We travelled on the Viking Imperial Jewels tour/river cruise at the end of July. We havecruised frequently on ocean cruises and are also independent travellers so this was a unique situation for us. Most of my angst was travelling with a difficult group.
Viking is an outstanding company that we will travel with in the future. For those wanting to see China at a more than comfortable level this is a great trip. Eight groups of 34 make up the entire group travelling on the river. You are put into one of those groups and assigned a tour escort for the whole trip. We were blessed with a great group, mostly teachers due to the time of the year. Our tour escort, Iowa, was outstanding. He provided free and open opinions about China, including first hand information about him in Tianemenan Square in 1989. He was organized and professional.
The hotels that are used are 5-6 star quality. We stayed at the Ritz Carlton. Portman in Shanghai, the Hilton in Xi'an and the Regent in Beijing. Outstanding in every way!
This is NOT a shopping tour although there are chances to spend money, mostly at Viking approved places. Jade, silk embroidery, silk carpets and Xi'an souvenirs are some of the stops. You have to spend your free time going out to the markets as Viking does not encourage this. There is a tailor aboard the ship if you want a custom silk jacket made, as well as a pearl store and Chinese artist.
Each day of the cruise provides for a shore excursion, included in the price. We toured the Three Gorges Dam, toured the Lesser Three Gorges by small boat and climbed the Shaobazhai Temple.
There is not a lot to do on the ship so be prepared to relax and read. There is no promenade deck to walk around. We travelled in the summer so there was very, very hot and humid weather. All the daily talks were very informative. The food was very good and plentiful - the best thing is the homemade yogurt served in small jars. Delicious.
The staff works extremely hard, especially Lois, the bar manager. The premium bar package at 150.00 is great value, especially if you like trying other wines and enjoy drinks other than beer and wine. House wine and beer and no extra charge however the only choice is Chardonnay. That sold me on the package.
Don't expect Wifi, it doesn't exist. There are 6 computers, slow but always available. Wifi is available at Ll hotel free of charge.
This is a VERY good trip and an excellent way to see China. I would highly recommend it.