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Insta Q&A: Chinese Cruisine

There's cruising, and then there's Yangtze cruising. Today we're looking for readers who've made the journey on China's legendary river and who can help out a reader who's considering this cruise. Norma Eigles of Columbia writes:

I would like to hear others' experiences on Yangtze River cruises. Does an upstream or downstream cruise provide the most interesting view? Short cruise or long cruise? Any particular cruise line recommendations? Our trip will have to be the first two weeks of August due to our other travels in China. Any China guidebook recommendations? All thoughts and suggestions are welcome.

Norma, this is one of those once-in-a-lifetime adventures that I wouldn't hesitate to use a travel agent for. You want to get it right, and you need someone experienced. You can find travel agents who are both cruise and China specialists by going to the Cruise Line Association of America (CLIA) site. Under "Plan Your Cruise," you'll see "Find a Cruise." Click "River - China."

Also, one of the first things I do when planning a trip is see what my favorite newspaper travel sections and magazines have written about it. For a realistic and entertaining read, check out Mary Beth Sheridan's piece in the Post last year, "Three Gorges: A River Runs Through It, for Better or Worse". Here are her trip details:

Getting there: From Beijing, the two-hour flight to Yichang costs about $160 to $200 one way on Air China or Hainan Airlines. (In China, one-way tickets are typically half the cost of round-trip.) In general, it's cheaper to book Chinese domestic air trips once you're in the country, but it's wise to book the Yichang flight well in advance, since there are only one or two nonstops each day.

Our cruise line sent a driver and English-speaking guide to pick us up at the Yichang airport, and another team delivered us to Chongqing Airport.

Americans must have Chinese visas, which can be obtained from the Visa Section of the Chinese Embassy at 2201 Wisconsin Ave. N.W., Suite 110 in Washington, D.C. The fee is $100. Passports must have at least six months of remaining validity.
The cruise: The best times to cruise the Yangtze are in spring and fall, when the weather is cool and comfortable. Upstream cruises tend to take longer and therefore are less popular -- but they're also often cheaper and less crowded.

We traveled with Orient Royal, which gave us a 10 percent discount for booking online. The only hitch was that, because of Chinese banking regulations, we couldn't pay by credit card and had to wire the cash from a bank. Our four-night cruise upstream cost $792 per person, which included meals, shore excursions and airport transfers. Once on board, we decided to spend an extra $100 each to upgrade from a bottom-level cabin to one on the fourth floor with nicer windows and better views.

Other lines offering Yangtze cruises include Victoria and China Regal. Viking claims to operate the most luxurious ships on the river, but its cruises are open only to travelers taking its package land tours.
Information: China National Tourist Office.

Of course, there's nothing like firsthand advice from readers. Anyone out there care to chime in?

By Christina Talcott |  January 14, 2009; 8:00 AM ET  | Category:  Cruises , Insta-Q&A , K.C. Summers
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