We embarked the Emerald in Chongqing having arrived that morning from Lhasa with our new "family" of 28. We went directly to our cabin to pick up our keys and then did quick tour of the ship to get our bearings.
The basic cabins are tidy and utilitarian, with not much hanging storage but plenty of room under the beds for bags. The bathroom was tiny compared to the grand baths we had become accustomed to at the luxury land hotels Viking used but sufficient for our stay. Our cabin attendant did a great job and made sure there was always plenty of bottled water through out the trip. The fan in the cabin has varying speeds but you really cannot control the temperature. Yes, the ship can be a bit humid and there was a dehumidifier running constantly in our hallway but really not an issue. Small balcony with 2 chairs and enough room to hang out your laundry :)
Having heard about the onboard tailor, we made that one of our first stops. Arnold will help you select fabric and style so that in about one day you will have a custom made jacket, vest, dress or pants. Reasonably priced, this makes a great thing to bring back from the trip.
Soft drinks, wine and beer are complimetary during meal times and they offer a Silver Spirits beverage package for purchase. All parties sharing a stateroom must purchase the package so if you think you may want a few cocktails or beer during the days on the river, as well as better wine with meals, do the math and see if the package works for you. Best to sign up the first day to get the maximum benefit. About 20% of the passengers on our cruise took the package and all agreed the bar service was excellent - thanks Lois!!!
Yes, the noise at dinner time can be quite loud. Seemed worse the first night maybe because of everyone's excitment or maybe we just got used to it over the next few days. We had 3 nights of "western" food and 2 nights of Chinese food with the lazy susan. Personally, I thought they did an excellent job preparing the western food though service is slower because of having to plate each meal. Maitre d' Evelyn Kolditz was present at every meal, always extremely pleasant and constantly on watch to make sure things went well. Buffet breakfasts and lunches were quite good and it was interesting to share a table with different people at almost every meal.
Ports were the usual: Shibaozhai, Wushan and the Lesser Three Gorges, Jingzhou for the Viking School. While all interesting, the Three Gorges Dam is mind blowing and the most impressive. We did the locks at night so it was totally different to see the ships going through during the day while we did the land tour.
Entertainment is minimal but there is a live band every night on deck 6 and the crew cabaret and fashion shows are fun. Many in our group did Tai Chi in the morning before breakfast and Program Director Jamie He had several enrichment programs scheduled during the days on the river.
It is important to remember that China is a developing country and while there are things that are different by "western" standards, the staff works very hard to ensure a pleasurable and memorable trip.