River cruising has been one of our big topics recently, and for good reason: it’s the hottest segment of the cruising market, and it’s become a global craze, especially popular among baby boomers.
Asia is one of river cruising’s new hotspots, and while China’s Yangtze River cruises have been around for a while, it’s hard to think of a better way to experience the country than cruising through China’s heartland, with visits to Shanghai and Beijing on either end of a nine-day river voyage.
Pacific Delight Tours, one of America’s leading tour operators to China, has just announced a two-week all-inclusive package that includes those three highlights — as well as transpacific airfare from Los Angeles or San Francisco to boot (airfare from JFK in New York will cost you just $200). And prices start at under $3,000 — well, $2,999 to be exact — per person, double occupancy.
Besides the cruise and multi-day stays with sightseeing in Beijing and Shanghai, the rate includes all meals, one intra-China flight (to Beijing at the end of the cruise), cultural entertainment, taxes and port charges — even Tai Chi and Chinese-language lessons. That works out to about $215 a day per person, including flights — a deal, especially compared to many other river cruises.
After two days in Shanghai exploring the old and ultra-modern new city, the Yangtze River cruise sets sail aboard Victoria Cruises’ five-star Victoria Sophia. The itinerary includes a stop in Nanjing followed by either Jiuhashan Mountain (Mountain of the Nine Lotuses, a UNESCO World Heritage site) or, depending on weather and road conditions, Mount Huangshan (Yellow Mountain). I haven’t been to Jiuhashan, but I have been to Huangshan, and regard it as the most beautiful place I’ve ever seen — so you can’t go wrong on that one.
The cruise continues through extraordinary scenery en route to Wuhan, and stops next at the Three Gorges Dam, the world’s largest hydro-electric dam project. While extremely controversial during its construction because it displaced more than a million people, as well as flooding archaeological sites and altering the landscape of the Three Gorges, it’s still an engineering marvel. The ship then sails through the Three Gorges, which retain a rare beauty despite the flooding caused by the dam.
Passengers disembark at Chongqing for their flight to Beijing, where sightseeing includes The Great Wall, the Forbidden City, and enormous Tiananmen Square — regarded as the center of the Middle Kingdom — before flying back to the U.S.
So along with being a good — and unusually relaxing — introduction to China for baby boomers, Pacific Delight has hit on a smart marketing angle here. I admit that when I see “airfare included” in a tour or cruise package my interest is immediately piqued (that’s what first attracted me to Oceania Cruises, one of my favorite ocean cruise lines, which often offers free air to their embarkation points and back). It’s one thing to pay $3,000 a person for a river cruise and then have to tack international airfare onto that cost — and quite another not to have to worry about that expense at all.
Yes, without the airfare included, Pacific Delight could offer the tour package at a lesser price — but by buying tickets in bulk they’re no doubt getting an excellent deal from the airlines (Air China or China Eastern) that most individual consumers couldn’t.
You can get more details on this and other packages at the Pacific Delight Tours website; be sure to look at their 2014-15 offerings featuring “air-inclusive” that are highlighted on their home page.
Answer to This Week’s Travel Quiz:
According to a recent study, mobile devices are projected to account for what percentage of the U.S. online travel bookings by 2015?
A. 10 percent
B. 15 percent
C. 25 percent
D. 35 percent
The answer is C: 25 percent.
(According to a separate Hotwire study, nearly 33 million Americans have already booked some travel on a mobile device.)