The cruise began in Shanghai, moved to the Viking Emerald in Wuhan, disembarking in Chongqing and then Beijing. We took the Hong Kong extension via Guilin and ending in Hong Kong. We took four Chinese flights and stayed in five five-star hotels. The flights were excellent without exception, the planes clean and the crews attentive. Snacks were served on every flight even the short ones. The Viking Emerald accomodations were also five star.
"Larry" our guide for the Chinese portion spoke excellent English, was very familiar with Chinese history and politics and didn't hesitate to answer almost all our questions. He had all our bags in the right place at the right time and went out of his way to get us early entry to the Terra Cotta Army and the Chongqing panda exhibit. His personality and experience made this trip a huge success.
Meals in the hotels were served buffet style with a variety of food from Chinese to American. If you didn't like Chinese food this was the time to fill up on eggs and pancakes etc. Restaurant meals were served family style from a Lazy Susan in the center of the table and often consisted of as many as 15 or more different Chinese dishes and soups. We like Chinese food so were pleased with the quality and variety although we were happy to taste Western dishes at the end of the trip.
The longest walk on the trip was through Tiananmen Square and the Forbidden City, approximately three miles. However wheel chairs are available for a fee as they were in most other places. The guide book indicated a long stairway to view the Three Gorges Dam but that has now been supplemented with several escalators. No steps to climb here.
Most places provided access to western style toilets, sometimes side-by-side with eastern style. Some facilities were clean but others very dirty. We'd recommend bringing a small supply of toilet papter with you and, for emergencies practice using eastern style toilets, especially for the women.
Tipping for the sixteen day trip ran about $500 with tips expected for the Viking crew, the escorts, each bus driver and the local guide at each location. We brought lots of $1 dollar bills, used credit cards for the ship tips and paid cash to the escorts. They're happy to receive their tips in Chinese, Hong Kong or American currency.
On our way to Hong Kong we stopped at Guilin which I thought would be a disappointment. How wrong I was as it was one of the highlights of the trip. We were treated to a river cruise which included a buffet lunch through some of the most beautiful scenery I can remember and that was followed by a trip to Hong Kong where there was too much to do in just two full days.
We paid an extra $50 each to fly non-stop on Delta from Detroit. Although the flight was close to 14 hours in the usual cramped airline seats (we were in the cattle cars) it went quickly and we actually arrived an hour early. Coming home we also flew Delta but changed planes in Tokyo. Others on this cruise did not fly direct and had trouble with missed connections and lost baggage. The food on the flight was plentiful, the crew attentive and each seat was equipped with a small video screen so we could watch a wide variety of movies.
Hats off to Viking and Delta for a wonderful, well organized trip. I was glad we started in Shanghai because it led up to the top things on my list, the Terra Cotta Army, the Great Wall and Tiananmen Square towards the end instead of at the beginning.