Victoria SophiaWhen Victoria Cruises relaunched the 198-passenger Victoria Grace and the 208-passenger Victoria Sophia in March, it concluded a two-year, $10 million renovation of five of its seven Yangtze River cruise vessels.

The cruise line took the Sophia out of service during the winter 2010-2011 season, but the company's efforts then turned to rebuilding the 218-passenger Victoria Lianna and 218-passenger Victoria Selina, which relaunched in March 2011. The company said it consequently decided to wait until this winter to complete the Sophia alongside the Grace.

While both ships have four decks, the Sophia, at 293 feet long and 54 feet wide, is slightly larger than the Grace, which measures 281 feet long and 47 feet wide.

The Sophia, built in 1994, has 93 standard cabins (211 square feet), seven executive suites (294 square feet), two deluxe suites (458 square feet) and two Shangri-La suites (622 square feet). The Grace, built in 1996, has 91 cabins (157 square feet), two executive suites (236 square feet), four deluxe suites (322 square feet) and two Shangri-La suites (397 square feet).

As part of the refurbishments, their interiors have been stripped and completely renovated. A second dining room has been added to each ship, and they both now feature an executive lounge for passengers who book the Executive Deck VIP program.

The Executive Deck program features concierge service, upgraded cabin categories, access to exclusive VIP areas, exclusive small-group shore excursions, enhanced dining privileges, exclusive happy hour, complimentary Internet access and exclusive cultural demonstrations. With these two latest ships, the program is now available on all Victoria Cruises ships.

The Victoria fleet overhaul kicked off with the renovation of the 264-passenger Victoria Katarina, which was built in 2004 and relaunched in 2010.

The other two ships in the Victoria fleet are newer vessels. The 268-passenger Victoria Anna was built in 2006, and the 378-passenger Victoria Jenna was built in 2009.

Additionally, at the end of 2010, Victoria Cruises retired the last of its older, smaller class of ships, the 130-passenger Victoria Rose. The Rose did not have balconies; all seven ships in the current fleet do.

The Victoria fleet sails itineraries along China's Yangtze River, namely between Chongqing and Yichang, and between Chongqing and Shanghai. The cruises range between four and nine days in length.

Visit www.victoriacruises.com.  

For news on tour operations, wholesalers and river cruising, follow Michelle Baran on Twitter @mbtravelweekly.

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