Although the cruise portion of itinerary was only 5 nights, Viking's 12 day itinerary allowed us to see many more historic sights before and after the cruise. My wife and I, along with another couple, arrived in Shanghai four days in advance of the start of the tour not only to adjust to the time difference with Seattle, but to see more of Shanghai than that offered on tour. It was a good decision. We stayed at Les Suite Orient before joining the tour at the Pudong ShangriLa, one of four hotels Viking uses in Shanghai (the others are Westin Bund Center, Portman Ritz Carlton & Fairmont Peace Hotel). The Viking Emerald carries 256 passengers so guests are confirmed at various hotels and put in smaller groups with their own guide (and bus when not on the ship). Les Suites was the best hotel we stayed in during our visit to China, Hong Kong included.
Shortly after our arrival at Pudong ShangriLa, we were greeted by 'Jamie', our delightful Chinese tour guide who spent the next 12 days with us making sure we stayed on schedule and got everywhere we were supposed to be on time and with the group. The hotel accommodations during the tour were five star, all new or renovated and comfortable.
We found the accommodations on the ship equal to those on other Viking river boats in Europe except that the Viking Emerald has four decks of cabins served by two elevators in addition to stairs. In addition to various entrees offered at dinner, guests had the option of ordering from a set menu. Yes, Chinese food was served often which, for the most part, we enjoyed. The only meal we found very poor in quality and location was at a restaurant in Shanghai on our first or second night on tour. The restaurant was on an upper floor of a building near the river and had only two small elevators to get our large tour group up to the restaurant (not good). The food was mediocre at best. Wouldn't return as Shanghai has dozens of great restaurants to choose.
Viking did an outstanding job scheduling our visits to various historic sights, some in advance of being open to the public. Local guides at the sights were well informed and easy to understand. Having individual headsets kept us in communication with our guide. In areas such as Tiananmen Square where thousands of people congregated, one could tell they were far from the guide if her voice was hard to hear over the headset. This meant it was time to locate the guide and get back to the group. Getting lost in the crowds is a high probability if one doesn't stay near the guide while at Tiananmen Square.
We enjoyed the optional Tang Dynasty in Xi'an and Peking Opera in Beijing and were glad we went. The experience is worth the time and price paid.
Overall, the 'Imperial Jewels of China' was an education and an eye-opening experience. We told friends, who had to cancel due to medical reasons, that we would join them if they booked the same tour in the future. We'd like to go back and hopefully, if we go, tour with 'Jamie' as our guide. She is fantastic.