2 Helpful Votes
Sail Date: August 2019
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
9 Helpful Votes
Sail Date: April 2019
This was the trip of a lifetime for us. Viking staff made all of the difference in the success of this trip. We began in Beijing. We flew on United from Tampa via Washington Dulles. IAD to PEK was a whopping 14+ hours. Customs ... Read More
This was the trip of a lifetime for us. Viking staff made all of the difference in the success of this trip. We began in Beijing. We flew on United from Tampa via Washington Dulles. IAD to PEK was a whopping 14+ hours. Customs clearance in Beijing was fairly painless. We were met by Viking guide Peter, who would be our guide for the next two days. We were taken to the Kerry hotel, where we spend 5 nights. Lovely hotel with small but well equipped room. The hotel has an outstanding health club and indoor pool. Their restaurants are all quite good. Kerry's Kitchen serves buffet for B,L & D. Nice array of Chinese and Western fare. Kerry's Pantry was sort of a take-out restaurant with some seating. Great salads, sandwiches and desserts. Centro is a 24 hour bar and restaurant. The bar was a good hiding place....with an excellent cheeseburger, btw!! We bought the Beijing extension, which gave us a tour of the Temple of Heaven and Summer Palace. Weather was a bit cool - 40's to 50's, but nice and sunny. We had our first lunch at a very large Chinese restaurant. It was pretty good. We had the second day free. We stayed close to the hotel, shopping in the two astonishing adjacent malls. Our actual tour then began. Our guide for the remainder of the journey was Roy. He made the trip for us. Expertly knowledgable and responded to every request and problem. We toured the Great Wall in perfect weather - 50's and piercing bright sun. Roy brought us to a location on the Wall which had almost no other people! Fabulous vantage points and lots of time to shoot photos and just marvel at this wonder of the world. The next day was Tiananmen Square and the Forbidden City. Again perfect weather and great commentary from Roy. Next day we flew to Xi'an. Great flight on China Eastern Airlines. Comfortable seating and on-time flight. Getting through security in all of the Chinese airports is arduous....Full pat downs every time. We stayed at the Wyndham South. This was one of the nicest hotels we've stayed in. It is adjacent to a wonderful ourdoor mall with an engaging walk down to a pogoda. The Terra Cotta Warriors exceeded our expectations. Too much to try to describe here. Next, we flew to Chongqing on Hainan Airlines. It's the largest city in the world. We believed it when we rode through it. It was late in the day, so the building lights were coming on. Breathtaking! It was the first day of a holiday, so traffic was at a standstill. We finally got to the ship's boarding area at around 9pm. We had to descend a large, dangerous set of stairs which had no railing. Points off for Viking on this. We had a suite, # 508. It, along with every other aspect of the ship was just average. The ship is only 8 years old, but is quite worn. The service on the ship was excellent. The food was hit or miss. Everything needed salt, and I normally never salt my food. We had bought the Silver Spirits drink package and found that to be a waste, as we drank mostly the free-flow wine in the restaurant. The noise level in the restaurant was very high, probably due in part to the low ceiings on the ship. Very small fitness room with 2 treadmills, 2 bikes and 2 ellipticals....nothing else. The 6 day cruise was the most scenic cruise we've ever taken. Again, too much to try to describe here. Next, we flew on China Eastern to Shanghai. Exciting drive through this metropolis to the Westin Bund Center. Great hotel with good restaurants. Strange room setup, trying to be funky modern, but was rather dysfunctional. We toured the Yu Gardens and the Shanghai Museum. I'm not a museum person, but this one really appealed to me. It was very spacious and easy to get around.....and it was overwhelming! Finally we flew home on United, connecting in Chicago.....with less than two hours to clear customs and get to our connecting flight. Folks, don't let anyone do this to you. You need a minimum of 4 hours to do this. We barely made it, using the Mobile Passport app. In all, we highly recommend this trip, even though the actual ship is less than Viking's standards. Read Less
13 Helpful Votes
Sail Date: March 2019
My wife and I chose Viking - and, specifically, their "Imperial Jewels of China" itinerary, for our first trip to China. Overall, we are glad we did so. Though it was not without concerns and drawbacks. To be clear, the ... Read More
My wife and I chose Viking - and, specifically, their "Imperial Jewels of China" itinerary, for our first trip to China. Overall, we are glad we did so. Though it was not without concerns and drawbacks. To be clear, the experience of visiting China for more than two weeks was fabulous. We have been fortunate to travel well. This was probably our most interesting, brain-stimulating adventure. The scope of change and the pace and magnitude of development are astounding. As are the many inherent contradictions. While both my wife and I wrote extensively about our travels and observations, let me limit this to our Viking experience. Much of this review will focus on the shortcomings and concerns. But let me be clear that our experience was very positive in many, many respects. We were perhaps more adventurous than many in our group; but not adventurous enough to tackle two weeks in so foreign a place as China entirely on our own. Viking provided the opportunity and the structure for us to have this experience. A few notes on the positive side of the ledger. - Our guide, Kobe, was first-rate in so many ways. Others in our group who have been on more guided trips remarked that he was the best guide they had had - anywhere. He was knowledgeable, personable, able to relate to many unique and different people, focused on the details when he had to be, and someone whom it was always a pleasure to be around. - Viking gets very high marks for meticulous and detailed organization. There were roughly 200 people (almost all Americans, Canadians or Brits) on this journey, divided into eight groups of about 25 people each. This is no small undertaking and everything seemed to work seamlessly from our perspective. - The hotels at which we stayed in Beijing, Xi'an and Shanghai were all first-rate in all respects. - Through no fault of Viking, we had missed our day in Wuhan (called "the Chicago of the Orient") due to heavy fog on the Yangtze which forced all river traffic to hold in place for nearly 18 hours. Viking unexpectedly decided to make it up to everyone a day later by chartering a boat for a nighttime cruise of the Huangpu River through Shanghai. Seeing the Bund at night from the water was a real treat. Booking this for 200 people was a class move on Viking's part. I could go on with positives and compliments. But let me turn to the downsides which I hope will be more instructive for Viking. - Only six days of this 15-day trip involved the Yangtze cruise. Yet nearly all of the communications from Viking following our booking focused exclusively on the cruise. There was virtually no mention of the equally or more interesting land portion of the itinerary before and after. So much so that my wife and I checked into our Beijing hotel without really knowing where to meet or whom to contact. Viking would be advised to treat this as a unified, 15-day expedition instead of putting virtually all of the emphasis on the river piece. - We decided to fly into Beijing one day early to have 24 hours to explore on our own (as well as to sleep off a bit of jet lag). For this privilege, Viking charged us a $200 "deviation fee" ($100 per person). Yet Viking provided absolutely no services related to this "deviation". In fact, we had to book our own transport from the airport to the hotel at a price of roughly another $100. When I inquired of Viking's main office as to the rationale for the deviation charge, they really had no answer. - Of most annoyance to us and many others in our group, on four separate occasions Viking paired a buffet lunch (usually very average and nondescript) with some kind of factory showroom tour and controlled shopping opportunity. These were respectively for jade, tea, silk and terra cotta figurines. Clearly, this is a case of Viking getting reduced-cost or free lunches in return for bringing a captive audience to a showroom. From talking with others, Viking is apparently renown for this practice in many locales. That doesn't make it right or advisable or anything that I and others liked. - It would have been nice to have at least one or two unscheduled evenings and the chance to find dinner on our own. Especially in Beijing which is famous for its cuisine. On the whole, the food on this trip was decent and certainly plentiful but undistinguished. - The ship (the Emerald) was quite adequate, but past its prime and not up to Viking standards elsewhere. The dining room is ill-placed on the second level instead of up top with a view. The ceiling in the dining room is quite low which makes it very noisy and hot (with somewhat variable air conditioning). Our cabin was fine, but nothing more than that. Corridors are narrow and floors are somewhat uneven. There is really only one outside deck. A number of nooks and crannies which could make for nice sitting areas are instead given over to onboard merchants selling the usual Chinese fare at vastly inflated prices. I understand that much of this is a function of Viking being required to use Chinese ships. And that a new ship is under construction. Nonetheless... - I am familiar with the usual tipping procedure on cruises whether with Viking or other lines. But the process here was needlessly confusing. We try to be generous tippers, but the number that they added to our onboard bill was exorbitant. Also, there was an ambiguity as to whether this sum also included our guide for the full 15 days. We opted to reduce what we did for the ship's crew and to deal separately and privately with our excellent guide. - Lastly, this is a tricky one, but it needs to be said that our group (and seemingly each group) included people of widely varying physical abilities. Three of the 25 people in our group used wheelchairs or walkers. In no way am I suggesting that folks with such disabilities shouldn't be included in such trips. In fact, I admire their courage and tenacity in continuing such adventurous travel. (And I come with three joint replacements of my own.) But Viking should be more transparent with prospective guests as to the limitations this will cause for others. Why not attempt some selective grouping so that those who are more fit and adventurous can undertake and explore a bit more? That's more than enough. Again, let me make clear that the positive far outweighed the negative with respect to Viking and this trip. Despite the number of words I gave to each in this review. But there are plenty of each. Final word of advice: If you haven't been to China, go. Whether with Viking or some other group or on your own. It is a fascinating place and much of the future is taking shape there. Read Less
8 Helpful Votes
Sail Date: June 2018
My 90 year old mother chose this trip after taking Prague to Paris with the grandaughters. Its was wonderful. After reading the reviews, I was concerned about the physical aspects of the trip & reviewers discussing the difficulty of ... Read More
My 90 year old mother chose this trip after taking Prague to Paris with the grandaughters. Its was wonderful. After reading the reviews, I was concerned about the physical aspects of the trip & reviewers discussing the difficulty of the terrain & lack of access to those with disabilities. Keep in mind my mother walks at least a mile a day, rides an exercise bike regularly. She’s pretty salty for 90. To be safe, I contacted the travel agent 2x- who reassured me that this trip would not be a problem. Wrong, Wrong. So wrong. While this trip provided an excellent array of excursions to showcase China’s history, art, museum exhibits - that doesn’t help you if you can’t get there to see them. Our group’s guide James, who was a wealth of information- did his best to make arrangements for mom at the disembarkment spots but it was still too much. The stairs at every port were unbelievable- usually at least 90- so double that for the return trip. Add to that the heat & humidity in late June - brutal. All the Viking staff on shore & the ship were fabulous- courteous, knowledgeable, friendly- but apparently our travel agent dropped the ball. My mom was unable to enjoy several excursions( the ones she really wanted to see- the Great Wall, Terracotta Warriors, the Temple) due to exhaustion and knee & hip pain. There were other much younger cruisers who were grumbling about “boot camp” throughout the tour. Just make sure you are in decent shape and stay hydrated. Read Less
1 Helpful Vote
Sail Date: June 2018
We had never been to Asia, and the price for this cruise was very good. The hotels we stayed at were absolutely beautiful and top notch. The excursions were great, but there was a lot of down time flying from city to city. Overall, we ... Read More
We had never been to Asia, and the price for this cruise was very good. The hotels we stayed at were absolutely beautiful and top notch. The excursions were great, but there was a lot of down time flying from city to city. Overall, we felt it was a wonderful trip, but having been on Viking River Cruises before in Europe, and we have taken a Viking Ocean Cruise, we were disappointed in the ship. It was an old ship. The air conditioning did not work properly. Everything felt damp to the touch. The food and service onboard was outstanding, but I would never take another cruise on Viking to Asia unless I knew it was a Viking Ship that we would be on. The excursions were great, but when eating food off the ship, we were not impressed with the lazy susan style of lunches. At all locations, the food was the same. We weren't overly impressed with the Peking Duck dinner that we paid extra for either. Read Less
6 Helpful Votes
Sail Date: May 2018
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
It was a great experience, the guided tours to see Great Wall, Terra Cotta Warriors and Yangtze River 3 Gorges Dam were wonderful. The food and service onboard was very good. The hotels in different cities were 5 stars but eating food off ... Read More
It was a great experience, the guided tours to see Great Wall, Terra Cotta Warriors and Yangtze River 3 Gorges Dam were wonderful. The food and service onboard was very good. The hotels in different cities were 5 stars but eating food off the ship were not impressed at all. The food was the same family style at all cities/locations, for the price we paid for the tour, the offshore food quality is definitely below the Viking standard. The cabin is okay, when we onboard on the first day the room was so damp and with an unpleasant smell. My husband turned on the AC unit and it was fine when we retuned from outside. The transfers were included in our Viking tour price. When we arrived at the Shanghai airport, we were picked up by a seven passengers van with two other couples from other US cities. There was not enough room in the trunk to put all the luggage and they have to placed couple luggage in front of the sit, we felt very cramped and uncomfortable on our way to the hotel. Read Less
1 Helpful Vote
Sail Date: April 2018
We selected this cruise because we wanted to see the highlights of China. the itinerary which included a week on land and a week on the cruise took us to visit the major spots and gave us an overview of the country. Embarkation and ... Read More
We selected this cruise because we wanted to see the highlights of China. the itinerary which included a week on land and a week on the cruise took us to visit the major spots and gave us an overview of the country. Embarkation and disembarkation went well. Assistance getting luggage on board was helpful. Cabin was much nicer than expected. All meals were served nicely with a good variety of food. The entertainment on board was fun, mostly the crew performed and an outside orchestra and children's choir when in port. We found the overall service excellent. The shore excursions were very good but the groups were too big - our group was 34 people and that was a bit unwieldy. Our recommendation of no more than 20 per group. This was our first Viking River Cruise. We had previously taken a Viking Ocean Cruise and have signed up for another Ocean Cruise. Read Less
1 Helpful Vote
Sail Date: April 2018
I have traveled a lot but had never been to China. This cruise stops in several different cities and is a combination of river and land. The cruise was well organized and the food and entertainment were quite good. The activities on board ... Read More
I have traveled a lot but had never been to China. This cruise stops in several different cities and is a combination of river and land. The cruise was well organized and the food and entertainment were quite good. The activities on board were interesting and different than other cruises. All were centered around the Chinese culture. The stops on the land portion were interesting but the food was the same each day - large tables of the same Chinese food and it became a bit boring. We paid extra to go to Peking Duck dinner which was excellent and worth the extra price. The groups on the land portion were too large (38 people) per bus which made it difficult to hear the guide when we disembarked. The hotels we stayed in were excellent - really nice 4-5 star hotels. The cruise overall was very well organized. There were several buses for land portion and some of the guides were better than others. Overall, I think this trip is great value for the cost. Read Less
5 Helpful Votes
Sail Date: October 2017
Interesting but exhausting trip. 17 days is a long time which included 3 internal flights which were tiresome. A Highlight of the trip was our tour guide Ray. His amazing communication skills and A+ personality made the trip. Tibet was ... Read More
Interesting but exhausting trip. 17 days is a long time which included 3 internal flights which were tiresome. A Highlight of the trip was our tour guide Ray. His amazing communication skills and A+ personality made the trip. Tibet was another highlight. We arrived during a holy time so got to see the Buddhist pilgrims from the countryside. 6 of the 30 people on our tour to Tibet got altitude sickness and had to go to the in hotel clinic to get oxygen and medicine. They looked miserable and many missed a day in Tibet, so if your going you might want to consider getting the altitude pre medication available in the states before leaving home. The cruise portion down the Yangtze was pretty but there was lots of smog/pollution the first few days. Almost everywhere we went in China was very industrialized. It was interesting to see the huge buildings and people but the lack of any wildlife anywhere was a major bummer. Culturally a very rich trip, glad to have seen the Terra Cotta warriors and the Great Wall in person. The Hotels we stayed at for the land portion were luxurious, the Viking Emerald was nice, but did have an awful lot of gift shops on every floor, which made the atmosphere less than perfect. The food was good and as a vegetarian I always had choices. Read Less
4 Helpful Votes
Sail Date: September 2017
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
2 Helpful Votes
Sail Date: May 2017
We had an excellent experience with this, our third Viking cruise. We had land-based stays in Shanghai, xian, and Beijing. The hotels, which Viking had arranged, were fabulous, especially the Wyndem Grande in Xian. The ship, the ... Read More
We had an excellent experience with this, our third Viking cruise. We had land-based stays in Shanghai, xian, and Beijing. The hotels, which Viking had arranged, were fabulous, especially the Wyndem Grande in Xian. The ship, the Emerald, is not owned byViking, but it was quite nice. The bed was not the most comfortable, but there were a lot of nice amenities on board. The food, in general, was good, although we're got tired of the endless buffets. We appreciated the few times we could order more standard meals from a menu. The very best part of the cruise (and there were many, many great things to see on the excursions!) was Viking' practice of assigning a specific guide to a group of about 30 cruisers. Our group had only 28 people not, and our guide, Jack, was just wonderful! We were with him the entire trip, so we really got to know him, and he told us so many interesting things about China, and even a lot about himself and his family. No other guide has ever done that, in our experience. He really made China come alive for us. Ben, the cruise director(?), was also excellent and gave some extremely thorough and interesting talks and slideshows. Viking had arranged the air travel for us, as we also spent a few days on our own in Japan and South Korea, before and after the China portion of the trip. There were a few glitches, but all in all, everything worked out very well. I would recommend Viking cruises to anyone who likes to travel! We have cruised on many different ships, including Holland-American, Regent,, Oceania, Princess and Celebrity. We consider Viking River Cruises one of the best, because of its interesting itineraries. Read Less
3 Helpful Votes
Sail Date: March 2017
Wonderful experience from start to finish a fully escorted tour we couldn't have done this tour on our own our tour guide Leo was excellent in all aspects couldn't fault him in any way perfect English knowledgeable and good sense ... Read More
Wonderful experience from start to finish a fully escorted tour we couldn't have done this tour on our own our tour guide Leo was excellent in all aspects couldn't fault him in any way perfect English knowledgeable and good sense of humour.the hotels were all 5* and brilliant all. Excursions we well organised and informative.the cruise portion of our trip was also great the service in the restaurant was excellent the variety of food was good .the internal flights were all scheduled by top Chinese airlines and ran like clockwork some of our airlines could learn a thing or two.the only negative was the food every where without exception could have been hotter it was Luke warm at best .i wouldn't hesitate to recommend Viking river cruises to anyone I would certainly use them again next time we travel it gives you peace of mind .and security of big company Read Less
12 Helpful Votes
Sail Date: October 2016
Both my wife and I had been to Beijing, Shanghai and Xi'an before, so our main interest is the Three Gorges and the Panda base in Chengdu. One caution, Viking told us luggage allowance is very limited, so I dropped extra lenses for ... Read More
Both my wife and I had been to Beijing, Shanghai and Xi'an before, so our main interest is the Three Gorges and the Panda base in Chengdu. One caution, Viking told us luggage allowance is very limited, so I dropped extra lenses for my camera, removed warm layers for cold weather. Once we got there, first thing our tour escort told us was that we do not have to worry about luggage weight as we were doing group check-in, we do not even have to worry about hand-carry weight as we will never see the counter. Due to Viking's warning, I missed a lot of good shots because I removed my ultra wide lens from my luggage. Also, we had to buy extra clothes at a very expense mall (can you say Gucci or LV?) next to the hotel due to the cold weather in Beijing. We even had to buy an extra suitcase, though very cheap one, so we can bring our stuff home, I would not have to do that if I had used my slightly heavier international carry-on instead of a tote bag for the sake of saving weight. The good: The Three Gorges is beautiful, though it would have been much nicer if all the destroyed/flooded ancient structures were still around to be seen. Most hotels for the land tour are nice, with Westin in Chongqing and St. Regis in Chengdu being exceptional. However, food at pretty much all the hotels are not that good, we had better food in similar 5 star hotels in Vietnam and Cambodia. Domestic flights, everything was arranged, we never even saw the check-in counter. We just had to collect our passports and boarding passes and head for security check, very nice. For all 5 domestic flights, we only had to collect our own luggages twice, the rest of the time we just need to ID our luggages that were collected by the ground crew. The bad: Room is okay with the least closet space we've seen on cruise ships including the old one Viking uses for Vietnam. The food on the ship is okay but nothing to write home about. The food on the land cruise is terrible, we are Chinese and know the difference between good and bad Chinese food, authentic and American Chinese food. Viking picked below average American Chinese food in most places we stayed, for that matter, it was pretty much the same dishes everywhere we went. I guess it is for economic reason. I wish they would just let us pay our own bill on land, just take us to a place where we can make our own choice. Private transfer to/from airport. When we landed in Shanghai, the Viking guide was nowhere in sight at the arrival area. We walked around looking for someone with a Viking sign for at least 30 minutes and were about to take a cab. As a last resort, I walked up to a Four Seasons person and asked about transportation to the hotel, after 5 minutes of explaining, a girl ran up to us after she heard me mentioned Viking. She claimed to have been there for an hour but we sure did not see any Viking sign the whole time. When we were leaving for the airport, our tour escort sent 2 other passengers on our ride for free, though we paid 240.00 for that single transfer. I understand that there was extra room, but it is not fair to us as we had to pay. So arrange for your own limo ride. Read Less
7 Helpful Votes
Sail Date: May 2016
The cruise and the subsequent mainland tour covered most of the China tourist highlights (Yangtse Gorges, Dam, Panda Sanctuary, Terracotta Warriors, Great Wall, Forbidden City). Arrived in Shanghai, but did not really get sufficient time ... Read More
The cruise and the subsequent mainland tour covered most of the China tourist highlights (Yangtse Gorges, Dam, Panda Sanctuary, Terracotta Warriors, Great Wall, Forbidden City). Arrived in Shanghai, but did not really get sufficient time to explore and acquaint ourselves with the city. A trip on the high speed Maglev train would have been appreciated. Transfer to the ship at Wuhan was well organized. We had booked one of the two luxury suites - excellent in all respects, but perhaps more expensive than it deserved. Food was excellent; wine perfectly drinkable and generous. Entertainment minimal, although several talks were very informative and the quality of the entertainment by the crew was very good. Service could not be faulted either in the restaurant, the cabin or anywhere else on the ship. The trip to the local school was an eye-opener in terms of the class sizes and facilities, whilst the children and teachers were most welcoming. Trips involving the gorges were interesting, although the visit to the dam was rather less exciting since it was the wrong time of year to witness its operation and power. We were very unlucky with the weather - damp, misty or simply very wet - which perhaps coloured our impressions unfairly. Our major warning would be that we chose to do the cruise first and the mainland tour later, since this was the only way to visit the pandas. However, due to flight schedules we only had 90 minutes at most in the Sanctuary, which was almost hardly worth it, since no-one in their right mind would do the trip this way round, as the subsequent mainland tours were quite strenuous in terms of frequency and timings. To be fair, I would advise the Beijing to Shanghai itinerary rather than the Shanghai to Beijing route, since you would then have time to recover on the cruise. Read Less
5 Helpful Votes
Sail Date: May 2016
this was a Yangtze River cruise. We had time in Shanghai before leaving--great museum, would have liked a bit more time to explore city sights. Transition to ship was smooth--all Viking staff were terrific--extremely professional and ... Read More
this was a Yangtze River cruise. We had time in Shanghai before leaving--great museum, would have liked a bit more time to explore city sights. Transition to ship was smooth--all Viking staff were terrific--extremely professional and attentive to our needs. The ship staterooms were a bit tight, though comfortable enough. I liked the view from the ship and the various field trips. The workout room was a bit tight but the Tai Chi instructor was great--challenging and excellent workout each morning helped counteract the tight quarters and lots of food. Meals were enjoyable and the Officers and dining staff were incredibly responsive to requests, going out of their way to exceed all of our expectations. The on-ship programs were interesting and entertaining as well The river cruise was only a third of our trip, however. As a whole, this was definitely a 5-star tour, from our engaging and deeply knowledgeable guide, Patrick, to the outstanding hotel accommodations, to the inclusive tours and events and the few optional engagements--everything provided a thoughtful, insightful view of China and broad exposure to a fascinating country. Read Less
18 Helpful Votes
Sail Date: April 2016
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
4 Helpful Votes
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
7 Helpful Votes
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
7 Helpful Votes
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: March 2016
The cruise went to excellent ports, the tours were very informative and Arnold our tour guide throughout the cruise was excellent. He was very knowledgeable The junior suite was a good size. The food was good and the people that worked ... Read More
The cruise went to excellent ports, the tours were very informative and Arnold our tour guide throughout the cruise was excellent. He was very knowledgeable The junior suite was a good size. The food was good and the people that worked on the ship were very attentive. Everything was well organized and I would recommend this cruise to everyone including the extension to Hong Kong, China is a spectacular country and if I could I would return but I would rather explore other countries. The weather in March was neither cold nor hot just perfect. It was a wonderful experience. The entertainment on ship and the bartenders were great, The people in China are very friendly and respectful. We are going to take another Viking cruise in March. I also recommend the Prague to Budapest Viking cruise it was spectacular. Overal, The cruise met all our expectations and we had a wonderful time. Read Less
12 Helpful Votes
Sail Date: November 2015
This cruise was part of a 17 day tour, called Cultural Delights of China. We travelled up the Yangze River, stopping at cities and towns along the way. At each stop we had a tour. I have been on a Viking cruise in Europe, and this ... Read More
This cruise was part of a 17 day tour, called Cultural Delights of China. We travelled up the Yangze River, stopping at cities and towns along the way. At each stop we had a tour. I have been on a Viking cruise in Europe, and this cruise is different, partly because the ship is not a Viking ship, but owned by a Chinese company. 98% of the staff is Chinese, some with good English, some with passable English. Our tour began in Shanghai and ended in Beijing. We had a tour guide who travelled with us all of the way, and accompanied us on every tour. He was excellent and provided continuity for the entire trip. Because this is a river cruise, there are very few activities, compared to larger ocean cruise ships. However, is allowed us to see parts of China that many visitors never see. Read Less
25 Helpful Votes
Sail Date: October 2015
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 ... Read More
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. 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. 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. 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 cabin did not have universal adapter plug sockets (updated). You needed to use a travel adapter plug:  Outlet Type G (British BS-1363), Outlet Type I (Chinese CPCS-CCC), or Outlet Type A (Chinese Non-Grounded Class II). 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
16 Helpful Votes
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
5 Helpful Votes
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
Viking Emerald Ratings
Category Editor Member
Cabins 4.0 4.3
Dining 4.0 4.4
Entertainment 4.0 4.1
Public Rooms 4.0 4.4
Fitness Recreation 4.0 3.5
Family N/A 3.5
Shore Excursion 5.0 4.6
Enrichment 5.0 4.4
Service 4.0 4.7
Value For Money 4.0 4.5
Rates 4.0 4.2

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