The 124-passenger Yangzi Explorer — which is run by Sanctuary Retreats, part of Abercrombie and Kent — is the smallest of the vessels offering Yangtze River voyages. The sailings are three or four days between Chongqing and Yichang in China’s Sichuan province, upriver from Shanghai.
What We Love
Top-Notch Service: Friendly dining room waiters remember your preferences from previous meals, and they hustle (Chinese tend to eat their meals swiftly!) through the a la carte specialties at dinner. But veggie lovers, beware: North Americans are warned not to eat the fresh vegetables that have been washed with Chinese tap water.
Well-Executed Spa Services: Spa workers are well trained to provide a variety of massages and other treatments.
Places to Catch Views: Windowed indoor spaces are well designed, comfortable and spacious, and there’s plenty of outdoor space to stand and take photos.
Comfortable Cabins: Cabins and suites are roomy (the 38 smallest cabins are 333 square feet), recently updated, and each has its own balcony.
Best Known For
Gorgeous Scenery: Floating through the Three Gorges, with precipitous cliffs and lush green mountains shrouded in mist, is a treat, as is a visit to the Three Gorges Dam that displaced 1.3 million people who lived in 13 cities now under water.
In-Depth Tours: On land, passengers meet local residents and visit a market, then board small boats, poled by Tujia boatmen into a small, narrow gorge. While a huge billboard beside the river (and the excursion tickets) show the muscular rowers working in the nude, now they wear clothes ... at least when tourists are around.
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Who It's Best For
Worldly Travelers: The idea here is checking the Yangtze off your bucket list; most of these cruisers have seen a lot of places already.
Don't Say We Didn't Warn You
The Boat Isn't Luxurious: Yangzi Explorer falls short of its luxury brochure description, both in accommodations (the air conditioning, for example, was a problem on our sailing and at mealtime. (Fortunately, we hear it's scheduled for refurbishments in the next couple years.)
The Wines are Weak: The complimentary wines are nearly undrinkable: Instead, choose beer, soft drinks, or bottled water, or purchase wine from the bar. (Ask for a taste first!)
Getting On and Off Requires Agility: Piers at port stops are rough and laden with obstructions that would challenge passengers with mobility issues. Most entrances and exits from the vessel wind through an unappealing shop on a barge tied to the dock.
David G. Molyneaux is a Cleveland-based cruise writer.
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Yangzi Explorer at a Glance
- Line: Abercrombie & Kent
- Number of Passengers: 124
- Ship Size: Small
- Launch Date: 2008