Victoria Cruises is an American owned and operated cruise line that operates sole only the Yangtze River in China. The line was found by the American-Chinese Pi family. They started by leasing ships from Chinese owners and crewing them with English speaking Chinese. This was a compromise at best so in 2003 they commenced building their own specially designed vessels. These are up-market and aimed not only at the US market, but also the rest of the English speaking world. The Yangtze rises in Tibet and runs 3,964 miles to the East China Sea near Shanghai. Victoria cruises the whole of the navigable length of 1,649 miles from Chungking to Shanghai in four stages. Whilst it is possible to book a cruise as a stand-alone holiday, most tourists include a holiday visiting some of the main cities of China that are now opening up to the rest of the world.
Victoria’s ships seek to emulate the large cruise liners in the comfort and attention to service that they give. Whilst there are sometimes difficulties with language, the Chinese crews are very friendly and eager to please. All cabins on the ships have a balcony although it is quite small in the standard class. This allows for floor to ceiling windows to enjoy the river views. The ships tend to do a lot of daytime cruising so that passengers can take in the great variety of striking scenery that they pass. Every cabin also has a bathtub which is very unusual these days. There are also flat screen TVs showing some Chinese satellite programs and English language movies. There is also the BBC news service for those who must know what is going on. As yet there is no internet connection from the ships and telephone calls home must be pre-arranged. Whilst China is advancing at an astounding rate, there are no special facilities for disabled passengers on the ships or on the shore.
Food is good but straightforward with no hint of celebrity chefs having had any influence on the menus. Many people will find that a blessing. Breakfast and lunch food is Western style to suit Australian and American palates but there are always some Chinese choices available. These meals are served buffet style at one assigned sitting in the dining room. Dinners are 100% Chinese and served buffet style at tables of eight. A glass lazy Susan is loaded with food and diners help themselves from it. Waiters change the available dishes through the course of the meal. The food is cooked Sichuan style which tends to be spicy. There is no provision for special dietary needs or for vegetarians although some meat free dishes are served. There is no room service. There is no entertainment per se on the ships, the river being the main source of activity. There is certainly plenty to see from sampans and hydrofoils on the river to wildlife on the shore. There is extensive public space on the boats for relaxing and river watching. There are also talks given by experts on the culture and history of the places being seen. Some ships have classes on such things as calligraphy, making kites and playing Mah-Jongg. On some rare occasions some live entertainers may come on board to give performances of martial arts or Chines opera.