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8 Asia River Cruise Reviews

We booked the Upper Mekong Cruise (Laos to China) offered by Pandaw which advertised the route as from Laos' Vientiane to China's Jinghong City, Xishuangbanna region in Yunnam Province. It was advertised as a luxury river cruise ... Read More
We booked the Upper Mekong Cruise (Laos to China) offered by Pandaw which advertised the route as from Laos' Vientiane to China's Jinghong City, Xishuangbanna region in Yunnam Province. It was advertised as a luxury river cruise on the brand new Laos Pandaw boat which accommodates 20 passengers. One of the main reasons for us booking the cruise was to see the beautiful sceneries along the Mekong River, in particular China's Xichuangbanna region which is a popular holiday destination for seasoned travelers. Two months before sailing, we learned that the Laos Pandaw did not have a powerful engine to make it up river to China. Pandaw, claimed in its website that they built a brand new ship named the Yunnam Pandaw which later changed its name to Champa Pandaw. It claimed that the ship has twice the horsepower of the Laos Pandaw and can take 28 passengers. We boarded the ship in Laos's capital Vientiane at noon on October 19, and quickly learned from the previous cruise's passengers that their voyage was cut short by 2 days due to the fact the Champa Pandaw's maiden voyage never made it to its final destination in China's Jinghong, the capital city of Xishuangbanna Region. Our voyage started on time with half a day tour of Vientiane as schedule but was informed by the ship's manager that the upstream itinerary has been changed substantially due to the experience gained from the previous upstream and downstream cruises. The 1 day schedule visit to Burma (Myanmar) was cancelled, reason given as not safe region to visit. Before the start of the tour we understood that the schedule may be subjected to change but we still felt disappointed with substantial revisions of the itinerary even before the start. Sailing up the Mekong to Luang Prabang, Laos' tourist town, took 4 days and the boat was advancing slowly. Reason given was low water level due to the Chinese side not releasing water for the boat to go on normal speed. The captain on board only speaks Laotian, not English, and communication with passengers was mainly from the the cruise manager and the tour guide (Laotian). We missed the ship lock time slot at the Xiaburi Dam and was delayed by almost 18 hours. Sailing from Luang Prabang to the Golden Triangle continued to be slow. We visited a few Laos poor villages along the way, and moored before sunset on the river bank as the Champa Pandaw cannot sail at night. There appears to be no radar, GPS or satellite communications on board. Passenger can access the ship's wi-fi for free and internet connection depends on whether the ship can receive any cell tower signal. Overall, 50% of the time there is no internet connection. There is little on board activities aside from the visits to the poor Laos villages. Only 1 lecture by the tour guide on Laos history and culture, 2 food demos, and 1 tour of the ship's quarters on the 14 days itinerary. No organized fitness, music, performances or dancing activities. Plenty of lounge space for book reading and chatting. Embarkation in main ports are typical of river cruises but on the river banks to small villages, good footwear, strong legs and walking sticks are required. The crew did a good job in helping passengers to embark. At the Golden triangle, we only visited the Opium Museum, which is worth while. After the Golden Triangle, the ship sailed into many strong rapids, and was barely able to negotiate a few of them. When we reached the Chinese border, there is a strong rapid that the Champa Pandaw's engine was unable to bring the boat across. In two days, the captain failed to cross in six tries, while other ships and freighters did the crossing. In the last try, we were told to get off the ship to reduce weight. It was quite difficult for a group of seniors passengers to wear life jackets and climb up and down the ladder to get to the pebble beach landing. After the last try, we were told the engine was burned and a speed boat from China picked the passengers up and sailed the rest of the journey to Jinghong, our final destination in a speedboat. There was no way to enjoy the river banks sceneries on board the speed boat as compared to a river cruise boat. We were put up in a hotel for the last night of the cruise and as we wasted two days in running the rapid, we did not have a chance to do sight seeing in Xishuangbanna as originally scheduled. Overall, while the Champa Pandaw offered good services and excellent food on board of this voyage, the planning of the whole trip was poor. It appears that the ship does not have the power to run the rapids, it was not well equipped with communication gear to contact headoffice, and since the maiden voyage, the ship was never able to make it to Jinghong. The itinerary was frequently changed and we still don't understand why the scheduled Burma visit was cancelled due to safety reasons, yet we were told to land on the Burmese side when the ship offloaded the passengers to reduce weight. We paid a fair price for the trip but we feel that the value for money did not live to expectation. We feel that the company has not done adequate preparation on the equipment side, and have not learned from the Laos Pandaw experience while still market the segment to Jinghong as its final destination. We hope the company can offer some explanations. Read Less
Sail Date October 2016
What a greeting we got the window to board was one hour we had come from Tokyo by bullet then a Taxi that did not know were the port was then we got out of the Taxi two crew took our bags and lead us to the gangway very nice touch, on ... Read More
What a greeting we got the window to board was one hour we had come from Tokyo by bullet then a Taxi that did not know were the port was then we got out of the Taxi two crew took our bags and lead us to the gangway very nice touch, on entering the Ship 23 min early we were treated to you are early sit there till your cabin is ready , our party was made up of a 86 year old a 70 & a 60 year old the attitude shown was rude abrupt discourteous and not a credit to the French people it followed on with the reception counter staff also French The cabin was great but no list is given on what is included in you package and what is paid for the most of the cabin crew & restaurant staff are great not French the off handed French restaurant manger falling over the French customers but keeping away from the Australians Food quality could not be described a fine dining it had its moment but over all was not up to P&O at half the cost P&O , Carnival Line & Princess Line are able to handle 2500 passengers boarding in four hours this boat could not handle 200 Read Less
Sail Date May 2015
AMA Waterways Myanmar I've just taken the 10 day cruise up the Irawaddy river. Although I have taken cruises with companies like Regent, Seabourn, Silversea, etc, this is my first river cruise. I chose AMA because my travel agent ... Read More
AMA Waterways Myanmar I've just taken the 10 day cruise up the Irawaddy river. Although I have taken cruises with companies like Regent, Seabourn, Silversea, etc, this is my first river cruise. I chose AMA because my travel agent said it was highly regarded for luxury river cruising and their literature promoted a "brand new" ship for this cruise whose maiden voyage was in November 2014. Sadly this does not appear to be the case at all. The ship looks very worn for just four months of service and surely must be a "refurbished" ship. The craftsmanship and finish is very poor and not at all up to the standards which one would expect; for example there are cracks in the ceilings and walls, old and messy caulking through the the ship, bathroom grout which is discolored in places and pieces of tile which are not even, pieces of molding which do not meet and are poorly installed, flooring which is discolored and shoddily varnished, light fixtures are old looking and many have paint overspray. There is very little insulation between rooms ( I heard my neighbor with a hacking cough for 10 days as if she were in my bathroom) and hallway noise and footsteps above are also quite loud. As far as upkeep and maintenance is concerned, it is obvious that AMA has not brought any of its European or international standards to its local operation here. There are spiderwebs on railings, the balcony outside my room is not clean and neither are the windows on the sliding glass doors, planters have weeds growing in them, flags are tattered and blackened, and bathroom towels are often worn and are soiled. Even more disturbing is the mold and mildew in the showers. It is obvious that no one has ever used a brush to clean it. What are they thinking? I've had cleaner bathrooms at a Motel 6. And some of the A/C vents are dirty and black, particularly in the dining room. All it takes is a moist towel to clean that off. I just don't get it. Food is mediocre but I'm sure they are doing the best with the ingredients they have. Do not expect the level and quality of food found on a luxury cruise. House wine is acceptable but does not change and becomes monotonous after a few days. I must say the staff members are extremely friendly and polite and try their best to please. But it is obvious they have not been properly trained in housekeeping and maintenance. I am astonished that AMA has not properly trained them because I'm sure hey have the potential to learn. I would not recommend this cruise to seasoned, high-end luxury travelers and I would be hesitant to consider any AMA Waterways ship in the future. If you want to see Burma, I would suggest a land-based trip to the highlights (Bagan and Inle Lake) or a luxury cruise which calls on the west coast or Rangoon with excursion options.   Read Less
Sail Date March 2015
We have just returned from the Viking Emerald - China's Cultural Delights August 2013 First and foremost, think twice before traveling to China in August. The temperatures were near 100 with 100% humidity daily. The trip has a lot of ... Read More
We have just returned from the Viking Emerald - China's Cultural Delights August 2013 First and foremost, think twice before traveling to China in August. The temperatures were near 100 with 100% humidity daily. The trip has a lot of walking and stairs - the temperature makes the excursions more difficult to handle. Consider your level of fitness, if stairs leave you out of breath or walking more than 1 mile is not going to happen, consider a different trip. You will also encounter lots of pollution. The Viking staff goes out of their way to be helpful and does a good job of taking care of you during your stay, however the trip does leave a lot to be desired. If you are paying more than their  price deal you are paying too much. The ship is warm and damp - with temperatures regulated globally rather than per cabin. The dampness = a musty odor. Floors are uneven and the carpet needs to be re stretched. The cabins are a good size and comfortable. During your river cruise there is a daily excursion, but the majority of the day/night is spent cruising the river. You will have a 3-4 hr excursion which generally includes a 30 min to 1 hour bus ride to your destination. Viking takes you on an extreme number of shopping experiences - rugs, silk, porcelain, jade all served with a mediocre Chinese lunch. You will be taken through a factory and shown the process, with every tour ending in a shop where you can purchase something. If you are not a shopper, beware  of your excursions are shopping experiences. The on board food is plentiful - but quality and taste are not always great. The land portion of the trip is fast paced, the hotels nice, the food plentiful - but not gourmet. You will spend less than 24 hours in most locations and only see a quick highlight of the locations you are visiting. Meals are served on lazy Susan - drinks are usually a warm water, soda or beer - no wine is offered on land. You are encouraged to tip daily for guides and bus drivers- I would suggest you take $100 American Dollars for these tips. Additionally you can charge the on board tips, but if you want to ensure that the tips are going to those you truly appreciated, tip them directly. What you will see and experience is a wonderful culture with people who are genuinely happy and optimistic about their country and their opportunities for a better future. You will interact with local children and their grandparents who greet you at every port. You will see China's richest treasures in Shanghai, Beijing, Xi'an and at several stops along the Yangtze. You will sail through beautiful gorges and past mega industrial sites. You will leave with an overview and appreciation for China.   Read Less
Sail Date August 2013
Out Viking River Crusie was disappointing from the start overpriced, 2 for 1 sale, that is always on The Emerald Centruy Riverboat is old and dated, musty, damp. and dreary. The young Chisese staff try very hard and many are great at ... Read More
Out Viking River Crusie was disappointing from the start overpriced, 2 for 1 sale, that is always on The Emerald Centruy Riverboat is old and dated, musty, damp. and dreary. The young Chisese staff try very hard and many are great at their jobs, but are always rushed, confused, which leads to a lot of noisy confused and chaotic dining. The entertainment is odd, and very elementary. The food is served Lazy Susan style, so everything is palced on a spinning platform, often no order or reason. One person is spinning one way, one the other and things get spilled and glasses knocked over. It is noisy and pressured which makes it very hard to visit with your tablemates The tours are often to Viking owned "safe" shops, for carpets, embroaiary, jade, art, etc and all the shops are very expensive. Overall I think Viking is a poorly run company, the Chinese staff try very hard but they are so pressured. Tip the staff directly as Viking bills tips put on your tab to their carpet company and I doubt the realy sevice people see much of the tips. Viking wants and pushed a lot of tipping. One should bring at least 100 $1.00 bilss for buses, local guides and anyone else. Other guides want $10-15 a day per person. I would rate this trip 3/10 or 2 star This was a big disappointment to me and my travel companions, Invest your travel dollars elsewhere. Vijing was difficult to deal with from day one. When you call them, expect to be on hold always, 10 minutes up to an hour. Think twice   Read Less
Sail Date July 2013
The Amalotus was new so no excuses in most areas of comment. The ships hold approx 126 people however for the second time this season there was only 26. What an absolute blessing, when it is full the restaurants and lounge areas would have ... Read More
The Amalotus was new so no excuses in most areas of comment. The ships hold approx 126 people however for the second time this season there was only 26. What an absolute blessing, when it is full the restaurants and lounge areas would have been extremely uncomfortable. You would think with so few people on board that there might have been a friendly atmosphere for travelling however stubborn, older people of any nationality always makes for a challenge. The company APT has many strict rules about how to board the ship and disembark for excursions etc, however the old people we travelled with arrogantly and dangerously refused to wear their life jackets because "I have a boat at home and never wear one "etc etc what they failed to realise with all their wisdom and life experience that they then place others at risk and would in an emergency expect other to come to their safety in a risk situation. Not acceptable the rules are their for everyone know and accept this before you go or don't go! APT also sells these cruises to any one over the age of 40, this is a myth, if you are under 55 you will feel like you have made a huge mistake and also you will not be made to feel welcome, old people are bullies and treat other adults as children to get their own way -- it's a sad fact that left us wondering at what age do old people become so nasty and manipulative The ship looks new as it still should, the first lunch on arrival was a buffet and a la carte, salads, fruit feature as the best options, the desserts as mentioned in some other reviews are not worth looking forward to, small selection, unimaginative there was obviously no pastry chef on board, fresh fruit and poor quality pastries are the best you can hope for kind of like cheap supermarket fare. Knowing this we took chocolate and our own goodies for deserts The lobby shop is a waste of time, loads of rubbish that you can pick up anywhere at markets, nothing to provide a memory of your trip and nothing of any value APT has failed on the sundeck, it is furnished with old crabby cane furniture, it is already mouldy, there is no music no atmosphere and bad decor and the bar area is not what they presented in their brochure photographs -- misleading but that's the way that operate! We had a suite, very dark they have not incorporated the colours and fabrics of the Vietnam/ Cambodian culture, a missed opportunity there The bar has a drink each night for everyone that is complimentary, it was about 50/50 as to whether this is drinkable, mostly very strong made of local spirits, however drinks were cheap anyway approx $6-$8 for a cocktail The aircon in our suite was terrific and much needed, due to their being less people on board getting access to the DVD library and the interest was not too much of a problem The balcony area had 2 chairs in the suite but only one for other cabins- what a stupid thing to do, a romantic cruise down the Mekong and only one of you and sit outside for the view- another example of cost cutting and bad planning, the amenities in the suites were cheap rubbish, in an effort to appear ECO friendly the 5 star extras you are paying for have been sacrificed. The bathroom was great wood panelling a huge bath with jets and spacious shower the linen was good quality the bed comfortable The chefs are Indonesian and from the Philippines, so no flair to food simple only. Breakfast is also a simple meal so special choices here pretty much less than you would have in your own home, the restaurant has no atmosphere no music just a silent room - another missed opportunity The floors in the rooms are fake wood and due to the extreme heat are already starting to warp and buckle, every small every simple hut along the Mekong has cable TV and satellite service however APT cannot get an antenna or dish to provide this service We did our own thing on excursions which made it possible to fit in more and get a better feel for where ever we were, if you are capable of only shuffling along stay with the guide, again this was not a trip for people who were not physically active, but again like so many of these trips old sick people with less mobility provide challenges and delays for staff and other travellers- please do not do this, some trips state that you need to be mobile for a reason and climbing off and on small rocky boats is precarious. The evacuation procedure was not done until the afternoon of the second day so just lucky we did not sink on the first?? What is with cruise ships their first priority should always be safety -- you are on your own anyway as only a handful of staff speak any English The breakfast buffet has kid's cereals on it -- why? There were no kids on board thank goodness -- please cruise companies cater to the adults who are paying 5 star prices The sheets in your cabin are not changed daily you would need to request this- and don't forget this cruise is sold as a 5 star experience, if this is what you want you will have to ask for it They ran out of tea bags lucky that I had brought some of my own????? Again great planning- who is thinking of what the guests need We bought bunches of flowers at the local markets and put them in our cabin as the cruise will not do this for you even though you are in a suite, and you will have to fight to get a vase to put them in- good luck The seafood was for the most part excellent and all of the fresh fruit- no rich food at all so great for a diet plan when you remember the absence of dessert temptations. Because most of the places you are visiting both in Vietnam and Cambodia have no differences in terms of attractions and scenery you will visit 3 silk weaving places and several identical markets and 3 floating villages, - hard to maintain the same enthusiasm but that's where you are in the world and that is all there is to see , the small villages are a massive step back in time, no electricity some of them and horse and cart for transport but all the people are friendly and there is a percentage that want a piece of you -- you are a wealthy tourist right? The guides provide an Ok service, they really need to be able to communicate properly one of ours would tell different groups of people different times for departure so some would be stressed out and some relaxed- they would sometimes change the times for breakfast and not tell you- hopeless, if you question these confusing practices you could be accused of being racist and well we know how defensive that response is and how unnecessary The ship docks midstream every night except at phom penh The Cambodian guide straight out lied about his countries history in an attempt to hide his kings' actions during their very famous genocide, now why would a guide do that you have to ask yourself, the guides have their hands out for tips frequently and they don't always deserve it Despite all being poor they have a university education are well travelled and would be quite happy for you to sponsor them. Because you are travelling with geriatrics you will miss out on the most special places for example, Oudong one of the ancient capital city in Cambodia, we decided to go here and give a miss the visit to yet another newly built temple What a great decision thanks to our own research a special amazing place don't miss it if you have the chance we walked around as much as we could -- beautiful APT changed our free choice dinners in both destinations to inferior restaurant options leaving us very disappointed -- no explanation of course just suck it up The ship may be new but is badly built in Vietnam and they are famous for their poor quality build and it is furnished with dated examples of Asian furniture sale stock, it will age and deteriorate quickly The scenery remains unchanged for the whole trip so I guess the idea of doing this trip is to enjoy the cruise which you will have trouble doing when it is full, the public areas like many river cruise ships do not cater for all on board so your cabin takes on a higher importance. Also having seen hours and hours and hours of Cambodia by bus I can tell you that there is nothing of any interest there, bad roads, no facilities, no infrastructure you are better off spending a week in Siem reap and doing day trips around there and also spend a few days at least in phnon penh it's a great fun city with easy access to museums and the killing fields and do a Mekong river cruise from there for the day -- its easy, plenty of good quality, affordable river cruise ships, they provide meals and then you have seen all there is to see. This cruise is touted as the thing you must do after European river cruising however -- think very hard about what you expect and measure that against what you are going to get, you do your cruising mostly at night anyway when its pitch black and there are no views. Honestly if I had my time over I would do what I have suggested above.   Read Less
Sail Date March 2012
I just returned from Viking River Cruises' Imperial Jewels of China, September 18 -- 30, 2011. This is a once in a life time kind of trip. I am rather disappointed with the misrepresentations by Viking River Cruises. Viking River ... Read More
I just returned from Viking River Cruises' Imperial Jewels of China, September 18 -- 30, 2011. This is a once in a life time kind of trip. I am rather disappointed with the misrepresentations by Viking River Cruises. Viking River Cruises brochure touted the "Viking Emerald" as the "Yangtze's most elegant and newest ship." It was definitely not an elegant or luxury cruise ship by any stretch of the imagination. The carpeting in the hallway was uneven. There were little crawly creatures and cockroach in the bathroom. According to the Program Director, Iowa Xian, Viking River Cruises bought the ship from Century two years ago, a Chinese company. As a matter of fact, all onboard literature referred to the ship as "The Viking Century Emerald." The ship's captain and crew were Chinese. The captain did not speak English. There was no professional staff or entertainment. The Program Director was a Tour Escort turned Program Director, and who openly expressed desire to return to his old job as tour escort. There was not even a theatre or show room. They just put up chairs in the so called "Observation Lounge" on Deck 5. Presentations were displayed on a stand-up projection screen. The same set up for movie viewing (The Last Emperor.) The menu choices were limited. I asked for an entrée without potatoes. I was told it could not be done. I was asked to pick from a stand-by choice of chicken or salmon. I asked for Eggs Benedict without the Hollandaise sauce. After waiting for 30 minutes, I was given a poached egg, period! It opened to question on the skills of the kitchen staff! This is definitely not worth the price Viking River Cruises is charging for the trip. I am also very disappointed with Viking River Cruises customer service. I booked directly with Viking when they had a 2-for-1 sale. I was shocked to see that they charged foreign transaction fee on my deposit. Later, I gave the booking to a travel agent, and did not have to pay any more foreign transaction fee. The customer should be informed about the foreign transaction fee. I could have used a different credit card which did not charge foreign transaction fees. The Customer Service personnel at the toll-free number provided misinformation. I was told that they used small planes of 50 passengers and therefore must stick to luggage weight restrictions. This was far from truth. We flew on regularly scheduled commercial flights. It turned out that the best part of the intra-China flights was that we never had to handle our own luggage and no worry about luggage allowance. The tour escort had "nice cousins." Read Less
Sail Date September 2011
Flight was ok, flew connecting through Toronto (continental) to Air Canada first class. No problems going there, food was all right, dinner was pretty good on the plane, breakfast not so much. Service very good, but not the best, booked ... Read More
Flight was ok, flew connecting through Toronto (continental) to Air Canada first class. No problems going there, food was all right, dinner was pretty good on the plane, breakfast not so much. Service very good, but not the best, booked through Viking Air. Arrive in Shanghai to find the Viking crew standing outside, and we were told to wait at an ATM machine as they were waiting on other guests. We waited there for close to 50 minutes (what's that saying about first impressions?). Finally after 20 hours of flying we got on the bus to go to the Portman Ritz. Upon arrival Daniel, our tour guide for the entire trip, proceeded to help us get a smoking room and welcomed us. The hotel was wonderful, and we ate in the Chinese restaurant attached to the hotel. Very good, and something that is easy to miss in this hotel is the 2nd floor bar, where they have live jazz every night from about 8pm till midnight. Also this bar is half smoking, half non-smoking, and it seemed like no one was on the non-smoking side all the night we were there. The next day, we woke up nice and early to go touring. First we go to some sort of garden, it was very nice looking, and we got some free time to visit the merchants. After that we stopped on the Bund to look at the river and skyline. Then we were brought to the first "Tourist Trap", the embroidery "factory", which was mostly a store with pushy salesman, and a restaurant in the back. The food was mediocre at best, and Chinese (which you learned to hate by the end). After this we went to the Shanghai museum that had some interesting coins and jade pieces, but it was nothing to go nuts about, definitely worth a visit though, and was one of the authentic highlights of Shanghai. At night, we went to an Acrobat show, which was quite good, but between the jet lag, and touring all day, it was very difficult to stay awake. The following day we were transitioning to the airport to go Wuhan, but not before we got to just one more "Tourist Trap" in Shanghai. That morning we went to the rug-making factory (woke up nice and early for it too). It had 2 people making rugs when you first walk in, then a shopping area easily 10 times the size of the "factory". We had a box lunch, which could not be consumed. We flew to Wuhan, which took off about an hour late and went to a Provincial museum with a remains of a tomb. Definitely a highlight of the trip, and was quite amazing. We heard them play the bells from the tomb. Which was quite nice. We then went to board our ship, the Viking Emerald. Once on board the ship, we realized this is no cruise like we from the United States are used to. They have no food for long stretches of the day except peanuts, and ramen noodles, however for some reason they offered an all you can drink policy for a very reasonable price (I believe $175 for 4 days, but included premiums like Grey Goose and Hennessey). The room was cruise ship small, but about the same as any regular cruise boat. There was no smoking lounge anywhere, so smokers beware in the bad weather. While there was a Chinese BBQ on the back of the ship, it went completely unused, and the only reason we knew it existed was due to the large sign saying BBQ with pictures of food, that looked considerably better than the food you were eating the whole trip. While on the boat we encountered many poor dishes, and it made me dream of such splendid meals by the great American chef, Colonel Sanders, whose food quality is outstanding compared to his trip (please note, I find KFC to be repulsive). I however digress as we did eventually make it to a KFC next to the Great Wall, not because there weren't good restaurants near the wall, as I am sure there were, but out of desperation for something familiar. The boat did feature a very inexpensive and nice spa, that was a plus, but they offered no enrichment activities, and the biggest show of the week was the crew talent show, which consisted of Chinese chefs trying to sing which in polite terms, reminded me of watching a prison rodeo on TV, where all the prisoners kept smiling while being attacked by a bull. The Yangtze was very beautiful however, and many of the sites we saw were very good. This includes The Three Gorges, which were stunning, the Dam, the locks, and a beautiful pagoda on a hillside. These tours were quite well executed except for one stop, involving the Viking School. The Viking School was an absolute disgrace that should give great shame to Viking. This insulting school "sponsored" by Viking, consisted of the kids acting as a tourist attraction, in an overly run down school made of depressing of cement, with pictures of the Great Leaders of China on the walls. There is a broken basketball hoop in the courtyard however, and it is questionable the amount of donation Viking has actually made to this school. If I had to guess it was no more than a $1000, and I am pretty sure the buses the arranged to go visit the school outweigh their donation every year. Not only was the condition of the school extraordinarily bad, it was depressing in and of itself to be at such a horrid place on vacation. This may be cold-hearted, but the Chinese people chose to have a communist government, and therefore deserve their communist school, capitalism does not need to fund it, and frankly the funding that Viking gives to the school makes capitalism look bad. But I digress. After leaving the river cruise we went to a cruise see the pandas, which was ok, and had another awful lunch in a hotel. What was amazing about all of our food stops, is that they only provided you with one glass of soda, and refills could be purchased. For the $14,000 that we paid (without airfare), one would think that soda would be reasonably included. After we flew to Xi'an where we greeted with the Terra Cotta Warriors. This was the highlight of the trip that everyone should see. It was truly fascinating and awesome. They gave us an adequate amount of time there, and it did not feel rushed. That evening we decided to leave our tour (as we really did not want to give Viking any more money), and g to dinner by ourselves. We went to Huili Japanese Restaurant, as suggested by our Amex Concierge. We hired a hotel limo (Kempinski Hotel) for $80 for 4 hours (a brand new BMW 750li), and went downtown for the evening. Our tour guide seemed surprised that we would wander off on our own, but this seemed more like a sales pitch for the event that evening they were upselling. We had a wonderful meal at Huili and would recommend it to anyone. It was the 2nd best meal we had the whole trip. Our meal came to $38 Dollars including tip, and consisted of 7 courses each, and 4 extra large beers. They do not speak English however, but with the help of my phone, we used Google Translate to tell them what we wanted, and it worked perfectly. We then stopped at a Wal-Mart just to see the difference between a U.S. Wal-Mart and a Chinese Wal-Mart. The next day we flew to Beijing for the last part of our pre-extension trip. We were brought to the "least visited" part of the wall, which felt like the most visited part of the wall. It was packed with tourists, and there is a place where all the tour guides hang all their flags in front of the gift shop next to the KFC, and rows of tourist traps, and I counted at least 15 flags. If you are looking for a private and intimate experience with one of the world's great wonders, look at other tours. After we had our "lunch of local specialties" which consisted of us being paraded through another tourist trap jade factory place, to the back where they had a huge dining room with 10 different tour groups. At this place we had a meal we could not consume, and I was about 30 seconds away from standing up and screaming, but didn't, as many of the people on our trip were clearly trying to make the best of their vacation. I will explain why they did not seem to care later, but once again I digress. We then went to see a recital by the Peking Opera performers, where the duck was quite good, and the performance was quite bad. It was unbelievably annoying and I do not recommend it. We stayed at the Regent hotel in Beijing, where the service was quite excellent, and the hotel was beautiful. When we woke up, we went to see Tiananmen Square and the Forbidden City in extreme heat, and while it was quite fascinating the heat got to me after a while, and of course someone got lost in the group and it took us an hour to find them because they did not have an international cell phone. We then skipped their "lunch" which I am sure was at some sort of tourist trap, and we went for lunch and dinner on our own at the hotel, not trusting the food of Viking any longer. The next day we flew to Guilin to being our Hong Kong extension. In Guilin we stayed at the Shangri-La, which had wonderful food, and our meals were in the hotel. We went down riverboats once again and experienced the 5-hour trip down the river, in what seemed like part 2 of the Three Gorges. It was truly a waste of time, and we would have appreciated an extra day in Hong Kong. When we did reach Hong Kong, the trip was more to our pace. There was a small introductory tour in the beginning that brought you to the major sites and 2 days of free time, where we had custom suits made, wonderful dinners on our own, and we even took a jet boat to Macau. This was the highlight of our whole trip, and we realized the reason why... Viking wasn't there to mess it up. While I could not mention everything in the above post, I can say that there were many things we learned from this trip. We learned that as we are seasoned travelers, who have been to over 41 countries, we do not need a corny tour to show what is good, and at the price we paid, could have arranged everything using private cars, first class flights, and our own restaurant preferences. The average Viking guests are traveling upper middle classes, with little to no demands or requests. There are many teachers, retired factory managers, etc. on the trip of their lives, and it shows. There are no repeat performances, there is no chance they would ever come back to China, and this is their dream trip. They are afraid of the unknown, and the tour guide engages this perfectly. This is not a cruise like Crystal, where you discuss the other 40 countries you have been to, or compare notes and complaints compared to other trips you have been on. This group of travelers creates an issue, as they do not demand the service that a truly affluent traveler knows to demand. While this may sound incredibly snobby, it is simply true, which is why I believe there are so many positive reviews of this trip. This trip brought us to 4 tourist traps, which were applauded by the guests around us, while I longingly looked out the windows at the true culture we were missing. We were squished onto crowded planes for short domestic flights of 4 hours after delays (which our tour guide told us were quite common in China), and not made aware that we urgently needed to upgrade to first class (after all, if we had booked it ourselves, it would have been first class, but because they were only supposed to be 1 hour trips, we didn't go through the effort). Looking back however, this trip would not be appropriate to upgrade to first class, as you would likely outcast yourself from the rest of the travelers. This compared to Crystal where it seemed like an echo on the one flight we took from St. Petersburg to Russia, as to why they did not offer a first class option. This trip is not for the well seasoned, and overall is not a very good trip. The food is repulsive for the entire trip, and we found when we got home we spent nearly $1,000 feeding ourselves. The loads of corny jokes from the tour guides such as "my cousins help you with your bags" and "my cousins have blocked the internet" were sad and desperate attempts, that made me feel like I was in a really crappy travel comedy film you watch during a Tuesday afternoon rain delay for a 3rd rate baseball city. You really need to consider anyone else, or consider doing it on your own, you should be more than able to considering the service provided by the hotel we stayed at. This trip was pathetic, and easily the worst trip I have ever taken, but since I like to end on a positive note, all the hotels were very nice, but Viking did not own them (or the ship for that matter). Also, you never had to handle your bags, as they had porters at every stop (which our tour guide referred to as cousins). Read Less
Sail Date August 2011

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