NEW YORK -- Demand for Yangtze River cruises has never been higher,
and operators probably have the construction of the Three Gorges
Dam to thank.
Preparation for the dam's last stage of construction will take
place in the fall, making this the final opportunity visitors will
have to see the Yangtze River and the Three Gorges as they have
thrilled visitors for millennia.
"All of [the construction] has contributed to a sense of urgency
about seeing the Yangtze now," said Gerry Kerr, director of
marketing at Pacific Delight Tours here. "In recent years, the
Yangtze [river cruise] has been our most popular trip to China and
this year, it is even more so."
A handful of cruise operators, including Regal China Cruises,
Victoria Cruises and the China-based East Queen West Queen, supply
most tour operators in the U.S., and they said they are concerned
that this "last chance" marketing ploy is being taken too far.
"There are changes taking place," said Jeanne Dalton, director
of marketing and sales at Regal China Cruises, "but we are trying
to dispel they idea that it is all going to go away. It's not
When completed, the dam will create a reservoir that extends
nearly 400 miles upstream, covering hundreds of towns and even some
of the lower peaks of the Three Gorges.
According to Dalton, the Three Gorges ranges from 300 to 3,000
feet, so "some of the smaller peaks will be submerged, but the
majesty will remain," Dalton said, noting that Three Gorges
Reservoir might end up being as spectacular as the area is now.
"The dam is in itself an attraction," she said. "It's the
largest project of its kind in the world."
Most cruise passengers take motorcoach tours to the top of the
dam and spend several hours around the site.
"It's one of those 'Wonder-of-the-World' projects," said a
spokesman for Pacific Delight Tours. "You really need a
'before-and-after' tour. You will lose some aspects of the scenery,
but you also will be able to go places you never could before."
In November, ships sailing on the Yangtze will be rerouted
through temporary locks. By next summer, the third phase of
construction will have begun and water will begin rising about 15
feet a day.
From June 1 to June 15, 2003, there will be no river cruises.
After that, the water level will have risen, a permanent lock will
be in operation and cruises will resume.
The construction project, which has drawn its share of criticism
from environmental groups worldwide, is necessary to tame some of
the river's deadliest floods, according to Chinese officials.
When the project is complete, it will be the largest
hydroelectric dam ever built, according to the Chinese government,
supplying the electricity needs of one-ninth of China's population
of 2 billion.
Book it: Yangtze Cruise tour operators
Abercrombie & Kent
Phone: (800) 323-7308
Phone: (800) 736-8187
Asia Transpacific Journeys
Phone: (800) 642-2742
Phone: (800) 682-3333
Phone: (800) 223-0266
Japan & Orient Tours
Phone: (800) 377-1080
Phone: (800) 688-3288
Pacific Delight Tours
Phone: (800) 221-7179
Phone: (800) 742-9244
Phone: (800) 900-2446
Tauck World Discovery
Phone: (800) 468-2825
Phone: (800) 733-7820