I have been on a cruise boat located on the Yangtze River in China. It is a boat that goes through the Three Gorges region of the river and through the Three Gorges Dam. It is one of the most popular cruises in China. This is my review and experience of the trip. I am traveling with a friend of mine from Beijing. His name is Allen. Our boat was called the Yangtze Gold Cruise No. 3. There are 7 or 8 boats from this company that operate on the river.
After a 12 hour fast train from Beijing to Yichang, we arrived at the Yichang Train Station. The train trip was pretty uneventful. I had just finished my summer camps in Beijing. I met my friend at the Beijing train station West at 8 pm. We had to travel in separate train cabins for the trip. But, this was not a problem since we were going to sleep most of the way. And, sleep I did. It had been a long six weeks of camp. It was a comfortable trip for the most part.
Once we got to Yichang, we had about 8 hours before the cruise company was getting us. So, we found one of the few tourist locations in Yichang and spent a few hours. The tourist attraction was a dam area of the river. We took a river boat on the river. It was advertised that we would see the dam up close. But, we never got close to it. Instead, we traveled up-river some to see some of the scenery. It was a nice prelude to what our 5 day cruise was going to be. And, it was a nice way to spend some time. One of the highlights was to see a coffin that was places on a ledged cavern high on the cliff. This is the way the people of this region buried their dead. There were two. But, one had broken apart and has since been destroyed. Later in the cruise, we would see other coffins along the gorge cliffs.
We went back to the train station to get our taxi bus to our cruise boat. We also had to get our luggage that we left at the station to hold for us. The station charges 10 RMB per bag. We had to meet the taxi bus in the parking lot. But, not the main parking lot that is paved and near the train station. Nope. We had to walk to the second parking lot. I think it is a private lot, run by locals. It was not paved. Try dragging your heavy luggage through gravel. And, it is up a hill. Again…try dragging your heavy luggage up a steep hill. Not a great first impression of the quality of the cruise you will have with Yangtze Gold Cruise Company.
We get to the ship and we have to go through a security check point. Luggage is scanned through x-ray. You are then led down a steep hill to the dock to board the boat. You are forced to struggle across a narrow gang plank, a low entrance, and into a very narrow hallway. You can read the rest of this entrance to the boat listed below. Once we reach the lobby, I just stand back. There are many positives when you travel with a Chinese friend. Although, this is not the reason I asked Allen on the trip, he does come in handy when translations are needed. There is no directions for check-in. It is very chaotic. Allen stands in one line. Once he reaches the check-in counter, he is told that he needs to go to another desk to get a number to check-in. Of course, Allen is not happy about this. Eventually he gets us checked-in and our cabin assignment.
Allen is somewhat excited to find out that the ship has “upgraded” us from a first floor cabin to a fourth floor cabin. I let him think that this is special. IN all honesty, I know what really happened. It is a matter of me being a foreigner. Chinese etiquette stipulates that I would get upgraded. Hospitality says I get first foods, prime seating, etc. It is rather annoying to me at times. And, since the ship is at capacity, they have to assign everyone a room. So, the foreign etiquette rules took over when they began assigning rooms. I am 99% positive that this is what happened. I am not complaining. I like our cabin assignment. But, I just do not think it is as special as my friend wanted to make it seem.
Our first evening, there is no dinner served, even though boarding is from 6-9 pm. This is no surprise to us. It was one of the few things that was clearly stated prior to boarding. I did get hungry and went to the dining room to look at the room service menu. Shock hit me when I looked at the prices. I expected higher prices. But, at Chinese higher prices. Not western prices. So, I decided not to get anything.
We slept well the first evening. The rooms are very comfortable. There is good hot water pressure in the shower. And, the A/C is really nice too. In the morning, we wake at 6 AM. There is a heavy haze in the air. Not pollution. Just humidity haze. It lasts all day. Breakfast was ok. It seemed like the staff took a long time to resupply things like plates and glasses. You can read about my dining experience below.
Our first excursion is one of the two that I was looking forward to taking. The weather was hazy all day, so my pictures did not come out as nice as I would have liked. The excursion was the Tribe of the Three Gorges. By all of the marketing I saw, it gave the impression that this was a traditional setting of mountain people in the area. I should have known that it was merely a reproduction, tourist attraction. It seems that very few things in China is real. Most artifacts were destroyed during the Culture Revolution under Chairman Mao. Or, they were taken from China centuries ago. All of this did not matter though. It was still a wonderful experience.
Our ship docked and we had to take a small boat to the site. Once there, we disembarked, provided our tickets and began the tour. FYI, the tickets were 280 RMB ($45 USD). A little pricey. But, it is a good trip to take.
You begin the tour by passing a small waterfall and pond. In a boat is a fair maiden in traditional dress. She stands there posing for pictures and waving. Along the bank on a small dock, there is a man playing a flute. It is very beautiful. The group moves to a bridge where people are scurrying to take pictures. We walk along a paved path through a mini gorge. The path is lined with bamboo and greenery. There is a creek that flows in the mini-gorge. Along the path, there are staged scenes from life of the tribe. Women washing clothes at the stream. A couple courting on the bridge. And, a woman playing the Chinese flat stringed instrument. Also, there are wild mountain monkeys in one location. People throw them food. The monkeys are climbing the cliffs, the trees and are begging got the handouts. It was fun to watch them for a while. The tour ends with a little traditional wedding. Of course, they find a foreigner to play with in part of the wedding. He becomes the groom. It was fun to watch. More show than realistic I think. We then take a stroll back along the creek to our boat launch. We have long since lost our guide to our group. There were just too many people. Back to the ship for lunch.
Our ship enters the first of the three gorges. It is called the Xiling (She-ling) Gorge. It is very beautiful and peaceful as our ship makes its way through the gorge. We get to see another coffin on the cliff.
The next excursion is in the afternoon after lunch. It is to the Three Gorges Dam Project. With the hazy day, it is very disappointing for Allen and I. First, the pictures are not great. And second, you cannot see the dam through the haze. But, I did make two new friends. Two boys seemed to take a liking to me. We played all afternoon with one another. By the end of the day, most of the kids that were on our bus was having fun playing with me. Ha Ha. I just have that effect on children I guess.
Our bus crossed a large bridge. The tour guide on the bus uses English as a translation for me. She compares the bridge’s suspension to the Golden Gate Bridge. It is definitely no Golden Gate. But, I understand the meaning. It is held together by only two massive cables. The bus and the people must go through a security process to gain access to the dam area. We pull into a security center. Everyone must depart the bus, show their tickets, go through a metal detector (along with or bags), get swept with the metal detector wands, patted down by personnel, and then exit the other side of the security center. The bus meets us on the other side. We board and begin our way up the hillside to the viewing areas.
The dam project is very impressive. It is not the largest dam in the world as claimed. It is only 2.5 kilometers long. There is one in Brazil about 7 km in length. And, it is definitely not the highest. I think Hoover dam in the USA is higher. But, the distinction is that it power output is the most. And, it used the most concrete. I am not absolutely sure of these facts. But, it is a close representation of them. The dam itself is nothing really to marvel at. It is the five stepped lock system that is more impressive. And, in 2016, the dam will have a ship elevator to bypass the lock system. The ship elevator is just what it implies. A ship enters a lock. It is them raised or lowered in on system. No longer will ships have to move through the 5 stages. It took us several hours to maneuver through the stages of the locks. The lock doors are massive. I took a picture of a bus as it was driving over one of the lock doors. It looks like a toy bus compared to the doors. Everyone seemed excited that they could touch the wet, dirty concrete walls of the locks since we were so close. And, it is interesting to think that this mega ton ship is being raised and lowered by water. It is night time when we exit the dam locks. Not impressive with lighting. But, still impressive to see at night. There are some model rooms of the locks. And, there are some viewing areas too. With the extreme haze, not much to view though. Still, a good days trip overall.
Once back at the ship, we have dinner and get to relax. There is the Captains Welcome Party. The party begins with six girls dressed in red dresses and they do a Can-Can routine. It found this amusing. I was expecting a Chinese display of dance. But, instead, they go with a dance from the Old West of America. It was fun to watch. The management crew with the captain were introduced. A poorly done toast to the crew was then offered. We had red wine for the toast. Most to the guests ignored the toast as there was free snacks and drinks to take advantage of. After the toast, the captain took pictures with the guests. He said very little to anyone. Then the party was finished and time for dinner. After dinner, Allen and I just relaxed and enjoyed the quiet time.
The weather is nice. A mostly sunny day with little haze. Our morning is started with the entrance into the second gorge. It is the Wu (Woo) Gorge. It is much different from the Xiling Gorge. There is a water line at the base of the hills before the greenery begins. We are told that the river level is dropped this time of the year so that when the raining season begins, it prevents flooding. Makes sense to me.
We pull into a small city port to get our smaller boat excursion. There were a few boats in the area collecting trash from the harbor. It seemed like a daunting task to me. All along this cruise there is a constant stream of floating trash in the river. But, I can appreciate the effort. If nothing else, it is employment for some people.
In the morning, we take the free excursion on a boat of the Lesser Three Gorges of the Daling River. It is a three hour tour. By the end of it, you wish you had been stranded on Gilligan’s Island, or anywhere. Three hours of looking at the same scenery was tiring for most of the passengers. And, to make matters a little worse, you backtrack on the same part of the river. There is nothing to do on the boat. No real entertainment. Just some photographers hawking for your money. There is a guide that talks nearly the entire time. Of course it is on English, so, I have no idea what is being said. If the trip was cut by an hour, it would be much more inviting of a trip. I did get a good one hour nap.
There is an optional tour that costs 120 RMB. It takes you on small Chinese boats into a side river. Maybe it would have been a better trip. If you come to this cruise, you might want to look into this trip. Allen and I just did not want to fork over more money for this side trip.
At the dock, there was a food vendor selling some meats. Beef, whole chickens (heads and feet included), and sausages. The sausages looked good. I forgot to ask the price. I ordered a half kilogram of the sausage. The man told me 60 RMB. I had to ask him three times if I heard him correct. I was being scammed and I knew it. I finally walked away from him. He hollered at me that he would take 55 RMB. I kept walking, ignoring his pleas. He ran after me and offered 50 RMB for the sausage. I was just not interested. I felt insulted by the price gouge. Just before I got on the boat, he made an offer of 30 RMB. I was not interested any more. Allen was behind me and I lost him as I entered the boat. When Allen did get on the boat, he was carrying the sausage with him. Allen paid 20 RMB for the sausage. If this was the original price, or even 30 RMB, there would not have been any problems. Just goes to show the things I go through in China. Perhaps Chinese people get gouged too. But, maybe not to the extent that I do.
We arrive back at the ship. It was kind of amusing to us to see smaller flat boats pull up to the side of the ship and tie themselves to the ship. They began hawking their fish and other food items to anyone who wanted them. If someone wanted to buy the products, they put the item in a fishing net tied to a long bamboo pole. The pole would reach to the third deck of the ship. It did not quite reach my deck. All the flat boats seemed to be selling the same items. It was fun to watch them.
After lunch, we entered the final of the three gorges. It is the Qutang (Chwah-tang) Gorge. Also known as the White Emperor Gorge area. It is much the same as the Xiling Gorge. Just smaller.
In the afternoon, there are two optional excursions available. One is to the White Emperor City. It costs 280 RMB. All the reviews I read said that you can bypass this excursion. So, we did. The second excursion was of a local museum and to view an ancient city wall. Cost was 80 RMB. Allen and I decided that we preferred to just rest for the afternoon. And, we did. A couple of catnaps was just what we needed I think. And, since the ship does not have working internet, I decided I should write this blog in a word document and paste it to the blog when I have time later. I did not want to go 5 or 6 days without putting down my words. I would forget many details I think. So, a quiet afternoon onboard the ship was nice.
In the evening, the crew put on a Cabaret Show. It was very nice. The costumes were beautiful. They emphasized various dances from the three gorges. Allen and I were joined by the two boys we had met earlier. They have come to become our adopted sons…ha ha. I hope the videos I took of the show come out well. The colored show lights do not transform to my video well I think.
Earlier in the day, I saw the older boy (Gwan) on the sun deck. We sat and talked for a while. I mentioned that it was great that he could travel with his family. His grandmother, aunt, uncle, and cousins were also with him. I told him that this was a great memory for him and he can cherish it. Gwan then said, “And, I got to meet you”. Those simple words spoke volumes to me. It is just another reminder that I am in China for a reason that God knows. I am making an impact here, even when I have no intention of doing so.
After the Cabaret Show, the ship was having a BBQ Party on the sundeck. They were charging 168 RMB per person for it. A standard BBQ in China would cost, at most, 60 RMB I think. And, that is a nice BBQ. Allen went up to see what the party was like. He said that there was more staff than guests at the party. No wonder.
The following morning, we went to Fengdu. It is called the Ghost City. Taoism believes that when you die, your spirit is brought to this place to be judged. It was very interesting to me. It was reproduced for the most part. But, the scenery, the exhibits, and the experience is worth the trip. There are many stairs, so good legs and shoes are necessary.
In the evening, our little friend Guan is going on a “date” to the movies with a lady friend he found. He was very nervous and asked my friend Allen for suggestions. It was cute to see. Our little boy was growing up….Ha Ha. While he went on his date, Chen, his brother, came to our cabin. We rough played with a pillow fight, tickling, watched some vid clips I had on my computer and then we played UNO. It was a fun, relaxing evening.
Departure day. You can read below about this fiasco. The most memorable part of the trip was when Guan came to see us in the morning. Allen was in the shower. Guan gave me a hug and began crying. He had grown so attached to us in the few days. Allen and he had a good talk too I think.
It was soon time to go. I said goodbye to some of the other kids and adults on the boat. We hauled our luggage up the stairs and onto the buses. The cruise was over.
Allen and I got off the bus in Chongqing. Allen made phone reservations for a hotel. I usually stay at the Green Tree Inns. I have a discount card. We waited for a taxi. While waiting, we saw many of our “new” friends we had made on the cruise. Including Guan, Chen and their family. It was nice to say goodbye again. As I type this, I miss them still. They are good boys. The departed for their hotel and we went to our hotel.
It was noon by the time we got to the hotel. We checked into the hotel, got settled, and then we were off again on our next adventure. We were deciding between the Chongqing Museum and an old prison/concentration camp. I had planned to do both before leaving the city. So, we chose the museum. The reviews I had read online about t said it was small and would take about an hour to see. The reviews are either very old or incorrect. There are four floors of exhibits to see. It took us about 4 hours to see everything. Besides the information about the dam project, the migration of the one million people being displaced by the flooded river caused by the dam project, and usual Chinese propaganda, there were exhibits on archeology of the area, culture of the region and more. It was very good. I mentioned the Chinese propaganda. It really was kind of over the top. They portrayed that displaced Chinese people being very happy to move from their lands and homes in the name of the country and future of China. A few got rich. Most just got moved into cities with some compensation. There was one picture in the museum that told me that not everyone was happy about the migration requirement. The picture was of a man holding his small son looking back onto his hometown for the last time before having to board the boat. The look on his face in the picture told the whole truth of the story. You could see the sadness, anguish, and even a bit of anger. I am not saying that the dam project is bad. Anytime you have such a project, people will be displaced and there will be impacts on the people, land, and culture. The Chinese tout the dam is the world’s largest. It is not. Brazil has the largest dam. But, this dam project does put out more energy than any other dam in the world. It used the most concrete too (I think). And, it is an engineering masterpiece for China. Fifty years from now, the hardships these people went through in 1995-1999, will be a distant, forgotten memory. After the museum, we are both very tired. We go to the hotel to rest.
For dinner, we decide to have a local meal. It is called Hot Pot and Chongqing is the home of Hot Pot. Basically, you place your meats and veggies in a spicy or bland pot of boiling water. Once cooked, you dip te food into a mixture of soy sauce and other herbs and spices. It is tasty. But, not my favorite meal in China. Allen really wanted to have the dinner, so we had a nice meal. We can now say that we had Hot Pot from the birthplace of Hot Pot.
The night before, Allen and I discussed about taking a 2 hour fast train to Chengdu. Chengdu is home to one of two Panda Bear research facilities. Allen really loves pandas and wanted to go. And, to be honest, I wanted to see the pandas and the research they were doing. We arrive in Chengdu and take a taxi to the park. It is not the place I had researched online earlier in the year. But, it was very well done. It is not a zoo. It is definitely a research and breeding facility. It was quite interesting to see the work they are doing and the success they are having in repopulating the near extinct wild panda. One of the more interesting things I discovered was that a female panda will produce twins 50% of the time. But, because of the dedication the mother has to the new born, often sacrificing food, water and other personal needs, the mother must choose only one of the two new born cubs to raise. The other is left to die. Through the research center, the twin gets to live and become part of the repopulation of the species. The facility is massive in size. The enclosures for the pandas are very spacious. Since a panda’s territory is only 5-6 kilometers in size in the wild, the expansiveness of the enclosures are ideal for the pandas.
Just before we were leaving the park, two women and two boys approached me. They were from Italy. The boys really love America and wanted to meet me. So, once again, I became the attraction within the attraction. It was good though. We spent about 20 minutes talking and asking questions about each other’s Chinese experiences. It was fun.
After the park, we had a quick dinner and then a two hour trip back to Chongqing on the fast train. Then it was back to the hotel and time to sleep.
Day 7: Departure day back to Ganyu. Allen insisted on coming out to the airport with me. He wanted to say goodbye and make sure I did not have any problems. I protested him having to go all the way out there by subway train. But, he insisted. He was going to have to go back and get a train to Beijing later in the day. His train trip is going to be 30 hours. My trip home will take about 6 hours.
Since I worked the camp this summer and they would have flown me back to Ganyu afterwards, the company decided to pay for my plane ticket back to Ganyu from my vacation. That was very nice. So, I leave Chongqing airport for Xuzhou. I was originally going to just take a taxi from the airport to the bus station. But, Tracy made arrangements for a driver, the headmaster of the Xuzhou training school and another friend to meet me at the airport. I did not realize how far the bus was from the plane. About an hour’s drive. Only one speaks English, and it is poor English. But, I know all three and consider them good friends. They treat me to lunch. I really was not hungry. Chinese hospitality dictates it I guess. And then we went to the bus station. The headmaster walks me into the station. He pays for my ticket. Of course it is fruitless for me complain. And, he walks me all the way to the bus to make sure I get on properly. Let me just say, this is why I love the company I work for. They really do work hard to please me. It is embarrassing and frustrating at times. But, I know that my wants and needs are often taken care of.
I am typing this on the final leg of my vacation and journey home. I am on the bus headed to Ganyu. As soon as I get home, I have to begin my preparations for moving to Shangrao. No rest for me. I have not given much thought about the move and all I have to do. I was on vacation. I needed the time to relax from the summer camp. Now I have to. I will need to get everything prepared, say goodbye to many people, and settle some issues in about 6-7 days. School begins on September 1.
Let me give you the good and bad of this cruise. When you read this portion, do not assume that the entire cruise was a “bust”. It is my observations and experiences only. And, although I try very hard to maintain a Chinese mentality on things like this, maybe my western culture is just too strong and influenced my opinions. I have read many reviews that claim that they had a fabulous experience. We took the Yangtze Gold Cruise because of all the amenities and shore excursions they took. There are other cruise lines to choose from, such as President and Victoria Cruises. I cannot speak for any other experience except for the experience I have had on the Yangtze Gold 3 cruise. So, keep this in mind if you are looking at boats to use.
With that said, let’s begin with the good things I discovered. The interior of the ship is relatively new and well maintained. The boat was only 2 years old. There is a wide arrange of activities to do on the boat. Beyond all the expectations you would have, such as massage/spa and game room, there is a billiard room, miniature golf, and a helipad (why, I do not know). All the rooms are well decorated and comfortable.
The guest cabins are also very well decorated, comfortable and supplied nicely. The beds were comfortable to me. The pillows are nice and soft. The bathroom even has a scale to weigh yourself. Nice little touch. The bathroom amenities seem to be higher quality. The shower is spacious and has both a hand shower and a rain shower head available. Closet space is ample for a 5 day cruise. There is a room safe too. The best part of the cabin was the balcony with two chairs. It is very nice to sit and watch the scenery pass, especially in the morning.
We chose this cruise because it made two important stops for us. We wanted to experience the Tribe of the Three Gorges excursion. And, we are excited to see Fengdu. It is known as the Ghost City. You can read about the excursions in the main body of the blog. I think some of the cruises do not do both excursions at the same time.
The staff, for the most part, always greeted you with a smile, said hello, and were helpful. Most speak English. And, they were very professional.
The buffet food is ok. There is a wide selection of food to choose from. It tastes reasonably good too (for the most part). They will have one or two “western” dishes added too. The “western” dishes end up tasting Chinese because of the ingredients available and the way they are prepared. But, I like Chinese food. So, it was acceptable.
The BEST part of the cruise, which had nothing to do with the cruise company or the staff, was meeting the many young people on the ship. You know my love of children and how great I think they are. And, kids seem to naturally gravitate towards me. The cruise is no different. I eventually had boys jumping on my back, carrying on conversations with me, playing hide and seek with me, and all the things I would expect. The kids made this trip very, very enjoyable for me. This is not to take anything away from may travel partner Allen. I loved traveling with Allen. He is fun to talk with. He is a great guy. We had much fun together with lots of laughs.
Now, unfortunately, I will have to provide the negatives. I really wish the list was not so long. As I have noted, perhaps my “western” experiences have diluted my opinions. Or, I held higher expectations of what a Chinese cruise would be like, compared to what a western cruise experience is supposed to be like. I have never been on a cruise ship before. But, from talking with others who have, I did have big expectation. For instance. I am told you are treated like royalty and made to feel special. Not so much on a Chinese cruise. And, I am not one that wants to be pampered and treated special. Especially when it is just because I am a foreigner. I hate getting added attention to myself when others do not.
The BIGGEST DISAPPOINTMENT of the cruise was the difference between what is offered on a western cruise compared to a Chinese cruise. I am told that many activities and amenities are part of the cost of your western cruise. Not so much on a Chinese cruise ship. I am surprised that they have not installed pay toilets on the Yangtze Gold boat.
It seems that every time I encountered a staff person, they were trying to “up-sell” or “upgrade” me to one thing or another. It seems that the cruise staff allows a chaotic experience in the buffet dining room so you will upgrade to a more private “VIP” room. The food looked to be the same in both rooms. Just not as crowded. I can usually deal with Chinese bad manners and habits, like crowding each other and pushing themselves to the front of the line. It is part of Chinese culture. Westerners may see it as selfish. But, it is self-preservation that has been built into their culture for centuries. But, you would think these people were starving to death the way they pushed, shoved, and weaseled their way to the food. I finally just had to stand back and let the crowd die down before I could eat. Eventually, by the second day and three miserable meal experiences, I just refused to use their dining facilities. I will just by food from the excursions and live on that. It is that bad of an experience for me.
And, anytime I thought I might like to do something, it was going to cost me. And, not just cost me a reasonable price. No…two to four times the cost of land based items. For example. They had a billiard room on the ship. In my mind, this should be a free amenity. But, Yangtze Gold charges 88 RMB per hour for the use of a table. Back in Ganyu, I pay 20 RMB per hour. The cost for a western hamburger…128 RMB. McDonalds…20 RMB. I recognize that this is China and that the almighty RMB and GDP is God and King. And, I know that when any “capitalist” tourist based enterprise that has a “captive” crowd, it is common to charge extreme prices. But, I feel like I am being violated with these prices. Being charged for an evening movie activity is not good, in my opinion. Even a tour of the Bridge of the ship would cost you 50 RMB. Very little seemed to be included in the price of the cruise. Maybe just the meals, one or two excursions and your cabin. I would rather they provide an option of a higher price that included all of these amenities. I should not have to be charged in everything I do. I am not a cheap person. I spend my money well. But, I like value for the money I spend. Even on vacation.
That is enough about the price gouging and lack of “free” entertainment on the boat. Some other notes:
- The swimming pool is ridiculously small. By the time you put some kids in the pool, it is no longer enjoyable.
- The boat can carry 500 passengers. The elevators are far too small and slow for the comfort of the passengers. They are really nice with glass openings to give you great views and very ornate.
- When you first board the boat, you can get the feeling that you are being “Shanghai’d” onto an old pirate ship. You board from an dirty, worn looking dock. You carry your luggage down a narrow, dark hallway that has pipes and other equipment on the floor that you have to navigate around from. And then, your first impression of the interior of the ship is through the barely equipped “fitness” gym within a dark, uninviting room. It is not until you can reach the main floor of the ship that you feel like you are on a cruise ship.
- The captain of the boat, which we met once during the “Captain’s Welcome Party” did not seem like a happy type of man. He seldom smiled. Even when he was getting pictures taken with guests or talking with them, he had a stand offish demeanor. His name was Niu Li. But, the rest of the team seemed friendly and welcoming. Perhaps, they should eliminate the “welcoming” party. I sure did not feel welcomed by the captain.
- The cruise company should do a much better job informing the guests that this a “non-smoking” boat. You could only smoke on the “sun-deck” or cigar room. There is no smoking permitted in the rooms. Although, I did use the balcony to smoke.
- For the entire cruise, there was no internet opportunities. This is difficult, but not impossible to deal with. I would have liked to have had contact with friends and family, had access to my blog to post my experiences and pictures, and to just get information about various things we were seeing or wanted to see. The staff just kept telling me that the internet was “broken”. Whatever that means. So…FIX it.
- The final issue was not completely at the fault of the cruise line. But, they could have handled the situation much better. The river level was too low for our ship to go all the way to Chongching. So, we had to stay in Fengdu. We stayed the night at the dock. The next morning, they boarded us on buses on a 2 hour trip to Chongching. We had to haul our baggage up 9 flights of stairs or pay porters to take them. It is nearly 200 steps up a steep stair. No assistance from the cruise staff. And, we had to wake very early to get the buses.
- The cruise in not really a 5 day excursion. You cannot board the boat until 6:00 PM. And, there is no dinner or activities. And, you have to normally depart at 9:00 AM. We had to depart at 7:30 AM. So, that is not even a day. In reality, you are on a 3 day, 4 night cruise.
There are other minor issues. But, I am not trying to make it sound like this was a horrible experience. It was just not the great experience I was expecting to have. So, I will just say TIC (This is China) and accept that this is a past experience and there are more adventures that await me here in China.
Here is the real dilemma I guess I had. I was raised and trained in a western society. In a western society, customer service from a business is drastically different than it is here in China. In western businesses, the company and staff are “usually” trained to correct problems and do whatever they can to make things right for the guest. If too many people become unhappy with a service or a product, it impacts profits for the company. A bad reputation is something that American and western companies try to avoid. Not so in China. In China, if it is going to impact your RMB and GDP, there is no compromise. Money is much more important than the satisfaction of your guest. After all, in China, you have nearly 1.4 billion people you can piss off versus a little more than 300 million in America. That is the biggest difference, I think, between a western cruise and a Chinese cruise.
Would I recommend a Yangtze River cruise to anyone who is coming to China? Yes. It is as important of a thing to see and do as climbing the Great Wall of China. Would I recommend the Yangtze Gold Cruise Company? Maybe not. I think you need to do your homework. I think you need to take any marketing literature you read and take it at half value. And, you need to research, research, research. Perhaps, another cruise company can offer you a better experience. But, I tend to think that they are all the same. For instance, if you are a foreigner, they charge you a more expensive price than they do a Chinese person. And, the cruise companies limit the number of rooms that can be sold to a foreigner. We did much research about many of the cruise companies before we booked this trip. And, the only real difference seemed to be the shore excursions that they offered for free, compared to the paid “optional” tours.