 2,200 meters. This project was finished in 1988. It consists of two hydro electric power stations, three navigation locks, and several sluice-gates. Later in the afternoon we arrived at Sandouping and it was time to visit the Three Gorges Dam site. We were bused from the dock to a Visitors Centre where we could look down on the 5 locks which we would later pass thru and on the other side the largest dam in the world. Here they have a model of the Three Gorges Dam Project The Three Gorges Dam on the Yangtze River has been a dream for generations and is one of the largest construction projects ever undertaken by mankind. This great dam, the largest of its kind in the world, will provide China with tremendous power generation and flood control services. A project that will have taken some 17 years to complete when finally finished in 2009, some ninety years after Dr. Sun Yet-Sen, pioneer of the Chinese democratic revolution, first proposed the idea. The TGP Dam will raise the water level some 80 meters which has necessitated the relocation of entire towns. The water has already risen 40 meters and has 40 more meters to go. At very frequent intervals we would see markers showing the height the Yangtze will rise to. Here is a photo of a farmer's existing home and the new house he is building above the 176 m mark as his old home will be under water by next year. May 10th This morning it was rise and shine as we started our trip thru the Three Gorges - we started with Xiling Gorge at 7am. Although it was foggy out it promised to be a clear warm day. This is the longest Gorge at 47 miles long and the TGP Dam is actually built at the mid point of this gorge. Soon we were into the Wu Gorge which is 24 miles long. Here we find the 12 peaks of Wushan with the most notable; Fairy Peak which holds up the Goddess. Here we saw evidence of the old "Trackers" path used by the men of old that pulled the boats thru the Three Gorges using ropes. At the western end of the Wu Gorge is where the Daning River joins the Yangtze. Here the Victoria Prince docked and we transferred to a smaller boat which took us up the Daning River some 33km thru the Lesser Gorges. . The first and most dramatic Lesser Gorges is known as Dragon Gate Gorge. In this gorge, the river ranges from only ten to thirty meters wide while the cliffs on either bank soar to an average of 800 to 1000 meters. Mysterious plants and fungus of longevity are said to grow high up on the cliff face. Two rows of square holes extending the entire length of the gorges are all that remain of an ancient plank walkway. The walkway allowed easier access to salt mines far up the river. The existence of the walkway was first recorded in 246 BC and was finally destroyed by the imperial Ming army during the 17th century after a peasant uprising. In the Misty Gorge, a 2000 year old "hanging" coffin can be seen suspended on a precipice high up on the cliff face. The coffin is a relic left over from the Ba people who inhabited the gorges region 3,500 to 1,800 years ago. At one time hundreds of these coffins could be seen throughout the Three Gorges and the Daning River, suspended from seemingly inaccessible areas on the cliff-sides. Emerald Gorge with its lush green vegetation and clear green waters was very beautiful. Last but not least was the Mini-Three Gorge where we had to transfer to an even smaller boat - a sampan We had a fun boatman who gave us all a turn at poling even allowing us to wear the traditional rain wear We enjoyed our trip thru the small gorges where waterfalls, lush vegetation, weird rock formations and even the occasional monkey captured our attention. On shore we passed by friendly villagers who would wave to us and saw their fishing nets drying in the sun ready for the nights fishing. They lure the fish into the nets with lights. At the entrance to the Daning River is the ByeBye Bridge so named as next year when the TGP Dam brings the water level up to its final height the deck or road way will be only 10 feet above the water; thus blocking all river traffic. Consequently this bridge is being demolished and a new one built. After leaving the Lesser Gorges we continued westward up the Yangtze and thru the last of the Three Gorges, the Qutang Gorge which although the shortest is considered the most scenic. The Qutang is only 5 miles long but the narrowest and with the steepest sides. We entered Qutang thru Kuimen Gate May 11th We docked at Fengdu only 107 miles east of Chongqing. Having a history of nearly 2,000 years, Fengdu County has formed a special culture of ghosts and the afterlife. Well known as the resting place of the spirit of the dead, Fengdu is now the most characteristic and reputed historic and cultural town in China. Our tour took us up Mt. Ming; a mountain combining the religion of Taoism, Buddhism and Confucianism. Sculptures, paintings, and architecture are unique characteristic of the mountain. This was an interesting mountain top and at the bottom was the usual line of stalls and vendors hawking souvenirs. May 12th A day to long be remembered by millions of people; however, it started off innocently enough with our disembarkation at Chongqing. Our guide Kenvin Wu came aboard to greet us and escort us ashore. It was a long hike over pontoon floats to the shore and then up 70 steps to the van By walking along the shore to the next set of steps we shortened the stair climb from approximately 70 steps to about 20. Kevin had the wheelchair brought to the top of these steps for Dad and a man pushed Dad up the steep hill to where our van was parked. Another man carried our luggage ashore on his shoulders all for a cost of 200RMB or about $30. We now headed out to Dazu to see the Buddhist Carvings. Dazu, is a small mountainous town 167 km west of Chongqing. It is famous for its stone carvings, with more than 100,000 pieces left over from the Tang (628-907) and Song (960-1279) dynasties. The well-preserved carvings are representative of an ancient Chinese art tradition. They also take a very important position in the religious, artistic and cultural history of China. Stone carvings are found in more than 70 places scattered throughout the county of Dazu. The largest, richest and most exquisite collection of statues is at the foot of Baoding Hill These carvings were hewn out from 1174 to 1249. The row is 500 meters long and consists of nearly 10,000 statues, of which the most distinctive and majestic are the "Thousand-arm Goddess of Mercy" and the 31-meter long sleeping Buddha. These stone carvings are unparalleled works of art in the world and were included by UNESCO as a World Heritage site in 1999. The 3 largest statues are carved on an angle so that it appears that they are looking at you. The end one holds a stone pagoda which weighs 400 lbs in its hand. All of these carvings are out of the natural rock of the mountain and still attached to the mountain. The craftsmanship in both carving and painting these figures is amazing! After hiking down into the valley to view all of these works of art and climbing back up I was happy to pay 2RMB (about 25 cents) for a ride from the gates to the village As the hike up and down would have been too much for Dad he stayed in the village and shopped in the multitude of stalls for souvenirs. We met up again in the restaurant were we enjoyed a very nice lunch. Leaving the village we stopped for a photo of this roadside shrine to Buddha As we headed back to Chongqing we stopped to visit Mrs. Lee on her farm. Mrs. Lee lives in a small farm community of 10 homes of which about half have been replaced with new homes. Mrs. Lee's son is building their new home which is a 3 storey half duplex style. I found her home very clean and modern in that the bedroom had a normal western style double bed and beautiful hardwood floors, satellite dish for TV reception; however the kitchen was what to western standards would be primitive with a wood burning stove with only 2 woks inset into it. In contrast on the counter was a modern rice cooker. We left the very welcoming Mrs. Lee who was proud to show off both her Grandson & her home to head back to Chongqing. On the way we stopped for gas and I could not resist taking a photo of their fire fighting equipment - local fire station. (2 shovels, a coiled up canvas hose, 4 buckets, 2 fire extinguishers on wheels) Now for the excitement of the day - the earthquake hit as we were stopped in a toll booth so yes we felt it. Upon our return to Chongqing Kevin took us to the old town. This area is filled with narrow winding pedestrian only streets full of stalls. The streets are paved with stone so for Dad it was a very rough ride in the wheelchair I think the thing that caught my eye the most was the outdoor tea pavilion where patrons drank the tea while sitting at tables right in the water of the polluted Yangtze. Chongqing is called "The Furnace" as summer temperatures exceed 40C hence sitting like this is cooling. Of course the restaurant with its kitchen right on the sidewalk was interesting too! Next we visited the Flying Tigers Museum which was of great interest to Dad. This is a museum dedicated to the volunteer US Air Squadron that fought with and for China against the Japanese during WWII. One more photo stop before dinner at the Convention Centre which can seat 4000 and was built to resemble the Temple of Heaven in Beijing This evening we enjoyed a Sichuan Hot Pot Dinner (spicy). After our busy and eventful day we were happy to check into the Holiday Inn North Chongqing. This is a relatively new hotel and was very nice. I would definitely give this hotel 4 stars. Our rooms were very clean and spacious. All the amenities we could wish for were provided in the bathroom including a hairdryer and the usual 2 bottles of complimentary water. A free internet connection was beside the desk. The king size bed was again very firm. The breakfast in the Cafe was lavish and the chef was waiting to prepare your eggs. This restaurant did have a small (5 tables) non-smoking section but as it was not separated from the rest of the restaurant and smoke drifts it made little difference. I would definitely recommend this hotel. May 13th The morning after the devastating earthquake and a cancelled trip to Chengdu as the airport there was closed to all except emergency traffic and the Sheraton Lido Hotel was closed as well. Thus we missed visiting the Giant Panda's Breeding Centre. Accent Travel and Kevin our guide in Chongqing were wonderful in stepping up to the plate to revise our itinerary, rearrange our ongoing air flights, and made sure we had another marvelous day only in Chongqing rather than Chengdu. We spent the morning at the Chongqing Zoo to view 7 Giant Panda's. The baby Panda was only 3lbs at birth but has gained 3lbs a week ever since. The Panda's diet is young bamboo shoots and as there is little nutrition in bamboo they must eat a lot of it. Good thing this type of bamboo grows a foot a day.... The zoo also feeds them a small amount of fruit. The zoo is in the midst of a renovation to create new premises for the large animals. We spent considerable time watching as the workers move boulders from the roadway where they had been dumped into the construction area all by hand. After lunch we visited Elgin Park which is the top of a high hill; it took both Ross & Kevin to push the wheelchair up the steep path to the top. Located at the apex of the Jailing and Yangtze Rivers it gave us a "Bird's Eye" view over the 2 rivers and the city which sprawls out in all directions. In the Elgin Park Tea House we enjoyed our first tea ceremony. The types of tea were described with what they were good for in regards to health as well as the general demographics of who likes what types of tea. We got to try 3 types; Jasmine, Ginsing, and Lycee even bringing home a small tin of my favorite "Jasmine" tea. Of course we were shown the proper way to hold the cup different for men & women! Then much like wine tasting how to enjoy not only the taste but the smell and sight of the tea. Our hostess surprised us with a magical ceramic cup & teapot where the picture changes color with the temperature of the water. Kevin now took us to a modern multi level shopping mall in Chongqing which could have been in any city in the world. It was spacious and clean boasting all the famous brand names from "Rolex" to "Calvin Klien" to "Starbucks" etc. On leaving the mall we saw our first real life sign of the earthquake in that a mobile blood donor clinic had been set up in the court yard and people were lined up to donate blood to help the victims of the earthquake. May 14th A new flight to Guilin had been arranged having us arrive in Guilin in the early afternoon. Here our guide, Lisa met us. She immediately took us to lunch at a restaurant overlooking the lake. The fruit platter which always comes at the end of every meal in China was intricately carved. After lunch it was off to wonder thru Daxu Ancient Town. This is definitely a poorer area that sees only a few tourists. The people watching opportunities where great! Here we met the Pharmacist in his local pharmacy which sells traditional Chinese medicine and he demonstrated the operation of his grinder with his feet; used to grind the herbs into powder to make the medicine. Across the street was the winery. Over each doorway is a mirror and fork to ward off evil spirits. We walked to the Longevity Bridge which is over 500 years old. Lucky locals have a 1 stroke engine, 3 wheel truck to carry about their goods while others use a bike. Many just get to carry everything around on their shoulders. In the evening we took a boat ride on the 4 lakes, joined by man made canals which were originally the cities moat system. The many bridges have been built to imitate world famous bridges such as the "Golden Gate". All the parks, bridges, walkways and pagodas are illuminated to create a photographers paradise. The crystal bridge is built totally of glass. In the largest lake the local fishermen came out on their bamboo rafts to demonstrate how they fish using cormorants. The fish are attracted with a light and the birds dive into the water to catch the fish and then bring it back to the boat and the fisherman. A string around the birds neck prevents the bird from swallowing the fish. In Guilin we stayed at the Park Hotel. Again we had booked non-smoking - well this hotel does not even understand the word non-smoking. Our rooms stunk of smoke and people smoked everywhere. The room had a view over the pool which was closed. Cleanliness of the room was only medium; I definitely did not check under the bed for dust. The first night our towels were left over from the previous occupant who was definitely a smoker. After drying ourselves we felt dirtier than before our showers. The bathroom came with the usual amenities plus lots of stuff for sale including flavored condoms....Made me wonder who normally stays in this hotel! The bed although a kingsize was very hard; upon request they did put 2 comforters down as a mattress pad to make it a little softer. They arrived to do this at 10pm at night rather than doing it while we were out for dinner and the evening. The breakfast in the restaurant was good although the coffee was terrible. We also ate dinner in the restaurant one evening and it too was very tasty and the staff was very pleasant and helpful. Again the hotel provided a wheelchair for Dad's use during our stay here in Guilin. I would not recommend this hotel and would give it only 2 stars. May 15th The Li River cruise from Guilin to Yangshuo was an experience. Lisa picked us up early to take us to the dock to board our river cruise boat which was tied up with some 20 others. The first thing we noticed was the kitchen located on the back of each boat. Guess where our lunch was being prepared? As we glided - actually raced as each Captain wanted to be first and so the river boats kept trying to pass each other which was difficult in the narrow channel. The view of the limestone outcroppings called "karst" by the locals; kept us up on deck so as to miss not a second. We watched water buffalo in the fields and swimming in the water. Yes the very same water being used to wash our lunch dishes and clean the vegetables that were going into our lunch... Locals on bamboo rafts came by selling all kinds of souvenirs. These rafts made of only 4 lengths of bamboo; I am still amazed that they didn't either sink or capsize. The crown- like crag earns the hill its name; Crown Hill. Under this hill is a twelve kilometer long water-eroded cave. It is a wonderland of various stalactite, stone pillars and rock formations in the cave. Hanging basket is just that a cave high up in the rock face where supplies and water are hauled up in a basket. Half-Side Ferry (Ban Bian Du) is where a huge rock descends into the river and cuts off a footpath by the water edge. Villagers have to take a ferry to reach the other side of the rock. So, this spot gets its name Half-Side Ferry (for usually ferry means to transport people by boat across a body of water and reach the opposite bank) Bamboo rafts are awaiting the evening fishing time and the cormorants wait too. All along the Li River Limestone outcroppings pop up, reaching to the sky. A reputed attraction is Mural Hill, a 100-meter-high cliff face, which has been weathered and has stratified rock surface in various shades of colors. Just before lunch the staff came around offering Snake Wine, for a small fee of course. The snake wine made from formenting water in a jar with a snake in it....I have a photo of the snake in the jar that they were taking the wine from. After lunch served on the boat; yes the one prepared in the boat kitchen, which we ate with no ill effects. We arrived in Yangshou. This town of narrow streets filled with shops, stalls and lots of street vendors is a souvenir shoppers paradise. Once onshore the vendors started. We paid to have our photo taken with a fisherman and his cormorants. After walking thru the stalls for a distance of about 5 blocks we arrived at the golf cart pick up point for the 10 minute ride thru town to the outskirts where the car park is. May 16th Furbo Hill was our destination this morning even though it was raining lightly. This "Krast" towers above the Li River reaching a height of 213 meters with 62 meters above the water. Half of it stands in the river and the other half of it on land. Since the galloping water is always blocked here and eddied, the hill is considered to have the power of subduing waves. Yes Ross and I climbed all the way to the top for a view over Guilin however with the rain it was a very hazy view. At the foot of the hill is the Pearl-Returning Cave, the Thousand-Buddha Cave and the Sword-Testing Rock so called because the fat stalactite almost touches the floor and looks as if a sword has cut off the tip. After lunch it was to the Ludi or Reed Flute Cave Guilin's largest and most impressive cave. Its name is explained by the fact that reeds for making flutes and pipes have been grown in this region since ancient times. This dripstone cave is 790 feet deep, and a visitor will walk for some 550 yards through a zigzagging sea of stalactites and stalagmites in dazzling colors. Although the cave is also known as a Palace of Natural Art, manmade strategies use artificial lighting to emphasize the coincidental similarity of the rock formations to birds, plants, and animals. One grotto is called The Crystal Palace of the Dragon King--an area that resembles a miniature Guilin. Over 70 wall inscriptions from the Tang Period (618-907) bear eloquent witness to the cave's long history. Here is a photo of the Xmas tree and the Statue of Liberty. Dad could not have climbed all of the steps so he was carried thru by 2 men in a sedan chair. May 17th morning flight to Xian Xi'an, Shannxi Province Xi'an was an important cradle of Chinese civilization. The famous "Silk Road" that linked China with central Asia and the Roman Empire starts in Xi'an in the east. The city served as the first capital of a unified China and capital of 11 dynasties periodically from the 11th century BC to the early 10th century AD. Located between rivers and mountains in the center of the fertile Guanzhong Plain Xi'an--the provincial capital--is the natural place to nurture the nation's civilization. Back in the Neolithic Age, about 6,000 years ago, a matriarchal clan was formed at Banpo village in the region. At that time, the Banpo people used tools made primarily of wood and stone. Women, the crucial labor force, were responsible for making pottery, spinning, and raising the family, while men fished. We visited this village or at least the actual site. In 583 AD, the Sui emperor, Wen Di, established his capital here. The area flourished and developed so quickly under the Tang Dynasty that in time it became the most prominent city in Asia, with a population of about a million people living in a vast, well-planned area protected by large walls with ramparts. The City Wall 600 years old and 14km long and built during the Ming Dynasty is the largest & best preserved city wall in China. The Wall is 40m high and 18m wide at the base with a width of 14m on the top. Every 120m there was a rampart platform which extended out from the wall 12m and was 20m wide; in total there are 98 of these. Atop these platforms sentry houses where built to store weapons and to shelter soldiers. The distance was based on the range of an arrow which was 60m. It is the sentry houses that stand out in the photo above. For over a millennium from the Second Century BC, China's silk was transported from Xi'an to central Asia and Europe via the infamous "Silk Road". Our visit to the Shaanxi Provincial Museum was pretty boring. The best part is the gardens with the city scape behind and the architecture of the modern building. . Next stop the Wild Goose Pagoda originally built in 652 it functioned to collect Buddhist materials that were taken from India by the hierarch Xuanzang. Starting off from Xian, along the Silk Road and through deserts he finally arrived in India, the cradle of Buddhism. Enduring 17 years and traversing 100 countries, he obtained Buddha figures, 657 kinds of sutras, and several Buddha relics. Upon his return with the permission of Emperor Gaozong (628-683), he supervised the building of the pagoda. First built to a height of 60 meters - five stories, it is now 64.5 meters high since the addition of two stories. Externally it looks like a square cone, simple but grand and it is a masterpiece of Buddhist construction. Built of brick, its structure is very firm. Inside the pagoda, stairs twist up so that visitors can climb and overlook the panorama of Xian City from the arch-shaped doors on four sides of each storey. On the walls are engraved fine statues of Buddha This is set inside an active walled temple complex. This evening William took us to a very interesting restaurant; Wen Hao Shi Fu Restaurant, that specializes in soups cooked in small clay pots placed inside huge clay urns located outside in front of the restaurant. Each urn has a charcoal fire at the base. Inside the urns the soups are cooked on 3 levels thus 3 different types of soups can be cooked in each urn as the heat is different on each of the 3 levels. Our individual tables clay pot of soup. In Xi'an we stayed at the Bell Tower Xi'an Hotel which is very centrally located in the heart of downtown Xi'an. Our room overlooked the Bell Tower and across the street was a large shopping mall. Our room here was long and narrow with the TV acting as a divider so that it appeared that our bed was in a room separate from the sitting area. The washroom provided all the usual amenities and of course the room had a safe. The breakfast was the usual lavish buffet with a chef to cook your eggs for you. Again there was no non-smoking area but as this hotel seemed to be used by mostly foreigners not many people were smoking in the restaurant. I would definitely recommend this hotel and give it 4 stars. May 18th Another busy day started with visit to the Temple of the Eight Immortals (Ba Xian An). This Taoist Temple is 3000 years old. Taoism is the original religion of China. Monks ring this bell during special ceremonies. The real adventure is getting there; our van dropped us off at the end of the very narrow alley which was packed with street vendors. These street vendors had their wares laid our on pieces of cloth or newspaper right on the street. This made the passageway of this alley so narrow that Ross had to fold up the wheelchair and push it folded while Dad walked. This temple was very busy as they were hosting a fund raising drive for the Earthquake victims. People were liked up to donate to the cause and in return received a gift of a cloth shopping bag. After making their donation almost everyone burned some incense and prayed. The next courtyard of the temple was set with tables laden with food for all. Everyone, including us, were welcome to enjoy the offerings. It is believed that to give food and partake of food like this helps one to have a good and long life. For lunch we went to the Dong Lui Shun Restaurant where we enjoyed a delicious individual hot pot lunch. The meats to cook were beef and lamb along with mushrooms lettuce and cabbage plus of course noodles. It was delicious but no time for a nap as it was off to see the Terracotta Warriors. After a drive of over an hour out of Xi'an into the country we arrived at the site of the Terracotta Figures. Excavation started in 1974 and to date they still have a lot more to do... The museum covers an area of 14,000 square meters and contains 6,000 life-size terra-cotta warriors and horses. The impressive sight of the figurines lined in neat formation grips the spectators with grandeur and magnificence to capture their admiration. The 2,200 year-old wonder was part of the Tomb of Qinshihuang, the first emperor of China. It is located in suburb of Xi'an and was discovered when local farmers were digging a well nearby. Three exhibition halls house the continuing excavation of an army of 7,000 terra-cotta soldiers and horses that guard the tomb of Qinshihuang. These figures have actually been damaged either by enemy invaders or by nature with the collapse of the earth falling onto the figures. Each figure was individually crafted so that no two are alike. When we arrived at the site our we exited our van and headed thru the ticket turnstile into the museum park. It is a large park with a long path over a kilometer to reach the actual museum. There is a golf cart you can ride for a small fee. Once at the actual site there are 4 large buildings. The main one has been built over the site of the excavated Terracotta Warriors. Another is over the partially excavated site that is currently being worked on. The third one is a museum that houses the golden chariot and other artifacts. Finally the last and smallest is a gift shop which also features an excellent film that explains the building of the warriors and the history. We spent the whole afternoon here and exited the final building to find that a big black cloud had formed and rain was imminent. We ran along the path pushing Dad in the wheelchair; at least the paths here are smooth and the buildings basically wheelchair friendly. We planned to walk back along the path we came up but a guard refused to let us a the paths are "One Way" we had to go the other way out which is further. Of course the "Way Out" is thru the shopping arcade that sells all kinds of souvenirs. We ran all the way to the van not taking time to look at any of the souvenirs and made it just as the heavens opened and it started to pour. However; by the time we had driven back to Xi'an the rain had stopped. Following dinner we enjoyed a Tang Dynasty Show where the costumes where colorful. May 19th This morning William picked us up at only 11am after he had retrieved Dad's alarm clock from a fellow guide at a different hotel. Dad had left the clock behind in the hotel in Chongqing and realized it when we arrived in Guilin. Lisa in Guilin called Access China who in turn called the hotel. The alarm clock was at the hotel and they would give it to an Access China guide who had a group coming from Chongqing to Xi'an on the 18th . Our guide could than get the clock and return it to Dad. Today we drove to Tongchuan to visit the potters of Chen Lu. In reality we visited a very run down museum and the excavation sites of 2 kilns from 800 years ago. It was a 2 hour drive each way and I definitely would not recommend anyone else waste the time visiting this attraction. We did not visit any potters at work or any working factories. May 19h Early evening flight to Beijing check into the Park Plaza Beijing Wangfujing another excellent hotel. Landing at the brand new Beijing International Airport, the largest airport in the world, we were met by our guide, Leylee Huang and our driver Mr. Yan who had a wheelchair for Dad. After reaching our van it was off to the hotel and a good nights sleep. The Park Plaza Beijing Wangfujing was an excellent hotel with the softest beds we found in China. Here we did not need to ask for comforters to act as mattress pads to make the bed softer. Our room was kept immaculate and all the amenities that we could want were in the bathroom including new toothbrushes each day. The room also came with an ironing board and iron, slippers and robe as well as the normal safe. Here we did get the non-smoking floor. The restaurant provided us with a sumptuous buffet each morning for breakfast with of course a chef to cook our eggs to our liking. This restaurant had a large non-smoking area which was separated from the smokers area. We enjoyed 2 dinners in this restaurant as well; both times I ordered a steak and it came just as I like it. I would definitely recommend this hotel and give it 4 stars. Beijing is the capital of China, with a 3,000-year history, 15.3 million people and covers 16,808 square kilometers in area. It is the political, cultural and economic center of the People's Republic of China. China as a whole is not wheelchair friendly although Beijing due to the Para-Olympics coming in September 2008 is working on it. Dad did get a lot of very rough rides in the wheelchair with Dad frequently having to walk up a couple of steps and then step over high door sills while Ross carried the wheelchair. May 20th Tiananmen Square was our first stop in Beijing. It is so large that it is hard to comprehend its real size. Packed with people; mostly Chinese tourists, we did not find this a comfortable venue to wonder in. Across the 12 lane ring road is the Forbidden City - fortunately there is an underpass for pedestrians. After crossing the ring road via the underpass where the wheelchair ramp was still under construction we arrived at the Forbidden City, also known as the Imperial Palace or Palace Museum. Located in the center of Beijing, covering 72 hectares, and built in 1420; it was the imperial residence of 24 emperors of the Ming and Qing dynasties. The last child Emperor moved out in 1911. Almost all of the courtyards here are paved without any trees or shrubs. This was done to eliminate hiding places for possible assassins of the Emperor. This "Large Stone Carving" is a single piece of stone 16 X 3 meters and weighing over 200tons. It was pulled to the Forbidden City in the winter by sprinkling water on the road in front of the stone so that they could slide the stone over the ice path thus created. At the rear of the Forbidden city is the Emperors quarters and the palace gardens the only place where any vegetation is found. This harmonious assemblage of buildings displays the best characteristics of Chinese architecture -- majestic style, flawless construction, and fine coordination of the whole and the parts. The moat which surrounds the Forbidden city is 3800m long and while the wall is 10m high. This moat is connected to the lake at the Summer Palace as well as the canals that lead to Suzhou in the south. After lunch we visited the Hutong (old residential area of central Beijing) by pedicab. I had noticed that all the homes, which are surrounded by walls are cement grey; this color was decreed by the Emperor as only the Emperor was allowed bright colors. The Emperor did not want any competition! In olden times the doors were black as red was reserved for Royalty but today all the doors are painted red to provide some color. All of the streets are very narrow and in general poor condition. Many of the homes here lack bathrooms so there is a public bath. However; due to location these homes are very valuable and much sought after. We visited Mr. Wu's home here. Mr. Wu is a retired Engineer from the Institute of Archaeology; who worked on the excavation of the Ming Tombs. Mr. Wu in the living room of the home he inherited from his Mother who purchased it in 1963. The home is divided into 3 - 3 room apartments which face a central courtyard and share a washroom. Mr. Wu occupies 1 apartment and his 2 sons each have an apartment. Below is a photo of Mr. Wu's courtyard. Here is the front entrance to Mr. Wu's home and the courtyard. Notice the high sill that wards off evil spirits. After the end of our Pedicab ride we walked to Prince Gong's Garden/Mansion. Prince Gong was the last Emperor's Uncle who was also a wealthy Merchant. In what was originally the study we enjoyed another tea ceremony while seated on antique 200 year old sandalwood chairs. All of the china cups were of the type that the designs changed color with the heat. I purchased a full set of the mugs where the characters tell what the scene on the cup is when filled with hot liquid. My family love using them and now quibble over who gets what scene with the Great Wall being the all time favorite. Only problem is they are not dishwasher safe so I have to wash them by hand! Back out in the garden we strolled along more corridors and past ponds and pavilions. You can see the haze in these photos - it was the start of a sand storm. By the time we were back in the van and returning to the hotel the haze had turned brown and outside you could feel the sting of the sand in the wind. Now for our Peking Duck Dinner at Dadong this was a delicious meal. The ovens behind a glass wall were open for viewing. We watched the chefs putting the ducks into the hot burning coals and then later taking out the succulent birds. A chef brought a whole duck to our table and carved it in front of us placing paper thin slices on each of our plates. Of course the duck came with all kinds of other goodies and we waddled out a couple of hours later after having definitely gorged ourselves. May 21stth Leylee picked us up early to head out trip to the Great Wall at Mutianyu which is 70km from Beijing. On the way we stopped at a factory where enamel vases, jewelry, dishes and other items are made using copper and paints. I bought several Christmas Tree ornaments in the factory store. The Great Wall is one of the best known ancient constructions in the world. The massive project built over 600 years ago it stretches from Shanghaiguan in the east to Jiayuguan in the west, a distance of over 6,300 kilometers. The Great Wall at Mutianyu is 23 - 26 feet high and 13 - 16 feet wide, constructed of granite slabs. The coping on both sides of the wall has parapets and battlements, which made it possible to repel foes from either side. The bases of the indented battlements have square holes arched at the top from which soldiers shot at the besiegers. Additional walls with watchtowers were built in order to relieve the enemy's assault on the main wall which is densely distributed with watchtowers, twenty-two in total. The wall runs up and down following the contours of the steep mountainsides. In one section it rises with a gradient of nearly 90 degrees on bare rock posing a challenge to any climbers Comfortable cable cars are available to facilitate climbing this section of the wall. You can see from the above photos that a walk on the wall is a climb either up or down. However that this could have been built in this location so long ago and remains intact today is amazing. Getting to the top of the wall was a feat as well. There is a cable car for ease in reaching the top of the Wall; however, one must reach the cable car station before you can board. The path up is very steep and too rough for a wheelchair. It was all Ross could do to push the empty wheelchair up this steep hill so unfortunately Dad had to hike it. The whole way is lined with vendors selling all types of souvenirs. Once at the top we thought we had made it to the cable car station; only to find out; that there were still 3 flights of steps to be climbed. Finally we were in the cable car and on our way to the top of the Great Wall! We exited the cable car and guess what more stairs; we still hadn't made it all the way to the top! The final steps are definitely "Man Size"! Ross & Dad on top of the Great Wall The Great Wall is a must for anyone visiting China and will be the highlight of the trip. The reason is simple: it is one of China's most important cultural and historical symbols We left the Great Wall with feelings of awe in having walked on a magnificent and significant piece of history; also regret that our time on the Great Wall was finished. On the way back down we shopped for souvenirs and bargained like troupers. We stopped in the village just below the wall for a BBQ trout lunch which was delicious. The trout are kept in ponds and you can actually catch your own and the restaurant will cook it; however, in our case we let the chef do all the work both the catching and cooking. Next up was the Ming Tombs. As the actual tombs would have required a lot of uphill climbing and stairs - no wheelchair ramps here - at Leylee's suggestion we opted to spend our time at the Scared Way which is the roadway leading to the tombs. Lined with trees and statues at regular intervals it was a very pleasant walk. The first statues are royal guards to guard the tombs then came the animal likenesses. There were 2 sets of each animal; one standing on guard and one laying down resting. In the centre of the walk is a temple with a stone tablet inside. On the way back to our hotel we stopped near the Olympic site to see the Birds Nest Stadium that was to open the next day. May 22nd Leylee had another very busy day in store for us. We started at the Temple of Heaven, the place where Emperors worshipped heaven and prayed for abundant harvests. Situated 2km southeast of the Forbidden City, the Temple, plus subsidiary buildings and surrounding gardens, covers an area five times the size of the Forbidden City; or 273 hectares. With exquisite architectural workmanship, it is the largest existing ancient architectural group for worshipping in China. These huge grounds form a beautiful park that is heavily utilized by the local residents. Here we watched people practicing Tai Chi, ballroom dancing, calligraphy, singing, walking their birds in cages or just enjoying the park and meeting with their friends. The Temple of Heaven is built of wood is 32m high and has no beams instead there are 26 support pillars. Situated on top of 3 circular marble terraces each 9 steps above the lower one. Beautifully carved rain spouts run the circumference of the terraces and are cleverly designed such that during a rain storm they create a waterfall effect. Still within the Temple of Heaven complex we visited the Echo Garden with its own temple. In this walled space everything was built to ensure that ones echo comes back to you. The Heavenly Circle is simply 3 terraces with a sacred round stone inset in the centre of the upper most terrace. Again 9 steps up to each level. In the photo you can clearly see the rain spouts. The Temple of Heaven Complex is surrounded by a circular wall which is 1700m in diameter. Upon Leaving the Temple of Heaven Leylee took us to a "Knock Off" market. Here there were 4 floors of stalls with merchants selling all kinds of souvenirs. Bargaining was the order of the day! We bought some cheap electronic gadgets; a USB fan for the computer that lights up while it cools you off and a computer mouse that lights up too! We could have spent an extra hour or so here! After lunch we visited the Summer Palace. The original one was burnt down by the allied forces in 1860; only to be rebuilt in 1895. In reality this is a huge garden covering 290 hectares; however, over half is actually Kunming Lake. The "Long Corridor" with brilliant decorative paintings on the ceiling goes on for ever. An unbelievable art gallery! The Marble Boat was built by Empress Dowager Cixi with fund allotted for building the Chinese navy. This Marble Boat sits serenely on the lake which was stocked with fish for the Empress by Eunuchs couriering favour as she liked to fish. Another feature of the Summer Palace is the 17 Arch Bridge. From here we proceeded to a wonderful Restaurant, Bai Jia Dayuan, which featured "Imperial Cuisine" served in the old Imperial Style. We were met at the entrance by men costumed as Eunuchs from the Imperial Court of the Qing Dynasty. Once the residence of Prince Li of the Qing Dynasty this"Yuejia Garden" is surrounded by 41 private dinning rooms. We were met at the door of our Dinning salon by our waitress dressed as a Concubine of the Imperial Court. Inside all was decorated in yellow the Royal colour. Following a wonderful dinner served by very attentive staff we were ushered out to our van. They carried lanterns to light the way for the guests. Now we headed off to a theatre to watch an episode of Peking Opera which is all about costumes, facial expressions, and body language. In the theatre we were seated at tables and served with jasmine tea May 23rd This morning is was the Yonghegong Lamasery built in 1694 during the Qing Dynasty as the residence of the Emperor Yongzheng before he ascended the throne. In the year 1744, the residence was completely converted into a lamasery. So this resplendent architectural complex is endowed with the style of an imperial palace, making it distinctive from others. The scriptures here are inscribed on brass cylinders and should only be turned clockwise. Next we visited the new BC Pavilion located just off Tiananmen Square. Opened to showcase British Columbia and Canada to both Chinese Tourists and Businessmen After lunch Leylee dropped us off at the Panjiayuan Market. This is a huge 6 storey building filled to overflowing with stalls which sell everything; however all of it just cheap reproductions of the original. Again one has to really bargain, but here I found a "knock off" Harley Davidson T-shirt for Robert as well as other souvenirs. In the 4 hours we spent wandering around we only covered about one third of the Market. May 24th Our China trip which we had dreamed of for many years and spent 2 years planning is drawing to an end as we pack and head off to Beijing International Airport and the trip home. This ornate wall is a decorative feature in the main entrance lobby of the airport. Once in the International Departures area we relaxed in the Business Class Lounge. They have created many relaxing features in this area from a dancing fountain to garden areas. Currently this is the newest (opened March 2008) and largest airport in the world. If you would like a copy of the above reveiw with photos included I will be happy to e-mail it to you directly just let me know at ann at century 21 vancouver dot com To enjoy the first part of my review which is Shanghai plus our 7 day cruise aboard the Rhapsody of the Seas to Japan & Korea see the Rhapsody of the Seas Review. Please enter your review. Read Less
2 Helpful Votes
Sail Date: July 2008
This is an older ship, but is a great experience. We had a Junior Suite which was large and had windows on two sides. The bath was adequate and included a tub. The cabin was attractive and beds were comfortable. A large screen high ... Read More
This is an older ship, but is a great experience. We had a Junior Suite which was large and had windows on two sides. The bath was adequate and included a tub. The cabin was attractive and beds were comfortable. A large screen high definition television with satellite access completed the accommodations. Non-suite cabins appeared to be small compared to major cruise ships, but were fine for a short cruise. Internet access was available, but large mountains rendered service less than completely dependable. Food at all meals was very good, and included Western selections at breakfast and lunch. Chinese selections at dinner were quite tasty and attractive. Ship's crew were extremely friendly and helpful, especially the Chinese cruise director, Campbell, who made sure all passenger needs were satisfied. On a slow afternoon, he made sure we knew we could arrange special movies to be viewed in our room, or in a larger venue. Evening entertainment was better than on some major ships, and the captain's welcome recession was much better, both as to choice of food and availability of sparkling wine. Included tours were well run and very enjoyable. There is a small boat tour of two of the gorges, plus a half day tour to the dam. There is a small gym with machines in good working order. Hair care and massage was available. We were sorry to leave the ship. Read Less
4 Helpful Votes
Sail Date: November 2009
Victoria Queen By Jim Thornton China November 10, 2009 This was our sixth river cruise in contrast to our 13 ocean cruises. Our cabin was a deluxe cabin, called the Shangri-La Suite, on the port side of the second deck near the bow of ... Read More
Victoria Queen By Jim Thornton China November 10, 2009 This was our sixth river cruise in contrast to our 13 ocean cruises. Our cabin was a deluxe cabin, called the Shangri-La Suite, on the port side of the second deck near the bow of the ship and close to the bow stairway. We sailed on a four-day about 500-mile Yangtze River cruise from Yichang upstream (towards the west) to Chongqing. Each day there was something new to see like the controversial Three Gorges Dam, which is more than three and a half miles wide, and created a 20-mile long lake displacing over one million people and submerging their 13 cities, 140 towns, and 1,352 villages. Ship: Is one of the larger ships on the river. It and its identical Victoria Cruise ship (the Victoria Prince) were originally built in 1995, rebuilt in 2003, and refurbished in 2008. The ship has four passenger decks without elevators and carries 206 passengers with a crew of 121. Cabin: Our room was larger (622 square feet) than on the previous river cruises that we sailed on. There are two of these deluxe suites each consisting of a bedroom with king size bed with two nightstands and large outside windows on two sides of the cabin on the entire port and bow sides; a large private balcony over looking the bow, a couch, a small table, a small desk and chair, a TV set with two English language channels - CNN and HBO and lots of Chinese language channels and DVD player, two small clothes closets, a small refrigerator and mini-bar, and a large bathroom with a western toilet, two sinks, shower, and a bathtub. The ship has 93 standard cabins (211 square feet) with two single beds on the second deck; six junior suites (294 square feet) with two single beds on the second, third, and fourth decks, and two deluxe suites (458 square feet) with king size beds on the second deck. All cabins have and private bathrooms with separate showers, and balconies. The ship's electrical voltage is the same as the country's 220 volts at 50 Hertz. Laundry: A fee-based same day laundry service is available. Dining Room: There is a single dining room where breakfast and lunch is a serve yourself buffet and the buffet lines get very long and the food in mainly Chinese with a little western. At dinnertime, the individual Chinese courses are brought to your table and placed on a large common circular plate that rotates so that you may serve yourself. Chopsticks are always provided but so are forks. Tips: A suggested $10 (US) per passenger per day is suggested for the entire ship's crew, plus a separate $4 for the "River Guide". Evening Entertainment: Varies as the crew provides live music, dances, and acrobatics. Internet: There are several for-a-fee computers for passenger use to access their e-mail accounts, the Internet, etc. Bars: There is a bar on the fourth deck and it is a full bar. Meeting Room: Is on the fourth deck in the same large room as the bar. Tours: Visiting and seeing the Three Gorges, the relocated villages, the Three Gorges dam, the large ship locks, and the Xiling Gorge. These tours are included in the overall price of the cruise. Doctor: A Chinese trained medical doctor is onboard. Overall Opinion: This was our second Yangtze River cruise. The previous non-Victoria Queen cruise was on the Princess Sheena, a German built ship that contained a working German-standard water purification and sterilization system meaning that you could drink the water from the cabin's sink. On the Victoria Queen all your drinking water came from small commercial plastic water bottles. Each day in your cabin, one bottle was provided per passenger. In the dining room, you could order only a single small glass of water but there are no refills. Thus I could often take my bottle of water from my cabin to the dinning room. Read Less
4 Helpful Votes
Sail Date: May 2010
Somewhat seasoned travellers, my wife and I are in our late 50's and residents of a small village in Eastern Canada. We wanted to visit Asia while our health still permitted it. We decided on an extended 8-night cruise on the Yangtze ... Read More
Somewhat seasoned travellers, my wife and I are in our late 50's and residents of a small village in Eastern Canada. We wanted to visit Asia while our health still permitted it. We decided on an extended 8-night cruise on the Yangtze River from Shanghai to Chongqing with a few days in Shanghai at the beginning and some time in Hong Kong to end a 16-day trip. We had experienced river cruising in Europe in 2007 with Uniworld from Basel Switzerland to Amsterdam and we absolutely loved that cruise. Aboard the River Ambassador, we had a small but very comfortable stateroom, excellent meals, visits to scenic sports and nice scenery along the way. We were then confident of receiving the same type of quality service since Victoria Cruises is used by Uniworld for their China river cruises. Also, if one looks at their promotional advertisement on U-Tube, Victoria Cruises appears like a vacation of luxury, relaxation and gastronomy. They tell you about executive chef Walter Stade preparing their gastronomic adventure and about the mixture of Chinese and western food to please all palates. They talk of great wine, of personnel trained to meet your every need, etc. Lovely indeed... We boarded the Victoria Prince leaving Shanghai on May 2, 2010 and arriving in Chongqing on May 10th. The ship is relatively well maintained. The staterooms are small but comfortable. The beds and linen are good. We had a mini fridge and a small balcony with 2 chairs that we enjoyed a lot. Each cabin had a HDTV with HBO and CNN. The public rooms were well appointed and quite comfortable. It was very acceptable if not quite the same quality and good taste as the Uniworld European fleet. The first very unpleasant experience was morning coffee followed quickly by food. I generally go to bed early and get up early, around 5 a.m. When I get up, in a comatose state, I need 2-3 coffees to become human again and help me wait for breakfast. Cruise Ships (including Uniworld) and hotels usually have coffee available around the clock. I never had problems before anywhere. On the Victoria Prince, it was impossible to get a coffee before "coffee hour" which varied every morning according to their precisely managed daily schedule, generally around 7 a.m. I tried everything to get coffee. I got myself a thermos of hot water delivered to my cabin at 11 p.m. at night but could not get a thermos of hot coffee delivered the same way, even by begging or bribing. For some unknown reason, this small need could not be accommodated. I then tried to buy some instant coffee from the ship store but they had none (as a matter of fact, the food section of the ship store consisted of only a few chocolate bars such as M&M or Snickers - no chips, no peanuts, nothing unless you wanted to eat a t-shirt!). I was not the only coffee hound on the ship. A smart Australian oman found a supermarket in Nanjing and was kind enough to let me have a third of a Nescafe jar. I am forever grateful and in debt. With that, I managed to get a small cup of milk from the bar every day that I kept in my mini-fridge. With my hot water delivered at night, I could make myself some very bad coffee every morning but that made me happy. The food was also a sorry affair. Far from the promised adventure in gastronomy, as described in the publicity, it was below par and could not be compared with anything I had in the past. Generally, I am not a fussy eater if I can manage to get some decent proteins and a bit a carbohydrates. ON large cruise ships, I rarely visit the dining room and I am quite satisfied with cafeteria-style food. And I have had many mals in very good Chinese restaurants, mostly to m y liking and often to my delight. I lost a lot of weight on that trip because the food was simply lousy. The first morning, I was pleased to see that they had scrambled eggs and bacon, my saviour food when I don't like what is served at other meals. The following day, the bacon was gone, replaced by a milky white tube they called a port sausage. Certainly did not taste like pork or anything I have ever tasted. And I did not see bacon for another 4 days, then sporadically only. When there were potatoes, they were fried in very old dark oil, leaving an overcooked burnt oily taste in the mouth. The soup was a corn starch base with finely cut vegetables in it. It tasted like glue, cold and repulsive. Their designer chef Walter Stade must be quite pleased with this new gastronomic wonder! For meals, we were assigned to a table of 9. Our table companions were 4 Australians, 2 Americans and one German gentleman and they were all very pleasant. We used to re-order 5 to 6 baskets of bread and butter per meal. The bread was good and so was the butter. We tried the 10 different plates served family-style at every meal. Ate a little of this, a little of that, in an attempt to feed ourselves. Most of it was vegetables covered with thick bland starch thickening agent or what was called marinated vegetables, which was basically just lumpy and tasteless. The quality of the meat was also very poor, chewy and nerdy. No fish, Small breaded shrimps once. They had good fresh green salad with what they called ranch dressing. Once during the trip, we had small slices of beef in a pepper gravy with mashed potatoes. That emptied in seconds and everybody was smiling for a day. Once we had one spring roll each, very oily and not very good but to us, it was better than the usual fare, so we emptied it. Most of the food went back to the kitchen at every meal but nobody every asked us why. So I guess they knew why... And with poor food on a cruise, you start feeling like a prisoner in a camp very quickly. You look for possible alternatives but there are none. You wonder why you have a mini fridge in each room with nothing in it. Daily excursions bring you to museums, temples, mountaintops, not to a store where you can buy something to eat. Contrary to Europe, there is very little free time to mix with the Chinese or try local restaurants. You are in and out of buses and back on the ship. Everyday you always hope that things will improve but they never do. At the end of the trip, you have no appetite left. You feel like a zombie. Thank God the last day has come,Fengdu temple, the temple of the dead, how fitting! But there were some positive things on this trip. The ship hotel staff, all young and willing, are impressive in their funny way. They are more than willing to please but they don't know how and the management is drilling them into little patterns like military personnel. When you shop up for morning coffee, for example, there are 3 of them standing around the coffee machine, white shirts and black suits. One welcomes you, the other one give you a coffee or a tea, the third one wishes you good day. Every morning, same routine, same personnel, same method. When you get off the ship for an excursion, there are 10 to 20 young employees in uniform, every 25 feet or so, everyone taking turn in wishing you a good day. The same is true when you come back. They are all lined up, everyone in turn welcoming you back. I guess this is what their management tell them is good customer service. This line up is important but still no coffee in the early morning just the same. On each floor on of the ship, in front of the stairs, there is one of those young employees sitting behind a desk 24-7. As you go by, he or she gets up and says hello. Strange again. There is a pone in each cabin but no room service. If you need ice, they say you should ask the attendant on your floor. When you ask your attendant, he/she does not understand. If you say "bing kwai tchii" or "ice please" in mandarin, he/she does not understand because of your poor pronunciation. You then make a little ice cube with your hand and then shiver, they get it and literally run to get you ice. They are bored but quite willing to be of service and somebody should teach them what ice means, or a few simple words, like towel, or sop, basic things like that. But what they know how to do, they do extremely well. Our stateroom was made up the minute we stepped out of it in the morning and again during supper and was kept spotless. Just as the hotel management of the ship leaves to be desired, the junior attendants to wonders. I figures that after months or years in the corridor, when they have enough English, they graduate to the dining room. We had 2 attendants in the dining room that we could have basic conversation with. They also taught us some Chinese sentences and it was very enjoyable. They serve 3 meals a day, then do floor shows cabaret style during the evenings. They really have full days and work hard but are always smiling. Like I said, great staff, very poor hotel management. I still can't believe this company is owned by Americans. There were some interesting excursions on this cruise but everything in China seems to come with a lot of stairs in it Sun Yat Sen Mausoleum 392 steps, Huangshan mountain 380 steps, Fendu 700 steps (thank God there is a chair lift that solves that one by 80%). The highlights are definitely the 3-Gorge and the Dam, very beautiful and impressive. The low point is that you meet so few Chinese people outside the government appointed guides giving you the official story. You always seem to be kept away, isolated, in tourist land. We had to use the ship doctor, also the tai chi instructor. My wife developed a bronchitis, due to uncontrolled air conditioning, high level of humidity and constant diesel fumes. The doctor identified a small throat infection and suggested administering antibiotics through an IV. She flatly refused so he gave her some throat losanges. He did not have any syrup or anything to make her sleep and she kept coughing all night which added to the lack of sleep. The problem got easily fixed in Hong Kong a week later. Do not count on the ship doctor, bring lots of medicines for various ailments as some of the other passengers did. They can be useful. Finally, let me say that it was an interesting trip but not a pleasant one. We thought the cruise would be the highlight of our trip to Asia. It was not. We enjoyed Shanghai a lot at the beginning and the cruise was quickly washed away in Hong Kong, where I had possible the best meal of my life or so it seemed after a week on the Victoria Prince. If you choose to do a cruise on the Yangtze, choose a short cruise (3 or 4 nights) to visit the 3 Gorges and the Dam. Stay away from the long 8-night cruise. Read Less
11 Helpful Votes
Sail Date: May 2010
I am an American who have lived in China for many years, and a frequent cruiser. I finally got around to taking a trip in my own backyard - the Yangtze River. I booked online through one of the government owned travel agents and the price ... Read More
I am an American who have lived in China for many years, and a frequent cruiser. I finally got around to taking a trip in my own backyard - the Yangtze River. I booked online through one of the government owned travel agents and the price was excellent, and the travel service was good. I speak the language so getting to and from the boat was easy - albeit expensive by Chinese standards. In Yichang the boats dock outside of town in a scenic area and there are few taxis. Outside the gate and a few hundred yards up the hill is a pretty canyon with restaurants dug into the cliffs, and some outstanding food. Some others on the ship complained of the places their travel agents took them. The night we arrived we were told to board before 8, which we dutifully did, only to be told the boat would not leave until the next morning. We then left the boat, after signing a waiver, and went into town. They asked us not to return too late - before midnight. No problem. The boat is sizable and comfortable. The staterooms are of typical size for a cruise ship, with two single beds, and the public rooms are clean and simple. The air conditioning in the stateroom was too strong and even at the highest setting was freezing. The passengers were about half Chinese and half foreign (although many of Chinese were from Hong Kong and Taiwan, but there was at least one group from a textile company in Shanghai). It was a holiday weekend in China and that might have attracted more Chinese guests than usual. The foreign group included a fair number of expatriates living in China and the typical geriatric set on the cruise as part of a longer tour of China. It was a good combination of people and they mixed well. Dining tables were mostly assigned by tour group, while I think most people would have preferred to have mixed things up a bit. Tours were well organized, interesting, and mostly included in the cruise price. There were two add-on tours with a modest charge, but only one ran and it was worthwhile. Passengers were divided by language into tour groups and the local guides spoke English well. The dam tour was most interesting as was going through the five locks. Meals were in the main dining room. The separate menu dining mentioned on this site seems to have stopped. The food was well prepared, but the quantity was barely enough - plates were scrapped pretty clean. Breakfast and lunch were buffet style, and you needed to hit the line early or you would miss out. Although they said they ran breakfast from 7:30 to 8:30, we came down the first morning at 8:15 only to find them hauling off the last of the food. We asked for coffee, only to be told there was none. A complaint to the front desk resulted in quick action, with apologies all around and a fruit basket to the room, and great service from that point forward. The crew is all Chinese, most everyone you come into contact with speaks good English. I need to put a word in for the pastry chef - this guy could work at Crystal Lines. The cooking was good - a mix of Chinese and Western that went together well. They are not spending enough money on quality and quantity of ingredients, however. I felt like a poor kid whose mother knows how to make the best of very little - it was quaint, but not what I expected. China has come a long ways in service in the last decade. This line is not keeping up. The experience was very much like a 3 star hotel in most major cities. It is comfortable, but not up to the standard that modern Chinese and foreign tourists have come to expect from someone advertising a five star experience. There really is a niche here for a more upmarket offering. Read Less
5 Helpful Votes
Sail Date: February 2011
We booked the short 4 day jaunt on Cunard's Queen Victoria, not for the itinerary. We wanted a taste of Cunard, and this shortie was a great way to experience it. Embarkation: In LA went very smoothly. We were on the ship and ... Read More
We booked the short 4 day jaunt on Cunard's Queen Victoria, not for the itinerary. We wanted a taste of Cunard, and this shortie was a great way to experience it. Embarkation: In LA went very smoothly. We were on the ship and having lunch by 1pm. We were able to go to our stateroom and drop our things as soon as we boarded. The elevator to the lido lunch buffet was easy and no wait. Dining: Our dining room was the Brittania, where guest staying in balcony accommodations and below dined. It was a lovely dining room, with exceptional food quality and taste. The happiness ends there. Service was slow, unfriendly, and seemed to actually get worse instead of better throughout the cruise. Say, I was to ask for a plain green salad, instead of one of the featured salads, the waiter would frown, puff, pretend like he wasn't getting what I was saying, and never offered or agreed to bring me a plain green salad. I sometimes would ask for Cunard's famous "Marie Rose" salad dressing to accompany my salad. This irritated my waiter to no end, and I would eventually get it, but he made me feel bad for asking. And ask I would have to do, instead of him remembering and having it waiting for me at every dinner. Getting bread, or even more bread was a battle as well...iced tea or coffee was also a nuisance. I had better service a few times when dining in the dining room at lunch when we had random servers. Some were actually pleasant, but we did encounter a lot of guests up in arms about the poor service they received aboard. I expected a lot more from Cunard's White Star service... Cruise Critic Meet and Greet: I arranged our M&G 2 weeks prior to the sailing. They kept messing up and getting either my date wrong, or time wrong. I finally corrected their paperwork, and asked for final confirmation, which was never received. We decided oh well, we will wing it, everyone on CC knows where to meet, the date and the time as all agreed upon. The evening before our M&G I got a note from the personal asst. to the Hotel Manager stating that our M&G was set to take place in the game room. I called, and said, no we are set for the specific cocktail lounge we had chosen, and been confirmed previously. With a rotten attitude she informed me "We would never schedule a group there as its cocktail hour". Well, that's precisely why we booked that room, we wanted to order cocktails while we all visited. She insisted we had to be in the card room. I told her I had no way of contacting the other members, perhaps she could post a sign where everyone was supposed to meet. 15 minutes prior to meet time, we went to the card room. There were many people playing games, and no set up for our M&G.The people playing card games did not appear to want to be disturbed by a group of 40 some folks meeting for socialization, so we went to the original place and there was no sign...people started gathering and we chose to stay where we were, where we had booked, with our CC sign on the table in front of us. One of us would keep running up to the card room to see if any cruise staff or officers had arrived, or if a private party in progress sign was ever put up. Nothing but card players...so we merrily ordered our drinks and had a lovely M&G in the lounge. The following day I had a very snide message from the same pa to the Hotel Mangager. saying that we did not show up and our group stood the Capt. up. I called her up, explained the situation and she scolded me...told me she looked for us where we said we would be, and we were not there. Well, somehow she missed a group of about 40 people with chairs all pulled together and a bright CC sign sitting in front of us. She made me feel so bad, when indeed, they were not prepared, or accommodating to our CC group. Silly not to realize CC has a definite influence on others wanting to book cruises. We all speak from our experiences. We did indeed write a letter about the ordeal sent to the Hotel manager and The Capt. We did get a lovely response from the captain, and basically another scolding from the Hotel Manager herself. You just don't do business this way. BIG THUMBS down to Cunard and their customer service. You should never be made to feel like an unwanted intruder on a cruise ship, but as a welcomed and valued guest! Accommodations: We were in a balcony stateroom. It was beautiful! The bathroom was small, but well appointed with nice amenities. Very small shower, but very doable for a short cruise. The bed was very comfortable, great pillow selection, and comfortable linens. The balcony was spacious for two chairs and a table. A small sofa was by the balcony door. The colors and fixtures were really nice, it was an elegant room and one of my favorites to date! Our room steward Marilyn, was spot on and never intruded on us. Plenty of storage in the closets and drawers beside the beds. ENTERTAINMENT: The theatre production was so different and refreshing from the usual cruise ship show. We reserved a private theatre box for the production night. What an experience that was! Box guests met for champagne cocktails and chocolate desserts prior to the being personally escorted one by one to our box seats. Every one's heads in the theatre turned to see who was being escorted and occupying the box seats. More chocolates and a small split of champagne awaited us in the box. The performers seemed to cater to us up in the boxes and it was the most memorable experience we have had at sea! The other entertainment left allot to be desired, and not up to even the poorest cruise ship standards. The public rooms were beautiful, and never felt crowded. Bar service was quick, drinks reasonably priced. The Queens Room ballroom is so elegant, but we never danced, as everyone there seemed to be professionals. It is nice that Cunard employs dance hosts to dance with the ladies without partners. The pools were never used as it was a bit chilly, but the hot tubs were like bath water and very enjoyable. SMOKING: You are only allowed to smoke on your balcony, not inside your room. NO PUBLIC rooms allowed cigarette smoking, not even the casino. There were two open decks that smoking was permitted, but never by the pools. Yes, I would sail on Cunard again, because maybe they just didn't get this cruise right. But they will not be my first, or even second choice. Read Less
4 Helpful Votes
Sail Date: June 2011
We had taken a river cruise in the past and so were interested in a small/boutique cruise experience. This ship has approximately 200 passengers, which in hindsight was probably a bit big for our tastes. The age of the group varied, but ... Read More
We had taken a river cruise in the past and so were interested in a small/boutique cruise experience. This ship has approximately 200 passengers, which in hindsight was probably a bit big for our tastes. The age of the group varied, but the majority were over 70 years old - we are in our late 40's, so a more mixed group would have been preferable for us - however everyone was lovely. For some reason they sat everyone for meals on the first night and wouldn't allow anyone to change tables after that - this was a disappointment, as the opportunity to meet other people from different countries is always a great aspect of traveling - management should change this practice. For anyone considering this cruise, it is important to consider that China has a lot of steps! Every stop on the cruise demanded walking up many steps. The cabin was lovely - good cooling, good balcony, and a fridge in the room. Drinks in the bar cost approx 25 yuan (about $3.75 AUS) for a beer, 35 yuan (about $5.25 AUS) for a gin and tonic, and about $30 AUS for a bottle of Chinese red wine. Beer can be bought at any local supermarket, or street stalls for about 45cents AUSD, wine for about $4.50 AUS a bottle - so with the fridge in your room you can have a few drinks on your balcony at minimal cost. Laundry was standard international hotel prices - about $10 AUS for a pair of pants - as a result, very few passengers seemed to use the laundry service, and seemed to rinse things out themselves. The staff are lovely, and multi-talented - they are required to undertake their regular duties, and perform in the entertainment at night! Of note - one passenger had an injury that required stitches - the doctor on board didn't have the equipment/materials to do that. The doctor was able to offer moxibustion, acupuncture, but it seems equipment for standard Western treatment was lacking - the cruise group should consider this issue. Hairdressing/massage was popular, and reasonably priced - approx $20 AUS for hair-wash and blow wave. Food was great, I am amazed that the amount,quality and variety the chef produces every meal for 200 people! But was there are a number of days with limited activity (ie: not leaving the ship, or leaving for a brief tour at 7pm) by day three we moved onto a bowl of cereal for breakfast and little if any lunch - we had lost our appetite - no reflection on the food - we simply didn't need three buffet meals a day when doing little exercise! This cruise was a really convenient and peaceful way to see a lot of China that would have been difficult or busy to travel to. It was a great break from the hustle and bustle of China. The Gorges area is beautiful and the Ship locks of the dam project are amazing - a great area to see. Read Less
4 Helpful Votes
Sail Date: July 2011
We took a week long cruise from Chongqing to Shanghai in July. Finding the ship was very difficult, even with Chinese instructions for the taxi driver and we were dropped at the wrong dock. Some porters miraculously appeared and took ... Read More
We took a week long cruise from Chongqing to Shanghai in July. Finding the ship was very difficult, even with Chinese instructions for the taxi driver and we were dropped at the wrong dock. Some porters miraculously appeared and took our luggage about 1 km to where the VP was docked next to 2 rusty barges that we had to walk through. Just as we arrived, a brass band started playing to greet us, and stopped the minute we walked on board! Cabins were basic and contained a bath. Meals were quite nice, but they seemed to hussle us out of the dining room as soon as possible. No afternoon tea or snacks provided. Ports Fengdu- 500 steps- didn't go. Wuhan- interesting archeological museum and we were taken by bus. Three Gorges dam- interesting bus tour to dam and tourist centre. Boat trip down 3 gorges. This was beautiful, and then we transferred to smaller boats for the Shennong streams. Fascinating day learning about the TGD and the raised water levels. Yellow mountain- 2 hour bus ride, long queue for cable car, but the sight was awesome. Also lots of steps.Nanjing- didn't go to Sun Yat sen's memorial because of 500 steps. Afternoon spent in pleasant shopping mall in Nanjing. Debarkation quick and painless and we found a taxi to take us to hotel. Overall- staff were very pleasant and accommodating. No night life except a couple of shows. Chinese tour director Luther worked very hard for all of us and there were a few interesting speakers about art, medicine, the dam. Bar service basic. A pleasant 3 star cruise but not in the league of the 5 star ocean liners. Read Less
5 Helpful Votes
Sail Date: September 2011
I cruised the Yangtze River in China for three nights in Sept 2011. The entire ship smelled like bad curry initially. My cabin had a strong musty odor. I had to febreze the entire cabin! The cabin was large and had a good sized sitting ... Read More
I cruised the Yangtze River in China for three nights in Sept 2011. The entire ship smelled like bad curry initially. My cabin had a strong musty odor. I had to febreze the entire cabin! The cabin was large and had a good sized sitting room, separate bedroom, and bathroom. The water in the shower was not working--it was discolored and took 4 calls and an entire day to get fixed. The crew spoke very poor English. All of the entertainment was provided by the crew. The lectures were provided by the Chinese doctor who spoke English very poorly or the river guide who also had a very strong accent. The food was good although the lines for the breakfast and lunch buffet were very long. The excursions were fair. Read Less
5 Helpful Votes
Sail Date: September 2011
Arrived at 1830 for our 4 night cruise. Warmly welcomed by staff and Dick (cruise director from USA). Found we had been upgraded to a suite, and what a lovely experience. Huge double bed, flat screen TV, lounge area, double balcony, spa ... Read More
Arrived at 1830 for our 4 night cruise. Warmly welcomed by staff and Dick (cruise director from USA). Found we had been upgraded to a suite, and what a lovely experience. Huge double bed, flat screen TV, lounge area, double balcony, spa bath and separate shower. Food was quite good, would have liked to have snacks available in evenings. Our table were independent travellers and were a mixed bunch of lovely people who we got to know quite well. Lots of night sailing but good trips to Dam, Ghost City and mini gorges. Clean ship, not too formal, drinks available at docks at cheaper prices than boat to drink in room. Disembarked at Chongqing, beware of taxi drivers wanting 100 - 50 RMB for a 10 RMB journey to hotel. We walked down the road a bit and got a taxi for 20 RMB but could have asked for meter to be put on. Read Less
Sail Date: May 2012
We have never been on a cruise. We travel extensively but never been on a cruise. When we signed up for a 19 day private tour with Vietnam Royal Tourism one of the suggestions was to go on a 3 day 2 night cruise on the Victory Star - a ... Read More
We have never been on a cruise. We travel extensively but never been on a cruise. When we signed up for a 19 day private tour with Vietnam Royal Tourism one of the suggestions was to go on a 3 day 2 night cruise on the Victory Star - a cruise on Ha Long Bay. We have heard of Ha Long Bay and have seen pictures and it was definitely one of the places we wanted to see. So there we were on the Victory Star for a 3 day Ha Long Bay cruise. It was fantastic. The cabin was a little bigger than I thought they would be. The staff was outstanding. - the food was some of the best we had ever had. And there was more than enough at each meal. We traveled around Ha Long Bay and the second day out we had a trip on the Day boat to a fishing village. Only 8 of us signed up for this trip. And we were to have lunch on the Day boat. I really wasn't expecting much, I didn't think they could match the meals we were having on the Victory Star. Well they did, with only 8 people on the Day boat lunch was great. The ship was in excellent shape, it was clean and the presentation of the meals was terrific. Who knows after this great experience, we may become "cruise people" If you planning on a trip to Vietnam, definitely have the Victory Star in your plans, Read Less
9 Helpful Votes
Sail Date: April 2013
We recently enjoyed a 4 day Yangtze River Cruise on the Victoria Jenna. This was part of a pre-cruise China land tour booked through Princess Cruises. We boarded the Jenna in Fengdu because the Yantze was too low for the riverboat to ... Read More
We recently enjoyed a 4 day Yangtze River Cruise on the Victoria Jenna. This was part of a pre-cruise China land tour booked through Princess Cruises. We boarded the Jenna in Fengdu because the Yantze was too low for the riverboat to meet us in Chongqing. After a four hour bus ride from Chongqing, we arrived about 9:00 pm. The steps down to the riverboat are steep and there is no railing but the entire crew was there with flashlights to assist us. Our luggage was promptly delivered to our cabin. The cabins are small but efficient. They have a sliding glass door and a small balcony. The room has two twin beds, a small closet, a small flat screen TV, and a desk and chair. The bathroom had a very small bathtub/shower. It definitely was sufficient for this short cruise. Every meal was a buffet except for the last night's dinner. A wide variety of Chinese food and a few western selections were available at every meal. The crew, including the cabin stewards, waitresses and bar staff, also provide the nightly entertainment. On the second night, the crew modeled and explained traditional Chinese fashion and its history. They entertained us with historical Chinese singing and dancing and some current hits on the third night. We were lucky to have superb weather throughout our trip. Of course, the highlight of this cruise is the amazing scenery along the Yangtze River. This was enhanced with excellent lectures by the riverguide. In addition, the riverguide gave a lecture in the lounge and shared pictures of his life with his family growing up on a farm, his wedding, his new daughter, and his new apartment which gave us a wonderful and delightful insight into the Chinese lifestyle. Read Less
5 Helpful Votes
Sail Date: January 2014
The Victoria Queen has been rennovated and is now known as the Victoria Lianna. Our 4 night cruise was booked through Affordable Asia Travel as part of a larger China tour. Victoria Cruises advertises their cruises as being 5 star ships. ... Read More
The Victoria Queen has been rennovated and is now known as the Victoria Lianna. Our 4 night cruise was booked through Affordable Asia Travel as part of a larger China tour. Victoria Cruises advertises their cruises as being 5 star ships. From an American perspective this is not true. If you think of their ships as being a 3 star facility with 4 star service your expectations will be better met and you will be happy. Our upriver cruise began in Yichang January 12, 2014 and ended at Chongqing on January 16, 2014. Dinner on embarcation day is not included. We were in an Executive Superior Cabin, which entitled us to perks like free internet, free happy hour, free soft drinks in the lounge all day, and 4 pieces of free laundry per day. The cabin was comfortable with a small balcony and a bathtub in the bathroom. There was plenty of heat, but it was either off or on without individual temperature control. There were two shore excursions offered per day. We bought a package that included one shore excursion per day: a tour of the 3 Gorges Dam, boat tour of one of the Yangtze trubutaries, and a tour of the Fengdu "Ghost City" Temple Hill. Those who did not purchase the shore excursions were not permited to disembark the ship. The shore excursions were worth the package price of $90 for the three excursions and included good commentary from fluent English speaking guides. The three other excursions that we did not purchase were about $45 per excursion. The food on board was of a good quality and was tasty. Think good, not gormet, food with a selection of two or three entrees plus soup, salad, and dessert. Executive Cabin guests dine in their own dining room and have menu service for dinner, rather than a buffet. The Lianna's crew provided some nice folk dances for entertainment two of the nights. There were also Chinese lessons and Mah Jong (Chinese game) lessons offered some afternoons. A small gym was available for passenger use. The River Guide (like a cruise director) provided good commentary in both English and Chinese as we cruised through the scenic gorges along the river. You had to rise by 7 am to see some of the gorge areas. Transit of the locks at the 3 Gorges Dam was at night, but you saw the locks during the day on the Dam tour (if you took it). English speakers are a minority on these cruises, and only some of the staff speak English (beyond simple greetings). With a little patience and persistance, you will find out everything that you need to and will get what you need done. All in all, a great cruise experience and a comfortable way to see the scenic areas of the Yangtze River. Upon disembarcation, we visited the Chongqing Zoo to see their Pandas. We saw 5 of them in their nice habitats and 3 of them were feeding during our early morning visit. Afterward, we visited the historic old town part of Chongqing for some shopping and snacking (both of which were good here). Read Less
10 Helpful Votes
Sail Date: May 2015
We sailed on the Victoria Sophia as part of a Magic of the Yangtze trip and sailed down the river from Shanghai to Chongqing staying on the boat for 8 days. A number of tours off the boat was also included in the packaged holiday cost at ... Read More
We sailed on the Victoria Sophia as part of a Magic of the Yangtze trip and sailed down the river from Shanghai to Chongqing staying on the boat for 8 days. A number of tours off the boat was also included in the packaged holiday cost at the various places it stopped including Nanjing, Wuhan and the three Gorges. So first of all the boat which was (according to them) 5 star but I'd put it nearer 3+, the cabins were in essence all the same (except the rather expensive suites) and were of a similar size to most big Cruise ships, functional but not over spacious. All of the areas were kept very clean and the staff were excellent as was the food (mostly buffet style) provided in the restaurant. As per most ships nearly all purchases aboard were charged to your ship board account to settle at the end, the exception being the on-board artists which preferred cash for decorated jars, paintings, engraved stones etc. As part of booking early we received a $200 on board credit to our account but we couldn't use this to pay for any optional trips, on-board artist products or the mandatory service charge (staff tips) so effectively had to use the $200 just to buy drinks. To be honest for the first 3 days we were very disappointed with the scenery down the Yangtze as it's all industrialised and sailing for some 500 miles with factories either side of the river bank and being accompanied by coal barges and container ships down the river was no fun. In general most of the tours they do from the boat are quite reasonable and do show you more of rural China but the one trip I'd recommend is an optional trip to the "Tribe of the Three Gorges" which goes to a very beautiful, peaceful and picturesque area. On board the boat there weren't many activities planned during the day with the exception of some talks presented by the boat's English speaking River Guide who was quite excellent and provide us with some Chinese history as seen by the Chinese people. On some evenings the boat's staff put on various shows (Chinese costume, culture etc.) and these were all very good. Read Less
9 Helpful Votes
Sail Date: April 2016
Victoria Jenna “an unreservedly positive experience” Sailed the VICTORIA JENNA , on a 7 nite/8 day cruise Chongqing to Yichang (return), April 2016. Can easily say, overall was the most outstanding cruise trip ever taken by ... Read More
Victoria Jenna “an unreservedly positive experience” Sailed the VICTORIA JENNA , on a 7 nite/8 day cruise Chongqing to Yichang (return), April 2016. Can easily say, overall was the most outstanding cruise trip ever taken by us. - the Jenna, was essentially a “new” ship, just on it's second trip out after refurbishing, with everything working to our satisfaction - we were booked into an Executive Suite on deck 5, a large room with two double beds, new updated bathroom, ample storage, and outside balcony - room location was very close to Executive Lounge, a large area on deck 6 utilized for all our meals, daily Happy Hour (wine, beer, snacks), and designated as a quiet area to hang out during the day for coffee, tea, and snacks, allowing us to meet new friends ... the Lounge was very popular with us with the attention and service provided second to none - excellent meals more than met our expectations ... buffet breakfast and lunch served, with an a la carte dinner menu ... a mix of Western and Chinese - passenger mix was mostly non-Asian with use of English-Mandarin on equal basis - central to our cruise success was the Jenna”s Cruise Director (Dick) who demonstrated time after time that he was a master of his trade. His Jenna staff, youthful and vibrant, was ALWAYS on top of everything, no matter what department - onboard entertainment was above average – the costumes, traditional music and dance - the Jenna River Guide (Steven) was very active providing timely and informative commentary as we wound our way thru the Gorges and other areas of interest - the Yangtze sights, as advertised, provided us with great scenery thru the various gorges and the dam itself. Made three off-ship excursions (two via excursions on smaller vessels plus the dam tour itself) ... our favorite was on a small vessel thru the Gorges of Goddess Stream ... highly scenic and a must see. Overall, the Yangtze scenery was very good and spectacular in many spots ... in certain areas the perpetual mist resonated with some of the Chinese paintings that one comes across - the Jenna provided us with a relaxed atmosphere. All land excursions were well organized and led by very experienced English speaking guides - Wifi on the Jenna was great ... both for internet speed and reliability (note: no Google or Facebook access in China) - special assistance was proactively provided by the Jenna front office to ensure the ease of boarding and that offloading went smoothly, including arrangements for ground transportation back to our Chongqing hotel and even calling the hotel the night before from the Jenna to ensure that the hotel would be ready for our early checkin ... all this was done without asking - the Jenna team quickly saw upon boarding that I had limited personal mobility (canes) and really stepped up to provide all kinds of additional assistance to ensure I could get to wherever I wanted, literally every step of the way, including the land excursions. Can”t say how much I (and especially my wife) appreciated this - to top it off, this cruise was very close to our 50th anniversary and Victoria Cruises made sure we would well remember ... a very special dinner was planned and personally prepared and served to us by the Executive Chef (Jack Shapensky) on our last night, including a large anniversary cake that we were pleased to share with others ... this was a big and pleasant surprise to us and totally unexpected Would I recommend Victoria Cruises and the Victoria Jenna? ... the answer can be said in one word ... ABSOLUTELY! Our experience was 5 Star without question, far exceeding all (high) expectations, with the Jenna being a great complement to some wonderful Yangtze scenery. Special kuddos to Victoria Cruises and the Jenna team under Cruise Director Dick Carpentier. The very high level of service quality provided by a staff who sparkled at all times, the standout ship, the amenities, and the Yangtze itself, made for a most memorable trip Only wish that Victoria Cruises sailed to more places than the Yangtze ... if/when they do, we will be lined up for Booked this cruise through Victoria Cruises office in New York Read Less
4 Helpful Votes
Sail Date: August 2016
I chose it on price..but also on reviews. The Victoria Selina does not look impressive in photographs, but do not let that affect your decision. It is in a good state of repair and although not super luxurious everything is well ... Read More
I chose it on price..but also on reviews. The Victoria Selina does not look impressive in photographs, but do not let that affect your decision. It is in a good state of repair and although not super luxurious everything is well ordered and well presented inside. The bar and dining room are both very attractive public spaces. It was very reasonably priced, and our twin bed cabin with en-suite was spotless, with comfortable beds and excellent bathroom. But it was the staff that made the cruise so enjoyable. The staff on our cabin floor were excellent, practising their English at every opportunity. Translation software made questions easily answered, but their service was faultless. The food had great variety, suiting all. And it was buffet, plentiful and tasty. We had a banquet on our last night..fabulous. Side trips from the ship were well organised by our Cruise director and enjoyable despite soaring summer temperatures. Our guides spoke good English; sometimes excellent, allowing questions to be asked and answered without resorting to software. The on board river guide, Tom gave excellent talks in English about the Yangtze and about the Gorges as we travelled and we enjoyed each evening's entertainment at which he was a great M.C. We saw a professional version of our own waiter's mask switching dance in Beijing last night which showed us just how good he was. We recognised at the time how much work the staff put into their evening performances of minority ethnic dancing and other things...and how multi-talented they are. Read Less
10 Helpful Votes
Sail Date: October 2016
Took a five day, four night Yangtze River Cruise on the Victoria Ann from Yichang to Chongqing. The ship was renovated in 2013 and has 133 cabins. Went with a Wendy Wu tour. We all had standard cabins which are similar to Caribbean cruise ... Read More
Took a five day, four night Yangtze River Cruise on the Victoria Ann from Yichang to Chongqing. The ship was renovated in 2013 and has 133 cabins. Went with a Wendy Wu tour. We all had standard cabins which are similar to Caribbean cruise cabins, maybe a tad smaller. However, the bathroom is a little larger than most standard cruise ships and they have a tub/shower combination. All standard rooms come with a balcony also. There were bulk toiletries-shampoo, shower gel, shoe mitt, shower cap. Could not hear noise from other rooms. Bed was comfy and soft. Washcloths were available in the rooms. Had BBC World News which was a treat as typically news is censored in China. Wifi was available for a charge. Room could use a little more of a cleaning-shower curtain, vacuum dust around edges of floor but cleaner than most rooms in China. Had eastern and western dishes served buffet style during meals. Coke, sprite, coffee and tea were included with meals but no diet soda. Happy hour discounts in bar area.Safe and refrigerator in room. Two bottles of complimentary water in room. Had various tours that you could sign up for along the cruise, some were included already with Wendy Wu. Had some entertainment at night but usually performed by staff. Andrew was the ships's historical guide-excellent presentations as we went along the Yangtze River and gave interesting classes also--Chinese 101, etc. Scenery was beautiful. Definitely would recommend going with Victoria Cruises as I believe that they are considered the luxury cruises on the YangtzeRiver. Read Less
2 Helpful Votes
Sail Date: November 2016
Born in China and lived in the US for more than 30 year, I chose the Victoria Cruises because the cruise line claims that they are the only 'American company' on the Yangtze River. It turned out that the advertisement from the ... Read More
Born in China and lived in the US for more than 30 year, I chose the Victoria Cruises because the cruise line claims that they are the only 'American company' on the Yangtze River. It turned out that the advertisement from the Victoria Cruises is a total misleading. On November 11, 2016, we boarded Victoria Grace and started our 4-day Chongqing to Yichang (the three gorges) cruise and it is the worst cruise we even taken (we took more than dozen of cruises including river cruise in Europe). The ship. The so labeled “5-star” ship is absolutely outdated and nowhere close to a 3-star ship, and there is NO elevator. The floors are uneven and you can feel the metal sheet waving underneath the carpet and hear the noise when walking on the floor. Decoration is at the minimal and pale, at least. The embarkation. First, all passengers had to walk about 2 km to board the ship carrying all luggage and there was no help from the ship. When we asked for help to move our luggage to our cabin after we got on the board, we were told that we had to pay for the service by using the local labor whom the ship allowed to do so. During check-in, we were immediately asked to pay gratuities (150 RMB per person) at front because we are not Chinese citizen (however, the ship asked us to pay tip again at the end of cruise which we declined for the experience we had). Be aware that there is no food provided for the first night. The cabin: We had a standard cabin which is small, tired, dated and smelly. Bed is soft, furniture, sheets, bedcover and towels are old. We had toilet and door lock problems during our 4-day cruise. Food: Buffet breakfast and lunch were provided, and dinners were either buffets or Chinese style table dinner. Foods was boring with limited choices. Sometimes passengers had to wait for items to be refilled. Service: The ship provided absolutely minimal service. No greetings, and smiling was almost non-exist. There is thermal bottle in cabin but the room attendant wanted passages to fill the hot water themselves. It was a great effort to get the waiter/waitress to bring a cup of tea or coffee to you during lunch or dinner. Some of the staff were doing better job than others. However, if you complain, then the situation became worse! There was one English speaking person on board but she could not do much because all she could do was listening and reporting it to her boss. Excursions: There were couple of included excursions that were good but the poor air quality and visibility greatly discounted the true beauty of the three gorges. The optional excursions were very expensive and not worth to take. In summary, if you want to cruise the three gorges, go with other cruise lines and do a good homework. Do not simply believe the advertisement and DO NOT go with Victoria Cruises! Read Less
13 Helpful Votes
Sail Date: November 2016
We sailed on the Victoria Jenna from Chongqing to Yichang for 3 nights during our 3 week tour of China. I didn't really know what to expect but it was about 100% better than I ever imagined. It was a well needed peaceful break after ... Read More
We sailed on the Victoria Jenna from Chongqing to Yichang for 3 nights during our 3 week tour of China. I didn't really know what to expect but it was about 100% better than I ever imagined. It was a well needed peaceful break after going full speed for 2 weeks all over China! Our cabin was beautiful.....even better than when we sailed on Princess cruises! We had comfortable beds, large tv, sitting area, large bathroom and a nice balcony. Our cruise staff, Amy and Stephen, were so sweet and nice to us and to everyone. Stephen is hysterical.....great sense of humor. We had the amenities package so we ate in the dining room on level 6. Since this was their last cruise before winter vacation, there were only 2 other tables that were occupied....8 people total. Wow, we had that whole dining room almost to ourselves! (there was another dining room on level 2). They made a huge buffet for us every breakfast and lunch that was really, really good....everything you ever wanted....eggs, pancakes, pastries, sausage, bacon, French toast and on and on. You definitely would not go hungry on this ship! For dinner, you got to pick a choice of appetizer, entrée and dessert. The last night, I had duck with a spicy orange sauce that I wish I could eat every day!! OMG...it was that good! The food was 100 times better than Princess cruises in my opinion. Wine and beer is included in the amenities package....Happy Hour everyday! The shore excursions were interesting but it was cold and windy......probably would have been more fun in warmer weather but this is what we chose. The scenery was beautiful .....very hilly and green. The only bad part was passing through the locks at the dam from 11 pm to 3 am.......it is very, very loud and you will not be able to sleep. But, we got off the next day and had a nap when we got to our next hotel. All in all, I would definitely say........if you have a chance....DO NOT miss this cruise. It is a wonderful experience while touring China. An experience to not miss! Read Less
11 Helpful Votes
Sail Date: March 2017
We accompanied friends on what we thought would be an amazing journey through the Three Gorges area of the Yangtze River. Overall the trip was "OK" but did leave a bit to be desired. The Victoria Anna is old an tired and must ... Read More
We accompanied friends on what we thought would be an amazing journey through the Three Gorges area of the Yangtze River. Overall the trip was "OK" but did leave a bit to be desired. The Victoria Anna is old an tired and must have been through many refurbishments in it's time. Originaly we had opted for a standard cabin but one look at this saw us quickly fork out $1000 to upgrade to a suite!!! The suite was spacious and well appointed but, as with the rest of the ship, tired and dated. Despite numerous complaints about the air conditioning not working the temperature in our suite remained too hot for the duration of our voyage. We suspect that it was actually an economy measure and that they didn't want to turn on the air conditioning plant for a few "picky" westerners! Embarkation and disembarkation was through slums and construction sites over rickety pontoons. We had to stand waiting on one of these pontoons with our baggage for 30 minutes or more as the company had changed the access time without letting our tour company know. The baggage porters were local "coolies" who tied rope to the handles of our expensive luggage and then toted them with a bamboo pole much to our protestations at the time. The passenger mix was predominantly Chinese with a few Americans and us. We were persuaded to upgrade to the al a carte didning room for $100 and I quote "so we wont have to mix with the Chinese in the buffet" end quote. The food was terrible and possibly some of the worst we have come across. The breakfast buffet was tolerable but lunch and dinner, especially dinner, were almost inedible. The staff were very friendly and helpfull with the exception of the reception staff who's goal in life was to try and upsell services at every possible opportunity. There was nightly entertainment of reasonable quality and the bar area and drink service were quite good. There were daily information sessions conducted by Andy who was the shining star of the staff on the Victoria Anna. The daily morning tours were outrageously expensive for Chine and, consequently, were almost empty. The free afternoon tours were better attended and generally interesting with the exception of one bizarre excursion which took us some distance up a tributary to a plastic pontoon area to be serenaded by a group of Chinese tour guides singing what sounded like Chinese "pop" songs. We disembarked at a town near the Three Gorges Dam and transferred to another boat to be taken through the dam on the new "ship elevator" which was an exciting and interesting experience. We were subsequently put on a bus and taken for a very brief and abridged tour of the Three Gorges Dam area with a very interesting and funny guide who played the harmonica for our bemused entertainment. Was it an unusual and different experience that we enjoyed to some degree - yes. Would we do it again - no way! Read Less
10 Helpful Votes
Sail Date: May 2017
We boarded the Victoria Anna for what was supposed to be a "5 day 4 night" cruise. I think that needs to be corrected to a "4 day 4 night cruise" How day 1 can be counted as boarding at 9pm with no dinner supplied is ... Read More
We boarded the Victoria Anna for what was supposed to be a "5 day 4 night" cruise. I think that needs to be corrected to a "4 day 4 night cruise" How day 1 can be counted as boarding at 9pm with no dinner supplied is beyond me!!!! Cabins were just ok, very small but sufficient. When you get on you are hit with opportunities to upgrade your cabin and your dining option. We decided to upgrade our dining option, as the main dining room wasn't that large and sharing it with 350 odd people fighting with a buffet style, compared to upstairs with 50-60 and a peaceful meal was to good to pass up. We were very glad we spent the extra 200 yuan pp. The biggest problem with this cruise is the lack of activities. If you were not on a shore excursion there is literally NOTHING to do on board. The TV is all in Chinese with Chinese sub titles, there is nowhere to get a coffee or morning/afternoon tea, just nothing except sitting in your cabin or lounge. At one port we were very clearly advised that we were not permitted off the ship if we were not going on an excursion. It was made over the PA system numerous times, due to some Chinese law (which was fine and we understood) However, at the next port, my daughter and I spent 3.5 hours in our cabin with absolutely NOTHING to do, while an excursion took place. After talking to some of our group they asked if they were permitted to go ashore and they were told yes providing they go 1 hour after the tour departure and were back at the same time. When I found this out I was furious, as we had just wasted a whole afternoon bored to death in our cabin, when we could have gone for a lovely walk and for some afternoon tea. When I approached "Marion" the cruise director, and asked why it wasn't announced that we could go, I was told "because we have to pay a tax per person that goes ashore". When I said I was very upset at having wasted a whole afternoon, she shrugged her shoulders and walked away. Food is great but only at dining times. So there is no food available on board at other times. 2/4 days we ate lunch at 12 and had nothing else to eat until 7pm dinner. We had to resort to taking pastries and cakes after lunch to have later in the day. Getting off the ship was also an experience.We had to walk along a pontoon of about 1 k then up 100 steps (yes we counted) and then a further walk to our bus. All I can say is thank goodness we only had to carry our carry on luggage. If you are going on this cruise with high expectations, it is not the cruise for you. Very much a river cruise on a budget, and no services for people with any physical disabilities. Read Less
6 Helpful Votes
Sail Date: September 2017
The cruise was an add on to a land tour of the major cities in China booked by Friendly Planet Travel. The first thing you notice when you walk on to the ship is the pervasive mold smell throughout. We were promised a "superior" ... Read More
The cruise was an add on to a land tour of the major cities in China booked by Friendly Planet Travel. The first thing you notice when you walk on to the ship is the pervasive mold smell throughout. We were promised a "superior" cabin but were put into a standard cabin that was so mildewed that my eyes started to water within ten minutes of arrival. After they argued with us regarding what is supposed to constitute a "superior" cabin (this one was eight feet wide with no closet and sofa width single beds) We paid $300 for an upgrade to a junior suite (BAIT AND SWITCH!!!!!!!!) that was marginally less mildewed than our original cabin that I could almost breathe in. At least we had a place to put our suitcases. The dining was the best part of the cruise. The wait staff was excellent and the food edible. The lectures were boring and more like sales pitches than informational programs. Because we both got sick from the mildew, we needed to visit the on board physician, Dr. Lee, who seemed quite personable and competent. None of the shore excursions matched the description given in the brochure. We were supposed to go through the locks at the Three Gorges Dam but instead sat on the boat for an entire day not moving and going nowhere. Instead they took us on a horrible bus ride to the dam where you couldn't see anything. AWFUL. They promised a ride on a sampan through one of the smaller gorges - never happened. Instead they took the riverboat upriver to a Chinese style shopping arcade. I feel we were totally taken in and it was probably the WORST cruise I have ever taken. Read Less
5 Helpful Votes
Sail Date: April 2018
I needed a non-smoking ship for the Yangtze River cruise and so opted for this 'American' ship rather than one of the Chinese ships for that reason. It was a great choice. The ship is small but beautifully appointed with a large ... Read More
I needed a non-smoking ship for the Yangtze River cruise and so opted for this 'American' ship rather than one of the Chinese ships for that reason. It was a great choice. The ship is small but beautifully appointed with a large dining room, large bar and lounge area, fitness room, beauty facilities and lots of outdoor space. Don't bother booking a higher rated cabin, they will upgrade you as you get on board for a fraction of the price. The cabins were well appointed. The staff couldn't be more helpful, cleanliness and hygiene were paramount, the food was plentiful although fixed to one-hour mealtimes as well as a bit bland at times and modified for Westerners but that was to be expected. Excursions were excellent. Dr Lee, on- board Chinese doctor fixed a leg problem that I have had for months! It was a really fantastic trip, an intimate ship and highly recommended. Read Less
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