Viking Emerald Cruise Review by L-87ouise: Visit China While You are Physically Able to Enjoy the Sights
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Visit China While You are Physically Able to Enjoy the Sights
We traveled on Viking River Cruise's Imperial Jewels of China trip in May/June 2014. We chose Viking because of their total package, and because China would be difficult to navigate by ourselves.
I'll start with the negative, but there were many more positives. The negative was that our group of 24 who traveled and ate most meals together included 8 people who were not able to physically keep up with the rest of the group for various reasons. One individual brought a walker and friend to help her, but even that was not adequate for most of the excursions. During our two week time, two people fell, and two went home before the trip ended. Though Viking "warns" travelers about the rigorous nature of the trip, it's really up to the traveler to decide. The Chinese tour guides are not equipped to accommodate large numbers of handicapped/mobility-challenged individuals. Our guide spent many days scurrying to find wheelchairs for this often demanding group. Viking needs to have the More flexibility to move these folks into a group of their own the first or second day (in situations like ours); otherwise, it negatively impacts the rest of the tour group. We missed a trip to the Chongqing Zoo (which has natural habitats rather than a traditional zoo) and the famous Dumpling restaurant in the Muslim District in Xian. So please, if you fall into this category and are considering a trip to China, consider the other travelers before booking a trip.
On the positive, we enjoyed our time in the major Chinese cities - Shanghai, Xian and Beijing - more than our time on the cruise. The hotels were 5 star - we stayed at the Shanghai Ritz Carlton, the Xian Hilton and the Regent in Beijing. All were well-located and accommodated to our needs. Traveling from Shanghai to Beijing is beneficial because there is time to get over jet lag at the beginning of the trip, and touring the Yuyuan Gardens, the silk factory and the Shanghai Museum can be done at a relaxing pace. The leg from Xian to Beijing is the most interesting and requires the most walking and traveling. The Chinese airlines were all professional, clean and organized, in our experience, and Viking coordinated our flights well. Xian was one of the highlights of the trip, and Viking wisely made it a two-day stop. Beijing was wonderful during our visit - the weather, the people and our time at Tiananmen Square/Forbidden City - walked 5 miles as well as our 2-hour hike up the south side of the Great Wall of China at Badaling. Shopping at the Pearl Market was a great time with many deals. Give yourself a full afternoon for that.
Regarding the cruise, the staff on the ship could not have been nicer or more accommodating. It is not as luxurious as some cruises we have done, but we enjoyed the small group (180 people total), and we made friends with many people. This was nice to do at the beginning of the trip so we could spend time together for the remainder of the trip. Most thought that 3 days on the Yangtze would have been enough, but since Viking is a cruise company, that seems unlikely. The Three Gorges Dam and the Lesser Gorges are definitely worth seeing, but much of the coastline as you head east is industrialized.
You will learn so much about China and its culture, and we recommend it! Less
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