There are 3 types of cruises you can choose from to travel down/ up the Yangtze River from Chongqing to Yichang, or the reverse. See below for details.
1. International Cruise Lines.
This is the option we opted for after hearing some dreadful reviews and seeing pictures to match of the Chinese boats from fellow travellers at our hostel. The price varies a little, depending on which boat you travel on (4 or 5 star), which date you leave and obviously which cabin type you choose.
As we were a little pressed for time and only booked the day before we left, we only had two options. One boat was a 4 star boat and over 10 years old (price 2200 RMB/ $450 p/p) or the other option was a 5 star boat that was only 2 years old (2600/ $530 p/p) Both of these prices were for standard twin rooms. This was for a 4 day/ 3 night cruise and included all meals (buffet breakfast and lunch, a la carte dinner service) but no drinks and included three tours with English speaking guides (Shi Bao Zhai Pagoda, Shennong Stream and the Three Gorges Dam Project)while on board. This was standard across all boats.
Once on the boat, there are 2 optional tours (at a cost of 280RMB/ $56 per tour) and loads of free activities during the day including early morning Tai Chi, Mahjong demonstrations and Chinese snuff bottle painting just to name a few. Drinks (alcoholic and non-alcoholic) can be purchased on a consumption basis or they offer a drinks package for 198RMB/ $40 for 2 hours of unlimited drinks at all meal times. When looking at the prices of the drinks (can of soft drink 20RMB, bottle of beer 40RMB, glass of wine 40RMB) this seemed like a great deal.
You can book these cruise before you travel but be prepared to pay more. We would recommend waiting until you reach China to book. We travelled on the President No.8 Cruise. See here for more details http://www.yangtze-river-cruises.com/ships/president-no8-cruise.html?gclid=CKf-hfKwtMUCFQcqjgod3mEAWg
2. Chinese tourist boats
These boats cost less that half the price of the International Cruise Lines and range offer 4 different classes – Special class (1750RMB/ $355) 1st class (950RMB/ $193) 2nd class (610RMB/ $123) and 3rd class (510RMB/ $103) Each class has a different room configurations, 2 bed, 2 bed, 4 bed and 6 bed cabins respectively. These prices include no food or drinks however basic Chinese style meals cam be purchased on board from approx. 20RMB/ $4 per meal. You are also able to take all your own food on the ship, but there are no cooking facilities, only boiling water.
Many of these ships make scheduled stops at all the tourist attractions along the river but the entry fees are not included. There is also limited English spoken on this tour as all staff and guides speak Chinese only. We have heard that some ships do not stop at all sights, so please be careful and do your research if you choose this option.
3. Passenger ships and Hydrofoils
Both of these options are very basic options of getting from Chongqing to Yichang and travel time is anywhere between 5 hours and 12 hours. They do not stop at any tourist sites along the way and often pass through the gorges in the middle of the night. Prices range from 240RMB/ $48 for a seat on the 5 hour foil to 300RMB/$60 for spot in a 12 bed dorm or 830RMB/ $168 in a twin room on the 12 hour ship. Both of these ships do not included any food, tours, or English speaking guides or staff. These ships should only be used if you need to get from one city to the other as they are actually faster and take a more direct route than the train.