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14 Viking River Beijing Cruise Reviews

Thirteen nights, 7 land, 6 cruising. A little background. My husband and I have cruised on Celebrity, Royal Caribbean, and Oceania but never on a river cruise. We did do Galapagos but I don't count that as a river cruise. China was on ... Read More
Thirteen nights, 7 land, 6 cruising. A little background. My husband and I have cruised on Celebrity, Royal Caribbean, and Oceania but never on a river cruise. We did do Galapagos but I don't count that as a river cruise. China was on our bucket list. I was a little hesitant because I am hearing impaired. I can hear but conversation is tough in a noisy environment. Also, I can't use the earpiece/transmitter apparatus because it just sounds garbled. So I knew I had to rely on my husband to fill me in on what was being said. Now that you know that, you realize why my review may be a little skewed. We flew in a day early to try and adjust a little to the 12 hour time difference from the U.S. east coast to China time. Not easy. You can read my hotel reviews on tripadvisor. They were all 5 star hotels and each had its pluses and minuses. Please be forewarned. There is lots of walking. There are lots of stairs and ramps. If you have any mobility problems, I don't think this is for you. On the actual day 1, which is supposed to be arrival day, you check into your hotel. You are given information as to what you will do the next day and what time. The majority of the time, excursions started early, 7:30 or 8am. There were 3 groups staying at our hotel and 3 groups at another. There were also 2 groups who did Tibet and we did not see them until we boarded the ship. Our group had 34 people and everyone was very friendly. Our tour escort, Anthony, was terrific. I wish I could have understood everything he was saying but my husband filled me in on a lot of it. The remaining 2 days in Beijing were busy, Tianamen Square, Forbidden City, Great Wall, and more. You can read the itinerary on the Viking site. The tour bus was comfortable and the air conditioning worked well because it was hot outside. One big problem, kids were not in school yet so every site in Beijing was ridiculously crowded with locals pushing and shoving. Many women had umbrellas to shield the sun and they carried them low so you had to watch out to make sure you didn't get stuck in the eye. Had we known this about the kids, we would have gone a week or two later. After Beijing, we flew to Xian. Checked bags are put outside of your door the night before or early the morning of the flight and you don't see them again until they're in your hotel room or in your cabin. Carry on bags are put in the belly of the bus. We had 3 intra-China flights, Beijing to Xian, Xian to Chongqing, Wuhan to Shanghai. You will be patted down, just accept it. The first two flights I did not sit with my husband but no problem. The last flight we had to leave the hotel at 6am to catch an 8:20am flight (which was delayed). People were not happy about that. No one looked forward to spending time in the airports for the 1 1/2 hour flights. For two of the flights, there was no jetway. Everyone lines up at the gate to get on a bus to take you to the plane. Then, lugging your carry on, you climb the many steps to board the plane. The same thing happened on our trip home from Shanghai and we were on a big Delta 777. In Xian, we all marveled at the Terra Cotta Warriors. But, again, very crowded and hot. One more surprise, the toilets. Many toilets in restaurants, shops, and malls, are squat toilets. Nowhere to sit. At the airport, the stalls are marked as to which type of toilet is inside. From Xian, we flew to Chongqing to board our ship. Stairs, ramp, but once inside, it was really nice. There are 2 elevators but we only used them once. We were led to our cabin on deck 3 and it was fine. Actually better than expected. Comfy bed, Blackout drapes that actually closed all the way. Small bathroom but plenty of vanity and shelf space. Plenty of closet and storage space. Small balcony with 2 chairs. And it was quiet. The service was outstanding. Everyone smiled and made sure that you were happy. The food, buffet for breakfast and lunch, menu for dinner could rival some of the best restaurants. Please note that all of the tables are round tables for 8 people. You are always eating with others. I thought, with my hearing problem, that would bother me but it didn't. We met and talked with so many people from all over the world and made many new friends. Excursions every morning and then, usually, cruising in the afternoon. There were talks about ports or China life. I didn't attend so there were many times I was bored. Some shows in the evening put on by the staff and they were fun. After 6 nights, we flew to Shanghai. Since our flight was delayed and it was raining when we arrived, Anthony decided we should just go to the hotel. We were all very happy. Busy last day. Then, the next morning, we boarded our bus to airport. We were exhausted and we're now trying to get our internal time clock back to Eastern time. So, to summarize: Be prepared for the time difference. Think about when you want to go. Check school schedules and big events. If you have mobility issues, think twice about this trip. Make sure you're up for it because you will miss a lot if you can't climb the stairs or the ramps. In the bathrooms, look for the signs on the stalls as to what time of toilet is inside. Understand that you will always be eating at a table of 8. If you still decide to go, you will be rewarded. There is so much to see and everyone is there to make sure you are happy. The tour escorts are the best. The food and accommodations are top notch. Don't miss the opportunity to visit the school kids. They are charming and they all looked forward to meeting us. Read Less
Sail Date August 2019
We (wife and I) chose this Viking Emerald cruise because it has the major destinations (cities), river cruising, and the dates we wanted. The tour was for 14 days. We booked a couple days before and after the tour/cruise dates to get ... Read More
We (wife and I) chose this Viking Emerald cruise because it has the major destinations (cities), river cruising, and the dates we wanted. The tour was for 14 days. We booked a couple days before and after the tour/cruise dates to get acclimated to the time zone change (from USA/AZ to CN/Beijing) and do some extra site seeing in Beijing and Shanghai. We had a ride booked from the Beijing airport to our hotel and use a cab to ride from Shanghai to the airport. Taxi cab prices were very reasonable. We made sure to get the hotel's address/map, and have the hotel's front desk write down the destination in Chinese for the cab drivers. It was an initial challenge 'flagging down' a return taxi ride until we saw how other people were positioning themselves on the streets. We were on the Viking Emerald river boat for seven days from Chongqing to Wuhan. It was easy to navigate the various levels and find the rooms. The ship levels were all very clean and well furnished. The staff was very accommodating, knowledgeable, and friendly. The cabin was very comfortable, quiet and there was enough storage for our stuff. The dining was good. My wife and I are vegetarian and the selection was spare for lunch and dinner. We asked for some more 'interesting' dishes and the chef was able to accommodate our wants a couple nights. It was enjoyable to sit at different tables to meet new people from various locations. There were approximately 250 people on the boat. The entertainment by the staff was interesting and fun. The informational talks were very good. The staff entertainment with local dress and dance was very good. The M/C was very good, fun jokes, explained local customs and culture. and coordinate the entertainment in the evenings (with guest participation). We did a lot of walking at the cities, ports and excursions. Typical days we walked 2-5 miles -- so make sure you wear good shoes. Smog was an issue for me by the end of tour even though I wore a breathing mask (still dealing with respiratory issues over a month later). My highlight was X'ian and the Terra-Cotta army exhibit. But, all destination were fascinating: Beijing's Tienanmen Square, Forbidden City, Buddhist temple, Confucius temple, neighborhoods, Great Wall, etc. Xian's city square and the Terra-Cotta army exhibit, museum, plus capital for 13 dynasties, etc. Chongqing's embark onto river boat Yangstze River's cruise, Shibaozhai temple, Three gorges wall views, locks, 3G dam, Jingzhou elementary school visit, etc. Wuhan's disembark from river boat for plane ride to Changhai. Shanghai's historical architecture, new buildings, art district, etc. The tour manager/guide was very knowledgeable, courteous, and fun to be with. I took approximately 2,400 pictures and am editing them for viewing. Lots to see and remember the trip via computer screen saver slide show. One trip to China satisfies our interest. We traveled to Southeast Asia and will probably go back there as the food is more accommodating. Read Less
Sail Date May 2018
We enjoyed out first Viking River cruise ,The Grand European Tour . We wanted to go to China and Viking had the places and cities we wanted to see. Beijing- The Great Wall,Tiananmen Square & Forbidden City along with the Kung Fu ... Read More
We enjoyed out first Viking River cruise ,The Grand European Tour . We wanted to go to China and Viking had the places and cities we wanted to see. Beijing- The Great Wall,Tiananmen Square & Forbidden City along with the Kung Fu performance.We did the optional Peking duck dinner and the skin of the duck was soggy not crisp.We enjoyed the rickshaw ride and visit to the Hutongs tour. We loved the Terra Cotta army and the Tang Dynasty dinner show.Hiked up the Shibaozhai Temple along side the Yangtze River.Sailed thru the three gorges and the huge three gorge Dam. Our tour director(Michael) was excellent and answered any and all questions.Alll three of the Hotels we stayed at were excellent.The food at the hotels and on the boat was very good and had a variety.The cabin on the boat was damp and musty other than that the ship was okay.All the service personnel seemed to enjoyed there job.We have three more trips planned on Viking. Read Less
Sail Date September 2017
We traveled with Viking River Cruises on the Imperial Jewels of China trip (April, 2016) in the direction from Beijing to Shanghai. The trip was wonderful and a fantastic experience. A very safe and convenient way to see parts of China. ... Read More
We traveled with Viking River Cruises on the Imperial Jewels of China trip (April, 2016) in the direction from Beijing to Shanghai. The trip was wonderful and a fantastic experience. A very safe and convenient way to see parts of China. Good tour guide who spoke excellent English (although we had to call him by a made up western name!) Why? Hotels were excellent - Kerry in Beijing, Hilton in Xi'an and Westin Bund in Shanghai. Kerry was the best by far, although it's dining experience was affected by a lot of new staff still very much "in training" mode. Summer Palace - we went there ourselves and enjoyed. Tiananmen Square and Forbidden city - both hugely interesting and full of such intrigue and history. Great Wall - -the best trip of the holiday. Some stiff walking, steep steps and hills but just an amazing site and incredible that a Wall can be built on top of a mountain/hills! Xi'an - Terra Cotta warriors - we loved and were amazed at the story behind finding them in 1974/1976 and how well so much of it has been preserved. Yangtze river cruise started in Chongqing. Bit of a shambles getting to and onto the boat (Viking Emerald) but a great welcome from the staff when arriving at the boat's reception. First stop - Shibaozhai pagoda - fascinating but a lot of hassle from traders getting there and back. Enjoy the "Drunken Bridge". 3 Gorges and dam were stunning - even though it was misty most of the time. Added to the eerie atmosphere. Cabin was good, bed and pillows fine, excellent shower and great and helpful staff. Food was good and two or three Captain/Welcome-back receptions which were nice. Good evening entertainment, especially the show put on by the boat's staff. Fantastic, especially the magician. Shanghai was a very modern and westernised city (and very busy). would recommend this tri to those who would like to visit China and see a number of top sites and relax for 5 days on a river cruise. Areas of disappointment - - information suggested that all evening meals were included in the hotels were were staying in. No. Two meals were outwith the hotel and one was part of an optional trip to the theatre, which we weren't doing. So we had to buy two meals ourselves as we were tired and didn't want to leave the hotel. - 3 internals flights (main luggage all taken care of, which was wonderful) - fine but we were only told the flight times on the day (or evening before) and that they would be about 30 to 90 mins. Each was over 2 hours. - information on the trips was only fully provided the day before, not allowing we thought, adequate time to plan whether to go on an excursion or not. - took ill on the second last day on the boat (as a number of fellow passengers did) Chinese doctor was $120 and I came away with 8 boxes of medicine. Got home, saw doctor, diagnosed pneumonia changed the medicines. This clouded my experience of the last 4 to 5 days of the trip I am afraid. Especially as I had got in touch with some of the wonderful people we had met on the trip and discovered that a number of other people had also taken ill with similar symptoms to mine. - recommendations on tips seemed high - but that seemed to be the way of things these days. - three lunches were at places where you had to listen to a 20 minute presentation (you weren't told this until you arrived) - jade, terra cotta warriors and something else I have forgotten and then shop and then get your lunch. Not what I had expected from Viking. Overall we enjoyed the trip, but not as much as the Danube river cruise we had done with Viking the year before.Viking staff reallay look after you well and nothing is too much trouble to them. Read Less
Sail Date April 2016
We chose this cruise because we really enjoyed our Viking cruise in France, and the excursions covered a lot of sights we wanted to see. Unfortunately, this one didn't go as well as our French cruise. There were many problems on the ... Read More
We chose this cruise because we really enjoyed our Viking cruise in France, and the excursions covered a lot of sights we wanted to see. Unfortunately, this one didn't go as well as our French cruise. There were many problems on the Emerald: Moldy smell in many areas: rooms/hallways. Had to change rooms to the second alternative room, because the first alternative room also smelled moldy. Room attendant, Marvin: We ran out of toiletries, including toilet paper. He didn't replenish them. Had to call desk for more. His cart was outside our room everyday. One day I took a soap because we were low, and the cart contents never changed. Every day, everything was neatly arranged and full, except for the hole left by the one soap I took. I don' think anybody got new toiletries. He never cleaned the rug. It was filthy by the end. I put a dirty bathroom glass in the center of counter to exchange for a clean one. He just put the dirty one on an old coaster and put it behind the faucet as if it were a clean glass. I left my robe on the couch one day. He just wadded it up and put a pillow over it to cover it. Basically all he did was make the bed every day. He didn't understand anything we tried to say to him. Fiona was an excellent server, as was Alice. The main emcee gentleman was pretty impossible to understand. Also, the Shangri-La hotel in Guilin was not a good choice. It was overrun with children, and if you didn't like seafood, the food choices were just vegetables. I had tomatoes, olives and bread for dinner. It's a good thing I decided against the chicken, because a fellow passenger told me the next day that it had made him sick. Also, towels and toiletries were on the skimpy side. All other hotels were wonderful. Ray, our guide, was outstanding, and totally saved this trip! He made all the shore excursions fun. (Unfortunately, nobody could make the Chinese Acrobat show fun. It was not terribly acrobatic, or interesting.) Other shows were good. Read Less
Sail Date April 2016
We took the cruise to find out more about China and the people. It turned out to be a really great journey. Our escort was fantastic and had a lot of patience with the group. He spoke really good English and was detailed in his ... Read More
We took the cruise to find out more about China and the people. It turned out to be a really great journey. Our escort was fantastic and had a lot of patience with the group. He spoke really good English and was detailed in his explanations of our tour. The crew of the ship and people we had contact with were all very friendly and helpful. We were treated very well during the whole trip. Our fellow passengers were delightful and new friends were made. We really got to know each other and got along very well. The entertainment on the ship was very good and interesting. The food was also very good and had a great variety of things to choose from for your eating pleasure. The stall in the restaurant was top grade. I have been telling my friends about this trip and strongly recommend they take it. We saw things and experienced things we would have never done on our own. The trip is a bargain for all you get to do and see. One last thing. The beds and rooms on the ship were really great and the service we received for our cabin was second to none. Read Less
Sail Date April 2016
Several friends had taken European cruises and lived them, so since I wanted to do China decided on the Viking trip. It hit the must sees like the Great Wall and Terracotta Soldiers and included lots of other sites. I also like that the ... Read More
Several friends had taken European cruises and lived them, so since I wanted to do China decided on the Viking trip. It hit the must sees like the Great Wall and Terracotta Soldiers and included lots of other sites. I also like that the cruise was only for 5 days, so you got to see city life, rural life and river life. Because I did not speak Chinese nor do I read it, thought a fully escorted trip was the only way to go. The staff on the ship were very friendly and helpful. One of the best things was my tour escort Michael. His English was excellent and his knowledge of everything was amazing. As with any trip there were some parts that were a miss, like the Three a Gorges Dam tour (a total waste), but other points of interest made up for those misses. A few of the meals were just ok. Like the box lunch days and the Dumpling dinner. But others were fantastic, so one can excuse the just ok ones. None were just awful. The ship could use a little sprucing up. It was a little tired. Also the initial dock, especially the steps, were a little treacherous. But we all made it on board. Read Less
Sail Date April 2016
--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
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 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 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
If you are contemplating booking this cruise, I would recommend starting in Beijing and doing all the strenuous part of the tour first. Firstly the tour does involve lots of walking and steps, so it is not recommended for people with ... Read More
If you are contemplating booking this cruise, I would recommend starting in Beijing and doing all the strenuous part of the tour first. Firstly the tour does involve lots of walking and steps, so it is not recommended for people with mobility issues. Our tour guide David was excellent, and kept us fully informed of timings and meeting places, and he kept us amused with tales of his childhood experiences and day to day life in China which was extremely interesting, It was also great not to have to worry about lifting heavy suitcases everywhere, as Viking took great care of coordinating and checking in our luggage, so all we had to do was identify it after each internal flight, and it was promptly delivered to our respective hotels. The land tours were well coordinated, taking in Tiananmen Square, the Forbidden City, and Great Wall. For me, the highlight of the trip was flying to Xian to see the Terracotta Warriors. All the hotels we stayed in were equivalent to 4/5 star and of a very high standard. The Kerry Hotel in Beijing had a complimentary mini bar which was stocked daily with beers and soft drinks, and the bathroom was very opulent. The food in all the hotels was buffet style and very good quality and choice. The cabins on the Viking Emerald are spacious, and with a balcony, but unfortunately the river was shrouded in mist/fog and smog which is apparently normal, and the guide in Chonquing told us that they only have about 5 days of sun each , so needless to say, most of the time it was like looking through lace curtains, which was quite disappointing. The trip wasn't very relaxing, as Viking do not plan too much down time, and personally I think they include too many trips to museums. I Think it would be preferential to offer alternatives, if you do not want to go to another museum. The latest time we woke up was 0700, which is very early day in day out, but I guess that we had to avoid the constant queues of traffic, and also to avoid the queues at the other places we were visiting. I did feel at times that we were being 'herded', but with 34 people in the group, this is the only option. The food on the boat was excellent with lots of choices, and wine is included at lunch and dinner, but although the staff are extremely pleasant, they need a few lessons in customer service. I found that we had to keep asking for basic things like condiments, which should automatically be placed on each dining table, and they weren't always proactive in topping up wine glasses. We constantly had to ask for more wine. There was an excellent wine waitress called Lois, who was incredible with attending to us, and she even remembered everyone's name, even though we constantly changed tables. It was always reassuring when Lois was waiting on our table at meal times. She was also extremely polite and personable. I also need to mention that when not eating in hotels, Viking had arranged meals in different restaurants which were obviously geared up for tourists, as there were always numerous coaches parked outside, and all tables were filled with groups of 8. All of these meals were served by using lazy susans, and the food was just 'plonked' on the table. We were only entitled to 1 drink which seemed a bit mean, so if you dared ask for a glass of water with your beer, it was promptly refused! In all the restaurants, the staff are constantly trying to remove your plate, even though you could still be eating! It all seemed very rushed, and that part was not very pleasurable. Most times we were in and out within 1 hour. All in all it was a very enjoyable holiday with some amazing sights, but would I do it again-probably no. It ticked all the boxes of places to see, and I can't fault Viking for that.   Read Less
Sail Date June 2014
This was our 6th river cruise and first cruise with Viking. We chose this cruise because we've done all the rivers in Europe and the chance to see the Great Wall and Terra Cotta Warriors was exciting. Definitely go in the fall! ... Read More
This was our 6th river cruise and first cruise with Viking. We chose this cruise because we've done all the rivers in Europe and the chance to see the Great Wall and Terra Cotta Warriors was exciting. Definitely go in the fall! First thing I should mention is that you will find few "western" style toilets. I had read the previous reviews and knew to take paper with us..but no one had mentioned that even in the tourist locations, you would be required to squat over a "moat". The name of the game is "hole or bowl?". And it was usually a hole unless you chose to wait in a long line for that one western toilet. I won't go back to China unless they use some of their money to improve the bathroom facilities in all of their public buildings. They continue to build thousands of new skyscrapers and luxurious hotels yet can't improve the toilets, even with all the thousands of new western tourists! It's not only disgusting, it's unhealthy. Most of us river cruisers are 50 and older and some are not physically capable of squatting down low. Yes, we may not be as healthy and agile as the Chinese, but that's no excuse for their bathroom facilities. I don't want to review day by day. I'd rather just mention a few things that I think are important for you to know if you take this cruise. From Beijing to Shanghai, be prepared for some strenuous and hectic days. If you aren't accustomed to long walks, start exercising. The first day in Tiananmen Square and The Forbidden City, be prepared to walk about 3 miles. As others have written, there are uneven surfaces and many steps. The internal flights were handled superbly by Viking. We simply boarded the bus to the airport and they handled all the luggage, boarding passes etc....it was an easy process but those days were hectic and precious time was spent flying instead of sightseeing. We didn't realize how fast paced those first days would be. It was rush, rush, rush until we were able to board the Emerald. Everyone we spoke with had the same sentiments...they were all exhausted and just wanted to relax. As far as the ship...in fairness, the boats in China do not compare to the river boats in Europe. The emerald is advertised as being only 2 years old. Personally, I think it's older than that and just rehabed. For all I know it could be the older "Century". The rooms are standard size but appear to be dated. The closets are very shallow and there is little storage for hanging clothing. The beds are HARD..not simply firm but hard! The first night was miserable and a fellow passenger suggested I let the front desk know, which I did. I usually don't like to complain but I had no choice. Housekeeping came immediately and added more comforters under the sheets. It helped just slightly and I woke up with a backache each night. I'm used to a firm memory foam mattress, but as I said, this wasn't firm, it was hard. I used to take a cheap foam topper in a space saver bag which helped but I assumed this "newer ship" would have a foam mattress..wrong! The bathroom was also dated, and there was mold and crud around the bottom of the shower stall. Yes, there is alot of wear and tear in these rooms, but the quality did not compare with the three companies we've used in Europe. You had to step over thresholds in the hallways and in the entrance to your room. You could feel slopes and rises in areas under the carpeting in some places. Again, I've heard Viking's European longboats are beautiful so it may just be a "China" problem. The food...again I could only compare it to the other cruises we have done. It was not as good. Breakfast was typical and good..eggs to order etc and bacon, sausage, hash browns, cereals, yogurts...yadda yadda, there was something for everyone. Lunch buffet however, I felt was lacking. Salad bar was decent with fresh butter lettuces, deli meats, a small variety of cheeses, breads, a daily soup which tasted the same but just a different color, a choice of three entrees that had to be ordered at the table. There were no other types of salads, such as pasta salads, tuna or chicken salads, vegetable salads. If there were, they were Asian style/flavored. In the 5 previous cruises, at dinner I ordered the "always available" chicken/steak just once. On this trip, I ordered a chicken breast or steak four nights. It seemed as though we had more Chinese food than western, but hey, we were in China. Service was good, staff was good and had a sense of urgency which is always appreciated. I was impressed that they remembered our names, even without name tags. Hard working kids. The amount of building going on in every city in China is unbelievable. I stopped taking pictures. You have to see it in person. Our mouths were wide open as our buses drove through Beijing, Chongqing and Xian. It's like a futuristic scene from a science fiction movie.Skyscraper after skyscraper..thousands in rows, cranes all over building tops...Unbelievable! and the landscaping!!! everywhere! lush and green. All along the streets in all the cities, there are trees and parks and beautiful landscaping. Amazing. I forgot to mention that the hotels were excellent! all 5 star. The breakfast buffets in all were above average. The Westin in Shanghai was luxurious with huge rooms. Location to shopping in Yu Garden was excellent. I did not realize that the jewelry is all 24K in the jewelry stores and is good value. Bought a wedding band to replace mine lost years ago. We struggled when packing for this trip due to the strict weight limits on the Chinese internal flights. When I mentioned to our guide that I did not want to buy things because of the limit, he assured me that those limits were for individual passengers, not for Viking passengers. I wish I had known that before we left. However, I can understand why Viking doesn't advertise that fact. Needless to say, we were then able to stock up on all sorts of junk and souvenirs. The day before we left the boat for Shanghai, I noticed a passenger trying on a silk robe on the 4th floor where clothing is sold. I commented on it and she said she just had it made and was making sure it fit. I had no idea there was a tailor on board. I asked if it was possible to have one made and they obliged in about 5 hours. It was a cream on cream pattern and beautiful. Cost was 220.00 US, which I thought was reasonable, considering. I know that a similar item in a high end dept. store in the states would be at least twice that amount, if not more. Nope, I wouldn't be able to find one in Marshalls or TJMaxx! So I splurged for once. Take more than one adaptor if you are taking a phone and Ipad/netbook. No plug in the ship's bathroom for the hair dryer. You'll have to sit at the desk mirror or on the bed to dry your hair. I've always had an outlet in the bathroom for a dryer on all previous river cruises so again, is this a China thing or is it what I suspect, an older boat? Be prepared to eat Chinese everywhere other than on the boat. Tables for 8, large glass lazy susans, family style which is nice. Beer and sodas included but I asked for water at one lunch and had to pay 5 yuan! I was craving a burger and managed to get my husband into a McDonald's. My mistake was ordering the chicken sandwich instead of the burger. Wasn't a breast..was a thigh with the skin. Yuch. But the fries were great! I took enough knit tops so that I did not have to use the ship's laundry. Another passenger was complaining about the cost of two pounds of wash and fold. They do not have dry cleaning so if you use the laundry, make sure they hang to dry or you may get something back that will no longer fit! One more hint...when a group of us were standing in line in the bathroom at the airport in Beijing, young Chinese girls walked right past us and jumped into a stall when the door opened. They have no respect for lines..I elbowed the young woman when she came out of the stall which I had been waiting for...so be prepared..stand your ground ladies and don't let them cut in front of you..anywhere, in any line! Have specific questions? texastart@aol.com In ending, I will say we had the most articulate, educated, considerate guide of all the 6 river cruises! Aihua was fantastic! He herded us like little sheep, kept close watch on all of us and it did not go unnoticed. He was a wealth of information and his personal stories were very touching. Without Aihua, the trip would not have been nearly as enjoyable. We were fortunate to have him as our guide. 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Sail Date September 2012
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