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Cruises to Shanghai

Shanghai (Photo:chuyuss/Shutterstock)
Shanghai (Photo:chuyuss/Shutterstock)

About Shanghai

Sophisticated, cosmopolitan and dynamic, Shanghai is a memorable destination. China's largest city by population -- more than 24 million -- features an ever-changing skyline full of massive skyscrapers. As you stroll along the landmark Bund, it's difficult to imagine that, 5,000 years ago, Shanghai was little more than a tiny fishing village and textile-producing town.

Shanghai, which means "city on the sea," grew because of its strategic position on the Huangpu River, a tributary of the mighty Yangtze River that flows into the East China Sea. With its advantageous port location and economic potential, the city opened to the outside world and foreign trade following the 1842 Treaty of Nanking, which marked the end of the First Opium War between the British and Chinese.

European, American and Russian traders were granted "concessions" and moved in to build banks, embassies and offices -- most notably characterized in The Bund, the sweeping waterfront mile that's lined with Gothic, Art Deco and other historic buildings. Today, the 19th-century architecture vies for attention with the sleek, space-age towers in Pudong, on the opposite side of the Huangpu River, which puts on a nighttime light show.

Shanghai's history tends to be eclipsed by its modern-day magnetism, but you don't need to scratch far beneath the surface of the designer shopping streets and glitzy malls to find some traditional treasures. Ancient pagodas, temples and gardens provide an oasis of calm in the 24/7 metropolis that makes up China's most contemporary city.

A day is not enough to see all of Shanghai, and typical ocean cruise itineraries begin or end in the city, with the opportunity for extensions, while river cruise operators offer a two-day land-based stay before a flight to commence a Yangtze River cruise.

Although the sheer size of Shanghai can appear overwhelming, the top sights are divided into a handful of areas that are covered on full- and half-day excursions.

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120 Night
Cruise to Shanghai

Leaving:
San Francisco
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Cruise Line:
Regent Seven Seas Cruises
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41 Night
Cruise to Shanghai

Leaving:
Los Angeles
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Astoria, Oregon, Seattle ...
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Cruise Line:
Oceania Cruises
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61 Night
Cruise to Shanghai

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Los Angeles
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Astoria, Oregon, Seattle ...
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Cruise Line:
Oceania Cruises
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DAY 1: Tokyo

16 Night
Cruise to Shanghai

Leaving:
Tokyo
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Nagoya, Kobe ...
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Cruise Line:
Oceania Cruises
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18 Night
Cruise to Shanghai

Leaving:
Tokyo
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Shimizu, Kobe ...
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Cruise Line:
Oceania Cruises
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14 Night
Cruise to Shanghai

Leaving:
Hong Kong
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Taipei, Ryukyu Island ...
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Cruise Line:
Oceania Cruises
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139 Night
Cruise to Shanghai

Leaving:
Miami
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Cartagena, Panama City ...
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Cruise Line:
Crystal Cruises
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22 Night
Cruise to Shanghai

Leaving:
Sydney
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Brisbane, Bali ...
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Cruise Line:
Princess Cruises
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123 Night
Cruise to Shanghai

Leaving:
Los Angeles
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Honolulu, Maui ...
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Cruise Line:
Crystal Cruises
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22 Night
Cruise to Shanghai

Leaving:
Shanghai
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Seoul, Sakaiminato ...
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Cruise Line:
Princess Cruises
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28 Night
Cruise to Shanghai

Leaving:
Hong Kong
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Hanoi, Da Nang ...
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Cruise Line:
Holland America Line
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12 Night
Cruise to Shanghai

Leaving:
Yokohama
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Shimizu, Osaka ...
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Cruise Line:
Norwegian Cruise Line
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12 Night
Cruise to Shanghai

Leaving:
Tokyo
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Shimizu, Osaka ...
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Cruise Line:
Norwegian Cruise Line
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111 Night
Cruise to Shanghai

Leaving:
Los Angeles
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Honolulu, Maui ...
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Cruise Line:
Crystal Cruises
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14 Night
Cruise to Shanghai

Leaving:
Tokyo
Visiting:
Kagoshima, Shanghai ...
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Cruise Line:
Princess Cruises
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28 Night
Cruise to Shanghai

Leaving:
Yokohama
Visiting:
Shimizu, Kobe ...
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Cruise Line:
Holland America Line
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33 Night
Cruise to Shanghai

Leaving:
Tokyo
Visiting:
Kagoshima, Nagasaki ...
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Cruise Line:
Cunard Line
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127 Night
Cruise to Shanghai

Leaving:
Miami
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Cartagena, Panama City ...
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Cruise Line:
Crystal Cruises
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36 Night
Cruise to Shanghai

Leaving:
Tokyo
Visiting:
Nagoya, Kobe ...
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Cruise Line:
Oceania Cruises
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7 Night
Cruise to Shanghai

Leaving:
Shanghai
Visiting:
Osaka, Kobe ...
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Cruise Line:
Royal Caribbean International
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20 Night
Cruise to Shanghai

Leaving:
Brisbane
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Bali, Singapore ...
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Cruise Line:
Princess Cruises
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31 Night
Cruise to Shanghai

Leaving:
Tokyo
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Kagoshima, Nagasaki ...
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Cruise Line:
Cunard Line
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30 Night
Cruise to Shanghai

Leaving:
Tokyo
Visiting:
Shimizu, Osaka ...
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Cruise Line:
Regent Seven Seas Cruises
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27 Night
Cruise to Shanghai

Leaving:
Singapore
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Koh Samui, Bangkok ...
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Cruise Line:
Holland America Line
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12 Night
Cruise to Shanghai

Leaving:
Shanghai
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Hong Kong, Hanoi ...
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Cruise Line:
Cunard Line
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Why go to Shanghai?

Pros:

The port has its own transport hub to whisk visitors in and around this cosmopolitan city

Cons:

The high pollution levels in this incredibly busy port make sightseeing overwhelming for some

Bottom Line:

Normally the start or end point of cruises, with opportunities to explore more of the city

Shanghai Cruise Port Facilities?

One of the world's busiest commercial ports, Shanghai is China's largest port and the only one connecting the country's sea and river shipping systems. Shanghai Port International Cruise Terminal, located in the North Bund area close to downtown, can accommodate three midsize cruise ships. The distinctive, sparkling glass structure of the main building is shaped like a drop of water.

The international port is situated in an attractive landscaped park with great views across to The Bund and Pudong (be sure to check out the nighttime views, too). It offers an ATM, a tourist information center, a grocery store, a hip coffee shop and several places to eat. Once everyone on our ship had cleared customs and immigration, the main hall of the port building was closed. To access the services when the main hall is closed, head away from the river and look to your right, for a driveway and underground parking garage. Turn into the driveway and walk straight ahead; the services will be on your right as you walk along.

To leave the port complex, walk directly away from the river, just a couple of blocks, until you reach the main artery, Dongdaming Road. Here, you'll find banks with ATMs, restaurants and a few shops.

For people who prefer to walk, rather than take a shuttle bus or organized tour, The Bund is about 15 minutes away, and the main Nanjing Road shopping area can be reached in 30 minutes.

The more distant Shanghai Waigaoqiao Port features fewer facilities and no real reasons to hang around. Cruise ships that dock here offer shuttle buses that stop at The Bund and shopping districts.

Good to Know?

Things change fast here, with old sectors continually being demolished to build massive new high-rise complexes. Chances are, if you visited a few years ago, many corners of the city will be unrecognizable. Be sure to confirm that your favorite spot is still there before heading off.

Traffic jams can clog main arteries and slow your progress to a crawl. Allow plenty of time if you're taking a taxi across town, particularly if you're trying to make an all-aboard deadline.

The Chinese government blocks many websites, including Google (and Gmail), Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, Instagram, Dropbox, The New York Times and many more on a constantly changing list. To get around the blockage, you can download a Virtual Private Network (VPN) app before entering China. This essentially makes it seem like you're connecting to the internet from outside China. Be wary of any unsecured internet connection in China; colleagues report that their email accounts have been compromised when online there.

Squat-style toilets are ubiquitous throughout China. If you're in a public restroom that appears to have only squat toilets, look for the disabled symbol on one door; that will likely be a Western-style toilet.

Getting Around?

On Foot: Although Shanghai can seem intimidating at first glance, it's a very walkable city once you reach your neighborhood destination of choice: The Bund, Old City, the elegant French Concession area and the car-free Xintiandi district, for example. It's a very clean city, and there are plenty of pedestrian crossings on busy streets. Do beware of the ubiquitous electric scooters, which seem to appear silently out of nowhere.

By Taxi: Shanghai's taxis are reasonable, and a few dollars will get you a long way. The majority of drivers don't speak any English, so you'll need to have your destination written down in Chinese. This isn't as difficult as it sounds, as hotels provide cards with the names of all the main districts and attractions written in English on one side and Chinese on the other -- or the concierge will write down the place you want to go. Taxis are metered, and drivers don't expect tips, so you might find them trying to give back gratuities. If a taxi driver quotes a (usually outrageous) flat rate rather than using the meter, get out immediately -- these are rip-offs. Taxis are getting scarcer due to the proliferation of ride service apps, so you may need to have a hotel or restaurant call a cab for you. We didn't find any taxis at the port, and ended up walking a couple of blocks to the Hyatt hotel and joining the taxi queue. When leaving the port, we suggest you snap a photo of the port sign (in both Chinese and English) on the main road, which you can show to a taxi driver to make sure you get returned to the proper area of the port.

By Metro: Shanghai's rapidly expanding Metro system is a fast and user-friendly way to get around. Pick up a detailed map at stations or find the main lines listed on tourist information guides available at hotel reception and concierge desks. If this is a port call, your ship's destination staff will likely provide you with a map. Tickets are sold from bilingual vending machines, and signage is also bilingual, as are the station announcements onboard the trains. If you're taking several subway rides over multiple days, you can buy a preloaded transportation card (requiring a refundable deposit) to avoid standing in lines. One- and three-day subway cards are also available, but you'd have to take as many as six trips (one-day card) or five trips (three-day card) per day to make them pay off. Line 12 has a stop called International Cruise Terminal, but it's actually northeast of the port, on Changzhi Road. Line 1 runs through the French Concession and Line 8 will take you to the Old City. There are also subway connections to Shanghai's major train stations and airports.

By Bus: Although very cheap, the public bus network is best avoided because it can be very difficult to understand where buses are going, unless you can read Chinese characters. A far better bet is one of the hop-on, hop-off sightseeing tours with English-speaking commentary. Operators include buses bookable through Viator.

Currency & Best Way to Get Money?

China's currency is called the renminbi (RMB), which means "The People's Currency." RMB is legal tender throughout Beijing and mainland China. (Be mindful if you're also cruising to Hong Kong, as it operates on a different currency, the Hong Kong dollar.) For current currency conversion figures, visit www.oanda.com or www.xe.com.

The RMB has a base unit called a yuan, which can be broken down into jiao and fen. (Fen are essentially out of existence.) Ten jiao equal 1 yuan. Commonly used denominations of RMB banknotes are 1, 5, 10, 20, 50 and 100 yuan. There is also a half-yuan note. Coins are in circulation, but most transactions will end in round numbers, and you will only need banknotes. RMB notes vary in size and color; the bigger it is, the more it is worth.

There is an ATM located in the services area of the cruise terminal complex (see Hanging Around, above), and banks near the main street, just outside the terminal. You'll also find banks with ATMs along The Bund and you can change money at hotels.

Language?

Mandarin, often referred to as Standard Chinese, is the official language. Shanghai also has its own traditional language called Shanghainese, and it's spoken by about 14 million people, mainly the older generation. At least some English is spoken in all large hotels, shops, restaurants and attractions catering to tourists.

Most establishments have their address in Chinese characters displayed on their website. It's a great idea to print this out in advance if you have a hotel reservation; otherwise, be sure to pick up an address card before leaving your hotel. With a kind smile and a pen in hand, don't be shy to ask hotel staff to write down the name and address of places you'd like to go so you can show a taxi driver.

Few Chinese outside of the tourism industry speak English. You'll have a higher chance of successfully communicating in English with a young person. At the least, they're more likely to have a translation app on their smartphones. Before entering China, you might want to consider downloading the Google Translate app, which includes Word Lens, to translate Chinese characters to English when you snap a photo of them using the app.

To say hello in Mandarin, say ni hao ("nee-how").
Thank you is xie xie ("shyay shyay").
You will see the word "Lu" as part of many street names; it simply means "road."
Beer is pijiu ("pee-jo").


Awards and Recognition

Cruise Critic Cruisers’ Choice Destination

  • 2018 Top-Rated Asia Destinations

Shanghai Cruise Reviews

TravelDreamer75
Sail Date: Dec 2019
My disappointment was with the shuttle offered by HAL. The cost of it was just about the price of a taxi one way- so if you shared with others it was better to taxi. However, in Shanghai the taxis also tried to... Read More
Spectrum of the Seas
Helly133
Sail Date: Oct 2019
I enjoyed Shanghai. Very clean and well presented.... Read More
Spectrum of the Seas
alistairg
Sail Date: Oct 2019
We arrived three days before the cruise and stayed 1 night at Shanghai Disneyland and two nights in town. Disneyland was very pleasant and quiet. We stayed at the Disneyland Hotel and then a 5 star hotel all... Read More
Quantum of the Seas
Shamrocker
Sail Date: Apr 2019
We were still on a Cruise 1st land tour of China whilst experiencing Shanghai. We found Shanghai to be wonderful. We did a morning tour of the city including the Bund and the Shanghai Museum. We also visited the... Read More
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