New Victoria Shore Excursions

Changing water levels brings new sightseeing opportunities along Three Gorges Dam

By: Ana Figueroa

Rising water levels as a result of the Three Gorges Dam project on China’s Yangtze River have allowed Victoria Cruises to create shore excursions to formerly hard-to-reach sites on the aptly nicknamed “River of Heaven.”

“Since we began sailing in 1994, we’ve employed a dedicated team of individuals to craft shore excursions that encompass the unique attributes of the Yangtze including the Three Gorges, ancient historical sites and the smaller tributaries off the river,” said Larry Greenman, manager of public relations and customer service for Victoria Cruises.
“As we move forward in the 21st century, we will continue to enhance our offerings with new excursions that emerge as a result of the Three Gorges Dam project and rising waters that provide access to sites not easily reached,” Greenman added.

Recent enhancements to shore excursions include:

Shennong Stream As a result of the Dam project, higher water levels make it possible for visitors to travel further along Shennong Stream (a Yangtze tributary), which has become more navigable for a greater distance. Passengers board small “pea pod” wooden boats and take a relaxing ride through the attractive Gorges. The Shennong Stream region features a wild preserve, which is home to more than 1,000 types of trees; Daning River/Small Gorges Higher water levels have allowed Victoria Cruises to sail far enough on the Daning River, another Yangtze tributary, so travelers can see all three of the Gorges from a different perspective. Victoria Cruises now also uses larger and more comfortable motorized boats on the Daning River (holding approximately 130 passengers as opposed to boats once holding about 30 people). A side trip of the Daning River excursion is a journey via sampan to the Ma Du River, a tributary of the Daning River. After boarding a sampan on the Daning River, travelers will embark on a 45-to-60-minute trip up the Ma Du River to the Mini Gorges (or “Lesser Lesser” Gorges), a picturesque area with clear, swift running water, unusual rock formations and monkeys and goats along the banks; White Emperor City also known as Baidicheng, overlooks the Western end of Qutang Gorge, and had been included as a shore excursion in the past but was discontinued because the climb up Baidi Mountain to the historical temple involved many steps. However, the water level on the Yangtze is expected to rise this season to 165 meters above sea level with the ongoing construction of the Three Gorges Dam, thereby greatly reducing the climb. Currently, White Emperor City is replacing the “ghost city” of Fendgu on select sailings, and if it is well-received by travelers, Victoria Cruises will consider including it on additional sailings. White Emperor City has long been a refuge for would-be kings and poets who traveled there to be inspired by the breathtaking views. Legend has it that in 25 A.D., white vapor in the shape of a dragon rose from a well there, and Gong Sunshu, a soldier who had been headquartered there, declared himself the “White Emperor.” Remains of the city wall can be seen on the hill behind Baidi Mountain, and a temple built to commemorate Gong’s reign dates back more than 1,950 years.

Not all shore excursions are available on all itineraries. Excursion availability depends on the specific cruise booked as well as river conditions.

The Three Gorges will remain on Victoria Cruises’ Yangtze River itineraries as the Three Gorges Dam project, the largest engineering endeavor of its kind, moves toward completion in 2009. The Three Gorges Dam has become a highlight on all of Victoria’s cruise programs.

"Many people are under the assumption that once the Dam and flooding are complete, the Three Gorges will disappear, but this is not true,” noted Greenman.

An American-managed company, Victoria Cruises operates the largest fleet of vessels with the coveted five-star rating from the China National Tourism Administration.