The 4 day Yangtze River cruise was part of a 15 day package from Sinorama Holidays that included Beijing, Xian, Chongqing, Shanghai and all points in between.
This is a review of the Yangtze River cruise portion of the total package. Our Yangtze River route was Chongqing to Jingzhou. There is also a reverse route.
We’ve only been on 3 other ocean cruises so we didn’t know what to expect with a river cruise plus the fact that the cruise was in China. Friends had gone on this same itinerary back in October/November and were able to provide some information on what to expect.
Yangtze Gold Cruise No. 8 operated by Sinorama Holidays
Vessel owned by Chongqing Yangtze Gold Cruises
The process left a lot to be desired even though it was as an easy walk. Our bus parked about 800 meters to 1.6 kilometers (½ to 1 mile) away from the ship and we had to walk with our small carry-on luggage. There are also stairs involved but as I recall maybe only 2 flights. Our checked luggage was preloaded onto the ship. The road was sparsely lined with vendors selling their wares to the tourists although it was not a problem. There were crew members greeting us the last 100 meters / yards or so before the barge gangplank that leads to the ship, but they were of little help or at least did not offer assistance in helping with people who may have had difficulty.
The process was quick and transparent. We walked about ¼-1/3rd mile to our bus.
Deck 1 is where we disembarked for all our stops. This deck also has the gym equipment, indoor pool and pay for use sauna.
Here’s a run down on the equipment in the gym:
- 2 treadmills
- 1 set of 10 pound weights
- 1 incline bench
- 1 universal gym
- 1 exercise bicycle
- 2 yoga mats
Deck 2 is the lobby. This deck also has cabins and the dining room (the only one).
Deck 3 has a resident traditional Chinese medicine doctor that deals with herbal medicines, acupuncture and acupressure. This deck also has the cinema, conference room. There are also the ubiquitous souvenir shops – t shirts, jewellery, paintings etc.
See deck plan on Sinorama website.
Deck 4 has the spa and massage therapy salon. Also more retail outlets. See deck plan on Sinorama website.
This deck contains the bar / cabaret entertainment lounge.
This deck also has cabins in the hallway leading to the lounge. If you’re an early to bed person, I would avoid the cabins closest to the lounge starting at cabin 8501. Cabin 8522 is the farthest away from the lounge entrance. Cabins 8521 – 8532 are on the other side of the staircase.
This deck also has a small pool. See deck plan on Sinorama website.
Deck 6 has the canopied patio tables and a walking area.
There is also a sitting area / library which I thought was on deck 6 but deck plan shows as deck 3. The plan also shows the “VIP” restaurant on deck 6.
Food & Drinks
We ate all our meals on deck 2. Every meal whether it be breakfast, lunch or dinner was buffet style except for the farewell dinner which was a sit down meal. The sit down meal was not any better or worse than the buffet meals.
We were told during the Captain’s welcome that there is an option to purchase a “Western” meal for approximately 200 RMB ($36-40) per person. No one at our 3 assigned tables took advantage of this option.
The American breakfast included cereal, toast, bacon, sausage, potatoes, waffles, scrambled eggs, omelettes and pan fried eggs. I would say 80% or more of the food offerings for breakfast was of Chinese ethnicity. For lunch and dinner it was more like 90% Chinese. On more than one occasion there were French fries for lunch and dinner. Just as an aside, we had hamburgers at the buffet – the “hamburger” consisted of a slice of tomato in a bun.
Miscellaneous thoughts on the food:
- No other restaurant options like the bigger cruise ships. Buffet option only unless you were willing to pay for a Western meal.
- Mostly Asian foods and average at best, which was okay by me. I did recall one meal that there was spaghetti and tomato sauce offering.
- Once you enter the dining room, to the immediate right is a separate area for specials they might have that day such as wonton soup etc. This is also the area with the omelettes, waffles etc.
- Expensive beverages- cocktails were 60 RMB (Cdn$12) with a 20% discount during happy hour from 5:00 to 6:30 PM.
- Local beer worked out to be approximately Cdn$5 per bottle (10 bottles local beer + 4 free for 400 RMB) or $6+ per bottle for American brands with 2 free bottles if you bought the 10 bottle package for 400 RMB.
- Expensive soft drinks – 30 RMB per can or you can buy a package of 10 plus 2 free for 300 RMB that works out to $5 per can.
- Complimentary water, soft drinks and beer at lunch and dinner time. Complimentary coffee available for breakfast.
- No coffee available for dinner unless you wanted to pay 30 RMB ($6.00). Special coffees such as cappuccino and Baileys cost more; 40 RMB and 60 RMB respectively. There is also a coffee package available. – buy 10 and get 2 free.
- Bottled water was for sale at 2 bottles (380 ml /13 ounce size) for the price of one - for 25 RMB, that works out to be about Cdn$2.50 per bottle.
- There is wine for sale.
Entertainment and Enrichment
The first night was a rest night but on days 2 through 4 there were limited activities available if we were not on schedule tours.
Every morning there was a 30 minute Qigong (pronounced “Chi Gong”) - systemic movement of body parts and stretching. The session I saw had about 20-30 participants.
On the first full day there were health seminars on acupuncture, foot and body massage in the morning and in the evening before dinner there was the Captain’s Welcome party. After dinner there was the 60 minute show put on by the crew as well as dancing by the passengers.
On the second full day between tours, there was a lecture on traditional snuff boxes and embroidery.
Our last full day, the afternoon was free after the optional Water Village tour. There were free consultations with the traditional Chinese medicine doctor, seminars on mahjong & scarf tying and group dance lessons. It should be no surprise to anyone these informative seminars tend to lead to sales of the related products.
After our farewell dinner on the last night, there was a talent show put on by the passengers that lasted about 60-75 minutes. It was kind of fun.
Unlike the larger ocean going ships, there is no casino.
As previously mentioned, we were on the vessels for 4 nights. There were only 4 tours on the cruise of which only 1 was an optional paid tour.
- Day 2– Sibaozhai -The Red Pagoda - interesting
- Day 3 – Cruising the Gorge in the morning with a smaller vessel and a bus tour of the dam site in the afternoon. Gorge tour was interesting and the dam tour a bit on the disappointing side.
- Day 4 - Water village (optional tour that cost 290 RMB per person) was interesting
Please see my separate TripAdvisor reviews of the various attractions including the above.
Cabin 8239 (Deck 2) – Cabin C
I’m guessing the leading number 8 is for good luck as every cabin started with the same number.
This cabin is located on the port (left) side, near the middle of the ship and behind the main (the only) staircase. This was very convenient as it was a short walk to the dining room.
The cabin size was as expected - small but functional and on par if not better than some ocean going ships. The shower stall was roomy compared to the Azamara Journey cruise ship that I cruised on in December, 2013. See my Southeast Asia review.
There are 2 separate twin beds. In addition, there is an upholstered chair with a footrest and desk and chair. I believe all the cabins have a small 30 square foot patio with a small table and 2 chairs.
The cabin plan is not as depicted on the website but didn’t affect the comfort level. The difference between the cabin plan and actual layout is the hall way and the bathroom. To the immediate left of the doorway is the closet area, safe, fridge and opposite is the bathroom. Cabin 239’s washroom sink is on the left, toilet in the middle and the shower on the right; the complete opposite of the plan.
In my opinion, the cabin 239’s location was good even though it was only 2 doors away from the entrance to the lobby.
- There were 8 or 9 Sinorama groups on the boat (300 passengers) and our group of 31 English speaking people was interactive and friendly.
- The food on the whole was okay; nothing to complain about but also nothing to rave about. The only complaint may be the lack of food options for some.
- The 2 servers for our 3 tables – Coco and Bobo provided above average service. Our servers were able to converse in English. In addition, the administrative staff, for the most part could converse and understand English. There were employees who also spoke French and German.
The rating for the cruise experience is above average – a great 4 day cruise dampened by the expensive beverages. Some people may have issue with the lack of eating options and on-board activities.
I would rate the overall experience of the ship, food, crew and atmosphere at 3.75 out of 5 stars. Even though I did not give the overall ship experience a 4 or 5 star rating, I would recommend the overall tour package taking everything into consideration including food, service, value and attractions.
Notes & Tips
- 2 free bottles of water provided each day as the tap water is not potable. We made it a habit of boiling our water when brushing our teeth; maybe a bit of overkill, but better to be safe than sorry. I know of one couple who did not boil their water and did not appear to suffer any ill effects. Hot water kettle is provided.
- No adapters for North American style plugs are required. There were at least 2 outlets that could accommodate North American plugs. However, you will still need to use a transformer if your appliance doesn’t have the correct voltage. This was the case even in the hotels.
- Use of robes and free slippers.
- There is no cabin service. That is, you cannot order a midnight snack.
- Money (US, Canadian and Euro dollars) may be exchanged on the ship but you will be paying a small premium compared to the bank. While we were on board the rate per Cdn$100 was 450 RMB and 610 RMB for US$100. The Euro was 680 RMB exchanged for 1 Euro. In my case, the premium paid was about 50 RMB; about $5 less than I would get at home. Hotels will also exchange currencies. My only experience for exchanging money was at the Eton Hotel in Shanghai. The rate was good and almost the same as what I could get at home; I would say exchange fluctuations accounted for the difference.
- During the Captain’s welcome we were told that this trip had 300 passengers with a crew numbering 150.
- The Gold 8 boat was commissioned in 2013. This vessel is bigger and newer than the other vessel – “Sinorama Diamond”. See Sinorama website for details on the 2 ships.
- Friendly staff and overall service was good especially in the dining room. Minor complaint on 1 day as we did not have enough toilet paper in the room – only a partial roll to last the day.
- If you need to buy beverages, buy them before you get on the vessel if you want to avoid the exorbitant costs for beverages. On the Chongqing to Jingzhou route there was a vendor right beside the ship’s entrance selling soft drinks for 10 or 15 RMB ($2/$3) per can compared to 30 RMB on the ship. I can’t recall exactly but I think the original cost for a soft drink was 15 RMB and that’s when I walked away before the vendor shouted out 10 RMB. I assume the beer would also be cheaper. At the Red Pagoda attraction, you can also buy drinks there just before you re-board the ship. While we were in the cities I could by a 590 ml bottle for anywhere from 3 to 3.8 RMB. I don’t believe China has Diet Coke only Coke Zero.
- You can buy a wifi package on the ship. You can get 60 minutes for 30 RMB or buy the 4 day package. I believe the wifi is limited / spotty once the ship gets into the Gorge. You should confirm this with the concierge. Furthermore, there is only wifi in the lobby area (although deck plan indicates wifi service on deck 6).
- Even though the gratuities were prepaid, we tipped a bit extra for our 2 servers.
- The cruisers’ average age was well into the fifties / early sixties. However, our group had 4 twenty plus year olds in our group. There were a few in the 70 plus range. If you’re not able to walk a mile or more, you may have difficulty in visiting some attractions. For example, the Red pagoda requires a steep climb up stairs (9 short flights) to reach the top but maybe manageable with help. In addition, it is about a mile walk from where the ship is docked to the site. At this particular site, there was a rickshaw type transportation (for a fee) to get you to the entrance of the pagoda. From the ship to the attraction, the road is lined with vendors selling their souvenirs. Past the road from the ship (about ½ mile), you will make a left turn into the town (just before the attraction entrance) that has more shops catering to the tourists. See my separate review on the Red Pagoda.
- There are no modern gangplanks that get you from shore to the ship and vice-versa. All the egress is via barges that act as the boarding terminal / gangplanks. However, this is not an issue; just a little different.
- There are a lot of river cruise boats and tour boats that operate on the Yangtze River and the Gorge.
- See my TripAdvisor reviews of the hotels and attractions on the 15 day China tour.