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Sunday - 20 May - Up as usual at 0540 - sunrise was at 0505 - Breakfast at 0600 -Then we depart at 0700 by taxi to the Xiijahui Catholic Cathedral for Mass. It is an interesting large brick building with Gothic style exterior and columns inside and a Roman Cross transept. The chancellery is next door. The service is in Chinese of course - very crowded - It is a high mass sung with organ. There are TV screens set on pillars along both side aisles of the nave - the main prayers are flashed on screen in Chinese with some also in English. There are many vocal responses to the prayers and communion is provided. Back to the hotel by taxi costing 15 Y. At 0930 we depart by bus to visit a children's arts and crafts educational school. There we watch youngsters starting to learn ballet, drama, piano. strings and drawing. There is one class of acrobatics preparing students for opera. Many of the children are pre-school age except for those learning piano and stringed instruments. A typical gift shop beckons with high class and expensive art works. Back again to the hotel, we depart for Yichang at 1330. The airport is nice and clean and very busy with many stores. Again, we notice that some other groups of foreign (American?) tourists are handling their own luggage through the check in counters and to the aircraft. What a pleasant convenience that Vantage has taken care of the bags that we will not see again until we board the cruise ship. And the company also has our aircraft boarding passes in hand. The flight is on a Boeing 737. They serve a small snack and soda.
The view of the Yichang airport includes the wide Yangtze river and many hills. The airport is small and not so busy, but modern and clean. The waiting bus takes us down a valley road and conveniently stops for us to get off and take photos of the rice paddies and farmers with water buffalo and oxen. The road turns into a 6-lane highway that becomes a city street along the river. We pass new apartments and gated communities with fine homes. The local guide is full of information as we drive along. The city boasts a population of one million living in a long corridor between the river and hills. We miss photo opportunities new as the bus does not stop until we arrive at a resort hotel complex. We pass three large bridges over the river. There is much industry along the river and manhy barges and vessels. The city center is a mix of old apartments and new construction. We have a sit down dinner is a resort restaurant - 13 courses plus birth day cake for one of the group. It seems there are several new dishes including excellent meat and a fruit desert. After dinner the bus drives us down a twisty narrow road and a very long way up the river to the river port. It is quite dark, with no moon, but Venus shining in the western sky. The ship is larger and more luxurious than I had expected. Definitely much more elegant than any ship I have seen in Russia. We board at 2030 and attend an orientation lecture at 2100. It is nice to find our luggage already at the cabin. More tourist groups are still arriving later. The cabin is large, much larger than on a Russian ship, with two hard beds, a desk, tub and shower and an outside balcony through a glass door. We have time to reorganize the luggage contents for the cruise.


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