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142 Asia River Cruise Reviews

We just got back from a wonderful trip on the Siem Reap Riverboat from Siem Reap to Saigon (Ho Chi Minh City) in February, 2017. There weren’t many reviews of this boat and I had so many unanswered questions prior to leaving that I ... Read More
We just got back from a wonderful trip on the Siem Reap Riverboat from Siem Reap to Saigon (Ho Chi Minh City) in February, 2017. There weren’t many reviews of this boat and I had so many unanswered questions prior to leaving that I really wanted to help others thinking about taking this trip. This review is long, but I have broken it down into sections so you can skip to what interests you. First, it’s important to note that my husband and I have primarily gone on ocean cruises. We did take a short Riverboat cruise on the Yangtze though. Generally, this trip was very interesting and enlightening. The quality of the facilities and excursions were excellent and I would highly recommend it to anyone interested in visiting this area. I think that seeing the two countries from the vantage of the Mekong River was a great way to tie the trip together. It was an unforgettable journey! Passenger Composition: We were 31 people on the tour; mostly Americans, with around 6 Canadians, 3 from New Zealand, and 1 German (although 1 Canadian and 1 Kiwi were originally from Germany). Three of the men were former service men who served in Vietnam during the war. Most of the people were over 55, however, there was one younger couple. It was a very cohesive group. Avalon likes to think of their passengers, as it is a small ship, as a “family” and, in fact, it does start to feel that way. Tour Guides: We had a wonderful Avalon Guide/Manager the entire trip. Ho Huu Phiem is an incredibly organized, professional, knowledgeable and genuinely caring person who goes out of his way to make sure that everyone’s needs are addressed. He notices everything. This is so important and is one of the reasons the trip was so fantastic. Phiem is the Avalon representative on only the South-bound journeys. There is always another guide with the group as well, who is a specialist in the country you are visiting. Those guides were good, not great. The Riverboat: General: The Siem Reap is a small and well maintained boat. The Staterooms are all the same, the only difference is the floor you are on. We had #108 on the first floor. The layout of the room is beautiful. The bed faces floor to ceiling windows which open completely, you really feel like your whole room is a balcony. The linens are lovely, the bathroom is fairly large and there is plenty of storage. The boat is very clean and in fact, after walking around along the river (shore excursions), the crew takes your shoes and cleans them before you can enter the ship. The public spaces are very nice to gather in and there is room to sit on your own or gather and visit with new friends, both inside and outside. Crew: The Siem Reap has an incredibly wonderful crew who go out of their way to please everyone. If they don’t understand your request, they ask Phiem to help them, because they really want to do a good job. Food: With a mixture of both local and western choices for all meals, it would work for the most finicky or adventurous eater. I have a very touchy stomach and the chief would make special bland food for me. My husband, who has an iron gut always asked for a bowl of chilies to add to his food! We also had a Vegan and a Vegetarian; there were always choices that looked delicious for them as well. There were lovely baked goods and the tropical fruit choices were fantastic. Internet: I was really concerned prior to the cruise that I wouldn’t be able to access the internet. I know it’s a vacation, but there was an issue at home I needed to keep abreast of so I was worried prior to the cruise after reading Avalon’s information that said it was spotty and they may not have access. However, every day I was able to access the internet. Sometimes it wasn’t as fast as others, but I could get an email every day. The internet was generally available only in the lounges; however, those with Staterooms adjacent the lounge may have access. We were below and adjacent the lounge and most days I could access the internet from the Stateroom. Itinerary: I really enjoyed this itinerary. Because of the heat and humidity, Avalon generally had two – three hour tours; one early in the morning, then a break and another tour of the same duration in the afternoon. Having a break to rest and refresh was well thought out. The first two days of the trip were in Siem Reap with tours of several temple complexes. What an incredible site! I do think if you can arrive a day early than the official start date of the tour and sign up with an independent guide to see Angkor Wat at sunrise is well worth the extra time. The Avalon Tour goes after sunrise and I am glad I went to see that wonderful view of the temple at sunrise! The excursions on the Riverboat were fantastic. We went to different villages, on all different modes of transportation. We had an opportunity to engage with some of the people in the villages both planned by Avalon and spontaneous. One important note is that since Avalon is a small ship with only two stories, it can go down portions of the River that the larger ships like Viking and Ama Waterways can’t access. Therefore, there weren’t other ships visiting the villages we visited. Some of the excursions were difficult and made your heart ache for what man has done to man, but at the same time, you get a real flavor of the strength and endurance of the people. It was an experience that I am so glad to have had. Since it was very hot and humid, Avalon made sure that everyone had plenty of water and encouraged everyone to stay hydrated. Additionally, they frequently handed wet towels to refresh us. Dress: It was really all over the map. Some people were casual the entire time. Others dressed a little nicer for dinner. Really, you could do as you pleased. Laundry was available for a fee in the hotels and on the ship. It should be noted that it wasn’t inexpensive. For example, on the boat it was $1.50 to wash a T-shirt or ladies panties. Land Accommodations: Both hotels selected by Avalon were of very high caliber and were centrally located. Flight Arrangements: We arranged our own flights as when we compared prices with Avalon, we could do it for less money and the schedule we wanted. We did arrive a day and half earlier than the trip officially began. Read Less
Sail Date February 2017
Our cruise was on the Upper Irrawaddy. This is our 3rd Pandaw cruise in 2 years. They epitomize the benefits and joys of Myanmar experience. The food is great, the itineraries are creative. We faced a couple of crises (caught on sand bars) ... Read More
Our cruise was on the Upper Irrawaddy. This is our 3rd Pandaw cruise in 2 years. They epitomize the benefits and joys of Myanmar experience. The food is great, the itineraries are creative. We faced a couple of crises (caught on sand bars) and the crew is empowered to find solutions. The staff are friendly to the point of knowing passengers quite intimately which guarantees a personalized service, especially at meal times. This does NOT have ocean liner evening options. Pandaw takes you into the heart and soul of this country whose citizens are probably the nicest people on this planet. Despite having already done the Chindwin River cruise last year and Halong Bay/Red River out of Hanoi this year, we have been reminded of why Pandaw fulfills our river cruise needs. We almost certainly will return next year for another Pandaw experience. Children would not find this satisfactory. The clientele on all of our Pandaw cruises have been 'Senior' or close to it. The excursions are not particularly demanding but are VERY rewarding. One day, we found ourselves in the middle of a wedding and a funeral, just a few minutes apart and were urged - by the parties involved - to join them and participate. The interaction and opportunity to meet the Burmans is truly the highlight of our Myanmar experiences. Read Less
Sail Date February 2017
This was our 4th experience with Avalon river cruises and each one has been a wonderful experience. This ship was beautifully designed and decorated. Particularly memorable highlights were… · the sunrise and balloons ... Read More
This was our 4th experience with Avalon river cruises and each one has been a wonderful experience. This ship was beautifully designed and decorated. Particularly memorable highlights were… · the sunrise and balloons over the temples at Bagan...magical! · The sunset over the teak footbridge we viewed from sampans . · The children in the Monastery school doing the Hokey Pokey with a guy couple from our group. · The fire pit and local dance troupe on the sandbar at night. · The spectacular Buddhas and temples. · emotional experience with the founding Nun at the Nunnery. · The pass through the 2nd defile. · Sai entertaining and serving us great drinks on the ship We feel so privileged to have had the opportunity to experience this amazing culture with informed tour guides and service oriented crew. While all the crew were so professional and helpful, we particularly want to acknowledge Mark and Dorothy Bauk. Mark kept the whole trip on track and was always willing to share a story and take care of our every need. He is an excellent communicator with a great sense of humor, incredibly competent, and a very likeable person. Dorothy is just a real sweetheart and a genuinely caring person….we so enjoyed our time with her on the trip. She is extremely intelligent, well organized, and has an incredible knowledge of the history and present state of the country. After we left the cruise and were spending our last couple days in Yangon, she went "above and beyond" by arranging for me to have a tailor made longyi and blouse, taking several of us jewelry shopping, and taking us out for dinner at an incredible restaurant on the lake. Read Less
Sail Date January 2017
This cruise was exceptional. This cruise line thought of everything, our guides were well informed and kept a caring eye on their daily wards. We discovered pottery villages, lacquer basket making, hand woven silk textile mill... the ... Read More
This cruise was exceptional. This cruise line thought of everything, our guides were well informed and kept a caring eye on their daily wards. We discovered pottery villages, lacquer basket making, hand woven silk textile mill... the fabrics were exquisite, many beautiful pagodas and Buddha's. There nothing quite as serene as exploring the river, and watching the sun set on an ancient sacred teak bridge while sipping champagne. I so enjoyed the people who crossed our path. Very interested and pleasant, obliging in photo shots and quick smiles. I can say the people of Myanmar were the highlight of my trip. The ship was very clean and tidy and the crew most eager to make your stay comfortable. The food was 5 star, the chef's outdid themselves and service excellent. You do need good legs, as stairs were used to get everywhere. Getting off for the excursion required climbing up river banks so work those calve muscles before leaving home. Evening were spent in the lounge with movies, cards, karaoke and documentaries that were most informative and gave us a clearer insight into Myanmar and its people. Read Less
Sail Date December 2016
We wanted to experience the culture and beauty of Vietnam, Cambodia and the Mekong Delta; and what better way than on a beautiful river boat. The Jayavarman is just that. The staff was excellent and we were spoiled for the entire week. ... Read More
We wanted to experience the culture and beauty of Vietnam, Cambodia and the Mekong Delta; and what better way than on a beautiful river boat. The Jayavarman is just that. The staff was excellent and we were spoiled for the entire week. Nim, Panny and Makara were delightful. The cabin decor was elegant with adequate space, and a veranda with wonderful views. Amazing sunrises and sunsets. The ship's atmosphere was relaxing with a large open air deck to view the river and surrounding land. There areas to lounge or to socialize on the top 2 decks. The upper deck had chaise lounge chairs and a small pool. There were Tai Chi classes on the upper deck every morning. There is also a spa available for messages, manicures, pedicures, etc. WiFi was available at no extra charge, which was unexpected but nice to have. The food was excellent and abundant. Without previous notice, the chef catered to my husband's dietary needs of gluten free meals. He even prepared individual pastries and cakes. The dining hall was stylish and classically decorated. Service was great. The chef hosted a culinary class where the guest participated and learned several dishes including spring rolls. It was a lot of fun. Excursions were really interesting and very personal. We visited floating markets and small villages where we interacted with the local people; and learned about their way of life. The cultural experience was unforgettable. We visited the Killing Fields and the S21 Prison in Phnom Penh, an experience that won't soon be forgotten. We visited the Green School and the children were so excited and fun. Local families shared their homes and stories. I would definitely recommend the Heritage Line's Jayavarman cruise. Read Less
Sail Date November 2016
The Viking Emerald is not the usual Scandinavian design, it is definitely Chinese. Beautifully decorated with shops where you can have silk clothing MADE on board, watch a very good artist paint, and more. The staff is polite and ... Read More
The Viking Emerald is not the usual Scandinavian design, it is definitely Chinese. Beautifully decorated with shops where you can have silk clothing MADE on board, watch a very good artist paint, and more. The staff is polite and attentive. The meals, really special. We did tour to Xian. I was blown away by the warriors , and the Great Wall really impress. For me this was not a vacation. It was a lot of walking every day. I came home tired but very happy we went. The population in China is shoulder to shoulder. The traffic was hair raising. Our driver was good and our tour director was outstanding. He had an answer for almost all question the 29 of us could ask and his patience was unending. This was a wonderful trip and I encourage you to go. Take good walking shoes, rain jacket and sunglasses. Happy travels Read Less
Sail Date April 2016
My mom and I chose to travel with Viking to China because we had heard great things about Viking tours, and wanted to travel with a reputable company. When we looked at the available cruises we chose the 'cruise' from Beijing to ... Read More
My mom and I chose to travel with Viking to China because we had heard great things about Viking tours, and wanted to travel with a reputable company. When we looked at the available cruises we chose the 'cruise' from Beijing to Shanghai. One thing that appealed to us "virgin" cruisers was that there were hotel stays prior to and after the cruise portion. We had a few days in Beijing and Xian before the cruise and got to explore The Great Wall, Tiananmen Square, The Terra Cotta Warriors, and other fantastic places, all while staying in five-star accommodation. Then we boarded the Viking Emerald, we enter into a beautiful atrium and our taken to our stateroom-spacious and has a great veranda. The Yangtze River provided a beautiful backdrop as we cruised, and it was wonderful to enjoy sitting on our veranda. The food onboard was delicious, and I loved that at every meal there was a local cuisine option. The crew was amazing, and talented! The entertainment on board surpassed my expectations. The shore excursions were well thought out and gave a view of China that we couldn't get in the larger cities- I particularly loved the lesser gorges tour because our guide had lived there her entire life and she described the culture. Even when we couldn't go on one of the excursions (due to a weather/lock schedule issue), the staff on the boat went out of their way to plan some last minute entertainment, including a free alcoholic beverage, so that we would still get a great experience, even if it wasn't the one we had planned. It has been over six months since we traveled, and my mom and I still are talking about all of the wonderful experiences we had in China. I am normally an independent traveler, but I am so glad I traveled with Viking because I know I would not have seen a quarter of what I saw with them, or with the ease that everything was handled. I have recommended this trip to everyone I know, and I would gladly go on this trip again! Read Less
Sail Date March 2016
I have been on three previous Viking river cruises and just love them. Am no longer interested in ocean cruises now that I have done the river ones. Our program director was the best, Mu Mu. She engaged all of his daily and the crew ... Read More
I have been on three previous Viking river cruises and just love them. Am no longer interested in ocean cruises now that I have done the river ones. Our program director was the best, Mu Mu. She engaged all of his daily and the crew as well with singing and dancing. We loved her. We were so lucky to have 14 of us passengers and 28 crew members. truly pampered and spoiled. The food was excellent, not spicy, which was very helpful. presentation was wonderful and service was great. Loved all the daily tours we took with the wonderful air conditioned buses. Dominique the hotel manager was wonderful as well. My only suggestion is that the young lady who was the massage therapist got a bit too personal along our buttocks. It wasn't intentional but we Western ladies are a bit more reserved and we did mention it to each other. We would have liked for the air conditioning unit to go down to 15 deg. C. It was unusually hot during that week, l00 every day and it was difficult for the unit to keep up. Our rooms were lovely and the boat was also spotless and the service was wonderful. Our drivers were very careful and I appreciate having two crew members come along on each of our tours. It kept me from wandering off into the paths of the motorbikes!! I really loved Bagan and the last shrine with the 582,000 Buddha images. Also appreciated all the cold water on hand. Would highly recommend this cruise to my friends. In fact, two sets of friends have already come to see me, look at my pictures and inquired about our trip. Next stop Amazon or Ganges!! Read Less
Sail Date March 2016
We chose this cruise and land excursion to get a good understanding of the culture of SE Asia. Unlike others I found the ship quaint and it fit the area we were traveling in. While the stairs were steep and there were some tall banks ... Read More
We chose this cruise and land excursion to get a good understanding of the culture of SE Asia. Unlike others I found the ship quaint and it fit the area we were traveling in. While the stairs were steep and there were some tall banks to climb. The itinerary stated that this trip was for people that could climb stairs and navigate uneven terrain. Viking went out of their way to accommodate people that were physically challenged. The food was excellent on the ship. There were two meals that were served away from the hotel and the ship that were less than spectacular. I would suggest that Viking revisit those locations. Excursions were excellent. The only excursion that I would do away with is the one to the lacquer factory. It turned out to be a shopping stop a a cheap souvenir shop. All of the rest of the stops were extremely interesting. We also found our tour guide Lee to go out of his way to insure that we having a good time. He was well trained and very knowledgeable about all the areas and history of the region. Viking also brought in secondary guides in parts of Vietnam and Cambodia. The tour included a visit to a school and a orphanage. Most of the people on the tour only went to the orphanage. I would suggest that one of these tours be replaced with an alternate excursion. Vikings plan to include all excursions as part of the tour makes it easier for planning and keeping the group together. Read Less
Sail Date February 2016
I thought this tour was exceptional. The organization of everything by Viking was wonderful; everything went very smoothly. The hotels were 5-star; the food was wonderful - on land and on the ship. Roy was a great escort. The sights ... Read More
I thought this tour was exceptional. The organization of everything by Viking was wonderful; everything went very smoothly. The hotels were 5-star; the food was wonderful - on land and on the ship. Roy was a great escort. The sights were amazing. It has to rank among my top three trips ever! We stayed at the Westin Beijing Choayang which was very nice. Traffic in Beijing was horrible; it took us probably 3 times longer than necessary due to the traffic jams. Luckily, that was figured into the planning and we got everywhere on time. The Beijing Opera was interesting but not a "must see". There were big crowds on the Great Wall and in the Forbidden City but not too overwhelming. On the Great Wall, it would be very crowded and then somehow people dispersed and you would feel like you were there on your own. In Xian, we were at the Crowne Plaza. The Tang Dynasty Show itself was very good but the food was just okay. The TerraCotta Warriors were wonderful! It was pretty crowded there but the pits are large so you could always find a spot for some good viewing. When we arrived at the ship, we were welcomed by music and a dancing dragon. Staff was there to escort us to our cabin which was pleasant. We did get a dehumidifier which helped; all we needed to do was ask at the front desk. The dining room was quite pleasant and all the meals on board were very good, though they did have some specialties one night , like phoenix legs, chicken feet and pig snout which we didn't try. Staff was very attentive and our wine glasses were never empty. The onboard enrichment activities were okay. Some of the talks about China seemed somewhat rambling and the mah jongg lesson had most of the groups sitting too close to one another. The painting demonstration was good as was the cooking demo. We enjoyed the staff cabaret. My husband enjoyed the tour of the Three Gorges Dam while I thought the tour of the Temple of the Golden Ox was good too. It was here were I did some shopping and got a good deal on some scarves. The Shibaozhai Temple was fascinating and the view from the heights there was wonderful. In Shaghai, we were at the Jing'anShangriLa. The room was magnificent as was the view from the 54th Floor. Here, we were able walk in the area and found a Buddhist Temple and a market to occupy our morning before we left for the airport. The best part of the tour though was all the wonderful people we met. Everyone in our group was very friendly and enjoyable to be with. Read Less
Sail Date September 2015
I have just returned from a 10 day cruise on the Ayeyarwaddy River in Myanmar on the Amapura and cannot wait to go back. Because of the extremely low river we could not board the ship at the usual spot so there was a one hour bus ride ... Read More
I have just returned from a 10 day cruise on the Ayeyarwaddy River in Myanmar on the Amapura and cannot wait to go back. Because of the extremely low river we could not board the ship at the usual spot so there was a one hour bus ride from Mandalay. The Burmese are incredibly sweet and simple people, always with a smile and a wave. Tun and Thomas - Cruise Managers on the Amapura were terrific. Their knowledge and pride in their country was inspiring and their English was much better than my Burmese will ever be. I have been on 7 river cruises prior to this and the crew of the Amapura were helpful above and beyond the call of duty. It should be noted that this is a third world country and so docking facilities are a bit of a challenge if you have any difficulties with mobility but again the crew will help you every step of the way. Since Myanmar has only experienced tourism for a very short period of time it will only get better with experience, but if you expect the cruise to be like Europe then stay in Europe, this is not the cruise for you. There was an incident with the ship that the crew all stepped up to the plate and had everything set to right in a hour and you would never have noticed that anything out of the ordinary had ever taken place. When I went to the sun deck in the mornings at 5:30 the crew were already cleaning rails and mopping the floors. Having a cabin on the upper deck can be a little noisy since they are underneath the lounge and sun deck so you hear the chairs scapping across the floor. This country gave me a chance to experience very spiritual and special events such as lining up to give the monks food in their alms bowl that I would never experience at home. Thanks Tun, Thomas and the rest of the crew on the Amapura for being so wonderful. Glad I had the opportunity to see Myanmar in its purest form and I will be back. Read Less
Sail Date March 2015
Synopsis. This is a long review. Bottom line, I'm positive. Great experience. Go to Myanmar before it is overrun by tourists. Be prepared for dust and smoke and you will see a backward country. The people are wonderful and the sites ... Read More
Synopsis. This is a long review. Bottom line, I'm positive. Great experience. Go to Myanmar before it is overrun by tourists. Be prepared for dust and smoke and you will see a backward country. The people are wonderful and the sites amazing! The Amawaterways, Amapura in Myanmar is relatively new. Before coming on the 14 day cruise in February 2015, I attempted to find reviews, but found very few, and no photos. I read one negative review, complaining about lack of activity, and a dirty ship. The other review was positive, but not detailed. I can state categorically that there isn't a ton of physical activity, but anyone who's ever cruised either on a river, or at sea, knows that. 14 day, luxury cruises are also not filled with young energetic adults, because of their length and cost...so get that out of your system and enjoy what this is. What this cruise offers is luxurious transport to areas you could never get to on your own, and a knowledgable and friendly staff. The ship is small so you don't overwhelm the small villages along the way. The Amapura is a great little "ship". Modern and comfortable. The staff almost outnumbers the 50, or so passengers. They are very well trained, energetic and friendly. I have absolutely no complaints. The room (we had a balcony room) is very large and comfortable. The food, while not up to world class gourmet standards, is very good. As to the cleanliness of the vessel, Myanmar is a smoky, dusty place. The shore excursions all require some walking through sand and dirt, which gets brought aboard. I was up most mornings around 6am and the crew was out scrubbing the decks and handrails, but it's hard to keep up. I would say the ship was pretty clean given the environment. The room was very clean. Decks were all teak, and beautiful. Another review mentioned "dull" wood floors. That person is obviously not a fan of teak. It's an oily wood that does not take varnish well, and looks best when left pretty natural. I personally thought it all looked great. The shore excursions were amazing. I myself love long distance hikes, so I could have used a bit more exercise, but short of that the excursions far exceeded any expectation I had. They were varied, from pagodas, to monestaries, to markets, to schools. Many excursions were opportunistic, based on our cruise manager's scouting out local happenings that were of interest. The tour guides (Mojo, and Swan) were hard working and certainly knowledgeable. Swan gave a series of lectures in the evening on topics ranging from Buddism, to culture, to mythology. While sometimes a little difficult to understand, Swan had obviously done a lot of research and was well prepared. Be prepared when you come. Myanmar is a fabulous trip, and the people warm and welcoming. I never felt threatened. However the country has a long history of strife and poverty, as well as an oppressive government. Don't expect to alight from the ship on a dock. All "dockings" were on the sandy banks of the river with a nice climb up the bank into the local town. There is a lot of dust and smoke. Most days include a stop at some sacred location requiring shoes off. Bring easily removable shoes. Also bring sunscreen. Shorts should not be worn into sacred locations. I found a trip to REI before coming for light weight, quick drying, hiking pants, and long sleeve shirts (sun protection) a worthwhile undertaking. We visited several schools and I wish I had brought more school supplies to donate. These children are beautiful and extremely happy, but they have almost nothing. If you decide to book this trip you will certainly enjoy it if you keep an open mind and look for the beauty that is here. You can be miserable if you think this will be like a trip to Palm Springs, except in a foreign country. Inle lake extension: we booked an extension with Amawaterways to Inle lake. I'm very glad we did. Swan, our tour director from the ship, stayed with us. He did a great job and kept us busy with multiple excursions each day, all by boat. We left the hotel each morning around 8am and returned at sunset. The only issue with Inle lake is that it is heavily infested with tourists, unlike the rest of our trip. It will become impossible in a few years as tourist traffic increases. It's a great stop, though. Not to be missed, at least for now. Logistics: we purchased all our flights, hotels and transfers through Amawaterways. While probably more expensive than doing it on our own (ex: airport to Hotel was $50, on our own it would have been $10), everything was handled flawlessly and easily. Camera gear: I shoot a lot of pictures. I'm an "advanced" amateur. Myanmar as dusty! Changing lenses on a DSLR outside is ill advised. I brought two DSLR bodies. One with a wide angle 10-24mm, and the other with a 28-300mm lens. That was perfect. Flights in Myanmar: I was concerned before coming about our scheduled flights from Yangon to Mandaly and back and forth to Inle lake. We flew Yadanarpon airlines, which is apparently owned by the same person who partners with Amawaterways in Myanmar. The airline is relatively new with new ATR turboprop aircraft. They seemed good and safe. Internet: be prepared for withdrawal symptoms. The boat has great wifi, but for most of the journey there is no connection to the outside world. There is minimal Internet at Inle lake. Two suggestions: check for wifi connections at the better shops you will be in. Some have free wifi. One passenger bought a local SIM card for their iPad. SIM cards can be purchased locally and your cruise guides can help you. What I would have done differently: (1) packed a little less for one, and brought a few more REI-style quick drying hiking pants and shirts. (2) ditched the tripod. Didn't use it. (3) brought a broad brimmed hat. I brought a ball cap. (4) we brought insect repellent which we really didn't need. Read Less
Sail Date February 2015
To set the record straight the Mekong Navigator is owned by and operated by Haimark Ltd located in Colorado with luxury river boats in Southeast Asia. The very good to travel with, Lueftner Cruisers, from Austria, with their excellent ... Read More
To set the record straight the Mekong Navigator is owned by and operated by Haimark Ltd located in Colorado with luxury river boats in Southeast Asia. The very good to travel with, Lueftner Cruisers, from Austria, with their excellent European river boats, does not own the Mekong Navigator but, instead, represents Haimark in Europe. You can look it up. We're river cruisers and have a few under our belts. We rode the Mekong Navigator in December, 2014 as part of a very good 17 day Gate 1 Travel trip through Vietnam and Cambodia with a 2 day extension in Bangkok. We met the river boat at My Tho in the Mekong Delta after a roughly 2 hour drive from Saigon (as the locals insist on calling it). We understand that the Mekong Navigator is a new boat in late 2014 and it is quite luxurious with an outstanding crew especially the folks you interact with the most (dining room, bar staff and butlers...yes, butlers, but not for all of us...just the suites). We were told that they are all Cambodians with good english for us foreign-language-challenged Americans and good memories because they remember your names. The cabins are spacious and well appointed. I really like the cabins on the Lueftner boats in Europe and these, to my taste (not my wife's), seemed a bit much. You can judge. Very good, large bed. Fancy bathroom, shower, no tub unless you book a suite. French balcony, unless you book a suite. Plenty of window. Good a/c and ceiling fan. Bottled water provided. There could have been more drawer space for some, but we managed quite well. The boat is kept exceptionally clean. After off boat excursions we were greeted on the stern or mid-ships with wipes for our faces and hands, a drink and, for certain shore excursions, sandals so that we could leave our shoes to be cleaned and returned shortly to our rooms. And, by the by, we never had a bug problem either on board on during our shore excursions (this was in December, when it wasn't too hot). I suggest that you review their trip details online to understand the off board excursions. I can say that they were well organized and the guides provided in Vietnam and especially in Cambodia were first rate; none better. Wifi on board was always available in certain places, not in the cabins. However, it could be very slow depending on where the boat was. A favorite place was on the top deck under the roofed section outside the bar. The food on board was good, not great, not of European river boat quality. I'm not showing a preference for western chow, we just thought the flavoring wasn't as good as it could have been, but it was still good. I'm a bit of a picky eater and the selection was always varied enough that I had no troubles. Tables in the dining room typically seat 6 people and, as I said earlier, the wait staff is super excellent and friendly. Meals were always looked forward to because of them. Being a river boat there was little on board entertainment. You get to know your fellow passengers...good or bad...and almost always good. However, we were entertained one night by a group of young teenagers from a Cambodian orphanage who performed traditional dances. There was also a crew dance show one night that encouraged volunteers from the passengers. A note: we were able to get our Cambodian visas on board when we stopped at the Vietnam/Cambodian border for a couple of hours. The total fee was US$40/person, cash. This didn't agree with the amount on Haimark's website, but that's what it was. Tipping on board is at the end of the trip. I strongly suggest that you do your research to compare to other SE Asia river boat trips before leaving. You might want also to have enough cash available to split the allocation the way you want it and not all by credit card and they split it their way. We highly recommend this trip, this boat and this crew. It was a very good time. Read Less
Sail Date December 2014
Pictures, films, books, and magazines fall short of capturing China in it's beauty, frenzy, contradictions, and growth to modernization. The Viking cruise did a fantastic job in showing as much as possible in a short period of time. ... Read More
Pictures, films, books, and magazines fall short of capturing China in it's beauty, frenzy, contradictions, and growth to modernization. The Viking cruise did a fantastic job in showing as much as possible in a short period of time. Everything was well planned, well timed, and executed. The tour escort Jenna was exceptional. The ship was very comfortable with good food, cabins, lectures, activities, and staff. The pace was good for older travelers wherein we saw a lot but were not hurried from place to place. We had time to rest with some leisure time on board. We took the extension to Guilin and Hong Kong which was well worth it. All the hotels were 5 star by western standards. The buses were comfortable and modern. We could not have covered as much ground on our own in such a huge country especially not knowing the language. Vikings airport service was efficient and much appreciated. They handled all our ticketing and bags from the moment we booked, arrived in Shanghai until we left the country with no slip ups. This is a first class operation. Read Less
Sail Date October 2014
We are not easily impressed having been disappointed on many occasions, but this is one time where the trip actually lived up to its hype. While travel in China is not without its drawbacks, we felt that Viking did an excellent job of ... Read More
We are not easily impressed having been disappointed on many occasions, but this is one time where the trip actually lived up to its hype. While travel in China is not without its drawbacks, we felt that Viking did an excellent job of delivering the highlights of China within a reasonable time frame and at a reasonable cost. We like the corporate culture, and were amazed by our tour guide, Bonnie, and the staff onboard the Viking Emerald. I felt that the people Viking employed were very concerned about the welfare and comfort of the participants and very determined to give us personal insights that you would not have gotten had you tried to attempt a trip of this complexity on your own. We had no problem with food safety and were given unlimited bottled water everywhere we went. We only spent 5 days of the cruise tour on the ship, but we found it to be a pleasant experience. There was a pride in doing a superior job that we have not seen in a very long time. I think the Viking corporate culture breeds this type of employee and they should be commended for their excellence. Read Less
Sail Date October 2014
Roof of the World was a trip of a lifetime! My husband and I thoroughly recommend it for both the cultural and historical aspects. We chose this excursion because it included visiting different areas of China and Llhasa, Tibet. Our group ... Read More
Roof of the World was a trip of a lifetime! My husband and I thoroughly recommend it for both the cultural and historical aspects. We chose this excursion because it included visiting different areas of China and Llhasa, Tibet. Our group of 38 people were housed and traveled separately from other Viking groups (except on the river cruise) because we were the only group going to Tibet. Viking assigns a guide who remains with you throughout this trip. Our guide, Francis, is a Bejing native, and was by far the best guide we've ever had in our many travel experiences. He has 10+ years of travel industry experience and is able to share his personal experiences of the past 30-years of change within his country. Our time aboard the Emerald on the Yangtze River was marvelous. Cruising on this river we could enjoy a variety of local and business traffic, the farmers and fishers in their daily activities, the amazing Three Gorges and the minor gorges, Three Gorges Dam, and large and small cities along the route. Our cabin was compact but thoroughly comfortable. Closet space was a premium, but suitcases fit under the bed so you can store unnecessary clothing. (Note: this cruise is a relaxed environment/dressy casual atmosphere, so formal clothing is not needed here nor on land. Comfort is key!) The Emerald staff are helpful, friendly, and courteous. If they can't understand your question, they find someone who will help you. Of particular note are Lois (lounge), Paul (activities), and the head of the dining room (sorry, but I forgot his name!). With my food allergy, everyone was able to help me avoid problems. We were amazed at how rapidly staff remembered our names and room numbers! If you like to visit the lounge and like wine, we encourage you to sign up for the Premium package! Ordering from the menu or visiting the daily buffet gives a variety of food options. The port and shore excursions included local guides with detailed knowledge of history, traditions, and daily activities. We enjoyed walking through towns, museums, and temples to see and hear the local activities. The Vox speaker system is a perfect in these situations! The visit to a local Tibetan home was an excellent experience. The Viking School children visiting us onboard was wonderful. We were extremely lucky with beautifully clear weather on most days of our trip. The Great Wall was spectacular with fall foliage and blue skies. We know this isn't always the case, and breathing can be difficult for those with asthma or related health issues. Tibet's elevation makes moving and breathing difficult, but the people, places, and food makes it very worth drinking lots of water, resting, avoiding alcohol, and, if necessary, using oxygen. Embarkation, disembarkation, airport check-in, and baggage handling are very efficient. We enjoyed having someone else handling all this for us. A carryon bag and small "daypack" are essential in addition your checked bag. Be prepared for staying in luxury hotels, eating a variety of foods, and non-western toilets. Take this trip and be adaptable. Viking's trip to China and Tibet is excellent! Read Less
Sail Date October 2014
This was our first experience with Viking and although the cruise part of the tour and pre cruise trip was only 5 days, the entire trip was 15 days for us. There were lots of logistics for them to handle and we felt they did an excellent ... Read More
This was our first experience with Viking and although the cruise part of the tour and pre cruise trip was only 5 days, the entire trip was 15 days for us. There were lots of logistics for them to handle and we felt they did an excellent job. In fact we have signed up for a 30+ day Baltic/ Norwegian/Iceland extravaganza on their new ocean ships for 2016. We feared that 5 star in China might not mean 5 star, but really I think it is pretty accurate, but this is not a cruise for the person looking to go to the spa, dress up, drink exotic cocktails, see glitzy shows, dance and gamble the night away. This is for the hard core travel addict who is there to see the country, expand their horizons and come home with a new appreciation for a different culture, but wants comfort and safety. The tour guides and staff took their jobs very seriously and gave us wonderful personal insights into their country. We have cruised on many different cruise lines, but Viking seems to have matched our interests better than the others. Read Less
Sail Date October 2014
I just returned from this trip and it far exceeded my expectations. (I traveled the direction: Beijing to Shanghai.) First I can tell you that I heard nothing but good reviews from my fellow passengers about their own Tour Guide, but I ... Read More
I just returned from this trip and it far exceeded my expectations. (I traveled the direction: Beijing to Shanghai.) First I can tell you that I heard nothing but good reviews from my fellow passengers about their own Tour Guide, but I still think ours was the best: Terry! From start to finish everything was first class. The land portion has passengers staying in 5+ star hotels. Enough cannot be written about how outstanding the hotels were - one simply must experience them. Taking this tour, one sees all the highlights of China, and if there is something in particular you wish to see that is not on the itinerary, the staff is more than helpful in assisting you to put something together so that you can see what you wish. Do come prepared to be in, and experience, a non-Western country. Some individuals on my tours were disappointed they ate so much Chinese food! Others became impatient because a Chinese national could not understand English. Since we were in China this surprised me; I simply thought we all came expecting a country, food, culture and language very different from our own. As with touring anywhere outside of one's home country digestive tracts can become upset trying to adjust, so do come with over-the-counter preparations to help you with such symptoms. I had no issues at all, but about 10% of our group had mild to moderate digestive problems for a short duration. The Summer months can be hot and humid. I understand that Spring and Fall are perhaps ideal times to visit. My trip was at the tail end of Summer and so the climate was still fairly warm and muggy. Light-weight travel clothes that launder well by hand are ideal. On-board I would recommend asking for a dehumidifier for one's room as soon as you board. It will still feel a bit damp in the room, but the dehumidifier does make a pleasant difference. My recommendation is to make this tour starting with Beijing if possible. The Beijing portion is the most physically taxing - long day and significant walking at Tiananmen Square, Forbidden City, Summer Palace and the second day at the Great Wall. It makes the relaxation when you get to the boat even more enjoyable. I do wish there had been one more day in Shanghai and others seemed to agree with this, so if your plans allow, add time in Shanghai. In all ways I recommend this tour. Read Less
Sail Date September 2014
I have recently returned from the Pandaw Cruises trip between Siem Reap in Cambodia and Ho Chi Minh City in Vietnam on the RV Mekong Pandaw. It is impossible to highlight one particular service or event as they do it all so brilliantly. ... Read More
I have recently returned from the Pandaw Cruises trip between Siem Reap in Cambodia and Ho Chi Minh City in Vietnam on the RV Mekong Pandaw. It is impossible to highlight one particular service or event as they do it all so brilliantly. From the roomy cabin on a limited passenger river boat to the fine dining and casual luxury, it is just magic. All land tours during the cruise are escorted with options for pre and post cruise tour options, leisurely paced and very well presented. Of course, you can just sit back and do nothing if that's what you want. If you're in the mood for a trip on a luxury river boat in SE Asia I highly recommend Pandaw Cruises. Read Less
Sail Date September 2014
I cruised on the Kalaw Pandaw from Sept. 6 to 13, 2014, embarking in Mandalay and debarking in Bagan, Myanmar (Burma). The Kalaw is a beautiful little river steamer built almost entirely out of a dark hardwood that is indigenous to ... Read More
I cruised on the Kalaw Pandaw from Sept. 6 to 13, 2014, embarking in Mandalay and debarking in Bagan, Myanmar (Burma). The Kalaw is a beautiful little river steamer built almost entirely out of a dark hardwood that is indigenous to Myanmar. The boat is in excellent repair, well maintained and clean. Because the boat is small, it does not have the amenities of the large cruise ships, but that does not matter to me. I don’t need a pool, gym, separate cocktail lounge or the other amenities of large ships. All of us could socialize out on the deck whenever we wanted to. Cruises on Pandaw are down to earth, which I liked. The ship’s small size and shallow draft enable the captain to take it right up to the river banks and sail it in parts of the river where larger boats cannot go. This was the inaugural cruise for this itinerary and, I think, this boat. Service was excellent. Crew and staff were friendly and went out of their way to accommodate our wishes. Food was ample and very good. Laundry sent out in the morning was back by evening. All excursions were included in the cruise price. Transfers to and from airports or hotels was included too. Gratuities were included, but most of us gave staff cash tips anyway because the service and overall experience was so good. The itinerary was excellent. We were taken to well known historic sites and temples, as well as remote villages and places that I would have never found on my own. This mix of excursions added very much to the enjoyment of the cruise. Our tour guide was excellent. He spoke English and had extensive knowledge about every place we went. We learned a lot about the history and culture of this enchanting country. Because the boat ties up to river banks, your shoes may get a little muddy or dirty and the same with some of the excursions that we went on. No problem. You take off your shoes when entering the boat. Crew clean them off and deliver your shoes to your room. Sandals should be worn. You have to take off shoes and socks to enter the temples anyway. The Irrawaddy River is huge. It is the main economic artery of Myanmar. We were 600 miles north of Yangon (Rangoon) and the river was larger than the Mississippi R. at New Orleans. The Irrawaddy is famous for its sunsets. The river did not disappoint us on this trip. Many of us would sit out on the deck in the evening to watch the sunset. I intend to sail on Pandaw again and recommend this cruise line to other travelers as well.   Read Less
Sail Date September 2014
This was a first class tour of China. I would rate the 4 hotels we stayed in as 5 star. The Viking Emerald was modern and well maintained. The food on board was excellent. We had one guide who accompanied our group of 30 during the entire ... Read More
This was a first class tour of China. I would rate the 4 hotels we stayed in as 5 star. The Viking Emerald was modern and well maintained. The food on board was excellent. We had one guide who accompanied our group of 30 during the entire trip (she was excellent) and local guides joined us at each new city (they were very good and had expert knowledge of the local area). The entire trip was interesting and Tibet was most unusual and enjoyable. We had a wonderful time. Read Less
Sail Date September 2014
First and foremost, Son, our Tour Director was an amazing and diligent guide that met everyone’s needs. He ensured everyone understood the plan, how to eliminate overhead and bureaucracy and the most time was spent on the attractions and ... Read More
First and foremost, Son, our Tour Director was an amazing and diligent guide that met everyone’s needs. He ensured everyone understood the plan, how to eliminate overhead and bureaucracy and the most time was spent on the attractions and not waiting around. We loved how he handled all the passport, visas and customs processes. He made it so easy for everyone. Not a single complaint. The land portion of the Hanoi tour excellent. Good balance and blend of sites. My only criticism is the tour did not include an option for the women’s museum which is a great museum to understand all the ethnicities in Vietnam, nor did it include a visit to the (Army) War Museum in Hanoi. We went to these on our own. Taxis only cost $2-3 each way, so it was no problem for us to do when we arrived a day early before the tour started. The hotels were clearly 4-5 star choices. Could not have been better choices and the Sofitel Metropole in Hanoi was a clear delight. Definitely sign up as soon as you can for the free bomb shelter tour. You will learn a lot of history in 45 minutes that many never hear or see in Hanoi. As everyone will tell you, bring LOTS of $1 bills for tips. You need at least 50 of them. Plan for it, you will need them for many things, like Tuk Tuks, taxis, drinks, etc. Don’t plan on exchanging money in Vietnam for the small bills…you can, but it is a pain in the butt and may not be possible when you need it. Just bring $100 in lots of small bills. You will be happy. The ATMs in Vietnam are plentiful and spit out local currency…most people don’t need more than $50 in local currency. In Cambodia, most people use US dollars and even the ATMs give out US dollars, no local currency needed. In restaurants, taxis and bars, tipping is not needed or expected. From a weather standpoint, it was HOT and HUMID in August. You will sweat your butt off and be prepared to bring lots of clothes that you can wash in your room every day (like EXOffico, REI and Columbia). Most people can and do wear shorts, but for temples and pagodas, you do need long pants and full shirts that cover your shoulders to get into most of them. Outside of that, most places and most people are very casual. It can also rain/downpour at a moment’s notice, so small mobile umbrellas are handy. The tour group is very good with giving ponchos and umbrellas when people were not prepared. Hanoi, Siem Riep, Phnom Penh, the villages are all safe. No threats whatsoever. Very friendly people and no concerns of theft, pickpockets, etc. A true delight that is not experienced in many countries anymore. Never felt or seen any behavior or activities to concern a tourist. One thing that AMA did very nicely is there for approximately 65 people total in our group. They broke it down into 3 groups every day based on a color naming scheme. In general, most groups at 15-20 people max, and each group got their own bus. They never operated with massive group sizes or crowded busses. You actually felt like a smaller tour. This was well done and a definite plus for this tour company. Cruising with AMAWaterways on the AMALOTUS for a week was a delight. The highlights: The staff do have limited English, but it is adequate and they try very hard meet all passenger needs while being in a third world country. They are customer focused and it shows. But, be aware, they are limited and if you have questions that are more than basic things, they will not understand you or be able to help. It is important that people set different expectations on what is possible and what can be done in a third world country. The rooms are very comfortable and clean. We were a little worried that our first room (303) had very poor air conditioning and was going to be hot, but they moved us to a new room (305) and we had a nice ice cold room the entire cruise. One thing people should be aware of: if some of the better rooms are not occupied, they will not upgrade you to the nicer rooms. If you want a nicer room, they will offer the upgrades for a discount ($500 - $800 for the week), but it won’t happen just because you are a frequent guest of AMA Waterways. The food was great every day. Good choices, many options and generous portions available to everyone. Local and western choices. Great flavors and unbelievable presentation every day. The seating times are somewhat fixed though: lunch is at 12:30 and dinner is at 7:30. There is a little flexibility, but not much. Everywhere you, you will be given lots of bottled water to drink and brush your teeth with. Not even locals drink tap water, so you better not try it yourself. Even if you run out, you can buy a bottle for 50 cents in local currency or even a bottle of beer for less than $1 US dollar. Most people felt the Cambodian Angkor beer was the best choice. Drinks are always available: beer, cocktails, soft drinks, juices, water, etc. Wine is only available at lunch and dinner, but it is poured with ease and you can take a full glass when you leave the table. The house wines were not bad and unless you are a connoisseur, the wines will be just fine. The exercise room has 1 bike, 1 treadmill and 1 elliptical with a few free weights and yoga mats. It is not much, but at least they had something on the small ship. I think it would have been nice to have a few more free weights in the heavier levels. Vising the local villages and schools was a wonderful experience as a westerner. We were able to see, smell, and feel how many people in Vietnam and Cambodia live their daily lives. It is so limited and so different, it is hard to explain until you experience first-hand. You learn and understand so much more with tours like this that are not possible in the standard group tours. The people love to meet and see you and it is a delight to interact with them. When you visit these places, the children love the gifts. In Siem Riep, we purchased some small soccer balls to give to children in the villages. This is something they could never afford, but it gave them a toy that many could enjoy that might not be possible without outside visitors bringing these things to them. It was a great reward to play a game with all the kids without saying a word that neither side could understand. If you have one of the mini-suites you get the great benefit of a bathtub (with jets) which is great when you have to do laundry to clean your daily sweaty clothes in the 100% humidity and 100 degree weather in these countries in the summer months. You also get a dedicated Internet hotspot for your room and do not need to share with the entire passenger list which is VERY nice when you want to stay connected along the way.   Read Less
Sail Date August 2014
We travelled on the Viking Imperial Jewels tour/river cruise at the end of July. We havecruised frequently on ocean cruises and are also independent travellers so this was a unique situation for us. Most of my angst was travelling with a ... Read More
We travelled on the Viking Imperial Jewels tour/river cruise at the end of July. We havecruised frequently on ocean cruises and are also independent travellers so this was a unique situation for us. Most of my angst was travelling with a difficult group. Viking is an outstanding company that we will travel with in the future. For those wanting to see China at a more than comfortable level this is a great trip. Eight groups of 34 make up the entire group travelling on the river. You are put into one of those groups and assigned a tour escort for the whole trip. We were blessed with a great group, mostly teachers due to the time of the year. Our tour escort, Iowa, was outstanding. He provided free and open opinions about China, including first hand information about him in Tianemenan Square in 1989. He was organized and professional. The hotels that are used are 5-6 star quality. We stayed at the Ritz Carlton. Portman in Shanghai, the Hilton in Xi'an and the Regent in Beijing. Outstanding in every way! This is NOT a shopping tour although there are chances to spend money, mostly at Viking approved places. Jade, silk embroidery, silk carpets and Xi'an souvenirs are some of the stops. You have to spend your free time going out to the markets as Viking does not encourage this. There is a tailor aboard the ship if you want a custom silk jacket made, as well as a pearl store and Chinese artist. Each day of the cruise provides for a shore excursion, included in the price. We toured the Three Gorges Dam, toured the Lesser Three Gorges by small boat and climbed the Shaobazhai Temple. There is not a lot to do on the ship so be prepared to relax and read. There is no promenade deck to walk around. We travelled in the summer so there was very, very hot and humid weather. All the daily talks were very informative. The food was very good and plentiful - the best thing is the homemade yogurt served in small jars. Delicious. The staff works extremely hard, especially Lois, the bar manager. The premium bar package at 150.00 is great value, especially if you like trying other wines and enjoy drinks other than beer and wine. House wine and beer and no extra charge however the only choice is Chardonnay. That sold me on the package. Don't expect Wifi, it doesn't exist. There are 6 computers, slow but always available. Wifi is available at Ll hotel free of charge. This is a VERY good trip and an excellent way to see China. I would highly recommend it.   Read Less
Sail Date July 2014
This was my first cruise ever, and it was such a positive experience. Amawaterways has done a terrific job of combining different types of on shore experiences on this cruise. This was extremely important to me as I have resisted cruising ... Read More
This was my first cruise ever, and it was such a positive experience. Amawaterways has done a terrific job of combining different types of on shore experiences on this cruise. This was extremely important to me as I have resisted cruising up till now, not wanting to spend my entire time on a ship and needing excursions that are interesting to me. When traveling, my wife and I like to visit historical sites, as well as absorbing the culture of the country through contact with the locals - seeing how they live and enjoying (hopefully!) the local food. This cruise did an exceptional job of that, aided by the knowledgeable guides such as Mao Ponloe in Cambodia, and Khanh in Vietnam. Congratulations to Amawaterways. The staff onboard were very friendly and very efficient. The cruise manager did an exceptional job on this particular voyage. Che Thanh Thoai is a remarkable individual. His attention to detail is astonishing. He was EVERYWHERE we needed him to be, to the extent that we sometimes wondered if he had several identical brothers! He is energetic and friendly, and sympathetic to passengers needs. He goes out of his way to help and please, even when passengers are clearly in the wrong (e.g. missing departure times). He is also quite talented as a musician and vocalist! The entire staff was pleasant and provided great service, but Thoai stood out. With this experience I am now a committed cruiser, and will thoroughly endorse Amawaterways to anyone that asks. The Amalotus is a very well designed ship with minimal engine noise and vibration in the cabins. The only downside on this particular cruise through the Mekong - very spotty internet connections. The exercise area is a bit limited, but there were never any lineups for use. The A/C was not always turned on there, so it was easy to get up a sweat! Read Less
Sail Date July 2014
As with most of our fellow passengers, this was our first visit to China. The trip comprised three land centres punctuated by a five day cruise on the Yangtze. The selected hotels in Shanghai, Xian and Beijing were all of a very high ... Read More
As with most of our fellow passengers, this was our first visit to China. The trip comprised three land centres punctuated by a five day cruise on the Yangtze. The selected hotels in Shanghai, Xian and Beijing were all of a very high quality. Our trip started in Shanghai and ended in Beijing. This to us seemed the best option as it offered the only opportunity to see the pandas. Most of those we spoke to agreed that, with the benefit of hindsight, this was indeed the preferred option as, leaving the Terracotta Army, Forbidden City and Great Wall until the end of the trip diminished any possible feeling of anti-climax. We were fortunate to have an excellent guide, Johanna, who gave us comprehensive background to life in China and an interesting perspective on the changes wrought over the past century. It must be pointed out that we believed we had struck lucky with Johanna but those in other groups were equally enthusiastic about their guides. The specialist city guides too were all of a high quality. The visits were well chosen and informative although those of us staying away from downtown Shanghai would have liked more time on the Bund rather than a cursory drive through. Enrichment activities were organised in several centres, some include, some optional. We enjoyed the evening entertainment in Shanghai and the playing of the ancient instruments in Wuhan. We skipped the circus and duck dinner in Beijing both of which received mixed reviews. We did opt for the afternoon trip to the Summer palace in Beijing and were well rewarded. The transition from land to sea was smoothly handled. Embarkation was swift and welcoming. Services on the Emerald were excellent, a nice touch being that by the end of the first evening the dining room and bar staff had learned our names. The food was uniformly fine with several options for each course in the evening and some interesting choices at lunchtimes for those who were feeling adventurous. We purchased the drinks package which for $150 per head allowed more choice of wine/beer as well as extra drinks outside of mealtimes. Those who did not do so pronounced the complimentary beer and wines perfectly acceptable. The sit as you please dining arrangement allowed us to converse with other guests with whom we would not otherwise have met. The passengers seemed to be split 50-50 in terms of Brits and Americans and we enjoyed some pleasant evenings. Having cruised with Americans in the past we were happy not to meet any who whinged about their taxes and/or tried to convince us that Obama was not an American and should never have been allowed to take his place in the White House. These were truly a different breed! Dining in the cities was usually in the 'Lazy Susan' style allowing the opportunity to sample a number of different dishes. This we enjoyed. Excursions from the boat were well chosen. These included a transfer to smaller boats to sail the Lesser Three Gorges and a visit to the spectacular Shibaozhai pagoda. Entertainment on the boat was limited but the crew put on a couple of shows to showcase their talents. In truth, there was not a lot to do by day except to sit and enjoy the scenery but several informative lectures were provided by the Cruise Director, Paul. Everyone with whom we spoke expressed surprise at the modernisation of China and the speed of progress. Many cities unknown in the west have populations of millions. The memories of vast urban developments, the rush to embrace all things western, and the hugely entertaining interpretation of traffic laws will live long. China is a rapidly changing country with a fascinating past. A visit is enormously rewarding and Viking River Cruises' Imperial Jewels trip offers a value for money introduction to China. Read Less
Sail Date July 2014

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