Yangtze River Cruise and the Three Gorges Dam

The Yangtze is China’s longest river. It stretches 6,380 kilometres across a large portion of Central China from the ethnic Tibetan region to its mouth which flows into the East China Sea at Shanghai. On this river, the largest dam in the world, the Three Gorges Dam, has been built. Combine these two and you’re in for a cruise delivering, not just jaw-dropping scenery, but also an example of this country’s awesome engineering skill.

Our cruise started in the river section above the Three Gorges Dam wall at Yichang (Maoping Port), and the Yangtze 2 was our home for the next 4 nights and 5 days until reaching Chongqing. If you have cruised European rivers, you’ll immediately notice that the Yangtze River cruise ships are considerably larger, having 5 to 7 decks and catering for 450–500 passengers plus crew. The Yangtze 2 offered two different cabin categories, each with its own offering of dinning rooms and meals — all buffet meals were served in my cabin class. All cabins had private balconies and there were comfortable relaxation areas, a large sundeck, and theatre, where a couple of excellent documentaries screened on the river and Three Gorges Dam project. An indoor pool and variety of spa and traditional Chinese massage treatments were available for a charge. Our English speaking tour director also hosted a mahjong lesson.

The included daily excursions and optional extra excursions offered an extensive range of sights and experiences. The standouts for me were the cruise through Shennv Stream, where we transferred to smaller vessels and explored narrower gorges, and the transit through the Wu Gorge, where the scenery was spectacular and (English) commentary very informative. If you cruise the Yangtze and are offered an excursion to experience the ship-lift, don’t let the opportunity pass you by. There are few such lifts in the world and it is an experience to remember.

Our cruise was late in the dry season, so the river level was rather low but monsoonal rains would soon be raising the level of the river considerably. This made for challenging embarkation and disembarkation. We “cheated” and took, for a small fee, the cable car down to the ship to embark but the disembarkation at Chongqing was quite a climb. Fortunately our luggage was carried up for us and for a charge we could have been carried too!

I came to this region of China with no idea of what to expect, but left in almost disbelief at the scale of the Three Gorges Dam and the achievement of resettling more than 1.1 million people in order to complete the project, as well as being awed by the natural beauty along this stretch of the Yangtze River.

Kaye Tidmarsh

Travel Host — China Discovery and Yangtze River Cruise