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travel Q&A

Small Boat in China?

By Andrea Sachs
Washington Post Staff Writer
Sunday, January 9, 2005; Page P03

Q Do you have any suggestions for a reasonably priced small-group tour of China that includes cruising the Yangtze? Relatives went this past year and said a group of 80 was far too many.

Mary Nelson

New Market, Va.

A Cruises of China's Yangtze River often pack in the passengers, with anywhere from 130 to nearly 300 passengers per ship, according to Debbie Hunter, general manager of Small Ships Cruises, an online expert in smaller-ship voyages. Among China sailings, Victoria Cruises' Victoria Rose (800-348-8084, www.victoriacruises.com) is on the more petite side, fitting 130 seafarers. (You can find even tinier craft, but sailing with an unknown in China is a giant risk, says Hunter.) It's also one of the cruise lines booked by tour groups, so even if you're exploring the land sights with a handful of people, once you get on the water, that number could triple.

But if you don't mind some extra company, look for travel agencies specializing in small groups. For example, Grand Circle Cruise Tours offers trips with no more than 36 people, though its river portion is on a Regal China boat, which carries 258 passengers. Its 21-day China and Yangtze tour starts at $2,745 per person double and includes air from Dulles, lodging, meals, tours and the river cruise. Meanwhile, the company's Overseas Adventure Travel trims the group size even more, to 16; it sails aboard a 150-passenger Victoria Cruises ship. The 22-day China, Tibet and Yangtze tour starts at $3,145. Info: 800-248-3737, www.gct.com. Also check Pacific Delight World Tours (800-221-7179, www.pacificdelighttours.com) and TravelChinaGuide .com.

Of course, you could always book a land-only tour, then mosey down to the river and charter a Chinese junk -- it would be just you and the crew.

We're looking for an upscale family resort in Phoenix in March. My grandchild is 3 and we would like a place with a playground, pool, bike path and suites with a small kitchen.

Sherry Starr

Silver Spring

With the city's mild winter temperatures, Phoenix is a big golfing destination, which could also account for the average age of the typical visitor: 53. Yet with more than 50,000 hotel and resort rooms in the area, your grandchild will certainly find a play date.


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