This took care of a couple of items on my bucket-list specifically the Terra Cotta Warriors and the Great Wall.
We are 2 people in our late sixties. Neither of us are the types that want to go out into a city where we don't know the language and explore. But we want to see and learn as much as is possible.
I'm glad we took the Beijing to Shanghai instead of the reverse because Beijing is the most tiring. We aren't very athletic people.
I can't say enough about the service provided by Viking. This was truly a care free vacation. I think it is similar in one respect to travelling with your parents when you were a kid. You just show up when and where you are told and everything is taken care of for you. No standing in lines to check-in or to collect your luggage at airports nor to buy tickets for any of the attractions or sites. It's all taken care of by your Viking escort who is with you through the entire trip. Also on the excursions the guide uses a microphone which transmit to a head set that you wear so you can hear everything being said which is great since I'm usually bringing up the rear.
There were 2 optional excursions (if you opted out they took you to dinner at a restaurant): The Peking duck dinner with excerpts from the Peking Opera in Beijing and/or Tang Dynasty Dinner show in Xian. Not wanting to miss anything, we went to both of these. Most people went only to the Tang Dynasty show but I enjoyed the Peking Opera more. I found the Tang show rather glitzy.
We stayed at the Westin Beijing on Financial Street, The Crowne Plaza Xian and the Westin Bund Center in Shanghai. We like Westin Hotels much better than the Crowne Plaza.
FOOD: The breakfasts in the hotels and on the boat were the best because there was such variety. I loved the shipboard-made yogurt with fresh fruit. The rest of the meals were average. When Chinese food was served I believe it was "dumbed down" because I found it bland in comparison to what you can get in San Francisco. But you did get wine or beer with lunch and dinner.
The three flights within China were short and sweet. I was pleasantly surprised.
We booked the air through Viking so even though our flight was delayed we were met by their representatives who collected our luggage and got us settled at the hotel. They suggested we go to the Lama Temple or to the zoo on the next day which was free time. We went to the Lama Temple which was beautiful but very smoky (incense). Great pictures.
When the tour part actually began we were kept moving. There are a lot of places to see and a limited amount of time. In Beijing, there's Tiananmen Square, the Forbidden City, the Summer Palace, the Great Wall and the Ming Tombs , all involve a great deal of walking on the flat. In the case of the Wall we're also climbing, those "I climbed the Great Wall" tee shirts aren't lying. It is very strenuous. The wall has steps on it. Very steep steps.
Xian -- The Terra-cotta warriors was the biggest thrill for me. I have wanted to see them since they were first discovered.
Chonqing is where we actually boarded the Viking Emerald. When we arrived I was amazed to see what we had to do to board the vessel. There were steep stairs (no railing) to go down and then there was what looked like a jury-rigged long floating walkway that led to the boat. Everyone had their carry-ons with them but there were men who would carry your stuff for you for a small fee. I carried my own. I wish I had taken pictures. Once on the boat the cabin was great.
First stop on the boat was the Shibaozhai Temple. It was beautiful and worth the 12 story climb to the top. But to get to it there was a very steep hill to climb. You could get someone with to pull you up in a rickshaw. I passed on this.
The next day was an excursion in a smaller boat to the Lesser Three Gorges. There we saw some great scenery including the hanging coffins.
We didn't enter the locks for the Dam until around 11:00PM and I missed it but I awoke around 3:00AM and was able to watch the boat go through the final lock. This was nice. I was alone on deck and got some very good pictures.
The Three Gorges Dam itself wasn't interesting to me. They don't allow anyone to enter the dam so there's not a lot to see. There are displays about it and there was a lot of technical information but that leaves me cold.
The next day we cruised through the Gezhou Dam Shiplock. This was one lock in the afternoon so we got to see everything from start to finish and take pictures in the daylight. They jam as many boats as they can into the lock. The whole procedure took less than an hour.
We disembarked at Wuhan and flew to Shanghai. The Yuyuan Garden tour was the highlight here for me.