Launched in 2011, Viking Emerald is Viking River Cruises' sole ship operating on China's Yangtze River.
A chartered vessel, it has all the "feel" of a Viking-owned ship with the familiarity of branded products, menus, newsletters, day-to-day schedules and service standards. Repeat passengers won't feel short-changed. Unlike the line's predominantly European-based fleet, where low bridges and water levels restrict the size of ships, 256-passenger Emerald is a larger vessel, with four passenger decks and a sun deck, plus additional facilities that include shops, a spa, hair salon, Internet cafe and gym. With a sleek glass atrium extending through the decks, it's akin to a small, pared-down cruise ship.
Although it's relatively new, Emerald does not have the ultra-contemporary decor of some modern European river cruisers and is more traditionally furnished, although comfortable throughout. During our cruise, the onboard ambience was relaxed and friendly, and grumbles were few and minor. Crewmembers definitely stand out, unfailingly smiling and charming even when standing in the rain helping passengers up and down steps. This more than made up for small service issues in the dining room, such as occasionally running out of dishes at the lunchtime buffet.
Between March and November, Emerald sails on three Yangtze River land-cruise itineraries that range in duration from 12 to 18 days, again different to the European product that only features river cruises.
Attracting a predominantly American market, Viking's trademark attention to detail extends to the land stay with a company tour guide taking care of everything, including the collection and transfer of luggage for internal flights and even providing suitcase locks for passengers that need them.