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6 Helpful Votes
Sail Date: February 2014
My wife and I just returned from our Feb/Mar AMA Lotus cruise, south to north, a few weeks ago. My wife and I were very happy with this cruise. The “Con” remarks below are meant as constructive and hopefully would not lead anyone to ... Read More
My wife and I just returned from our Feb/Mar AMA Lotus cruise, south to north, a few weeks ago. My wife and I were very happy with this cruise. The “Con” remarks below are meant as constructive and hopefully would not lead anyone to think that they should not take this trip. This trip is a little different from AMA Waterways North to South tours. The main thing is that on the North to South version, you spend a night in Hanoi and the next day you are bused to Ha Long Bay for an overnight on a Junk. The next day, you are taken directly to the airport for a flight to Siem Reap. Your port of entry into Cambodia is via the Siem Reap Airport and you can do a Visa-On-Entry. On the South to North version, you cruise up the Mekong Delta and enter Cambodia via one of several river stops. You cannot do a Visa-On-Entry this way and must have a Visa Stamp in your Passport. I actually requested both of the required Visa’s directly from the Vietnam and Cambodia in Washington, D.C. You will save a hundred dollars or more this way and the applications can be found on their websites. It was very easy to do. Be sure to request a Multi-Entry for Vietnam. I’ve reviewed many restaurants in both Saigon and Hanoi on TripAdvisor (Semi-OldTraveler). There are some great places to eat in both cities. After our tour with AMA Waterways, we stayed on for several days in Hanoi. There we toured with Hanoi Eco Tours. Another very good group. They also can be found on TripAdvisor. A small note, AMA Waterway only gives you about 1 day each in Saigon and Hanoi. This is normal with most companies. It is not enough time to see these cities. So I would recommend that you plan on arriving a few days early and also stay a few days after to really get the most out of this tour. Pro: 1. AMA Waterways provided very good transport between airport/hotel and vise verse if you are arriving outside normally scheduled transfer periods, if you book it through them. In both Saigon and Hanoi, the airports are about a 55 – 60 minute drive either way and taxis’ needs to be researched before you get to Vietnam if you are planning on going that route. AMA charged us $60 each way for special transfer which is about what taxis’ will charge, so I’ve been told. Worth the money. 2. Hotel section in Saigon, Siem Reap, and Hanoi are all 4 – 5 Star properties. Siem Reap is to die for and most of our group would have liked to spend the balance of the trip there. 3. AMA Waterways only gives you a couple of hours at each of the temples in Siem Reap. As it turned out, this is more than enough time. 4. Rooms and other facilities on the AMA Lotus were all pretty good (except for the two front cabins which are next to the anchor chain locker.) No major complaints there as they warned us before dropping/raising the anchor. 5. Food in the hotels was what you would expect from these types of properties, i.e. very good. Food on the AMA Lotus was pretty good and you get a good International menu with each meal. 6. The cruise director and all of our guides were very good. On day one, you are broke up into smaller groups to accommodate the smaller buses and you will normally stay with that group throughout the tour. We heard a complaint about only one guide outside of our group. 7. AMA Waterways tries hard to make it easy during the many transfers on/off the boat, hotel check-ins, and border crossings. Con: 1. Being notified of a last minute change to the schedule (arrived with our final package/tickets days before departing) was not necessary as AMA knew about the changes for weeks prior. It could have presented a problem with Visa’s had we not been persistent in determining our Cambodia entry point. See #3. below. 2. The drink policy on-board the boat was not as AMA advertised including our Welcome Letter on the boat. Wine and beer are only free during lunch/dinner in the dining room (not in the lounge) and other liquor (whiskey, vodka, gin, and rum) are free only as long as you drink their local brand and don’t mix any other alcohol with it, i.e. no free martinis. When brought to the Hotel Manger’s attention on the boat he said that the letter was incorrect and would need to be changed. There website posted the same information. 3. There was too much confusion over the point of the Cambodian border crossing on the south to north bound trip prior to getting our Visa. The company that AMA recommended to process the paperwork for us assumed we were going into Cambodia via the Siem Reap Airport which was wrong. I and my TA got two different answers directly from AMA before getting the correct entry point. As a side point, it is very easy to apply for the Visa’s yourself (multi-entrance for Vietnam and single for Cambodia) and you will save a couple hundred in additional processing fees. 4. The Wi-Fi on the boat left much to be desired. There was absolutely nothing on the TV. They did have some old movie DVDs if you wanted them. It would have been nice if they would have maybe had some news feeds. We saw satellite and other TV antenna’s in most places we sailed so it should not have been a problem. 5. At the Wat Hanchey stop, many of us felt that we were scammed by the locals and AMA should have forewarned us. Ladies were selling packages of 10 children’s books in a clear wrapper for $5.00. If you buy them and distribute to the children standing around, the children take the books back to other women where they are rewrapped and sold again. Even the Buddhist priests were turning them back in for resale. 6. Final bill on the boat was provided in Vietnam Dong vice US currency. This resulted in another transaction/conversion fee by my credit card company. In all my years of traveling with US based cruise companies, the final bill has always been in US dollars. Two of the hotels, Saigon and Siem Reap quoted the final bill in both currencies and even the Junk in Ha Long Bay billed us in US dollars. 7. The tour director made a pretty big deal out of providing sandwiches for us at the Siem Reap Airport prior to our flight. They were horrible and we got a small meal on the airplane which would have been adequate. 8. On the flight between Siem Reap and Hanoi, some couples could not sit together (think rows different). There really didn’t appear to be any excuse for this as AMA knows far enough in advance of the flight to book your seats together. 9. This last one and I’m not sure it is AMA’s fault but ultimately, they are in charge. All one morning our guide had bad audio equipment to contend with. I belief that all of the land portions of the tour is subcontracted by AMA and the subcontractor provides the equipment. It was only the one morning and the guide was on the phone constantly trying to get better equipment (it was her transmitting unit). After 3 replacements, she finally was given a working unit after lunch.   Read Less
Sail Date: January 2014
Preface: I am a 'hard marker' and very critical where I think the tour operator could be better. Having said, I have absolutely ***NO*** substantive criticisms to make after our 2 week tour, starting in Hanoi. Our guide met us ... Read More
Preface: I am a 'hard marker' and very critical where I think the tour operator could be better. Having said, I have absolutely ***NO*** substantive criticisms to make after our 2 week tour, starting in Hanoi. Our guide met us at Hanoi airport late at night (having met other straggling incomers during the day) and this set a precedent for individual and collective caring under his shepherding for the next 2 weeks -- nothing short of superlative. From Florence Nightingale to facilitator to problem-solver to advice on restaurants to guiding itself, Thien's leadership was beyond-ordinary. We all felt very well looked-after and safe. If I have a criticism, it could be the micro-management of one's time so as to get everyone organized for each side-trip. However, if we weren't time-managed, we would never have seen and experienced as much of the sites and the local culture as we did in the time available. Take one's pick! As a previous commentator said (and I agree with just about 100% of what he said, (and I'm trying not to repeat it), there were some 'dodgy' landings in remote locations, but staff did their best. If you have disabilities, double-check before you leave. The side-trips they chose for us sounded very ho-hum in some instances (snack factory, brick plant???) but none of them was to be decried after the event. They have carefully chosen those that exemplify the local customs and everyday working lives of the locals to very good effect. If you go, don't opt out! You may be nicely surprised! There are many, many bright young children who (especially in Cambodia) are short of good teaching (largely because of the extermination of the professional, middle-classes by Pol Pot). Whereas I became a little "orphanaged-out" and not a little pressured as to the generosity I could willingly bestow to thoro'ly deserving causes, even I (as a hard-nosed bastard with Scottish blood) found my heart and soul touched. so much so that I plan to return a year hence to teach, as a volunteer, English & whatever else they can draw from me as a reasonably widely educated person in my 70s. If you don't want your heart and soul touched, don't go on these side-trips, but I challenge you! As to the "main-course" visits, such as Angkor Wat itself, museums, obligatory national monuments, etc., hang in there! The guides were very accomplished in informing you of the histories concerning each, and -- if you are willing to learn -- each paints a pixel in the big picture of what has forged these countries. Expect to come back exhausted, yet fulfilled, better educated and appreciative of these historic cultures and their evolution to the present day. R.K. Thank you Viking, and especially to our Thien. Read Less
6 Helpful Votes
Sail Date: January 2014
We thoroughly enjoyed our cruise. I preferred the relaxed atmosphere on the boat, there was no pressure to dress up and compete for seats at the captains table. The food was excellent, varied and plentiful. We were provided with three ... Read More
We thoroughly enjoyed our cruise. I preferred the relaxed atmosphere on the boat, there was no pressure to dress up and compete for seats at the captains table. The food was excellent, varied and plentiful. We were provided with three meals a day and it was more than I needed but so delicious that I could not resist! There was entertainment provided in the evenings, sometimes films and sometimes live performances. During the day we were given a class on spring roll making and a demonstration of fruit carving, which seemed very difficult. There were three excursions available while we were on board. All were very interesting and I was glad that I attended them. I must say that they were also varied as we went to a floating market, a Cham village, a sweet making establishment a street market and the Lovers House. Our cabin was very comfortable and had plenty of room for suitcases and other belongings. One comment that I would have is that there were no brighter lights in either the bathroom or the bedroom and this made removing and inserting my contact lenses rather difficult. Disembarkation was very easy. We were transferred by coach to a hotel in Saigon and we dispersed from there. All in all we had a fabulous trip and are enquiring about cruising with Pandaw on the Irrawaddy next January. Read Less
3 Helpful Votes
Sail Date: January 2014
This was our second river cruise, the first being on the Nile (MS Darakum - recommend). Our cruise was part of a 17 night tour of Vietnam and Cambodia, starting in Saigon and ending in Hanoi, via Siem Reep (Angkor Wat). The organisation ... Read More
This was our second river cruise, the first being on the Nile (MS Darakum - recommend). Our cruise was part of a 17 night tour of Vietnam and Cambodia, starting in Saigon and ending in Hanoi, via Siem Reep (Angkor Wat). The organisation was brilliant from start to finish. Our Tour Manager was extremely efficient as he needed to be as there were 88 people in our group - ranging in age from 50 to 86. As quite new 'cruisers' there was the odd sharp intake of breath at the degree of herding required to ensure that everyone followed what they were supposed to be doing - quite a lot of repetition of very basic stuff, but very necessary for many of the travellers - who still persistently failed to understand. We are accustomed to travelling independently but were attracted by the AmaLotus, so decided on the whole tour, but the infantilisation of the whole group did get a bit trying. However, the schedule was very tight, with lots packed in, which suited us very well as we saw so much. Early starts for morning tours occasioned some grumbling but the Tour Manager set the tone early on by insisting on prompt departures. With only 2 exceptions (people forgetting their entrance tickets despite being reminded only 12 times!!) we left promptly, so weren't inconvenienced. The ship; We had The Owner's Suite, which was absolutely fabulous. Sitting room with small balcony and shower room, huge bedroom and full bathroom with jacuzzi bath with view over our own larger balcony with two sun beds. We had no problem with hot water and didn't have to wait at all. The room was beautifully serviced and the staff in general were very friendly and eager to please. Swimming pool very cold - couldn't go in. Food; Not bad. Not enough Vietnamese/Cambodian food - too many Americans, so 'International' cuisine. More local food in Cambodia. Very good breakfast pho though. Terrible coffee. Necessary to pay extra (not much, $1.50) for delicious cappuccino. House brands included in the trip price. Wine not great - only Chardonnay at mealtimes, no option of Sauvignon. Red wine adequate. Otherwise, wine very expensive for very average stuff - we paid $45 for a Villa Maria sauvignon. For land tours we were divided into 'families' - Blue, Orange, Green, etc. While possible to switch groups, not many people did. We did after our visit to Angkor Wat as we didn't like our guide. His English wasn't great and he seemed to lack knowledge about the art and architecture. We were also hampered in our group by lack of mobility of many of the travellers, which meant that at Angkor Wat - the highlight of our trip and why we booked in the first place - we lost lots of time by poor group management by the guide. I would recommend that for the true highlights, it is wise to book your own guide to ensure you get maximum value from the site. At Ta Prohm, instead of talking to us about the history/architecture of the temple, our guide instead talked a lot about Tomb Raider and Angelina Jolie - and took everyone's photos - instead of telling us anything useful. I regret not hiring our own guide for the 2 days in Angkor and would advise that if you are serious about the art/architecture of the temples, get your own guide. Make sure they have good English. My advice to AmaWaterways would be to divide groups into mobility so that the faster groups can see more and not spend too much time being herded through in a slow group, therefore missing lots. We split off and made our own way to the meeting point, which meant we saw all the brilliant not-to-be-missed bas reliefs at Angkor Wat and Angkor Thom. The tour has lots of trips which require good mobility and good general fitness - which AmaWaterways state clearly in the itinerary. Despite this, quite a few passengers were really too frail to undertake the trips and several even stayed on the bus on the tour to Angkor Wat! If stuck in a group with the frail, very elderly and very unfit, it can spoil the enjoyment of the tour as the guide has to stay at the pace of the slowest. Can be annoying. Apart from the Crew Talent Show (!) and a nice dance display by Cambodian children, there was very little evening entertainment and the boat was pretty deserted by 9.30pm - not a problem really, as most trips were very early - breakfast at 7am and on the bus by 7.30/7.45am. Quite a small selection of DVD's of any interest and nothing current. Your own DVD's won't work as they won't be configured for the Far East. No reception at all on the 2 beautiful, large plasma screens in our room - so they are decorative only! On the whole, the tour guides were very good at their jobs and very keen to give as much insight as possible into the lives of the people in both Vietnam and Cambodia. I would recommend the tour and the cruise - but patience is required as everything is done in a group and if you are not a natural group animal a few deep breaths will be necessary now and again. If you are an experienced cruise person, you'll be accustomed to that by now! Overall, this was a very good experience and I would recommend AmaWaterways. Read Less
5 Helpful Votes
Sail Date: December 2013
The Road to Mandalay is an extremely comfortable and attractive small river cruise boat. We spent 3 nights on board, cruising from Mandalay to Bagan on the Irawaddy River. The cabin was modern and very comfortable. Food was excellent ... Read More
The Road to Mandalay is an extremely comfortable and attractive small river cruise boat. We spent 3 nights on board, cruising from Mandalay to Bagan on the Irawaddy River. The cabin was modern and very comfortable. Food was excellent overall, with more European than Asian dishes. Almost all were delicious, but one lunch buffet was disappointingly ordinary. The staff were extremely welcoming and hospitable. This experience is more of a floating hotel than a cruise, as only one day is spent cruising--the rest are spent moored in Mandalay and Bagan and taking guided tours (included) of these fascinating areas. Passengers were divided into small groups for the tours. Our English speaking guide, San, was very knowledgeable and attentive. Though pricey, we enjoyed the experience and recommend it for the middle of your Myanmar travels.   Read Less
Sail Date: November 2013
Subject: Viking Cruise, China Nov 1-18, 2013 – Tour Guide-Arnold Zheng We experienced 18 amazing days in China! My sister-in-law and I decided to take a Viking Cruise to China. I love travel and have been on over 25 cruises with various ... Read More
Subject: Viking Cruise, China Nov 1-18, 2013 – Tour Guide-Arnold Zheng We experienced 18 amazing days in China! My sister-in-law and I decided to take a Viking Cruise to China. I love travel and have been on over 25 cruises with various cruise lines in the states and in Europe, so I was anxious to try a river cruise. Growing up in St Louis, on the Mississippi River, I was interested in travelling down the Yangtze River. I had absolutely no idea that this trip would be the very best I had ever experienced in all my travels. It was a trip of a lifetime! In retrospect, the credit for such a fantastic experience should go to Arnold, our amazing guide. Arnold set the tone for tours and his professionalism, sense of humor, incredible knowledge of history and love of his country and family, and his genuine kindness and concern for all of us, made this an exceptional time in China. His English is superb, and his openness and willingness to share stories and his knowledge gave us all a new perspective of Chinese culture. Arnold is certainly a premier tour guide and a genuinely wonderful person who cares about the people who are touring with him. He went above and beyond to ensure that everyone’s needs were met. There wasn’t a situation that he couldn’t handle and did so with kindness and professionalism. Every tour, hotel arrangements, schedule was handled perfectly. Arnold always prepared us for what we would see and do, and he gave us the comfort level in travel that is rarely experienced. Everything was so well planned; and we were very well taken care of during our stay. He showed ultimate respect for all of us, and I have the highest respect for Arnold and his professionalism. It isn’t easy to be away from family for extended periods of time, but it is evident he loves his family and is devoted to them and to his career. Arnold has a great perspective on life; and he is a wonderful ambassador for not only Viking Cruise Lines, but his country, China. The people on the boat were very well travelled. While we docked in some "interesting" places with lots of stairs and ramps that were definitely not the Caribbean docks and ports, everyone seemed to just go with the flow and experience the culture. Stairs were many with few hand rails, but we were always well prepared for the day by our tour guide. Food on the boat was very good and yogurt superb! Chinese local restaurants were very nice, if you like Chinese food. The Peking Duck was wonderful! Optional tours were definitely worth the time and money. Tours were filled with outstanding local guides and a wealth of information. Always plenty of time to shop or take pictures. We left with wonderful memories, great pictures, new friends, and we will definitely book another Viking Cruise in 2014. Hopefully we will experience more “Arnolds” in other countries. It was one fantastic trip!   Read Less
3 Helpful Votes
Sail Date: November 2013
For anyone considering this trip, my recommendation is to do it! I think this was a great way to see a complex area, and some of the independent travelers I met on the way were jealous of the things I was able to see by travelling on the ... Read More
For anyone considering this trip, my recommendation is to do it! I think this was a great way to see a complex area, and some of the independent travelers I met on the way were jealous of the things I was able to see by travelling on the River. First off, I would like to give the bad parts... This was my 2nd River Cruise, the first being a Uniworld Cruise in Russia, which was a fabulous trip and my only comparison. - I was disappointed in the lack of Internet. I feel petty in saying this, but I was part of a Medical Conference, and considering that I had satellite Internet in the middle of no where Russia...having the ability on this trip to handle no more than 5 Ipads while sitting in a city of 2 million seems pathetic. - Same could be said for TV- though I never use it, it seems silly to have one in each state room and have no channels.. A note on people with disabilities...I think that as long as you do not need a wheelchair, this trip is doable. I was concerned about the lack of an elevator on the boat- that is how difficult it is for me to get around- yet with a lot of help, I was able to do almost all of the excursions. The idea of walking up the dirt steps of a river bank were intimidating, but with a line of crew helping me, it was easy as cake. The buses also had nice short steps in and out. The temple climbing of Siem Reap, excursions on Halong Bay, and the "gentle slope" up to Wat Hanchey were the most difficult, but the guides were great at letting me know what they thought I would be able to do. The greats: - I thought the food was great. My favorite being the lunch salad buffet- I could eat just that every day, and forget a main course. I enjoyed the free local beer, and the white wine not so bad, just try not to be picky! The evening desserts were the only disappointment, but with the delicious fruits the rest of the day more than made up for that- I did fine with less sweets! - The staff were amazing- especially in the dining room. By Day 2 they already knew my preferences. - Amazing guides, Amazing Cruise Director Thoai who saw a giant group of us through 2 weeks of transfers, flight, changes, etc - for our land portion, we had simply Amazing Stays at Sofitel Metropole in Hanoi, and the Sofitel Siem Reap- awesome hotels that deserve 1 week stay themselves. Sheraton in Ho Chi Minh City also a pleasant surprise- in a great location, amazing food and views! the in-betweens: - My favorite parts of the tour were: Hanoi, Siem Reap, Kampong Cham area of Cambodia, Phnom Penh. Working our way south, I felt that the trip became more repetitive, and the Mekong Delta was disappointing- I am not sure if this was just that the other areas were so good, or that this area was lacking for tours - I agree with others that the tour groups should be divided by speed/ abilities- so the slow did not have to worry about being slow, and the fast could see more and be happy - I was solo, stayed on the lower deck. I loved my room, even though I did not have a balcony like the others- I was only in the room to sleep, so this was fine. My only complaint about this level was the noise- as the crew also live/ function off of this level, so I heard a lot of traffic go by. Also, the first room I checked out (005) smelled like diesel so I could not stand that.. The shower was always hot, the bed very comfortable, the AC very strong, the room was very adequate in size for 1 person! Biggest tips: If you are going all this way - definitely do a Land tour. I could have done without HaLong Bay, but Siem Reap, Hanoi, and more time in Ho Chi Minh were great ideas. I liked going North to South, it was a culture shock to start in Hanoi and end in the modern Saigon, but I liked it that way. It also helped me build up to the humidity Read Less
Sail Date: October 2013
We just returned home from a 17 day trip to China starting in Shanghai and ending in Beijing. We had a 6 day cruise along the Yangtze River and an incredible 3 day excursion to Lhasa in Tibet. The entire trip was fascinating. We are ... Read More
We just returned home from a 17 day trip to China starting in Shanghai and ending in Beijing. We had a 6 day cruise along the Yangtze River and an incredible 3 day excursion to Lhasa in Tibet. The entire trip was fascinating. We are seasoned travelers and usually rent a car and tour through countries on our own. We knew this was not possible in China if we wanted to see as much as we could during our time there. Plus the maneuvering from flights, river cruise and historical sights was a massive task. Our amazing tour guide Jessie made it look easy but it would not have been possible as an American tourist. Just working our way through 4 Chinese domestic flights was overwheming with the language barriers. We both agree that Viking was very smart in hiring the best tour guides which stay with you during your entire trip from start to finish. Jessie was always diligent in her attention to details. She would tweek our schedule slightly to work us around obstacles which came up in our tours because of the Chinese government. If she saw that we were moving faster or slower than the schedule had allowed she would call ahead and change our tickets for the next event accordingly. She was friendly and helpful but more than that she was incredibly knowledgeable about the country. We learned so much from her oratory about her family experiences, the changes in China and her personal daily life. It was like she understood that if you were traveling in China we must be very interested in its culture and its people. Tibet was certainly not an easy part of our trip but again Jessie knew just how to plan the three days to allow for some altitude sickness which can range from a slight headache to dizziness and nausea. Because of her attention to this we never missed one event and Tibet was one of our favorite places. We always felt safe and well cared for during our entire time in China because Jessie was thorough in her planning and her attention to our needs as travelers in her country. Our China trip was an amazing experience, of course there were some minor mishaps just as you would have on any travels but the people that Viking hires to deal with such things did their jobs and we were never inconvenienced by the changes or problems that arose. We would definitely use Viking Cruises again to travel in other parts of the world and we would highly recommend them to our friends. Read Less
7 Helpful Votes
Sail Date: October 2013
Having traveled independently all over the world, in a Rick Steves kind of a way, I'm nearing 60, and traveling solo now and thought this would be a good way to see Vietnam and Cambodia. It was PERFECT for me. There were a.m. and p.m. ... Read More
Having traveled independently all over the world, in a Rick Steves kind of a way, I'm nearing 60, and traveling solo now and thought this would be a good way to see Vietnam and Cambodia. It was PERFECT for me. There were a.m. and p.m. tours, breaks for meals and air conditioning, first class accommodations throughout, and staff willing to bend over backwards to attend to your wishes. Taking the whole 14 day tour I landed in Hanoi and stayed at the gorgeous Hotel Metropole. Loved this hotel, loved Hanoi, felt very safe walking around alone. Our excursions here included a walking tour, cyclo ride and water puppet show, which I though would be lame but was really very entertaining. Shopping was good here, and wish I had spent some more time doing so, prices better than in HCMC for sure. The third day upon checkout, we carried an overnight bag and left our big suitcases with the bus driver. We were bussed north to Halong Bay (road construction made this my least favorite part of the whole 2 weeks) for the overnight junk trip on Paradise Cruises, very deluxe! The food on the junk was buffet style and delicious. The first day we went by small rowboat to see the floating village and how people live, some never setting foot on land. The next morning coffee and Tai Chi on the upper deck was other worldly in the mist. Day 2 we stopped at a beach for a while, some of us hiked up a stairway for a fantastic view of the bay for photographs. The trip down was not so exciting. On disembarkation we were driven, with a lunch break where we saw our big bags again to repack, then off to Hanoi Airport for a quick flight to Siem Reap, arriving at sunset to the charming little airport. We got our Visa on Arrival by standing in that line with our forms filled out on the plane, not much of a delay, and headed to the hotel. The Sofitel Angkor was beautiful! There were musicians playing on our arrival, cold, icy drinks and cold towels waiting, room keys given out, people waiting to direct us. Mine and several others were in the wing across the ponds, over wooden walkways through lilypads, in a gorgeous wing looking out on those ponds. You could hear the frogs at night if you left the window open, but for good A/C and bug control, you just didn't. On arrival there were gifts in the room, small cinnamon packets, fresh shortbread cookies, and a basket of hairy fruits, which have become my favorite fruit now Rambutan! After a delicious buffet dinner and beautiful Aspara dancing in the hotel restaurant, I slept like a baby for the first night since arrival in Asia. After buffet breakfast we headed by bus to Angkor Wat. Now THIS was the reason I had chosen this trip, and this was supposed to be the highlight for me. The buildup was immense for,, I had made it out to be so much more in my mind than it was, I was clearly disappointed by the reality. Our guide, Savon, covered what books and guides don't tell you, that these monuments to Indian gods and goddesses were built with slave labor during roughly the same decades as Notre Dame Cathedral in Paris. The Khmer King Suryavarman II built this, the largest religious monument in the world. Today it is Buddhist, but was originally built in honor of the Hindu gods, and they are present on every wall, spire, carving, entrance, exit. Their stories are everywhere. Angkor Wat is amazing, and it is beautiful, but very overrun with tourists, literally crumbling from the elements, and sadly now being defaced by tourists getting too close or souvenir takers. In subsequent days we visited more interesting temples that the throngs bypass, and whose stories were more interesting to me. I'm glad I saw it, but was far more impressed by other parts of Cambodia. We went into the Siem Reap Night Market. What a trip!!!! We were on our own for dinner, so headed in by Pedi-Cab, 5 of us ladies in two, to do a little shopping. The pedi-cab drivers are hard workers. For $2 the maybe 1/2 mile drive from the hotel on deserted streets, in delightful, balmy night weather is very memorable. Pub Street has about 50 little bars and restaurants with everything from British to Thai to Chinese to Hamburgers. You could hear rooftop American country karaoke blaring, people were dancing in the streets, we didn't stay late, but we were told it was just getting started when we were headed home about 10:00pm.These were the best prices of the whole trip. You can negotiate with the vendors, and I'm guessing the overhead is lower than in Saigon or Phnom Penh. US Dollars are the traded currency here, because their currency changes value so easily. We found many lovely things here. If it hadn't been the beginning of the trip, I'm sure I would have spent much more to take home gifts for family and friends. I would come back here for maybe a week and just relax by the pool and visit the market area at night, spending more time at each temple area during the days. We did get scammed here by the "milk scam." Young women with baby on her hip as you to buy milk for the baby. I'm sure the people at the mini-mart are in on the scam. The milk they want is a $26 can of formula, and she can talk you into buying it for her, with this adorable baby. We had no idea it was a scam until another girl tried the same thing just minutes later. We felt very foolish, so don't let them try it on you! On day 2 we went to Angkor Thom, much smaller in stature, but each tower has smiling faces of Buddha. The adornments and grounds were fascinating to me, and the people riding elephants around the grounds made this an other-worldly place. After seeing elephants in the wild in Africa, I would never opt for a ride, but those who were riding seemed to be enjoying themselves, though the elephants eyes looked very distant. Day 3 in Siem Reap we went out to Baphoun Temple, still being excavated by archaeologists. We stopped at the Terrace of the Elephants and that of the Leper king, which were once used as stages for lavish performances and religious ceremonies. This afternoon we had a long drive into a rural area where our guide Savon was from. She told us her life story, being born at the beginning of Pol Pot's regime, when everyone was forced to work in the rice fields, and those that were educated were put to death. She told us of the way she had to live and nearly died during the regime, it was really a sad story, told firsthand even worse. She said they were told not to look back, only look forward, and thank God for what they had now, their freedom. When we arrived at Batay Srei, the Lady Temple, I was taken aback by it's sheer beauty. It is intricately carved out of pink sandstone, and the statures standing guard around the structures are beautiful. This is a very special place, and we were almost the only people there. I felt this was much more spiritual than other temples we visited, and felt this the most moving of all the places we visited. On the way back from there we stopped at the ODA English Language School in the village of Ta Toum, which is sponsored by AMA Waterways. We had brought school supplies and gave them to Mr. Leng, the head of the school. He is an artist that, through art is teaching these children (32 at the moment) to make their way in the world. They did a dance performance for us, then a tour of the facility including the "gym" a bicycle operated pump from the well to a cistern for fresh water. Then we were able to purchase art the children had made, $10-$15 per item, and many of us did, to take home, and to help pay for the costs of the school, which helps orphans and children from disadvantaged homes. They children enjoy practicing their English and showing their work. It was a great visit, and a highlight of the trip! Some from the group went back to Angkor Wat for sunrise the next morning, I opted to sleep in. Having wanted to do the sunrise hot air balloon ride over Angkor park, it was shut down for refurbishment while we were there, so no go. I took the opportunity to relax and to read a little bit. We left the hotel about 11:45am and headed for Kampong Chhnang. Along the way we passed small fishing villages, seeming much poorer than those we had seen in Vietnam. Dotted throughout were some very prominent painted stone houses, that seemed out of place among the stick and board homes most people lived in. We boarded small launches that took us out into the lake to our waiting ship, La Marguerite. Our bags were waiting in our nicely air conditioned, and beautifully decorated staterooms. The beds are very comfortable, lots of fluffy pillows. The bed was made into a queen, and there was just enough room to walk around. Individual reading lights on each side were nice. My cabin didn't have an alarm clock, though some others did. Sliding glass door windows led out to a small deck, with a tiny bench over the air conditioning until. It was usually too hot to sit outside unless the ship was moving. The window seat inside was great to curl up and read a book as the Mekong went by. There is a TV with no reception, but videos at the Pursers Office, which I caught up on several great films during the trip. On this entire trip each and every hotel and the ship had outlets for US pronged electronics, but not for high voltage units. I brought my cell phone and used it for an alarm clock, white noise machine, flashlight, camera, voice recorder (to keep daily notes) and to read e-mail in the Library, when we had WiFi service, which was spotty on the river, fine in Phnom Penh. I never made a phone call. After freshening up we headed to the dining room for a delightful buffet lunch. Beer and wine was included with meals. I didn't think it was too bad, I'm not much of a drinker, but some complained about the quality, and they ordered better wines and paid for the upgrade, or ordered cocktails from the bar. The afternoon was free to explore the ship, visit with new friends, sit atop on deck chairs. It was hot, so most of the time, if we weren't in the cool pool, we were inside enjoying air conditioning while on board. There is a very large cold plunge pool on the top deck, it was great to cool off after reading in the sun returning from a long, hot shore excursion. During the cocktail hour each day there was a "signature cocktail" for no charge in the lounge, available for those who came to the daily briefing. Mr. Son gave us an overview of what to expect the following day. From there we all headed to dinner which was ordered off a menu. The wait staff was wonderful and always got the orders right. Only once in a while was the food not up to par, and they were quick to bring another option if you we unhappy with the food. There was a vegetarian option on each menu. The soups were amazing every lunch and dinner. Salads were plentiful and you needn't worry about eating anything or ice cubes on the ship. Desserts were so-so, but the abundant fresh fruits at every meal made up for a lack of really special desserts. They do make a special deal of anniversaries and birthdays, and there seemed to be a celebration every night in the dining room. After dinner on several nights local entertainers came aboard to perform. While in Phnom Penh a group of children Aspara dancers in beautiful costumes came on board. It was wonderful! Another night was karaoke, another a pianist. No one seemed bored on the ship. I was mostly tired from long days of two a day excursions. We were docked at Phnom Penh for two nights, which was great. We were able to go out to dinner at a restaurant in town, and there are so many great choices. Our excursions here were to a wonderful Buddhist Temple, where we could speak with Monks about their lives, and received a special blessing, and the other day trips were related to the Capital & Presidential Palace, the Killing Field memorial, and a prison that scores of people were held and died in during Pol Pot's regime. Most of the other excursions along the trip were to small villages and towns that must rely on this tourist trade to survive. We toured open air markets, a silk factory, a silver factory town, a candy factory. We traveled by boat, pedi cab, cyclo, oxcart, launch, rowboat and foot. Our guides found, in nearly every town, locals who told their stories of struggles and wars, that brought the peoples closer. This trip is NOT for the weak or infirm, there is a lot of climbing in and out of these various forms of transportation. We saw things that would gross out some people, delicacies such as balut, a fertilized duck egg, some of the group tried, and all sorts of live animals in the markets, sold that way because people don't have refrigeration, and to keep it fresh... But I fell in love with green papaya salad, ate it at every lunch, as well as pho, available at breakfast, lunch and dinner on board with different noodles and toppings. You have to be looking for an adventure to enjoy this trip, and look at the boat (not ship) for what it is, a deluxe river boat. Compared to other boats on the river it is majestic. There were other cruise lines anchored nearby, and looking at the ship layout, I would not have wanted to stay in a cabin that was reached from an outside promenade. We did walk through the AmaLotus while docked in Phnom Penh, and it was much newer and seemed a step above the Marguerite. The dress was very casual and comfortable for the really hot and humid climate, resort casual for dinner. There was one dressy night, no one wore more than a little black dress and most gents in nice Tommy Bahama type shirts and slacks. The culture is more modest than many Americans wear, so no really short shorts or plunging necklines on the shore excursions. I wore Travex capris and washed them out almost every night. I brought many tee shirts and changed between excursions, they get pretty damp. In Temples one should cover your shoulders and knees. We ended the trip in Saigon, and the sights there were memorable, but after the calm of the river, I couldn't wait to get out of the bustling and polluted city. The Sheraton Saigon was lovely, we had Tower rooms, gorgeous! A group of friends we had made went out to a nice restaurant for our last night together and had a fabulous meal, several courses, bottles of wine, $12 per person. For photos of the ship, the launches, the cabin and more details on the excursions see the whole adventure at www.travelblog.org/MONichols Read Less
Sail Date: September 2013
Just returned from Viking Imperial Jewels of China cruise. We booked our own air with Delta. A Viking local tour guide met us at the airport in Shanghai and the transfer to the Ritz Carlton was flawless. At the hotel we met our guide Jane ... Read More
Just returned from Viking Imperial Jewels of China cruise. We booked our own air with Delta. A Viking local tour guide met us at the airport in Shanghai and the transfer to the Ritz Carlton was flawless. At the hotel we met our guide Jane who was with us for the entire trip. I cannot say enough about her. I called her our security blanket. She managed to get us on early domestic flights which resulted in 3 on time flights. China's domestic airlines are notoriously delayed. We also arrived at all of the crowded venues (pandas, terracotta warriors and Great Wall) ahead of the crowds. We booked the extra nights in Shanghai and were glad we did. Gave us an opportunity to get over jetlag and to see more of this remarkable city. We flew to Wuhan where we boarded the Viking Emerald which was built in 2010 not 2011 for Century cruises. It is chartered by Viking. Chinese shipbuilding is not up to Western standards. The air conditioning cooled all of the rooms, but did not dehumidify which is important. The climate along the Yangtse is subtropical with lots of heat and humidity. The interior decoration of the ship was very attractive. Carpet in some areas is wearing thin. Fall is the best time to cruise. Shipboard staff were excellent and well trained in customer service. Food was good, not great. Pretty much what we expected based on previous Viking cruises in Europe. I would suggest cruisers get the extra alcohol package unless they enjoy the really cheap free wine provided free with meals. This also includes soft drinks used at non meal times. I realize this is a casual cruise, but gym shorts and tee shirts at dinner was too casual for our group of ten. The scenery in the 3 Gorges is spectacular, but be aware this is a humid foggy area with an overlay of the air pollution seen throughout China. Visiblility was only fair except for one day when it was a little better. The river is very busy with commercial traffic. Many river boats carrying raw materials for the massive construction boom we saw everywhere we went along with coal for the many power plants located along the river. The children at the school sponsored by Viking were delightful. We could barely see the 3 Gorges dam because of limited visibility. The Lesser 3 Gorges tour on a smaller boat is very good. We saw the pandas in Chongquing as they were waking up. They are wonderful. The terracotta warriors in Xian are spectacular. The highlight of Bejing was the trip to the Great Wall. We had time to walk as much of the wall as we wanted. Again, visibility was fair at best. During the trip, we toured a silk factory and jade factory, Very interesting, but mainly intended to entice us to purchase their wares. Thankfully, no hard sell. Overall, the trip met our expectations. One peeve was that at all non-ship meals the drink choice was beer, water or soda. Several in our group would have preferred a glass of wine which was either not available or at extra cost. Read Less
Sail Date: September 2013
First of all, this was not my choice of trips, it was my mom's. She wanted to go for a long time and since she treats me so well and lets me choose destinations a lot of the time I knew that I had to do it for her. I have a hard time ... Read More
First of all, this was not my choice of trips, it was my mom's. She wanted to go for a long time and since she treats me so well and lets me choose destinations a lot of the time I knew that I had to do it for her. I have a hard time with being in a country when I cant speak the language and I am a very very very picky eater so China checked off those two boxes for me right off the bat. I had decided I could always get rice so that would be what I would do if I had to...and I brought a bunch of meal bars with me. I have to say that I never ate any of those bars I brought with me....and this trip is in my top 2, actually its in a class all by itself in the number one spot. I was very pleasantly surprised and very very very impressed with Viking. From the time I collected my luggage from baggage claim upon arrival in Shanghai to the moment I checked in my luggage when leaving from Beijing I was completely taken care of. I felt comfortable and safe and free to enjoy myself. I never actually handled my luggage (other than carry on) during that trip except for arriving and departure from the country. The food on the Viking Emerald is the best I have ever had...ever. They make their own yogurt everyday.....6 different flavors...everyday!! To die for! The ice cream and sorbet was also homemade and so so good!! Great choices for meals and breakfast was killer. I loved going to the same table for every meal and getting to know the staff. Lucy, Amy and Andrew rock!!! There is an anytime menu available that I ordered from twice. I also loved the on board shops!!! Hand carved personalized stamps, tailored clothing, jewelery, tea (and instruction), painting and souveners (I loved the girl in the shop, Cherry), all very nice quality and good prices. The room was perfect, great size, loved the shower! Loved the shows put on by the staff and the lectures and narrations. The 12 days were balanced very well time wise. We had only a couple of days that were hectic, but only because we chose to do the optional excursions, and even then we had a few hours of down time on those days. The on board ship days we had excursions each day and the rest of the time on the ship, it was so relaxing. We saw and did so many amazing things that it was hard to wrap your mind around everything we saw and did, the photos bring it all back each and every time I look through them. I really enjoyed the Acrobatic Show (included excursion), the Bells Performance (included excursion), the Tang Dynasty Dinner and Show (optional excursion) and the Peking Opera (optional excursion). My favorite stops were the Lesser Three Gorges excursion, the Pagoda Visit, seeing the Giant Panda bears, the Terra Cotta Army visit and the Great Wall. Usually you have just a few highlights....I have many more from this trip. I loved The Regent Beijing the best of the hotels, they were all 5 star but this one was much more in my opinion. The best part of this trip was the Tour Escort and the group tho. We had a group of 31 and our Tour Escort was Terry. Terry managed to create a family of us and he was always there for anything we needed. His relaxed attitude and his love of his country shined right through and was very comforting and fun. He shared the right balance of personal information about life in China as a child and as an adult and history of the country. He held our attention with interesting facts and stories and was so natural. We had some great local guides as well but no one could compete with Terry. Of the 31 people in our group we became close with 10 of them, not bad for a group of 31! By the end of the trip Terry was able to peg us pretty closely as to what type of person we were. I hope that Viking realizes what a gem they have in Terry. As for the very very very picky eater, I did well, there were only 2 meals out of 36 that I had a tough time with and ate mostly rice. The lazy Susan meals were fun, and Terry did tell us each time what each dish was. My mom was the taster, she tasted first and gave her impression. We all had great time at the table discussing the foods. It did'nt take long for any of them to figure out that I was the picky one, lol! So in closing I will share the one negative I had about the trip and that was the Intra China flights. There were problems with delays and gate changes and even being bussed out to the field to board a plane. These are not things we typically experience in the US but it happened on all 3 flights and it didnt appear to be out of the ordinary for China. This in no way reflects upon Viking. And I am aware that the flights are necessary to be able to see that much of the country in 12 days at a pretty relaxed pace (which was so welcome). Read Less
Sail Date: September 2013
We embarked the Emerald in Chongqing having arrived that morning from Lhasa with our new "family" of 28. We went directly to our cabin to pick up our keys and then did quick tour of the ship to get our bearings. The basic cabins ... Read More
We embarked the Emerald in Chongqing having arrived that morning from Lhasa with our new "family" of 28. We went directly to our cabin to pick up our keys and then did quick tour of the ship to get our bearings. The basic cabins are tidy and utilitarian, with not much hanging storage but plenty of room under the beds for bags. The bathroom was tiny compared to the grand baths we had become accustomed to at the luxury land hotels Viking used but sufficient for our stay. Our cabin attendant did a great job and made sure there was always plenty of bottled water through out the trip. The fan in the cabin has varying speeds but you really cannot control the temperature. Yes, the ship can be a bit humid and there was a dehumidifier running constantly in our hallway but really not an issue. Small balcony with 2 chairs and enough room to hang out your laundry :) Having heard about the onboard tailor, we made that one of our first stops. Arnold will help you select fabric and style so that in about one day you will have a custom made jacket, vest, dress or pants. Reasonably priced, this makes a great thing to bring back from the trip. Soft drinks, wine and beer are complimetary during meal times and they offer a Silver Spirits beverage package for purchase. All parties sharing a stateroom must purchase the package so if you think you may want a few cocktails or beer during the days on the river, as well as better wine with meals, do the math and see if the package works for you. Best to sign up the first day to get the maximum benefit. About 20% of the passengers on our cruise took the package and all agreed the bar service was excellent - thanks Lois!!! Yes, the noise at dinner time can be quite loud. Seemed worse the first night maybe because of everyone's excitment or maybe we just got used to it over the next few days. We had 3 nights of "western" food and 2 nights of Chinese food with the lazy susan. Personally, I thought they did an excellent job preparing the western food though service is slower because of having to plate each meal. Maitre d' Evelyn Kolditz was present at every meal, always extremely pleasant and constantly on watch to make sure things went well. Buffet breakfasts and lunches were quite good and it was interesting to share a table with different people at almost every meal. Ports were the usual: Shibaozhai, Wushan and the Lesser Three Gorges, Jingzhou for the Viking School. While all interesting, the Three Gorges Dam is mind blowing and the most impressive. We did the locks at night so it was totally different to see the ships going through during the day while we did the land tour. Entertainment is minimal but there is a live band every night on deck 6 and the crew cabaret and fashion shows are fun. Many in our group did Tai Chi in the morning before breakfast and Program Director Jamie He had several enrichment programs scheduled during the days on the river. It is important to remember that China is a developing country and while there are things that are different by "western" standards, the staff works very hard to ensure a pleasurable and memorable trip.   Read Less
Sail Date: September 2013
This was a wonderful trip. We were treated as VIP's throughout the tour. It is a hybrid cruise and tour. Because of language barriers the guides have to work harder and they did a great job assisting every person. Don't expect as ... Read More
This was a wonderful trip. We were treated as VIP's throughout the tour. It is a hybrid cruise and tour. Because of language barriers the guides have to work harder and they did a great job assisting every person. Don't expect as much free time just wandering around but every minute is a wonderful memory. Our guides went above and beyond. Jenna Chen, our tour escort, was wonderful, funny, intelligent and super helpful. We asked her to make reservations at NOBU in Beijing and she totally took care of it. She arranged taxis and helped us with every request. All the guides helped informing the group about everything we were going to experience. They were always patient with our group (even when some of the people talked through everything they said and they had to tell them over and over)...the longest delay our group experienced was one hour in the Xian airport...the trip was always on time All the Hotels were five star. The ship was wonderful...The crew accommodated every request. They were friendly and helpful...They anticipated every need. If you wanted chili paste with your food they remembered and had it waiting for you. Jamie, our program director, was informative and had a wonderful sense of humor. It was her first cruise as program director but it seemed she had been doing it forever. Ben was fun and made the cruise more fun. Lois and Nora put up with our nonsense with good humor. Bella and Maggie waited on us hand and foot... We had a Junior Suite which was conveniently located to everything. It was still extremely quite. We were not able to book a Suite so this was a great compromise. It gave us some extra room. With size of our bags that was great. We didn't spend much time in our room because we were always on the viewing deck, lounge or dining. But, the cabin was extremely nice. Beds were comfortable. Bathrooms were a little dated but functional (It is China)...Baths took care of all my requirements. Veranda was wonderful. Super nice experience...Cabin was always clean and tidy....Super wonderful cabin.....CLEAN, Great Veranda and Bed.... We made lifelong friends on this tour. The river cruise was something you just can't experience in China any other way. The beauty of the trip just can't be described. The Viking River Cruise arranged for us to be the only quests at the Wuhan Museum for a Concert of the Bronze Bells. We traveled to China during the National Holiday but spent the Holiday on the cruise down the Yangtze...So we missed most of the crowds...But, the crew was still aware of the issue and arrange things to avoid as much of the crowds as they could. Definitely would advise to take the Shanghai to Beijing trip gives you a chance to relax and adjust to the time change. The crew and guides made this trip so special...The facilities were wonderful...I would definitely travel with Viking again. I would recommend this trip to anyone...Don't hesitate to take this trip but remember it isn't Europe...There aren't always Western Toilets (but the guides warn you where to use them) The Peking Duck was super....Loved the Tang Dynasty Show. It was beautiful (food was yuck but worth the it)...I can't say enough about how great the food on the ship was.. Loved every excursion. The Great Wall was awesome. Because we went during the National Holiday there were flowers everywhere. I will say nothing I have said above does this trip justice. Read Less
2 Helpful Votes
Sail Date: August 2013
We have just returned from the Viking Emerald - China's Cultural Delights August 2013 First and foremost, think twice before traveling to China in August. The temperatures were near 100 with 100% humidity daily. The trip has a lot of ... Read More
We have just returned from the Viking Emerald - China's Cultural Delights August 2013 First and foremost, think twice before traveling to China in August. The temperatures were near 100 with 100% humidity daily. The trip has a lot of walking and stairs - the temperature makes the excursions more difficult to handle. Consider your level of fitness, if stairs leave you out of breath or walking more than 1 mile is not going to happen, consider a different trip. You will also encounter lots of pollution. The Viking staff goes out of their way to be helpful and does a good job of taking care of you during your stay, however the trip does leave a lot to be desired. If you are paying more than their  price deal you are paying too much. The ship is warm and damp - with temperatures regulated globally rather than per cabin. The dampness = a musty odor. Floors are uneven and the carpet needs to be re stretched. The cabins are a good size and comfortable. During your river cruise there is a daily excursion, but the majority of the day/night is spent cruising the river. You will have a 3-4 hr excursion which generally includes a 30 min to 1 hour bus ride to your destination. Viking takes you on an extreme number of shopping experiences - rugs, silk, porcelain, jade all served with a mediocre Chinese lunch. You will be taken through a factory and shown the process, with every tour ending in a shop where you can purchase something. If you are not a shopper, beware  of your excursions are shopping experiences. The on board food is plentiful - but quality and taste are not always great. The land portion of the trip is fast paced, the hotels nice, the food plentiful - but not gourmet. You will spend less than 24 hours in most locations and only see a quick highlight of the locations you are visiting. Meals are served on lazy Susan - drinks are usually a warm water, soda or beer - no wine is offered on land. You are encouraged to tip daily for guides and bus drivers- I would suggest you take $100 American Dollars for these tips. Additionally you can charge the on board tips, but if you want to ensure that the tips are going to those you truly appreciated, tip them directly. What you will see and experience is a wonderful culture with people who are genuinely happy and optimistic about their country and their opportunities for a better future. You will interact with local children and their grandparents who greet you at every port. You will see China's richest treasures in Shanghai, Beijing, Xi'an and at several stops along the Yangtze. You will sail through beautiful gorges and past mega industrial sites. You will leave with an overview and appreciation for China.   Read Less
Sail Date: August 2013
We recently returned from a 16 day Roof of The World trip to China. Booked with Viking River Cruises. Started in Beijing, went to Xian, Lhasa (Tibet), River cruised on the Yangtze, ended in Shanghai. Small group on land tour of 32, 250 on ... Read More
We recently returned from a 16 day Roof of The World trip to China. Booked with Viking River Cruises. Started in Beijing, went to Xian, Lhasa (Tibet), River cruised on the Yangtze, ended in Shanghai. Small group on land tour of 32, 250 on ship. Trip included 18 escorted tours and 5 days on the river. Our tour escort was amazing! Visited lots of museums but each with a different history. Food was better than we expected after reading some reviews on Cruise Critic. Food on ship lots of choices of either western or Chinese. Entertainment and lectures on board excellent for the size of the ship. Only negative things were weather very very hot 107F one day but we had no control over that. Other was the ship, advertised as new it is not, has been refurbished. Air conditioning in cabins was very limited and with the high temperatures and humidity rooms became very damp and musty. Lots of passengers came home with upper respiratory problems. We would recommend this trip to others but not in the summer months. Read Less
Sail Date: August 2013
six of us departed Houston on august 20 bound for Beijing. This was all booked through Viking, and I must say they did a great job. its a 2 hour flight from Houston iah to Detroit, then 12 hours to Beijing. We were met at the airport in ... Read More
six of us departed Houston on august 20 bound for Beijing. This was all booked through Viking, and I must say they did a great job. its a 2 hour flight from Houston iah to Detroit, then 12 hours to Beijing. We were met at the airport in Beijing by Johanna, who ultimately turned out to be our tour escort. She is wonderful. We transferred as a group to the ritz Carleton Beijing, that was a great experience in itself. The staff there were great, they learned your name in no time and the food (yes a few pounds were gained here). We had a free day the next day, so it was taxi to the zoo and then to the llama temple. We spoke no Chinese (other than very good and thank you), but had no problem getting around. Yep, panda bear was there and doing his(her) thing, eating leaves. We found Beijing to be a great way to become introduced to the Chinese culture. The people are friendly. Don't be surprised when kids (mostly teenage Chinese girls) rush up to get their friends to take a photo of them posing with you. We felt like celebraties. The trip to the great wall is all that its advertised to be. Then it was off to the airport for our first intra-china flight on a Chinese airline. My experience with Aeroflot in Russia had minimized my expectations, but this was a great experience. The plane was modern, clean , and the boarding process orderly. We landed in Xi'an and again the transfer to the Hilton was painless. The hotel was immaculate, and the staff great. The next day was the terra cotta warriors, again all that it is claimed to be. Next was a flight to Chongqing - the largest city in the world, and boarding the emerald. The ship is modern, well maintained, great great staff, excellent food and great overall trip management. We bought the drink package, could have saved some bucks had I done this when booking, and if you like wine, beer, etc, its the way to go. Cruised down the river, through some Gorges, all magnificent. Then departed from Wuhan to Shanghai, again intra china airlines and no dissappointments. Trip was all that we hoped for. Viking - your employee, Johanna did a great job the entire trip. She met us at the arrival airport, guided us through all the tours, transfers, etc. But more than that, she introduced us to china. She talked openly about the three generations of her family, and their life experiences in china for the past 50 years. I will definitely cruise with Viking again. Read Less
Sail Date: August 2013
We had an amazing, awesome, wonderful cruise on the China Cultural Delights tour that began Aug. 1, 2013. (Just the cruise part is actually 10 days.) I don't even know where to start. From the moment we landed in Beijing to the moment ... Read More
We had an amazing, awesome, wonderful cruise on the China Cultural Delights tour that began Aug. 1, 2013. (Just the cruise part is actually 10 days.) I don't even know where to start. From the moment we landed in Beijing to the moment we left Shanghai, Viking River Cruises and, especially, our tour escort, Peter, took such good care of us. The excursions were somewhat more active than I had anticipated and the heat was extreme, but I would go again in an instant. So many things about the trip were just extraordinary. I can't wait to take another Viking adventure. When I try to say which place or excursion was the best I find that I just cannot. EVERYTHING....from the Great Wall to the Terra Cotta Warriors to the school visit to the porcelain factory to the three gorges boat ride to the temples at Mt. Jiu....every single day was the best one yet! I really do believe that I have a new understanding of China today and of her history. The Chinese people are so very friendly, especially the children. I will be talking about this trip for years to come. When Viking tells you it is ok to be casual, believe it. We only dressed up on a couple of occasions and even then, not super dressed up. If you are going in late summer, as we did, take a hat and an umbrella for sun. Some of the excursions are quite active...as in lots of walking and some climbing. Having said all of that, I will add that it is worth every minute of sun and walking. Viking takes very good care of her passengers. We had ample bottled water, for example, whether in our cabin or on an excursion. When we were out on a tour our guides would give us tips as to where the most comfortable restrooms would be and when we would likely be near one. Depending on how mobile or adventurous you are, this can be very useful information. Our wait staff and onboard crew were perfect. The food was delicious and the cabin very comfortable. We really enjoyed the lectures and performances aboard ship as well. Do read up on China to add to your experience before you go. I happen to be a big fan of Amy Tan and Lisa See so I heartily recommend some of their novels. This was a fantastic trip and I would do it again in an instant! Gosh...wish I were boarding again right now! :-)   Read Less
1 Helpful Vote
Sail Date: July 2013
The earlier reviews of this cruise were spot on: the Viking itinerary is well-organized and operated; the accommodations are very comfortable; the trip is exhilarating but strenuous. Unlike many such tours in Europe and elsewhere, the age ... Read More
The earlier reviews of this cruise were spot on: the Viking itinerary is well-organized and operated; the accommodations are very comfortable; the trip is exhilarating but strenuous. Unlike many such tours in Europe and elsewhere, the age profile is not entirely over fifty. My thirty-ish son had compeers to socialize with. As one would expect on such an itinerary, most folks were well-traveled and reasonably fit. This is definitely not a tour for one with physical challenges. July is HOT and HUMID in China and travelers should be prepared for this. Bring sun screen! Viking will keep you adequately hydrated. We did the Beijing-Shanghai version of Imperial Treasures, which we think is the better of the two options. It affords an extra day in Beijing, during which one might recover from the long flight to China or explore on one's own. Viking makes suggestions on how to spend the day; we chose to go to the Beijing zoo and the Lama Temple. Viking recommends that one take cabs but we used the subway. Apart from the fifteen-minute walk to the station closest to the Ritz Carlton, the subway was very easy to use. While crowded, the cars are amply air-conditioned and both the stations and the train's progress from station to station are well marked. At 2 RMB a ride, it is a bargain. In the evening, we followed readers' suggestions and dined at Black Sesame Kitchen and had a fabulous time. It is located in a Hutong that is far nicer than the one traversed on the later rickshaw ride. The food and the company were a delight and locating the restaurant (following the excellent map they send you) was an adventure. The first day saw a tour of Tienanmen Square, the Forbidden City and the Summer Palace. The first is just a big square and not much interesting. The second was very crowded and we had the sense that the guide was rushing us through, discouraging us from looking here and there on the grounds that there was nothing to see. On the other hand, the so-called summer palace, while in a pleasant setting, really did not have much to see. Since it was a hot, hot day, the lake was really not that refreshing. So on day one, I would have liked more time in the Forbidden City and less or none at the Summer Palace. Perhaps the Temple of Heaven would be a better choice. That evening afforded the option of visiting the Beijing Opera; we were somewhat disappointed with the experience -- a lot of pantomime with not much action. Day Two was the Great Wall day. For those who wanted to experience the Wall, ample time was given for exploration. For those who just wanted a look, there was, depending on your tastes, too much or ample time for shopping at the very expensive shop that Viking uses as its local headquarters. Lunch involved yet another stop at a shopping venue -- the mandatory jade factory. For the shoppers, this was marvelous; for most of us, boring. At the Ming tombs, there is not a tomb to see, just a pleasant stroll along a landscaped path flanked by statuary -- ok but not exciting. The last morning in Beijing included a stop at the Drum/Bell Tower complex, where there was a tea ceremony cum sales pitch. This afforded a nice panoramic view of the city. The subsequent hutong rickshaw ride was less exciting as the route took us through many uninteresting back alleyways. On both days, it was fascinating just to drive through Beijing to experience the tremendous growth in the city and the efforts to make the city livable through landscaping. It was a greener city than I would have thought. The Ritz-Carlton is an excellent hotel with the best breakfast buffet I have ever had; the one dinner buffet there was also excellent, although covered beverages are limited to water, tea and coffee (most other restaurants also included soft drinks and beer). The trip involved three internal flights (Beijing to Xi'an, Xi'an to Chongqing, Wuhan to Shanghai). Chinese airports are large and modern and a bit obsessive about security. Airline equipment is brand new. We were ferried out to the plane by bus in Xi'an; more annoying was having to use an bus in Shanghai between plane and terminal because China Eastern kept pushing people onto the bus past the point of overcrowding. On the other hand, we were all astounded that we received a hot lunch on the short Xi'an to Chongqing flight. The consensus is that there was too little time in Xi'an -- just an evening for dinner or the dinner/Tang show combo and a morning for the terracotta warriors. The walled city itself merits a tour, especially its famed Muslim quarter. Viking did a great job with the terracotta warriors, gaining us admission before the site was open to the public. The only complaint was that the time we were detained at the shopping/movie building detracted from our ability to adequately tour pits 2 and 3, tours which were very hurried. We saw little of Chongqing apart from the ride from airport to ship, although the view of its illuminated buildings as the ship departed after dinner was very beautiful. Of the scenery on the ship, the most beautiful was that of the lesser three gorges at Wushan, accessed via smaller tour boats. The visit to the pagoda at Shibaozhai required running a gauntlet of vendors but those who made it to the top were generally glad of the effort. The Three Gorges Dam and locks are impressive of scale and the Chinese government has gone to great expense to make the site attractive and accessible to tourists -- but a dam is a dam and a lock is a lock. The visit to the Viking school affords the chance to see more ordinary aspects of Chinese life and row upon row of new factories churning out goods for the North American market. The children are darlings. Wuhan, with its 19th century European buildings, is a huge and strikingly modern city. The tour visits the Hubei Provincial Museum (adjoining a new and striking art museum) where the highlight is a short concert using reproductions of ancient musical instruments. With a late afternoon departure from Wuhan, the group did not arrive at the Ritz Carlton in Shanghai until the dinner hours. After a quick buffet at the hotel, a group of us walked to the Bund and back, a trek of two hours that viewed a fabulously illuminated riverfront and the vibrant life and expensive shops along Nanjing Road. With reports of our experience, some did the same the next night after or in lieu of the Acrobatic Show. For the more faint of heart, using the subway or a cab for one-half of the journey would be the way to go. But I would not miss the walk along Nanjing Road one-way. The one-day tour of Shanghai included the Bund during the day, a visit to a Shanghai-land kind of shopping area surrounding the very beautiful Yu Gardens, and a stop at a silk carpet factory with lunch. The tour terminated with a visit to the busy but interesting Shanghai Museum. On the last evening, there was a meal at a local restaurant and an excellent acrobatic show at the hotel. The Shanghai version of the Ritz-Carlton was not quite up to its Beijing cousin, although it is pleasant enough. For example, while as in Beijing the covered beverages at the evening buffet were limited to coffee, tea and water, here they were stingy with even the water (bottled water in the rooms was similarly sparse). We had to ask repeatedly for refills and then were reluctantly given only half-glasses! Food on the Viking Emerald was generally very good to excellent, although some passengers began to experience digestive problems. Selections are more limited than on the ocean vessels but it was certainly very ample and tasty. Service was very friendly and reasonably prompt. Servers know your name by day two. The program director's talks are well done.Our guide, Terry, is a warm, well-informed and articulate individual. I do think Viking could do more to provide local notes for free time in Beijing and Shanghai: a subway and/or city map, directions to the Bund, etc. The only local information provided us included a few suggestions for the first day in Beijing. Internet was available everywhere -- wifi in the rooms at the two Ritz-Carltons, in the lobby of the Xi'an Hilton and in the 8-station internet cafe on the ship. The ship also has limited wifi capability on the upper decks. Internet in China, however, is slow, perhaps of the government's policy of censorship. We brought plug converters for phones and computers but did not need to use them as all facilities have multi-standard sockets able to take North American plugs. Viking's air rates proved to be more attractive than anything I could have booked on my own. Beijing and Shanghai airports are far from the central city and so the Viking transfer is a good benefit. Our routing was a bit circuitous but perhaps we should have tried the custom air option. Initially I was given an almost impossible connection in Atlanta, which Viking would not change without payment of a fee. Delta, however, acknowledged that it was not a legal connection and made a no-cost adjustment to the reservation. Viking also misdirected travel documents and refused to discuss the problem with me directly as I had reserved through a travel agent. After three tries, they finally got it right, although a passenger from Ohio still wonders how he got my name tag. Final observations. China was less exotic than I expected. The cities we saw are very modern and the infrastructure newer than we are used to at home. Many restaurant, shop and hotel names are familiar brands to North Americans. The discussion of the contemporary scene by Viking personnel, who are Chinese, was much more open than I expected in an authoritarian society. This is a testimony to the pace of change and modernization in China. I am extremely pleased with my overall experience.   Read Less
Sail Date: July 2013
We decided on a tour of China to celebrate our joint 50th birthdays. We wanted a completely different cultural experience and we certainly got it. The Imperial Jewels (Shanghai to Beijing)tour started with a stay at the Ritz Carlton, a ... Read More
We decided on a tour of China to celebrate our joint 50th birthdays. We wanted a completely different cultural experience and we certainly got it. The Imperial Jewels (Shanghai to Beijing)tour started with a stay at the Ritz Carlton, a hotel with its own theatre where we saw the world famous Shanghai acrobatic troupe do seemingly impossible things with their bodies. We also enjoyed the tour of the Yueyang garden in Old Shanghai and the walk along the Riverfront with its contrast between the spectacular new skyline of Pudong and the old colonial buildings on the other side including the original HSBC headquarters. We then flew on to Wuhan firstly to the fascinating musical instrument museum and then to join our ship the Viking Emerald. The ship was small but more luxurious than we expected. The food on board was excellent and the drinks free flowing as promised. Despite difficult flooding conditions on the Yangze we were able to make all the scheduled stops including to the amazing Three Gorges Dam and the beautiful lesser three gorges. We then arrived in Chongquing where after a brief visit to the pandas, we flew out to Xi'an. After a restful evening in Xi'an in the fantastically luxurious Crowne Plaza hotel we visited the Terracotta soldiers-we were amazed at the sheer number and variety of these figures and impressed that Viking got us in early to enjoy them in peace. Then it was off to Beijing for a very intense part of the trip, one day at the Great Wall and Ming tombs again a stunning but very physically demanding experience followed by an evening dining on Peking duck, the next visiting The huge Tianenmen square and the Forbidden City along with the Summer Palace and a drive around the Olympics sites followed by a delicious dinner in a Japanese restaurant. We really loved the experience even though it was fast paced and were extremely grateful to both our guide Jimmy who spoke excellent English and the other members of our group who remained unfailingly friendy and prompt despite the many early mornings and quick turnarounds on flight days. The Viking service was excellent, handling all transport and luggage with great efficency and represented real value for money. The use of the vox machine ensured that none of our party ever got lost or went out of earshot! Jimmy was unfailingly informative and helpful tracking down local chemists, sorting out accommodation hiccups and replacing batteries for cameras! The only very minor criticisms we would have is that, although we enjoyed the lectures on China and Chinese culture on the boat we felt that other entertainment was lacking. perhaps a few more films and or quizzes/cooking demonstrations/games would have livened the atmosphere up a bit? Also, we, along with some of the more active members of our tour group would have enjoyed more free time to explore on our own especially in the more cosmopolitan cities. Read Less
3 Helpful Votes
Sail Date: July 2013
I don't want to go into details as to how BAD this trip was but here is the list. 1- First Hotel, Mildewy and dirty floors with wine spill that was never cleaned. 2- No Refrigerated water on a sweltering 115 degree weather, they ... Read More
I don't want to go into details as to how BAD this trip was but here is the list. 1- First Hotel, Mildewy and dirty floors with wine spill that was never cleaned. 2- No Refrigerated water on a sweltering 115 degree weather, they just don't believe in Ice. 3- Unfriendly trip Guide that did not like people but Loved the was somewhat nicer when it came to make sure that she is getting a good tip. 4- Substandard ship with old floors and that are mangled. 5- First day of arrival parts of engine was being repaired by four people on the same deck they were handing out Champagne. 6- Hot Salad and Cold food, Everybody lost weight on this ship including us. 7- Dirty glasses and plates which I took pictures of. 8- No snack or in cabin service, 3 meals and then you had an apple tray for the whole day. 9- Unfriendly guest service but a great and hard working waiters. 10- Meal packets for the excursions were two pieces of bread, on slice of meat, one slice of lettuce and a slice of tomato, hot bottled water. 11- Dirty transfer buses with people throwing up on the seat or baby poop, couldn't tell which. 12- initially charged for 2% Visa fee without our knowledge but after pushing them to take action they refunded it. This was the first time with Viking and it will be the last time. we thought we were getting what their main commercial shows but far from that. I will choose another cruise line to travel with and don't become a victim of a 10 grand scam. They treat their employees very poorly and the only thing they care is to sell you a substandard trip.   Read Less
2 Helpful Votes
Sail Date: July 2013
Out Viking River Crusie was disappointing from the start overpriced, 2 for 1 sale, that is always on The Emerald Centruy Riverboat is old and dated, musty, damp. and dreary. The young Chisese staff try very hard and many are great at ... Read More
Out Viking River Crusie was disappointing from the start overpriced, 2 for 1 sale, that is always on The Emerald Centruy Riverboat is old and dated, musty, damp. and dreary. The young Chisese staff try very hard and many are great at their jobs, but are always rushed, confused, which leads to a lot of noisy confused and chaotic dining. The entertainment is odd, and very elementary. The food is served Lazy Susan style, so everything is palced on a spinning platform, often no order or reason. One person is spinning one way, one the other and things get spilled and glasses knocked over. It is noisy and pressured which makes it very hard to visit with your tablemates The tours are often to Viking owned "safe" shops, for carpets, embroaiary, jade, art, etc and all the shops are very expensive. Overall I think Viking is a poorly run company, the Chinese staff try very hard but they are so pressured. Tip the staff directly as Viking bills tips put on your tab to their carpet company and I doubt the realy sevice people see much of the tips. Viking wants and pushed a lot of tipping. One should bring at least 100 $1.00 bilss for buses, local guides and anyone else. Other guides want $10-15 a day per person. I would rate this trip 3/10 or 2 star This was a big disappointment to me and my travel companions, Invest your travel dollars elsewhere. Vijing was difficult to deal with from day one. When you call them, expect to be on hold always, 10 minutes up to an hour. Think twice   Read Less
Sail Date: July 2013
Our total trip, land + river, was 12 days. A viking representative met us at the airport in Shanghai and from that point on we were superbly cared for until a Viking rep dropped us at the airport in Beijing. The attention to detail, the ... Read More
Our total trip, land + river, was 12 days. A viking representative met us at the airport in Shanghai and from that point on we were superbly cared for until a Viking rep dropped us at the airport in Beijing. The attention to detail, the very personal care, the knowledge of our guide, the friendships we made - all exceptional. Quality 5 Star hotels, no cuing in lines for tourist sites, spectacular World Heritage tours. The Viking ship, Emerald, was good - not great....it's a little tired and could use some updating, but again the service of the Viking employees was exceptional. Breakfast and lunch buffet were excellent, but chef could use a course in preparation of western cuisine. When local fare was prepared, it was wonderful, but the kitchen struggled a bit with anything out of their traditional comfort zone (Chilean Sea Bass cooked till dry as wood chips) And cookies! How difficult would it be to offer a simple Toll House Chocolate Chip instead of dried compressed sawdust. But if those are the only two things that weren't up to par they were more than compensated for by the overall excellence of our experience. Read Less
2 Helpful Votes
Sail Date: July 2013
My son (25) and I (58) took the July 9, 2013 Shanghai-Beijing "Imperial Jewels of China" 12-day tour, which included 5 nights on the Yangtze River going upriver. It was a trip of a lifetime. As an American, the cultural ... Read More
My son (25) and I (58) took the July 9, 2013 Shanghai-Beijing "Imperial Jewels of China" 12-day tour, which included 5 nights on the Yangtze River going upriver. It was a trip of a lifetime. As an American, the cultural differences between China and Northeast US where we live cannot be overstated. China, for the most part, is still a third-world country in many aspects. It's clear that this country only opened itself to the world in recent decades. The Chinese culture has a very strong history which is still unchanged by other cultures due to their centuries of self-seclusion. Celebrated in music, in theatre, in daily living, every day on this trip introduced my son and I to new outlooks, new foods, new scenery, new ideas and traditions, and new friends. We were able to see the truly amazing natural sites like the historic Yangtze River/extensive and awe-inspiring gorges and Chongqing's giant pandas, plus ancient and extraordinary man-made artifacts such as a buried enormous set of Chinese Bells, jade, Oriental rugs and rug-making, the Terra-Cotta Warriors, the Great Wall, the new largest-in-the-world (Three Gorges) Dam/5-lock system, which changed the face of that part of the world with the rising river water it produced, Shanghai's cosmopolitan modern city and Beijing's historic Tiananman Square and the Forbidden City. And more. The ship was lovely, the food was great, if sometimes experimental (the Chinese really do eat everything), and there were artisans onboard who could create you Chinese clothing made-to-order, beautiful Chinese paintings and painted articles, tea sets and Chinese tea culture, Chinese dancing and traditional costumes of various dynasties. You could also receive an introduction to Tai Chi or receive Chinese massage, pedicure or other delights. Daytrips were mostly covered financially as part of the tour price with only 3 charged extras, all of which we experienced, including two dinner-theatre events (Tang Dynasty and Peking Opera), and a traditional Peking Duck dinner. The boat is small, only accommodating some 240, which split into groups of approximately 30, each led by a Chinese tour guide, which traveled on individual buses for the land portions of the tour. Although ship cabins are always challenging in size if one doesn't have a huge budget, I found the shower to be larger than expected and the bathroom fairly spacious. The interior 270-sq-ft space was nicely fitted, with unanticipated added "comes-with-the-room" features like an umbrella and robe. Loved the veranda as well. In a very hot climate as the Yangtze river areas were, it was a pleasure to be able to sit in a private space to enjoy the view, or to, as we did, rig up a clothes-line system (we brought clothes line and pins) so we had a place to dry laundry, which we washed by hand on-board several times. This was allowed since it's a very common thing in China to hang your laundry; almost no one uses a clothes dryer anywhere, there. Definitely a good decision on the part of Viking to allow everyone to have a veranda. I was dismayed, on the next-to-last day of the tour when we were at the Great Wall, when I inadvertently took a wrong turn when trying to return to our meeting place and found myself far, far away from where I was supposed to be. Although I missed getting back to my meeting place in time and my bus returned without me on the 50-minute ride back to Beijing, this extremely frightening experience (I had no Chinese language and the people where I found myself had little to no English skills) cost me a taxi-ride back to where I was supposed to get to, where I found out for the first time I had been "stranded" by my bus at the Great Wall, Viking River Tours already had anticipated such innocent mistakes as mine, and because I was wearing a name tag with a Chinese character on it telling the Chinese who I was with and therefore where I was supposed to meet, and because that same name tag had the phone number of my bus's Chinese (Viking) travel guide, I was rescued by Viking. In fact, the company even paid for my second taxi...the 50-minute one back to Beijing to the luncheon spot where the rest of my group had gone ahead of me. So, two things about that....they rescued me and took care of/paid for my rescue....and they didn't hold everyone else up while my rescue was happening. Although I was terrified at the time, I was actually under good care (which no one could share because of the language barrier) and was safe all the while, due to Viking's efficiency and management of their tour spots. Because of this rescue and the Viking's overseeing my well-being, my son and I have decided to go on the Viking Oceans 15-day "Viking Homelands" tour on their new 2015 Ocean cruiser, the Viking Star. Read Less
Sail Date: June 2013
I will try to stay on matters relevant to prospective travellers and not to dwell on incidentals. A few specifics that may set a framework: we travelled from June 20-July 5, 2013, from Shanghai to Beijing with extension to Guilin and Hong ... Read More
I will try to stay on matters relevant to prospective travellers and not to dwell on incidentals. A few specifics that may set a framework: we travelled from June 20-July 5, 2013, from Shanghai to Beijing with extension to Guilin and Hong Kong; Im 68, overweight, but long ago athletic, and my wife is 57, not athletic, but generally fit. I wont try to cover everything but will focus on pros and cons, each in chronological order. PROS - Vikings organization from airport(s) to hotel(s) to boat. Worriless. - The Tour Escort system, which always give you a bilingual person to rely on and learn from. (Ours was Gao, and he was a mensch.) - The extremely high quality of all hotels. - The Shanghai Museum. Limited but a great way to fill the 75-minute slot available. Ceramics/porcelain the highlight for me, followed by painting; wife favored the bronzes. As much archaeology as art, but learning about Chinese history through artifacts became a valued layer of our trip. - The boat in general (the Viking Emerald). Service excellent, food good, and lecturer (Daniel Peng) informative and witty. Laundry was fast and fairly priced. - The staterooms. Ours was high-end (Deck 5) since we booked late (April) and it was the one that happened to open up, but I believe even the least expensive are good and all have picture windows and balconies (dont expect to use the latter much in the heat and humidity) as well as good bathrooms and showers. Storage a bit short for hanging sweaty clothes. - Fellow passengers. Generally open, good-spirited sorts. We travelled by ourselves but never lacked for good meal companions, although we did find ourselves averting our glances from people whose life stories we already knew and scanning for tables with people who looked interesting. - Casual dress. Shorts the norm. In the heat and humidity, its a relief never to have to dress up. - The Hubei Provinical Museum in Wuhan. We arrived in late afternoon, in a hurry to get to the boat, and only had time for a quick concert on replicas of musical instruments recently unearthed from the tomb of Yi (the king of the Zeng Sate in the Warring States Period (476 BC - 221 BC), then a quick tour of rooms with original chimes and other artifacts, but exhibit was impressive and musicians were skillful. - The scenery after the Three Gorges Dam. Youre in the mountains now. - Smaller boat ride through the lesser Three Gorges. This stretch (and especially the later trip on the Li River in Guilin) reminded me of one of my favorite travel experiences ever, sailing through a fjord in Norway. - Shibaozhai Pagoda on the Yangtze. Very scenic. I cramped a calf on walk to it and didnt climb Pagoda, but wife tells me it was great, and it looked great from outside. - Chongquin Zoo. We saw seven pandas, which our cheerful local guide Romy told us was exceptional. - Terra Cotta Army Museum in Xian. Words cannot describe. Truly one of the wonders of the world, along with, on succeeding days - Great Wall in the Badaling Hills outside Beijing, and - The Forbidden City. These last three sights epitomized the best feature of our trip: being transported into a different world and culture and history. The adjoining Tienamin Square didnt do much for us. Mainly a big, empty space with a strong sense of Mao. - Foot massage in Guilin (were now on the extension and our escort is Jimmy, who was also very good). Another extremely likable, cheerful local guide, Lisa, arranged this. All but a few of us signed up and none regretted it. - Li River Cruise from Quilin to Yangshuo Village. The dimpled, sandstone mountains were spectacular. - Spectacular cityscape from Victoria Peak over Hong Kong and downtown Kowloon. - The 8:00 to 8:18 PM light show from the highrises on the bay was also delightful, and we were lucky enough to catch it on a clear day from a terrific 29th floor restaurant, Aqua (not on tour itinerary). Before I turn to cons, I should note that weather makes a huge difference, and we lucked into good weather in Hong Kong, on the Li River, in the Lesser Three Gorges, and on several other days. Heat, humidity, and smog are givens for most of the trip, at least in summer, but we were able to see nearly everything clearly (or through a scenic mist) and never felt a need to don our masks. CONS - lunch and dinner at local Chinese restaurants in Shanghai. Truly mediocre (and I love Chinese food back home in Los Angeles). I feared that this would become the norm, but the rest of the local restaurant stops were better. - Acrobatic show after dinner in Shanghai. I kept nodding off, and I dont think it was all the fault of the jet lag. The acrobatic routines were, well, routine, and the music was mind-numbing. A far cry from Cirque de Soleil. - Endless bleak landscapes of pre-fab looking highrises, most of which didnt seem occupied (whos doing the planning here?). Downtown Shanghai and Beijing are spectacular, but we came away from busrides through other areas grateful we didnt live there. - The Three Gorges Dam. We used to apply a standard with our sons (now grown and not on this trip), If we wouldnt do it at home, why do it here? and weve never gone to the Hoover Dam. Then, for the Three Gorges, you add in the heat, humidity, and fog/smog that makes it unlikely youll see much. Guide joke, They say there are two kinds of days here, foggy and very foggy. - The Viking School in Yueyang. The children are adorable and the cause is probably worthy, but its painful to think of the kids being required to perform for the Westerners (ours had come in on a Sunday, just for us). Also, this morning excursion is the only event of the day. I cynically pictured Viking Executives sitting around brainstorming, What can we throw in for people in the long, dull stage of the cruise before the mountains? I know, lets help fund a school! - The scenery before you get to the Three Gorges. All bleak and flat. Look, theres a sandpile! - The walk to the Shibaozhai Pagoda. Although the Pagoda is at water level a short distance from the boat, they routed us to it through a steep, two-block climb through a gauntlet of hawkers then a similar descent. This was when I tweaked my calf. - The stop at the jewelry store on the Hong Kong tour was endless. Id felt mildly peeved at the shopping opportunities at a silk rug and embroidery outlet in Shanghai, but I was fuming by the time they let the captive audience out of the jewelry store. True, Im not a shopper, but they could have told us, Youve got half an hour, and shoppers and non could have been satisfied. As it was they kept us for over an hour until the last person stopped showing any interest in the over-priced baubles. A few general impressions. We had a great time. We wanted to escape our routines, and China and Viking certainly provided that, and in as much comfort as it would be reasonable to expect. The five internal flights in China got to be complicated and tiresome, but Viking handled them smoothly, and I accept that they were necessary for us to get as rounded a tour as did. Well definitely be looking through our Viking catalogue for future river cruises, but well also be checking other companies. Cruisecritic provided a helpful resource for this trip (amazing how you can sort out a consensus through the few people who loved everything and the few people who hated everything), and we expect to use it more broadly.   Read Less
Sail Date: June 2013
We recently returned home after completing the Imperial Jewels of China Tour with Viking River Cruises on board Viking Emerald. Whilst we were very busy, with quite a lot of land-content and walking, the trip was wonderful with a set of ... Read More
We recently returned home after completing the Imperial Jewels of China Tour with Viking River Cruises on board Viking Emerald. Whilst we were very busy, with quite a lot of land-content and walking, the trip was wonderful with a set of new experiences and new sights every day. The overall organisation of our tour was expertly prepared and managed and our Tour Escort and Local Guides were very knowledgeable and highly professional. There is a quite a lot of walking with this tour, however those with difficulties were well-catered for with personal assistants and wheel-chairs readily available. The days on board Viking Emerald were relaxing, comfortable and quite luxurious, with the inclusion of a gym, beauty salon and massage centre. The ship is well-appointed and the staff were highly professional. China is an amazing country and the Chinese amazing people. We highly recommend this tour. We will be doing another cruise with Viking River Cruises in the foreseeable future. Our ports are not available in the list of available options, however all cities and ports that we visited had something different to offer, the land tours were professional with expert local guides. Disembarking and re-embarking the ship was safe and simple. On one occasion when the walk up the hill after disembarking the ship was very steep, there were assistants available to help those who needed it. Read Less

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