Back to our China trip again, after the last ‘catch up’ post to let friends and family know we were home once again. This post is about the luxury River Cruise we sailed ‘up’ (as in upstream) on The Yangzi Explorer as part of our recent China trip. We saw beautiful and ever-changing scenery along the way, intermingled with river-side factories, big cities we’d never heard of, high rise apartments, and other boats sailing by as well.
Suffice it to say, it was a wonderful trip, and the Yangzi Explorer River Cruise, (full gallery at the end of the post), was First Class in every way. (Note the Yangtze river is spelled a couple ways; Yangzi or Yangtze so I use these interchangeably, although the ship goes by Yangzi Explorer.) The Yangzi Explorer is six levels high, yet only holds a maximum of 124 passengers with an equal amount of crew to serve her. On our sailing we only had 80 passengers, so it was better than a 1 to 1 passenger to crew ratio, offering very personal and friendly service.
We had the Celestial Suite, which was lovely and spacious, and appropriately decorated in beautiful Chinese decor and furnishings.
Best of all, it had a huge balcony spanning half the width of the front of the ship (the unoccupied Imperial Suite took up the other half). It offered a Captain’s view of the river and sights ahead, and indeed the bridge was one deck above us and directly over our cabin, but not blocking our deck at all.
On the last sailing day of the cruise, the staff even delivered us a nice afternoon tea setup, complete with sandwiches, cookies and treats!
The four day ‘upstream’ cruise left from Yichong to Chongchinq and had some interesting shore excursions from the ship which I’ll detail in future and individual posts as they were so interesting. The Three Gorges Dam (link courtesy of Wikipedia), was one of the excursions. The Dam plays a vital infrastructure role along the Yangtze River, providing power to millions of people, as well as maintaining the flow and levels of water, which is very variable over the course of the year.
The Three Gorges Dam cost over $20 Billion (US) to build and took years to complete, while entire villages of people were relocated to make room for it. We took a tour of the Dam facilities one day, and the security leading up to it involved multiple checkpoint gates starting miles away. Along the Yangtze River itself are a number of lochs that are utilized to move ships up and down due to the varying water levels.
While the Dam area was so large and many places restricted, it was difficult to get photos, but here are a couple photos from the new Welcome Center showing a huge model of the massive Dam area.
While sailing up the Yangtze River as well as in port, we saw many interesting bridges along the way (it seemed like hundreds!) with various architectural styles, ranging from the suspension ‘Golden Gate Bridge’ style to the Arch ‘Roman’ style, each one huge and unique.
Many of the bridges, (especially the suspension bridges) were lit up at night in colorful patterns, creating a brilliant color-changing light show.
The meals and service aboard were excellent! The dining room was large enough to accommodate all passengers, and free-flowing wine and beer were complimentary at all meals.
There was a wide selection of food available, both Chinese and Westernized (fortunately for me; think steak!) but I did indulge in a nice Chinese meal one night.
Breakfast and Lunch were served buffet style, while dinner was served by multiple wait staff, who couldn’t do enough to make our cruise outstanding.
The last night the crew even gave a pre-dinner performance in the main lobby just outside the entrance to the dining room.
After the performance, we got our photo taken with some of the staff, all dressed up in fancy Chinese clothing.
They later came by the dining room to thank us for sailing and wished us well on our onward journeys the next day.
Onboard, there was a large and comfortable lounge on the top deck, which made for a nice before and/or after setting to have a drink and meet our Australian and other friends.
One night, I even wore my Chinese jacket to the Captain’s Party. Earlier in our trip to Shanghai, we were served a ceremonial tea service by a man wearing a nearly identical jacket, and I told DOS I wanted to get a jacket like that if we found one on our trip. Fortunately on our day excursion to the Three Georges Dam, we found a nice shop selling these, so here it is!
One bit of unsolicited advice I would like to offer about this trip, (and really any major overseas trip you would like to do), is to do it now! By that I mean don’t put off until tomorrow what you can do today. This is definitely not a trip you want to wait until you’re older and have been retired for years. I’m 56 and DOS is 60, but both of us were feeling the strain of constantly walking/hiking/climbing steps and uneven surfaces that we don’t get back home, especially in the hot and humid conditions (and we live in Florida!)
My knees have been bothering me when bending the last few months, (arthritis my Doctor told me after x-raying them before the trip), but fortunately he gave me a shot before we left which helped considerably. Even with the shot and a bit of physical therapy before leaving home, the sheer number of steps everywhere (no ADA requirements like home!) would make this trip nearly impossible for someone in a wheelchair, walker, using a cane, or with other health issues. The docks and ports are right by the river, and there were often many steps just to reach the boat as well as disembark. I’m not complaining, but do want to point this out for others as a reality of travel. Here’s a photo of the last port we stopped at, with scores of steps we had to climb just to get to the shore excursion bus atop the hill!
It was funny as we signed up for one of the two shore excursions the night before (shore excursions are included with the cruise), and we were warned the one we wanted to take (the fascinating Project 816 – I’ll post on that soon) had some 550 steps total (not all at once, but throughout the bunker tour which was some eight levels underground).
What they didn’t tell us was, at the next port stop we had to go up what seemed like that many steps, just to get off the ship. And those 550 steps were for the shore excursion alone; they didn’t count walking up this steep stairway to meet the bus for the tour!
Likewise, on our final disembarkation stop in Chonchinq we had an equally steep walk up hill, but this time with our luggage!!!! (Huge tip: Think packing light with your luggage, and that’s coming from The Traveling Steve’s who are notorious over-packers!) Between taking trains, buses, cabs etc on this China trip, it really is best to pack light for a trip such as this. Fortunately we hired a porter to help us with our luggage the final day, but even he too had to climb this massive staircase, and with 2 pieces of heavy luggage (50 + pounds each) balanced on a pole around his neck, while we each carried a carry-on and backpack ourselves.
Yes we gave him a very nice tip as even atop the stairs we walked half a mile or so up this incline to meet our private car after the cruise (shown below with our private guide after debarking).
On the China trip overall, I took lots of video, but will need to edit and upload it to Youtube due to the bandwidth limitations on this hosting server. All of the photos and video I took by the way, were taken with my iPhone; it really does a terrific job and is easy to carry around, unlike a big and bulky camera and/or camcorder.
Below is a gallery of additional photos (in no certain order) from our cruise on the Yangzi Explorer, with mostly shipboard photos. I’ll post the excursions separately, when I have time to do so, as they require a bit of explanation. Enjoy!