While the cruise portion of the entire trip was only 5 days of the whole 11 or so day trip, my review will touch on the land portion in addition to the river portion. This is our 4th cruise on Viking, and we have also done 5 "ocean" cruises with other companies (Oceania being our favorite). The Viking Century Emerald is a new ship, and the largest and nicest of the ones we've been on with Viking. The cabin we had (standard, 2nd deck) was spacious, with plenty of room for our clothes, a very nice bathroom, and a small balcony. The public rooms are beautiful, and there is a small fitness center, a couple stores with various things to buy, and a computer room with 8 computers (hard-wired and wifi). Wifi is available around the computer area. I believe there was a small beauty shop, too, but I didn't check that out, and an infirmary. I really didn't use anything but the restaurant, computer room, and outside areas (for photography) so I can't really comment on all areas or services. However, my husband got a foot massage and was very happy with it, including the price. You can have clothes cleaned and/or pressed, and my husband had 2 golf shirts washed. The price was reasonable.
The food was reasonably good - sometimes great, sometimes only so-so, but overall good but not fantastic. If you don't like the choices offered for lunch (buffet and menu offerings) or dinner (menu offerings) you can order one of the "always available" items. My husband had the steak, which he found good but not fantastic, and I had the salmon, which was excellent. For breakfast, there is a variety of stuff - made to order omelets, French Toast, oatmeal, etc. The staff is wonderful, and they greet you by name, even if you've only sat at their station once before. You can sit wherever you want, with whomever you want. Dinner is served at an announced time - usually 7 or 7:30, and the same is true for lunch (usually noon); however, if you come a little late, they are very accommodating about that.
Staff members, from person who cleans your cabin, to program director, to ship's captain, are fantastic - very personable, eager to please, and yes, they speak English, except for the Captain, anyway! If you're a past Viking cruiser, you'll be invited to a special cocktail party to meet the bigwigs. The passengers were a nice mix of mostly Americans, with some Europeans and at least one New Zealander. The average age was probably 55 or 60, but there WAS a smattering of younger folks as well as a smattering of 70'ish folks.
One very minor complaint we had about the ship was that the dining room was quite noisy compared to the dining rooms we had been on in previous Viking ships. This ship is a big one, with more pax than we had traveled with when on Viking, and so we found the noise level a little bothersome. However, given all the plusses for this ship, and the whole Viking experience, the noise level was a minor thing. Another minor complaint was that the computers in the computer room (8) tended to be a bit quirky and slow - but given that we were on a river in the middle of the Yangtze, that was understandable.
If you wanted to be alone on the ship, that was certainly possible, with a couple outdoor areas as well as indoor that were lightly populated. There is not a lot of entertainment at night, but we didn't feel that was needed, as we were pretty tired by the end of the day! There were lectures and some entertainment during the day - the things I participated in were quite good, especially the lectures. There were TV programs and movies on the TV in the cabin. I didn't watch much, but my husband did.
I'm not a drinker or shopper, so can't comment on the bar or store areas. I didn't use the fitness center, but boy, with all the walking on the Imperial Jewels trip, I felt no need to use it in the first place! Embarkation and disembarkation were easy and smooth, including disembarkation for the trips ashore.
As to the trip itself (Shanghai to Beijing on the Imperial Jewels trip), it was great. You see and do a lot, and get pretty tired doing it! The first few days were a little disappointing, as Shanghai is basically not as charming as Beijing, and the jet lag was killing us. Also, the Yangtze in the eastern part of the trip (Wuhan going west to Chongqing) is very commercial, and after cruising more alluring rivers like the Rhine and Mosel, a bit of a letdown. Beijing and Xi'an were fantastic, and I personally loved the day at the Shiboazhai (spelling?) temple. The 3 internal flights were perfectly adequate, and the food provided off-ship was quite good, although I have to admit I got tired of Chinese food! The organization of the tour was truly ten star, as were the hotels used. Our tour escort (Shan Shan) proved to be a national treasure, arranging everything perfectly, and looking out for us in very crowded cities and environments. Viking divides you into groups of about 30 or 35, with one tour escort assigned to you for the whole trip. You meet the tour escort in Shanghai and then travel with him/her to all of the cities/places you visit, including the days on the Emerald.
I would highly recommend Viking, and this tour, to just about anyone. It is more escorted and orchestrated than the other Viking cruises we've been on, with little free time, but in a country like China, that is probably a very good thing. Few people speak English, the traffic is awful, and many things are completely unfamiliar, making traveling on your own a daunting task. The Emerald is top notch, especially for a river ship, and the combination of land and river touring, while a bit exhausting, is a nice combination.