Victoria Cruises aims for bigger and better with the Anna

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NEW YORK -- Victoria Cruises this spring will introduce its seventh and largest ship, the Anna, which embarks on its maiden Yangtze River voyage in China on April 25.

With 154 guest cabins, the Anna will be larger than the Katarina, which debuted in March 2004 with 133 cabins.

People are attracted to the larger ships, said Larry Greenman, Victoria Cruises manager of public relations and customer service. With airplanes and ships, bigger tends to be more comfortable, and its certainly more spectacular.

The Anna will ply the Chongqing-Yichang route through the Three Gorges, the section of the Yangtze that has the most dramatic scenery.

The cruise -- called Three Gorges Highlights -- takes four days downstream or five days upstream. It is priced from $820 per person, double, during the high season and $775 in shoulder season, one way. Shore excursions are covered by an extra charge of $80 per person.

Victoria Cruises also offers the cruise as a roundtrip in a package called Three Gorges Explorer, which leaves from and returns to Chongqing. The high-season price is $1,500 per person, $1,400 in the shoulder season. Shore excursions are covered by an extra cost of  $225 per person.

The top-of-the-line package from Victoria Cruises is the Grand Yangtze Discovery, which sails from Chongqing to the mouth of the Yangtze at Shanghai. Prices are $1,500 per person in high season, $1,400 in shoulder season. Shore excursions cost $225 extra.

Booking via a tour operator may result in better prices, thanks to volume discounts.

In addition to being larger, the Anna will offer features new to Victorias fleet. For example, the ship will have two elevators -- convenient for every cruiser and necessary for some. 

Four decks are not a problem for most people, but those who have trouble climbing stairs prefer elevators, said Greenman.

The Anna will have a second, top-deck dining room with a la carte dining. The a la carte option will cost passengers an extra $40 or so per day.

Fleetwide, Victoria Cruises is offering a wider selection of Western-style food on all of its ships in 2006, perhaps responding to the challenge from Viking River Cruises, which has made availability of Western meals part of its sales pitch since entering the China river-cruise market in 2003.

Victoria Cruises other ships are the Prince and the Queen, with 93 cabins each, the Star (103 cabins), the Empress (99 cabins) and the Rose (63 cabins).

Victoria Cruises takes most of its bookings through tour operators. Among the operators that offer Victorias Yangtze cruises are Pacific Delight World Tours, Avalon Waterways (part of the Globus family), Trafalgar Tours, Brendan Tours, Gate 1, Swain Tours, Travcoa, United Vacations, Travel Bound and Uniworld.

For more information, visit www.victoriacruises.com or call (800) 348-8084.

To contact reporter David Cogswell, send e-mail to [email protected].

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