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Victoria Cruises

Sixth in a Series:

A Chinese symbol inside the Red Pagoda -- if you rub it, it's said to bring good fortune. Photo by Clark Norton.

A Chinese symbol inside the Red Pagoda — if you rub it, it’s said to bring good fortune. Photo by Clark Norton.

Like all rivers, China’s Yangtze is constantly changing, though in this case humans have produced the most profound recent changes rather than nature.

The huge Three Gorges Dam project has resulted in the water level rising more than 100 to 300 feet, depending on the location and the season, along a particularly scenic stretch of the river known as the Three Gorges. The gorges, while not as dramatically steep as the pre-dam versions, are still scenic and still well worth seeing, as my wife, Catharine, and I discovered on a recent Yangtze cruise with Victoria Cruises.

The rising waters have even opened up new scenery to explore: one excursion from our ship, the Victoria Katarina, took us on a ferry ride down the… Continue reading

Three Gorges Scenery along the Yangtze. Photo by Catharine Norton

Three Gorges Scenery along the Yangtze. Photo by Catharine Norton

Fifth in a Series:

The Three Gorges Dam along China’s Yangtze is a marvel of engineering — it’s the world’s largest power station ranked by energy generation, providing hydroelectric power for millions of people — and a disaster for the 1.4 million Chinese who had to be relocated when the dam flooded the Yangtze in the late 1990’s and early 2000’s.

Some 1,500 villages, towns and cities were flooded and now lie beneath or partially beneath the river, as the water levels rose some 300 feet along the scenic Three Gorges, where steep mountains line both sides of the Yangtze.

Most former residents, many of them farmers, have been relocated to cities like Chongqing — which now has a startling population of 33 million — or to special “relocation cities,” where the river dwellers have been moved into new… Continue reading

The Xiling Gorge, one of the Yangtze's famous Three Gorges, begins near Yichang. Photo by Catharine Norton.

The Xiling Gorge, one of the Yangtze’s famous Three Gorges, begins near Yichang. Photo by Catharine Norton.

Fourth in a Series:

There are a number of iconic river cruises in the world — the Rhine, the Danube, the Amazon, and the Nile among them — and China’s Yangtze must be added to the group.

It’s China’s longest river and third longest in the world after the Nile and Amazon. “Yangtze,” in fact, means “long river” in Chinese. Also known as the “Golden Highway,” the Yangtze is the busiest river in the world and more than one-third of China’s 1.4 billion population live along it.

The Yangtze is actually divided into seven separate sections, but the part that most people cruise — and certainly the most scenic — is the 400-mile-long “Three Gorges” section between the cities of Yichang and Chongqing, a sprawling metropolis in southwest China.

My wife, Catharine, and… Continue reading

Kids preparing for a parade in Yichang, China. Photo by Catharine Norton.

Kids preparing for a parade in Yichang, China. Photo by Catharine Norton.

Third in a Series:

To cruise the Yangtze, first you have to find the ship. In our case, it was the Victoria Katarina, one of a fleet of excellent ships that U.S.-based Victoria Cruises runs on China’s longest river.

Finding the ship sounds elementary, but when you’re traveling independently in China and don’t speak Chinese, it adds an extra element to the equation.

First, some background: It seems most people take the three-night, four-day cruise down the Yangtze to see the famous Three Gorges and the Three Gorges Dam, which flooded this region of the river when it was finished in 2003, displacing 1.4 million people and making the Three Gorges somewhat less steep and scenic than previously. Note: they’re still very scenic.

That downriver cruise embarks in the city of Chongqing and disembarks in the… Continue reading

Morning exercise teams on Shanghai's Bund, along the Huangpu River waterfront. Photo by Dennis Cox/WorldViews

Morning exercise teams on Shanghai’s Bund, along the Huangpu River waterfront. Photo by Dennis Cox/WorldViews

First in a Series:

Having just returned from a 12-day trip to China, in which my wife, Catharine, and I traveled independently for much of the time, I wanted to pass along some tips, cautionary information, and interesting factoids for anyone planning to visit that fascinating country in the reasonably near future — especially if you’re planning to do some independent travel.

(China is changing so fast that I can’t guarantee some things won’t be completely different a year from now.)

Our goal for the trip was to take a five-day, four-night Yangtze River cruise via Victoria Cruises, the only American-owned cruise line on the Yangtze — I’ll have an account of that in a later post. But first we wanted to stay several days in Shanghai — which I’ll be detailing later… Continue reading

A boat sails through Qutang Gorge, one of the fabled Three Gorges, along China's Yangtze River. Photo by Liu Liqun/ChinaStock.

A boat sails through Qutang Gorge, one of the fabled Three Gorges, along China’s Yangtze River. Photo by Liu Liqun/ChinaStock.

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… Continue reading

Uniworld's River Victoria sails Russian waterways. Photo from Uniworld Boutique River Cruises.

Uniworld’s River Victoria sails Russian waterways. Photo from Uniworld Boutique River Cruises.

River cruising has gone global, in a big way.

In yesterday’s post, we had a look at the phenomenal rise of European river cruising over the past few years, to the degree that many 2014 cruises are already sold out or nearly sold out.

Baby boomer travelers are the primary driving force behind the river cruise phenomenon, which has averaged a 14 percent annual growth over the past decade.  (Just 20 years ago, most European river cruises were day cruises only.)

One line alone, Viking River Cruises — which caters mainly to baby boomers —  will soon have 48 river cruise ships operating on European waterways, with 30 of them launched in the past three years.

In Russia, a series of waterways links Moscow and St. Petersburg. Viking, Uniworld Boutique River Cruises, Imperial River… Continue reading

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According to government and private surveys:

  • Leading-edge baby boomers (born between 1946 and 1955) and seniors account for four out of every five dollars spent on luxury travel today.
  • Roughly half the consumer spending money in the U.S.--more than $2 trillion--is in the hands of leading-edge baby boomers and seniors.
  • Baby boomers (born 1946-1964) travel more than any other age group.
  • When asked what they would most like to spend their money on, baby boomers answered “travel” more than any other category, including improving their health or finances.

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