We combined this cruise with 8 days of independent travel in the Yunnan province just before the tour. While we loved the independent experience, it was exhausting negotiating China on our own and the language barriers meant that we really missed a lot when we visited sites. This tour really made up for that. While we were less than impressed with Shanghai, the rest of the tour was spectacular. I would suggest starting in Shanghai, when you still may be a bit groggy from the time change, and then traveling the Yangtze, with the finish in Beijing. Be sure to sign up for the optional tour of Beijing Opera ( which was really four short acts) with Peking Duck dinner.
The cruise portion was outstanding. Good size rooms, even in the lowest price range. We actually liked the bottom floor which was the least expensive. We didn't experience any "rockiness" and it was convenient to be able to walk down the hall to the dining area. The shipboard lectures were outstanding. Normally we would skip the Crew production on the last night, but don't miss this one. One of the waiters is trained in Chinese Facemask changing... he is one of only several hundred in the entire country that can do it and it was a very special experience to see it.
Food on the ship was very good. Mostly Western food on ship and Chinese food when off the ship. All hotels had large buffets with a combination of Western and Chinese food.The dining room hours were a bit short, so everyone on the ship ate at once. That made it somewhat noisy. We could rarely hear the people who sat across our table of eights ( open seating), even though we purposely sat at the back, away from the crowd as much as possible.
Don't bother with the Silver Spirits drink package. The wines that were available were not much of an upgrade. The "bottomless" wines that are served with meals are adequate ( Beringer Classic White/Red). The champagne was extra even with the package. We weren't on the ship enough between meals to make the extra charge for the package worth it. Drinks at the bar average around $10.
The tour guide ( Johanna) was extremely fluent, energetic and prepared us for any bumps in the road, such as delayed flights, that we might encounter. She was very knowledgeable and was free to speak on her opinion on anything... which she did! She let us know the toilet situation before each tour. IN almost all cases, at least one Western toilet was available. Bring your own TP everywhere! Most public bathrooms did not have soap, so bring antiseptic lotion or wipes with you. There were 3 people on our bus group and we always travelled as a group with the same guide for the entire trip. Local guides in each town supplemented the information.
We felt more comfortable having Chinese RMB money for buying trinkets. We could use credit cards for major purchases and dollars for tips. Many of the street vendors would also take dollars so bring small bills.We have travelled mostly on Regent Cruise line (ocean cruising) and this cruise was perhaps just 1/2 star lower in our opinion. That is mostly because there is no room service and no choice of dining rooms or time to eat. Also no pool on ship and a tiny exercise room with one treadmill. We would definitely recommend this trip and ship to anyone.