six of us departed Houston on august 20 bound for Beijing. This was all booked through Viking, and I must say they did a great job. its a 2 hour flight from Houston iah to Detroit, then 12 hours to Beijing. We were met at the airport in Beijing by Johanna, who ultimately turned out to be our tour escort. She is wonderful.
We transferred as a group to the ritz Carleton Beijing, that was a great experience in itself. The staff there were great, they learned your name in no time and the food (yes a few pounds were gained here). We had a free day the next day, so it was taxi to the zoo and then to the llama temple. We spoke no Chinese (other than very good and thank you), but had no problem getting around. Yep, panda bear was there and doing his(her) thing, eating leaves. We found Beijing to be a great way to become introduced to the Chinese culture. The people are friendly. Don't be surprised when kids (mostly teenage Chinese girls) rush up to get their friends to take a photo of them posing with you. We felt like celebraties. The trip to the great wall is all that its advertised to be.
Then it was off to the airport for our first intra-china flight on a Chinese airline. My experience with Aeroflot in Russia had minimized my expectations, but this was a great experience. The plane was modern, clean , and the boarding process orderly. We landed in Xi'an and again the transfer to the Hilton was painless. The hotel was immaculate, and the staff great. The next day was the terra cotta warriors, again all that it is claimed to be. Next was a flight to Chongqing - the largest city in the world, and boarding the emerald. The ship is modern, well maintained, great great staff, excellent food and great overall trip management. We bought the drink package, could have saved some bucks had I done this when booking, and if you like wine, beer, etc, its the way to go. Cruised down the river, through some Gorges, all magnificent. Then departed from Wuhan to Shanghai, again intra china airlines and no dissappointments. Trip was all that we hoped for. Viking - your employee, Johanna did a great job the entire trip. She met us at the arrival airport, guided us through all the tours, transfers, etc. But more than that, she introduced us to china. She talked openly about the three generations of her family, and their life experiences in china for the past 50 years. I will definitely cruise with Viking again.