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China's Victoria Cruises Upgrades Five-Star Yangtze Fleet, Enhances Culinary Experience With a la Carte Dining

NEW YORK, NY (March 2, 2011) – The pioneer and leader of luxury river cruises on China's Yangtze, Victoria Cruises, is nearing the completion of a major structural renovation project, which began with the debut of the Victoria Anna – the first Victoria Cruises vessel to feature two separate kitchens and an à la carte dining room. The five-star cruise line subsequently launched the Victoria Jenna, upgraded the Victoria Katarina and introduced its Executive Deck program to these three ships. Victoria Cruises is now in the process of upgrading its older premiere vessels. The goal – in addition to providing a refreshing new look and enhanced amenities such as concierge service – is a major leap forward for its culinary program.

By April 2011, most of Victoria Cruises' vessels will be equipped with two dining rooms and two separate kitchens, in order to handle customized meal requests from passengers requiring gluten-free, vegetarian or vegan dishes (advance notice may be required for some requests). A separate à la carte dining room (pictured right) is available for guests staying on one of the Executive Decks, providing a more exclusive atmosphere in addition to menu items which may not be offered in the main, buffet-style Dynasty Dining room. Additionally, à la carte meal service will be available to all guests on most Victoria Cruises ships as an optional upgrade, based on availability.

As an American-managed company recognizing the importance of the culinary experience to discerning Western travelers, Victoria Cruises has invested heavily in the training of its kitchen staff as well as the upgrading of its ingredients, placing emphasis on natural foods and healthy preparation. All food on the ship is freshly-made. Grass-fed and non-hormone meats are used, and all pastries, breads and desserts are handmade.

Victoria Cruises works with Philadelphia-based Concepts By Staib, Ltd. to continually improve its culinary program. Internationally-acclaimed chef Walter Staib and his senior chefs travel to China periodically to outfit the ships as well as train and update the onboard chefs with the necessary skills and recipes to prepare high-quality Western dishes.

In addition, many of Victoria Cruises’ chefs train at the Tung Shing House in New York City, a restaurant owned by Victoria Cruises’ parent company, where they are able to further hone their culinary and communication skills.

"Our culinary program is just the icing on the cake," said Larry Greenman, manager of public relations and customer service for Victoria Cruises. "Our Executive Deck program, with all of its upgraded amenities and privileges, has become the new standard in small luxury river cruising on China's Yangtze."

Beginning April 2011, Executive Deck passengers on the Victoria Lianna, Victoria Selina, Victoria Prince and Victoria Empress will enjoy the same enhanced privileges as passengers on the Victoria Jenna, Victoria Anna and Victoria Katarina. This includes "white glove" Concierge service, enhanced accommodations and ship placement, access to exclusive VIP areas, à la carte meal service, private cultural lessons and reserved seating for evening entertainment.

Furthermore, guests will be pleased with the structural enhancements Victoria Cruises has introduced throughout most of its fleet. Throughout this winter season, Victoria Cruises has invested millions and mobilized an impressive workforce to mount a complete overhaul of the Victoria Prince, and even more extensively, the Victoria Queen and Victoria Star, which have been renamed the Victoria Lianna and Victoria Selina, respectively, after Lianna and Selina Pi, grandchildren of Victoria Cruises' chairman James Pi.

All three vessels will feature renovated lobbies and hallways with a refreshing new look as well as new carpeting throughout each of the ships. All staterooms will be enhanced with new curtains, and in some cases, new furniture as well.

Elegant new carpeting is being installed on the Victoria Lianna, Victoria Selina and Victoria Prince

"Initially, our intention was to update the look and feel of these ships to bring them up to speed with our newest vessels, while preparing them for the fleet-wide introduction of our 'Executive Deck' program," said Greenman. "Rather than settle for marginal improvements, however, we ultimately decided a full overhaul was necessary, particularly in the case of the Victoria Queen and Victoria Star, which saw several decks gutted and rebuilt them from scratch.

"Essentially, the Victoria Lianna and Victoria Selina will have the appearance of entirely new ships with little or no resemblance to their previous incarnations," added Greenman.

The Victoria Lianna and Victoria Selina in particular will set sail with an entirely new deck featuring an additional Executive Lounge and à la carte restaurant for Executive Deck passengers (3rd and 4th decks), as well as an elevator for all passengers' convenience.

"There's a fine line between a structural renovation project and a completely new build – and we've certainly blurred that line," said Greenman. "The fact we started with previous vessels is merely a technicality. Passengers who have sailed the Queen or Star would never believe they were on the same ships."

Artist rendering of the newly redesigned lobby area of the Victoria Lianna, Victoria Selina and Victoria Prince

Three Gorges Highlights

Victoria Cruises’ popular Three Gorges Highlights program is available for upstream sailings from Yichang to Chongqing (five days/four nights) as well as downstream voyages from Chongqing to Yichang (four days/three nights).

In addition to spectacular views of centuries-old pagodas nestled along the Yangtze and a scenic experience sailing through the massive Three Gorges – known as one of China’s most visually stunning natural treasures – a one-time shore excursion fee of $90 per person (inclusive of all standard excursions) will provide guests with:

  • A tour of the impressive Three Gorges Dam Site in San Dou Ping, an extraordinary feat of engineering and major highlight of the river cruise.
  • An excursion to the “Ghost City” of Fengdu at Mingshan Hill, complete with statures of spirits and demons.
  • An incredible sailing experience through the impressive Small Gorges of the Daning River (pictured below), one of the Yangtze’s tributaries. The scenic journey will bring passengers to a floating dock near Dachang, where they will disembark to board a traditional sampan for a tranquil ride through the “Mini Gorges” of the Ma Du River, a tributary of the Daning River (Daning River excursion may be substituted with Shennong Stream depending on river conditions).

Victoria Cruises

The Daning River combines scenery with serenity to create a one of a kind memorable experience

Guests can also participate in exciting onboard activities such as Tai Chi lessons, acupuncture/acupressure demonstrations and discussions on the Yangtze’s history. Nightly entertainment options include traditional Chinese dance and musical performances.

Victoria Cruises entertainment

HIghlights of the onboard experience include cultural entertainment featuring traditional Chinese costumes

Victoria Cruises

Based in New York, Victoria Cruises operates the largest fleet on the Yangtze with the coveted five-star rating from the China National Tourism Administration. Itineraries vary from four to nine days and include the Grand Yangtze Discovery, Three Gorges Highlights and Three Gorges Explorer.

Victoria Cruises has earned numerous awards and recognitions over the years and has most recently received the 2010 TravelAge West WAVE Award Editor’s Pick for Best River Cruise Line as well as Best New River Cruise Ship with the launch of the luxurious Victoria Jenna. Travel Weekly also recently selected the Victoria Jenna as a Silver Award Winner for the Magellan Awards’ River Cruise Ship category.

For more information and a free color brochure or promotional DVD, contact Victoria Cruises at 57-08 39th Avenue, Woodside, NY 11377; phone 212-818-1680; fax 212-818-9889; e-mail contact@victoriacruises.com or visit www.victoriacruises.com.

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Victoria Cruises