My wife and I have been on a number of cruises over the years, and although it’s not our preferred method of sightseeing, we have enjoyed the cruises we’ve taken (various Caribbean cruises and one in northern Europe). As part of our tour of China, a Yangtze River Cruise was included*. This was a four night trip, and prior to its start, our guide touted the cruise as a highlight of the tour. To be honest, we found the cruise a bit boring, especially after the first couple of days.
The reason I say this cruise was somewhat boring is because we are used to a lot of shore excursions and on board activities on other cruises. However, on this trip, other than a few organized stops, we were “stuck” on the ship and since a river cruise ship is smaller, it really didn’t offer a lot of entertainment options–there were a few shows, a few shops, a swimming pool and the typical buffet meals and that was about it.
Our Yangtze River cruise ship – the Yangtze Gold 8.
The pool on our cruise ship.
If you want a quiet cruise with little to do, this might be the one for you. My advice – bring a couple of good books, download some movies or games and enjoy the quiet time.
Overall, I was impressed with the cruise ship itself, it of course is smaller than ocean-going cruise ships, but it still had a number of amenities and comfortable staterooms, every stateroom has a river-view balcony.
Our stateroom on the Yangtze River Cruise.
The food on the ship was reasonable, but if you get a late night craving, it’s a good idea to bring your own snacks!
The cruise started in the city of Jingzhou and travelled up river, ending in Chongqing (a total distance of about 700 km or 435 miles). We briefly toured Jingzhou before embarking on the cruise. It is a very historical city and has a good museum.
Jingzhou has an old wall surrounding the city, not unlike Xi’an and cities in Europe. This is one of the gates.
This is a mummified corpse found near Jingzhou from the Han Dynasty (221 BCE – 24 AD). Note the facial and teeth detail. The Jingzhou museum has artifacts discovered in this region of China dating back 4000 – 5000 years.
A number of cruise lines offer cruises of a similar length and itinerary. The Yangtze River is the longest river in Asia and the third longest in the world. It is a major industrial thoroughfare, with continual freighter traffic moving all kinds of goods up and down the river.
Typical freighter traffic on the Yangtze River. The scenery around us on the first couple of days was quite beautiful. Unfortunately it was pretty cloudy with a continual threat of rain.
The first part of the cruise was interesting, with gorgeous scenery. You go through the locks of the Three Gorges Dam the first night. Three Gorges is the largest dam in the world, a controversial project that took about 18 years to complete.
A view of the Three Gorges Dam. It was hard to get a photo that conveys the immensity of the dam, since tourists get very limited viewpoints. The dam is 594 ft high and 7661 ft long.
A view of the locks at the Three Gorges Dam. Ships can be seen in the closest lock–our cruise ship passed through these locks.
We then visited the Water Village, and while this stop is a bit of a tourist trap, the scenery along the Long Jin stream feeding into the Yangtze and traditional buildings on this part of the tour were beautiful, along with narrow canyons and mysterious peaks all around us.
The Water Village, along a beautiful stream that empties into the Yangtze River.
View along the Long Jin stream near the Water Village.
Another view of the Long Jin stream near the Water Village.
Food vendor in the Water Village – with fish on a stick!
Another highlight was the Wu Gorge, where we transferred to small boats that took us up into the narrow passageway with waterfalls and wildlife visible.
Going up the Wu Gorge in our tour boats.
After the first couple of days, the river widens out, appears more polluted and the shoreline becomes more populated, with endless high-rise apartment buildings and large cities lining the banks.
One other interesting place we visited near the end of our cruise was the Shibaozhai Pagoda, with its 12 levels built into the mountainside. Through a narrow stairway you can climb to the top. It was originally built in 1572, and is the highest ancient multi-story wooden structure in China.
The hill on which Shibaozhai Pagoda sits became an island after the building of the Three Gorges dam, the pagoda was protected by building a large wall, visible at river level. At the top of the hill a Buddhist temple contains displays of numerous gods, with explanations on their importance.
Display of two Buddhist gods in the Shibaozhai Pagoda Temple.
Tourist market near the Shibaozhai Pagoda.
The cruise ended in Chongqing (formerly Chungking), a huge and fast growing city (the metropolitan area’s population is about 18 million).
View of Chongqing and the Yangtze River.
In Chongqing, we visited an interesting old section of the city and a zoo, specifically to see the cute Panda bears. I will cover Chongqing in another post.
*I just learned that Sinorama Tours, based in Vancouver, Canada, has ceased operations as of August 2018. They were the company we used to arrange our China Tour. This is unfortunate, they offered a great tour value.