First of all, this was not my choice of trips, it was my mom's. She wanted to go for a long time and since she treats me so well and lets me choose destinations a lot of the time I knew that I had to do it for her. I have a hard time with being in a country when I cant speak the language and I am a very very very picky eater so China checked off those two boxes for me right off the bat. I had decided I could always get rice so that would be what I would do if I had to...and I brought a bunch of meal bars with me. I have to say that I never ate any of those bars I brought with me....and this trip is in my top 2, actually its in a class all by itself in the number one spot. I was very pleasantly surprised and very very very impressed with Viking. From the time I collected my luggage from baggage claim upon arrival in Shanghai to the moment I checked in my luggage when leaving from Beijing I was completely taken care of. I felt comfortable and safe and free to enjoy myself. I never actually handled my luggage (other than carry on) during that trip except for arriving and departure from the country. The food on the Viking Emerald is the best I have ever had...ever. They make their own yogurt everyday.....6 different flavors...everyday!! To die for! The ice cream and sorbet was also homemade and so so good!! Great choices for meals and breakfast was killer. I loved going to the same table for every meal and getting to know the staff. Lucy, Amy and Andrew rock!!! There is an anytime menu available that I ordered from twice. I also loved the on board shops!!! Hand carved personalized stamps, tailored clothing, jewelery, tea (and instruction), painting and souveners (I loved the girl in the shop, Cherry), all very nice quality and good prices. The room was perfect, great size, loved the shower! Loved the shows put on by the staff and the lectures and narrations.
The 12 days were balanced very well time wise. We had only a couple of days that were hectic, but only because we chose to do the optional excursions, and even then we had a few hours of down time on those days. The on board ship days we had excursions each day and the rest of the time on the ship, it was so relaxing.
We saw and did so many amazing things that it was hard to wrap your mind around everything we saw and did, the photos bring it all back each and every time I look through them. I really enjoyed the Acrobatic Show (included excursion), the Bells Performance (included excursion), the Tang Dynasty Dinner and Show (optional excursion) and the Peking Opera (optional excursion). My favorite stops were the Lesser Three Gorges excursion, the Pagoda Visit, seeing the Giant Panda bears, the Terra Cotta Army visit and the Great Wall. Usually you have just a few highlights....I have many more from this trip. I loved The Regent Beijing the best of the hotels, they were all 5 star but this one was much more in my opinion.
The best part of this trip was the Tour Escort and the group tho. We had a group of 31 and our Tour Escort was Terry. Terry managed to create a family of us and he was always there for anything we needed. His relaxed attitude and his love of his country shined right through and was very comforting and fun. He shared the right balance of personal information about life in China as a child and as an adult and history of the country. He held our attention with interesting facts and stories and was so natural. We had some great local guides as well but no one could compete with Terry. Of the 31 people in our group we became close with 10 of them, not bad for a group of 31! By the end of the trip Terry was able to peg us pretty closely as to what type of person we were. I hope that Viking realizes what a gem they have in Terry.
As for the very very very picky eater, I did well, there were only 2 meals out of 36 that I had a tough time with and ate mostly rice. The lazy Susan meals were fun, and Terry did tell us each time what each dish was. My mom was the taster, she tasted first and gave her impression. We all had great time at the table discussing the foods. It did'nt take long for any of them to figure out that I was the picky one, lol!
So in closing I will share the one negative I had about the trip and that was the Intra China flights. There were problems with delays and gate changes and even being bussed out to the field to board a plane. These are not things we typically experience in the US but it happened on all 3 flights and it didnt appear to be out of the ordinary for China. This in no way reflects upon Viking. And I am aware that the flights are necessary to be able to see that much of the country in 12 days at a pretty relaxed pace (which was so welcome).