We are experienced travelers, having sailed on 35 cruises in Europe, Mexico, Central & South America, Asia, the Caribbean and Alaska and at least 9 land and cruise tours.
From the moment you arrive in China, Viking Tours controls your time, everything is a hustle. Our tour began in Shanghai (two days in Shanghai, with a short visit to a museum; but the emphasis was a Rug Manufacture (Carpet Weaving) and Silk embroidery factory with lunches on both days in the rear of each establishment. A quick tour of the Bund, and a very short time provided to see YuYuan Gardens before flying in afternoon of the 2nd day to Wuhan. Would much rather have had the time to experience the people in Shanghai like in "Old Street" and the Financial Center district, the 2nd tallest building in the world. We had a Bad experience at the airport in Shanghai, our line ran slow going through Security at the airport and we got separated from the tour guide and the group; an elevator operator let go of the elevator door and it knocked my wife on the ground and she injured her ankle, shoulder. and jaw when she hit the floor; with the help of airport security we found our group. In Wuhan we boarded the ship Emerald Viking; while it was billed (our newest ship) to be a new ship; it is not a new ship by any means. Communication skills of breakfast short order cooks and purser desk were very poor. Purser desk mostly unfriendly as they liked to play the game, no speak English. Asking cabin Stewarts for extra towels or for bottled water was often met with great difficulty and with no speaks English. Lunch was 12noon to 1:30pm and the time schedule was rigid at 1:15pm the buffet was being taken down. The $300. shipboard credit could only be used for goods and services on the ship, but not any for TIPPING. The Cocktail party started at 5:30pm; champagne was offered, I asked for a beer instead but was told that I could buy a beer at the bar, and appetizers were removed fifteen minutes later at 5:45pm; it is interesting to note that beer and wine were served for FREE at 6:00pm at dinner; no music at the cocktail party; not much of a cocktail party. There was no entertainment aboard other than for one crew show. Most of the time aboard the ship, we were without any knowledge of names of the towns along the way. Weather wise we experience smog for most of the 12 days on the Viking tour; a serious problem about anywhere in China.
Positive shipboard comments, bed was comfortable, room was clean, a/c worked fine and dinner was ok, the two servers assigned to our table were very nice and accommodating.
As far as the Yangtze River cruise, the Three Gorges Dam & Xiling Gorge, Qutang Gorges, Lesser Three Gorges anyone could have seen more on a TRAVELOG as most every day was Smog limiting visibility to less than a half of mile.
Disembarking at Chongqing was a real experience walking about 250 steps on Floating Docks and then up 72 Steps to the awaiting bus. Then it was Bus ride to the Chongqing Zoo with about 30 minutes Free Time to see the PANDA BEARS followed by a long walk to an art gallery for a 30 minute presentation by an accomplished artist. Then lunch and off to the airport again for about One and a half flight to Xian to the hotel; next day off to see the Terra Cotta Warriors about a two hour visit before flying to Beijing.
Most days on this tour you were required to have luggage out of the room by 6:00am or 6:30am and to be on the bus by 7:30am and one day it was required to be on the bus by 7:00am.
The two days in Beijing were about the same, a constant hustle; the tour director was well prepared and gave excellent information about China on the bus and along the tour. Two (2)of the dinners were box lunches.
We are happy that we had a week (7) nights in Shanghai before the Viking Cruise & Tour and Seven (7) nights in Beijing following the tour to see and experience the people and culture of China.
Shortly, after we arrived home, I wrote a letter dated May 24, 2012 to Mr. Jason Pashko, Sr VP and copied Mr. Michael Sr VP and Mr. Eric Welter, Sr. VP about an issue that occurred in the final stages of booking this cruise. Unfortunately as of July 13, 2012, I have not been given the courtesy of a reply to my letter.
Based on our experience noted above, we cannot recommend the 12 day "Viking River Cruises Yangtze Experience." We would rate this cruise tour as Poor. We would say the cruise was well marketed; but is Over Rated, the tour is Extremely Controlled consequently not much fun. This was a poor example of a China Experience. If all one did was get off the airplane and go on this Viking River Cruise Tour they would not have had much of an experience of the Chinese culture. Also we view the cost of this 12 day Viking Yangtze experience at $7,184. to be way overpriced. And lastly, we can't say much favorable for the quality of the management of Viking as they did not have the courtesy to reply to my letter of May 24, 2012; almost two (2) months ago. Our Recommendation is to Pass on Viking and look elsewhere for a Yangtze River cruise and tour experience.