Yangtze River cruise ships
Orient Royal Line
" East King, 196 passengers
" East Queen, 196 passengers
" Victoria Empress, 198 passengers
" Victoria Katarina, 266 passengers
" Victoria Prince, 206 passengers
" Victoria Queen, 206 passengers
" Victoria Rose, 130 passengers
" Victoria Star, 206 passengers
Viking River Cruises
" Viking Star, 180 passengers
" Viking Century Sky, 306 passengers
" Viking Century Sun, 306 passengers (2006)
Few products in the modern travel industry
have undergone more radical changes in recent years than the
Yangtze River cruise, a reflection of the changes sweeping China
generally and the Yangtze specifically. The Three Gorges Dam is
creating an impoundment that will forever alter the 400-mile region
between Yichang and Chongqing, where most Yangtze cruise ships
But mans makeover
of the landscape is only one of the many changes that Yangtze
cruise operators have weathered over the last decade. Certainty is
not the lot of a Yangtze cruise operator.
the largest operator on the Yangtze with 1,212 berths on a
half-dozen ships, has been riding the current for a decade through
boom and bust cycles. The market grew steadily in the 1990s, only
to be broadsided by 9/11 and SARS. Victoria started in 1994 with
one ship, grew to 11 ships in 2002, then traded them in for six
newer, larger and more luxurious vessels.
gained market share when its top competitor, Regal China Cruises,
collapsed, but opportunities in China are like opportunities
everywhere else -- they attract competitors.
China Regal Cruises,
an operator of Yangtze River cruises, is in full operation and is
not to be confused with Regal China Cruises, a management company
that marketed Yangtze River voyages previous to October 2002, when
it ceased operating after a dispute with the owner of the ships it
marketed, Nantong Lihui International Co. The ships formerly
marketed by Regal China Cruises are now marketed by China Regal
Viking River Cruises, a leader in
European river cruising, was able to leverage its marketing
organization and its tour operator partnerships in Europe to create
a strong presence in the Yangtze market in 2004, its first year on
the river. It entered the market with one 180-passenger ship, and
it is introducing a 306-passenger ship this year and another in
2006, which will bring its total number of beds to 792.
vice president of sales and marketing for Tauck World Discovery,
said, The competition with other riverboats coming in has improved
substantially. Viking is certainly going to have an
President Jeff Dash, its a matter of raising the bar. We wanted to
create a product up to our standards, he said. Were not trying to
dominate the market. Were more excited about promoting and building
the destination. My hope is whatever were doing will raise the bar.
China should have a better product.
Victoria, for its
part, sees itself as the operator that really knows the ropes. With
10 years in the market, Victoria has relationships that go back to
James Pi, the
companys owner, is a Chinese-American who was born in Shanghai. He
has earned degrees in navigation and shipping
Pi agrees that
standards on the Yangtze continue to climb. The industry has to
make changes for the customer, he said. And the customer wants
things better and better.
Victoria used the
downturn during the SARS episode to reposition itself and upgrade
its fleet, which now includes four ships with five-star ratings
from the China National Tourist Administration and two in the
Although the dam
is transforming the region, a couple of hundred feet does not cut
far into the height of the massive peaks that line the river in the
Three Gorges region.
agree that the Yangtze has lost little as a tourist attraction and,
in fact, has gained in some ways.
up the Yangtze tributaries, for example, can now utilize larger,
more comfortable boats and go farther upstream.
The gorges are no
less gorgeous than before. Parts of the river that have grown into
a lake offer stunning landscapes in their own right. And the dam,
the reason for it all, is itself a major tourist
reporter David Cogswell, send e-mail to [email protected].
details on this article, see Ever-changing China is full of