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98 Viking River Beijing Cruise Reviews

Our China trip started in Beijing and ended in Shanghai, touring the sites in Beijing from the Forbidden City, Tienanmen square, The Great Wall etc. was amazing. On to Xian to see the Terracotta Warriors a dream come true, something I had ... Read More
Our China trip started in Beijing and ended in Shanghai, touring the sites in Beijing from the Forbidden City, Tienanmen square, The Great Wall etc. was amazing. On to Xian to see the Terracotta Warriors a dream come true, something I had wanted to see since first reading about them. We boarded the cruise ship in Chongquing. Facilities on board were very comfortable, the personnel professional and friendly. Sites on route interesting and wonderful views especially in the Three Gorges area. The food was excellent, well prepared and plenty of variety of both Chinese and Western fare. Our guide throughout - Joshua - from meeting the 'plane in Beijing to seeing us through security in Shanghai was delightful. Very knowledgeable and fun. He helped us understand Chinese culture, and history and was always careful for our safety and well being. Kudos to him for a job excellently done. This trip was a gift to ourselves for our 50th wedding anniversary and was everything we had hoped for and more, however more 'physical' than anticipated. This should be made clear in your brochures. We may have come better prepared for all the walking etc. Read Less
Sail Date October 2015
This was an excellent experience for our first trip to China. Fantastic itinerary, great hotels, awesome cruise. Great service all around. In an overwhelming country with so much to see, Viking helped us to focus on the must sees. Right ... Read More
This was an excellent experience for our first trip to China. Fantastic itinerary, great hotels, awesome cruise. Great service all around. In an overwhelming country with so much to see, Viking helped us to focus on the must sees. Right from picking us up at the airport and adding an extra excursion for those of us arriving a day early, we realized that this would be something special. The land portion of the tour was great, fantastic hotels, meals and a well-informed, interesting and energetic tour guide. The cruise was breath-taking! Our first real river cruise experience did not disappoint. The ship was beautiful, well-appointed and clean with very helpful staff. It was amazing how quickly they got to know us, and what our needs were. The room was very nice, and it was great to be able to sit on the balcony and take pictures as we cruised down the Yang-Tse. We would most definitely recommend this tour as a great way to discover China. Read Less
Sail Date October 2015
My intent is to write a review that will give you insight and tips to help in planning your trip. I read reviews on Cruise Critic about the Imperial Jewels of China trip before I left home, but I learned many things on my trip that were ... Read More
My intent is to write a review that will give you insight and tips to help in planning your trip. I read reviews on Cruise Critic about the Imperial Jewels of China trip before I left home, but I learned many things on my trip that were not covered in those reviews. Hopefully my tidbits will make your vacation more enjoyable and memorable. This trip is the perfect way to see China. If you want to experience some of the breadth and depth and majesty of China—its history, culture, and natural beauty—with the convenience of English-speaking guides and the pampering of Viking Cruises personnel, then this IS the trip for you. Viking organizes everything and executes pretty much on schedule (for those things under its control). You have to unpack and pack several times. You stay in 3 hotels. You have 3 internal flights and the cruise on the Yangtze River. China is a BIG country. But you get to travel to several impressive places in China. And you get to meet really nice, interesting people—your fellow passengers. We had mostly Americans on the trip, but also some from Canada, New Zealand, and South Africa. We made lots of new friends. Yes, it’s a Communist country, but the people were friendly, and the guides were open in talking to us about the good and the bad. For example, we learned from some of the female guides that they are not interested in having a second child, even if it is allowed, because of the cost of raising a child in China. I guess some matters are never as black and white as we might suppose. We were a novelty in some places; Chinese citizens asked us to be in their photos. We saw some of the challenges as China tries to modernize and provide for its people without causing future shock to its 1.3 billion inhabitants. Realize that a small city in China means one with 4 million inhabitants. We saw pollution in the cities: lots of people and lots of cars being driven (in addition to the coal plants) leads to pollution; visibility was sometimes several miles. But it wasn’t really bothersome, probably because of the time of year we visited (late October). The only time I had an issue was in Chongqing at the airport. You could drive an hour away and not have so much pollution. We also saw blue skies in several of the cities. We saw wind turbines and nuclear power plants. There just aren’t enough alternative energy sources for all the people yet. I liked the order of our itinerary for the 13-day Imperial Jewels of China trip, starting in Beijing first and ending up in Shanghai. In Beijing and Xi’an, there are some places where you walk a couple of miles for sightseeing. You have a lot of energy at the start of the trip, and you can relax when you get to the river cruising portion of the trip. And there is not a lot of walking in Shanghai at the end. The river cruise portion of the trip is 5 days long, from Chongqing to Wuhan. This is my 2nd Viking River cruise. I did one last year in Europe (Cities of Light trip). I would rate that trip as a 9.5 out of 10 (downgraded due to an execution/transportation issue in the last city). In comparison, I would rate the Imperial Jewels of China trip as an 8.5 out of 10—still very good. The planning, communication, and execution was just a little better on the European river cruise trip. As previous cruisers, we are members of the Viking Explorer Society. We had a special reception on the ship and received a special gift (aquavit glass). The ships for my two trips were a little different. The Category A verandah rooms on the Viking Emerald were larger (by 45 square feet) than the verandah rooms on the Viking longship (Odin) I traveled on last year in Europe. The Emerald is bigger than the Odin, and has more facilities (e.g., gym, spa, shopping). It has 4 passenger decks and an additional sun deck, with 128 cabins (256 guests). The Odin has 3 passenger decks and an additional sun deck, with 95 cabins (about 190 guests). The Emerald is not built or owned by Viking; it is leased by Viking from China’s Century Cruises (it is technically the Century Emerald ship). The “fit and finish” of the Odin was a little better. The trip itinerary was as advertised with 2 exceptions. First, those passengers who did the Viking transfer from the Beijing airport to the Beijing hotel were notified about an optional tour to the Summer Palace on Day 1. (They were flown in by Viking a day in advance, on Day 0.) My wife and I did our own transfer, and also arrived on Day 0. We learned about the tour at the last minute from some of the other passengers. Viking knew we were arriving a day early, but did not attempt to notify us about this tour. Second, on Day 2, there was supposed to be the optional excursion to attend a Peking opera show. Our tour escort told my group that Viking had dropped that show, and instead substituted a Kung Fu show “based on previous passenger feedback”. No one in my group opted to attend the show, possibly because we had an early flight the next morning to Xi’an. Or, we didn’t get enough information on the show—just that it was a Kung Fu show. I learned from other travelers who attended the show that it was more choreography than a martial arts demonstration (as the name implied). Viking should have notified passengers about this change, prior to departure, when they mailed us the booklet on “Itinerary & Departure Information”. Notification of new optional tours and of changes to existing optional tours is an area of improvement for Viking Cruises. The passengers were divided into 7 tour groups, each with a tour escort who stayed with the group for the entire trip. Each group used its own bus for city tours and transportation to the airport for internal flights. You’re told the name of your tour escort during your transfer from the first airport in China, or you find out at the first hotel if you transfer on your own (a piece of paper was slipped under the door of our hotel room). Due to the number of passengers, they stayed at either of two hotels in most of the cities. There were 3 internal flights: from Beijing to Xi’an, from Xi’an to Chongqing, and from Wuhan to Shanghai. All flights were on large Boeing or Airbus aircraft (not Russian-made aircraft), on either China Eastern airlines or on Sichuan Airlines. The flights were comfortable and ran on time. The seating configuration was typically 3-3. Not all groups flew at the same time. The tour escorts took care of getting boarding passes for you. Viking staff took care of the checked bags, both delivering them from the hotel to the airport and picking them up at the airport (and then delivering to either your hotel or to the ship). Here are the flights my group took: Flight at 7:45 am to Xi’an, 1 hour, 40 minutes long. I forget the type of plane. Flight at 2:10 pm to Chongqing, 1 hour, 15 minutes long. Airbus 320. Flight at 12:30 pm to Shanghai, 1 hour, 30 minutes long. Boeing 737. Information provided by Viking prior to departure indicated a 20 kg weight limit for a single checked bag with a single carry-on bag allowed on the internal flights within China. As the tour escort told us, the airlines are a little flexible: you could check a bag that weighed a little more (on the last flight, my bag, with souvenirs, weighed 22 kg). You could also bring 2 carry-on bags onto the flights, as long as they could fit into the overhead compartments or underneath the seat in front of you. Carry-on bags were never weighed (thank goodness)—nominally a 5 kg limit. Due to Chinese aviation rules, lithium batteries are only allowed in carry-on luggage. Lighters and matches are NOT allowed, even in checked bags. Liquids (except for prescription drugs) must be put into checked luggage; this is very different than rules in the USA. It took a long time to get the luggage after our afternoon flight to Chongqing. We arrived at 3:25 pm. We boarded the ship by 5:00 pm. We were told our luggage would be delivered to our cabins on the ship by 7:00 pm; it arrived later than that, for unknown reasons—a disappointment. This is another area of improvement for Viking. My tour escort liked to get to the airport in the morning or in the early afternoon, so that traffic was not too bad—typically it was about an hour drive to the airport, or from the airport to the next hotel or to the ship. Box lunches were provided on two of the drives to the airport (stopping in town to eat would have meant a late afternoon departure, with a possibility of a flight delay). We ate at the airport at Xi’an prior to our flight to Chongqing to go to the ship. The food was good. The hotels that Viking selected were very good. For my group, the hotels were: the Kerry Hotel in Beijing, the Hilton Xi’an, and the Westin Bund Center in Shanghai. All are 5-star hotels with staff that mostly speak and understand English. There is one time zone throughout China. So you never had to reset your watch during the trip. You are provided a quantity of 2 bottled waters per person per day on the buses for your city tours or transportation to/from an airport. With all the traffic in the cities, expect for the bus trips to take an hour or more to get to where you’re going (e.g., Forbidden City, Three Gorges Dam, hotel from airport). Typically the tour escort or local guide would give you some educational or cultural information about the city during the commute. You’re provided with a Vox box and earphone at the start of the trip. Your boxes are tuned to a pre-designated frequency for your group. The tour guide at a site you’re visiting speaks into a master unit, and you can clearly hear his or her narration while you walk around and follow your group (follow the “lollipop”, the Viking sign with your group letter). You tip the driver and the local guide typically on the last day in each city. Your tour escort will let you know if the local guide is only for that morning or afternoon. It’s better to tip in local currency (Yuan/RMB). One area of improvement for Viking Cruises is ensuring that hotels know how to contact tour escorts when problems develop. My tour escort gave my group his mobile phone number and told us his room number at each hotel. However, when I contacted the front desk to reach my escort (Jack) to get his help with a problem with my hotel room in Shanghai, they had no idea who Jack was. They told me there was no Jack in the room number I gave them (because he was registered under his Chinese name, not as Jack). They called his mobile phone for me, but couldn’t reach him. I called the room number, but there was no answer and I got a recorded message in Chinese that I couldn’t understand. I had to wait until the next morning to describe the problem to the tour escort, but he helped me sort it out with the hotel Duty Manager, and followed up to be sure the problem was taken care of. You are given opportunities to shop at state-run stores (terra cotta figurines, furniture, embroidery, tea). Using your credit card at such stores is considered safe. At other stores, they may photograph your credit card and use the information later to make an unauthorized purchase. Change money before you get to the ship, such as at one of the hotels you stay at (or from an ATM, or bring Yuan currency, aka RMB currency, from home). Currency exchange is not allowed on the ship. The Reception Desk can provide change for you, so that you can get smaller bills (Yuans). Sparkling wine (from South Africa) was served at breakfast. Beer and house wines (from Chile as I recall) were served at lunch and dinner. You could upgrade to the Silver Spirits package (for 990 RMB per person for the 5-day cruise, but both people in the room had to buy the package), and then get wine and beer throughout the day, with a bigger selection of wines, as well as cocktails. I figured out that if you got more than 2 glasses of wine a day outside of meal times, then the package saved you money. Access to Google and Google products is blocked in China (includes Google search and Gmail), as of June 3. This affected a number of the passengers, both in the cities and on the ship. Internet searches with alternate search engines, such as msn.com, would work. You could email from another kind of account (e.g., Apple mail, AOL mail) to Gmail accounts. You just couldn’t receive from your Gmail account. There was Wi-Fi on the ship; ask the staff for the password. You needed to be in the bar area, on the 5th or 6th decks to get reception. Reception was spotty at times and uneven. If you waited patiently, you could probably receive your emails or send text messages. The ship did provide an Internet café with 6 computers. Access to the Internet was more reliable through those computers. There are no refrigerators in the Category A verandah rooms on the ship. There were refrigerators on deck 5 in the suite rooms. We took advantage of laundry service on the ship. It worked well. Turn in clothes in the morning and get them back in the evening. (This was also true at all the hotels in China.) The cabins (and all of the China hotels) have international wall plugs, so you don’t need to bring a travel adapter. You could easily plug in your USA device into any of the wall sockets. Curiously, this information was not provided in the booklet on “Itinerary & Departure Information” that Viking sent passengers before departure. The dining room attendants, the cabin steward, and the bar stewards—all Chinese—made an effort to learn your name and remember your likes and dislikes. My wife and I felt pampered. The ship’s staff was excellent. We particularly liked Program Director Terry Lei who gave informative and interesting presentations, with a little humor on the side. We loved the Minority Costume Show and the Crew Cabaret Show (the skit taking place in a men’s bathroom is unforgettable!) in the evenings. We enjoyed learning Tai Chi for our morning exercise; Master Tom demonstrated and River Guide Ben translated for us. Remember to apply for a China visa prior to your trip. I contacted Viking Cruises to find out whom they recommend (Generations Visa Service), and I contacted my travel agent to get her recommendation (A Briggs). We used Generations Visa Service, because we got a discount for doing 2 people at once (my wife and I). GenVisa has worked with Viking Cruises and had all the hotel information necessary for filling in the visa paperwork (you will have to contact either your travel agent or Viking to confirm exactly which hotels you’ll be staying in). From a passenger perspective, hand sanitation practices on the ship did not appear to be that good, compared to other cruises I have been on (both ocean and river). The hand sanitation dispensers only provided a very, very small amount of sanitizer if you put your hand underneath the device. I think some passengers just stopped trying to use the devices. We were in confined spaces at the beginning of the trip, on buses and planes. By the end of the trip, it seemed like over half the people in my group had caught a cold and cough from someone else. My wife and I both actively took preventive measures to not get sick, but to no avail. That still didn’t dampen our enthusiasm and enjoyment of the trip, though. There were shops on two of the decks on the ship. One sold typical Chinese souvenirs, including pearls and jade carvings. One was a Chinese tea shop. In another you could get a custom-made Chinese gown or shirt. Another shop featured an artist who could paint a scene or do calligraphy at your request (within reason). We ordered a scene of the Great Wall of China, with fall colors, as a memento of our trip. We liked all of the included land and shore excursions. That’s one main reason we select Viking Cruises—no extra fees and high-quality tours. The Beijing Hutongs tour via rickshaw and visit to one of the (artist) families living there was one of our favorite excursions of the trip. Another favorite was the scenic cruising on the Goddess Stream (Lesser Three Gorges). There were optional excursions: Peking opera show in Beijing (replaced by a Kung Fu show that we didn’t attend), Peking duck dinner in Beijing (recommended if you’ve never had the duck), and Tang Dynasty Dinner & Show in Xi’an (recommended). Unlike for our previous European river cruise, it appears that Viking is now providing tours during post-trip extensions in Shanghai, as well as in Guilin and Hong Kong. The Cruise DVD included photos and videos of passengers on the river cruise portion of the trip. It also included “canned” scenes from some of the optional excursions (e.g., Tang Dynasty show) from previous trips. It did not, however, include scenes from the Kung Fu show that was substituted for the Peking Opera show. The videographer just learned on this cruise that Viking had dropped the Opera show. He had no video of the Kung Fu show to put on the cruise DVD; instead, he included video of a Peking Opera show from a previous trip. The DVD DID include actual scenes from the ship passengers’ visit to the elementary school in Jingzhou on Day 10. You could purchase an alternative to the Cruise DVD package (cost of 249 RMB). You could get higher-quality images with the Blu-ray package or the USB (thumb drive) package (cost of 325 RMB). All included video, a photo disc, and a map of the trip itinerary. Although it involves a little more effort, you can save money by doing your own transfers rather than paying Viking Cruises for the transfers. In Beijing, the cost of a taxi from the Beijing airport to the Kerry Hotel was 115 RMB (about $18 US) in the late afternoon. In Shanghai, the cost of a taxi from the Westin Bund Center to the Pudong airport was 201 RMB (about $32 US) in the early morning. As I recall, Viking was charging about $60 per person for the transfers. Be sure to contact your first hotel in China and ask for the name and address of the hotel in Chinese to print out and show the taxi driver at the airport, who probably doesn’t understand much English. I found several items useful to pack for the trip. For the air pollution: lubricating eye drops (we took Thera Tears), saline nasal spray, cold medicine/antihistamine (we took Sudafed and Mucinex DM), cough drops, and a carbon-filter face mask. Other items: Kleenex (to use as emergency toilet paper; the tour escort also had Kleenex available at rest stops), antiseptic hand wipes, hand sanitizer, moisturizing hand and face lotion, lip balm, stickers (to give to small children as gifts), tea tree oil, Tide to Go stain remover pen, insect repellent, and good walking shoes. One thing we could have used occasionally was a white noise generator app on our smartphones, for sleeping at night. (We installed an app after we returned from the trip.) We did not need to use our anti-diarrheal medicine or electrolyte drink tabs (for dehydration). Read Less
Sail Date October 2015
--Viking's Style in China-- The interesting thing Viking does in China (don't know if their Europe river cruises are the same), is combine the concepts of the land tour with the river cruise. There are seven or eight groups ... Read More
--Viking's Style in China-- The interesting thing Viking does in China (don't know if their Europe river cruises are the same), is combine the concepts of the land tour with the river cruise. There are seven or eight groups of about 35 each assigned to a bus with a Viking tour escort. Each group travels together for the entire trip for all the side-tours, airport transfers (except arrival and departure), and the assigned escort leads and works the logistics for the entire trip. The escorts share responsibilities for some of the optional side-trips, and in taking care of those not taking the optionals. I think it works out well - you have more of an opportunity to get to know people. --Viking Air-- This was Viking's only real hiccup in the whole process. We wanted to be sure of sensible connections, and I had in interest in the 787, so we chose to pick our own flights using Viking Air. We got what we wanted (American Airlines nonstops out of Dallas for the China legs). I now wanted to buy the Economy Plus upgrades for the extra leg room (I'm 6'3"), and the airlines won't let you do that at the time of reservation. You need to get the flights reserved and ticketed, and go online and do it yourself. Problem: The American website wouldn't permit me to access the reservation details. Called American to see what the problem was, and it turned out Viking Air made the reservation but (apparently) didn't pay American yet, so they wouldn't ticket the itinerary. Viking Air, of course, hit my credit card promptly. It took a few calls to the travel agent and some three-way calls with Viking Air to get them to do whatever magic was required to have American actually issue the tickets. (We had some issues with American later that took some work to straighten out, but I'm skipping that because this isn't "Airline Critic".) In the end, we got what we wanted - so all's well that ends well. --Itinerary and Travel-- The itinerary in the book was followed (mostly) to the letter. -Beijing- Arrived Beijing a day early for some extra time-change accommodation, and to account for potential airline problems. Viking transfer people were there and fairly easily found. Tienanmen Square was interesting to me for the historical events. There was a fairly long line waiting to get into Mao's tomb. The Forbidden City is much more interesting if you understand its history first. The Great Wall was a fine thing to see, but do be prepared for a mob scene - mostly of Chinese people. Lots of people. One rides a ski-gondola type lift from the bottom tourist center (usual thing with junk shops and snack-type food), to the station up on the wall. Once there you can go anywhere you like on this section of the wall. (The wall is a problem if you have mobility difficulties. We had one older lady in our group who had walking difficulties who made the trip up the gondola and walked from the station on the wall to a location on the wall where she sat and waited for her son and wife to return. She didn't see much, but she made it. Wheelchairs are effectively impossible there.) The visit to the hutongs was a nice change from the mob scenes everywhere. As usual with those kinds of things, you've no way to know how "authentic" the experience is. The home visit is obviously prearranged. From the hutongs, it was straight to the airport for the flight to Xian. We didn't do any of the Beijing optionals. Don't see what the big deal is about a Peking Duck dinner, and all the opera reviews were negative. (Our tour escort kind of talked down the opera as well.) -Xian- The only thing you're doing in Xian is seeing the Warriors. Interesting enough to do one time. We did not do the Tang Dynasty Dinner and Show. Reviews from some in our group who did were OK. Next morning was the flight to Chongqing. -Chongqing- It was straight from the airport to the "bonus" stop to see the pandas. The escort sort of warned us not to broadcast the fact, as not every group would have that chance due to timing of flights. (Don't know if the warning was serious or somewhat in jest.) Then it was straight to the port to board the ship. --The Yangtze Cruise-- -The Ship- If you've expecting the same sort of boat you had on your Viking river cruise in Europe, don't. The Viking Emerald is not the type of riverboat you typically see on the Viking adverts. Not a problem, just different. It's clearly a leased situation from a Chinese company. -Onboard Experience Overall- Boarding the ship was a nothingburger. I was reading all sorts of things here about carrying baggage long distances to the ship over an unstable gangway, but you only have your hand carry stuff, it wasn't that far a walk, and the gangway was fine. The ship is four decks, and physically very manageable. There are elevators. The staff on the ship is mostly young (20-something) Chinese. Their English is not fantastic, but they manage. (Their English is probably better than your Chinese.) There is one restaurant and one bar/nightclub place on board. Food onboard was mostly what I expected. Not the best cruise food I've ever had but perfectly acceptable and tasty, with an adequate number of choices. You do need to recall you're on a much smaller vessel - it simply isn't possible to provide the same number of choices. The included wine was low-end but perfectly acceptable. (Lois the bar supervisor was pouring for our table, and boy did she keep it coming - if you want another glass, by all means just ask.) Water on the ship is NOT drinkable. Bottled is supplied, if you need more, just call and they'll deliver some. -The Cruise and The Stops- Overall the Yangtze is not the most scenic river out there. Above the dam, it reminded me of Norwegian fjords because of how the valley was flooded. Below the dam, reminded me of the Mississippi. Like the Danube in Budapest, more brown than blue. Shibaozhai Pagoda: This was an OK stop. One can climb the Pagoda, we passed. (I have a foot issue that was fine for me, but didn't want to push it.) Lesser Three Gorges sightseeing: This is on smaller (~22 passenger) boats. It was a shortish walk down the pier to where the smaller boats were waiting. This was one of the highlights for me, I enjoyed this. Three Gorges Dam tour: This sort of thing always interests me, so I enjoyed this stop. Only problem is you can't get as close to the dam and locks as you can in the states. The Chinese treat it as a military site. Given the disaster a dam failure would be, I suppose I can't blame them. Jingzhou and the school visit: We passed. Those who went told us it was pretty much exactly what we suspected it would be. Wuhan museum: The museum part was (to me) a bit of a yawn. I did enjoy the bell and traditional instrument performance though. Disembarking the ship was a breeze. -Shanghai- I was getting a nasty cold by now, so I was laying low. The dinner before the acrobat show was a bit of a disappointment (perhaps I was tiring of the "Lazy Susan" Chinese dinners) and was rushed. The acrobat show was entertaining. --General Topics-- -Money- While waiting for others in the Beijing airport, took the opportunity to go a bank ATM on the arrivals level to get some cash. We took a preload-style "International Debit" card our credit union offers - it's a chip-and-pin card which is effectively required outside the US. Personally, I don't think there's a better or safer option than ATMs using preload debit cards for cash abroad - no need to carry lots of cash to change, and the preload card provides a hard upper limit on what you can lose in the worst-case scenario. We preloaded the card with $1000 before leaving. In Beijing the machine had an option for English, and got 2000 Yuan with no hassle at all. We did each take a credit card (from different accounts) in case of an emergency or a decision to make a larger purchase. Despite having read some warnings on CC that USD wouldn't be as useful as they usually are abroad (weird things like 'no small bills' and 'need to be newer bills'), it seemed that nearly anyone would take USD. In any case, my preference is credit cards and local cash where necessary/practical. -Baggage Handling- As you'd expect, we handed them over to the transfer bus driver after clearing customs at the airport in Beijing, and we didn't have to touch 'em again until we collected it at the airport in Shanghai to check 'em in for the flight home. The tour escort assures all the pieces are there upon arrival and departure from hotels, and at the departure airport. At airports, it's moved to a central location where you simply assure it arrived and shoot your tour escort a head nod that you're good to go. It was delivered to rooms the entire trip. The system worked flawlessly for us. Be aware that your large ("checked") luggage isn't always in the bus you're in. At the hotels, it's collected and trucked to the airports in one batch. -Hotels- We had the Westin Chaoyang in Beijing, the Crowne Plaza in Xian and the Shangri-La (west) in Shanghai. We thought the hotels were great. Exactly what you'd expect from these western chains in America or Europe. More than adequately spacious, comfortable and clean. None were true "city center" but all were very much in the city, so access via subway or taxi to other sights, restaurants, etc. was fairly straightforward. Be aware there is no expectation you drink the water in the hotels - bottled is supplied. I drank some tap water at the Westin in Beijing with no problem. I suspect I could have at the Shangri-La in Shanghai, but didn't. The bathroom faucets in the Crowne Plaza Xian were labeled "no drinking water", so I didn't. -Hotel Food- We didn't avail ourselves of any of the independent restaurants in the hotels. We were either eating out or at the hotel "buffets". The buffet at the Crowne Plaza in Xian was outstanding, great selection and quality, plus free-flowing wine and beer. The buffet at the Westin in Beijing was a disappointment - OK selection, but quality not up to what you'd expect given the quality of the rest of the place. The buffet at the Shangri-La was very pleasant with with decent selection and good quality. -Inter-China Flights- The flights (Beijing-Xian, Xian-Chongqing, Wuhan-Shanghai) were all regularly-scheduled Chinese airlines (China Eastern and Xiamen airlines). I was idly thnking how it might be better with a charter, but I assume it becomes a question of cost and liability. In any case, all the aircraft were newer Airbus or Boeing products, and the airplanes and service were similar to western standards (for better or worse). -Traffic- Traffic in all the cities is just stupid bad. One of the meals out in Beiing, the escort said "15 minutes" to get there. It was an hour and fifteen minutes. After the meal, it took fifteen minutes to get back to the hotel. The only difference was traffic. (As an aside: The delay doubtless screwed up the restaurant's plan, and food was late getting to tables. There were a handful of "ugly Americans" who were loudly complaining about the lateness, and about the "one drink included" part. Don't be those people.) -Air Quality- It was basically marginal throughout. It got better on the river when we got away from the large cities, but it was never really clear. Not as bad as Beijing has been at times the last year or two. Funny part was the one or two attempts by local guides to say it was "haze" or "fog" and not smog. But be prepared, particularly if you have some chronic respiratory issue. -Toilets- In all the hotels and aboard the boat it's western-style all the way. At the tour stops, it's mostly squat-style with one western-style fixture (that typically everyone waited in line to use). -Shopping- In the cities (Beijing and Shanghai in particular), there is shopping of all kinds - from "first-quality tourist junk" to Chicago's Michigan Avenue stuff - within walking distance or short taxi ride from all the hotels. For the stops while onboard the ship, it's pretty limited to the "tourist market" type stuff, but if you keep your eyes open, there are decent tourist trinkets for the kids or grandkids available at these markets. At these tourist stops, do be prepared for a hard sell (we had one woman follow us for almost a block), and to haggle. This brings us to one of the other minor complaints I had - too much time at the "forced shopping" stops. There were three or four of these stops over the land part of the trip. A couple of these are in conjunction with lunch stops. Many (all?) of the places are government-owned stores. I would have preferred to spend those hours doing a driving city tour over a jade carving demo and having a salesgirl follow us around in a jade store. --Suggestions for Improvement-- In no particular order: - Fewer forced shopping experiences, more city touring. - A bit more diversity in the included meals. Too many lazy susans. - It seemed to me that the escorts would have a basis to understand the traffic situation. I wondered if our hour delay getting to a restaurant could have been avoided. - When the airlines are expecting the passengers to do so much themselves online, Viking Air should pay the airlines promptly so the passenger can actually accomplish that. --Positives:-- Again, in no particular order: - Hotels were killer. Very impressed. (Just work with the Westin to up their game re. the food.) - Our tour escort was pleasant, and worked to make things happen for us. - Liked the radios used to provide info at the stops. One could wander away a little but still hear commentary and get logistical info (like where and when we were leaving places). - Our group was pretty good. We had a real overrepresentation of physicians, psychologists and engineers, and not near as many retirees as I would have predicted. I wonder if Viking has a system, or if this was just random chance. We probably won't go back to China, but that's only because it's a big world. Overall, we enjoyed the trip and can recommend it. Some quick explanations of my "five dots" ratings: - "Enrichment Activities": There wasn't any of this that I recall. - "Entertainment": Again, not much. There was a crew show one night that was OK. - "FItness & Recreation": If there was any on board, we didn't use it. Don't consider any these serious criticisms. Read Less
Sail Date October 2015
The mechanics of the trip were good - everything was well planned out and the hotels that we had were great. We had a wonderful guide in Tingting. That being said, China was a bit of a disappointment due to the massive upgrading to ... Read More
The mechanics of the trip were good - everything was well planned out and the hotels that we had were great. We had a wonderful guide in Tingting. That being said, China was a bit of a disappointment due to the massive upgrading to "new" and the loss of the "old" China. They were a few really great sites and a lot of blah! Our room on the Viking Emerald was too hot and we couldn't control the heat at all. Others told us their room was too cold. We also thought too much time was spent trying to sell us stuff and too much time was spent at places that were designed to get us to buy. We would have rather been given the option of seeing other sites vs. just waiting around looking at stuff we had no intention of buying, Non-chinese food was excellent - didn't like the lazy susan meals (more of a personal choice). One of the worst parts of the cruise and land package was the air and water pollution - we luckiy just missed the red alert in Beijing - but the pollution was evident everwhere. Its pretty bad when you can't see more that a couple hundred meters before all was grey. Everyone on the cruise seemed to be coughing or was sick. Compared the Russian Viking Cruise - this cruise had a lot to be desired. China also needs to clean up its act in regards to the pollution. Read Less
Sail Date October 2015
The entire Roof of the World tour included a land package that started in Beijing, then we flew to Xian, Lhasa Tibet, and Chongqing, where we boarded the Viking Emerald and sailed down the Yangtze River to Wuhan; then flew to Shanghai, ... Read More
The entire Roof of the World tour included a land package that started in Beijing, then we flew to Xian, Lhasa Tibet, and Chongqing, where we boarded the Viking Emerald and sailed down the Yangtze River to Wuhan; then flew to Shanghai, where the main tour ended (but we also took the post-extension tour to Guilin and Hong Kong). I will not give a full review of the entire trip, as this posting is primarily about the 'cruise' portion, but for more details on the rest of the trip, I recommend you read the review by terran_explr, 'Perfect way to visit China', although that trip (Imperial Jewels of China) did not include Tibet. I will also note to you that if you take the tour the first week in October, be prepared for massive crowds at all the tourist spots, because this is their national holiday week, and the Chinese are also on vacation! First, I will say that the tour escorts Viking provides are first rate. And our guide, Arnold, was the best of the best! You will be very lucky, indeed, if you get him for your tour. And I must also say that all the hotels we stayed at were first rate (4/5 stars). We stayed at a couple of Fairmont Hotels and the rest were Shangri-La Hotels; all were fabulous and luxuriously appointed. Dining in the hotels was usually buffet style, so lots of choices, and good food. Other restaurants during the day's tours were sometimes 'uneven' in quality; most just okay. Although I will say that the restaurant we went to for Peking Duck was exceptionally good! I found the Viking Emerald to be a lovely ship (yes, it is actually owned by a Chinese company, Century, and leased by Viking...just part of doing business in China, I guess). But the ship itself is in very good condition, especially compared to some other tourist ships there, I've heard. We had no problems with anything not functioning the way it should, except the loudspeaker system was not always very clear, and the wifi was very uneven or absent. But our room (Veranda A428) was lovely and well kept, as were all the public areas. The restaurant was part buffet, part table service. Seating was completely open, which was a very nice option, in that you could join a new group of people, or meet up with friends, at any table at each meal. Food was quite good, too, and they would always offer the usual 'western' items, as well as featuring specialties from whatever area in China you were at for the day. And they were always very generous with beer and wine at lunch and dinner (included)! There were also gift shops for jewelry, jade, art, tea, and silks onboard. There was a modest library, gym and salon/spa, internet room and coffee (& other refreshments) station. There were also 2 bars/lounges, and open deck area on the top deck. Programs and entertainment shows were presented in the lounges. The ship is usually in port during the day, when shore excursions are underway. I will say that one of our favorites was the trip up the Goddess Stream area...wild and beautiful scenery! The tour of the Wu Dam was also very impressive. Some parts of the Yangtze are quite scenic, although we were sad to see so much trash and pollution in the water, especially above the dam. Hopefully the government (?) will try to address this, as it will impact the tourist trade, if it gets too bad. Onboard, there is always something to do, even when not in port...I learned how to play Chinese mahjong and make Chinese dumplings! There are also several programs offered on Chinese history and customs, etc. But I will also say that there is time to relax and take a nap, just visit with friends, or have a facial, if you like. The land portion of this trip is so filled with so many things to see and do, that by the time you get on board the ship, you're ready to slow down and catch your breathe. And the cruise down the river is like having a vacation from your vacation! I quite enjoyed it. Read Less
Sail Date October 2015
We took the Windows of the World tour which covered China & then we went on to Tibet. Tibet was by far the most enjoyable part of the trip except for the altitude sickness & the food. Great overview of China even though some of ... Read More
We took the Windows of the World tour which covered China & then we went on to Tibet. Tibet was by far the most enjoyable part of the trip except for the altitude sickness & the food. Great overview of China even though some of the trip seemed canned. Our tour guide Gao was fabulous. Extremely organized! Hotel accommodations were wonderful except in Tibet. Food & wine on the ship was great! Made some lifelong friends on this journey, our first ever river cruise. Our room was another story all together. We had a veranda room so that I could get outside & get some fresh air since the room was so cramped. The rooms are way too small, even to move around in. And, our shower leaked all over the floor every time we used it. The ship itself could use some updating. We thought the entertainment was somewhat lame. We did however enjoy the speakers. Hard to please all of us, all the time, I guess. We are going on another Viking cruise in September to Budapest, Vienna & parts of Germany. Read Less
Sail Date October 2015
We were unsure what to expect from China, but we found the people to be so welcoming and friendly! Our hotels were all 5 star! Every hotel was more lovely than the one before! Very impressive. And the hotel staff were all very ... Read More
We were unsure what to expect from China, but we found the people to be so welcoming and friendly! Our hotels were all 5 star! Every hotel was more lovely than the one before! Very impressive. And the hotel staff were all very attentive! Our ship was also very nice. We saw all the main sights of China. But we also got to see a lot of the real China with small markets and a visit to a local elementary school. The children sang to us in English and then wanted us to sing to them! All of our shore excursions were wonderful and we had the same guide throughout the entire tour. We were on several different flights within China and the planes were all very modern planes and all went well. They don't give you much to eat on these flights but most were not more than two hours. The entertainment on our ship was put on by the staff and it was all top-notch! They are all very talented singers and dancers. We also had magicians and comedians! It was amazing that they have day-jobs and yet put on these fantastic shows in the evenings! Our cabin on the ship was very comfortable. We had a very heavy duvet and we asked for something lighter and they brought us a very soft lightweight blanket that was just perfect! Our guide was absolutely wonderful! When someone had a problem she was right there and took every step possible to help that passenger! We loved the scenery and thought it reminded us of Hawaii because of how lush and green it was! The food was also amazing! Very interesting presentation and the service was excellent. We loved everything about it. We would definitely think of going back some day. Read Less
Sail Date September 2015
While the land portion of Viking's Jewels' of China Tour was phenomenal (Hotels were first-class; tour guide was the BEST we've ever experienced; planned activities were well-organized and carried out to perfection), the ... Read More
While the land portion of Viking's Jewels' of China Tour was phenomenal (Hotels were first-class; tour guide was the BEST we've ever experienced; planned activities were well-organized and carried out to perfection), the experience aboard the Emerald was disappointing. The ship is dated (musty smell, warped carpeting). SEVERAL people of our floor contacted food poisoning, including me and my husband. My husband and other traveler with us had to have IV from the ship's doctor. We missed touring events because we were sick. We seriously question the sanitary conditions of the food preparation on board. It was ironic for us that the part of the trip that we most looked forward to (we are experienced cruisers), was the most disappointing. Read Less
Sail Date September 2015
Our whole Viking Experience was first cl ass. Starting in Beijing and ending in Hon Kong our guide Patrick was with us every step of the way. The wonderful knowledge he had made our China experience very memorable and fun. The shore ... Read More
Our whole Viking Experience was first cl ass. Starting in Beijing and ending in Hon Kong our guide Patrick was with us every step of the way. The wonderful knowledge he had made our China experience very memorable and fun. The shore excursions were well organized. Our cabin on board was great except for the couple of cockroaches but staff were quick to take care of them. Meals were wonderful as well as the on board staff. Everyone made us feel cared for and we became very good friends with the people in our group. Entertainment by the staff was well appreciated by us and we admire the young men and women who put so much into their routines as well as work all day at their various jobs. We would definitely recommend Viking to our family and friends. In fact we are taking your Viking River Cruise in September 2016 , from Budapest to Amsterdam. Looking forward to it. Read Less
Sail Date September 2015
I thought this tour was exceptional. The organization of everything by Viking was wonderful; everything went very smoothly. The hotels were 5-star; the food was wonderful - on land and on the ship. Roy was a great escort. The sights ... Read More
I thought this tour was exceptional. The organization of everything by Viking was wonderful; everything went very smoothly. The hotels were 5-star; the food was wonderful - on land and on the ship. Roy was a great escort. The sights were amazing. It has to rank among my top three trips ever! We stayed at the Westin Beijing Choayang which was very nice. Traffic in Beijing was horrible; it took us probably 3 times longer than necessary due to the traffic jams. Luckily, that was figured into the planning and we got everywhere on time. The Beijing Opera was interesting but not a "must see". There were big crowds on the Great Wall and in the Forbidden City but not too overwhelming. On the Great Wall, it would be very crowded and then somehow people dispersed and you would feel like you were there on your own. In Xian, we were at the Crowne Plaza. The Tang Dynasty Show itself was very good but the food was just okay. The TerraCotta Warriors were wonderful! It was pretty crowded there but the pits are large so you could always find a spot for some good viewing. When we arrived at the ship, we were welcomed by music and a dancing dragon. Staff was there to escort us to our cabin which was pleasant. We did get a dehumidifier which helped; all we needed to do was ask at the front desk. The dining room was quite pleasant and all the meals on board were very good, though they did have some specialties one night , like phoenix legs, chicken feet and pig snout which we didn't try. Staff was very attentive and our wine glasses were never empty. The onboard enrichment activities were okay. Some of the talks about China seemed somewhat rambling and the mah jongg lesson had most of the groups sitting too close to one another. The painting demonstration was good as was the cooking demo. We enjoyed the staff cabaret. My husband enjoyed the tour of the Three Gorges Dam while I thought the tour of the Temple of the Golden Ox was good too. It was here were I did some shopping and got a good deal on some scarves. The Shibaozhai Temple was fascinating and the view from the heights there was wonderful. In Shaghai, we were at the Jing'anShangriLa. The room was magnificent as was the view from the 54th Floor. Here, we were able walk in the area and found a Buddhist Temple and a market to occupy our morning before we left for the airport. The best part of the tour though was all the wonderful people we met. Everyone in our group was very friendly and enjoyable to be with. Read Less
Sail Date September 2015
We had an amazing but busy and somewhat exhausting (due to the high temperatures) time in Beijing and Xian and were ready to relax. We would recommend starting in Beijing and finishing in Shanghai. The ship was well equipped and the menu ... Read More
We had an amazing but busy and somewhat exhausting (due to the high temperatures) time in Beijing and Xian and were ready to relax. We would recommend starting in Beijing and finishing in Shanghai. The ship was well equipped and the menu offered a good variety. The service was relaxed and a number of waitstaff crew were new but well instructed and trained by the amazing matre di "Jay". We enjoyed how the staff genuinely took care of our needs in the dining room and loved open sitting which afforded us to meet lots of new people. The ship is leased by Viking as ownership is not allowed by the Chinese gov't. It is comparable to the other ships in Viking's fleet. The entertainment on board was very good for a river cruise. We enjoyed the ethnic dress fashion show and the amazing Peking opera style fan man! Not sure who could be contacted but Some of the stairways at the ports are in need of attention as there are no hand rails, and very slippery. Many of the passengers, of all ages, were concerned about this. The suggested tipping in the guide book is outrageous- another single fare- (far excedes ocean cruises which have many more services and amenities). Viking did a first class job with organizing the tour guides, tours and flights. The land hotels were 5 star quality.We definately saw more of China in 12 days then we could have imagined.We fully endorse this trip by Viking! Read Less
Sail Date July 2015
This was out second Viking River cruise. A fair amount of time was spent ashore, so the entire "cruise" was not on the river. The three hotels that we stayed at were magnificent. The staff in the hotels as well as on-board the ... Read More
This was out second Viking River cruise. A fair amount of time was spent ashore, so the entire "cruise" was not on the river. The three hotels that we stayed at were magnificent. The staff in the hotels as well as on-board the boat were extremely pleasant and very helpful. A lot of time was spent on buses traveling to and from out accommodations and places we were visiting. Some of the sites we visited were physically demanding. That being said, everything we saw was beautiful and a wonderful experience. The food and service, as with our other Viking experience was excellent. If you wanted something other than what was on the menu, the staff would quickly accommodate your wishes. The cabin was comfortable. I would suggest requesting a dehumidifier when you board the boat. We did and it arrived within minutes of our request. This was not our first Viking cruise nor will it be our last, We are sold on the Viking experience. Everything from accommodations to the food, service and the ours including the guides are the best. Read Less
Sail Date July 2015
This was my first Viking cruise and I would definitely recommend it to all my friends. I have traveled around the world and China was on my list to see next. The Chinese people were friendly and the food was wonderful! Our tour guide, ... Read More
This was my first Viking cruise and I would definitely recommend it to all my friends. I have traveled around the world and China was on my list to see next. The Chinese people were friendly and the food was wonderful! Our tour guide, Richard, was amazing, funny, informative and very organized. He has a true gift for sharing his country with his guests and he made everything run smoothly for us. The ship furnishings seemed a little tired, but was OK. Having a dehumidifier in the room was a must. Our dining room staff were great! They were friendly and always remembered our names! The food on the ship was delicious and there was always a good variety. The cabin staff showed minimal care and our cabin lacked storage. It would have been nice to have some drawer space. Our hotels stays were amazing. The hotels were gorgeous and the food was superior. All our shore excursions were amazing. I enjoyed seeing everything that was available! Reading about China and then seeing the sights in person exceeded all expectations. I wish we had gone in the spring tho, as the temperature in July was very hot and all the Chinese were on vacation as well. Even tho it was crowded, our tour guide was adept at getting us to and thru everywhere. Richard took care of keeping us informed of our every step, from bus rides to our in- country flights. I am so happy that I was able to see China with the help of the Viking staff! It is hard to describe the air pollution throughout China. But it is very noticeable and upon my return home, my lungs took a while to clear out. Read Less
Sail Date July 2015
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
This Imperial Jewels of China Viking trip in May, 2015 was the best trip we've ever taken! And we are seasoned travelers in our late 60s who have traveled extensively all of our adult lives. We've been on vacation for almost 3 ... Read More
This Imperial Jewels of China Viking trip in May, 2015 was the best trip we've ever taken! And we are seasoned travelers in our late 60s who have traveled extensively all of our adult lives. We've been on vacation for almost 3 months this year for example, mainly abroad. If you ask my wife or me what we liked best about the trip, we'd both say "The people!" We saw some great things (In order of enjoyment: Tang Dynasty Show, Great Wall, Three Gorges, Terra Cotta Warriors, Ming Tombs, Winter/Summer Palaces, Forbidden City, The Bund at night, etc.) but it wasn't the things, which were fabulous, it was the people we enjoyed most. By people, we mean our fellow travelers, our guide, the crew and the Chinese people. Our guide named Iowa (the best guide on the planet in our opinion) was with our group of 3 dozen every day in our bus and on our walks. Together we (except for Iowa) were foreigners in a very foreign land, but Iowa gave us constant and wonderfully humorous insight into Chinese life then and now. By the end of the trip we were a large family who really enjoyed being together. And we still correspond with each other. The hotels were all 6 star on a 5 star scale and the ship and crew were fabulous. We adored the two shows the crew put on for us on the ship. Every day was an adventure and we all had great time together. Meals were full of camaraderie, and, as the trip went on we enjoyed each other's company more and more. The tables were all for 8, and people mixed freely every night as far as who sat with whom. Since it was traveling, of course everything was not perfect. The bed on the boat was too hard, but, after we got an additional pad put on it, it was fine. All the food on the ship was great and all the breakfasts on the land portion were amazing, but the rest of the food on the land portion was not good. Ok, there was some lunches and dinners on the land (Peking Duck dinner and the food at Tang Dynasty Show for example) that were great. But who cares. We didn't. The rest of the trip was so out of this world great, minor problems like some subpar food were barely noticed. We were having too much fun to care. We would have loved it for the trip with our new friends to go on indefinitely. It was a sad day indeed when had to give each other our last hugs. Read Less
Sail Date May 2015
I chose this cruise as a way to see some of China. I have traveled to European and American cities on my own, but was reticent to try China without a guide. Viking fulfilled that need perfectly. We were met right outside security at the ... Read More
I chose this cruise as a way to see some of China. I have traveled to European and American cities on my own, but was reticent to try China without a guide. Viking fulfilled that need perfectly. We were met right outside security at the airport and escorted from that moment whenever required. The hotels were top of the line luxurious. We were very well taken care of. There was never a time we were concerned about what to do or where to go. The Viking staff were available for any help needed. We saw everything promised. Our guide and all the excursions were excellent. The culture, entertainment, and activities enriched my life. The groups were small enough to get acquainted with our fellow travelers. Our guide was on top of every little issue any of the guests had. He was outstanding and helpful always. The staff on board the river boat was helpful and the food was tasty. The only problem was that our cabin steward needed improvement. His cleanliness standard was not up to Viking's usual. Read Less
Sail Date April 2015
A great bucket list trip. From start to finish it was well organized and the tour guides were knowledgeable, friendly and fluent in English. All the transfers from airports to the tour sites to the ship, etc, were well organized and ... Read More
A great bucket list trip. From start to finish it was well organized and the tour guides were knowledgeable, friendly and fluent in English. All the transfers from airports to the tour sites to the ship, etc, were well organized and painless. The hotel accommodations on shore were first class. The ship was clean, the staff very friendly, the food was excellent but watch the wasabi - it's nuclear hot! The shore excursions and tours were very enjoyable and well conducted. Seeing the diversity in the landscape and how people lived and worked was interesting. The ship was well appointed with standard-type staterooms all with individual room baloney. Amenities were good and the king style bed was excellent. The evening entertainment was interesting showing off the mix of Chinese culture and dress. This trip is a real good introduction to China and its diverse peoples. Read Less
Sail Date April 2015
This was our very first cruise and it was absolutely amazing. We were looked after so well from the minute we were picked up at the airport until the minute they left us at the other end of our holiday. Our tour guide was Joshua and he ... Read More
This was our very first cruise and it was absolutely amazing. We were looked after so well from the minute we were picked up at the airport until the minute they left us at the other end of our holiday. Our tour guide was Joshua and he was so knowledgeable. The entertainment on board ship was really good and the service we received was excellent. The staff even managed to remember our names! All of the excursions were amazing especially the Terracotta Army, which was my personal favourite. We are now saving hard for our next trip with Viking. Read Less
Sail Date April 2015
This was my first Viking River Cruise and it was outstanding. I took this trip alone with no expectations and was pleased to have the time of my life. I enjoyed every minute of the trip and especially meeting some very nice people. That ... Read More
This was my first Viking River Cruise and it was outstanding. I took this trip alone with no expectations and was pleased to have the time of my life. I enjoyed every minute of the trip and especially meeting some very nice people. That is part of traveling. I was pleased that the trip was very well planned by Viking. The hotel accommodations were perfect and our tour guide Kobe was excellent. He made the trip so much fun and I know we learned a lot about China from Beijing to Shanghai. Service on board the ship was very good and the young people who were serving us were very friendly and helpful as was my cabin attendant. All of the staff aboard the ship were very good and very helpful. The shore excursions were well planned and very enjoyable and quite a learning experience. The food was very good as was presentation. The choices were amazing. The entertainment was beyond good it was excellent. Seeing the young servers perform was very special and they did a great job. I was so pleased to attend the Peking Opera, The Tang Dynasty Dinner and Show (I bought a DVD of the Tang Dynasty performance so I can always enjoy this great show), the Shanghai Museum and Bell performance and the Acrobat Show. I could go on and on - I have recommended this trip to friends and family. I look forward to my upcoming Viking River Cruise on the Elbe in May 2016. Read Less
Sail Date April 2015
This was our fourth cruise. The other cruises were in Europe. It was the experience of a lifetime and the only one we would consider taking again if the opportunity arose. The country was beautiful, the people of China warm and friendly ... Read More
This was our fourth cruise. The other cruises were in Europe. It was the experience of a lifetime and the only one we would consider taking again if the opportunity arose. The country was beautiful, the people of China warm and friendly and the children were awesome to watch and interact with. Viking met every criteria of providing service and addressing every need before we even knew the need was there. Their staff met us at the airport when our plane landed and never left our side until we entered security in the airport as we flew out. The cultural experiences, musical performances, museums, and artist venues were both educational and enthralling. Our favorite was the Viking staff performance on the Emerald by the waiters, house keeping staff, and ship's crew one night. The show they created was our favorite of the entire trip. The food was excellent. Our cabin roomy and comfortable. The itinerary for the next day was given out the evening before with an overview of what we would be seeing/doing and time for question and answer session at the end. It was one highlight after another. Read Less
Sail Date March 2015
I heard about this excellent Viking tour of China from fellow passengers on another Viking River cruise. I had never been interested in touring China until I had experienced two other excellent Viking cruises. I trusted that this trip ... Read More
I heard about this excellent Viking tour of China from fellow passengers on another Viking River cruise. I had never been interested in touring China until I had experienced two other excellent Viking cruises. I trusted that this trip would be as good but I was wrong. This was by far the best trip. I loved our guide, Paul, who cared for us, met every need, and kept us so informed and educated. Having several days each in Bejing, Shainghai and Xian were wonderful as the accommodations, meals, transportation and sight-seeing activities gave us many opportunities to see and experience China. Climbing the Great Wall and seeing the terra cotta warriors were on my bucket list but I hadn't thought I would ever do so. I checked those off the list and much more; such as doing dance aerobics on the corner of Xian with the local women, talking with the children at the park and in school, cruising on the Yangtze in the mist and enjoying the entertainment in the cities and especially by the cruise staff on the ship. The food was excellent. The shopping was great. All the tour experiences were wonderful. I would recommend Viking and this particular cruise to anyone. I have one thought for those considering this trip. Plan ahead and study if you can. I try to learn a little in advance of the tour in preparation, such as a few language phrases. I loved using my Mandarin and trying to communicate with the locals. They enjoyed it and us as much as we enjoyed them. I am now anxiously awaiting our next Viking cruise in Portugal. Read Less
Sail Date March 2015
This was our first venture into China, so we booked all air and transfers through Viking. They flew us to Beijing a day early which was appreciated. We flew Air China which offered nothing out of the ordinary regarding space or food. It ... Read More
This was our first venture into China, so we booked all air and transfers through Viking. They flew us to Beijing a day early which was appreciated. We flew Air China which offered nothing out of the ordinary regarding space or food. It got us where we needed to be both directions. We were met by a Viking representative who took us to the beautiful Kerry Hotel. The bathroom here was the talk of the tour. It has the most high teck toilet I've ever used. It also offers a bountiful breakfast buffet, and a very nice evening buffet as well. We are very glad we did this trip in November. The temperatures were moderate to cool. Because of the APEC conference, factories in the Beijing area were closed for the week or so before hand and only half the cars (either odd or even license plates depending on the date of the day) were permitted to drive so air quality was better. We heard tales of very hot summer weather. Advice offered in other reviews led us to book starting in Beijing. This is indeed a very active tour, and since it begins with walking Tiananmen Square, the Forbidden City and the Great Wall the first two days very glad we packed our insoles. Because we arrived a bonus day early, we took the subway to the Summer Palace. Young people speak good enough English and were very helpful in finding stations and giving directions when we needed them. There is an optional tour to this Palace, but it is easily done on your own for less than $2, and you have the adventure to talk about. Day 5 included Xian and its Terra Cotta Warriors. Enough time there to get a good look and lots of photos. We didn't attend the optional Tang Dynasty show, but those who did were positively impressed. The following day we flew to Chongqing to board the Emerald which is leased from the Chinese. The staff is all Chinese and works very hard to insure a pleasant journey. The first few nights there were problems with temperature controls. Dining room very warm, cabins usually too warm, sometimes too cold. Food on the ship was plentiful and good. Food on tour was adequate. Meals on tour are usually served one course at a time. ie, the beans are put on a lazy susan. All people at the table help themselves. Pity the last person to be served, cause there isn't always enough. Then come the next 9 items, one at a time ending with soup or a slice of watermelon. So you may taste a bite of 10 dishes, and one of these is always tofu, and smalls bits of fish, pork or beef. One day we experienced hot pot. There are other comprehensive reviews and the Viking itinerary offers more touring details, so I'll let you know that the guides are wonderful. Their English is excellent, they are well versed in culture, history and current events. They find good restrooms on tour...sometimes there are lines because of limited western toilets for the ladies. They are able to answer questions forthrightly and give insight into the thoughts of young people. There is, it seems to me an excessive amount of residential building going on in most cities in China. "Ghost towns" seem to be everywhere. There is almost too much time for shopping, but some loved that aspect too. The multi talented crew presented two evening shows. One featured beautiful costumes and dances of various ethnic groups in China. The other was a very well done variety show. The fellow who poured our wine was a pretty good magician.! The cruise director gave interesting lectures on history and culture. We also enjoyed presentations on noodle making and Chinese art. There is no wifi on board! There are 8 computer stations on deck 6, and a terminal was usually available, though connections were very slow. Disembarkation and transfers to Shanghai were handled efficiently. We learned so much, saw and experienced more than we'd expected. Although there were a few people who had difficulty walking, I'd recommend this trip well before you need a knee replacement, or after you've healed because it is a very active trip and mobility issues will interfere with seeing many sites.   Read Less
Sail Date November 2014
We thoroughly enjoyed our trip to China with Viking River Cruises, in October 2014. We were very lucky with the weather & it was hot & sunny for the whole trip. There was bad smog in Beijing a few days before & after we were ... Read More
We thoroughly enjoyed our trip to China with Viking River Cruises, in October 2014. We were very lucky with the weather & it was hot & sunny for the whole trip. There was bad smog in Beijing a few days before & after we were there, but we had blue skies for the duration of our visit. We chose to do the Beijing to Shanghai trip, so that we got a bit of a rest on the cruise after the more hectic part of the itinerary & we were happy with this decision. Beijing - We stayed at the Kerry Hotel (Shangri-La) & thought it was lovely. The high-tec toilet amused us. As it is in the financial district, there was not that much to do in the immediate vicinity, but we had a walk around for an hour & it was pleasant enough - you don't get that much spare time on this trip anyway. Tiananmen Square & Forbidden City - The Square was looking very colourful, as all the flowers & decorations from the 50th Anniversary celebrations were still present. Viking get fast track entry, so we avoided the huge queues for the Forbidden City. I had been a bit concerned about all the walking on this trip, as I am overweight & unfit, but although we were walking for about 4 hours here, it was at a leisurely pace with lots of stops whilst Yang, our guide, talked about points of interest & gave us an insight to the history. Yang had a walkie-talkie & we had receivers with ear pieces, so you could hear what he was saying at all times, without having to crowd around him. Peking Opera Excursion - Didn't think much to this, it seemed pretty amateurish & with hind sight would definitely have given this a miss. Sounded more like a cat howling, than pleasant singing! Great Wall - We arrived at the wall quite early, to try & avoid the crowds, but it already looked quite crowded on the 'easy' side. Once we arrived at the gates, we arranged a group meeting time & were then able to have free time on the wall. We decided to try the 'harder' side, as it looked far less busy. The wall was quite steep in places & the steps leading up to the last tower in that section of wall looked almost vertical, so we backtracked at that point. The views were fantastic & the Wall was our highlight of the whole China trip. Peking Duck Excursion - My husband enjoyed this more than me. Yes, the Duck was very nice, but there was not very much of it & I didn't find the rest of the meal particularly appetising. I though it was quite expensive for what it was - but we can say we've experienced authentic Peking duck! Houtongs - I was a bit apprehensive about this visit as I felt it seemed a bit intrusive, but we really enjoyed the rickshaw ride & were made very welcome on on the visit to a local family house. It really makes you appreciate the comforts we have at home! Xian - We stayed at the Crowne Plaza Hotel. It was perfectly acceptable, but not as nice as the several Shangri-La's that we stayed at. Terracotta Warriors - Amazing! The scale of the pits is just incredible. Sacred Way of Ming Tombs - This was just like a walk through a park, with statues either side of the walkway. Very pleasant due to the great weather, but you are no where near the actual tombs. Tang Dynasty Show Excursion - Brilliant & very professional, would definitely recommend it. Dinner was enjoyable too, with good seats at the front. Viking Emerald - We were very impressed with the cruise ship & our cabin. The cabin was reasonably spacious for a ship & the balcony was lovely. On arrival there were 'Chinese Year' cards on the beds, with our appropriate animal & description - I'm a Rabbit & my Husband is a Monkey! Nice touch. We were left small gifts on the pillow each day. We didn't have any difficulty with boarding/disembarking at any of the ports, although there were sometimes a few steps to climb, without handrails. Shibaozhai Temple - About a 15 min walk from the ship, through a market, then across a suspension bridge, to get to the temple. To get to the top, it means climbing the nine flights of steep rickety stairs inside. The stairs were quite steep & there were not handrails at every point. You are given the option of staying at the bottom & admiring the view whilst waiting for the others - maybe a good option if you are less mobile. I decided to give it a go & managed to get to the top ok, so I was quite pleased with myself! Three Gorges - Transfer onto a smaller boat for the cruise up the gorges. Very scenic. Back on the ship, in the evening it takes 4 hours to get through the huge Three Gorges Locks. The Three Gorges Dam was quite impressive, although we couldn't see the full expanse of the dam, due to mist. School Visit - Interesting. I took small gifts for the children, but unfortunately had estimated class sizes similar to the UK, so took 40 gifts - but the classes in China can have up to 70 children per class. Therefore, I did not distribute the gifts, just left them with the teacher on the way out. On leaving the school, I noticed there was a box at the gate, for you to leave the gifts - then they are all distributed at a later date. We appeared to be in the minority, however, as most other people had not taken gifts. Wuhan - Disembarked from the ship here & had time to kill before the flight to Shanghai. We were taken to a local museum & I thought this was the worst part of the whole trip - the local guide just rambled on & on about certain objects. I found it too boring, so went & sat outside, waiting for the group to finish & come out. I'm sure there must be something more interesting Viking could find to do in Wuhan (although I'm not a great fan of museums, so this is just my opinion!). Shanghai - We stayed at the Westin Bund Centre Hotel. Again, this was fine, but not as good as the Shangri-La's. It was about a 10 min walk to the Bund (waterfront) & Yang took us on an unscheduled walk in the evening, to see the lights - not to be missed, spectacular! Old Shanghai - Pretty gardens & gift shops within the old style buildings. A nice morning! Shanghai Museum - Another Museum, but this was better than the one in Wuhan. We were given a meeting time & allowed to wander around at our own pace. Personally, I would have preferred an afternoon of free time, to visit the Bund again in daylight & see a bit more of Shanghai. Acrobat Show - Excellent! We did the Guilin/Hong Kong extension & I would thoroughly recommend it. Guilin - We stayed at the Shangri-La Hotel & it was fantastic. Yang took us on a (again unscheduled) visit to the Town, in the evening. He arranged foot massages for those of the group who fancied it (most did) & he walked the few of us not having massages, around the local sites. It was very hot & humid in Guilin. Li River Cruise - The scenery along the Li River is just amazing. Like nothing you will see anywhere else. There were water buffalo grazing in the river & we also saw cormorant fishermen. Hong Kong - We stayed at the Kowloon Shangri-La Hotel & I contacted Viking before the trip, to upgrade to a harbour view room. The hotel was great, with a brilliant view over the harbour to Hong Kong Island - well worth the upgrade. We had a tour of Hong Kong with Viking on the first morning, with a Sampan boat ride around the 'floating village' in the harbour & a stop at Victoria Peak on Hong Kong Island. The following day was a 'free day', so we took the 'Big Bus' tour, which included a ferry ride over to Hong Kong Island & the Vehicular ride up to the Peak again. This is a hop-on/hop-off bus, so you can get off & explore various sites. The following day (our last), we took the MTR (metro) up to have a look around the Fish, Flower & Bird markets & the Mong Kok markets. We enjoyed the day, the MTR was easy to use & very clean. Guide - The total group when on board the ship was 250 people, but we were split into smaller groups for the land tour, each with it's own tour guide. Ours was a group of 35 & our guide was Yang. He spoke excellent English & was just brilliant. He was with us throughout the trip & was extremely helpful & knowledgeable. Having grown up during the cultural revolution, he gave us an interesting insight to life in China during this time. Yang also organised all the luggage collection & check in for the internal flights, so all we had to deal with at airports was our hand luggage. Food - Most was enjoyable, but certainly acceptable throughout. We did get fed a lot of Chinese food - but we were in China, so what would you expect? You usually sit at a table of 8-10 people (you can sit where/with whom you like) & dishes are placed on the rotating 'lazy susan' in the middle, for you to help yourself. You need to ensure that serving spoons are not sticking out, otherwise drinks tend to go flying! I was a bit concerned about this 'social eating', as I would usually prefer to sit at a table for two - but we soon got used to it & it was not a problem. We did get taken to restaurants with factory shops attached (Jade/Terracotta Warriors/Shanghai Silk), so there is the opportunity to spend some money after lunch. Drinks were included at lunch (one beer or soft drink) & there was always free bottled water available in the hotels & on the coach. Toilets - The Chinese tend to use 'squat over hole' type toilets, but Viking ensured that we visited the best 'Happy Rooms' & there was always a western style toilet available. Sometimes this meant quite a queue, if there were five squat cubicles & only one western toilet (potty). The doors are usually signed as to which type it is. There is usually toilet paper, but sometimes it is outside the cubicle, by the sinks. So carry tissues in your bag in case you forget to collect some! Tip - go to the loo in a restaurant mid-lunch, to avoid the queue at start/end of meal. Money - We took Yuan & Hong Kong Dollars for tipping & purchases in markets & small shops, where credit cards may not be accepted. Other than that, you don't need much cash. All the optional land tour excursions are paid for when departing the Ship (cash or credit card). There is quite a lot of tipping to be done - hotel bell boys/room maids, local tour guides, coach drivers. You tip your main Viking tour guide at the end of the trip. Tips on board the ship are left in an envelope put in the 'tip box' on the final day, so amounts are totally at your discretion. Alternatively, you can request they add it to your credit card bill. We also left some cash in our room for the room maid & tipped our two restaurant waitresses personally, as they had been very good.   Read Less
Sail Date October 2014
First of all, I recommend doing the strenuous part of the trip first, Beijing to Shanghai. And spend time on the stairmaster and the eliptical prior to your trip! Viking packs the Beijing part of the trip with lots of walking and climbing ... Read More
First of all, I recommend doing the strenuous part of the trip first, Beijing to Shanghai. And spend time on the stairmaster and the eliptical prior to your trip! Viking packs the Beijing part of the trip with lots of walking and climbing (Tiennamen Square, the Great Wall, etc.). There is a lot of smog, but it didn't affect our breathing or ability to see. We enjoyed our trip with Viking so much. The hotels were stunning-Ritz Carlton, Hilton, Shangri-la. Our tour guide, Francis, was outstanding---excellent English, long in patience, and very organized. The Emerald was lovely. The staff was extremely friendly, especially my new friend Jane on her first cruise as a Viking employee. The food was good and the entertainment and lectures were top-notch. Those lectures made the cruise down the Yangtze so much more meaningful. The other stops on our trip were great also. The only complaint I had was the trip to the bronze museum in Xi'an. Viking needs to limit the visit to a short explanation of the bells, followed by the bell performance. The rest of the museum is boring. Shanghai is amazing. I wish we could have spent a bit more time there. The Guilin and Hong Kong extension was wonderful. Worth the extra time and money. Here are a few observations: If you don't like Chinese food, don't go. If you expect everyone to speak English, don't go. Read (and heed) the literature that Viking sends you, especially the part that says this is a strenuous trip. On the other hand, if you love trying new foods and new ways to eat them, if you are willing to learn and use some phrases in another language, and you want to see and learn as much as you can in a few short days, then start packing now!   Read Less
Sail Date September 2014
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