Starting in Shanghai, the hotel was excellent, Pudong Shangri-La. A little on the expensive side, e.g. a martini, a Bailey's and coffee, and a small dessert was $55 where as dinner near by was only $35 for two including drinks. The guide was superior, excellent command of the English language and a very good understanding of American customs. In all, there were 3 flights in China. The guide demonstrated his expertise in managing the group of 36 with ease. Flights were nothing special but clean and well organized.
Upon boarding the ship, the crew welcomed us with smiles and energy. Staterooms all had balconies and were well taken care of by the staff. Food on board was generally fine, family style was generally done with a big lazy susan for the 10/table. The waiters and waitresses were very good in paying attention to the guests and seeing to the needs. The bar had an exceptional variety of liquors, wines, and beers. I would suggest buying the beverage package if you would drink the equivalent of 2 martinis/day. Entertainment on board was good. On two nights we were treated with the crew performing for us and this was a real treat. Not only did we know our crew but marvelled in how well they performed on stage, nothing short of amazing.
During the cruise, we visited the school supported by Viking River Cruises. I wished someone had informed us of this, for we would have brought some little gifts for the students. We arrived at the school on a Saturday and about half the student body come to school on their day off to perform for us and join us in their classrooms. It was fun seeing them. Disembarking from the ship, we went to the zoo in Chongqing. Of course, seeing pandas was the treat. At the end of the zoo tour, we visited an art shop on the zoo grounds and there were some fantastic pieces to buy. Not particularly inexpensive but very well done. Upon arrival in Xian, the hotel, Golden Flower by Shangri-La, was nice, not quite as nice as in Shanghai but clean. Visiting the Terra Cotta Warriors was the next treat. It was amazing how our guide was able to herd cats wandering about, but with skill he managed that feat.
Following Xian, we arrived in Beijing. Our arrival at the hotel, Westin Chaoyang, was not a pleasant experience. To put it bluntly, if they offered me a suite for as long as I wished, I would not stay there again. It was a 5 star room with 2 star service. To begin with, the large number of guests arriving had to enter the hotel from the rear. Instead of the guides being allowed to pick up our room keys and hand them out to us, the hotel insisted each of us check in individually. Long lines, with initially only one clerk, and no seats in the lobby. A number of the guests were elderly and standing in a line was not something they would want to do. When we finally got our room key, we were on a floor requiring the room key to be placed in the elevator so to access our floor. It didn't work! A person from the hotel had to use his pass key to allow us to punch in our floor. The key did work in the room door but not the elevator which required a second trip to the front desk to be ignored for a while by staff. Like I said, I would find it difficult to accept even a free room at this hotel.
One of the optional thing in Beijing was the Peking Duck Dinner. Forget that. If you have ever had Peking Duck before you will find this is like going to a burger joint and ordering Kobe steak. The dinner was the absolute worse on the whole trip. I will mention though that I was asked by Viking River Cruises how I like my trip and if I had any comments. I mentioned the poor dinner and they refunded me the charge.
The trip to the Forbidden City was amazing. Again, the guide was able to keep us all in check and help us maneuver this large place. The trip to the Summer Palace was a little disappointing and would not have been missed by anyone if we hadn't gone. The trip to the Great Wall was yet another marvel. I cannot say enough good things about our guide who helped us in every way possible.
One small thing on a personal note, we collect coins from countries we visit to be mounted. Going to China proved to be a place where we thought this hobby would be easily completed. It wasn't. Finding coins proved to be a very difficult task. Finding a bank to manage this was also difficult. Our guide did help with finding coins but I did not get all of them. Overall, the cruise was a surprise for us who were first time Viking guests. The guide made our stay in China feel like we were welcome. We did have an event while on the river cruise portion of the trip. A man became ill and the guide escorted him and his wife ashore to the hospital. There was an issue with the small hospital and dealing with Americans. The guide made contact with the Embassy and worked with them to get the man moved to a larger city with better facilities. At one point, we thought they would rejoin us, but as we neared the end of the tour, we were told on our daily briefings on them that he may not survive. Viking flew their son to China. The good news is that he recovered and was well enough to fly back to the States 2 weeks later. The guide took personal charge of seeing to their needs allowing other guides to manage his group for him. This personal service was well appreciated. The crew on the ship was equally wonderful. There were only two things to avoid, the Peking Duck dinner and the Westin Chaoyang Hotel.