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Sail Date: May 2014
We traveled on Viking River Cruise's Imperial Jewels of China trip in May/June 2014. We chose Viking because of their total package, and because China would be difficult to navigate by ourselves. I'll start with the negative, ... Read More
We traveled on Viking River Cruise's Imperial Jewels of China trip in May/June 2014. We chose Viking because of their total package, and because China would be difficult to navigate by ourselves. I'll start with the negative, but there were many more positives. The negative was that our group of 24 who traveled and ate most meals together included 8 people who were not able to physically keep up with the rest of the group for various reasons. One individual brought a walker and friend to help her, but even that was not adequate for most of the excursions. During our two week time, two people fell, and two went home before the trip ended. Though Viking "warns" travelers about the rigorous nature of the trip, it's really up to the traveler to decide. The Chinese tour guides are not equipped to accommodate large numbers of handicapped/mobility-challenged individuals. Our guide spent many days scurrying to find wheelchairs for this often demanding group. Viking needs to have the flexibility to move these folks into a group of their own the first or second day (in situations like ours); otherwise, it negatively impacts the rest of the tour group. We missed a trip to the Chongqing Zoo (which has natural habitats rather than a traditional zoo) and the famous Dumpling restaurant in the Muslim District in Xian. So please, if you fall into this category and are considering a trip to China, consider the other travelers before booking a trip. On the positive, we enjoyed our time in the major Chinese cities - Shanghai, Xian and Beijing - more than our time on the cruise. The hotels were 5 star - we stayed at the Shanghai Ritz Carlton, the Xian Hilton and the Regent in Beijing. All were well-located and accommodated to our needs. Traveling from Shanghai to Beijing is beneficial because there is time to get over jet lag at the beginning of the trip, and touring the Yuyuan Gardens, the silk factory and the Shanghai Museum can be done at a relaxing pace. The leg from Xian to Beijing is the most interesting and requires the most walking and traveling. The Chinese airlines were all professional, clean and organized, in our experience, and Viking coordinated our flights well. Xian was one of the highlights of the trip, and Viking wisely made it a two-day stop. Beijing was wonderful during our visit - the weather, the people and our time at Tiananmen Square/Forbidden City - walked 5 miles as well as our 2-hour hike up the south side of the Great Wall of China at Badaling. Shopping at the Pearl Market was a great time with many deals. Give yourself a full afternoon for that. Regarding the cruise, the staff on the ship could not have been nicer or more accommodating. It is not as luxurious as some cruises we have done, but we enjoyed the small group (180 people total), and we made friends with many people. This was nice to do at the beginning of the trip so we could spend time together for the remainder of the trip. Most thought that 3 days on the Yangtze would have been enough, but since Viking is a cruise company, that seems unlikely. The Three Gorges Dam and the Lesser Gorges are definitely worth seeing, but much of the coastline as you head east is industrialized. You will learn so much about China and its culture, and we recommend it! Read Less
12 Helpful Votes
Sail Date: April 2018
This is the worst of Viking experience I can imagine, since we sailed with Viking Ocean before and think that their China Yangtze River cruise should also honor that tradition. On the contrary, this is the worst cruise/tour we have had in ... Read More
This is the worst of Viking experience I can imagine, since we sailed with Viking Ocean before and think that their China Yangtze River cruise should also honor that tradition. On the contrary, this is the worst cruise/tour we have had in the past 25 years. 1. Viking had chartered a low-graded local Chinese river cruise ship (called Century Emerald) and only hang up Viking signage during the journey. It is NOT a Viking ship at all. 2. The ship is old, ill-equipped and lack of proper maintenance. The state room is very small with 6 inches-depth closet space and old and smelly bathroom. Most of the common area has been occupied by vendors for souvenirs...etc. , similar to any popular attractions in China. 3. Food quality on shore is way way below standard, similar to low-fared Chinese local tour group or even worse. We know what good Chinese food is like, and what Viking has contracted is cheap local Chinese restaurants with questionable sanitary standards, as many ended up with upset stomachs, vomiting and diarrhea. 4. Land tour excursions are too limited. For example, there are many attractions in Xi'an and yet Viking only had the group visiting Terra Cotta Warriors, plus an optional dancing performance. That is all for a 2-night stay in Xi'an. The group did not even have a chance to visit the ancient city of Xi'an and its well-known historical attractions near-by. Same situation in Shanghai and Beijing. 5. The pricing is very unjust for people who booked early, since Viking has put the tour on sale 2-3 months before the sailing date. There is no price guarantee, so, it ended up with people who might pay more than double the price of the others in the same group. 6. Local tour escorts need more professional training Read Less
9 Helpful Votes
Sail Date: October 2015
Very disappointed in the Century (Viking) Emerald. The ship is leased from a Chinese firm, but there are six Viking employees onboard. The welcome aboard and first day were good, but things quickly turned sour. During the dinner the ... Read More
Very disappointed in the Century (Viking) Emerald. The ship is leased from a Chinese firm, but there are six Viking employees onboard. The welcome aboard and first day were good, but things quickly turned sour. During the dinner the second night, it seemed like the wait staff went on strike. An hour after being served the first course, we watched the wait staff clear some tables around us. At that point we left. The next morning we heard from many others of problems with service. Housekeeping was likewise unimpressive, e.g., had to ask three times for a dehumidifier that we had to empty about every eight hours, call the front desk for additional soap, etc. About the only thing the housekeeping staff did was to replace towels and pull up the duvet. Generally a lackadaisical crew who were polite but not very motivated. (Perhaps it was because the season was coming to a close.) The ship itself was also unimpressive - decks uneven, air conditioning kept the room cool, but not dry, bedskirt was stained and dirty, bathroom not particularly clean, etc. On the positive side, the many vendors onboard (tea sales, souvenirs, jewelry, tailor, etc.) were professional, helpful and enthusiastic - but they were selling product. As suggested by previous travelers, request a dehumidifier for the room as soon as you board. We had to empty it about every eight hours. The air conditioning only keeps the temperature cool, but does not remove any moisture from the air. The land portion of the trip was excellent if you don’t mind being one of 33 passengers being herded by an outstanding guide. All flights operated on time and we were able to see all the sights listed in the Viking brochure. Most disappointing was the daily lunch in Shanghai and Beijing which were provided by a shop of some sort, jade, ceramics, silk, etc., in exchange for us being there for extended “touring” which is really expensive shopping. If we were to do this again, we would opt for a shore-based vendor such as China Odyssey with whom we had booked pre- and post-tours where we toured with a guide and driver. Avoid summer travel unless you like temps in the high 90’s and low 100’s with humidity in the 90’s. We were lucky to arrive on October 8, just after the October 1 – 7 holiday ended. (Seems like everyone in China who does not work in the hospitality field goes on vacation then.) After October 8 through very early November is a great window weather-wise. Read Less
3 Helpful Votes
Sail Date: September 2015
After booking our trip to china with Viking, we were really looking forward to the 5 day trip down the Yangztee. We travelled during September and found the ship very damp, even down to our bedding. This was not helped by the air ... Read More
After booking our trip to china with Viking, we were really looking forward to the 5 day trip down the Yangztee. We travelled during September and found the ship very damp, even down to our bedding. This was not helped by the air conditioning being on with no option to change it to heat. The smell of sewerage in the cabin and round the ship, we found unbearable. Onboard, we could not fault the staff and there was a wide range of food although the food was never hot. Many of our group were ill after leaving the ship with flu type symptoms causing us to miss out on the best trips of the tour. The hotels that were selected for us to stay in during the land tours were exceptional but be aware that the first day you arrive your food is not included in the holiday and food is very expensive in the hotels (although this was the best food of the whole holiday). Meals included in our holiday were alway at different Chinese retaurants and alway served on a lazy Susan. These were very repetitive and were always the same dishes at every meal. Even though we love Chinese food, this is not Chinese food as we know it and it was the most disgusting food we had ever eaten. We felt that the trips were very rushed by trying to fit too many trips into the time allocated. Too much time is spent in the coach travelling, to many museums displaying the same items etc, etc. 1 instance was in leaving the Viking Emerald. We were taken to the zoo to see the pandas (amazing). On arrival, we were told we only had 1 hour at the zoo so got to see the pandas and nothing else. This is an amazing zoo with so much more to see. We were then took for lunch at 10.30 ( after we had already had breakfast on the ship), which no one wanted as we were being fed again on our flight to Xian 3 hours later. This extra time would have been much better used at the zoo. Days were very early starts, starting at 5am for breakfast to be on he coach for 6.30 in order to avoid crowds at the places we visited. On a good note, our guide Michael was the best. He is very knowledgable, funny, caring and is there constantly. Anyone who is disabled, please note that this trip is not for wheelchair friendly for most of the trips. 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
31 Helpful Votes
Sail Date: November 2016
This was our first river cruise. We are avid ocean cruisers and have done 55 cruises to date. We have been many times to Shanghai and a couple of times to Beijing over the years. We wanted to see more of China, as it is a vast country that ... Read More
This was our first river cruise. We are avid ocean cruisers and have done 55 cruises to date. We have been many times to Shanghai and a couple of times to Beijing over the years. We wanted to see more of China, as it is a vast country that can only be seen by visiting inland. We decided on Viking Cruises because it is a brand that we had heard a lot about. The Viking customer service we received in the UK was professional and responsive. The booking process was very easy. All the details regarding the cruise and obtaining the Chinese visa was sent on time. However, the information we received before booking the cruise was ambiguous and unclear. >> After we received our booklet with the summary itinerary, we realised that Viking do not provide any meals on the first day of the package >> As we had international baggage allowances, I enquired before we left about the lower luggage weights on the Chinese internal flights but Viking did not advise us that it would not be a problem with the weights because of group check in. As a result we took limited warm clothes. The weather was very cold in Beijing. >> We did not realise that the ship we would be cruising on was not a Viking ship. Viking use a Chinese ship that changed it's name back to the Chinese name 'Century...' on our disembarkation day. There was a sister ship in one of the ports. >> Viking do not explain that the only almost 4* experience that we would receive for the entire 12 nights related to the 5 days whilst we were onboard the ship and not to the land portion of our holiday. I have described the ship as 'almost' 4* because the ship is possibly only a 3* ship. When we boarded the ship in Wuhan, after 2 nights in Shanghai, we were greeted with a warm welcome stating that this was the start of our holiday and when we left after 5 days cruising, we were waved good bye with a message that this was the end of our holiday Viking Century Emerald - The Good & The Bad >> We had to change our cabin at 1:30 am because there was a rattling sound from the balcony and the water discharge plug was moving up and down making a din. >> The staterooms and the entire ship are faded and need complete renovation. It is brown and old. >> The food was alright but nothing to shout about. >> Beer wine and soft drinks are only offered at lunch and dinner >> The Chinese cultural entertainment by the crew was very good, considering that they are not professional. >> The management staff were always willing to listen and were helpful. >> Our cabin steward was non existent and we had to request amenities to be replenished. >> The ship's air conditioner did not work. It was cold at the bottom and stifelingly hot on the upper floors. It was like a sauna in the gym and internet room. >> The internet, although free was unavailable during most of the cruise. Pre and Post Cruise Hotels - Mixed Quality Pre cruise, we stayed in The Westin Bund Center, Shanghai for 2 days. The room we were allocated was on the 5th Floor and needed refurbishment. >> The carpet and chair needed to be changed. >> The air conditioner did not work both days and there was a problem with the automatic night lights behind a glass panel that kept going on and off every now and again during the first night. An engineer disabled the lights >> The breakfast in the main dining room was probably the best that we had on our entire trip. There was a fantastic variety of Chinese and Western food in the buffet. >> Viking had arranged 1 night's dinner in the hotel and it was described as an Italian buffet dinner. This was very poor. There were a couple of hot dishes with soup and pizza, pasta and sandwiches. Post cruise, we stayed in The Hilton, Xi'an and The Ritz Carlton Financial Street, Beijing >> The Hilton room was probably the best one that we stayed in on this trip. >> At the Ritz Carlton, we had to move out of the room we were allotted on the 3rd Floor because the carpet was badly stained and looked dirty. The management were extremely helpful and we were moved immediately to the 10th Floor Throughout our stay we were treated with courtesy and made to feel very welcome. The last day, Viking arranged for us to have dinner in the main restaurant and this was good. Tour Guide - Excellent Our Tour Guide, Bob was very knowledgeable and dedicated to us. He knew his job inside and out and took care of every detail of our trip. Everything flowed seamlessly and we had great admiration for his enthusiasm, stamina and how he managed the group. Tours - All tours were well organised and coaches turned up on time to take us to places of interest. Local guides spoke good English and were knowledgeable. The optional tour in Xian (Tang Dynasty Performance + Dinner) which we paid for additionally was good. Food & Drinks - Very Poor Viking had arranged lunch and dinner in local restaurants or in factories in Shanghai, Xi'an and Beijing. The food was always the same either Chinese types offered on individual tables with 'lazy susans' in local restaurants or in buffets in the jade or carpet factories. The food was monotonous and usually lukewarm at best. We stopped going for the group meals in Beijing. We were only allowed 1 drink in a glass : a beer, water or soft drink, no wine. I don't drink beer or soft carbonated drinks, so I had water throughout the land portion in local restaurants. Internal Flights - Very Disruptive Only 1 of our 3 flights was on time. We had delays on 2 flights - from Shanghai to Wuhan where we missed a tour because we arrived too late and had to go straight to join the ship; and from Xi'an to Beijing, when the flight was cancelled and our guide had to get later flights. We were delayed by 4 hours and had a dreadful Chinese lunch at the airport in a set aside area. Conclusion China is a very complex and fascinating country. We learnt a lot about China's history, culture and people but we found the whole itinerary disjointed. We felt that we wasted 2 of our 12 days holiday sitting in airports. Although it is described as a Viking Cruise it really is a land tour with a small cruise thrown in the middle. Read Less
4 Helpful Votes
Sail Date: October 2015
This trip was well worth the money and effort. Having in mind before we left that China would be a whole new and different experience from that we had done before our expectations were met. The Hotel accommodation in Shanghai was excellent ... Read More
This trip was well worth the money and effort. Having in mind before we left that China would be a whole new and different experience from that we had done before our expectations were met. The Hotel accommodation in Shanghai was excellent as were the Xi'an and Beijing Hotels. The river cruise took a while to get started. The first two days were slow but the excursion to the school was excellent. The children are an absolute pleasure and as it was school holidays full marks to them for turning out and entertaining us. The trips through the gorges lived up to expectations as did the visit to see the Pandas and what was the crowning glory of the hoilday for me, the Terracotta Warriers. Then we arrived in Beijing to visit the Wall and the Forbidden City. Timing at these venues was bad. The Wall visit in my mind was not at all enjoyable because of the huge crowds. This wasn't at the advertised site where we were told there was a walk of about a mile, but at a Cable Car site where everybody chose to go including thousands of Chinese tourists. It was estimated that some 200,000 would visit during the day. Our time on the wall was spent clinging for dear life to the hand rails as the wall was so steep and crowded. It was impossible to soak up the moment. The visit to the Forbidden City also was extremely crowded but that is expected and we managed a reasonable visit. One of my complaints to Viking is the lack of knowledge regarding Chinese internal flights, baggage regulations. I am an amateur photographer and this trip for me was to be a photographic extraganzer. On enquiring to Viking before we left we asked about the internal flight baggage rules. We were told that check-in was 20kgs and carry-on was 5kg ONE ITEM ONLY, which would have to include any cameras or handbags etc. This resulted in me only taking one camera with no backup. Yes you guessed it, my camera failed two days in!! On enquiring in China regarding the carry-on rules I was told that you could take on what you like within reason which meant I could have taken my full camera kit. The Chinese lady simply said next time ask a Chinese Viking person. In conclusion its full on, with six flights, three hotels plus the boat and early starts but it was still a good holiday and one I would recommend but Viking need to do their homework on some very obviouse needs of the trip. Read Less
3 Helpful Votes
Sail Date: July 2015
As mentioned in other reviews, the on board staff couldn't have been more pleasant and efficient. The ship itself appeared to be in decent condition, and was never too loud when running. If your idea of a great vacation is ... Read More
As mentioned in other reviews, the on board staff couldn't have been more pleasant and efficient. The ship itself appeared to be in decent condition, and was never too loud when running. If your idea of a great vacation is spending 5 days of with very little physical activity, this might be the cruise for you. I am not a cruise fan, so maybe all cruises are like this. Told my wife I would NEVER go on a cruise, but this is what she wanted to do for her 50th birthday. Check and mate. For the people whose dream vacation consists of spending all but a few minutes a day sitting and eating, sitting and drinking or sitting and reading or sitting and playing board games or sitting and listening to a lecture (Basic Mandarin phrases, playing Mah Jongg or fun facts about the Yangtze River,) or laying in bed watching one of 5 television channels, this is the dream vacation for you. The other few minutes a day are spent going up or down the stairs to one of the aforementioned events. We were able to get off the boat on 3 of the 5 days: once to walk through the edge of a small city towards a temple while dodging a 4 block long gauntlet of aggressive local merchants who see American tourists as walking dollar bills, once to walk a few hundred feet to another tour boat where you sit for another hour and a half going through scenery, and the last time to finally do a little walking (after still more sitting on a bus ride) on the way up to the 3 Gorges Dam. The web page for this crew mentions a 'gym.' I called Viking to verify that the boat had a 'gym' before we left for the cruise. Only a few of us actually used those facilities, so for most people taking this cruise, the quality and condition of those facilities won't matter. The 'gym' had an erg that hadn't been lubricated since Nixon was president, a treadmill, an elliptical machine on which the display screen was non-functional and had a squeak so loud that it could be heard throughout the boat, and a small set of dumbbells, most of which were not marked with a weight. Nevertheless, the 'gym' provided virtually the only activity that didn't involve more sitting. The fore and aft outside decks provided sufficient chairs for yet more sitting and scenery consumption, but when you travel over 1,000 miles on any road or river, there are many extended periods of monotonous doldrums. This trip is certainly no exception. I would recommend taking the cruise during July or August, when you can enjoy the scenery when daytime temps are mostly in the upper 90's (mid-30's C,) the humidity is stratospheric and the air quality truly indescribable. At night, the temps MAY drop down under 80 (about 26C,) but then the humidity will be near 100%. You can't be that for a comfortable night's sleep!! I witnessed several American cities in the 60's before anti-pollution laws were enacted, but I have never seen air quality like we experienced in most of China. I thought the atrocious air quality might last for a day or so due to some unusual atmospheric condition, but the air quality only deteriorated the farther inland we went. Several of us developed sore throats and random coughing fits. A week after getting back home, I was still coughing up remnants of Chinese air from my lungs. Truly something one needs to experience first hand. The food on board was plentiful, but there are no snack bars & no in-between-meal offerings other than alcohol. The cooking staff was from China, and they did an admiral job preparing Western food. Unfortunately, they have mastered the art of making the food 'look' pretty long before they mastered taste. As there were cruisers from several parts of the U.S. and the world, it would be extremely difficult to please everyone with the small kitchen available on the river cruise its ship. My wife and nephew are Chinese, and they tell me that the crew did a respectable job with some Chinese breakfast items. For the most part, the food was acceptable, but that's about as far as one could stretch the description. You''ll get your steak they way they cook it, so don't bother with asking for RARE or MEDIUM WELL or WELL DONE. On the whole, the cruise staff made up for some of the cruise's shortcomings, so thank God for that. If you won't go completely stir crazy spending 95% of your day sitting on what amounts to a 'prison' ship, you'll love this cruise. Read Less
1 Helpful Vote
Sail Date: April 2018
We selected this cruise because we wanted to see the highlights of China. the itinerary which included a week on land and a week on the cruise took us to visit the major spots and gave us an overview of the country. Embarkation and ... Read More
We selected this cruise because we wanted to see the highlights of China. the itinerary which included a week on land and a week on the cruise took us to visit the major spots and gave us an overview of the country. Embarkation and disembarkation went well. Assistance getting luggage on board was helpful. Cabin was much nicer than expected. All meals were served nicely with a good variety of food. The entertainment on board was fun, mostly the crew performed and an outside orchestra and children's choir when in port. We found the overall service excellent. The shore excursions were very good but the groups were too big - our group was 34 people and that was a bit unwieldy. Our recommendation of no more than 20 per group. This was our first Viking River Cruise. We had previously taken a Viking Ocean Cruise and have signed up for another Ocean Cruise. Read Less
1 Helpful Vote
Sail Date: April 2018
I have traveled a lot but had never been to China. This cruise stops in several different cities and is a combination of river and land. The cruise was well organized and the food and entertainment were quite good. The activities on board ... Read More
I have traveled a lot but had never been to China. This cruise stops in several different cities and is a combination of river and land. The cruise was well organized and the food and entertainment were quite good. The activities on board were interesting and different than other cruises. All were centered around the Chinese culture. The stops on the land portion were interesting but the food was the same each day - large tables of the same Chinese food and it became a bit boring. We paid extra to go to Peking Duck dinner which was excellent and worth the extra price. The groups on the land portion were too large (38 people) per bus which made it difficult to hear the guide when we disembarked. The hotels we stayed in were excellent - really nice 4-5 star hotels. The cruise overall was very well organized. There were several buses for land portion and some of the guides were better than others. Overall, I think this trip is great value for the cost. Read Less
5 Helpful Votes
Sail Date: October 2017
Interesting but exhausting trip. 17 days is a long time which included 3 internal flights which were tiresome. A Highlight of the trip was our tour guide Ray. His amazing communication skills and A+ personality made the trip. Tibet was ... Read More
Interesting but exhausting trip. 17 days is a long time which included 3 internal flights which were tiresome. A Highlight of the trip was our tour guide Ray. His amazing communication skills and A+ personality made the trip. Tibet was another highlight. We arrived during a holy time so got to see the Buddhist pilgrims from the countryside. 6 of the 30 people on our tour to Tibet got altitude sickness and had to go to the in hotel clinic to get oxygen and medicine. They looked miserable and many missed a day in Tibet, so if your going you might want to consider getting the altitude pre medication available in the states before leaving home. The cruise portion down the Yangtze was pretty but there was lots of smog/pollution the first few days. Almost everywhere we went in China was very industrialized. It was interesting to see the huge buildings and people but the lack of any wildlife anywhere was a major bummer. Culturally a very rich trip, glad to have seen the Terra Cotta warriors and the Great Wall in person. The Hotels we stayed at for the land portion were luxurious, the Viking Emerald was nice, but did have an awful lot of gift shops on every floor, which made the atmosphere less than perfect. The food was good and as a vegetarian I always had choices. Read Less
7 Helpful Votes
Sail Date: May 2016
The cruise and the subsequent mainland tour covered most of the China tourist highlights (Yangtse Gorges, Dam, Panda Sanctuary, Terracotta Warriors, Great Wall, Forbidden City). Arrived in Shanghai, but did not really get sufficient time ... Read More
The cruise and the subsequent mainland tour covered most of the China tourist highlights (Yangtse Gorges, Dam, Panda Sanctuary, Terracotta Warriors, Great Wall, Forbidden City). Arrived in Shanghai, but did not really get sufficient time to explore and acquaint ourselves with the city. A trip on the high speed Maglev train would have been appreciated. Transfer to the ship at Wuhan was well organized. We had booked one of the two luxury suites - excellent in all respects, but perhaps more expensive than it deserved. Food was excellent; wine perfectly drinkable and generous. Entertainment minimal, although several talks were very informative and the quality of the entertainment by the crew was very good. Service could not be faulted either in the restaurant, the cabin or anywhere else on the ship. The trip to the local school was an eye-opener in terms of the class sizes and facilities, whilst the children and teachers were most welcoming. Trips involving the gorges were interesting, although the visit to the dam was rather less exciting since it was the wrong time of year to witness its operation and power. We were very unlucky with the weather - damp, misty or simply very wet - which perhaps coloured our impressions unfairly. Our major warning would be that we chose to do the cruise first and the mainland tour later, since this was the only way to visit the pandas. However, due to flight schedules we only had 90 minutes at most in the Sanctuary, which was almost hardly worth it, since no-one in their right mind would do the trip this way round, as the subsequent mainland tours were quite strenuous in terms of frequency and timings. To be fair, I would advise the Beijing to Shanghai itinerary rather than the Shanghai to Beijing route, since you would then have time to recover on the cruise. Read Less
5 Helpful Votes
Sail Date: May 2016
this was a Yangtze River cruise. We had time in Shanghai before leaving--great museum, would have liked a bit more time to explore city sights. Transition to ship was smooth--all Viking staff were terrific--extremely professional and ... Read More
this was a Yangtze River cruise. We had time in Shanghai before leaving--great museum, would have liked a bit more time to explore city sights. Transition to ship was smooth--all Viking staff were terrific--extremely professional and attentive to our needs. The ship staterooms were a bit tight, though comfortable enough. I liked the view from the ship and the various field trips. The workout room was a bit tight but the Tai Chi instructor was great--challenging and excellent workout each morning helped counteract the tight quarters and lots of food. Meals were enjoyable and the Officers and dining staff were incredibly responsive to requests, going out of their way to exceed all of our expectations. The on-ship programs were interesting and entertaining as well The river cruise was only a third of our trip, however. As a whole, this was definitely a 5-star tour, from our engaging and deeply knowledgeable guide, Patrick, to the outstanding hotel accommodations, to the inclusive tours and events and the few optional engagements--everything provided a thoughtful, insightful view of China and broad exposure to a fascinating country. Read Less
Sail Date: March 2016
The cruise went to excellent ports, the tours were very informative and Arnold our tour guide throughout the cruise was excellent. He was very knowledgeable The junior suite was a good size. The food was good and the people that worked ... Read More
The cruise went to excellent ports, the tours were very informative and Arnold our tour guide throughout the cruise was excellent. He was very knowledgeable The junior suite was a good size. The food was good and the people that worked on the ship were very attentive. Everything was well organized and I would recommend this cruise to everyone including the extension to Hong Kong, China is a spectacular country and if I could I would return but I would rather explore other countries. The weather in March was neither cold nor hot just perfect. It was a wonderful experience. The entertainment on ship and the bartenders were great, The people in China are very friendly and respectful. We are going to take another Viking cruise in March. I also recommend the Prague to Budapest Viking cruise it was spectacular. Overal, The cruise met all our expectations and we had a wonderful time. Read Less
25 Helpful Votes
Sail Date: October 2015
This trip is the perfect way to see China. If you want to experience some of the breadth and depth and majesty of China—its history, culture, and natural beauty—with the convenience of English-speaking guides and the pampering of ... Read More
This trip is the perfect way to see China. If you want to experience some of the breadth and depth and majesty of China—its history, culture, and natural beauty—with the convenience of English-speaking guides and the pampering of Viking Cruises personnel, then this IS the trip for you. Viking organizes everything and executes pretty much on schedule (for those things under its control). You have to unpack and pack several times. You stay in 3 hotels. You have 3 internal flights and the cruise on the Yangtze River. China is a BIG country. But you get to travel to several impressive places in China. And you get to meet really nice, interesting people—your fellow passengers. We had mostly Americans on the trip, but also some from Canada, New Zealand, and South Africa. We made lots of new friends. My intent is to write a review that will give you insight and tips to help in planning your trip. I read reviews on Cruise Critic about the Imperial Jewels of China trip before I left home, but I learned many things on my trip that were not covered in those reviews. Hopefully my tidbits will make your vacation more enjoyable and memorable. Yes, it’s a Communist country, but the people were friendly, and the guides were open in talking to us about the good and the bad. For example, we learned from some of the female guides that they are not interested in having a second child, even if it is allowed, because of the cost of raising a child in China. I guess some matters are never as black and white as we might suppose. We were a novelty in some places; Chinese citizens asked us to be in their photos. We saw some of the challenges as China tries to modernize and provide for its people without causing future shock to its 1.3 billion inhabitants. Realize that a small city in China means one with 4 million inhabitants. We saw pollution in the cities: lots of people and lots of cars being driven (in addition to the coal plants) leads to pollution; visibility was sometimes several miles. But it wasn’t really bothersome, probably because of the time of year we visited (late October). The only time I had an issue was in Chongqing at the airport. You could drive an hour away and not have so much pollution. We also saw blue skies in several of the cities. We saw wind turbines and nuclear power plants. There just aren’t enough alternative energy sources for all the people yet. I liked the order of our itinerary for the 13-day Imperial Jewels of China trip, starting in Beijing first and ending up in Shanghai. In Beijing and Xi’an, there are some places where you walk a couple of miles for sightseeing. You have a lot of energy at the start of the trip, and you can relax when you get to the river cruising portion of the trip. And there is not a lot of walking in Shanghai at the end. This is my 2nd Viking River cruise. I did one last year in Europe (Cities of Light trip). I would rate that trip as a 9.5 out of 10 (downgraded due to an execution/transportation issue in the last city). In comparison, I would rate the Imperial Jewels of China trip as an 8.5 out of 10—still very good. The planning, communication, and execution was just a little better on the European river cruise trip. As previous cruisers, we are members of the Viking Explorer Society. We had a special reception on the ship and received a special gift (aquavit glass). The ships for my two trips were a little different. The Category A verandah rooms on the Viking Emerald were larger (by 45 square feet) than the verandah rooms on the Viking longship (Odin) I traveled on last year in Europe. The Emerald is bigger than the Odin, and has more facilities (e.g., gym, spa, shopping). It has 4 passenger decks and an additional sun deck, with 128 cabins (256 guests). The Odin has 3 passenger decks and an additional sun deck, with 95 cabins (about 190 guests). The Emerald is not built or owned by Viking; it is leased by Viking from China’s Century Cruises (it is technically the Century Emerald ship). The “fit and finish” of the Odin was a little better. The trip itinerary was as advertised with 2 exceptions. First, those passengers who did the Viking transfer from the Beijing airport to the Beijing hotel were notified about an optional tour to the Summer Palace on Day 1. (They were flown in by Viking a day in advance, on Day 0.) My wife and I did our own transfer, and also arrived on Day 0. We learned about the tour at the last minute from some of the other passengers. Viking knew we were arriving a day early, but did not attempt to notify us about this tour. Second, on Day 2, there was supposed to be the optional excursion to attend a Peking opera show. Our tour escort told my group that Viking had dropped that show, and instead substituted a Kung Fu show “based on previous passenger feedback”. No one in my group opted to attend the show, possibly because we had an early flight the next morning to Xi’an. Or, we didn’t get enough information on the show—just that it was a Kung Fu show. I learned from other travelers who attended the show that it was more choreography than a martial arts demonstration (as the name implied). Viking should have notified passengers about this change, prior to departure, when they mailed us the booklet on “Itinerary & Departure Information”. Notification of new optional tours and of changes to existing optional tours is an area of improvement for Viking Cruises. The passengers were divided into 7 tour groups, each with a tour escort who stayed with the group for the entire trip. Each group used its own bus for city tours and transportation to the airport for internal flights. You’re told the name of your tour escort during your transfer from the first airport in China, or you find out at the first hotel if you transfer on your own (a piece of paper was slipped under the door of our hotel room). Due to the number of passengers, they stayed at either of two hotels in most of the cities. There were 3 internal flights: from Beijing to Xi’an, from Xi’an to Chongqing, and from Wuhan to Shanghai. All flights were on large Boeing or Airbus aircraft (not Russian-made aircraft), on either China Eastern airlines or on Sichuan Airlines. The flights were comfortable and ran on time. The seating configuration was typically 3-3. Not all groups flew at the same time. The tour escorts took care of getting boarding passes for you. Viking staff took care of the checked bags, both delivering them from the hotel to the airport and picking them up at the airport (and then delivering to either your hotel or to the ship). Here are the flights my group took: Flight at 7:45 am to Xi’an, 1 hour, 40 minutes long. I forget the type of plane. Flight at 2:10 pm to Chongqing, 1 hour, 15 minutes long. Airbus 320. Flight at 12:30 pm to Shanghai, 1 hour, 30 minutes long. Boeing 737. Information provided by Viking prior to departure indicated a 20 kg weight limit for a single checked bag with a single carry-on bag allowed on the internal flights within China. As the tour escort told us, the airlines are a little flexible: you could check a bag that weighed a little more (on the last flight, my bag, with souvenirs, weighed 22 kg). You could also bring 2 carry-on bags onto the flights, as long as they could fit into the overhead compartments or underneath the seat in front of you. Carry-on bags were never weighed (thank goodness)—nominally a 5 kg limit. Due to Chinese aviation rules, lithium batteries are only allowed in carry-on luggage. Lighters and matches are NOT allowed, even in checked bags. Liquids (except for prescription drugs) must be put into checked luggage; this is very different than rules in the USA. It took a long time to get the luggage after our afternoon flight to Chongqing. We arrived at 3:25 pm. We boarded the ship by 5:00 pm. We were told our luggage would be delivered to our cabins on the ship by 7:00 pm; it arrived later than that, for unknown reasons—a disappointment. This is another area of improvement for Viking. My tour escort liked to get to the airport in the morning or in the early afternoon, so that traffic was not too bad—typically it was about an hour drive to the airport, or from the airport to the next hotel or to the ship. Box lunches were provided on two of the drives to the airport (stopping in town to eat would have meant a late afternoon departure, with a possibility of a flight delay). We ate at the airport at Xi’an prior to our flight to Chongqing to go to the ship. The food was good. The hotels that Viking selected were very good. For my group, the hotels were: the Kerry Hotel in Beijing, the Hilton Xi’an, and the Westin Bund Center in Shanghai. All are 5-star hotels with staff that mostly speak and understand English. There is one time zone throughout China. So you never had to reset your watch during the trip. You are provided a quantity of 2 bottled waters per person per day on the buses for your city tours or transportation to/from an airport. With all the traffic in the cities, expect for the bus trips to take an hour or more to get to where you’re going (e.g., Forbidden City, Three Gorges Dam, hotel from airport). Typically the tour escort or local guide would give you some educational or cultural information about the city during the commute. You’re provided with a Vox box and earphone at the start of the trip. Your boxes are tuned to a pre-designated frequency for your group. The tour guide at a site you’re visiting speaks into a master unit, and you can clearly hear his or her narration while you walk around and follow your group (follow the “lollipop”, the Viking sign with your group letter). You tip the driver and the local guide typically on the last day in each city. Your tour escort will let you know if the local guide is only for that morning or afternoon. It’s better to tip in local currency (Yuan/RMB). One area of improvement for Viking Cruises is ensuring that hotels know how to contact tour escorts when problems develop. My tour escort gave my group his mobile phone number and told us his room number at each hotel. However, when I contacted the front desk to reach my escort (Jack) to get his help with a problem with my hotel room in Shanghai, they had no idea who Jack was. They told me there was no Jack in the room number I gave them (because he was registered under his Chinese name, not as Jack). They called his mobile phone for me, but couldn’t reach him. I called the room number, but there was no answer and I got a recorded message in Chinese that I couldn’t understand. I had to wait until the next morning to describe the problem to the tour escort, but he helped me sort it out with the hotel Duty Manager, and followed up to be sure the problem was taken care of. You are given opportunities to shop at state-run stores (terra cotta figurines, furniture, embroidery, tea). Using your credit card at such stores is considered safe. At other stores, they may photograph your credit card and use the information later to make an unauthorized purchase. Change money before you get to the ship, such as at one of the hotels you stay at (or from an ATM, or bring Yuan currency, aka RMB currency, from home). Currency exchange is not allowed on the ship. The Reception Desk can provide change for you, so that you can get smaller bills (Yuans). Sparkling wine (from South Africa) was served at breakfast. Beer and house wines (from Chile as I recall) were served at lunch and dinner. You could upgrade to the Silver Spirits package (for 990 RMB per person for the 5-day cruise, but both people in the room had to buy the package), and then get wine and beer throughout the day, with a bigger selection of wines, as well as cocktails. I figured out that if you got more than 2 glasses of wine a day outside of meal times, then the package saved you money. Access to Google and Google products is blocked in China (includes Google search and Gmail), as of June 3. This affected a number of the passengers, both in the cities and on the ship. Internet searches with alternate search engines, such as msn.com, would work. You could email from another kind of account (e.g., Apple mail, AOL mail) to Gmail accounts. You just couldn’t receive from your Gmail account. There was Wi-Fi on the ship; ask the staff for the password. You needed to be in the bar area, on the 5th or 6th decks to get reception. Reception was spotty at times and uneven. If you waited patiently, you could probably receive your emails or send text messages. The ship did provide an Internet café with 6 computers. Access to the Internet was more reliable through those computers. There are no refrigerators in the Category A verandah rooms on the ship. There were refrigerators on deck 5 in the suite rooms. We took advantage of laundry service on the ship. It worked well. Turn in clothes in the morning and get them back in the evening. (This was also true at all the hotels in China.) The cabin did not have universal adapter plug sockets (updated). You needed to use a travel adapter plug:  Outlet Type G (British BS-1363), Outlet Type I (Chinese CPCS-CCC), or Outlet Type A (Chinese Non-Grounded Class II). Curiously, this information was not provided in the booklet on “Itinerary & Departure Information” that Viking sent passengers before departure. The dining room attendants, the cabin steward, and the bar stewards—all Chinese—made an effort to learn your name and remember your likes and dislikes. My wife and I felt pampered. The ship’s staff was excellent. We particularly liked Program Director Terry Lei who gave informative and interesting presentations, with a little humor on the side. We loved the Minority Costume Show and the Crew Cabaret Show (the skit taking place in a men’s bathroom is unforgettable!) in the evenings. We enjoyed learning Tai Chi for our morning exercise; Master Tom demonstrated and River Guide Ben translated for us. Remember to apply for a China visa prior to your trip. I contacted Viking Cruises to find out whom they recommend (Generations Visa Service), and I contacted my travel agent to get her recommendation (A Briggs). We used Generations Visa Service, because we got a discount for doing 2 people at once (my wife and I). GenVisa has worked with Viking Cruises and had all the hotel information necessary for filling in the visa paperwork (you will have to contact either your travel agent or Viking to confirm exactly which hotels you’ll be staying in). From a passenger perspective, hand sanitation practices on the ship did not appear to be that good, compared to other cruises I have been on (both ocean and river). The hand sanitation dispensers only provided a very, very small amount of sanitizer if you put your hand underneath the device. I think some passengers just stopped trying to use the devices. We were in confined spaces at the beginning of the trip, on buses and planes. By the end of the trip, it seemed like over half the people in my group had caught a cold and cough from someone else. My wife and I both actively took preventive measures to not get sick, but to no avail. That still didn’t dampen our enthusiasm and enjoyment of the trip, though. There were shops on two of the decks on the ship. One sold typical Chinese souvenirs, including pearls and jade carvings. One was a Chinese tea shop. In another you could get a custom-made Chinese gown or shirt. Another shop featured an artist who could paint a scene or do calligraphy at your request (within reason). We ordered a scene of the Great Wall of China, with fall colors, as a memento of our trip. We liked all of the included land and shore excursions. That’s one main reason we select Viking Cruises—no extra fees and high-quality tours. The Beijing Hutongs tour via rickshaw and visit to one of the (artist) families living there was one of our favorite excursions of the trip. Another favorite was the scenic cruising on the Goddess Stream (Lesser Three Gorges). There were optional excursions: Peking opera show in Beijing (replaced by a Kung Fu show that we didn’t attend), Peking duck dinner in Beijing (recommended if you’ve never had the duck), and Tang Dynasty Dinner & Show in Xi’an (recommended). Unlike for our previous European river cruise, it appears that Viking is now providing tours during post-trip extensions in Shanghai, as well as in Guilin and Hong Kong. The Cruise DVD included photos and videos of passengers on the river cruise portion of the trip. It also included “canned” scenes from some of the optional excursions (e.g., Tang Dynasty show) from previous trips. It did not, however, include scenes from the Kung Fu show that was substituted for the Peking Opera show. The videographer just learned on this cruise that Viking had dropped the Opera show. He had no video of the Kung Fu show to put on the cruise DVD; instead, he included video of a Peking Opera show from a previous trip. The DVD DID include actual scenes from the ship passengers’ visit to the elementary school in Jingzhou on Day 10. You could purchase an alternative to the Cruise DVD package (cost of 249 RMB). You could get higher-quality images with the Blu-ray package or the USB (thumb drive) package (cost of 325 RMB). All included video, a photo disc, and a map of the trip itinerary. Although it involves a little more effort, you can save money by doing your own transfers rather than paying Viking Cruises for the transfers. In Beijing, the cost of a taxi from the Beijing airport to the Kerry Hotel was 115 RMB (about $18 US) in the late afternoon. In Shanghai, the cost of a taxi from the Westin Bund Center to the Pudong airport was 201 RMB (about $32 US) in the early morning. As I recall, Viking was charging about $60 per person for the transfers. Be sure to contact your first hotel in China and ask for the name and address of the hotel in Chinese to print out and show the taxi driver at the airport, who probably doesn’t understand much English. I found several items useful to pack for the trip. For the air pollution: lubricating eye drops (we took Thera Tears), saline nasal spray, cold medicine/antihistamine (we took Sudafed and Mucinex DM), cough drops, and a carbon-filter face mask. Other items: Kleenex (to use as emergency toilet paper; the tour escort also had Kleenex available at rest stops), antiseptic hand wipes, hand sanitizer, moisturizing hand and face lotion, lip balm, stickers (to give to small children as gifts), tea tree oil, Tide to Go stain remover pen, insect repellent, and good walking shoes. One thing we could have used occasionally was a white noise generator app on our smartphones, for sleeping at night. (We installed an app after we returned from the trip.) We did not need to use our anti-diarrheal medicine or electrolyte drink tabs (for dehydration). Read Less
Sail Date: August 2015
As usual, Viking arranged five star hotels and an excellent guide! Our hotel in Shanghai, The Fairmount Peace Hotel was beautiful and right across the street form the Bund, or River Walk. The ship was not as nice as the longship we cruised ... Read More
As usual, Viking arranged five star hotels and an excellent guide! Our hotel in Shanghai, The Fairmount Peace Hotel was beautiful and right across the street form the Bund, or River Walk. The ship was not as nice as the longship we cruised on in Holland, but it was clean and the staff was excellent. Our cabin was very roomy, and we enjoyed our verandah as we cruised down the Yangtze River. Tibet was the most unusual place we have ever been! I loved the people dressed in traditional clothes. The food in our hotels was great, but the restaurants we visited all seemed to serve the same food, and it was rather bland. I did like the Chinese hamburgers-pork loin on a steamed bun. I know the restaurant on the way to the Summer Palace was convenient, but the food was not good. The Shanghai Acrobats were incredible, as was the show in Xian. The Terra Cotta Warriors were a highlight for me, and The Shangri-La Hotel in Xian was the nicest hotel I have stayed in. The Green Fish restaurant at the Ritz Carlton in Bejing was great. The Three Gorges tour was beautiful. The tour guide can make or break a trip, and our tour guide Richard was the very best! He looked after every member of our group of 32, and shared his heartfelt memories of growing up in China. He recapped the next day's plans each day and arranged our many flights, making it as easy as possible for us all. Read Less
3 Helpful Votes
Sail Date: June 2015
Although this is presented as a cruise the time on the water is only half of the trip. Nor did we embark at Shanghai but the option to choose Chonqing is not in the menu. This was our first experience of cruising since both my husband ... Read More
Although this is presented as a cruise the time on the water is only half of the trip. Nor did we embark at Shanghai but the option to choose Chonqing is not in the menu. This was our first experience of cruising since both my husband and I suffer from seasickness and had not thought it wise to try the oceans! The "Imperial Jewels of China", from Beijing to Shanghai is a once in a lifetime trip. It could hardly be called a "holiday" since leisure time is extremely limited at the beginning and end. Excursions to the "must do" sites such as Tiananmen Square, the Forbidden City, the Great Wall, the Terra Cotta Warriors etc set off very early in the day to try to avoid the worst of the crowds (not apparently successful!) so leisurely lie in bed is not on the programme. And even on the ship the excursions and activities are time consuming. But apart from the endless crowds and the rather disappointing weather this is an amazing experience. The vastness of a country you see only a portion of, the different culture, the overwhelming scenery - so different as you pass through different regions, the seething crowds ...... The cruise part of the itinerary we enjoyed immensely despite a couple of wet days. Unused to the possibly more luxurious cruise ships we found The Emerald more than comfortable and the crew delightful. If you want more luxury stay put in the hotels that Viking arranged for the rest of the trip! We were unfortunate since the night we embarked at Chongqing was the night that the Chinese cruise ship went down in the Yangtze with the loss of about 400 lives. This impacted on our timetable but the crew were more than helpful and reassuring. We had hoped to be sunbathing on our stateroom balcony but sadly the weather was not that kind. In fact we saw the sun on few occasions which, coming as we do from Andalucia in Spain, was disappointing. The pollution in the big cities hides the sun and the weather systems down in the mountains mean the sky is often grey with heavy cloud and drizzle. So don't take this trip if you want luxurious leisure or if you have difficulty in walking for long periods of time or if bad weather might put you off or if you are allergic to crowds. Take it if you want to experience something totally different and have your mind blown by the "Imperial Jewels of China", it's something you will never forget! P.S. The Viking tour guides are fantastic, particularly ours, the lovely "Johanna", and make things run like clockwork even on such a tight and demanding schedule. Read Less
Sail Date: May 2015
The trip was great. The hotels were all very nice. It was nice to be in the same small group with the same tour guide the entire trip. I enjoyed all the shore excursions. The food and wine on the ship was outstanding. Since we had 7 ... Read More
The trip was great. The hotels were all very nice. It was nice to be in the same small group with the same tour guide the entire trip. I enjoyed all the shore excursions. The food and wine on the ship was outstanding. Since we had 7 airline flights I liked that the guides took care of our checked in baggage. Everyone was very nice and helpful. My only complaint was two out of our three in country flights were delayed. We missed a couple excursions because of the delays. Read Less
Sail Date: May 2015
We visited wonderful places - in awe factor order - Forbidden City, Great Wall, Terra Cotta Soldiers, Yangtze River Gorges, school visit, Zoo/Pandas, numerous historical/cultural sites sprinkled throughout our journey. Was not impressed ... Read More
We visited wonderful places - in awe factor order - Forbidden City, Great Wall, Terra Cotta Soldiers, Yangtze River Gorges, school visit, Zoo/Pandas, numerous historical/cultural sites sprinkled throughout our journey. Was not impressed with Hu Tong visit (much construction work which appeared mostly unkempt and junky) and a demonstration of hacky sac type game nearby. Our guide, Matt, was excellent - always in tune with our group and looking out for our welfare. I am an adventurous eater and the food was excellent everywhere we went. Viking Emerald is an older ship so it was not as well appointed as others but accommodations were satisfactory none the less. The ship's crew were friendly, courteous and professional always. The Chinese people appeared friendly and always smiled. We learned to say "Hello" in Chinese and that always brought a smile and a wave and occasionally a picture with "the American visitors" especially from the kids who were just adorable. We would not hesitate to book future Viking vacations in any country offered. 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
10 Helpful Votes
Sail Date: November 2018
NO COMMENTS ON VESSEL (OR CABINS) BECAUSE THIS WAS HER LAST VIKING CRUISE. A BRAND NEW SHIP IN 2019!!! Our 2-week Imperial Jewels odyssey, Shanghai to Bejing, celebrated our 50th anniversary. It was extremely well-organized by very ... Read More
NO COMMENTS ON VESSEL (OR CABINS) BECAUSE THIS WAS HER LAST VIKING CRUISE. A BRAND NEW SHIP IN 2019!!! Our 2-week Imperial Jewels odyssey, Shanghai to Bejing, celebrated our 50th anniversary. It was extremely well-organized by very competent staff. Airfare booked thru Viking provided direct flights on American Airlines & included all transfer of ourselves & bags. Welcoming Viking escorts met us, took us to our hotels on the first of many tour bus rides & handled check-in. We met our excellent, personable & continually informative Viking escort, Roy Liu, & our "family" of 35 fellow travelers. All 3 cities featured elegant 4-5 star hotels like Ritz-Carlton. We sailed from Wuhan after 2 nights. The tour includes 3 internal flights on Chinese airlines via vast modern airports. Plentiful daily sightseeing utilizes travel days to see things en route. It is a VERY strenuous tour including countless stairs & uneven pavement. (Few wheelchair service opportunities.) Our only excursion-free "day of rest" was the first on the river. Fascinating, constant learning opportunities introduced the culture, history, landmarks, etc.plus activities like daily Tai Chi exercise class. The hard-working, totally service-oriented Chinese crew provided night time entertainment with colorful costumes & folk dancing. No formal nights or casino. Nice bars with live music duo. No smoking. The ship's elegant dining room had 8-person tables; no assigned seats. Breakfast & lunch had both buffet & menu service. Western-style foods are plentiful on board & at hotels, but don't go if you dislike Chinese cuisine. Restaurant meals on excursions usually many dishes family-style on a "lazy Susan." LOVED the food's variety, flavors, & freshness but missed ice cubes! Viking constantly supplied necessary bottled water. (Even used for brushing teeth!) Free-flow "house" wine, beer, soft drinks at meals. ON SHIP: Wi-fi free but seldom available due to geography. OFF SHIP: Wi-fi free at hotels but no Google, Facebook, etc. Need alternative apps. ALWAYS carry toilet paper; ladies, brief wait for western-style public toilets. Highlights too numerous to list included the expected like Terra Cotta warriors & Great Wall & unexpected like a Chinese elementary school & the exotic Goddess stream gorge. This trip does NOT go to the panda breeding center. We adored these charmers at their Chonqing Zoo enclosures. Glad we went south-to-north as Beijing was the peak experience! November chilly but bearable up north, still warm & humid in the south. (October has millions of Chinese traveling for biggest national holidays.) Viking doesn't waste time at overpriced "factory" businesses but took us to a few quality establishments selling silk embroidery, bronzes, jade, etc. The few small shops on board had higher prices than on land & didn't bargain. Most popular was a tailor creating custom-made silk garments that were bargains compared to US prices. Order early! Added-cost excursions: Only 3, We did the Tang Dynasty Dinner/Show at Xian & the Kung Fu Theatre in Beijing. Both FABULOUS theatrical productions with music,dance, thrills, astonishing special effects worthy of Las Vegas. Incredible value! SO GLAD we experienced this journey to an endlessly surprising, dynamic destination! Read Less
1 Helpful Vote
Sail Date: May 2018
Just knowing that someone would be 'holding our hands' throughout the entire trip changed my attitude about traveling in China. After all, there were so many sights - the pandas, the Great Wall, Terracotta Warriors - that I have ... Read More
Just knowing that someone would be 'holding our hands' throughout the entire trip changed my attitude about traveling in China. After all, there were so many sights - the pandas, the Great Wall, Terracotta Warriors - that I have always wanted to see in person, but the thought of traveling in such a large foreign country - different language, food, customs - was daunting. Viking offered an attractive opportunity for my husband and me to realize this dream, so we jumped on it. Because it was such a comprehensive overview of China we really don't feel a need to return. However, it was a marvelous experience and the cruise portion was definitely a highlight. The food was delicious, the stateroom was more than adequate, the cultural talks were excellent, the staff was attentive and delightful, the entertainment was extremely well done -- by the young people in the staff, no less! -- and the excursions were all worthwhile. No complaints! Oh, and the views from the ship - a photographer's delight! We didn't really spend any time lounging on our veranda, but it was a great place to stand to take pictures! Read Less
1 Helpful Vote
Sail Date: April 2018
My husband & I have always wanted to go to China. What better way than on a Cruise. We saw do much in a short amount of time. The first night we stayed at the Ritz-Carlton. This was a bonus and our meals were included. The next ... Read More
My husband & I have always wanted to go to China. What better way than on a Cruise. We saw do much in a short amount of time. The first night we stayed at the Ritz-Carlton. This was a bonus and our meals were included. The next day we boarded the Ship. We were on the second floor which was excellent as the main desk was on this floor and also the Dinning room. We saw the Oriental Pearl Tower on the Bund River and from there went to a Mall and saw how they made Silk Oriental Carpets and also amazing pictures done by had in silk. From there we went to Old Shanghai to the Yu Yuan Garden. The weather turned bad and it rained very hard. It is hard to enjoy something when you are wet and cold. It was lovely though. We then went to a lovely Restaurant for a traditional Chinese meal. There are usually 8 to 10 people around a round table. From the Restaurant we then went to see an Acrobatic Troupe. They were simply amazing. All this took place in one day. We were very tired and went to bed so we would be ready for a full day coming up. We went to We did have 2 Tours cancelled as it was a weekend and they weren't available. This was disappointing, however, Viking made up for it and replaced them. I would say though that one replacement was a Science Museum and there was know one to explain what we were seeing. There was a local orchestra brought in in the evening and they played many different instruments that we have never heard. The next day we went to Jingzhou Ancient City. Very interesting and lots of stairs. The next morning we went to the Three Gorges and through the locks to the Three Gorges Dam. Believe it or not they have an outdoor Escalator to take you to the top. It was the largest dam we have ever seen. The next day we went to the Yangtze tributary and boarded a Sampan. This was really a nice way to see the Giver. We learned that many years ago people were buried on the side of the mountain and you could see one that is still in good shape. You have to be fast though to take a picture as you are in a moving boat. In Shibaozhai we went to a Temple. We had to climb 12 stories to get to this. You had better be fit for this trip as there were many stairs to climb on every excursion. We got off the ship one day and really had to climb a lot of stairs to get to the top of a large hill and there was a large market. Everyone is trying to sell you something. We disembarked in Chongging. I will say that the staff on the Ship were excellent and the Restaurant was lovely. The food was really good and the layout of the tables again was nice. At least 8 to a table. What a good way to get to meet people. As you can tell, there were lots of activities and you were glad when bedtime arrived. If you want to be on the go and see wonderful sights that you won't experience again this is the trip for you. Our fitness and recreation was not on board but every time we left the ship. Read Less
1 Helpful Vote
Sail Date: April 2018
First, our neighbors took this cruise several years ago and recommended it to us...we were extremely happy they did! Our guide was most informative and stayed with us the entire trip. Several times there was a change in program for one ... Read More
First, our neighbors took this cruise several years ago and recommended it to us...we were extremely happy they did! Our guide was most informative and stayed with us the entire trip. Several times there was a change in program for one reason or another, (sometimes through no fault of Viking), but they always tried to substitute with equal value. The Sampan ride through the Lesser Three Gorges was breathtaking. For the region of China we toured, I don't think we missed much.. Three Gorges Dam; pandas in Chongqing; Terra Cotta soldiers in Xian; the Great Wall, Tiananmen Square, Forbidden City, Hutong rickshaw ride and Kung Fu show in Beijing. Our state room was spacious with a balcony. Lots of river traffic on the Yangtze made for interesting scenery. The meals were delicious..not being an adventureous eater, I always found Western food on the ship. You could have had filet mignon every night! Staff was extremely friendly and helpful. Remembered your name and drink preferences. They like to try out there English.. On the land portion, the hotels were all five star accommodations. The food was, for the most part, Eastern, served buffet style at your table with a wide variety. All in all, a very enjoyable trip and look forward to our second river cruise in the future. Read Less
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