Viking Emerald Cruise Review by afewdollars
- Sail Date: July 2017
- Destination: Asia River
Cost of airfare was part of the total tour package and was lower than the cost of tickets we could have purchased.
The air service was the biggest disappointment of any part of our tour.
We paid an extra $50 to select our airline. We checked the airlines and found that United flew to China and asked to be booked exclusively on United because we could select our seats, check flight status online, and print boarding passes. To book United we were told that we must pay an additional $546 per ticket (2 tickets $1,092). We were then booked on China Air, no seat selection, no online access to flight information, all tickets must be printed at check-in. Taking Air China required leaving Houston at 1:00AM and arriving in Beijing at 3:40AM then taking two shuttle trains through 2 terminals and 3 security checks all with no one available who spoke English. We followed some other passengers through this maze and luckily found our gate. Our flight from Beijing to Shanghai was delayed. There was a sign in Chinese only. After 4 hours a sign was added “military Priority”. Since there was no one at the gate in Beijing who would give us any status for the flight, even when we finally found and asked an English speaker, we called all of the emergency phone numbers in the Viking Booklet. All of the numbers were non-working except one. We then reached their main office and was told we should ask someone at the airport. Our flight from Beijing to Shanghai was delayed 5 hours. The flight boarded only after a crowd gathered at the desk and complained. Once boarded we sat on the tarmac for an additional 2 hours. On arrival at Shanghai we received a text from our tour guide “Angie” and were greeted after customs with a Viking agent who took us to the hotel. One suitcase had been opened by Chinese customs, since it contained a lipstick size battery charger which was removed and discarded. The suitcase was not properly closed, which bent the suitcase frame. Fortunately the Chinese domestic flights were trouble free. The return flight to the USA required that we wait in line at 3 different check-in locations since we did not have boarding passes since Air China would not allow online check-in (as United would have). After all of this aggravation we met another passenger on our tour who also left from Houston on the same day we left who took United on all flights making connections a LAX with no problems.
Summary: 1) Viking’s pick you own airline is not true. 2) Make connection in USA if possible. 3) Follow the Chinese check baggage restrictions which differ from USA.
Viking River Boat
We have cruised on Carnival, NCL, and Holland America with a passenger size from 2,500 to 4.500. We found that the small number of passengers on the river boat gave us a chance to meet other passengers on a more personal level. The small number of passengers also meant much better service from the crew.
Being on a small ship the shows presented by the crew in the lunge were personal and fun.
The entertainment was not on the “Broadway” level seen on some large ships which is to be expected.
Tours are included in the price of the cruise and are mostly walking tours (Bus to location). Viking is not a tour for ATV or zip line adventures. We found every site visited from minor (tea service at bell tower) to major (Great Wall) to be educational and fun.
For China tours, Viking provides a tour guide that stayed with our 24 person group from pickup at the arrival airport to drop off at the departure airport. During the tours and particularly during the bus rides to the sites our tour guide provided a continuous entertaining and informative narrative. It was great to be able to ask questions as we traveled. Our Tour Guide was absolutely the best part of the Viking service.
Weather is always an issue. At each location, Viking provided umbrellas for rainy days and cold bottled water for those hot days.
The tours require a lot of walking. Wheelchairs and walkers would not work at all. China does not provide disability accommodation.
We requested vegetarian meals for one and noted a food allergy for the other. Each meal and even the box lunch provided for the domestic flights met these restrictions. Our needs were met at every meal.
The meals at the hotels were buffet and were the best I have seen. The selection and varieties were great, from pizza to steak to oysters and shrimp to pastas.
After 2 weeks the Lazy Susan Chinese meals became somewhat redundant. Be prepared for local food and no hamburgers.
The duo that provided the music for dance played a great selection of danceable music from swing to rumba to waltz and even a few Texas two steps. They played and joined in many popular line dances from Boot Scootin Boogie to the Cha Cha Slide. They took requests and on and allowed the passengers to join in for Karaoke.
On the ship the sixth floor dance floor was approximately 12ft x 12ft and the surface was very rough. As ballroom dancers we found this extremely small if more than one couple is dancing. The round dance floor on the 5th floor was much larger and smoother and should have been used.
Hotel accommodation on Land portion
Hotels were all 5 star and comparable or better than USA Hilton, Wyndam, etc. hotels. We sated at Ritz Carlton Shanghai, Wyndham Xian and Regent Beijing. Hotels included iron, iron board, hair dryer, shampoos and soaps,
At every hotel the service and personnel were extremely accommodation.
Travel tips for China
For domestic China and for the Air China flights international, the checked baggage were all weighed. The limit is 44 lbs. We were not charged for excessive since ours were under. We allowed for souvenirs and were at 36 lbs going and 44 lbs on return. The restrictions said carry on was limited to 11 lbs, however, we had a large gym bag type bag that would have fit under the seat which was not weighed.
Any banned items in checked baggage are removed and discarded. USA TSA restrictions are followed in addition, in checked luggage, batteries, battery chargers, power strips, mercury thermometers are not allowed. Cigarette lighters and matches are banned from both checked and carry on.
Take a lot of 10 and 20 Yuan bills for tips. Take 50s for major purchases. Credit cards are accepted on the ship and major city department stores and museum gift shops. Most stores and street vendors only take cash. The Chinese all pay with a Chinese app on their smart phones.
Tour bus drivers: 20 Yuan ($3) per person per day. Helpers 1/2 of that. Yuan only
Tour Guide: 70 Yuan ($10) per person per day. (Dollars or Yuan) – for 14 days this is $280.
Cruise crew per cruise recommendation which can be paid by credit card on last day.
Markets / Souvenirs:
For street markets offer about ¼ or the initial price and settle between 1/3 and 1/2.
Department brick and mortar stores do not bargain.
If a Rolex or Jade necklace is $5 it absolutely is a fake. There are no antiques for sale.
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