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17 Asia River Cruise Reviews

We chose this cruise because we really enjoyed our Viking cruise in France, and the excursions covered a lot of sights we wanted to see. Unfortunately, this one didn't go as well as our French cruise. There were many problems on the ... Read More
We chose this cruise because we really enjoyed our Viking cruise in France, and the excursions covered a lot of sights we wanted to see. Unfortunately, this one didn't go as well as our French cruise. There were many problems on the Emerald: Moldy smell in many areas: rooms/hallways. Had to change rooms to the second alternative room, because the first alternative room also smelled moldy. Room attendant, Marvin: We ran out of toiletries, including toilet paper. He didn't replenish them. Had to call desk for more. His cart was outside our room everyday. One day I took a soap because we were low, and the cart contents never changed. Every day, everything was neatly arranged and full, except for the hole left by the one soap I took. I don' think anybody got new toiletries. He never cleaned the rug. It was filthy by the end. I put a dirty bathroom glass in the center of counter to exchange for a clean one. He just put the dirty one on an old coaster and put it behind the faucet as if it were a clean glass. I left my robe on the couch one day. He just wadded it up and put a pillow over it to cover it. Basically all he did was make the bed every day. He didn't understand anything we tried to say to him. Fiona was an excellent server, as was Alice. The main emcee gentleman was pretty impossible to understand. Also, the Shangri-La hotel in Guilin was not a good choice. It was overrun with children, and if you didn't like seafood, the food choices were just vegetables. I had tomatoes, olives and bread for dinner. It's a good thing I decided against the chicken, because a fellow passenger told me the next day that it had made him sick. Also, towels and toiletries were on the skimpy side. All other hotels were wonderful. Ray, our guide, was outstanding, and totally saved this trip! He made all the shore excursions fun. (Unfortunately, nobody could make the Chinese Acrobat show fun. It was not terribly acrobatic, or interesting.) Other shows were good. Read Less
Sail Date April 2016
As usual, Viking arranged five star hotels and an excellent guide! Our hotel in Shanghai, The Fairmount Peace Hotel was beautiful and right across the street form the Bund, or River Walk. The ship was not as nice as the longship we cruised ... Read More
As usual, Viking arranged five star hotels and an excellent guide! Our hotel in Shanghai, The Fairmount Peace Hotel was beautiful and right across the street form the Bund, or River Walk. The ship was not as nice as the longship we cruised on in Holland, but it was clean and the staff was excellent. Our cabin was very roomy, and we enjoyed our verandah as we cruised down the Yangtze River. Tibet was the most unusual place we have ever been! I loved the people dressed in traditional clothes. The food in our hotels was great, but the restaurants we visited all seemed to serve the same food, and it was rather bland. I did like the Chinese hamburgers-pork loin on a steamed bun. I know the restaurant on the way to the Summer Palace was convenient, but the food was not good. The Shanghai Acrobats were incredible, as was the show in Xian. The Terra Cotta Warriors were a highlight for me, and The Shangri-La Hotel in Xian was the nicest hotel I have stayed in. The Green Fish restaurant at the Ritz Carlton in Bejing was great. The Three Gorges tour was beautiful. The tour guide can make or break a trip, and our tour guide Richard was the very best! He looked after every member of our group of 32, and shared his heartfelt memories of growing up in China. He recapped the next day's plans each day and arranged our many flights, making it as easy as possible for us all. Read Less
Sail Date August 2015
Although this is presented as a cruise the time on the water is only half of the trip. Nor did we embark at Shanghai but the option to choose Chonqing is not in the menu. This was our first experience of cruising since both my husband ... Read More
Although this is presented as a cruise the time on the water is only half of the trip. Nor did we embark at Shanghai but the option to choose Chonqing is not in the menu. This was our first experience of cruising since both my husband and I suffer from seasickness and had not thought it wise to try the oceans! The "Imperial Jewels of China", from Beijing to Shanghai is a once in a lifetime trip. It could hardly be called a "holiday" since leisure time is extremely limited at the beginning and end. Excursions to the "must do" sites such as Tiananmen Square, the Forbidden City, the Great Wall, the Terra Cotta Warriors etc set off very early in the day to try to avoid the worst of the crowds (not apparently successful!) so leisurely lie in bed is not on the programme. And even on the ship the excursions and activities are time consuming. But apart from the endless crowds and the rather disappointing weather this is an amazing experience. The vastness of a country you see only a portion of, the different culture, the overwhelming scenery - so different as you pass through different regions, the seething crowds ...... The cruise part of the itinerary we enjoyed immensely despite a couple of wet days. Unused to the possibly more luxurious cruise ships we found The Emerald more than comfortable and the crew delightful. If you want more luxury stay put in the hotels that Viking arranged for the rest of the trip! We were unfortunate since the night we embarked at Chongqing was the night that the Chinese cruise ship went down in the Yangtze with the loss of about 400 lives. This impacted on our timetable but the crew were more than helpful and reassuring. We had hoped to be sunbathing on our stateroom balcony but sadly the weather was not that kind. In fact we saw the sun on few occasions which, coming as we do from Andalucia in Spain, was disappointing. The pollution in the big cities hides the sun and the weather systems down in the mountains mean the sky is often grey with heavy cloud and drizzle. So don't take this trip if you want luxurious leisure or if you have difficulty in walking for long periods of time or if bad weather might put you off or if you are allergic to crowds. Take it if you want to experience something totally different and have your mind blown by the "Imperial Jewels of China", it's something you will never forget! P.S. The Viking tour guides are fantastic, particularly ours, the lovely "Johanna", and make things run like clockwork even on such a tight and demanding schedule. Read Less
Sail Date June 2015
We picked this trip, since Myanmar was an entirely new and exotic destination. The Shangri La hotel in Bangkok was beautiful. We flew to Mandalay for a short tour and where we boarded the boat. The accommodations are very simple, but ... Read More
We picked this trip, since Myanmar was an entirely new and exotic destination. The Shangri La hotel in Bangkok was beautiful. We flew to Mandalay for a short tour and where we boarded the boat. The accommodations are very simple, but practical. It was the same flat bottom style on the Irrawaddy as the Vietnam/Cambodia trip on the Mekong. The food was fresh and delicious - we liked the many local dishes on board. Everything is casual and open seating. Every day we stopped at different villages, with something to see or learn at each one. We saw so many Buddhas and beautiful Temples and Pagodas, with monks and monasteries everywhere. We learned about the history of the country. The education resources are very limited. Politics were bad, but recently things seem to have improved a bit. We had lectures, a movie, various talks, guest monks and craft persons on board. People in the villages were often poor, but seemed very friendly and got by OK. We were on all kinds of fun transportation. Our guide, Dorothy, was wonderful and so full of interesting information. She taught us all, much about her country and often surprised us with a song, a small gift, or a funny story. When we returned from dusty walks, the crew on our boat collected our shoes and sandals we wore and returned them cleaned off to our doorsteps! Nice! We ended Myranmar in Yangon for a couple of nights and then flew back to Bangkok. The only negative was that nearly all 50 of the guests ended with respiratory infections- coughing mostly. Perhaps from so much dust, close quarters, and sharing of serving utensils on board. We were not warned until we were on the ship about the minimal emergency health resources on the trip. Luckily no one had an emergency. Also, minimal wifi available along the river, except in hotel stops. There are 3 main levels on board- access by steep stairs only. Top level is shaded. Read Less
Sail Date February 2015
Joined the ship in Saigon for a 3 night / 4 day cruise to Phnom Penh. Cost was approximately £500 (GBP) per night for a double cabin. Passengers met for registration at the Intercontinental Asiana in Saigon. It was disappointing that ... Read More
Joined the ship in Saigon for a 3 night / 4 day cruise to Phnom Penh. Cost was approximately £500 (GBP) per night for a double cabin. Passengers met for registration at the Intercontinental Asiana in Saigon. It was disappointing that Pandaw did not arrange for coffee to be available during what turned out to be a 2 hour wait for transport to the ship. Not a good first impression. That said, instead of the expected 2 hour bus ride to My Tho on the Mekong delta to meet the ship we had a 10 minute ride to Saigon Port and the bonus of an extra half day on the water as we proceeded down the Saigon River to the Mekong delta from there. This included a spectacular sunset. The ship itself is very beautiful and well maintained. There are 16 double cabins - and our cruise had 28 passengers. All were middle aged (or older) Europeans, Australians or Canadians. The atmosphere was friendly and enjoyable throughout with free seating at meals and all local beers and spirits included. Cabins are spacious and the bathrooms amazingly large and functional with an excellent shower. Without exception, the staff are wonderful. On the downside, the excursions and the food were slightly disappointing, especially given the price paid for what is classed as a "top of the range" cruise. The fact that the cruise took place during the lunar New Year (Tet) meant that the river was not its normal bustling self and the floating market had everything except any floating markets!! The excursions ashore were not particularly interesting (and not as advertised) - again maybe due to Tet - though it was always good to get off the ship and stretch ones legs for a couple of hours. The food was OK but nothing to write home about - interestingly we had much better on a 1 night cruise in Halong Bay (which cost half as much per night). We also thought it slightly mean that a "house wine" could not be provide for dinner. All-in-all a very enjoyable experience, though a little expensive for what it was. For us, 3 nights was certainly enough. Read Less
Sail Date February 2015
This was our first venture into China, so we booked all air and transfers through Viking. They flew us to Beijing a day early which was appreciated. We flew Air China which offered nothing out of the ordinary regarding space or food. It ... Read More
This was our first venture into China, so we booked all air and transfers through Viking. They flew us to Beijing a day early which was appreciated. We flew Air China which offered nothing out of the ordinary regarding space or food. It got us where we needed to be both directions. We were met by a Viking representative who took us to the beautiful Kerry Hotel. The bathroom here was the talk of the tour. It has the most high teck toilet I've ever used. It also offers a bountiful breakfast buffet, and a very nice evening buffet as well. We are very glad we did this trip in November. The temperatures were moderate to cool. Because of the APEC conference, factories in the Beijing area were closed for the week or so before hand and only half the cars (either odd or even license plates depending on the date of the day) were permitted to drive so air quality was better. We heard tales of very hot summer weather. Advice offered in other reviews led us to book starting in Beijing. This is indeed a very active tour, and since it begins with walking Tiananmen Square, the Forbidden City and the Great Wall the first two days very glad we packed our insoles. Because we arrived a bonus day early, we took the subway to the Summer Palace. Young people speak good enough English and were very helpful in finding stations and giving directions when we needed them. There is an optional tour to this Palace, but it is easily done on your own for less than $2, and you have the adventure to talk about. Day 5 included Xian and its Terra Cotta Warriors. Enough time there to get a good look and lots of photos. We didn't attend the optional Tang Dynasty show, but those who did were positively impressed. The following day we flew to Chongqing to board the Emerald which is leased from the Chinese. The staff is all Chinese and works very hard to insure a pleasant journey. The first few nights there were problems with temperature controls. Dining room very warm, cabins usually too warm, sometimes too cold. Food on the ship was plentiful and good. Food on tour was adequate. Meals on tour are usually served one course at a time. ie, the beans are put on a lazy susan. All people at the table help themselves. Pity the last person to be served, cause there isn't always enough. Then come the next 9 items, one at a time ending with soup or a slice of watermelon. So you may taste a bite of 10 dishes, and one of these is always tofu, and smalls bits of fish, pork or beef. One day we experienced hot pot. There are other comprehensive reviews and the Viking itinerary offers more touring details, so I'll let you know that the guides are wonderful. Their English is excellent, they are well versed in culture, history and current events. They find good restrooms on tour...sometimes there are lines because of limited western toilets for the ladies. They are able to answer questions forthrightly and give insight into the thoughts of young people. There is, it seems to me an excessive amount of residential building going on in most cities in China. "Ghost towns" seem to be everywhere. There is almost too much time for shopping, but some loved that aspect too. The multi talented crew presented two evening shows. One featured beautiful costumes and dances of various ethnic groups in China. The other was a very well done variety show. The fellow who poured our wine was a pretty good magician.! The cruise director gave interesting lectures on history and culture. We also enjoyed presentations on noodle making and Chinese art. There is no wifi on board! There are 8 computer stations on deck 6, and a terminal was usually available, though connections were very slow. Disembarkation and transfers to Shanghai were handled efficiently. We learned so much, saw and experienced more than we'd expected. Although there were a few people who had difficulty walking, I'd recommend this trip well before you need a knee replacement, or after you've healed because it is a very active trip and mobility issues will interfere with seeing many sites.   Read Less
Sail Date November 2014
We went on the 12 day vietnam Cambodia tour including 7 nights river cruising. Started in Saigon at Sheraton, had a wonderful Luke Nguyen inspired degustation at Xu, absolutely faultless! Went to the Tunnels which was an eye opener, ... Read More
We went on the 12 day vietnam Cambodia tour including 7 nights river cruising. Started in Saigon at Sheraton, had a wonderful Luke Nguyen inspired degustation at Xu, absolutely faultless! Went to the Tunnels which was an eye opener, especially when one person at the tunnels told us he had lived in the tunnels for 12 years during the vietnam war...unbeleivable!!!!! Did an amazing cookery class in Saigon. Breakfast at Sheraton was brilliant, our guide in Saigon was great. After 2 days we got on the boat, which was in good condition, aparently only a couple of years old, I believe. The staff on the cruise were very good and tried to learn our names and what we liked to have, they tried hard to please. The food was okay, and the steak was excellent although sometimes a little rare. The salads became a bit boring and the menu was a bit limiting. The wine was often off or undrinkable, however each time we complained of this, which was often, they would replace with a slightly better wine that was not off. This was a bit tiresome and would have preferred that APT supply at least bottled wine of a better quality so often we purchased bottles wine. My husband complained, but it still kept happening. Vietnam and Cambodia was an eye opener, as to the amount of poverty, but the people seemed to be happy and clean. We were shocked by how the war had affected so many and cruising along you get to see the poverty which was very sad. The tour guides and cruise director had great sense of humour and spoke pretty good english. Some of the tours were too drawn out and could have been done in half the time, which often made it boring.i.e. In Siem Reap, we got up at 4.00 am to meet at 4.45 to go to Angkor Wat to take photos, which was a few minutes drive away, after getting tickets and after a short walk in, although the day was cloudy I still managed to get some nice shots. We then stood around doing nothing, and some wandered over to have a coffee or champagne and at 7.00 oclock , I was too bored by the waiting and went back to the hotel on a tuk tuk and advised the tour organiser of this. Whilst I was having breakfast I noticed several other people also did the same as me. The bus ride to Siem Reap was supposed to be 5 hrs, and we were told a few days before that they had been working on the bridge for the past couple of years and we could not go upstream any further and the trip could be perhaps 5.5 hrs. It was a very unconfortable 6.5 hrs, the road had been damaged by flooding some time previously and the road was extremely bumpy and dusty. We stopped twice for a toilet stop and were not given any lunch even though we started off at 8.00am but were told to purchase a snack at the WC stop, which consisted of chippies, biscuits etc. We got to the hotel and were told a club sandwhich with beer or softdrink had been organised but at our cost I thought this was not well handled by APT. A 6.5 hr bumpy dusty bus trip should have at least had a meal supplied by APT during the ride, especially when they had known the length of time it would take and what the road was like, as the floods had happened several months ago. .After the long and dusty bus ride some of our luggage was completely covered in dust and when at the hotel we put a back pack on the bed, which left a filthy brown mark, as it did on my clothes. The Sofitel in Siem Reap was very very nice in a beautiful setting. I had a cookery class, except they cancelled, even though there were 8 people wanting to do it and was booked in for a massage as a 2nd choice. APT later arranged a cooking class, at our cost, and we had to cancel the massage as it was at the same time, and could not make another time. The cooking class was nice and we had a lovely meal there. We were unable to get a return flight from Siem Reap and had to stay an extra night so we chose not to take the APT included flights and got a $500 rebate and purchased business class, although we cld not get a connecting flight from Singapore to home and also had to stay extra time there. We had been met at the airport in Saigon by APT, but we were only 1 couple out of 3 couples that were not given a delivery to the airport by APT as were leaving, but fortunately Sofitel,( as we chose to stay in a suite), kindly offered to take us there in their hotel car. Although we are avid small ship cruisers, and had not done any river cruising before, we have thought a lot about the trip since leaving and will probably try a river cruise in Europe at some stage, as we had met a lot of wonderful people on board Amalotus which made for an amazing time.   Read Less
Sail Date July 2014
If you are contemplating booking this cruise, I would recommend starting in Beijing and doing all the strenuous part of the tour first. Firstly the tour does involve lots of walking and steps, so it is not recommended for people with ... Read More
If you are contemplating booking this cruise, I would recommend starting in Beijing and doing all the strenuous part of the tour first. Firstly the tour does involve lots of walking and steps, so it is not recommended for people with mobility issues. Our tour guide David was excellent, and kept us fully informed of timings and meeting places, and he kept us amused with tales of his childhood experiences and day to day life in China which was extremely interesting, It was also great not to have to worry about lifting heavy suitcases everywhere, as Viking took great care of coordinating and checking in our luggage, so all we had to do was identify it after each internal flight, and it was promptly delivered to our respective hotels. The land tours were well coordinated, taking in Tiananmen Square, the Forbidden City, and Great Wall. For me, the highlight of the trip was flying to Xian to see the Terracotta Warriors. All the hotels we stayed in were equivalent to 4/5 star and of a very high standard. The Kerry Hotel in Beijing had a complimentary mini bar which was stocked daily with beers and soft drinks, and the bathroom was very opulent. The food in all the hotels was buffet style and very good quality and choice. The cabins on the Viking Emerald are spacious, and with a balcony, but unfortunately the river was shrouded in mist/fog and smog which is apparently normal, and the guide in Chonquing told us that they only have about 5 days of sun each , so needless to say, most of the time it was like looking through lace curtains, which was quite disappointing. The trip wasn't very relaxing, as Viking do not plan too much down time, and personally I think they include too many trips to museums. I Think it would be preferential to offer alternatives, if you do not want to go to another museum. The latest time we woke up was 0700, which is very early day in day out, but I guess that we had to avoid the constant queues of traffic, and also to avoid the queues at the other places we were visiting. I did feel at times that we were being 'herded', but with 34 people in the group, this is the only option. The food on the boat was excellent with lots of choices, and wine is included at lunch and dinner, but although the staff are extremely pleasant, they need a few lessons in customer service. I found that we had to keep asking for basic things like condiments, which should automatically be placed on each dining table, and they weren't always proactive in topping up wine glasses. We constantly had to ask for more wine. There was an excellent wine waitress called Lois, who was incredible with attending to us, and she even remembered everyone's name, even though we constantly changed tables. It was always reassuring when Lois was waiting on our table at meal times. She was also extremely polite and personable. I also need to mention that when not eating in hotels, Viking had arranged meals in different restaurants which were obviously geared up for tourists, as there were always numerous coaches parked outside, and all tables were filled with groups of 8. All of these meals were served by using lazy susans, and the food was just 'plonked' on the table. We were only entitled to 1 drink which seemed a bit mean, so if you dared ask for a glass of water with your beer, it was promptly refused! In all the restaurants, the staff are constantly trying to remove your plate, even though you could still be eating! It all seemed very rushed, and that part was not very pleasurable. Most times we were in and out within 1 hour. All in all it was a very enjoyable holiday with some amazing sights, but would I do it again-probably no. It ticked all the boxes of places to see, and I can't fault Viking for that.   Read Less
Sail Date June 2014
I will try to stay on matters relevant to prospective travellers and not to dwell on incidentals. A few specifics that may set a framework: we travelled from June 20-July 5, 2013, from Shanghai to Beijing with extension to Guilin and Hong ... Read More
I will try to stay on matters relevant to prospective travellers and not to dwell on incidentals. A few specifics that may set a framework: we travelled from June 20-July 5, 2013, from Shanghai to Beijing with extension to Guilin and Hong Kong; Im 68, overweight, but long ago athletic, and my wife is 57, not athletic, but generally fit. I wont try to cover everything but will focus on pros and cons, each in chronological order. PROS - Vikings organization from airport(s) to hotel(s) to boat. Worriless. - The Tour Escort system, which always give you a bilingual person to rely on and learn from. (Ours was Gao, and he was a mensch.) - The extremely high quality of all hotels. - The Shanghai Museum. Limited but a great way to fill the 75-minute slot available. Ceramics/porcelain the highlight for me, followed by painting; wife favored the bronzes. As much archaeology as art, but learning about Chinese history through artifacts became a valued layer of our trip. - The boat in general (the Viking Emerald). Service excellent, food good, and lecturer (Daniel Peng) informative and witty. Laundry was fast and fairly priced. - The staterooms. Ours was high-end (Deck 5) since we booked late (April) and it was the one that happened to open up, but I believe even the least expensive are good and all have picture windows and balconies (dont expect to use the latter much in the heat and humidity) as well as good bathrooms and showers. Storage a bit short for hanging sweaty clothes. - Fellow passengers. Generally open, good-spirited sorts. We travelled by ourselves but never lacked for good meal companions, although we did find ourselves averting our glances from people whose life stories we already knew and scanning for tables with people who looked interesting. - Casual dress. Shorts the norm. In the heat and humidity, its a relief never to have to dress up. - The Hubei Provinical Museum in Wuhan. We arrived in late afternoon, in a hurry to get to the boat, and only had time for a quick concert on replicas of musical instruments recently unearthed from the tomb of Yi (the king of the Zeng Sate in the Warring States Period (476 BC - 221 BC), then a quick tour of rooms with original chimes and other artifacts, but exhibit was impressive and musicians were skillful. - The scenery after the Three Gorges Dam. Youre in the mountains now. - Smaller boat ride through the lesser Three Gorges. This stretch (and especially the later trip on the Li River in Guilin) reminded me of one of my favorite travel experiences ever, sailing through a fjord in Norway. - Shibaozhai Pagoda on the Yangtze. Very scenic. I cramped a calf on walk to it and didnt climb Pagoda, but wife tells me it was great, and it looked great from outside. - Chongquin Zoo. We saw seven pandas, which our cheerful local guide Romy told us was exceptional. - Terra Cotta Army Museum in Xian. Words cannot describe. Truly one of the wonders of the world, along with, on succeeding days - Great Wall in the Badaling Hills outside Beijing, and - The Forbidden City. These last three sights epitomized the best feature of our trip: being transported into a different world and culture and history. The adjoining Tienamin Square didnt do much for us. Mainly a big, empty space with a strong sense of Mao. - Foot massage in Guilin (were now on the extension and our escort is Jimmy, who was also very good). Another extremely likable, cheerful local guide, Lisa, arranged this. All but a few of us signed up and none regretted it. - Li River Cruise from Quilin to Yangshuo Village. The dimpled, sandstone mountains were spectacular. - Spectacular cityscape from Victoria Peak over Hong Kong and downtown Kowloon. - The 8:00 to 8:18 PM light show from the highrises on the bay was also delightful, and we were lucky enough to catch it on a clear day from a terrific 29th floor restaurant, Aqua (not on tour itinerary). Before I turn to cons, I should note that weather makes a huge difference, and we lucked into good weather in Hong Kong, on the Li River, in the Lesser Three Gorges, and on several other days. Heat, humidity, and smog are givens for most of the trip, at least in summer, but we were able to see nearly everything clearly (or through a scenic mist) and never felt a need to don our masks. CONS - lunch and dinner at local Chinese restaurants in Shanghai. Truly mediocre (and I love Chinese food back home in Los Angeles). I feared that this would become the norm, but the rest of the local restaurant stops were better. - Acrobatic show after dinner in Shanghai. I kept nodding off, and I dont think it was all the fault of the jet lag. The acrobatic routines were, well, routine, and the music was mind-numbing. A far cry from Cirque de Soleil. - Endless bleak landscapes of pre-fab looking highrises, most of which didnt seem occupied (whos doing the planning here?). Downtown Shanghai and Beijing are spectacular, but we came away from busrides through other areas grateful we didnt live there. - The Three Gorges Dam. We used to apply a standard with our sons (now grown and not on this trip), If we wouldnt do it at home, why do it here? and weve never gone to the Hoover Dam. Then, for the Three Gorges, you add in the heat, humidity, and fog/smog that makes it unlikely youll see much. Guide joke, They say there are two kinds of days here, foggy and very foggy. - The Viking School in Yueyang. The children are adorable and the cause is probably worthy, but its painful to think of the kids being required to perform for the Westerners (ours had come in on a Sunday, just for us). Also, this morning excursion is the only event of the day. I cynically pictured Viking Executives sitting around brainstorming, What can we throw in for people in the long, dull stage of the cruise before the mountains? I know, lets help fund a school! - The scenery before you get to the Three Gorges. All bleak and flat. Look, theres a sandpile! - The walk to the Shibaozhai Pagoda. Although the Pagoda is at water level a short distance from the boat, they routed us to it through a steep, two-block climb through a gauntlet of hawkers then a similar descent. This was when I tweaked my calf. - The stop at the jewelry store on the Hong Kong tour was endless. Id felt mildly peeved at the shopping opportunities at a silk rug and embroidery outlet in Shanghai, but I was fuming by the time they let the captive audience out of the jewelry store. True, Im not a shopper, but they could have told us, Youve got half an hour, and shoppers and non could have been satisfied. As it was they kept us for over an hour until the last person stopped showing any interest in the over-priced baubles. A few general impressions. We had a great time. We wanted to escape our routines, and China and Viking certainly provided that, and in as much comfort as it would be reasonable to expect. The five internal flights in China got to be complicated and tiresome, but Viking handled them smoothly, and I accept that they were necessary for us to get as rounded a tour as did. Well definitely be looking through our Viking catalogue for future river cruises, but well also be checking other companies. Cruisecritic provided a helpful resource for this trip (amazing how you can sort out a consensus through the few people who loved everything and the few people who hated everything), and we expect to use it more broadly.   Read Less
Sail Date June 2013
This was our 6th river cruise and first cruise with Viking. We chose this cruise because we've done all the rivers in Europe and the chance to see the Great Wall and Terra Cotta Warriors was exciting. Definitely go in the fall! ... Read More
This was our 6th river cruise and first cruise with Viking. We chose this cruise because we've done all the rivers in Europe and the chance to see the Great Wall and Terra Cotta Warriors was exciting. Definitely go in the fall! First thing I should mention is that you will find few "western" style toilets. I had read the previous reviews and knew to take paper with us..but no one had mentioned that even in the tourist locations, you would be required to squat over a "moat". The name of the game is "hole or bowl?". And it was usually a hole unless you chose to wait in a long line for that one western toilet. I won't go back to China unless they use some of their money to improve the bathroom facilities in all of their public buildings. They continue to build thousands of new skyscrapers and luxurious hotels yet can't improve the toilets, even with all the thousands of new western tourists! It's not only disgusting, it's unhealthy. Most of us river cruisers are 50 and older and some are not physically capable of squatting down low. Yes, we may not be as healthy and agile as the Chinese, but that's no excuse for their bathroom facilities. I don't want to review day by day. I'd rather just mention a few things that I think are important for you to know if you take this cruise. From Beijing to Shanghai, be prepared for some strenuous and hectic days. If you aren't accustomed to long walks, start exercising. The first day in Tiananmen Square and The Forbidden City, be prepared to walk about 3 miles. As others have written, there are uneven surfaces and many steps. The internal flights were handled superbly by Viking. We simply boarded the bus to the airport and they handled all the luggage, boarding passes etc....it was an easy process but those days were hectic and precious time was spent flying instead of sightseeing. We didn't realize how fast paced those first days would be. It was rush, rush, rush until we were able to board the Emerald. Everyone we spoke with had the same sentiments...they were all exhausted and just wanted to relax. As far as the ship...in fairness, the boats in China do not compare to the river boats in Europe. The emerald is advertised as being only 2 years old. Personally, I think it's older than that and just rehabed. For all I know it could be the older "Century". The rooms are standard size but appear to be dated. The closets are very shallow and there is little storage for hanging clothing. The beds are HARD..not simply firm but hard! The first night was miserable and a fellow passenger suggested I let the front desk know, which I did. I usually don't like to complain but I had no choice. Housekeeping came immediately and added more comforters under the sheets. It helped just slightly and I woke up with a backache each night. I'm used to a firm memory foam mattress, but as I said, this wasn't firm, it was hard. I used to take a cheap foam topper in a space saver bag which helped but I assumed this "newer ship" would have a foam mattress..wrong! The bathroom was also dated, and there was mold and crud around the bottom of the shower stall. Yes, there is alot of wear and tear in these rooms, but the quality did not compare with the three companies we've used in Europe. You had to step over thresholds in the hallways and in the entrance to your room. You could feel slopes and rises in areas under the carpeting in some places. Again, I've heard Viking's European longboats are beautiful so it may just be a "China" problem. The food...again I could only compare it to the other cruises we have done. It was not as good. Breakfast was typical and good..eggs to order etc and bacon, sausage, hash browns, cereals, yogurts...yadda yadda, there was something for everyone. Lunch buffet however, I felt was lacking. Salad bar was decent with fresh butter lettuces, deli meats, a small variety of cheeses, breads, a daily soup which tasted the same but just a different color, a choice of three entrees that had to be ordered at the table. There were no other types of salads, such as pasta salads, tuna or chicken salads, vegetable salads. If there were, they were Asian style/flavored. In the 5 previous cruises, at dinner I ordered the "always available" chicken/steak just once. On this trip, I ordered a chicken breast or steak four nights. It seemed as though we had more Chinese food than western, but hey, we were in China. Service was good, staff was good and had a sense of urgency which is always appreciated. I was impressed that they remembered our names, even without name tags. Hard working kids. The amount of building going on in every city in China is unbelievable. I stopped taking pictures. You have to see it in person. Our mouths were wide open as our buses drove through Beijing, Chongqing and Xian. It's like a futuristic scene from a science fiction movie.Skyscraper after skyscraper..thousands in rows, cranes all over building tops...Unbelievable! and the landscaping!!! everywhere! lush and green. All along the streets in all the cities, there are trees and parks and beautiful landscaping. Amazing. I forgot to mention that the hotels were excellent! all 5 star. The breakfast buffets in all were above average. The Westin in Shanghai was luxurious with huge rooms. Location to shopping in Yu Garden was excellent. I did not realize that the jewelry is all 24K in the jewelry stores and is good value. Bought a wedding band to replace mine lost years ago. We struggled when packing for this trip due to the strict weight limits on the Chinese internal flights. When I mentioned to our guide that I did not want to buy things because of the limit, he assured me that those limits were for individual passengers, not for Viking passengers. I wish I had known that before we left. However, I can understand why Viking doesn't advertise that fact. Needless to say, we were then able to stock up on all sorts of junk and souvenirs. The day before we left the boat for Shanghai, I noticed a passenger trying on a silk robe on the 4th floor where clothing is sold. I commented on it and she said she just had it made and was making sure it fit. I had no idea there was a tailor on board. I asked if it was possible to have one made and they obliged in about 5 hours. It was a cream on cream pattern and beautiful. Cost was 220.00 US, which I thought was reasonable, considering. I know that a similar item in a high end dept. store in the states would be at least twice that amount, if not more. Nope, I wouldn't be able to find one in Marshalls or TJMaxx! So I splurged for once. Take more than one adaptor if you are taking a phone and Ipad/netbook. No plug in the ship's bathroom for the hair dryer. You'll have to sit at the desk mirror or on the bed to dry your hair. I've always had an outlet in the bathroom for a dryer on all previous river cruises so again, is this a China thing or is it what I suspect, an older boat? Be prepared to eat Chinese everywhere other than on the boat. Tables for 8, large glass lazy susans, family style which is nice. Beer and sodas included but I asked for water at one lunch and had to pay 5 yuan! I was craving a burger and managed to get my husband into a McDonald's. My mistake was ordering the chicken sandwich instead of the burger. Wasn't a breast..was a thigh with the skin. Yuch. But the fries were great! I took enough knit tops so that I did not have to use the ship's laundry. Another passenger was complaining about the cost of two pounds of wash and fold. They do not have dry cleaning so if you use the laundry, make sure they hang to dry or you may get something back that will no longer fit! One more hint...when a group of us were standing in line in the bathroom at the airport in Beijing, young Chinese girls walked right past us and jumped into a stall when the door opened. They have no respect for lines..I elbowed the young woman when she came out of the stall which I had been waiting for...so be prepared..stand your ground ladies and don't let them cut in front of you..anywhere, in any line! Have specific questions? texastart@aol.com In ending, I will say we had the most articulate, educated, considerate guide of all the 6 river cruises! Aihua was fantastic! He herded us like little sheep, kept close watch on all of us and it did not go unnoticed. He was a wealth of information and his personal stories were very touching. Without Aihua, the trip would not have been nearly as enjoyable. We were fortunate to have him as our guide. 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Sail Date September 2012
Our 17 day trip to China included Shanghai to Beijing offering. It is a trip not to be missed... the boat was fine for river cruising, meals were excellent and lots of variety. Being in August, the river was low so I personally found it ... Read More
Our 17 day trip to China included Shanghai to Beijing offering. It is a trip not to be missed... the boat was fine for river cruising, meals were excellent and lots of variety. Being in August, the river was low so I personally found it difficult to get from the boat to the buses for excursions (too much climbing stairs) but once on board the bus, totally enjoyed all the scenery and the planned day. For the days that we were on land (2 days in Shanghai, Overnight in Xian and 3 nights in Beijing), the hotels were first rate, clean and extremely beautifully decorated with excellent window views. Of special mention was the Crown Plaza in Xian. The only negative I found was a bit of disappointment at disembarkment in Chongqing where helpers were gouging the tourists for assisting them up the many steps from the ship to the buses. Also, the lack of 'personal' time to do shopping - each excursion takes you to 'the government shop' where one may not find the special gifts they would like to bring home. Travel on tour buses and China airways within our trip was clean and comfortable. Finally, a special mention for our tour guide (Mother Hen). This job was very well executed by Mr. Joshua Wu from Beijing. He took great care of us and we will never forget all the great stories he told us over the 17 days we spent together. We made many new friends from all over the world and still keep in touch with some, trading our everyday life stories through e-mails and pictures. Thank you, Viking! Where can you take me this year? I'm ready to go again. Read Less
Sail Date August 2012
Cruise accommodations on Viking Emerald excellent. Food was best of any cruise we have taken. Ports of call were poor - visiting a school as the only stop that day was inadequate for those who want to see as much of China as possible in ... Read More
Cruise accommodations on Viking Emerald excellent. Food was best of any cruise we have taken. Ports of call were poor - visiting a school as the only stop that day was inadequate for those who want to see as much of China as possible in this short 12-day excursion Three Gorges Dam was unimpressive, not seeing any of the mechanics of how it operates as we would see in other countries. Meals served off ship were institutional quality, trying to emulate western perception of Chinese food rather than authentic Chinese. Guide was excellent, but why have separate guides for each tour in addition to primary guide? 12 days is too short a time. Staff on board was excellent in every way, a highlight of the cruise along with food and service generally on board. Anxious to try another Viking Cruise without pre and post cruise tours. Read Less
Sail Date June 2012
I was not sure about this trip....once we got into our embarkation point - we were told that Mekong river was too low and we had to take a bus to another point on the river...3 hrs later our bus gets a mechanical....it is hot, we are tired ... Read More
I was not sure about this trip....once we got into our embarkation point - we were told that Mekong river was too low and we had to take a bus to another point on the river...3 hrs later our bus gets a mechanical....it is hot, we are tired and no place to go....but after using a hammer in the most effective way, the bus driver got on its way. Necessity is the mother of invention! La Margarite is a lovely boat, we had a super spacious two room, two bathroom suite with all the amenities possible. Cambodia and Vietnam were just beautiful - the tours touched in some rural areas where the children were not allow to beg. The river is just so very interesting along with the locals that make of the river their home - either to fish, to wash clothes or to wash their hair. The locals are just beautiful. I like the service of the staff, always friendly and with a willingness to assist. The choice and quality of food was very good and I loved that fact that everyday there was an "asian" choice - in the buffet or the menu.   Read Less
Sail Date April 2012
This being our first trip to China, we had no idea what to expect. I strongly suggest anyone that is a novice cruiser to read reviews, comments and hints via Cruise Critic. It was so helpful for us with all the questions we had. It was ... Read More
This being our first trip to China, we had no idea what to expect. I strongly suggest anyone that is a novice cruiser to read reviews, comments and hints via Cruise Critic. It was so helpful for us with all the questions we had. It was a very fast paced tour//criuise with so much to see and do. We did not get much sleep and were always up early. (Our choice, did not want to miss a thing). The most challenging for us was my slow walking and some limitations. However, our tour guide was always watching out for me, and getting me a wheelchair or access to elevators whenever possible. The embarkation onto the Emerald at Chongqing was a nightmare! Narrow crumbling 100+ small steps with no railings. I had a porter under each arm and carrying my carry-on luggage down those steps. We were quoted a price and then the porters held us "hostage" for 10 times that amount. Viking needs to make sure that the guests that need this assistance keep them honest! The Viking Emerald was a very nice ship - liked having our own balcony. There was a nice variety of foods - the waitresses were very attentive and quick to get you anything special that you might need. The staterooms were a comfortable size. Seems that everyone on the ship was getting colds - after being told to leave the door to the balcony open rather than using the air conditioner - guess spreading bugs around, would help. A little late for us, we had to visit the ship's doctor - which our tour guide helped translate our illnesses for the doctor. I loved walking on the Great Wall with snow on the ground! Slippery, but what a site. We saw so much, too many to mention. Our guide was adept at getting us to the tour locations early, to avoid the long lines and crowds of people. The local food was good, lots of variety - just need to watch out for the very small bones in a lot of their local fish. Not a lot of activities on board the ship, but a nice selection - from Chinese lessons to a wonderful performance by the staff! It was definitely a trip of a life time for us - glad we were able to see so much of China and the extended trip to Guilin and Hong Kong. Read Less
Sail Date March 2012
This is a rather long journal of our AMA Waterways land/cruise to Vietnam and Cambodia. The trip was taken in November 2011. Within the daily entries are some dining suggestions, travel hints and information about the sites that were ... Read More
This is a rather long journal of our AMA Waterways land/cruise to Vietnam and Cambodia. The trip was taken in November 2011. Within the daily entries are some dining suggestions, travel hints and information about the sites that were visited. Friday, October 28 We left from San Francisco (SFO) as this airport, even though 90 minutes away, permitted us to use our Oneworld frequent flier miles for business class travel. We arrived at the airport around 10pm and checked in at the EVA counter. We were a bit apprehensive about our luggage moving through different airlines and airports with a final arrival in Hanoi. The EVA counter staff indicated that the bags should arrive with our plane in Hanoi as there was sufficient time between flights. Our flights would take us from SFO to Taipei to Hong Kong and, finally, to Hanoi. With our business class tickets, we were able to use the EVA platinum lounge. The lounge is a nice way to kill time while waiting for your flight. The lounge served drinks and a number of Chinese food selections -â€" soup, sandwiches and was relatively full of travelers waiting for the 1:30am flight. Sunday, October 30 Disembarking in Taipei was a breeze. We had a couple of hours to wait and then it was off on flight #2, to Hong Kong. The flight duration was a little over an hour. In Hong Kong, we had a four hour layover before our final flight to Hanoi. The air quality was very hazy and smoggy and reminded us of Shanghai. You couldn't see the hills surrounding the airport -â€" each disappeared in a foggy haze. We hoped that the air quality would be better in Vietnam. We finally arrived in Hanoi around 4pm. A bus took us from the plane to the terminal. At the terminal, we quickly passed through a visa check and to the luggage carousel. With bags in hand, we found an ATM to withdraw Dong . There are several bank ATMs at the Hanoi airport. We used the formal taxi stand near Vietnam Airlines for our transfer to the Sofitel. Be aware of taxi driver approaches from inside the terminal or at the information desk. The taxi stand near Vietnam Airlines was $16 one-way compared to $30 one-way for independent taxi drivers for a downtown trip. The Sofitel will provide a limo pick-up but the fee is even higher. The roads from the airport to hotel were filled with scooters, cars and trucks, each of which weaving in and out of lanes to move forward. It was surprising that we didn't see more accidents. We arrived at our hotel after a 30 minute drive. At the Sofitel, a receptionist met us at the taxi door and checked us in -â€" no need to wait at the counter. On our way to our room, we were given a brief tour through the old and new hotel sections. Our room was in the newer wing. The hotel had very plush décor and the service was very good, right from the start. We ended our long day of travel with drinks and bowls of Pho from the hotel's Bamboo Bar, near the pool, and then headed in to take showers, read a bit and get some sleep. Monday, October 31 Despite being tired and going to sleep early, we found ourselves up at 4am. We reviewed plans for our day tour during the early hours. We walked a few blocks around the Metropole before breakfast to check the weather and see what was around our hotel. At 7:30, we had breakfast at the buffet in Spices, an on-site restaurant. It was a great breakfast, combining western and Asian foods with particularly sweet local watermelon, papayas and mangos. After breakfast, we returned to our room to get ready for our day of touring. We met Kien and Yien, from Hanoikids, in the Sofitel lobby and started our walk to the Old Quarter. The first site we viewed was the Hanoi Opera House. Along the walk, we observed a growing number of scooters zooming along the city surface streets. Crossing the streets in the Old Quarter was an exercise of both caution and confidence. We stopped at several stores and temples in the Old Quarter and at a communal house at Ma May Street. We also stopped for egg coffee (that is, whipped eggs in the coffee) at an obscure second floor location in the Quarter, likely only known by local city residents. Our guides said that the recipe is a secret and only two stores in the Quarter serve this drink. Leaving the Old Quarter, our guides called for a taxi to Hao Lo Prison, or the Hanoi Hilton. This was a bleak prison, run first by the French to incarcerate and torture Vietnamese political detainees. The fate of American prisoners was perhaps only slightly better. In contrast, the prison's history displays reflected humane treatment for the American prisoners. For lunch, we stopped at Quan An Ngon, a local #2 rated restaurant in Tripadvisor, for traditional Vietnamese food. Our guides selected the dishes and they were very tasty but it is hard to recall the names of any of the dishes we ate. With lunch and beverages for five, it cost us about $15. After lunch, we decided to call it a day -â€" it was around 3:30pm. After a five minute taxi ride back to the hotel, we separated from our guides. Dinner was at the Green Tangerine. We considered walking to the restaurant but, upon advice from the hotel, took a cab. It was a good suggestion and we're glad we took it. The walk looked short on paper but was seemed longer. However, the taxi ride was only $1. The restaurant was on a 'shoe' street on the edge of the Old Quarter. A two-story building, it was nicely furnished and appeared to attract tourists, rather than locals. The price, although moderate for us, could have been the reason. We ate at the first floor table and quickly read through a menu that reflected a French influenced creative menu. I ordered the boneless chicken legs stuffed with currants, almonds and black mushrooms, served with artichoke and lotus root. My wife ordered the duck breast covered with roasted mushrooms, cep and tamarind sauce, with a tartlet of asparagus, crème patisserie of cardamom and ricard. Our traveling companion ordered the rack of lamb in spicy couscous broth, with surprise balls, and a polenta made with tiny lotus seeds and raisins. Quite creative dinner dishes were available. We shared a dessert of mango cake and ended the day with a cab ride back to the hotel. Dinner was about $75 for the three of us. Tuesday, November 1 We were joined by Lin, from Hanoikids, and jumped into a taxi to see the Ho Chi Minh residence and HCM museum. The first stop was Ba Dinh Square, where we viewed the external of the HCM mausoleum building. It was large and built to be very imposing. Unfortunately, it was still closed -â€" opens after 11/5 - so we continued our walk to the Presidential Palace. Built by the French government, it too was imposing and painted a royal yellow. This building is used for offices currently. We continued our walk past HCM's vehicles towards his more humble wooden residence. Built for his birthday, the residence is constructed from stained wood planks. Underneath the structure is a meeting table, fish tank and resting chair. Above this area, were a small study and a bedroom. We learned that as HCM became unable to climb the stairs, he moved to a one-story concrete building. It was there he died in 1969. We continued our walk towards the HCM museum. The first floor of the museum contained numerous photographs of HCM and his peers. Walking up the stairs to the second floor, were more contemporary displays. After leaving the museum, we caught a taxi to the National Museum of Fine Arts. There, we toured several floors of early to current paintings and sculptures. One interesting observation was how war time experiences affected many of the more current art paintings. There were so many paintings, we soon were walking a bit faster -â€" the amount of art works was overwhelming. Exiting the art museum, we decided to have lunch. We were taken to a restaurant, Quon Chim Sao, that is known for countryside cooking. There we took off our shoes and headed upstairs to the second floor. The square tables were about three inches off the floor and there were cushions for us to sit down on the floor. With creaking limbs, we edged down. Lunch included a soup dish with rice and noodles, pork pieces, papaya salad and rice paper wrapped cold spring rolls. After lunch, we took a taxi to the hotel and there we remained for the afternoon. The lunch (about $22) for four was more expensive than the yesterday's lunch. We also agreed that the food was tastier the day before at Quan An Ngon -â€" perhaps we enjoy more of the city street food selections. Overall, we recommend engaging Hanoikids for guide services and learning about life in Hanoi. As there were no fees for the assistance (other than snacks, lunch and entry fees), we purchased t-shirts from the research university where I work to give to the student guides. With an earlier return to the Sofitel, I visited the hotel gym. Later at the Bamboo Bar, we learned that a bunker was found under the Bamboo Bar and two wine bottles were pulled up. While sitting at the bar, hotel and news representatives were going into a hole in the ground. Two news teams were present to interview a Sofitel executive. Interesting find -â€" we later learned that the bunker was used in the Vietnam War but the exact location was unclear over the past 30 years. This evening we headed out to The Verticale for dinner via a short taxi ride to the Old Quarter. The Verticale is located in a side alley, not far from the Metropole, in the Hoa Kiem District. We noticed that many of the restaurants are located amidst other retail offerings, many of them offering moderate to low priced goods, such as shoes, clothing items, bike parts and plumbing goods. For visitors, it would be hard to find a restaurant without a taxi as street names were hard to find and, when found, difficult for us to read. Master Chef Didier Corlou, the Sofitel chef for many years, owns and operates The Verticale. Our table was located on the first floor, a short walk up the exterior stairs. We were the first diners, arriving at 6:30. Soon, more customers trickled and all the tables on the first floor were occupied. We started with a small plate with a small container of liquid tasting a bit like rice vinegar and celery pieces. Next were small soup servings, our appetizer, sorbet and our main entrees (I had the seabass wrapped in banana leaves). We pre-ordered an apple dessert so that it would be done after we completed our dinner. For the three of us, the bill, with wine and dessert ran about $125. Try this restaurant for wonderful food selections, beautiful presentation and good service. Wednesday, November 2 We joined our AMALotus fellow passengers for an 8:30am orientation briefing in the morning and, shortly afterwards (around 9:30am), started our morning city tour. We loaded onto a bus and stopped at Ba Dinh Square and toured the Ho Chi Minh mausoleum area, Presidential Palace and HCM residence. Afterwards, we stopped at the One Pillar Pagoda and Temple of Literature. There were several high school graduates at the Temple, celebrating their graduation. Some of these stops were duplicates of our previous tour with Hanoikids. This occurred as reading the AMA brochure we were unsure of actual AMA stops versus a bus drive-by view. We returned back to the Sofitel for lunch. We decided that we would rejoin the tour group at the water puppet show, at 4:50pm, and miss the Old Quarter walking tour and rickshaw ride since we had already visited the Old Quarter. This made the afternoon more relaxed. We arrived at the puppet show a bit early and met our tour group as they were walking through the quarter. It was an interesting sight to see such a large group move through the crowded Old Quarter streets. After the puppet show, we had a light dinner on our own at the Bamboo Bar and returned to our room to complete our packing for the motor coach ride to Ha Long Bay. Thursday, November 3, 2011 We were up at 5am, showered and completed the packing of our larger bags. We placed them outside our door at 6:45am, for the bellman, and then went down to breakfast. On the bus at 8am, we were on our way to Ha Long Bay. The bus trip was part way on a highway, but much of the time was spent driving through small towns, on a two lane road. Faster vehicles periodically passed us with a honk. We stopped half-way for a bathroom break after two hours. The stop was a large retail operation that appeared to cater to tourist and travelers. We purchased a number of lacquer plates for gifts and boarded the bus after a 45 minute stop. (Note the tour stops at a high-quality lacquer shop in Saigon). The remainder of the drive took about 90 minutes and we arrived at Ha Long Bay at 12:30. We grabbed our carry-on luggage and walked onto a small tender that brought us to the larger junk. The interior of our junk cabin was quite nice. A moderate sized room, with marble shower and bathroom. After a short briefing, we dropped our luggage in the cabin and had lunch. Although described as a buffet, the lunch was actually served by wait staff. Lunch was several courses, starting with a pumpkin soup, papaya salad, cooked vegetables, sea bass and rice. Dessert was fresh fruit with yogurt. Right after lunch, the junk stopped at Ti Top island for a short, but steep hike, to a look-out point. It was a bit warm and humid, and resulted in a bit of deep breaths and perspiration to reach the top. As we only had 45 minutes for this stop, we rested for a few minutes, took a few pictures and then headed back down. The tender met us within ten minutes and we were shortly back on the junk. We were pleased to see some blue sky during our bay cruise and hike. We now had about an hour to rest before our next activity, a sampan visit to a floating village. We transferred from a ship tender to a sampan in groups of four. A woman manned the sampan oars and guided us through her village. We were able to view fishing platforms, a school, fishing boats and floating houses. There were electric generators for the floating houses and we were told that fresh water is delivered to each house on a daily basis. We wondered what the village thought of us -â€" 80 or so visitors with cameras in hand. Regardless, we realized that our visit was helping the economy of the village. Remember to bring a few $1 bills for if you would like to tip the sampan guide. The buffet dinner offered a number of Vietnamese dishes. During dinner, a ship director stopped by and chatted for a few minutes. It seems that Indochina Sails, a private company, owns the junk service and also owns/leases the AMALotus and AMAMarguerite to AMA. He mentioned that some of the Ha Long Bay fishing village members are now working as Indochina Sails staff. In particular, these local employees are very familiar with the Ha Long Bay waterways. Friday, November 4 Coffee and pastries were available at 6:30am in the junk, with full breakfast at 9:30am, after a visit to the Surprise Cave. After breakfast, we will be departing Ha Long Bay by bus to the airport. This could very well be a multiple shower day -â€" after our cave visit and this evening. The warmth and humidity seems to encourage showering -â€" plus the use of insecticide also is a factor. Note that during our trip we never saw any mosquitoes but still applied deet before many stops -â€" particularly near still water. We went up to the third deck at 6:30am for coffee and breakfast pastries. The junk pulled up its anchor around 7am and we enjoyed our slow cruise through the limestone islands. At 8am, we boarded a tender with about 22 fellow passengers to visit the Surprise Cave. The ride took about ten minutes and soon we were mesmerized by each of the three large caves, each one leading to a larger cave and each separated by narrow passageways. The guides pointed out rock structures that appeared to resemble animals and religious icons. At 9am, we were exiting the caves and back on the tender. Upon arriving at the junk, we quickly showered (the caves were warm/humid). We had about 30 minutes to shower, complete packing our hand-carry luggage and meet for breakfast at 9:45am. (Note that our check-in luggage remained locked overnight on the bus). Breakfast was a typical buffet with Vietnamese and western fare. After brunch, we had time to relax and settle our drink bill -â€" only $18. We vacated our cabin before breakfast so that the crew could start preparing for the next group of junk cruisers. At 11:30am, we departed the junk on a tender. Upon landing we quickly boarded the bus and were on our way to the Hanoi airport. About two hours into the drive, we stopped at a large private golf course for lunch. There was a large restaurant at the course and this provided a good opportunity for serving the approximately 100 individuals traveling with AMA. After lunch, we boarded the bus and finally arrived at the airport at 4pm. There we quickly passed through immigration and the airport security check. The flight was delayed a few minutes and experienced one gate change. With only an hour flight, Vietnam Airlines still found time to serve drinks and a meal. AMA collected our passports during the flight to Siem Reap. AMA used the passports to arrange a quick entry into Cambodia, so we didn't need to stop at immigration. We simply picked up our luggage and headed for the bus that would take us to the Sofitel hotel in Siem Reap. During the bus ride, we received some basic information from Savon, our local guide. When we arrived at the hotel, we were met by musicians, cold towels, and a ginger drink. We also received our keys and dropped off our hand-carry luggage in our room before dinner. Dinner was a large buffet, with local dishes. Despite the food selections, we weren't too hungry after snacking on the plane. With the return to our room, we showered and did a few hand wash items. In general, we rarely wore any of the long-sleeved shirts or long pants we packed during this trip. Wearing light weight clothes that could dry overnight was a big advantage. Saturday, November 5 We had an early breakfast and headed out to the buses at 8:30am. The hotel is located close to the Angkor Wat area, so the ride was about 15 minutes long. As the road that continues to Angkor Thom passes through narrow gates, we transferred from our larger bus to two smaller vans. At this transfer location, we were able to walk up and view the gates, wall and river surrounding the road into the city of Angkor Thom. Shortly arriving at Angkor Thom, we saw a large city structure, with remnants of several tall towers with faces. At the highest tower was what was left of a lotus flower. We were told that several of the pieces were stolen over time and the structures were originally covered with gold and silver leaf. The tour of the city area required climbing over several steps. It was quite warm in the areas unprotected from the sun. Every so often, we passed through an area in which cool breezes could be felt. Many of the wall carvings could still be seen quite clearly. The tour lasted about 45 minutes and we found ourselves on the van to Te Prohm. During our van ride, Savon mentioned that about half of the 4 million land mines have been cleared from Cambodia. These mines placed as defensive measures have been found in areas long forgotten. In fact, some of the individuals reportedly forget where they placed their mines and, ironically, lost their lives from their own mines. Mines were found/removed near the checkpoint area where we received our temple visit badge. The Te Prohm temple is often known as the "Tomb Raider" temple. It was the site of the filming of this movie. The buses parked in an area with small souvenir stands. After departing from the vans, we walked along a dusty path to the temple. The first sight was a small moat or pond and the first external wall. We entered a small courtyard and soon could see areas where the roots of the trees extended to become part of the building structures. We couldn't determine if the roots strengthened the wall with support or were destructive. As we walked through the temple, paths were cleared but there were crumbled fragments of the structure in jumbled formations. Again, the temperature was warm and shady areas were popular as well as the stops where a cool breeze could be experienced. With our tour completed, we walked back to the vans along the same path we used to enter the temple area. There we boarded our buses to return back to the hotel for lunch and a short rest. We stopped for an a la carte lunch at the hotel bar. Meal service at the Sofitel was extremely slow and we were glad we decided to have lunch first and then return back to our hotel room. At 2:30, we boarded a bus to Banteay Srei, a smaller temple about 20 miles outsite of Siem Reap. Along the ride, we saw rice fields and small villages with houses raised on stilts. We were told that the raised housing protected the inhabitants from wild animals. The tigers and wild pigs were more prevalent before loss of the dense forest. At Banteay Srei we could see surrounding reconstructed pieces of temple walls but less formed that the previous larger structures at Te Prohm or Angkor Thom. The entrances into BS were intricately carved. It was surprising to us that the carvings were so clear. The temple walkway led us through three (as I recall) areas. Small, shallow pools were seen along the pathways. Towards the rear, we could see smaller building structures. Exiting the temple area, we walked along the path that led us to the parking lot and small stalls selling food and crafts. We purchased some silk scarves and a young boy offered to run and purchase a cold beer ($2 each, regular price $1) for us. This offer was welcome and taken. On our return to the hotel, we stopped by a small orphanage that helped about 25 young boys and girls to acquire life skills and learn English reading and writing. Given the relatively young age that adults live to (52 men and 55 for women) and the large number of children each couple may have, you could see that there is a strong need for this type of social service. This particular school is financed without public dollars and only with support from some of the larger tour companies and visitors to the school. We watched a short dance presentation by the girls and boys and then visited the gift area, where student artwork was offered for sale. We purchased some hand painted postcards and delivered some writing supplies we brought from the US. The bus returned us to the hotel at 6pm. We had about an hour to clean up and rest before a fixed course dinner, hosted by AMA. The dinner service was extremely slow and we finished at 9:45pm. A very long time for a hotel dinner with fixed menu items. Sunday, November 6 Today it's off to Angkor Wat and then back to the hotel by 12noon. We will then have the afternoon to ourselves in Siem Reap. We were looking forward to going into town for an unstructured visit. It was a familiar bus ride to Angkor Wat as we had passed this temple yesterday on our drive to Angkor Thom. We started our tour along the walkway over the moat surrounding the outer walls of the temple. Angkor Wat has three levels and we visited each. The first level was surrounded by a moat, which served as a cleansing area for the public to wash before entering the temple. At the higher levels, there were pools, but these pools were reserved for the monks and high officials. The last level was reached by a number of steep wooden stairs. These stairs, unlike many others, had a handrail which helped ensure steady footing. At the top level, there was a broad area in which visitors could walk and see the view from several window areas. With the heat and humidity, our clothes and bodies were sticky. At the base of the first level, there were many local villagers selling scarves, shirts and other tourist items. We purchased several additional scarves for office gifts. It was almost walking through a gauntlet of local sellers as we returned to our group meeting location. We returned to the hotel at 11:30. This permitted us to grab a quick shower and change into some dry/clean clothes. We also met with our cruise manager to pick-up luggage tags for the morning. During our free afternoon, we took a tuk-tuk ride from the Sofitel to town. We stopped for lunch at the Blue Pumpkin and explored Pub Street, Old Market, FCC stores, and the McDermott gallery. At the gallery, we purchased a photograph of five faces at Bayon, Angkor Thom. As it was close to 3:30pm and our travel companion had a helicopter ride planned (about $100), we returned via tuk-tuk back to the hotel. At the market areas we visited during the trip, you can purchase jewelry and stones at 'bargain' prices. Some vendors will use some type of meter to confirm the authenticity of the stone. One of our local guides mentioned that these meters should not be trusted. I also saw several watches (marked as Omega, Rolex, Piguet, etc) at these open-air markets. In regards to shopping for locally produced items, we purchased lacquer ware, silk scarves and silk table-runners to bring back as gifts. We also purchased a few silk clothing items for ourselves. Before our 7pm dinner, we stopped at Garden of Desire, a downtown jewelry store, where my wife purchased a ring and earrings. Dinner reservations were next door at the AHA Bar and Restaurant. I ordered a taro based soup that had a split pea flavor, salmon encrusted with jasmine rice and we shared three desserts -â€" a chocolate cake with raspberry sorbet, ginger ice cream and a banana fritter with palm ice cream. After dinner, we looked around local shops and the night market. My wife purchased purse along the way. Ending our evening out, we flagged a tuk-tuk to take us back to the Sofitel ($1 per person). We returned to hotel at 9:30pm to finish our luggage packing. Monday, November 7 A morning bus ride was necessary as the high water levels prevented the AMALotus from picking us up in Siem Reap. The bus ride took about 4.5 hours, with a bathroom break two hours later around 10:30. Along the way our local guide shared his knowledge of the sights we could see from the road and life in Cambodia. We could see that life along the drive was hard - aged wood houses on stilts and transit largely limited to scooter and pedal bicycles. Often times, dirt from the sides of the road covered the center of the road, giving the appearance of a dirt road. The break area was wet and required walking over several feet of narrow wood planks. The planks took some careful steps, though the mud below the planks wasn't very deep. A few individuals walked carefully through a packed muddy path. Once we arrived at the structure, the rest area had a large bathroom area and a small gift store. Apparently, there weren't too many bathroom break areas along the road to Kamchong as there were many buses that pulled over at this stop. As we drove through Kamchong Cham town, the AMALotus soon appeared in sight. Although the boat has stopped at this port previously, it is hard to imagine the thoughts of the local town residents about the luxury boat appointments and the passengers on the boat. Lunch was served after we boarded and we received cabin keys thereafter. The standard cabin was a bit larger than the junk cabin and nicely accented with dark woods. Storage space within the cabin was sufficient. The cabin storage area included a safe. The stateroom balcony was small and contained a single chair and table. The public lounges and sundeck were nicely decorated and there was a small fitness room with one treadmill and one elliptical. The cabins were well-insulated from noises generated within adjoining units. A brief introductory safety and itinerary discussion was held at 4:30pm. With dinner at 7pm, we had a quiet evening. Dinner selections included a pineapple -â€" shrimp salad, broccoli cream soup, swordfish and a cheese plate for dessert. Dinner was similar to other river/cruise ships -â€" hotel quality food selections. Local wines and well drinks were provided without additional fees. What was intended for a quiet evening didn't quite turn out that way. I must have picked up some intestinal bacteria that didn't agree with me. I ended up taking four Pepto Bismal tablets, spaced through the evening, which seemed to help. Although I had Azithromycin in my bag of packed drugs, I decided the issue wasn't severe enough to use it. On a side note, I was aware of several people on the tour that became afflicted with some gastric distress during the trip. Where the problem was picked up was completely unknown as bottled water was used throughout the trip. We were alerted not to drink the cabin tap or shower water. At the end of the trip, one of the travelers in our group was brought to a local hospital ($75) for a check-up due to a continuing bout of intestinal upset -â€" I heard it was possibly a parasite infection. AMA was very helpful in providing assistance and support for this passenger health issue. Tuesday, November 8 I decided to stay in this morning rather than take the short walking tour excursion at 8:30am. I asked my wife take pictures and fill me in on the sights. At 9am, my wife disembarked to take a walking tour of Peam Chi Kang, a river village. I hung out in the lounge and checked email and browsed the Internet. After an hour, the walking tour group returned to the ship. The weather this morning was hot and humid and the returning travelers looked a bit wilted. Regardless, within minutes we gathered for a safety drill and then a presentation on Cambodia from the tour guides. Lunch was at 12:30pm and included salad, a "hot item action station" item (sweet and sour prawns with rice), main course and dessert selections. At 3pm, the next stop was a walking tour of Chong Koh. I was feeling better and participated in the activity. Part way through the walking tour, a heavy rain fell, making the mud slippery. Nonetheless, we waited under cover for the downpour to stop and then continued where the mud was less dangerous for walking. The side benefit of the rain was that the weather became cloudy and cooler as we were protected from the sun. We watched a couple of silk weavers and saw sights around the village. This had to be a previous stop along the river, as children and their mothers were pressing for visitors to purchase scarves and cloths. We purchased a couple to help the families out as we could see that life is hard and tourist dollars really assist these families with their lives. We returned to the ship at 4:30pm, swapping our muddy shoes for slippers at the gangway, and decided to take showers and clean up for dinner. These afternoon showers have been a good way to remove the daily dose of deet spray, as well. Our cleaned shoes were later returned to us at the registration desk. Wednesday, November 9 Today it's off to visit the Royal Palace at Phenom Penh, Cambodia and,later, a killing field and prison of the Khmer Rouge. The bus departed the port and within 15 minutes, we arrived at the Royal Palace for a photo opportunity. There was an issue with the schedule, so we moved to the National Museum as our first formal stop. At the museum, a guide discussed a number of major exhibit pieces. The visit was somewhat rushed to permit us to visit the Royal Palace. Apparently, the King is in residence and this alters the time when the palace grounds are open. The grounds were beautiful and we stopped to visit the interiors of the throne room and silver pagoda. Our afternoon trip was to a killing field and, a Khmer Rouge prison, known as S21. Both were rather gruesome to visit and it was difficult to grasp how such atrocities could occur and what happened to the high-ranking Khmer Rouge officials. We started to read "First They Killed My Father: A Daughter of Cambodia Remembers," during the trip to learn more about this time in Cambodia. We returned back to the ship by 5:45pm, which left us enough time to shower up and catch up on some Internet updates. Thursday, November 10 We decided to stay in rather than take the organized morning tour to a pagoda and oxcart ride. This made for a leisurely breakfast and time to catch-up on email and Internet browsing. During the morning, we took a short walk on our own to Wat Phnom. We couldn't always find the street name signs, so following the ship provided map was not easy. A few tuk-tuk drivers followed us around, hoping to get a fare. We stayed in after lunch for the rest of the afternoon. Friday, November 11 Today was our rest day as we cruised the Mekong River and were not making any port stops. We got up a little later and went down to breakfast at 7am. There were fewer passengers at breakfast as they were likely sleeping in. We watched our departure from Phnom Penh from the upper deck and then moved to the lounge to read and use the Internet service. During the morning, we used Skype to make a family call. The connection was pretty good. For about 10 minutes of conversation, the Skype charge was only $0.32. Before we knew it, lunch time arrived. After lunch, my wife read on the sundeck and I read in the room (much cooler there). At 3pm, we gathered in the lounge to watch the cooking demonstration. There, we learned how to make pho soup and cold rice rolls. An ice cream social in the lounge followed afterwards. Saturday, November 12 We arrived at Tan Chau this morning and we had a bicycle rickshaw ride into town, with stops at a mechanized silk factory and rattan factory. Departing at 8:30, we got our excursion cards and entered a tender to go to shore. On the shore, we were met by our Xe Loi drivers. On the ride through town, on roads too narrow for cars or buses, we were able to view the town and residential life. We saw a broad range of residences -â€" from shelters to very well maintained houses. The silk factory was an interesting site. The equipment seemed almost historic but was fully functional and provided the town residents with needed commercial industry. The second stop at a rattan mat factory that gave a similar feeling -â€" almost historic machinery with manual reed dyeing but fully functional and successful. After the rattan factory stop, we transferred to the pier, where we boarded a small tender to floating fish farm and walking tour of the village. We returned to the boat for lunch by 12noon. This afternoon we cruised 90 km to Sa Dec. This part of the cruise took take the better part of the afternoon, so we had a relaxing afternoon to read and use the Internet for messaging. Sunday, November 13 This was a busy day with a tour in the morning at Sa Dec and in Cai Be in the late afternoon. However, the tour start times were pushed back 30 minutes to 9am and 3pm, respectively. We started our tour with a stop at the Sa Dec market via a tender to shore. During the tender ride, we could see a brick factory along the shore. After disembarking the tender, it was a short walk to visit a Chinese temple. We backtracked a bit and stopped at Huynh Thuy Le's house. This was a small house amid the busy water front area. We returned to the boat by walking through an open-air whole sale market. At the market, we saw fruits, vegetables, seafood, poultry, snakes and rat. After lunch, we disembarked the ship via a tender for our Cai Be visit, at 3pm. Along the way, we saw the floating markets. In this area, individual boats display their wholesale item on a long bamboo pole in the front of the ship. Shoppers negotiate their wholesale purchase ship to ship. We didn't linger in this area of the river and continued to dock near a food preparation factory. At the factory, we watched popped rice candy, rice sheets, rice wine, a local toffee and salt being manufactured for retail sale. We walked along a river pathway and found ourselves at the oldest Catholic Church in Vietnam. Service had just completed so we could peek in a see the interior. After returning to the AMALotus, we cleaned up and starting packing for our departure from the ship the following day. Reaching a packing point for which we couldn't proceed much further, we retired to the lounge to relax, have a drink and use the Internet. For dinner, we joined our travel companion and new friends for our farewell ship dinner. It was interesting to learn about their experiences and reflections on board, as well as everyone's past travel activities. We shared many common recent observations. It was a fun evening and a great was to end the river cruise with newly made travel acquaintances. Note that your bill is settled on this last cruise date. You can add a gratuity for the ship crew and/or cruise manager to this bill -â€" which is helpful if you wanted to pay tips via your credit card. You can also settle your bill with cash. Monday, November 14 The ship pulled anchor from Cai Be at 5am, started its engine and made its way to the Saigon port. The anchor pulling is a noisy activity and the diesel engines tend to vibrate the ship. Thus, we were awake at 5am and finished packing our check-in luggage. At 6:30am, we placed our luggage out the door and went to an early breakfast (breakfast is usually starts at 7am, but on departure day opens at 6:30am). Once our luggage was placed in the hall, we felt that this portion of the trip was really over and ready to move to Saigon. We had a light breakfast, packed our carry-on and gathered in the Saigon Lounge to be called to our bus, at 8:30am. The bus ride provided familiar views of rural farms and countryside and took about two hours to reach town. We stopped at a Chinese pagoda, Reunification Palace, lacquer manufacture/store and reached the Indochine Restaurant, by 1pm, for lunch. We shared a table again with our previous dinner companions and had an enjoyable time discussing travel. Our cruise manager gave us our Sofitel room keys at the restaurant and the bus ride from the restaurant to the hotel was only about five minutes. After a brief rest, we walked over to the Hard Rock Cafe and returned to the lacquer store for purchases. Both were within a couple of blocks from the Sofitel. We bought a large 22-inch contemporary plate at the workshop and hand carried it on our return flights. Dinner was on our own and, with the late lunch, we decided to eat dinner at the Sofitel's casual restaurant. Tuesday, November 15 This morning, we met Zoom in the lobby at 8:30am for our first city tour of Saigon. This was a busy day with over a dozen stops. We started our tour with a stop at the Post Office and Notre Dame Cathedral. The cathedral was rather simple in decorations. Both buildings were constructed in the early 1800s. Our next stop required a drive to Chinatown to visit the Giac Lam Pagoda, the oldest pagoda in Saigon. Established in the 1700s, we visited the exterior gardens and then entered the temple. The interior was ornately carved and contained funerary displays. From the pagoda, we drove to the Chinatown market, where Zoom assisted our travel companion to purchase a suitcase ($60 down to $20) and we toured the large wholesale market area. We continued our drive back to the downtown area and had lunch at Pho2000 and, afterwards visited, Ben Thanh market. We really didn't need anything, but purchased a small bottle of snake wine (very touristy). We then drove by Westmoreland's and Ambassador Cabot-Lodge's residences on our way to Dong Choi Street, the Opera House and the Khai Silk store. We shopped for about an hour, acquiring a shirt and sweater and then drove to the Rex Hotel. At the Rex Hotel, we refreshed ourselves with coffee, iced coffee and a glass of wine on the rooftop lounge. It was in this lounge that the 5pm daily US armed forces briefings were held. Zoom mentioned that the Rex, Majestic, Caravelle and Continental Hotels (historic properties) are government owned. The iced coffee was terrific at the Rex and is recommended. Our next stop was at the Trung Nguyen coffee store to purchase Vietnamese coffee beans for gifts to bring home. These roasted coffee beans are grown in the central highlands ($35 for 2,000 grams of whole beans). Note that weasel coffee is available in Vietnam but the cost remains prohibitive. We learned that the weasel coffee sold in the local markets is likely chemically treated at best. Our final tour stop was at the War Remnants Museum, with displays and photos largely from the Vietnam War, but a few exhibits from the war leading to Vietnam's independence from France. The photos were hard to view, at times grisly and raised questions about the advance knowledge about the danger from dioxin. Given our understanding of the hot, humid, swampy rural landscape, it is hard to imagine fighting and survival in such a harsh environment. The photo journalist entries in the museum reflected a pictorial history of the Vietnam War. After the last stop, it was now 5pm and time to wind down. We returned to the hotel for showers and a dinner at Cuc Gach Quan, at 7pm. The cab ride was about $2 and it was hard to determine where exactly we were. Regardless, the traditional Vietnamese dinner was very good, with menu selections by the waiter. We had family style servings of pork in claypot, crispy sea bass in passion fruit sauce, stir-fried zucchini buds, fried soft-shelled crabs, steamed rice and fried tofu. We also tried a mango juice with honey drink. This was definitely not a purely tourist restaurant as we could tell it was popular with local residents. Dinner for three, with drinks, ran about $50. With dinner complete, we returned to the hotel for the evening. Wednesday, November 16 The 8:30am drive out to the C? Chi tunnels with Zoom seemed to hit morning traffic and took about 90 minutes. The trip started on city roads and shifted to a single lane country road through several small farming villages. The tunnel parking lot contained several buses but the site was not crowded. We saw demonstrations of lethal traps, B52 bomb craters, lookout spots, cooking areas and techniques to permit air to the tunnels. My wife and our travel companion walked through a small section of the tunnels. Afterwards, we watched a short video that discussed the 'crazy American devils' and the havoc they wrought on the Cu Chi village area and the valiant fight waged by young village women and men. Most surprising to me was the close proximity of a former US base to the tunnel system. The bus ride back found less traffic and took about 70 minutes to return to the hotel. We had a light lunch at the hotel at 2pm. Since our room still needed a housekeeping visit, we walked down Dong Choi to view a few retail shops and peek into the Continental and Caravelle Hotels. By 3:45pm, we returned to the hotel and our room was ready. I jumped in the pool for about 30 minutes to cool off and talk with some folks from our AMA trip that were out on the 18th floor pool deck. For our last evening dinner, we went to Quan An Ngon for dinner. The menu contained photos of many of the dishes. The food was great but a little different that the food we had in Hanoi (at a similar restaurant). The shrimp and sweet potato pancakes weren't served with rice paper -â€" not sure if this was due to our ordering. We also ordered water spinach with garlic, beef in five spices, spring rolls, steamed rice, beer and a coconut drink. The entire dinner for two, with small tip, ran $17. The cab fare each way cost about $1. After dinner, we met our travel companion for a drink on the Sofitel pool deck (18th floor) overlooking the city and then finished packing for our flight the next day at 11:30am. Thursday, November 17 This day was a long day of travel, starting with a cab ride to the Ho Chi Minh International airport and ending at LAX for today and a short flight to northern California on Friday. We had breakfast at the hotel and departed for the airport at 8am. My wife was concerned about the traffic and wanted to start off early. Surprisingly, traffic was light and only took about 20 minutes (the ride was estimated at 30 to 40 minutes, depending on traffic). The taxi from the hotel was $10, which was considerably lower than reserving a Sofitel car, at $50. Starting the final return from our travels to Vietnam and Cambodia, we felt that the trip was over despite the need to complete three flights. We'll have great memories of this Asia visit. Of all the hotels we stayed in, the most memorable were the Metropole and Siem Reap Sofitels. The Sofitel Saigon Plaza was more of a business hotel and somewhat indistinguishable from the many hotels that I use for domestic business travel. The junk and AMALotus accommodations were fine. AMA did a great job at organizing the overall trip and daily activities and supporting travelers in the group. We also recommend contacting Zoom if you'd like to use a knowledgeable local guide with vehicle support in Saigon as well as contacting Hanoikids when visiting Hanoi. Read Less
Sail Date November 2011
My husband and I just returned from Cambodia and Vietnam -cruise portion was from Jan 23. Unfortunately I had fallen several days previous and was in pain so had to forgo some of the shore excursions. Have to note that people with some ... Read More
My husband and I just returned from Cambodia and Vietnam -cruise portion was from Jan 23. Unfortunately I had fallen several days previous and was in pain so had to forgo some of the shore excursions. Have to note that people with some mobility problems will have difficulty making some excursions. Often there is no dock, the ship just pulls up to river bank and you clamber up the dirt bank. But the excursions we both or my husband went on were all worth the effort and are all included in the one price for the cruise. Bring some balloons to charm the children. By some school supplies while you are there as you will visit at least one school which was so pleased by our gifts. Cabin was comfortable and public areas quite adequate. There was free Internet when reception allowed. Meals were excellent with a mix of Western and regional food. Breakfast and lunch were bountiful buffets with stations for making omelets, noodles soup, etc. Soft drinks were included but wine and beer extra. We had 76 on the cruise and were divided into 3 groups each with a tour guide. They all spoke good enough English and were delightful. This isn't a trip for entertainment so evening programs were low key. Crew put on a show - they love to sing. It was wonderful to just sit and watch river life happening. You think about the history of the Vietnam war and are amazed that now we are friendly tourists enjoying these lovely countries. If you are going to Cambodia and Vietnam, would recommend doing a land tour from Saigon up to Hanoi, fly to Siem Reip and then take the cruise back down to Saigon. Read Less
Sail Date January 2011
Victoria Queen By Jim Thornton China November 10, 2009 This was our sixth river cruise in contrast to our 13 ocean cruises. Our cabin was a deluxe cabin, called the Shangri-La Suite, on the port side of the second deck near the bow of ... Read More
Victoria Queen By Jim Thornton China November 10, 2009 This was our sixth river cruise in contrast to our 13 ocean cruises. Our cabin was a deluxe cabin, called the Shangri-La Suite, on the port side of the second deck near the bow of the ship and close to the bow stairway. We sailed on a four-day about 500-mile Yangtze River cruise from Yichang upstream (towards the west) to Chongqing. Each day there was something new to see like the controversial Three Gorges Dam, which is more than three and a half miles wide, and created a 20-mile long lake displacing over one million people and submerging their 13 cities, 140 towns, and 1,352 villages. Ship: Is one of the larger ships on the river. It and its identical Victoria Cruise ship (the Victoria Prince) were originally built in 1995, rebuilt in 2003, and refurbished in 2008. The ship has four passenger decks without elevators and carries 206 passengers with a crew of 121. Cabin: Our room was larger (622 square feet) than on the previous river cruises that we sailed on. There are two of these deluxe suites each consisting of a bedroom with king size bed with two nightstands and large outside windows on two sides of the cabin on the entire port and bow sides; a large private balcony over looking the bow, a couch, a small table, a small desk and chair, a TV set with two English language channels - CNN and HBO and lots of Chinese language channels and DVD player, two small clothes closets, a small refrigerator and mini-bar, and a large bathroom with a western toilet, two sinks, shower, and a bathtub. The ship has 93 standard cabins (211 square feet) with two single beds on the second deck; six junior suites (294 square feet) with two single beds on the second, third, and fourth decks, and two deluxe suites (458 square feet) with king size beds on the second deck. All cabins have and private bathrooms with separate showers, and balconies. The ship's electrical voltage is the same as the country's 220 volts at 50 Hertz. Laundry: A fee-based same day laundry service is available. Dining Room: There is a single dining room where breakfast and lunch is a serve yourself buffet and the buffet lines get very long and the food in mainly Chinese with a little western. At dinnertime, the individual Chinese courses are brought to your table and placed on a large common circular plate that rotates so that you may serve yourself. Chopsticks are always provided but so are forks. Tips: A suggested $10 (US) per passenger per day is suggested for the entire ship's crew, plus a separate $4 for the "River Guide". Evening Entertainment: Varies as the crew provides live music, dances, and acrobatics. Internet: There are several for-a-fee computers for passenger use to access their e-mail accounts, the Internet, etc. Bars: There is a bar on the fourth deck and it is a full bar. Meeting Room: Is on the fourth deck in the same large room as the bar. Tours: Visiting and seeing the Three Gorges, the relocated villages, the Three Gorges dam, the large ship locks, and the Xiling Gorge. These tours are included in the overall price of the cruise. Doctor: A Chinese trained medical doctor is onboard. Overall Opinion: This was our second Yangtze River cruise. The previous non-Victoria Queen cruise was on the Princess Sheena, a German built ship that contained a working German-standard water purification and sterilization system meaning that you could drink the water from the cabin's sink. On the Victoria Queen all your drinking water came from small commercial plastic water bottles. Each day in your cabin, one bottle was provided per passenger. In the dining room, you could order only a single small glass of water but there are no refills. Thus I could often take my bottle of water from my cabin to the dinning room. Read Less
Sail Date November 2009

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