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142 Asia River Cruise Reviews

We traveled on Viking River Cruise's Imperial Jewels of China trip in May/June 2014. We chose Viking because of their total package, and because China would be difficult to navigate by ourselves. I'll start with the negative, ... Read More
We traveled on Viking River Cruise's Imperial Jewels of China trip in May/June 2014. We chose Viking because of their total package, and because China would be difficult to navigate by ourselves. I'll start with the negative, but there were many more positives. The negative was that our group of 24 who traveled and ate most meals together included 8 people who were not able to physically keep up with the rest of the group for various reasons. One individual brought a walker and friend to help her, but even that was not adequate for most of the excursions. During our two week time, two people fell, and two went home before the trip ended. Though Viking "warns" travelers about the rigorous nature of the trip, it's really up to the traveler to decide. The Chinese tour guides are not equipped to accommodate large numbers of handicapped/mobility-challenged individuals. Our guide spent many days scurrying to find wheelchairs for this often demanding group. Viking needs to have the flexibility to move these folks into a group of their own the first or second day (in situations like ours); otherwise, it negatively impacts the rest of the tour group. We missed a trip to the Chongqing Zoo (which has natural habitats rather than a traditional zoo) and the famous Dumpling restaurant in the Muslim District in Xian. So please, if you fall into this category and are considering a trip to China, consider the other travelers before booking a trip. On the positive, we enjoyed our time in the major Chinese cities - Shanghai, Xian and Beijing - more than our time on the cruise. The hotels were 5 star - we stayed at the Shanghai Ritz Carlton, the Xian Hilton and the Regent in Beijing. All were well-located and accommodated to our needs. Traveling from Shanghai to Beijing is beneficial because there is time to get over jet lag at the beginning of the trip, and touring the Yuyuan Gardens, the silk factory and the Shanghai Museum can be done at a relaxing pace. The leg from Xian to Beijing is the most interesting and requires the most walking and traveling. The Chinese airlines were all professional, clean and organized, in our experience, and Viking coordinated our flights well. Xian was one of the highlights of the trip, and Viking wisely made it a two-day stop. Beijing was wonderful during our visit - the weather, the people and our time at Tiananmen Square/Forbidden City - walked 5 miles as well as our 2-hour hike up the south side of the Great Wall of China at Badaling. Shopping at the Pearl Market was a great time with many deals. Give yourself a full afternoon for that. Regarding the cruise, the staff on the ship could not have been nicer or more accommodating. It is not as luxurious as some cruises we have done, but we enjoyed the small group (180 people total), and we made friends with many people. This was nice to do at the beginning of the trip so we could spend time together for the remainder of the trip. Most thought that 3 days on the Yangtze would have been enough, but since Viking is a cruise company, that seems unlikely. The Three Gorges Dam and the Lesser Gorges are definitely worth seeing, but much of the coastline as you head east is industrialized. You will learn so much about China and its culture, and we recommend it! Read Less
Sail Date May 2014
six of us departed Houston on august 20 bound for Beijing. This was all booked through Viking, and I must say they did a great job. its a 2 hour flight from Houston iah to Detroit, then 12 hours to Beijing. We were met at the airport in ... Read More
six of us departed Houston on august 20 bound for Beijing. This was all booked through Viking, and I must say they did a great job. its a 2 hour flight from Houston iah to Detroit, then 12 hours to Beijing. We were met at the airport in Beijing by Johanna, who ultimately turned out to be our tour escort. She is wonderful. We transferred as a group to the ritz Carleton Beijing, that was a great experience in itself. The staff there were great, they learned your name in no time and the food (yes a few pounds were gained here). We had a free day the next day, so it was taxi to the zoo and then to the llama temple. We spoke no Chinese (other than very good and thank you), but had no problem getting around. Yep, panda bear was there and doing his(her) thing, eating leaves. We found Beijing to be a great way to become introduced to the Chinese culture. The people are friendly. Don't be surprised when kids (mostly teenage Chinese girls) rush up to get their friends to take a photo of them posing with you. We felt like celebraties. The trip to the great wall is all that its advertised to be. Then it was off to the airport for our first intra-china flight on a Chinese airline. My experience with Aeroflot in Russia had minimized my expectations, but this was a great experience. The plane was modern, clean , and the boarding process orderly. We landed in Xi'an and again the transfer to the Hilton was painless. The hotel was immaculate, and the staff great. The next day was the terra cotta warriors, again all that it is claimed to be. Next was a flight to Chongqing - the largest city in the world, and boarding the emerald. The ship is modern, well maintained, great great staff, excellent food and great overall trip management. We bought the drink package, could have saved some bucks had I done this when booking, and if you like wine, beer, etc, its the way to go. Cruised down the river, through some Gorges, all magnificent. Then departed from Wuhan to Shanghai, again intra china airlines and no dissappointments. Trip was all that we hoped for. Viking - your employee, Johanna did a great job the entire trip. She met us at the arrival airport, guided us through all the tours, transfers, etc. But more than that, she introduced us to china. She talked openly about the three generations of her family, and their life experiences in china for the past 50 years. I will definitely cruise with Viking again. Read Less
Sail Date August 2013
. This ship is one year old. It has been having some growing pains in both the food and the experiences, but it is certainly an amazing experience now. The changes in the staff and food are 6 Star all the way. The rooms are very spacious ... Read More
. This ship is one year old. It has been having some growing pains in both the food and the experiences, but it is certainly an amazing experience now. The changes in the staff and food are 6 Star all the way. The rooms are very spacious for a river cruise. There are three floors NO elevators. There is a large flat screen tv in the room but there is NO reception at all. So there are no television shows of any kind. The is a DVD library with supposedly over 100 titles (multiple languages), but if your clients need noise, or like to watch something before they go to sleep, they may want to bring their own DVDs. Also, there is a clock in the room, it is not digital, so if your clients like to know the time in the middle of the night they should big their own clock. The beds are queen-king size, and. Very comfortable. There are different pillow types. The first night in the hotel manager explained how to get hot water, let the sink and showe run for 3-4 minutes, and then it was hot. It worked and no problems. The air condiitoning works very well, no problems there. There are two chairs and a desk --ample closet space. When you speak to reservations they tell you there Is no Internet service in the ship. That is not true. They have three computers and in the lounge there is Internet access but the reception is so sporadic and if more than ten people are on everything shuts down. When you are going dowthe river there are long stretches with no Internet service. Forewarn your clients. The food was excellent. As of one month ago they have brought on a new hotel manager , new dining room manager and most importantly a new head chef. The 2nd chef is Asian and does all of the local cuisine. The changes and improvements he has made have been amazing. He was very open to suggestions, and was immediate on implementing changes throughout the week. Every morning was buffet, champagne always. there is an egg station, and if you want poached eggs, or something that is not out. Just ask very willing to accommodate. Every morning they had a traditional Eastern options, the best being soup, there was a broth, different noodles and different proteins, and vegetables. By the end if the week, the line to get soup was longer than the line to get eggs.:) The spices and peppers were all in little dishes so you could spice it as you wish. Always fish fruit, salmon and and homemade breads and pastries. Lunch was a combinations of buffet/action station and menu ordering. , you told the waiter your entree and soup. The soup was always one cold and one hot (sometimes creamed and sometimes broth) There was always a display table when you came in, and it showed the entrees that were available. You could modify any of the entrees as you wish. The buffet at lunch was different salads some regional, some traditional. Always something different to taste. Dinner was strictly ala carte. There was always an option at lunch for pasta, hamburger or chicken breast, at dinner a steak, salmon, or chicken breast. There was a vegetarian option always. The excursions. Before you left, the tour director always made sure to remind everyone to take the umbrellas and raincoats and bottles of water always provided. On a European river cruise the choice of options is a title more varied and there are different styles - active, moderate, or slow movers. Not so in Asia . The excursions here are all the same, and you are divided into 4 groups. No difference they are all dng the same thing, it is just more manageable groups. All of the excursions are physically demanding. Mostly tendering to small boats, other than Phom Pen, there are no docks, so when we arrived at a village, to walk, we exited the small boat to a dirt path, or through the weeds and grass along shore. There were also very nice buses taking us for tour off the river to different monasteries. We were there right at the beginning of the rainy season and purpose of this cruise is seeing life along the river. It is very poor, very basic, we saw the markets, the homes, the "factories". A lot of walking on uneven terrain. We also saw floating villages, floating markets, again, you had to be able to tender. The was one guest inboard, who had injured her foot the 2nd day- even before boarding the ship. She was not able to do any weight-bearing on her ankle, and I cannot believe how unbelievable the ship was, She had both crutches and a wheelchair, and whenever she had to go from one level to the next. There were 2 sailors assigned to her that basket carried here up and down, she never missed an excursion, there was a guide and sailor who went with, helped her on and off, pushed the wheel chair all through Cambodia and Vietnam. They and the ship were incredible accommodating to her needs, that being said I would seriously not recommend this to anyone who has physical limitations. The tour guides changed from Cambodia to Vietnam and they were all wonderful. They all spoke English , but you needed concentration to follow the stories and history. They tried so hard to help you understand their culture and history, so after a week, your listening got pretty good. On a Europe river cruise, where you are in a different city, there is regional entertainment every night. This is not possible in Asia , the only time we had local entertainment was in Phonm penn. there was a children's dance troupe doing traditional cambodian dances. In summary, this was an amazing experience and would recommend it to anyone who is interested in seeing Vietnam and Cambodia and soft adventure. The pre and post trips offered are a wonderful way to see the interior of the country. River cruising is wonderful, so glad I had the opportunity to go!   Read Less
Sail Date August 2012
My wife and I have done 5 river cruises so my opinions are more comparison based than usual (forget the stars since my rating is against many similar others). We started by arriving in Shanghai three days before the tour (land + cruise) ... Read More
My wife and I have done 5 river cruises so my opinions are more comparison based than usual (forget the stars since my rating is against many similar others). We started by arriving in Shanghai three days before the tour (land + cruise) started. Obviously after a long flight rest is needed. We got in a little shopping and took one tour on our own. I've got to say that that tour was a significant highlight of our memories. We did the half day Water Village tour and thoroughly enjoyed it. The organized Viking tours are well conducted with both your assigned Viking tour leader (for the duration) + a local guide (superfluous except for political connections). They include much bus travel through extreme traffic to the point where you want to get off and walk. Obvious shopping stops are made at factory outlets which were very interesting to learn how things are made. After a single day of touring it was off to an airport (in the traffic again) to get on a 1-1/2 hour flight saving 7 hours or more on a bus. I've got to say that both the airports experience as well as the plane was a lot better than you would get in the USA. Unfortunately once off the plane it was back on a bus again in heavy traffic to make it to another exhibit and finally to a hotel. That left the days a little hetic and if you booked an optional night tour plan on no time for a shower before getting back on the bus again. The hotels were luxurious beyond expectations (3 story lobby ceilings etc.) Once we got on the cruise ship we could finally get a little more rest. The staterooms were better than average with the bathroom being exceptional. The functional rooms (river boat) were average, which translates to no complaints. The meals were above average with breast and lunch being exceptionally good. Dinner, on the other hand was below average with well presented but sometimes poor western style food (no complaints however for the single Chinese meal or captains farewell dinner). I tend to get by ordering multiple appetisers. The land meals were mostly Chinese with the buffets being good enough for most palates. The only bad meal was a western style plate-of-the-day we had in Beijing. we had opted out of an optional evening tour and ended up with a very poor restaurant choice by Viking. The cruise venue was very good and the stops interesting (long lasting memories). However be forewarned that the Chinese are more fit and able than us westerners. They think nothing of the hills they walk up. The more lasting memories for us were the hills leading up from the river dock to a town. I've got to say that unless you are exceptionally fit, take advantage of the hawkers at the bottom of the gang plank they either carry your bags (Beijing) or have one carry you up the hill on a chair while visiting the Pagoda. Your guide will advise you of the going rate (typically 20-30 Yuan). When the guide advises during a tour to follow him at a leisurely pace that equates to a brisk walk. a highlight video of this trip is available on U-Tube http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=8uvEVRKeLdk Read Less
Sail Date May 2012
Our 14 night Irrawaddy river cruise from Yangon by Pandaw Cruise Co. was a disappointing experience to say the least. Perhaps our pre cruise expectation was unrealistic. ( We imagined Myanmar to be full of untouched mountains/trees, ... Read More
Our 14 night Irrawaddy river cruise from Yangon by Pandaw Cruise Co. was a disappointing experience to say the least. Perhaps our pre cruise expectation was unrealistic. ( We imagined Myanmar to be full of untouched mountains/trees, streams , wild birds,animals and of course Buddhistic culture. ) Yes, there were stupas and temples. ( We had to see these on almost every excursion.) But more than anything else we were disappointed at the service and the lack of professionalism shown by the Pandaw cruise Co. 1. I could not drink the coffee they serve on the ship. ( too stale ) The food they serve was one of the poorest in quality . 2. I see staff member eating his breakfast when we have our breakfast. They clean the ceiling of the dining room while there are open plates around for breakfast. 3. The brochure says the price includes tipping of the crew, yet they suggest tipping of $ 5 per day per person. 4. The safety of the passengers are not taken seriously. One passenger fell to the ditch during the trishaw excursion. The trishaw and the driver were on top of this passenger when they fell unto the ditch. I do not know how she was not seriously injured! Other passenger fell and hit her head on the ship. She had a 10cm laceration on her scalp. They brought a doctor who did not know what to do with this problem. I as a surgeon had to clean the wound with Vodka and sew the laceration up with the kit the another passenger brought . 5. I joined their post cruise program. It was very expensive considering the service we received. Yet they booked us the flight which was not a direct flight to Yangon ( to save money ? )   Read Less
Sail Date December 2014
I don't want to go into details as to how BAD this trip was but here is the list. 1- First Hotel, Mildewy and dirty floors with wine spill that was never cleaned. 2- No Refrigerated water on a sweltering 115 degree weather, they ... Read More
I don't want to go into details as to how BAD this trip was but here is the list. 1- First Hotel, Mildewy and dirty floors with wine spill that was never cleaned. 2- No Refrigerated water on a sweltering 115 degree weather, they just don't believe in Ice. 3- Unfriendly trip Guide that did not like people but Loved the was somewhat nicer when it came to make sure that she is getting a good tip. 4- Substandard ship with old floors and that are mangled. 5- First day of arrival parts of engine was being repaired by four people on the same deck they were handing out Champagne. 6- Hot Salad and Cold food, Everybody lost weight on this ship including us. 7- Dirty glasses and plates which I took pictures of. 8- No snack or in cabin service, 3 meals and then you had an apple tray for the whole day. 9- Unfriendly guest service but a great and hard working waiters. 10- Meal packets for the excursions were two pieces of bread, on slice of meat, one slice of lettuce and a slice of tomato, hot bottled water. 11- Dirty transfer buses with people throwing up on the seat or baby poop, couldn't tell which. 12- initially charged for 2% Visa fee without our knowledge but after pushing them to take action they refunded it. This was the first time with Viking and it will be the last time. we thought we were getting what their main commercial shows but far from that. I will choose another cruise line to travel with and don't become a victim of a 10 grand scam. They treat their employees very poorly and the only thing they care is to sell you a substandard trip.   Read Less
Sail Date July 2013
The trip that we thought would be the trip of a lifetime turned into the trip from Hell! Viking is not doing anyone a favor by not disclosing the details of this trip. Any one with any medical conditions, ie. difficulty walking, heart ... Read More
The trip that we thought would be the trip of a lifetime turned into the trip from Hell! Viking is not doing anyone a favor by not disclosing the details of this trip. Any one with any medical conditions, ie. difficulty walking, heart condition or respiratory condition, should not even consider this trip. It is very fast paced and there is alot of walking over uneven ground on 2000 year old cobblestones. The first day out we walked 5 miles, which they didn't tell us until we were on the bus going there. The bus drops you off and picks you up at the other end. There is no way to "opt out" once you get off the bus. You spend alot of time flying from one destination to another. Alot of the restaurants they took us to were dirty. Two of them had mangy cats on the table when we arrived. One had dead cockroaches on the floor. Guess we should be glad they weren't alive! Many of them I didn't eat the food they were so dirty. Viking claims in their information that they personally select the restaurants, so I guess someone is not doing their job! My overall impression of China is that it is dirty, the bathrooms (except in the hotels where we stayed) were disgusting. Some of them smelled so bad even the guys wouldn't use them. Most of them only have squat toilets. I'd never heard of them before I went to China. I wish I still hadn't. The people there are rude and very pushy. There is always some trying to sell you something, no matter where you go and they are very aggressive. This trip goes to Tibet which is at 13,000 feet. About 1/3 of our group had altitude sickness so severe that they had to have IV treatments. 2 people were never able to leave the hotel. Our guide was telling people not to take the medication their doctors had given them to take as a precaution. He said we would not need it. Boy was he wrong! I wished I had not listened to him. I think it was totally inappropriate for him to have done that. After Tibet we got on the boat for the "cruise" part of the trip. They claim that the Emerald is a totally remodeled cruise boat. I was not impressed. They tried to hide the uneven floors, ect. but it is a "chinese owned" boat, so there was probably only so much they could do. By the time we got to the boat, people were starting to get sick and it spread thru the ship like wildfire. I spent the entire 5 days in my cabin, other than to go to meals. Overall, I was very disappointed in Viking because they obviously haven't done a very good job of letting people know what the trip entails. They definitely haven't done their homework as far as providing a safe environment for their clients and ensuring them safe food to eat. This would be the perfect trip for "Undercover Boss"! I'd love to see the CEO of Viking eating in the restaurants they took us to. My advice to anyone considering this trip is DON"T DO IT!!!!!! We complained to Viking when we got back and their only response was to offer us a "coupon" toward the next cruise we took with them. Like that is going to happen. They didn't even care what our complaints were. They just send you the coupon and refuse to respond to any more emails. If anyone thinks I was the only one VERY unhappy by the end of the trip, I wasn't. Everyone was pretty upset about the way were were treated and what we were exposed to. I doubt very many of the 200 people on the trip will be repeat cruisers with Viking! Read Less
Sail Date May 2012
We booked the Upper Mekong Cruise (Laos to China) offered by Pandaw which advertised the route as from Laos' Vientiane to China's Jinghong City, Xishuangbanna region in Yunnam Province. It was advertised as a luxury river cruise ... Read More
We booked the Upper Mekong Cruise (Laos to China) offered by Pandaw which advertised the route as from Laos' Vientiane to China's Jinghong City, Xishuangbanna region in Yunnam Province. It was advertised as a luxury river cruise on the brand new Laos Pandaw boat which accommodates 20 passengers. One of the main reasons for us booking the cruise was to see the beautiful sceneries along the Mekong River, in particular China's Xichuangbanna region which is a popular holiday destination for seasoned travelers. Two months before sailing, we learned that the Laos Pandaw did not have a powerful engine to make it up river to China. Pandaw, claimed in its website that they built a brand new ship named the Yunnam Pandaw which later changed its name to Champa Pandaw. It claimed that the ship has twice the horsepower of the Laos Pandaw and can take 28 passengers. We boarded the ship in Laos's capital Vientiane at noon on October 19, and quickly learned from the previous cruise's passengers that their voyage was cut short by 2 days due to the fact the Champa Pandaw's maiden voyage never made it to its final destination in China's Jinghong, the capital city of Xishuangbanna Region. Our voyage started on time with half a day tour of Vientiane as schedule but was informed by the ship's manager that the upstream itinerary has been changed substantially due to the experience gained from the previous upstream and downstream cruises. The 1 day schedule visit to Burma (Myanmar) was cancelled, reason given as not safe region to visit. Before the start of the tour we understood that the schedule may be subjected to change but we still felt disappointed with substantial revisions of the itinerary even before the start. Sailing up the Mekong to Luang Prabang, Laos' tourist town, took 4 days and the boat was advancing slowly. Reason given was low water level due to the Chinese side not releasing water for the boat to go on normal speed. The captain on board only speaks Laotian, not English, and communication with passengers was mainly from the the cruise manager and the tour guide (Laotian). We missed the ship lock time slot at the Xiaburi Dam and was delayed by almost 18 hours. Sailing from Luang Prabang to the Golden Triangle continued to be slow. We visited a few Laos poor villages along the way, and moored before sunset on the river bank as the Champa Pandaw cannot sail at night. There appears to be no radar, GPS or satellite communications on board. Passenger can access the ship's wi-fi for free and internet connection depends on whether the ship can receive any cell tower signal. Overall, 50% of the time there is no internet connection. There is little on board activities aside from the visits to the poor Laos villages. Only 1 lecture by the tour guide on Laos history and culture, 2 food demos, and 1 tour of the ship's quarters on the 14 days itinerary. No organized fitness, music, performances or dancing activities. Plenty of lounge space for book reading and chatting. Embarkation in main ports are typical of river cruises but on the river banks to small villages, good footwear, strong legs and walking sticks are required. The crew did a good job in helping passengers to embark. At the Golden triangle, we only visited the Opium Museum, which is worth while. After the Golden Triangle, the ship sailed into many strong rapids, and was barely able to negotiate a few of them. When we reached the Chinese border, there is a strong rapid that the Champa Pandaw's engine was unable to bring the boat across. In two days, the captain failed to cross in six tries, while other ships and freighters did the crossing. In the last try, we were told to get off the ship to reduce weight. It was quite difficult for a group of seniors passengers to wear life jackets and climb up and down the ladder to get to the pebble beach landing. After the last try, we were told the engine was burned and a speed boat from China picked the passengers up and sailed the rest of the journey to Jinghong, our final destination in a speedboat. There was no way to enjoy the river banks sceneries on board the speed boat as compared to a river cruise boat. We were put up in a hotel for the last night of the cruise and as we wasted two days in running the rapid, we did not have a chance to do sight seeing in Xishuangbanna as originally scheduled. Overall, while the Champa Pandaw offered good services and excellent food on board of this voyage, the planning of the whole trip was poor. It appears that the ship does not have the power to run the rapids, it was not well equipped with communication gear to contact headoffice, and since the maiden voyage, the ship was never able to make it to Jinghong. The itinerary was frequently changed and we still don't understand why the scheduled Burma visit was cancelled due to safety reasons, yet we were told to land on the Burmese side when the ship offloaded the passengers to reduce weight. We paid a fair price for the trip but we feel that the value for money did not live to expectation. We feel that the company has not done adequate preparation on the equipment side, and have not learned from the Laos Pandaw experience while still market the segment to Jinghong as its final destination. We hope the company can offer some explanations. Read Less
Sail Date October 2016
What a greeting we got the window to board was one hour we had come from Tokyo by bullet then a Taxi that did not know were the port was then we got out of the Taxi two crew took our bags and lead us to the gangway very nice touch, on ... Read More
What a greeting we got the window to board was one hour we had come from Tokyo by bullet then a Taxi that did not know were the port was then we got out of the Taxi two crew took our bags and lead us to the gangway very nice touch, on entering the Ship 23 min early we were treated to you are early sit there till your cabin is ready , our party was made up of a 86 year old a 70 & a 60 year old the attitude shown was rude abrupt discourteous and not a credit to the French people it followed on with the reception counter staff also French The cabin was great but no list is given on what is included in you package and what is paid for the most of the cabin crew & restaurant staff are great not French the off handed French restaurant manger falling over the French customers but keeping away from the Australians Food quality could not be described a fine dining it had its moment but over all was not up to P&O at half the cost P&O , Carnival Line & Princess Line are able to handle 2500 passengers boarding in four hours this boat could not handle 200 Read Less
Sail Date May 2015
AMA Waterways Myanmar I've just taken the 10 day cruise up the Irawaddy river. Although I have taken cruises with companies like Regent, Seabourn, Silversea, etc, this is my first river cruise. I chose AMA because my travel agent ... Read More
AMA Waterways Myanmar I've just taken the 10 day cruise up the Irawaddy river. Although I have taken cruises with companies like Regent, Seabourn, Silversea, etc, this is my first river cruise. I chose AMA because my travel agent said it was highly regarded for luxury river cruising and their literature promoted a "brand new" ship for this cruise whose maiden voyage was in November 2014. Sadly this does not appear to be the case at all. The ship looks very worn for just four months of service and surely must be a "refurbished" ship. The craftsmanship and finish is very poor and not at all up to the standards which one would expect; for example there are cracks in the ceilings and walls, old and messy caulking through the the ship, bathroom grout which is discolored in places and pieces of tile which are not even, pieces of molding which do not meet and are poorly installed, flooring which is discolored and shoddily varnished, light fixtures are old looking and many have paint overspray. There is very little insulation between rooms ( I heard my neighbor with a hacking cough for 10 days as if she were in my bathroom) and hallway noise and footsteps above are also quite loud. As far as upkeep and maintenance is concerned, it is obvious that AMA has not brought any of its European or international standards to its local operation here. There are spiderwebs on railings, the balcony outside my room is not clean and neither are the windows on the sliding glass doors, planters have weeds growing in them, flags are tattered and blackened, and bathroom towels are often worn and are soiled. Even more disturbing is the mold and mildew in the showers. It is obvious that no one has ever used a brush to clean it. What are they thinking? I've had cleaner bathrooms at a Motel 6. And some of the A/C vents are dirty and black, particularly in the dining room. All it takes is a moist towel to clean that off. I just don't get it. Food is mediocre but I'm sure they are doing the best with the ingredients they have. Do not expect the level and quality of food found on a luxury cruise. House wine is acceptable but does not change and becomes monotonous after a few days. I must say the staff members are extremely friendly and polite and try their best to please. But it is obvious they have not been properly trained in housekeeping and maintenance. I am astonished that AMA has not properly trained them because I'm sure hey have the potential to learn. I would not recommend this cruise to seasoned, high-end luxury travelers and I would be hesitant to consider any AMA Waterways ship in the future. If you want to see Burma, I would suggest a land-based trip to the highlights (Bagan and Inle Lake) or a luxury cruise which calls on the west coast or Rangoon with excursion options.   Read Less
Sail Date March 2015
We have just returned from the Viking Emerald - China's Cultural Delights August 2013 First and foremost, think twice before traveling to China in August. The temperatures were near 100 with 100% humidity daily. The trip has a lot of ... Read More
We have just returned from the Viking Emerald - China's Cultural Delights August 2013 First and foremost, think twice before traveling to China in August. The temperatures were near 100 with 100% humidity daily. The trip has a lot of walking and stairs - the temperature makes the excursions more difficult to handle. Consider your level of fitness, if stairs leave you out of breath or walking more than 1 mile is not going to happen, consider a different trip. You will also encounter lots of pollution. The Viking staff goes out of their way to be helpful and does a good job of taking care of you during your stay, however the trip does leave a lot to be desired. If you are paying more than their  price deal you are paying too much. The ship is warm and damp - with temperatures regulated globally rather than per cabin. The dampness = a musty odor. Floors are uneven and the carpet needs to be re stretched. The cabins are a good size and comfortable. During your river cruise there is a daily excursion, but the majority of the day/night is spent cruising the river. You will have a 3-4 hr excursion which generally includes a 30 min to 1 hour bus ride to your destination. Viking takes you on an extreme number of shopping experiences - rugs, silk, porcelain, jade all served with a mediocre Chinese lunch. You will be taken through a factory and shown the process, with every tour ending in a shop where you can purchase something. If you are not a shopper, beware  of your excursions are shopping experiences. The on board food is plentiful - but quality and taste are not always great. The land portion of the trip is fast paced, the hotels nice, the food plentiful - but not gourmet. You will spend less than 24 hours in most locations and only see a quick highlight of the locations you are visiting. Meals are served on lazy Susan - drinks are usually a warm water, soda or beer - no wine is offered on land. You are encouraged to tip daily for guides and bus drivers- I would suggest you take $100 American Dollars for these tips. Additionally you can charge the on board tips, but if you want to ensure that the tips are going to those you truly appreciated, tip them directly. What you will see and experience is a wonderful culture with people who are genuinely happy and optimistic about their country and their opportunities for a better future. You will interact with local children and their grandparents who greet you at every port. You will see China's richest treasures in Shanghai, Beijing, Xi'an and at several stops along the Yangtze. You will sail through beautiful gorges and past mega industrial sites. You will leave with an overview and appreciation for China.   Read Less
Sail Date August 2013
Out Viking River Crusie was disappointing from the start overpriced, 2 for 1 sale, that is always on The Emerald Centruy Riverboat is old and dated, musty, damp. and dreary. The young Chisese staff try very hard and many are great at ... Read More
Out Viking River Crusie was disappointing from the start overpriced, 2 for 1 sale, that is always on The Emerald Centruy Riverboat is old and dated, musty, damp. and dreary. The young Chisese staff try very hard and many are great at their jobs, but are always rushed, confused, which leads to a lot of noisy confused and chaotic dining. The entertainment is odd, and very elementary. The food is served Lazy Susan style, so everything is palced on a spinning platform, often no order or reason. One person is spinning one way, one the other and things get spilled and glasses knocked over. It is noisy and pressured which makes it very hard to visit with your tablemates The tours are often to Viking owned "safe" shops, for carpets, embroaiary, jade, art, etc and all the shops are very expensive. Overall I think Viking is a poorly run company, the Chinese staff try very hard but they are so pressured. Tip the staff directly as Viking bills tips put on your tab to their carpet company and I doubt the realy sevice people see much of the tips. Viking wants and pushed a lot of tipping. One should bring at least 100 $1.00 bilss for buses, local guides and anyone else. Other guides want $10-15 a day per person. I would rate this trip 3/10 or 2 star This was a big disappointment to me and my travel companions, Invest your travel dollars elsewhere. Vijing was difficult to deal with from day one. When you call them, expect to be on hold always, 10 minutes up to an hour. Think twice   Read Less
Sail Date July 2013
The Amalotus was new so no excuses in most areas of comment. The ships hold approx 126 people however for the second time this season there was only 26. What an absolute blessing, when it is full the restaurants and lounge areas would have ... Read More
The Amalotus was new so no excuses in most areas of comment. The ships hold approx 126 people however for the second time this season there was only 26. What an absolute blessing, when it is full the restaurants and lounge areas would have been extremely uncomfortable. You would think with so few people on board that there might have been a friendly atmosphere for travelling however stubborn, older people of any nationality always makes for a challenge. The company APT has many strict rules about how to board the ship and disembark for excursions etc, however the old people we travelled with arrogantly and dangerously refused to wear their life jackets because "I have a boat at home and never wear one "etc etc what they failed to realise with all their wisdom and life experience that they then place others at risk and would in an emergency expect other to come to their safety in a risk situation. Not acceptable the rules are their for everyone know and accept this before you go or don't go! APT also sells these cruises to any one over the age of 40, this is a myth, if you are under 55 you will feel like you have made a huge mistake and also you will not be made to feel welcome, old people are bullies and treat other adults as children to get their own way -- it's a sad fact that left us wondering at what age do old people become so nasty and manipulative The ship looks new as it still should, the first lunch on arrival was a buffet and a la carte, salads, fruit feature as the best options, the desserts as mentioned in some other reviews are not worth looking forward to, small selection, unimaginative there was obviously no pastry chef on board, fresh fruit and poor quality pastries are the best you can hope for kind of like cheap supermarket fare. Knowing this we took chocolate and our own goodies for deserts The lobby shop is a waste of time, loads of rubbish that you can pick up anywhere at markets, nothing to provide a memory of your trip and nothing of any value APT has failed on the sundeck, it is furnished with old crabby cane furniture, it is already mouldy, there is no music no atmosphere and bad decor and the bar area is not what they presented in their brochure photographs -- misleading but that's the way that operate! We had a suite, very dark they have not incorporated the colours and fabrics of the Vietnam/ Cambodian culture, a missed opportunity there The bar has a drink each night for everyone that is complimentary, it was about 50/50 as to whether this is drinkable, mostly very strong made of local spirits, however drinks were cheap anyway approx $6-$8 for a cocktail The aircon in our suite was terrific and much needed, due to their being less people on board getting access to the DVD library and the interest was not too much of a problem The balcony area had 2 chairs in the suite but only one for other cabins- what a stupid thing to do, a romantic cruise down the Mekong and only one of you and sit outside for the view- another example of cost cutting and bad planning, the amenities in the suites were cheap rubbish, in an effort to appear ECO friendly the 5 star extras you are paying for have been sacrificed. The bathroom was great wood panelling a huge bath with jets and spacious shower the linen was good quality the bed comfortable The chefs are Indonesian and from the Philippines, so no flair to food simple only. Breakfast is also a simple meal so special choices here pretty much less than you would have in your own home, the restaurant has no atmosphere no music just a silent room - another missed opportunity The floors in the rooms are fake wood and due to the extreme heat are already starting to warp and buckle, every small every simple hut along the Mekong has cable TV and satellite service however APT cannot get an antenna or dish to provide this service We did our own thing on excursions which made it possible to fit in more and get a better feel for where ever we were, if you are capable of only shuffling along stay with the guide, again this was not a trip for people who were not physically active, but again like so many of these trips old sick people with less mobility provide challenges and delays for staff and other travellers- please do not do this, some trips state that you need to be mobile for a reason and climbing off and on small rocky boats is precarious. The evacuation procedure was not done until the afternoon of the second day so just lucky we did not sink on the first?? What is with cruise ships their first priority should always be safety -- you are on your own anyway as only a handful of staff speak any English The breakfast buffet has kid's cereals on it -- why? There were no kids on board thank goodness -- please cruise companies cater to the adults who are paying 5 star prices The sheets in your cabin are not changed daily you would need to request this- and don't forget this cruise is sold as a 5 star experience, if this is what you want you will have to ask for it They ran out of tea bags lucky that I had brought some of my own????? Again great planning- who is thinking of what the guests need We bought bunches of flowers at the local markets and put them in our cabin as the cruise will not do this for you even though you are in a suite, and you will have to fight to get a vase to put them in- good luck The seafood was for the most part excellent and all of the fresh fruit- no rich food at all so great for a diet plan when you remember the absence of dessert temptations. Because most of the places you are visiting both in Vietnam and Cambodia have no differences in terms of attractions and scenery you will visit 3 silk weaving places and several identical markets and 3 floating villages, - hard to maintain the same enthusiasm but that's where you are in the world and that is all there is to see , the small villages are a massive step back in time, no electricity some of them and horse and cart for transport but all the people are friendly and there is a percentage that want a piece of you -- you are a wealthy tourist right? The guides provide an Ok service, they really need to be able to communicate properly one of ours would tell different groups of people different times for departure so some would be stressed out and some relaxed- they would sometimes change the times for breakfast and not tell you- hopeless, if you question these confusing practices you could be accused of being racist and well we know how defensive that response is and how unnecessary The ship docks midstream every night except at phom penh The Cambodian guide straight out lied about his countries history in an attempt to hide his kings' actions during their very famous genocide, now why would a guide do that you have to ask yourself, the guides have their hands out for tips frequently and they don't always deserve it Despite all being poor they have a university education are well travelled and would be quite happy for you to sponsor them. Because you are travelling with geriatrics you will miss out on the most special places for example, Oudong one of the ancient capital city in Cambodia, we decided to go here and give a miss the visit to yet another newly built temple What a great decision thanks to our own research a special amazing place don't miss it if you have the chance we walked around as much as we could -- beautiful APT changed our free choice dinners in both destinations to inferior restaurant options leaving us very disappointed -- no explanation of course just suck it up The ship may be new but is badly built in Vietnam and they are famous for their poor quality build and it is furnished with dated examples of Asian furniture sale stock, it will age and deteriorate quickly The scenery remains unchanged for the whole trip so I guess the idea of doing this trip is to enjoy the cruise which you will have trouble doing when it is full, the public areas like many river cruise ships do not cater for all on board so your cabin takes on a higher importance. Also having seen hours and hours and hours of Cambodia by bus I can tell you that there is nothing of any interest there, bad roads, no facilities, no infrastructure you are better off spending a week in Siem reap and doing day trips around there and also spend a few days at least in phnon penh it's a great fun city with easy access to museums and the killing fields and do a Mekong river cruise from there for the day -- its easy, plenty of good quality, affordable river cruise ships, they provide meals and then you have seen all there is to see. This cruise is touted as the thing you must do after European river cruising however -- think very hard about what you expect and measure that against what you are going to get, you do your cruising mostly at night anyway when its pitch black and there are no views. Honestly if I had my time over I would do what I have suggested above.   Read Less
Sail Date March 2012
I just returned from Viking River Cruises' Imperial Jewels of China, September 18 -- 30, 2011. This is a once in a life time kind of trip. I am rather disappointed with the misrepresentations by Viking River Cruises. Viking River ... Read More
I just returned from Viking River Cruises' Imperial Jewels of China, September 18 -- 30, 2011. This is a once in a life time kind of trip. I am rather disappointed with the misrepresentations by Viking River Cruises. Viking River Cruises brochure touted the "Viking Emerald" as the "Yangtze's most elegant and newest ship." It was definitely not an elegant or luxury cruise ship by any stretch of the imagination. The carpeting in the hallway was uneven. There were little crawly creatures and cockroach in the bathroom. According to the Program Director, Iowa Xian, Viking River Cruises bought the ship from Century two years ago, a Chinese company. As a matter of fact, all onboard literature referred to the ship as "The Viking Century Emerald." The ship's captain and crew were Chinese. The captain did not speak English. There was no professional staff or entertainment. The Program Director was a Tour Escort turned Program Director, and who openly expressed desire to return to his old job as tour escort. There was not even a theatre or show room. They just put up chairs in the so called "Observation Lounge" on Deck 5. Presentations were displayed on a stand-up projection screen. The same set up for movie viewing (The Last Emperor.) The menu choices were limited. I asked for an entrée without potatoes. I was told it could not be done. I was asked to pick from a stand-by choice of chicken or salmon. I asked for Eggs Benedict without the Hollandaise sauce. After waiting for 30 minutes, I was given a poached egg, period! It opened to question on the skills of the kitchen staff! This is definitely not worth the price Viking River Cruises is charging for the trip. I am also very disappointed with Viking River Cruises customer service. I booked directly with Viking when they had a 2-for-1 sale. I was shocked to see that they charged foreign transaction fee on my deposit. Later, I gave the booking to a travel agent, and did not have to pay any more foreign transaction fee. The customer should be informed about the foreign transaction fee. I could have used a different credit card which did not charge foreign transaction fees. The Customer Service personnel at the toll-free number provided misinformation. I was told that they used small planes of 50 passengers and therefore must stick to luggage weight restrictions. This was far from truth. We flew on regularly scheduled commercial flights. It turned out that the best part of the intra-China flights was that we never had to handle our own luggage and no worry about luggage allowance. The tour escort had "nice cousins." Read Less
Sail Date September 2011
Flight was ok, flew connecting through Toronto (continental) to Air Canada first class. No problems going there, food was all right, dinner was pretty good on the plane, breakfast not so much. Service very good, but not the best, booked ... Read More
Flight was ok, flew connecting through Toronto (continental) to Air Canada first class. No problems going there, food was all right, dinner was pretty good on the plane, breakfast not so much. Service very good, but not the best, booked through Viking Air. Arrive in Shanghai to find the Viking crew standing outside, and we were told to wait at an ATM machine as they were waiting on other guests. We waited there for close to 50 minutes (what's that saying about first impressions?). Finally after 20 hours of flying we got on the bus to go to the Portman Ritz. Upon arrival Daniel, our tour guide for the entire trip, proceeded to help us get a smoking room and welcomed us. The hotel was wonderful, and we ate in the Chinese restaurant attached to the hotel. Very good, and something that is easy to miss in this hotel is the 2nd floor bar, where they have live jazz every night from about 8pm till midnight. Also this bar is half smoking, half non-smoking, and it seemed like no one was on the non-smoking side all the night we were there. The next day, we woke up nice and early to go touring. First we go to some sort of garden, it was very nice looking, and we got some free time to visit the merchants. After that we stopped on the Bund to look at the river and skyline. Then we were brought to the first "Tourist Trap", the embroidery "factory", which was mostly a store with pushy salesman, and a restaurant in the back. The food was mediocre at best, and Chinese (which you learned to hate by the end). After this we went to the Shanghai museum that had some interesting coins and jade pieces, but it was nothing to go nuts about, definitely worth a visit though, and was one of the authentic highlights of Shanghai. At night, we went to an Acrobat show, which was quite good, but between the jet lag, and touring all day, it was very difficult to stay awake. The following day we were transitioning to the airport to go Wuhan, but not before we got to just one more "Tourist Trap" in Shanghai. That morning we went to the rug-making factory (woke up nice and early for it too). It had 2 people making rugs when you first walk in, then a shopping area easily 10 times the size of the "factory". We had a box lunch, which could not be consumed. We flew to Wuhan, which took off about an hour late and went to a Provincial museum with a remains of a tomb. Definitely a highlight of the trip, and was quite amazing. We heard them play the bells from the tomb. Which was quite nice. We then went to board our ship, the Viking Emerald. Once on board the ship, we realized this is no cruise like we from the United States are used to. They have no food for long stretches of the day except peanuts, and ramen noodles, however for some reason they offered an all you can drink policy for a very reasonable price (I believe $175 for 4 days, but included premiums like Grey Goose and Hennessey). The room was cruise ship small, but about the same as any regular cruise boat. There was no smoking lounge anywhere, so smokers beware in the bad weather. While there was a Chinese BBQ on the back of the ship, it went completely unused, and the only reason we knew it existed was due to the large sign saying BBQ with pictures of food, that looked considerably better than the food you were eating the whole trip. While on the boat we encountered many poor dishes, and it made me dream of such splendid meals by the great American chef, Colonel Sanders, whose food quality is outstanding compared to his trip (please note, I find KFC to be repulsive). I however digress as we did eventually make it to a KFC next to the Great Wall, not because there weren't good restaurants near the wall, as I am sure there were, but out of desperation for something familiar. The boat did feature a very inexpensive and nice spa, that was a plus, but they offered no enrichment activities, and the biggest show of the week was the crew talent show, which consisted of Chinese chefs trying to sing which in polite terms, reminded me of watching a prison rodeo on TV, where all the prisoners kept smiling while being attacked by a bull. The Yangtze was very beautiful however, and many of the sites we saw were very good. This includes The Three Gorges, which were stunning, the Dam, the locks, and a beautiful pagoda on a hillside. These tours were quite well executed except for one stop, involving the Viking School. The Viking School was an absolute disgrace that should give great shame to Viking. This insulting school "sponsored" by Viking, consisted of the kids acting as a tourist attraction, in an overly run down school made of depressing of cement, with pictures of the Great Leaders of China on the walls. There is a broken basketball hoop in the courtyard however, and it is questionable the amount of donation Viking has actually made to this school. If I had to guess it was no more than a $1000, and I am pretty sure the buses the arranged to go visit the school outweigh their donation every year. Not only was the condition of the school extraordinarily bad, it was depressing in and of itself to be at such a horrid place on vacation. This may be cold-hearted, but the Chinese people chose to have a communist government, and therefore deserve their communist school, capitalism does not need to fund it, and frankly the funding that Viking gives to the school makes capitalism look bad. But I digress. After leaving the river cruise we went to a cruise see the pandas, which was ok, and had another awful lunch in a hotel. What was amazing about all of our food stops, is that they only provided you with one glass of soda, and refills could be purchased. For the $14,000 that we paid (without airfare), one would think that soda would be reasonably included. After we flew to Xi'an where we greeted with the Terra Cotta Warriors. This was the highlight of the trip that everyone should see. It was truly fascinating and awesome. They gave us an adequate amount of time there, and it did not feel rushed. That evening we decided to leave our tour (as we really did not want to give Viking any more money), and g to dinner by ourselves. We went to Huili Japanese Restaurant, as suggested by our Amex Concierge. We hired a hotel limo (Kempinski Hotel) for $80 for 4 hours (a brand new BMW 750li), and went downtown for the evening. Our tour guide seemed surprised that we would wander off on our own, but this seemed more like a sales pitch for the event that evening they were upselling. We had a wonderful meal at Huili and would recommend it to anyone. It was the 2nd best meal we had the whole trip. Our meal came to $38 Dollars including tip, and consisted of 7 courses each, and 4 extra large beers. They do not speak English however, but with the help of my phone, we used Google Translate to tell them what we wanted, and it worked perfectly. We then stopped at a Wal-Mart just to see the difference between a U.S. Wal-Mart and a Chinese Wal-Mart. The next day we flew to Beijing for the last part of our pre-extension trip. We were brought to the "least visited" part of the wall, which felt like the most visited part of the wall. It was packed with tourists, and there is a place where all the tour guides hang all their flags in front of the gift shop next to the KFC, and rows of tourist traps, and I counted at least 15 flags. If you are looking for a private and intimate experience with one of the world's great wonders, look at other tours. After we had our "lunch of local specialties" which consisted of us being paraded through another tourist trap jade factory place, to the back where they had a huge dining room with 10 different tour groups. At this place we had a meal we could not consume, and I was about 30 seconds away from standing up and screaming, but didn't, as many of the people on our trip were clearly trying to make the best of their vacation. I will explain why they did not seem to care later, but once again I digress. We then went to see a recital by the Peking Opera performers, where the duck was quite good, and the performance was quite bad. It was unbelievably annoying and I do not recommend it. We stayed at the Regent hotel in Beijing, where the service was quite excellent, and the hotel was beautiful. When we woke up, we went to see Tiananmen Square and the Forbidden City in extreme heat, and while it was quite fascinating the heat got to me after a while, and of course someone got lost in the group and it took us an hour to find them because they did not have an international cell phone. We then skipped their "lunch" which I am sure was at some sort of tourist trap, and we went for lunch and dinner on our own at the hotel, not trusting the food of Viking any longer. The next day we flew to Guilin to being our Hong Kong extension. In Guilin we stayed at the Shangri-La, which had wonderful food, and our meals were in the hotel. We went down riverboats once again and experienced the 5-hour trip down the river, in what seemed like part 2 of the Three Gorges. It was truly a waste of time, and we would have appreciated an extra day in Hong Kong. When we did reach Hong Kong, the trip was more to our pace. There was a small introductory tour in the beginning that brought you to the major sites and 2 days of free time, where we had custom suits made, wonderful dinners on our own, and we even took a jet boat to Macau. This was the highlight of our whole trip, and we realized the reason why... Viking wasn't there to mess it up. While I could not mention everything in the above post, I can say that there were many things we learned from this trip. We learned that as we are seasoned travelers, who have been to over 41 countries, we do not need a corny tour to show what is good, and at the price we paid, could have arranged everything using private cars, first class flights, and our own restaurant preferences. The average Viking guests are traveling upper middle classes, with little to no demands or requests. There are many teachers, retired factory managers, etc. on the trip of their lives, and it shows. There are no repeat performances, there is no chance they would ever come back to China, and this is their dream trip. They are afraid of the unknown, and the tour guide engages this perfectly. This is not a cruise like Crystal, where you discuss the other 40 countries you have been to, or compare notes and complaints compared to other trips you have been on. This group of travelers creates an issue, as they do not demand the service that a truly affluent traveler knows to demand. While this may sound incredibly snobby, it is simply true, which is why I believe there are so many positive reviews of this trip. This trip brought us to 4 tourist traps, which were applauded by the guests around us, while I longingly looked out the windows at the true culture we were missing. We were squished onto crowded planes for short domestic flights of 4 hours after delays (which our tour guide told us were quite common in China), and not made aware that we urgently needed to upgrade to first class (after all, if we had booked it ourselves, it would have been first class, but because they were only supposed to be 1 hour trips, we didn't go through the effort). Looking back however, this trip would not be appropriate to upgrade to first class, as you would likely outcast yourself from the rest of the travelers. This compared to Crystal where it seemed like an echo on the one flight we took from St. Petersburg to Russia, as to why they did not offer a first class option. This trip is not for the well seasoned, and overall is not a very good trip. The food is repulsive for the entire trip, and we found when we got home we spent nearly $1,000 feeding ourselves. The loads of corny jokes from the tour guides such as "my cousins help you with your bags" and "my cousins have blocked the internet" were sad and desperate attempts, that made me feel like I was in a really crappy travel comedy film you watch during a Tuesday afternoon rain delay for a 3rd rate baseball city. You really need to consider anyone else, or consider doing it on your own, you should be more than able to considering the service provided by the hotel we stayed at. This trip was pathetic, and easily the worst trip I have ever taken, but since I like to end on a positive note, all the hotels were very nice, but Viking did not own them (or the ship for that matter). Also, you never had to handle your bags, as they had porters at every stop (which our tour guide referred to as cousins). Read Less
Sail Date August 2011
Don’t think of this three-week odyssey as a vacation, but as a journey. It’s not an easy trip for several reasons, but the payoff comes in surprising ways along with a few pretty significant downers. The 21-day Roof of the World ... Read More
Don’t think of this three-week odyssey as a vacation, but as a journey. It’s not an easy trip for several reasons, but the payoff comes in surprising ways along with a few pretty significant downers. The 21-day Roof of the World cruise/land “vacation” offered by Viking River Cruises, which we took, included the Hong Kong/Guilin supplemental portion. Start your trip in Beijing because you’ll want to get that portion completed. It’s a very important and interesting part of the experience—Tiananmen Square, the Forbidden City and the Great Wall—but it is exhausting and Beijing is not very interesting. This is a difficult trip physically and there are almost no accommodations for anyone that can’t walk or stand for eight hours a day and that is very evident in Beijing. The Chinese obviously don’t believe in sitting and there are virtually no benches, chairs or even surfaces to rest your bum—besides, you are walking pretty much non-stop in heat, humidity and staggering air pollution. There are approximately 22 million people in Beijing and there are about 8.5 million in New York City, just to give you a comparison. We didn’t see the sun for three days and there are simply lots and lots of people everywhere. Viking does an admirable job considering everything they must juggle. Their best asset is, without a doubt, their people. Our guide, Jenna, was fabulous—knowledgable, kind, smart and always working. Her English was perfect and her attitude admirable given the Chinese Government and the hundreds of variables she managed daily. Coming in second to Jenna was the quality of the hotels. We stayed at several Shangri-la hotels and two Fairmont hotels and they were all exceptional. The breakfast buffets at these hotels were the best of all the food offered on the trip. Often, we also ate dinner at the hotels and while it got a little old, you could eat the food. That was not always the case on the cruise and in the local restaurants. You get pretty tired of the same Chinese, lazy Susan, family-style offerings such as limp tasteless book choy. Drinks also seem to be an issue. Wine is pretty non-existent, beer is served (ONE per customer) and they’ll take you down if you ask for a second soda. Budget for your liquor consumption and figure nothing is included. Viking does a great job with the baggage, transfers and details associated with what turned out to be seven intra-China flights, endless bus rides and interference by the Chinese government. Just as we were to leave for our cruise portion of the flight, we were informed a portion of the Yangtze River had been closed. This necessitated us taking two domestic flights in one day, topped off by a five hour bus ride that put us boarding at 3:00 a.m. After the five hour ride, we were told we should “tip the bus driver”. Really? I didn’t want to use him in the first place and I’m responsible for the government closing the river? Tipping is something of a concern. It is endless. I don’t mind tipping, but every bus driver, every local guide, porter and handyman?? We tipped Jenna more, because she was worth it, but you are “advised” to tip $15 a day, per couple for the tour guide. If you are on the trip for 21 days, that is $315. There is vitally no internet. None. No Facebook, CNN or Google. Sometimes, when the stars and moon align and it’s 3:00 am, you might get Yahoo in the larger cities. The entertainment is not worth mentioning because, while very pleasant, are the same people who clean your room. The Emerald riverboat is old and clearly not of Viking quality. The towels are dripping with loose threads and the sheets are worn thin. The bathroom is small and dated. The balconies are small with chairs that are capable of eating your flesh and the food less than. The staff are generally eager to please and have a reasonable command of English. We saw a lot of China and that was great. Viking did an amazing job fitting everything into the schedule. We personally hated all the “factory tours” that resulted in a “shopping opportunity” but people bought, so I guess it’s part of the program. The Terra Cotta Soldiers were amazing and Lhasa a true highlight. We both got very sick with the altitude sickness so plan on bringing medication. The hotel had a doctor, but it ran about $300 extra per person to get treated. Shanghai was a wonderful surprise (so different from Beijing) and Hong Kong was stunning. The quick trip to Guilin was worth the effort because the ride down the Li River was exceptional. There was just so much to see and you do start to understand the different Chinese thought process. We were a small group—21 in our group and 18 in a companion guided group—together because our itinerary included Tibet and most on to Hong Kong—and that provided a surprising upside. You get to know the people well and, while I wouldn’t have selected many of them in a general sense, it was a fabulous group of interesting people—aged from 22 to 80 years. The people absolutely made the trip—and Jenna was the glue that made it all possible. Take this trip for what it is—a journey with lots of average Chinese food, exploring emerging tourist sights and highlights of cultural enrichment, coupled with the great need to be adaptable while getting to know a variety of great folks. And, train physically before you go! Read Less
Sail Date June 2015
Our trip was 12 nights on AmaWaterways on AmaPura (2 nights pre cruise in Yangon and 10 nights cruise from Pyay to Mandalay) for December 16 2014. The pre cruise in Yangon stay included 2 nights in the Sule Shangri La. The hotel was one of ... Read More
Our trip was 12 nights on AmaWaterways on AmaPura (2 nights pre cruise in Yangon and 10 nights cruise from Pyay to Mandalay) for December 16 2014. The pre cruise in Yangon stay included 2 nights in the Sule Shangri La. The hotel was one of the nicest in Yangon although our expectations were higher for a Shangri La property. We were a bit disappointed that the pre cruise did not include any meals (lunch or dinner) in Yangon. Only breakfast was included. We had 40 passengers onboard for this particular cruise. The transfer to Pyay took all day - about 8 hours. The bus was fine but the toilet stops were not. There really wasn't a good place to stop with western toilets. And lunch was packed by Shangri La and included a sandwich. We had to sit with a bunch of locals in a restaurant stop with less than desirable ambiance. The boat - upon first glance of the boat, we could not believe it was a brand new ship. It already looked dated and did not really look like the artist rendering on the Ama Waterways website. At first we thought it was a ship that was old and refurbished. Since this was the 3rd cruise for this vessel, we were shocked that it was in such conditions and passed Ama standards. The room - the craftsmanship was really bad. There were already cracks on the walls and ceilings and it was supposed to be brand new. The caulking was horrible. The wood floors looked dull. It was on its 3rd cruise and already looking like it needed refurbishment. Other items to note: - Our windows were dirty and we asked to have them cleaned. However, because of the design, half was covered with rails which makes cleaning very difficult. - There was a TV but nothing played on it. - There was a phone but when calling another cabin, the call would cut in and out. - WIFI was poor even in a big port like Mandalay. - Shower - water pressure was very low and in the mornings the temperature would vary from barely warm to cold - Wine/beer is only complimentary during lunch and dinner. Between meals, if you order a beer, it is $2. For the price of the cruise, wine/beer should be included outside of meal times. I really dislike the nickel and diming. - Gratuities are not included. It is about $300 for 2 people for 12 days for the staff which includes the Cruise Managers. On a lot of excursions, it is a walking tour with just the cruise manager. I think for the price of the cruise, they should add it in and include it so you don't have to worry about bringing cash. - They ask you to change your currency to kyats because in the smaller towns, the drivers do not like being tipped with USD. There is currency exchange on the ship from USD to kyats.. For tipping on a tour, a bus with a driver would require $1 per person per day. - It was not as active as we thought it would be. There were only a couple of days where we had morning and afternoon excursions. Most of the days, our excursions were in the afternoon lasting for about 1.5 hours right before sunset. You would get back on the boat and it is dark. Bring a flashlight because sometimes it is pitch dark. - We are in our 40s and were the youngest on the ship. Most of the people were from the US and in their 60s and 70s. - Service is very good. The staff get off the boat and help the individuals who have a hard time with stairs. Because of the location, expect some bit of walking. - Most places you will have to remove your shoes when visiting. However, they always provide wipes for you to wipe your feet. - There is a lot of dust. You should bring a mask or bandana to cover your nose and mouth for the horse ride in Inwa. - For U Bein bridge, they arranged for a boat ride with champagne. It was a VERY nice touch. - In Bagan, our cruise manager took us out to ride on bikes for 1.5 hours and it was the highlight of our trip. Also, one of the options was to watch the sunset by climbing a temple. That was also very nice. Bagan was one of our favorite places. I wished we could have spent a bit more time there and I wished the boat offered the hot air balloon option. - Breakfast and lunch is buffet. Lunch has a cooking station and it is different every day but a line does form. We really enjoyed the Myanmar cuisine. For breakfast, there was usually soup noodles which was very tasty. There is also an egg station for breakfast. - In Mandalay, there were ALOT of mosquitoes. I had about 6 bites in our room. Bring mosquito spray. I think this is only an issue when on the boat since we are on the river but on excursions, there weren't many mosquitoes. Also, I did not have any issues in the other ports. If you are young and looking for an active itinerary, this cruise is not for you. If you like a leisurely pace with activities for a few hours a day, you will enjoy this cruise. For the price we paid, we could have done a land tour much cheaper however because of the lack of desirable hotels, we opted for a brand new ship. But, because of the condition of the boat, we were really disappointed. This was our first AMA Waterways cruise and we were really disappointed with the standards of the ship. However, looking at the other ships that sailed the Ayarwaddy, this looked to be one of the better ships. I think as more luxurious hotels pop up in Myanmar, you would be better suited to stay on land. The highlights were Yangon, Bagan and Mandalay. The stops along the way was nice from a cultural standpoint but not really highlights of our trip.   Read Less
Sail Date December 2014
We did only the river cruise part of a broader package that AmaWaterways provides. We heard generally good things about the land portions of the package. Overall, the cruise was enjoyable, but it got off to a rocky start with an unexpected ... Read More
We did only the river cruise part of a broader package that AmaWaterways provides. We heard generally good things about the land portions of the package. Overall, the cruise was enjoyable, but it got off to a rocky start with an unexpected 7-hour bus ride over bumpy roads with only a tiny sandwich and an apple for lunch. Many passengers seemed in a bad mood by the time we got to the boat, but this was soon lifted by the welcoming high tea immediately after boarding. The food on the boat was quite good and provided in large quantity and variety. The complimentary wines with lunch and dinner were mediocre at best. The 24-hour free beer was icy cold and much appreciated. The number, length, and variety of shore excursions was extremely well done; enough to keep us entertained without overtaxing us. There was no charge for these excursions, though small tips for drivers and guides were encouraged. The local guides were very good as far as we could tell. Our own guide in Cambodia, Adam, was excellent. He was charming, full of information, and always happy to answer questions or banter with passengers. We learned a lot about the people who live on the river and the recent history of Cambodia and Vietnam. The entertainment on board was OK but not great. The best event was a funny crew talent contest. There were 2 or 3 masseuses who seemed quite busy. The massage was very good and cheap as well. A high point for me was just sitting on our balcony or the upper deck and watching the riverbank roll by, with all the floating villages, fishing boats, and barge traffic. Very peaceful. A major negative was the wi-fi connection, which was available only in one lounge and was so slow as to be essentially useless. The biggest negative for us is the deceptive description of the cruise itinerary on the AmaWaterways website. For us, a highlight of the cruise itinerary was sailing down Tonle Sap Lake, the largest freshwater lake in southeast Asia. According to the website, departure from the Siem Reap hotel would be at 11:00 am. There was a note on the website that in "low water season" departure would be at 7:30 am via a 5-hour bus ride to the other end of Tonle Sap lake, because the boat cannot sail on Tonle Sap in low water. We made sure that we did NOT book our cruise during low water season, which is February through June. We called AmaWaterways a couple days ahead to confirm the 11:00 am departure and were surprised to hear that departure had been changed to 9:00 am. More importantly, instead of boarding at Siem Reap and crusing on Tonle Sap, we had to take the long bus ride mentioned above (7 hours not 5) and missed Tonle Sap altogether. We checked a website run by the government of Cambodia, which reported that water levels in Tonle Sap were not low and were in fact average. We asked some of the local tour guides and they told us that the boat almost NEVER sails on Tonle Sap lake and that passengers almost always have to take the 7-hour bus ride. In fact, we were told that in all of 2014 only one cruise actually departed from Siem Reap. This is in sharp contrast with the wording on the AmaWaterways website. Read Less
Sail Date December 2014
The ship name is Viking Orient and leased from Pandaw, but not on the list so I've put the name of the ship as the closest to "Orient". The cruise started in Mandalay, and not Yangon, but there is no such option for the port ... Read More
The ship name is Viking Orient and leased from Pandaw, but not on the list so I've put the name of the ship as the closest to "Orient". The cruise started in Mandalay, and not Yangon, but there is no such option for the port of embarkation so I choose the closest available option- Yangon. Please keep in mind that the opinion expressed here is my personal and could be very different from your personal experience. I'll tell it chronologically with some practical advises as it goes. Flight: we flew from NY to Taipei and from there to Bangkok one day prier to "official" day of arrival- to get used to 12h time difference and to see more. We've used pills "No jet lag" which, probably, helped, because we've arrived to Bangkok at noon in, I'd say, pretty normal condition. We did not purchase transfer from Viking, so we got a taxi to hotel on our own. Here is how to do it: When you leave Custom area, don't go out, but to the right on the escalator, down, and only now leave the terminal (the door will be on your left- 90 degrees to the escalator) and on your right (45 degrees) you'll see few counters with girls. You're getting to any of them, specify what hotel you want to go (the taxi driver usually stands behind her and listen to it). she gives you piece of paper with your destination and info about driver/taxi- (in case you forget something behind or would like to complain), driver takes your suitcases and lead you to his car. The moment he is in it and if he did not turn on the meter, say to him (and this is going for all your future taxi usage in Bangkok) "meter, please!" He will turn it on and it will show 35B. He will ask you "highway"? Tell him "yes" and be prepared to give him 25B on first and 50B on the second stop at the toll booth. At the end of trip (between 35min to 1h, depending on traffic and hotel. Millenium takes longer, Shangri-La is shorter) you need to pay him whatever on the meter 250-300B plus 50B for the girl's booking at the airport. Tip is not expected, but common to round up to the next 10 B. So, 5B-15B tip will do. In general try to use skytrain or Chaya river boats and not taxis, because the traffic in Bangkok is really bad (see about it further) and while taxi is not expensive (most rides in the center should cost between 60B-90B, but you can spend much more time in taxi then exploring.... Before leaving the airport you'll see a lot of currency exchange booths- all of them have the same exchange rate (it was 30.78 on 11/1), so change SOME money, because in the city you'll get better rate. (For example in hotel it was 31.29 and near Wat Triamit 32.2). We've expected to be in Millenium so I've booked it for additional night in advance and on non-refundable basis ($160 including breakfast), so when Viking informed us that Shangri-La will be our hotel, we did not have much choice, but stayed 1 night at Millenium and then 2 nights in Shangri-La. To compare: both hotels are VERY nice, swimming pool & breakfast is better at Millenium, but Shangri-La location is better. There is Wi-Fi in both hotels, but in Millenium it works only in common area. BTW, the time difference with Bangkok - 12h (compare to NY) Day 0. We arrived at hotel, went for short swim and went for two major attractions - Wat Arun & Wat Pho. Wat Arun is much smaller, you can climb to the top (recommended) and then took boat across the river (3B cost, the pier located to the left of Wat Arun) and went to Wat Pho,- it is about 150 feets from the pier- on your left will be the walls of Royal Palace and after 150 feets on your right the entrance to Wat Pho. It is extremely large and beautiful place. Prepare to take your shoes off periodically. It is getting dark around 6pm so about when we were heading back to hotel it was dark. We went to the same pier, caught a boat to "Safam Tsakin"- central pier, about 5 stops. You buy ticket on board, 15 B. Millenium ran free shuttle service from the central pier to the hotel, so when get out at the pier, turn right go the pier on the right, ask, policeman there "Millenium"? and he will tell you when the right boat comes. We did not go for Dinner to Millenium- the prices there....main entry $80-$100 plus service and tax, so we went to the left of hotel by the river and in about 150 feet got to local restaurant where prices were "Thai prices" - main dishes 90B-200B and food was ok. Day 1 (official arrival day) Next morning after having breakfast- very large selection, including a lot of "Chinese breakfast dishes" we took another shuttle from hotel (to the left of complimentary shuttle boat) across the river to "River City" shopping complex (do not bother if you're after shopping- see later; the complex mostly empty) 3.5B cost of the transfer. We were on our way to self-guided walking tour of China town. The first stop was Wat Triamit (golden budda), but it was about 15-20 min walking from the pier thru typical China town When we looked unsure where to turn one of the locals asked (with his hands) what are we looking for and showed us where to go. (In general people in Bangkok where extremely nice and pleasant in communication). wat Triamit was ok. (I'm not going to describe the tour- if interested you can download a lot of different versions of it). Then we've passed a lot of gold selling stores, China town market with plenty of kick-off bags- my wife got 3 for about 400B each- after negotiations, took a river boat to hotel and took a taxi to Shangri La. The official "cruise" has began! At Shangri-La we met Viking representatives Tum & Tango and got keys to our room. We wanted to see traditional Thai dance show so they've recommended one at the nearest hotel (Oriental), but since it was on the short notice, we're informed that the sits will be too far from the show, so we opted for another place $65/p including dinner. We'd be picked up from hotel and dropped off. That place we were told an hour from the hotel. Well, this day we got first hand knowledge of Bangkok trafic: it tooks us 2.5 hour to get there and 20 min to get back! The dinner was nothing to write home about and the show was very interesting and nice! Pick up time was 5.30pm and we've back about 10:30pm. Day 2 At 9am we've first briefing with Viking reps (Tum & Tango), were divided in two buses (total 50 people)- and this division will hold for the whole trip, got "quiet boxes" with spare batteries (keep them, you almost for sure will need them later) and informed about day schedule (10am-12:30am visit to Grand Palace by boat, 6:30pm leaving for the Thai restaurant dinner) and collected $10/p for tips to everyone in Bangkok besides them-selves (this amount seems reasonable, even though it is not acceptable practice in Thailand to tip...). There is no canals included in the tour, even though it was supposed to be included according to Viking brochure. Piece of advise: if for some unlucky reason you're in Tango's group, insist on going with Tum. In my view Tango's English is absolutely is incomprehensible and while he is very nice guy this does not compensate for the fact that you'll be not able to understand his explanations in Royal Palace and/or on the way there. IMHO, he should not have been employed at all. In the afternoon we went for Thai massage (300 B for 1h.) I recommend it- you'll be streched, pushed, pulled, but eventually will feel better. If not go for foot massage - the same cost. And we went for shopping in MBK. This is very interesting place (including food court on 5 fl) and if you've some time to spare, go for it! It is 5 stops by skytrain ("National Stadium" stop), 37 b each way. Dinner was fine,- community style service, most of the dishes too spicy for my taste, but manageable. And it will be your first chance to sit with your companions - stupid and poor people don't go to such cruises so, I think you will (mostly) enjoy it! (in our group the oldest lady was 90y old, the second 86 y.o and my wife - 52 y.o was the youngest one). Day 3. In the morning we got transfered to airport for our flight to Mandalay. It was well organized process, no complains. The fly leaves around 12:30pm, lasts 1:30 h, they feed you lunch (extremely spicy so you better off to make some sandwiches in the hotel). When we arrived, we where met by Andrew & Nan Da- our PD's (program directors). They're going to be with you for the duration of the cruise until you leave from Yangon back to Bangkok. It is not sure that you'll get the same guys- there are 4 PD's for each ship, so which 2 you'll get is unknown. In any case, Andrew's English was easier to understand than Nan Da's, but Nan Da was more open about things and it is hard to say who was better. You can exchange money at the airport, but if you ask PD to do it tomorrow in the city you'll get 3% more for your money. I suggest to exchange only $100 per couple (they suggest twice that much),- a lot of places accept $$$, but some not. In any case you can exchange back or leave it as a tip at the end of the cruise. since it was already too late to go to monastery as planned (it closes at 4pm) we went directly to the ship and all planned things were moved to the next day. the trip to ship takes 45 min. On the bus, PDs will suggest to give $50 each toward tips for everybody not from the ship. At the end of the cruise you'll get the breakdown how that money was spent. We all (besides one couple) agreed and from looking on the breakdown of expenses I strongly recommend to give them only $30 p/p- it seems sufficient enough,- the tip IMHO, was not only exessive in some cases, but also given to some people that simply should not have got it at all. The ship (Viking Orient). Huge disappointment. Not even close to European river ships. The room is too small (about 140 sf), the storage space is very limited, the only "window" is the door that you came thru, but if you keep it open, then, everyone who passes will see inside your cabin. There is no A/C common space and sun deck is too hot during the day. There is also extremely bad acustics in dining room and you need to raise your voice in order to be heard. Put A/C on the "wave" you'll get better cooling. There is no Wi-Fi on board, but 2 computers with slow internet available, most of the time. Nothing blocked. Regarding clothing: don't worry about what to wear to monasteries or pagodas- every day it will be announced what is appropriate and worse case scenario you'll be given something to cover yourself. I suggest to pack light, the dress code is super-casual, no formal nights and no ties, suits, evening dresses- this is not like in Europe. Wear flip-flops, if you can. The schedule looks like that: 7-9am breakfast (very limited choice. You won't go hungry, but this is not Shangri-La) with tea or coffee; 9am -11:30am sightseeeing 12am- lunch. (Very good salads, poor main dish). 3:30pm- second sightseeing. 6pm- coctail hour; 6:45pm briefing for the next day. 7pm dinner. 8:30pm some kind of entertainment- movies ("The Lady"- highly recommend, and "The life of Budda"- put me to sleep), local productions- worth to try and once trivia game. At 10pm the computer is all yours- everybody is sleeping. There is no tea/coffee served during the lunch or dinner- there is machine at the bar where you can get very bad cappuchino or so-so coffee and normal tea. The drinks are included, besides imported hard alcohol (so local Wisky or Rum and local wines and coctails as much as you can). I'm not much drinker so have no clue about quality of any drinks, including beer. The desserts are mostly nothing to write home. BTW, Viking use to issue every traveler name tag (very convinient), but for some reason stop doing it few weeks ago. When you leave the ship for the daily excursions you'll get battle of water; when you come back you surrender your foot wear for the cleaning (do it) and get it in 1/2 h. Regarding sickness: I'm 100% sure that nobody ate anything from outside the ship and still every time someone was sick for 1-2 days. I think the reason for it the spices and the combination of unfamiliar food with drinks. At some point about 9 people were sick and did not show for excursion. Don't use Imodium, but rather Pipto-Bismol. Back to the day 3. At 6:15pm we got briefing with Hotel Manager- Dominiqe from Switzerland. Very nice and open guy. What is important, is that he said that in the area we pass there was no malaria case in the last 5-7 years so you don't have to take any profilatics. Day 4. The full day of Mandalay, including lunch in local (Chinese) restaurant. Very nice. Here you'll get your first real taste of Myanmar,- the city of 3m, looks like oversized village and simply different from Europe or USA. I'm not going to describe what we've seen (mostly), because you'll see it yourself, but rather just prepare you for any logistics or surprises. Day 5. Ava . Here you're going for the first time encounter local vendors,- mostly girls 7-17y old. They will try to sell you some costume jewelry (negotiate) and try to make you feel gilty ("what is your name? will you think about buying? (we're going thru them again) do you remember me? You make me unhappy if you don't buy" etc). My advise: if you like something- negotiate and buy, it is not expensive. If not, then tell them that their happiness is not your concern. The horse ride was unplesant. Amarapura. The visit to monastery is really waste of time; the gandolla ride on the lake is much more interesting. Unfortunatelly because of the time spent in monastery we don't get the chance to walk on the teak bridge. The entertainment: classical Burmese Ballet. highly recommend. Day 6. Your real encounter with village in Burma. Well, if you're after church-castle-palace-square, you'd be better off in Europe. Here it is totally different.... Evening entertainment: lecture about Bagan. While the subject is really interesting the lecturer was falling asleep and was done in 12 min on the subject that could be told hours. Very disappointing. From my later discussion with Dominiq it seems that there is a problem to find English speaking lecturers. Day 7. Bagan. Extremely interesting area, magnificient views. A lot of vendors. Some women bought "elephan pants" $4-$5, T-shirts and other touristic souvenirs. Vendors- see day 5. We dock near reasort where you can get Wi-Fi. Some people went to their coffee shop in the afternoon, but we choose their pool (they did not charge us, but I've heard about $10 fees). Very nice! Entertainment: Puppet show. Could not stand it more than 15 min. Very repetative. Day 8. Another village. Afternoon in Sale with monastery. Day 9. Another village. Afternoon in Magway, by trishaw to Pagoda with very nice view. This was very interesting- the city is not spoiled with tourist attention so we got to feel like on parade. Day 10. Monk blessing on the ship. Works for 26 days. Visit to local market. My wife got "Tanaka" 70c a jar plus some remedy against headachack- another 65c. I bought some bag for my camcorder- $3. In the afternoon we went to Minhla port- total waste of time and another small town. Day 11. Visit to local school where they made serious reception for us with dances, meals etc. (The tip money that left over get contributed to this school) Day 12. We get to Pyay and this is the last stop. For some reasons instead of going by ship to Yangon (160miles), they choose to get there by bus - 7 hours of not pleasant ride. We visited Shwe San daw Pagoda- very interesting and archeological museum- really nothing. Afternoon on your own. But it is so hot that no desire to go and explore more of that town. Disembarkation briefing. Tips: Viking recommend about $200 to crew (per couple) and the same to PD. In my view it is really exesessive,- I think 1/3 to 1/2 of it will do. To crew you can put it on credit card, but to PD only in cash. could be given later in Yangon. Dominiq also collected from everyone e-mail addresses and distributed list with it. Day 13. After breakfast we hit the road to Yangon and by 3pm we're there. Yangon, is the first normal town you'll see. A lot of traffic, normal streets & shops, even supermarket, squares with fonutain. Nice. We went for a swim & then to downtown- very close. The dinner in hotel is included, a lot of selection, but nothing to eat.... Day 14. The climax of the trip Shewdagon pagoda. Unforgettable! It is good thing that we started from Mandalay, because have we started from Yangon everything after that would be really downhill. At the top we got calendar for 2015 (50 cents) with the pictures of Pagoda. Extremely beautiful (both)! In the afternoon we went to supermarket to get idea about local production. Rum- 80 cents bottle. the other imported things are on par with US. Farewell dinner at hotel. Day 15. Moving back to Bangkok. 1 hour flight. The time difference with Birma 1/2h (compared to Bangkok). The same Tango met us, transfer to hotel, return your head pieces and we done. Day 16. Flying home! All in all was very interesting trip. Read Less
Sail Date November 2014
Before booking this kind of holiday please make sure it is for you. If it is what you want it is great, if not you could very well be disappointed. My husband and I cruised on La Marguerite 9-16 September 2014. Our first disappointment was ... Read More
Before booking this kind of holiday please make sure it is for you. If it is what you want it is great, if not you could very well be disappointed. My husband and I cruised on La Marguerite 9-16 September 2014. Our first disappointment was that we in our mid 50s were the youngest on board. On booking we had asked about ages and told it was mixed, but most were 70+. The ship is very nice, but not a lot of space to move about. Food was excellent but the lack of activity made it hard to enjoy it, as I never felt that hungry. All the staff were sweet and attentive - faultless in every way, and the boat was immaculately clean. The Vietnamese cruise director was incredible - Son - he could sell you anything - each day raising our hopes about the 'beautiful' things we were going to see, and though on each trip we were disappointed, we still believed him again next time. Without his lead there may well have been dissatisfied voices, but no-one wanted to upset him I think! the local guides who travelled with us had excellent English and tried hard, but they had little to show us. The real problem was the excursions. There really is nothing to see along the way, in Vietnam the river is wide and brown, the shore the same old farming land or village slums and rubbish, and most of the other boats you pass are large dredgers. In Cambodia it is slightly better, no dredgers. I didn't find anything beautiful to look out at. the sky is cloudy all the time, creating oppressive heat, then at some point each day there is a torrential down pour which can last hours. If you are on an excursion at the time, bad luck, put on a mac and get on with it. Mud everywhere! The daily excursions are to villages and to look at the homes of the people - so poor and full of rubbish - schools, markets (with some quite unpleasant sights) and temples, that are neither ancient or attractive. By the end of the week about half of the party had given up getting off the boat! If you want to see the real life of the local people, can face the dirt, smells and rubbish, and like sitting around chatting on the boat with free drinks and good food, and amateur evening entertainment - including poor copies of dvds - then this is for you. If you are expecting luxury, 5*, freedom to walk around on lovely excursions (during the briefing each night Son told us that the excursion would involve about 500 mtrs walking and 10 or so steps to climb - you get the idea - not meant for those with energy or no walking issues) then choose something else. As I said before - if this is what you are looking for you will love it. I felt we had been missold - or maybe I should have done more research before booking rather than relying on the travel agent and glossy brochure. Read Less
Sail Date September 2014
The cultural experience in China was excellent. The guides and ship staff were pleasant and hard working. English language skills were very good. The Viking Emerald, however, leaves a lot to be desired. Although the on-line information ... Read More
The cultural experience in China was excellent. The guides and ship staff were pleasant and hard working. English language skills were very good. The Viking Emerald, however, leaves a lot to be desired. Although the on-line information states that the ship was built in 2011, it is obviously a much older ship, possibly refurbished several times. The cabin floors were uneven and the bathrooms were very dated. The ship sported several different names on signs on midship and on the bow, so perhaps it is used by different cruise lines simultaneously. Food in the dining room was all right, as long as there were western-style meals served. If the menu was announced as "traditional Chinese dinner" you could count on really cheap cuts of meat, flavorless noodles and sauces and little variety in vegetables. We found it humorous that the chef's biggest claim to fame was the breakfast yogurt--which was good, but hardly something to write home about. The on-board informational talks were all given by the cruise director. While a nice person, he was hardly an expert in all of the topics that he tried to talk about, so the level of each talk was at about a 6th grade level. He was unable to answer most questions that were put to him. The on-board entertainment consisted entirely of different members of the ship's crew (cabin attendants, diningroom staff, security personnel) who had been dressed in different outfit/costumes and then waltzed around the dance floor swinging their arms. Nice effort, but completely amateur. The land portion of the cruise tour was very good. The hotels were excellent 4-5 star. Air travel within China was what you would expect for a tour group, but our main Viking guide facilitated everything very smoothly. The ports were what we came for, and were not disappointed. A lot of walking was required. We greatly enjoyed the huge number of cultural sights included in the tour, and the local guides provided by Viking were appreciated, although their English skills were not as good as the main guide's. The constant tipping took a little getting used to, but the main Viking guide facilitated the passengers acquisition of smaller local currency to make this process easier. It was a trip we will remember for the rest of our lives.   Read Less
Sail Date August 2014
Sailed with Viking River Cruises (Emerald boat) Imperial Jewels of China. The land portion of the tour in Beijing/Xian/Shanghai were wonderful with fabulous 5 star hotels. The Yangtze River cruise needs some help-maybe 3 stars if I am ... Read More
Sailed with Viking River Cruises (Emerald boat) Imperial Jewels of China. The land portion of the tour in Beijing/Xian/Shanghai were wonderful with fabulous 5 star hotels. The Yangtze River cruise needs some help-maybe 3 stars if I am generous. The ship supposedly is not that old but looks really shabby inside and out. Carpets are worn, floors are warped, room has mold on ceilings due to the high humidity, bathrooms in staterooms are vinyl and tired. The river itself is so polluted and dirty with trash floating down all the time that your balcony will not be used. The embarkation is a dirty side street along the river bank with many steps old stone steps to maneuver down-no modern port-felt bad for older folks trying to carry luggage down. No entertainment on board-some mahjong classes, lectures, staff variety show-very cheesy. Excusions were very good-side trips into the 3 Gorges is breathtaking & prettier than the main river. Navigating the locks were very impressive as well. Overall choose this tour because it gets you to all the major attractions safely and just realize the river cruise is not up to Western big companies such as Celebrity and Norwegian. Read Less
Sail Date July 2014
We have just returned from the Viking Cruise/land tour Imperials Jewels of China. This trip covered 3 days in Beijing , 1.5 days in Xian, 5 day cruise on Yangtze River and 1.5 days in Shanghai. Included was 5 star hotel accommodation in ... Read More
We have just returned from the Viking Cruise/land tour Imperials Jewels of China. This trip covered 3 days in Beijing , 1.5 days in Xian, 5 day cruise on Yangtze River and 1.5 days in Shanghai. Included was 5 star hotel accommodation in the 3 cities listed,3 internal flights and a verandah stateroom on the Viking Emerald. The passengers, 160 in all, were divided into 4 groups of 40 each with a dedicated tour escort for the whole journey. This was not a relaxed cruise/land tour and was full-on, especially on the days when visiting the tourist sights in Beijing, Xian and Shanghai. There was a significant amount of walking in high temperatures and dealing with large crowds at the various sites. It was highly organised and always on the go, leaving very little or no free time on the land days. Apart from breakfast, dining was at local restaurants under the "lazy Susan " format with the food choice being very limited and sub standard at times. On the days of the internal flights it was quite time consuming though the organisation covering the check in and luggage handling and transfers to hotel was well organised, leaving us with no concerns. The Viking Emerald is a reasonably new ship and had all the modern conveniences to make the cruise very comfortable and relaxing. The meals were of a reasonable standard with a choice of either Chinese or Western. There was no entertainment apart from 2 revue type shows put on by the crew. Unfortunately the river cruise schedule had to be changed due to the Yangtze river being in flood and we were unable to sail through the Three Gorges and pass through the lochs which would have been a major attraction for us. However Viking made alternative arrangements to sail up the river to the Three Gorges Dam from Wuhan and return, giving us 4 days cruising and an extra day in Wuhan. Our tour escort was very good and knowledgeable on the key factors covering the places we visited, which was very helpful in helping us attain an understanding of the Chinese culture and lifestyle. The local guides were also of a high standard. One disappointing aspect of this trip was that once you were allocated to your group you were expected to stay with it, and the opportunity to mix with the other passengers was non existent because of the structure that was in place to move everybody around China during the trip. Whilst we understood this, we felt that on the cruise there could have been some relaxation in the group situation so that we could utilise the open dining policy that Viking offers. This was not the case and we were all directed to dine within our groups, and thereby the opportunity to meet and mix with the other passengers did not eventuate. To sum up this trip, it was more an adventure than a holiday in that it provided us with a fully organised insight into China. We understood such organisation was necessary as trying to cover the major tourist attractions on our own, would have been very demanding. Given the short time at our disposal, however, we have to say that Viking proved to be excellent tour operators and their superb organisation enabled us to cover a large amount of China in a very short time. Read Less
Sail Date July 2012
My wife and I took the full 16 night tour starting in Hanoi and finishing in Saigon (Ho Chi Minh City) with an extra on our own at either end (March 5 to 22, 2012). We flew from Vancouver to Hanoi with China Airlines. Just one word of ... Read More
My wife and I took the full 16 night tour starting in Hanoi and finishing in Saigon (Ho Chi Minh City) with an extra on our own at either end (March 5 to 22, 2012). We flew from Vancouver to Hanoi with China Airlines. Just one word of warning: bring your own food! Just think solid like a rock blue scrambled eggs - and they were probably among the better food. I will not go into any detail about all the things we did and all the excursions because they have been very well described elsewhere. I'd rather concentrate on the aspects of the trip that reflect AMA Waterways. Hanoi is a fabulous city and well worth the visit and if nothing else, you will learn how to cross the most uncrossable street: nobody gives an inch, and neither should you! Sofitel Hotels in Hanoi, Siem Riep and Saigon were first class. OK, one minor draw back: after having had a lovely dinner and entertainment on our first night in Siem Reap, close to half of our group came down with an illness which caused fatigue, vomiting and diarrhea. Well, one explanation offered was that people may have drank too much cold water on such a hot day. Another was that people must have been carrying this form a flu and that it just happened to break out at that point in our trip. Great miracle that Brits, Aussies, Cannucks and Yanks can synchronize their illness so well. And no, it could not have been food poisoning; shouldn't have that affected all of us? This also meant that my wife and I had to cancel our dinner reservation in Siem Reap which we had been looking forward to. Yes, that's the risk you take travelling to exotic countries. We spent two full days seeing all the temples and holy sites of Anchor. On the third day we took off on a five hour bus ride to meet the ship because the water level in the Tonle Sap Lake was too shallow for the AMALotus. We expected that to be the case, although we would have preferred to embark at Siem Reap. Can't blame anyone here. Can't blame AMA either for the fact that we had to drive almost to Phnom Penh to meet the boat for lack of roads to a point further up-river. The docking location was a sight to behold: the bow of the ship rammed into the river bank and the stern tied onto a bush. Two planks were laid out to meet the bank to form a gangway adorned with rope rails on either side. We were welcomed by half the ship's crew with big smiles on their faces, received our keys and went to our staterooms. There was a strong smell of creosote (the smell of railway ties or power poles, the wooden ones). The staterooms were spacious and the bed was comfortable, even the bath room, especially the shower, was bigger than I had seen on other ships. However, there was no place to put anything. One wardrobe is all - and that is shared with the safe and the water heater (which I had to turn on first incidentally - I know I could have called to have that done but I figured it out myself). There is a small balcony with one chair screwed onto the floor and a little side table. There was room for a second chair which would have been nice. The air conditioning worked non-stop which means it was inadequate. There is a card slot by the entrance which controls power, including air conditioning for the stateroom. You do not need to have a room key in that slot; your Airmiles card will work just fine. And before I g=forget: someone mentioned that the stateroom is tastefully all clad in wood. That is true for the floor. The rest is cheap laminate. Try and get a stateroom as far forward on the boat as you can get because engine, shaft and propeller make an enormous racket while the boat is in motion, the further back, the worse. All that disturbs you up front is the raising and lowering of the anchor (don't worry, the boat is not breaking apart, although it does sound like it). Lets get to the ship: Someone mentioned tasteful artwork adorns the walls - you know who you are and if you took it, please bring it back! Anyway, we had nothing but bare walls. So, at our orientation we were warned again to use sanitizers since some of our group were obviously infectious with (food borne) illness. Also, we were proudly told that there is a guest to crew ratio of 2:1. That means since there are 124 guests there have to be 62 crew, right? Now lets count: two at reception, two bartenders in the lounge, one bartender at the sundeck, approximately 8 servers at dinner, the purser and of course, Sigi, the hotel manager. Add to that six for housekeeping (two per floor). Yes, and we need cooks, say six, and one spa lady. That leaves That leaves 34 people to operate the boat - WOW!!! Sigi, the hotel manager used to work on the big ocean going ships. That has become too much work for him. He prefers the small boats now. I call it semi-retirement. I don't think he worked more than an hour a day, though he was always the first one having his meal in the restaurant, guess quality assurance. Anyway, with such a favorable guest to crew ratio, you would expect stellar service, you would, wouldn't you? OK, let's try something easy like phoning for some ice. Sorry, there is no room service - and no ice bucket in your room either even if you occupy suite. Yes, and we need to eat too. For lunch you have a buffet for starters, salads and dessert (choices don't change throughout the cruise - unless they run out of something, of course). You also have the activity station where you can get the stir fry or pho of the day. The main course is a la carte: one meat dish (mostly western) one fish dish (local) and one vegetarian dish and for lunch there you can also have a choice of burger and two other fast food things I don't remember. Dinner is fully a la carte with the same plethora of menu choices, except no fast food. Thanks, AMA for making the choice so easy, any more and I would never be able to make up my mind. The service at meal time is best described as totally disorganized. While the staff are very friendly and very willing to please, they would surely benefit from a bit of supervision, direction and training. The most noticeable were staff searching for empty plates to take away of which there weren't any while they could have been serving coffee or drinks. It was like everybody was doing the same things at the same time and other things had to wait their turn. Did I tell you there is wine with lunch and dinner, totally free, not a penny. Needless to say, it isn't worth any more than that. Please, AMA, pour it into the river and charge us a bit extra but give us palatable wine. Is that too much to ask for? The local beer is reasonably good and the free gin and tonics are fine too. be careful with the local rum, though, it takes a bit of getting used to. Best deal: mimosa for breakfast, made with Russian sparkling wine which is not bad at all - and it's free. Should have swiped the occasional bottle, just never occurred to me. Entertainment: OK, there you are, floating down the Mekong, you can't afford to have a six piece band travel along together with a few dancers and a string quartet. So what you get is a piano player/crooner and a spot the lie game put on by the some cruise staff. On two nights local groups perform and they are, indeed, very good. One last thing about tipping. We all know that wages in Vietnam, and especially Cambodia are extremely low, and make no mistake, that also applies to the AMALotus. The payroll on the Mekong is quite different from the payroll on the Rhine. So we are asked to tip everywhere and yes, you do need to bring at least $75 in singles per person. Incidentally, half the ship was occupied by Australians who had booked their cruise through APT (no idea how they are related to AMA Waterways) and they had all their tips included. What's so difficult to do that for the rest of the group, even with the option to prepay your tips? So, AMA Waterways, yes, this was an amazing trip, but not because of AMALotus but because of the fabulous countries, and the fabulous people. And yes, the cruise offers a great way to see and experience the country and the people which would be a lot harder to do through any other way of travel. But please, on your ship live up to the reputation your company has in Europe. Sorry, this turned out to be quite a bit longer than intended. Read Less
Sail Date March 2012
We took this tour in January 2011 which is during the dry and cool season. Most of the comments that others have left are quite accurate, but I will add some additional emphasis to some issues. This was our sixth river cruise and second ... Read More
We took this tour in January 2011 which is during the dry and cool season. Most of the comments that others have left are quite accurate, but I will add some additional emphasis to some issues. This was our sixth river cruise and second with AMA Waterways. The AMALotus is a new ship, but perhaps the worst river cruiser we have ever been on. This includes river cruises we have taken in China and Egypt, as well as Europe. Staterooms are comfortably sized, but the selection of furniture was not very functional. Other than a closet with hangers, there was literally no place to put your things. The bathroom was excellent, but we consistently had a major problem with the shower water temperature. It varied repeatedly from scalding hot to icy cold regardless of the faucet settings. Rooms had a nice HD flat screen TV, but no satellite reception. Wireless was limited to the lounge and was good when we were moored or in port. One reviewer stated their air conditioning was excellent. Our's was not. Our room was over 90 degrees for the first two days. The situation only got better when it became cloudy and cooled off outside. The air conditioners are individual to each room and only run when you have your room key card in the key slot on the wall that turns on the lights. OK for saving energy, but IMHO the air conditioners were undersized for the job and not able to do the rapid cool-down required if they were being turned on and off in this manner. Many people got an extra key card from the staff so they could have the a/c run all the time. That helped a little, but not completely. Meals were good but not great. The only complaints we had was that the free local wine at meals was really bad, and the freshly baked breads pretty much amounted to the same bland white and rye each day. Someone mentioned the QuietVoxs were junk. Ours worked OK (as they have on many other cruises we have taken). But there was a major problem with the batteries constantly wearing out after a few hours of use. I noticed that AMA was using a cheap Chinese battery; perhaps rechargeables or quality batteries would have been better. Out land tours varied. Most were really great, but somewhat similar (tours of local villages). For most excursions we needed to use tenders. A few of them were very difficult to board and we considered unsafe (life vests were rotten, seats were not attached to the tender, tender was overcrowded). In a number of places where we disembarked from the AMALotus directly to shore, we literally had to walk a plank to get off or on. In conjunction with the cruise, we had land tours and hotel stays in Hanoi, Siem Reap, and Saigon. All which were well done. We also had a tour to HaLong Bay and spent a night on a Junk. The trip out to HaLong Bay and back could have been arranged a little better. We were rushed in places to hit departure times or meals, yet had other times when we basically just sat and waited on the bus or at a rest stop. Overall, I think the timelines and activities on the trip could be better optimized. Our local guides were all knowledgeable and had an excellent English vocabulary. However, a few had difficulties with pronunciation and we could hardly understand them. Last, let me second the reviewer who commented on excessive tips. I have never been on a land cruise or river cruise where the staff and guides reminded us so often to tip--to the point of it becoming an annoyance. AMA Waterways needs to pay decent wages to their guides, bundle the tips into their own fees, discourage begging for tips, or take whatever other steps are necessary to end this annoyance. Bottom Line: Vietnam and Cambodia were great. The AMALotus was only OK. AMA Waterways needs to get this trip better organized. Read Less
Sail Date January 2011

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