2 Helpful Votes
Sail Date: March 2011
------------------------------------------------------------------------------ This is an unvarnished subjective review of my recent Viking river cruise on the Mekong on the RV Tonle. Viking is the most recent of a number of tour ... Read More
------------------------------------------------------------------------------ This is an unvarnished subjective review of my recent Viking river cruise on the Mekong on the RV Tonle. Viking is the most recent of a number of tour companies that contract the Pandaw river boats for their vacation packages. We had taken Viking cruises in China and Russia and enjoyed them very much, so we had no qualms about booking this one. We had to work with the Viking travel agent (TA) for several days before we finally obtained a sailing date that fit our schedule, although we put ourselves on a waiting list for several others. At this point communications with our TA ceased, as he no longer returned my phone calls or answered my emails. Other TA's could not, or would not give me any information about the wait lists, so I finally gave up and resigned myself to the March 19 sailing. The Generations visa service was expensive but efficient and I had no complaints. The air booking person was very helpful and made some modifications for me so I could leave Hanoi a day earlier due to a commitment here at home. I was also able to use some frequent flyer miles to upgrade to business class on the trans-pacific flight to and from Tokyo. By the time we landed in Saigon, it was 1030 PM and we were escorted to the hotel by our Viking representative and checked in by midnight. Thus, the first day of the tour was already over. The good news was that the Sofitel Saigon Plaza hotel in Saigon was wonderful, as were all the hotels on this vacation. Viking always does a great job in picking top-notch lodgings. We were escorted to the hotel by one of our two guides (Tom and Kong). Our guides were superb, spoke excellent English and did a good job in looking after our every need. There were 62 of us on the cruise. I would guess that the average age was about 70. Most were well-heeled, well- traveled, and well- educated. There were a few that should not have been on the trip due to mobility issues. Many of the tours require physical dexterity and good balance. The American Disabilities Act standards do not apply in Vietnam and Cambodia. I assume that they either did not read the caveats in the brochures or chose to ignore them. They ended up being a burden for our guides. Potential customers should use some common sense before booking a cruise such as this. My recommendations are as follows: If you use a cane to walk- Don't go. If you can't go at least 2 1/2 hours without going to the toilet-Don't go. If you have balance problems or vertigo-Don't go The Saigon tours were interesting, and included the Reunification Palace, Chinatown, a lacquer factory, Notre Dame Cathedral, and the central market. As expected, there was some force feeding of Communist propaganda during the excursions. The war museum was completely one-sided, as expected and featured some former South Vietnamese Air Force aircraft that had been repainted with USAF insignia. I failed to mention that I was the only Vietnam War combat veteran on the trip, having flown as a navigator in AC-130 Gunships, primarily in Cambodia. Since I had been based in Thailand, I had only seen Cambodia from the air. When we ceased operations in August 1973, we knew it was only a matter if time until the Khmer Rouge took over the country, but we never foresaw the genocide that was to come under Pol Pot. At that time no one even knew about Pol Pot. Our guides tried to tip-toe around the politics, but had to toe the party line, at least in Vietnam. That evening, we were transported to the Rex Hotel for a nice fixed menu dinner and cultural dance presentation. After a sumptuous breakfast, we were transported to the ship via bus and greeted by the friendly crew of the RV Tonle. The accommodations were comfortable, but not luxurious. Bottled water was freely dispensed for drinking and tooth brushing. The dinner and lunch menus varied between quite good to acceptable. The French influence was quite evident in the baguettes and other breads. The most memorable dinners included lamb, salmon and fried chicken. The breakfast buffet was wonderful, with many options. I think they did the best they could with the products that they could obtain. Local beer and well drinks were always free and complimentary South African wine was liberally dispensed at dinner. The Vietnamese and Cambodian beers were quite good, as was the white wine. I thought the red wine was dreadful, but my fellow passengers seemed to like it very much. The house liquors were mainly Philippine products. I only tried the house Vodka once and felt that it would have been more appropriate as a paint thinner. There were also reasonably priced premium beer, wine and liquor options. In the evening, there were history lectures and classic movies that were related to some of the sites we visited. Complimentary Wi-Fi was available once we crossed into Cambodia, but you had to be in the library lounge to connect. I just used my I-pod to get my web mail, rather than bringing a laptop. Regarding tipping, the guides suggested that we pay $100 per couple up front for all the tips for the local guides, bus drivers, small boat operators, etc. so we wouldn't be nickeled and dimed throughout the cruise. Most thought this was a good idea and went along with it. I also gave extra tips to the Cambodian and Vietnamese local guides who were very good. The ship tips come to around $150-170 per couple for the cruise, which you can put on a Visa or Mastercard . AMEX is not accepted onboard. Also I tipped my tour guide (Kong) about $170 at the end of the tour. It's also a good idea to bring 50-100 one dollar bills for souvenirs. High end shops and hotels take all credit cards. The dollar is the preferred currency in Cambodia and Vietnam, so there is no need to ever exchange dollars for local currencies. ATMs even dispense dollars in Cambodia. The bottom line is that you should bring about $500 cash with you. The ship and hotels all have room safes and crime seems to be almost non-existent. The tours along the Mekong were pretty much as advertised in the brochure. We were able to see and appreciate the daily lives of Vietnamese and Cambodian farmers, brick makers and fishermen. These people work very long hours for almost nothing, live in squalor, yet seem to be as happy and dignified as any millionaire on the boat. Smiling, friendly children abound everywhere. Some are looking for a hand-out, some are selling stuff, and some are just curious. Along the way, we were able to experience a variety of transportation methods, including Rickshaws and Tuk-Tuks . Many of the tours required tricky transfers onto small skiffs. During the seven days on the ship, we saw a lot of villages, Wats, orphanages, and markets. Our tour guide had worked at the notorious S-21 torture center in Phnom Penh as a small child after his parents were executed by Pol Pot. Over 2 million Cambodians were killed in the genocide. The visit to the killing fields was powerful and emotional. The bones of victims continue to surface all around the area. We could see them everywhere. I now have no regrets about my role in fighting the Khmer Rouge in 1973, other than the fact that we didn't finish the job. Perhaps, the most poignant moment for me was at Wat Hanchey in Cambodia where I saw a Buddhist monk ring a gong that was made out of the bomb casing of an unexploded US Mark 82, 500 lb bomb. Now I knew the war was really over. After disembarking, we took a five hour bus ride to Siem Reap with only one "happy house" rest stop. Fortunately, we were warned by the guides, so I was able load up on enough Immodium and lomotil to keep my "Ho Chi Minh's revenge" under control for the journey. Quite a few of the passengers had some intestinal distress that seemed to be exacerbated by the anti-malarial medication, which I stopped taking after a few days. Mosquitoes were few and far between and I think that frequent applications of DEET 30 lotion is enough protection against Malaria and Dengue fever for this tour. At Siem Reap, we checked into the stunning Sofitel Phokeetra Royal Angora Golf and Spa resort. This is one of the most beautiful and luxurious hotels I have ever seen. The rooms, service and food were outstanding. Tours of various temples including the famous Angkor Wat were amazing but the tours required quite a bit of agility to complete. Safety is not a high priority here, although the guides did their best to make sure we didn't get hurt. We also saw the mysterious Taprohm Temple which was featured in the Tomb Raider movie. Reluctantly, we finally checked out of the hotel to fly to Hanoi. Unfortunately, the flight didn't arrive in Hanoi until about 1100 PM so we didn't get to the hotel until after midnight. Once again, poor scheduling meant that we only had a few hours of sleep in the Sofitel Metropole hotel before resuming the tours. The Hotel was wonderful and the tours were good, except for the Hanoi Hilton, which was just a propaganda event. We also went to the Ho Chi Minh mausoleum, but I was the only passenger to decline viewing the long deceased and stuffed dictator. We had a nice farewell dinner the last night, bid adieu to our new group of friends, jumped into a cab the guide procured for us, and headed to the Hanoi airport. This was the trip of a lifetime and we are still trying to process everything that happened. I know that I glossed over a lot of details about the food and tours, and I think I really shortchanged the hardworking crew of the RV Tonle. The only English word they didn't seem to know was "no". I highly recommend this to those who prize adventure over luxury. Despite the minor problems encountered, we remain loyal Viking customers. I'm just getting a different travel agent next time. Read Less
Sail Date: May 2011
It was a no brainer to chose Viking for our trip to China since our European trip from Budapest to Amsterdam was so successful. Service is our main reason to travel the Viking way. We also love the intimacy of a small ship along with ... Read More
It was a no brainer to chose Viking for our trip to China since our European trip from Budapest to Amsterdam was so successful. Service is our main reason to travel the Viking way. We also love the intimacy of a small ship along with the relaxed dress code. Food and drink was another factor. We enjoyed the cuisine and non-alcoholic drinks. Guides, housekeeping and waitstaff were superior. Cabins utilize every inch of space wisely. Open seating is critical to my husband and I since we make friends along the way. This setup allows us to invite new friends for a meal together and to join some of the other passengers we haven't met yet. We must reiterate the wonderful job the guides do. They treat us so well they become like "family". I trusted his experience explicitly and time and time again he never let us down. The amount of hours he worked in the evening and early in the morning showed us how dedicated to excellence your employees are. It is easy to recommend Viking to friends and family. We want them to have the same wonderful memories that make us two our your biggest fans. I hope to continue exploring new vistas aboard your ships. Russia is on our wishlist for Fall, 2012. See you soon. Read Less
1 Helpful Vote
Sail Date: May 2011
This was our second Viking River cruise. The first was unfavorable due to a missing luggage issue and there was absolutely no help from the ships hotel or cruise directors getting it back to us in 10 days despite the fact it was at the ... Read More
This was our second Viking River cruise. The first was unfavorable due to a missing luggage issue and there was absolutely no help from the ships hotel or cruise directors getting it back to us in 10 days despite the fact it was at the airport one hour after we arrived. The Tulips and Windmills cruise, absent this luggage and uncaring staff problem was very good so we thought we would try China using Viking. We booked a suite at a $3000 premium and that was a big mistake. As you might have seen in other reviews this ship is not up to any western or Viking standard at all. The suites are on deck five and to start the floor and walls are very uneven. The steel deck plates are sloping and have uneven places where they overlap and / or were welded. The bedroom sloped 2" just in the space of the king beds headboard (6 feet) and we "fell" downhill from the door to the window. My guess is that there was a 6 to 8 inch drop in the length of the room. We asked for and received another room which was not quite as bad but still had a slope issue (the bed was more level than in room 508). The hall was in the middle of the ship and even there you could feel the welds and deck-plate waviness under the carpet. Most people had trouble walking, especially after cocktail hour. The shower in our "better" room (511) was so uneven that the water did not flow to the drain, it stood in a big puddle in the back of the shower where you had to step out. The shower door rolled downhill and had to be engaged just so to keep it in place. Generally poor construction quality and with no use of levels or plumb-bobs in the construction process. Gaps, saw cuts in the woodwork to repair issues and other poor fit and finish items were commonplace. The deck five suites are a mess. Now, the air conditioning. During the five days on the ship AC was a major problem on deck 5. The temperature in our room (during May) was in the 80's and by electronic measurement by the staff, the "cool" air blowing into the room measured at and above 80 degrees F. For five days the suite passengers at times stood in the hall on Deck five while staff tried to fix the problem. We found this was not a new problem for just our cruise and some staff said this ship "was not up to Viking standards". We complained about the heat the entire trip while the rest of the passengers complained that the ship was too cold. It was cold in fact as they had lowered the temperature trying to placate deck 5. Basically the cold air that was available was not making it to the deck five air ducts. On day one they brought in a supplemental "air conditioner" to our room. It was a small unit (similar in size and shape to a dehumidifier) which blew air across a small bucket of ice cubes that we had to request be refilled several ties a day. NOTE - passenger direct access to ice is not available. It helped a small amount if you sat in front of the substitute "AC Unit" but it increased the humidity making it feel worse anywhere else in the room. Needless to say, curtains had to be closed to eliminate solar-heat gain. A not-so-nice nice touch if you want to see the sights along the river. After day three and a lot of complaints, I noted the cabin across from us had a full stock of these units filling the room. This was a known issue! Highest priced cabins had no adequate temperature control and were not level. Side issue but not the way I would handle a land / river cruise combo: While we were highest category customers (other than the Presidential Suite), the only upgrade for the cruise was to the worst set of cabins - large saunas described above. During the rest of the trip we were given no "upgrade" treatment. Starting with seats on the planes - luck of the draw I assume. Note there are many intra-China flights on this "cruise". It took several different regular-scheduled passenger planes to ferry us around on this land / cruise trip. Some of the 150 or so passengers were assigned to first class, some got aisle seats and some had to sit in the middle seats. In most cases we personally had the worst seats. In the hotels, we had average rooms but many on the tour got the "luck of the draw" in some cases with much better views or hallway locations. It seems to me that for a 12-day trip after paying 40% more than most others for a higher category, we would be in a waiting list to be among those getting any available better rooms or seats on the plane. Viking does not see it this way yet they could work this small problem. I personally would make every effort to give a little something extra to my highest paying customers. China is polluted. We saw blue sky on our total 16 days there while in the airplanes above the smog or while in Hong Kong which was clear. The people there are very nice. Too much Chinese food however. The guides for the most part were good. The tours were good. So, we enjoyed the trip, especially the Guilin / Hong Kong extension but the ship is not adequate, especially deck five and the upgrade fee for the sauna-suites is for only five days, not twelve. I am sure if I had paid the many thousands less and had one of the regular cabins this would have been a much better trip. Read Less
Sail Date: June 2011
My wife and I had been interested in China from a social, economic, and tourist perspective for many years, but did not visit due to concerns about the language barrier, governmental issues, and quality of services. We are in our 50s and ... Read More
My wife and I had been interested in China from a social, economic, and tourist perspective for many years, but did not visit due to concerns about the language barrier, governmental issues, and quality of services. We are in our 50s and 60s, and have extensively travelled, but none of our previous travels prepared us for the reality and wonderful experiences of China on our Viking River Cruise. We began our journey in Shanghai, and arrived a few days early to see the city and surrounding areas. The Pu-dong Hilton's concierge arranged a car to retrieve us from the airport, checked us in at our room, and helped with other trips. The Hilton's people provided excellent service, and wonderful food and lodging. Shanghai was a reality check for us, since it is such a major city with high-end shopping and modern buildings juxtaposed with the old Shanghai and Bund area. The architecture was beautiful in both areas and blended the old and new China. A new "Luxury" temple with huge wooden beams and precious metals was under construction in the middle of Shanghai, while the old temple was on a side street, albeit well visited and filled with the aroma of incense, and both well worth the trip. One thing we anticipated, and quickly realized, is that in many places including rural areas, bathrooms may not be to the same standard as the US, so it is worthwhile to have a supply of packaged wipes. For transportation, we would ride a taxi or bus to reduce travel time for longer trips, and then walk for hours. We received cautions about watching for pick pockets, but did not experience any issues. We could move around the city for just a few dollars equivalent. Language was not an issue with transportation, except taxis, and concierge and door men handled this by giving us cards to provide instructions for the return trip to taxi drivers. Buses required coins to ride. The Pu-dong area is a high-end part of Shanghai. Fashion appeared to be very important for women and to a lesser extent men. We visited a high rise mega-mall filled with shoppers of all ages, but mostly female, laden with bags of their purchases from luxury stores. I just wanted a new set of sandals, and it was an easy purchase. I identified the style and multiple sales people (all young women) measured my feet, paid with a credit card, and then returned to the sales desk to retrieve my sandals. The sales people were very friendly, and we can truly say that everyone we met in China was friendly and helpful to us at all times. We transferred to the Shanghai Shangri-La hotel to meet our Viking River Cruise tour group. Viking utilized excellent hotels throughout our journey, and the Shangri-La brand hotels we experienced in Shanghai, Guilin, and Hong Kong were the best. We applied for the Shangri-La loyalty program, since it allowed us to obtain cash at a lower cost than ATMs. Be sure to take advantage of breakfast at the Shangri-La (especially Shanghai); it is a culinary adventure. In addition, meals were a fun event that provided an opportunity to meet new people and enjoy different foods. Most of the lunches and dinners on shore were served lazy susan (family style) while others were buffet style. This provided an excellent opportunity to taste the food, if not familiar, and eat more of what you like. Also, all meals were casual, so no suits or ties needed, although the Beijing Opera was smart casual. At the first night meeting, we received an assignment with Francis Yang as our tour guide. Mr. Yang led the group that was going on to Guilin and Hong Kong after departing Beijing. Mr. Yang took good care of us at all times and made our journey, easy, pleasant, and safe. Mr. Yang anticipated our needs, and was the best tour guide we have experienced in our travels. We still occasionally communicate via email. We will forever be "Francis Group" and move on with a wave of the raised Viking pennant. We toured Shanghai as a group seeing silk and carpet factories, museums, acrobats, and more, and then flew to Wuhan to board the Viking Emerald to begin our journey on the Yangtze. Mr. Yang provided our airline tickets, handled all of the luggage arrangements, and escorted us through airport security with ease, and made sure everyone arrived in good shape. We learned about the Viking shopping guarantee for purchased items, and it was true because the merchant replaced an item at no cost after we received it in damaged condition. The Viking Emerald was a modern and extremely clean ship. We had a stateroom with veranda that provided us with views ranging from tranquil scenery, cities, and factories, to an occasional hydrofoil streaming along the Yangtze. The veranda was a great place to take pictures, relax and enjoy the experience together. The Viking Emerald crew was friendly, strived to learn our names and to deliver outstanding service. We utilized the on-board laundry, and were pleased with the service and low cost. There certainly is no need to over-pack for this trip. There were many high points of our cruise on the Yangtze including visiting a museum. temple, and Viking-partnered elementary school, but going through and touring Three Gorges Dam was the highlight. To go though the dam was an awe inspiring experience, especially after having learned about its history and seeing relocated villages along the Yangtze. Chongqing was our disembarkation city, and a city of 30 million people. The Viking Emerald tied up to a floating dock a couple hundred feet from shore. It was a wonderful experience to see local farmers hand-carrying produce and other foods to the ship for its return trip. The farmers also handled the ship's baggage and would carry a passenger, if desired. We flew from Chongqing to Xian, where we saw the Terra Cotta Army and Pandas. There was still excavation and reconstruction of soldiers underway at the Terra Cotta Army site. The Pandas were great fun, and zoo a wonderful place for people of all ages. We moved on to Beijing, visited the Great Wall and jade factory on one day, and then Tienanmen Square and Forbidden City the next day. The anticipation was high for our tour to the Great Wall because there initially was fog in the mountains that acted like a curtain, and then lifted later in the morning. To be on the Wall was like being at a festival with traditionally clothed bands marching and people helping one another to take pictures to remember their visits. Tienanmen Square and Forbidden City were huge sites that displayed much about the history and culture of China. It was hot in June and this day required stamina and plenty of hydration to keep going. We went to the Beijing Opera and to a restaurant specializing in Peking duck for dinner. Both were pleasant experiences, and the opera was much different than Western opera. We moved on with another flight to Guilin, which was an area filled with magical landscapes of towering mountains, low river-lined valleys, and farms like in Chinese paintings. A day cruise along the river with lunch on-board ship gave a closeup experience that produced many great memories and pictures. Our last stop was Hong Long, and there was plenty of free time. We toured the city on foot, and went to Macau for an afternoon. The trip to Macau on a fast ferry was an event itself, and it was interesting to see the island. The only substantial delay we experienced during our entire trip was a half day with a return flight home from Hong Kong due to a medical emergency on the inbound US flight. Viking representatives helped us with options and escorted us to the airport. After a very hard working Delta Airlines representative finalized our arrangements, we checked our carry-on baggage at a secure storage locker and used this day to visit Lantau Island and a fishing village outside of Hong Kong to see dragon boat races. Everyone should hope for a delayed flight because the experience is priceless on Lantau with the 4-mile cable car ride to its peak. Our Viking River Cruise tour was a a wonderful life experience, where we enjoyed ourselves and learned so much about other people, their country, culture, and history. All of the Viking team members we encountered delivered excellent service, and especially Francis Yang our tour guide. The Viking Emerald and all transportation were in top shape and extremely clean. We would highly recommend Viking River Cruises based upon our experience. Read Less
Sail Date: July 2011
We took the most fantastic river cruise in China! I would recommend the Viking River Cruises for anyone wanting to get the biggest bang for their buck on a trip to China. We had wonderful land accommodations in Beijing and Shanghai and the ... Read More
We took the most fantastic river cruise in China! I would recommend the Viking River Cruises for anyone wanting to get the biggest bang for their buck on a trip to China. We had wonderful land accommodations in Beijing and Shanghai and the rooms on the Viking Emerald were great. The food was wonderful as well with many choices. The service was exceptional. The tour guides were the best! They really made the trip-they organized every tour with precise detail and eye toward every persons' comfort; each guide spoke very good English and were there for you on the ship, in the hotels and on the tours. No request was too big or small for them to work on. They will take care of translations, advice on food, shopping and local customs. It was a most incredible trip. We saw and did so much: walking the Great Wall, seeing the Terracotta Warriors and the most wonderful museums! When we left China, we felt we had really seen a good representation of the country in 2 weeks. I would not go to China on any other cruise line than Viking. They have a great depth of contacts. Once we were held up in traffic getting to the airport when our group leader, the great James!, called the airport and they held the plane for us! Talk about service! The airport and hotel check ins were handled expertly-we never touched our baggage even when checking in to the airport or to the hotel! We have always been happy with Viking River Cruises and we expect to go on more! Read Less
2 Helpful Votes
Sail Date: August 2011
Flight was ok, flew connecting through Toronto (continental) to Air Canada first class. No problems going there, food was all right, dinner was pretty good on the plane, breakfast not so much. Service very good, but not the best, booked ... Read More
Flight was ok, flew connecting through Toronto (continental) to Air Canada first class. No problems going there, food was all right, dinner was pretty good on the plane, breakfast not so much. Service very good, but not the best, booked through Viking Air. Arrive in Shanghai to find the Viking crew standing outside, and we were told to wait at an ATM machine as they were waiting on other guests. We waited there for close to 50 minutes (what's that saying about first impressions?). Finally after 20 hours of flying we got on the bus to go to the Portman Ritz. Upon arrival Daniel, our tour guide for the entire trip, proceeded to help us get a smoking room and welcomed us. The hotel was wonderful, and we ate in the Chinese restaurant attached to the hotel. Very good, and something that is easy to miss in this hotel is the 2nd floor bar, where they have live jazz every night from about 8pm till midnight. Also this bar is half smoking, half non-smoking, and it seemed like no one was on the non-smoking side all the night we were there. The next day, we woke up nice and early to go touring. First we go to some sort of garden, it was very nice looking, and we got some free time to visit the merchants. After that we stopped on the Bund to look at the river and skyline. Then we were brought to the first "Tourist Trap", the embroidery "factory", which was mostly a store with pushy salesman, and a restaurant in the back. The food was mediocre at best, and Chinese (which you learned to hate by the end). After this we went to the Shanghai museum that had some interesting coins and jade pieces, but it was nothing to go nuts about, definitely worth a visit though, and was one of the authentic highlights of Shanghai. At night, we went to an Acrobat show, which was quite good, but between the jet lag, and touring all day, it was very difficult to stay awake. The following day we were transitioning to the airport to go Wuhan, but not before we got to just one more "Tourist Trap" in Shanghai. That morning we went to the rug-making factory (woke up nice and early for it too). It had 2 people making rugs when you first walk in, then a shopping area easily 10 times the size of the "factory". We had a box lunch, which could not be consumed. We flew to Wuhan, which took off about an hour late and went to a Provincial museum with a remains of a tomb. Definitely a highlight of the trip, and was quite amazing. We heard them play the bells from the tomb. Which was quite nice. We then went to board our ship, the Viking Emerald. Once on board the ship, we realized this is no cruise like we from the United States are used to. They have no food for long stretches of the day except peanuts, and ramen noodles, however for some reason they offered an all you can drink policy for a very reasonable price (I believe $175 for 4 days, but included premiums like Grey Goose and Hennessey). The room was cruise ship small, but about the same as any regular cruise boat. There was no smoking lounge anywhere, so smokers beware in the bad weather. While there was a Chinese BBQ on the back of the ship, it went completely unused, and the only reason we knew it existed was due to the large sign saying BBQ with pictures of food, that looked considerably better than the food you were eating the whole trip. While on the boat we encountered many poor dishes, and it made me dream of such splendid meals by the great American chef, Colonel Sanders, whose food quality is outstanding compared to his trip (please note, I find KFC to be repulsive). I however digress as we did eventually make it to a KFC next to the Great Wall, not because there weren't good restaurants near the wall, as I am sure there were, but out of desperation for something familiar. The boat did feature a very inexpensive and nice spa, that was a plus, but they offered no enrichment activities, and the biggest show of the week was the crew talent show, which consisted of Chinese chefs trying to sing which in polite terms, reminded me of watching a prison rodeo on TV, where all the prisoners kept smiling while being attacked by a bull. The Yangtze was very beautiful however, and many of the sites we saw were very good. This includes The Three Gorges, which were stunning, the Dam, the locks, and a beautiful pagoda on a hillside. These tours were quite well executed except for one stop, involving the Viking School. The Viking School was an absolute disgrace that should give great shame to Viking. This insulting school "sponsored" by Viking, consisted of the kids acting as a tourist attraction, in an overly run down school made of depressing of cement, with pictures of the Great Leaders of China on the walls. There is a broken basketball hoop in the courtyard however, and it is questionable the amount of donation Viking has actually made to this school. If I had to guess it was no more than a $1000, and I am pretty sure the buses the arranged to go visit the school outweigh their donation every year. Not only was the condition of the school extraordinarily bad, it was depressing in and of itself to be at such a horrid place on vacation. This may be cold-hearted, but the Chinese people chose to have a communist government, and therefore deserve their communist school, capitalism does not need to fund it, and frankly the funding that Viking gives to the school makes capitalism look bad. But I digress. After leaving the river cruise we went to a cruise see the pandas, which was ok, and had another awful lunch in a hotel. What was amazing about all of our food stops, is that they only provided you with one glass of soda, and refills could be purchased. For the $14,000 that we paid (without airfare), one would think that soda would be reasonably included. After we flew to Xi'an where we greeted with the Terra Cotta Warriors. This was the highlight of the trip that everyone should see. It was truly fascinating and awesome. They gave us an adequate amount of time there, and it did not feel rushed. That evening we decided to leave our tour (as we really did not want to give Viking any more money), and g to dinner by ourselves. We went to Huili Japanese Restaurant, as suggested by our Amex Concierge. We hired a hotel limo (Kempinski Hotel) for $80 for 4 hours (a brand new BMW 750li), and went downtown for the evening. Our tour guide seemed surprised that we would wander off on our own, but this seemed more like a sales pitch for the event that evening they were upselling. We had a wonderful meal at Huili and would recommend it to anyone. It was the 2nd best meal we had the whole trip. Our meal came to $38 Dollars including tip, and consisted of 7 courses each, and 4 extra large beers. They do not speak English however, but with the help of my phone, we used Google Translate to tell them what we wanted, and it worked perfectly. We then stopped at a Wal-Mart just to see the difference between a U.S. Wal-Mart and a Chinese Wal-Mart. The next day we flew to Beijing for the last part of our pre-extension trip. We were brought to the "least visited" part of the wall, which felt like the most visited part of the wall. It was packed with tourists, and there is a place where all the tour guides hang all their flags in front of the gift shop next to the KFC, and rows of tourist traps, and I counted at least 15 flags. If you are looking for a private and intimate experience with one of the world's great wonders, look at other tours. After we had our "lunch of local specialties" which consisted of us being paraded through another tourist trap jade factory place, to the back where they had a huge dining room with 10 different tour groups. At this place we had a meal we could not consume, and I was about 30 seconds away from standing up and screaming, but didn't, as many of the people on our trip were clearly trying to make the best of their vacation. I will explain why they did not seem to care later, but once again I digress. We then went to see a recital by the Peking Opera performers, where the duck was quite good, and the performance was quite bad. It was unbelievably annoying and I do not recommend it. We stayed at the Regent hotel in Beijing, where the service was quite excellent, and the hotel was beautiful. When we woke up, we went to see Tiananmen Square and the Forbidden City in extreme heat, and while it was quite fascinating the heat got to me after a while, and of course someone got lost in the group and it took us an hour to find them because they did not have an international cell phone. We then skipped their "lunch" which I am sure was at some sort of tourist trap, and we went for lunch and dinner on our own at the hotel, not trusting the food of Viking any longer. The next day we flew to Guilin to being our Hong Kong extension. In Guilin we stayed at the Shangri-La, which had wonderful food, and our meals were in the hotel. We went down riverboats once again and experienced the 5-hour trip down the river, in what seemed like part 2 of the Three Gorges. It was truly a waste of time, and we would have appreciated an extra day in Hong Kong. When we did reach Hong Kong, the trip was more to our pace. There was a small introductory tour in the beginning that brought you to the major sites and 2 days of free time, where we had custom suits made, wonderful dinners on our own, and we even took a jet boat to Macau. This was the highlight of our whole trip, and we realized the reason why... Viking wasn't there to mess it up. While I could not mention everything in the above post, I can say that there were many things we learned from this trip. We learned that as we are seasoned travelers, who have been to over 41 countries, we do not need a corny tour to show what is good, and at the price we paid, could have arranged everything using private cars, first class flights, and our own restaurant preferences. The average Viking guests are traveling upper middle classes, with little to no demands or requests. There are many teachers, retired factory managers, etc. on the trip of their lives, and it shows. There are no repeat performances, there is no chance they would ever come back to China, and this is their dream trip. They are afraid of the unknown, and the tour guide engages this perfectly. This is not a cruise like Crystal, where you discuss the other 40 countries you have been to, or compare notes and complaints compared to other trips you have been on. This group of travelers creates an issue, as they do not demand the service that a truly affluent traveler knows to demand. While this may sound incredibly snobby, it is simply true, which is why I believe there are so many positive reviews of this trip. This trip brought us to 4 tourist traps, which were applauded by the guests around us, while I longingly looked out the windows at the true culture we were missing. We were squished onto crowded planes for short domestic flights of 4 hours after delays (which our tour guide told us were quite common in China), and not made aware that we urgently needed to upgrade to first class (after all, if we had booked it ourselves, it would have been first class, but because they were only supposed to be 1 hour trips, we didn't go through the effort). Looking back however, this trip would not be appropriate to upgrade to first class, as you would likely outcast yourself from the rest of the travelers. This compared to Crystal where it seemed like an echo on the one flight we took from St. Petersburg to Russia, as to why they did not offer a first class option. This trip is not for the well seasoned, and overall is not a very good trip. The food is repulsive for the entire trip, and we found when we got home we spent nearly $1,000 feeding ourselves. The loads of corny jokes from the tour guides such as "my cousins help you with your bags" and "my cousins have blocked the internet" were sad and desperate attempts, that made me feel like I was in a really crappy travel comedy film you watch during a Tuesday afternoon rain delay for a 3rd rate baseball city. You really need to consider anyone else, or consider doing it on your own, you should be more than able to considering the service provided by the hotel we stayed at. This trip was pathetic, and easily the worst trip I have ever taken, but since I like to end on a positive note, all the hotels were very nice, but Viking did not own them (or the ship for that matter). Also, you never had to handle your bags, as they had porters at every stop (which our tour guide referred to as cousins). Read Less
Sail Date: September 2011
This was a trip of a lifetime. We chose Viking River Cruises after enjoying their Waterways of the Czars cruise. Our main guide was very knowledgeable and engaging young man. His sense of humor and his care to all of us was outstanding. ... Read More
This was a trip of a lifetime. We chose Viking River Cruises after enjoying their Waterways of the Czars cruise. Our main guide was very knowledgeable and engaging young man. His sense of humor and his care to all of us was outstanding. What a great way to see the Great Wall of China and Tiananmen Square. Our hotels in Beijing, Xian, and Shanghai were 5 star. Our buses were clean. We had a lower cabin on the boat but the it was identical to the upper deck ones. It also had a veranda. The views were still awesome on the lower level but we usually stayed on the upper deck when cruising. The staff entertained us one night ; they were so talented!! They knew your name after the first night of the cruise. The Li River and Guilin are not to be missed. It is just like the old China that we remembered from pictures in magazines. Hong Kong was exciting to see also. We did most of it with another couple who had been before and knew the ropes. Viking takes care of their passengers. Several people needed medical care and the guides stayed with them, assisting in the language differences and transportation issues. Absolutely no complaints with this wonderful cruise line from food to accommodations to every aspect of our trip. We are taking our third cruise with Viking and will stay with them in the future!! Read Less
2 Helpful Votes
Sail Date: September 2011
I just returned from Viking River Cruises' Imperial Jewels of China, September 18 -- 30, 2011. This is a once in a life time kind of trip. I am rather disappointed with the misrepresentations by Viking River Cruises. Viking River ... Read More
I just returned from Viking River Cruises' Imperial Jewels of China, September 18 -- 30, 2011. This is a once in a life time kind of trip. I am rather disappointed with the misrepresentations by Viking River Cruises. Viking River Cruises brochure touted the "Viking Emerald" as the "Yangtze's most elegant and newest ship." It was definitely not an elegant or luxury cruise ship by any stretch of the imagination. The carpeting in the hallway was uneven. There were little crawly creatures and cockroach in the bathroom. According to the Program Director, Iowa Xian, Viking River Cruises bought the ship from Century two years ago, a Chinese company. As a matter of fact, all onboard literature referred to the ship as "The Viking Century Emerald." The ship's captain and crew were Chinese. The captain did not speak English. There was no professional staff or entertainment. The Program Director was a Tour Escort turned Program Director, and who openly expressed desire to return to his old job as tour escort. There was not even a theatre or show room. They just put up chairs in the so called "Observation Lounge" on Deck 5. Presentations were displayed on a stand-up projection screen. The same set up for movie viewing (The Last Emperor.) The menu choices were limited. I asked for an entrée without potatoes. I was told it could not be done. I was asked to pick from a stand-by choice of chicken or salmon. I asked for Eggs Benedict without the Hollandaise sauce. After waiting for 30 minutes, I was given a poached egg, period! It opened to question on the skills of the kitchen staff! This is definitely not worth the price Viking River Cruises is charging for the trip. I am also very disappointed with Viking River Cruises customer service. I booked directly with Viking when they had a 2-for-1 sale. I was shocked to see that they charged foreign transaction fee on my deposit. Later, I gave the booking to a travel agent, and did not have to pay any more foreign transaction fee. The customer should be informed about the foreign transaction fee. I could have used a different credit card which did not charge foreign transaction fees. The Customer Service personnel at the toll-free number provided misinformation. I was told that they used small planes of 50 passengers and therefore must stick to luggage weight restrictions. This was far from truth. We flew on regularly scheduled commercial flights. It turned out that the best part of the intra-China flights was that we never had to handle our own luggage and no worry about luggage allowance. The tour escort had "nice cousins." Read Less
1 Helpful Vote
Sail Date: September 2011
I have to start ou by saying that the Viking River Cruise Roof of the World is not just a cruise, but a land expedition as well. This is NOT a trip for anyone who has trouble walking or is disabled. China is NOT a handicapped accessible ... Read More
I have to start ou by saying that the Viking River Cruise Roof of the World is not just a cruise, but a land expedition as well. This is NOT a trip for anyone who has trouble walking or is disabled. China is NOT a handicapped accessible country. We started out with a grueling 16 hour flight from the New York area and flew into Beijing. We were met by our Viking Guide, Terry Lei and I cannot say enough good things about our guide! His English was flawless, his sense of humor great and his knowledge astounding. We had three days in Beijing where. We went to Tiananmen Square and the Forbidden City there was a alot of walking and then after a local lunch we went to the Summer Palace which was incredible but entailed a lot more walking. That night we had dinner in our hotel and I should mention all our hotels were 5 star hotels and simply the best after walking all day! With the exception of your hotels, you MUST carry your own toilet paper and hand sanitizer with you at all times! Restaurants, public buildings, etc DO NOT have toilet paper, and often did not have soap or paper towels to dry your hands. Up early the next day and off to The Great Wall at Badaling and much to my surprise involved walking up lots of steps and very steep inclines. The wall offers incredible views and it was just amazing ro see. Another local lunch and then we went to the Ming tombs started in 1436 there are 36 huge stone statues. You walk the length of the Sacred Way. Yes, there has been lots of walking! Dinner was Peking Duck and then the Peking Opera. Fantastic! Net day up early once again to the Hutong Alleys, we rode a rickshaw and had a lovely visit with a local family. we saw the Great Wall- which had a considerable amount of walking mostly uphill and up fairly steep stairs. We also visited Tianamin Square and the forbidden CityThen we flew about 1 /2 hours to Xian. here we finally had a few hours to rest before we went to dinner and saw the Tang Dynasty Show. Another wonder experience. Up early and off to see the Terra Cotta Warriors.I cannot even begin to tell you how fantastic this was and the buildings housing the warriors are HUGE! Local dim sum dinner and then off to Xian's night market. Back at our hotel quite late but had to get up at 4:30AM to catch our flight to Lhasa, Tibet. A 4 1/2 hour flight later saw us land in Lhasa. We were told to take diamox (prescription) 48 hours before getting to Tibet, some did, some did not, we all felt the altitude. Two people in our group needed medical assistance ( our guide Terry) was on call for all of us 24/7. The next morning all but one of our 16 were able to ontinue. But you DO KNOW you are not breathing right. Hotels have oxygen in all the rooms. To Jokhang Square and the Palace. More walking and we all were going slow do to the elevation. It is. 12500 feet. Highest city in the world. Lots of great shopping for prayer wheels, prayer beads and scarves. then to the Sera Monestary some of our group opted to stay in the bus rather than walk up the steep hill to the monastery itself. Lots of pilgrims and monks here. Dinner at the Mad Yak where we were treated to another show that was quite interesting. Net day the Potola Palace once home of the Dali Lama. Beautiful building with 365 steep steps o the top. Lots of our group did not make it, steps were steep, uneven and you were constantly short of breath due to the elevation. Got to relax at a local families home where we were served yak butter tea and snacks. Then off to the Museum. Now we fly 3 hours to Chongquing where we board our cruise down the Yangtze River. Now here is where I get a bit critical. once the bus stops, you take your carry ons and climb down 86or so steps to the water level then you walk across floating pontoons to board the ship. REALLY. the locals actually carry your suitcases on their backs, one at a time down the steps and across the pontoons to the ship. Honestly, there must be a better way! The Emerald ship itself was fine, staterooms were fairly roomy and every room has a balcony. I was a bit disappointed in the cruise lines dinner selections, we had already had several days of local Chinese food and I had hoped that there would be more food to choose from they did offer chicken Breast, but other than that food served was Chinese. (not Americanized Chinese food either). The cruise was relaxing and every day we had some shore tour, temples, schools, three gorges dam and locks, a secondary cruise on the Daning River. Our guide stayed with us the entire cruise also. The cruise part was five days and we ended the cruise in Wushan and then flew to Shanghai. Shanghai was one of the highlights that I did not expect. Just and incredible city. We extended our cruise with a side trip with Viking and our tour guide also. Flew to Guilin where we went on another river trip on the Li River. Then we flew to Hong Kong. 21 days and 9 flights later we were tired and ready to head home. The trip was fatastic and I think everyone that is able bodied should do this. But there is a LOT of walking a LOT of steps and the altitude posed a problem for everyone in our group some more than others but we all felt it! Would go on another Viking Tour in a minute. Loved Viking! Read Less
Sail Date: October 2011
While the cruise portion of the entire trip was only 5 days of the whole 11 or so day trip, my review will touch on the land portion in addition to the river portion. This is our 4th cruise on Viking, and we have also done 5 ... Read More
While the cruise portion of the entire trip was only 5 days of the whole 11 or so day trip, my review will touch on the land portion in addition to the river portion. This is our 4th cruise on Viking, and we have also done 5 "ocean" cruises with other companies (Oceania being our favorite). The Viking Century Emerald is a new ship, and the largest and nicest of the ones we've been on with Viking. The cabin we had (standard, 2nd deck) was spacious, with plenty of room for our clothes, a very nice bathroom, and a small balcony. The public rooms are beautiful, and there is a small fitness center, a couple stores with various things to buy, and a computer room with 8 computers (hard-wired and wifi). Wifi is available around the computer area. I believe there was a small beauty shop, too, but I didn't check that out, and an infirmary. I really didn't use anything but the restaurant, computer room, and outside areas (for photography) so I can't really comment on all areas or services. However, my husband got a foot massage and was very happy with it, including the price. You can have clothes cleaned and/or pressed, and my husband had 2 golf shirts washed. The price was reasonable. The food was reasonably good - sometimes great, sometimes only so-so, but overall good but not fantastic. If you don't like the choices offered for lunch (buffet and menu offerings) or dinner (menu offerings) you can order one of the "always available" items. My husband had the steak, which he found good but not fantastic, and I had the salmon, which was excellent. For breakfast, there is a variety of stuff - made to order omelets, French Toast, oatmeal, etc. The staff is wonderful, and they greet you by name, even if you've only sat at their station once before. You can sit wherever you want, with whomever you want. Dinner is served at an announced time - usually 7 or 7:30, and the same is true for lunch (usually noon); however, if you come a little late, they are very accommodating about that. Staff members, from person who cleans your cabin, to program director, to ship's captain, are fantastic - very personable, eager to please, and yes, they speak English, except for the Captain, anyway! If you're a past Viking cruiser, you'll be invited to a special cocktail party to meet the bigwigs. The passengers were a nice mix of mostly Americans, with some Europeans and at least one New Zealander. The average age was probably 55 or 60, but there WAS a smattering of younger folks as well as a smattering of 70'ish folks. One very minor complaint we had about the ship was that the dining room was quite noisy compared to the dining rooms we had been on in previous Viking ships. This ship is a big one, with more pax than we had traveled with when on Viking, and so we found the noise level a little bothersome. However, given all the plusses for this ship, and the whole Viking experience, the noise level was a minor thing. Another minor complaint was that the computers in the computer room (8) tended to be a bit quirky and slow - but given that we were on a river in the middle of the Yangtze, that was understandable. If you wanted to be alone on the ship, that was certainly possible, with a couple outdoor areas as well as indoor that were lightly populated. There is not a lot of entertainment at night, but we didn't feel that was needed, as we were pretty tired by the end of the day! There were lectures and some entertainment during the day - the things I participated in were quite good, especially the lectures. There were TV programs and movies on the TV in the cabin. I didn't watch much, but my husband did. I'm not a drinker or shopper, so can't comment on the bar or store areas. I didn't use the fitness center, but boy, with all the walking on the Imperial Jewels trip, I felt no need to use it in the first place! Embarkation and disembarkation were easy and smooth, including disembarkation for the trips ashore. As to the trip itself (Shanghai to Beijing on the Imperial Jewels trip), it was great. You see and do a lot, and get pretty tired doing it! The first few days were a little disappointing, as Shanghai is basically not as charming as Beijing, and the jet lag was killing us. Also, the Yangtze in the eastern part of the trip (Wuhan going west to Chongqing) is very commercial, and after cruising more alluring rivers like the Rhine and Mosel, a bit of a letdown. Beijing and Xi'an were fantastic, and I personally loved the day at the Shiboazhai (spelling?) temple. The 3 internal flights were perfectly adequate, and the food provided off-ship was quite good, although I have to admit I got tired of Chinese food! The organization of the tour was truly ten star, as were the hotels used. Our tour escort (Shan Shan) proved to be a national treasure, arranging everything perfectly, and looking out for us in very crowded cities and environments. Viking divides you into groups of about 30 or 35, with one tour escort assigned to you for the whole trip. You meet the tour escort in Shanghai and then travel with him/her to all of the cities/places you visit, including the days on the Emerald. I would highly recommend Viking, and this tour, to just about anyone. It is more escorted and orchestrated than the other Viking cruises we've been on, with little free time, but in a country like China, that is probably a very good thing. Few people speak English, the traffic is awful, and many things are completely unfamiliar, making traveling on your own a daunting task. The Emerald is top notch, especially for a river ship, and the combination of land and river touring, while a bit exhausting, is a nice combination. Read Less
Sail Date: October 2011
Starting in Shanghai, the hotel was excellent, Pudong Shangri-La. A little on the expensive side, e.g. a martini, a Bailey's and coffee, and a small dessert was $55 where as dinner near by was only $35 for two including drinks. The ... Read More
Starting in Shanghai, the hotel was excellent, Pudong Shangri-La. A little on the expensive side, e.g. a martini, a Bailey's and coffee, and a small dessert was $55 where as dinner near by was only $35 for two including drinks. The guide was superior, excellent command of the English language and a very good understanding of American customs. In all, there were 3 flights in China. The guide demonstrated his expertise in managing the group of 36 with ease. Flights were nothing special but clean and well organized. Upon boarding the ship, the crew welcomed us with smiles and energy. Staterooms all had balconies and were well taken care of by the staff. Food on board was generally fine, family style was generally done with a big lazy susan for the 10/table. The waiters and waitresses were very good in paying attention to the guests and seeing to the needs. The bar had an exceptional variety of liquors, wines, and beers. I would suggest buying the beverage package if you would drink the equivalent of 2 martinis/day. Entertainment on board was good. On two nights we were treated with the crew performing for us and this was a real treat. Not only did we know our crew but marvelled in how well they performed on stage, nothing short of amazing. During the cruise, we visited the school supported by Viking River Cruises. I wished someone had informed us of this, for we would have brought some little gifts for the students. We arrived at the school on a Saturday and about half the student body come to school on their day off to perform for us and join us in their classrooms. It was fun seeing them. Disembarking from the ship, we went to the zoo in Chongqing. Of course, seeing pandas was the treat. At the end of the zoo tour, we visited an art shop on the zoo grounds and there were some fantastic pieces to buy. Not particularly inexpensive but very well done. Upon arrival in Xian, the hotel, Golden Flower by Shangri-La, was nice, not quite as nice as in Shanghai but clean. Visiting the Terra Cotta Warriors was the next treat. It was amazing how our guide was able to herd cats wandering about, but with skill he managed that feat. Following Xian, we arrived in Beijing. Our arrival at the hotel, Westin Chaoyang, was not a pleasant experience. To put it bluntly, if they offered me a suite for as long as I wished, I would not stay there again. It was a 5 star room with 2 star service. To begin with, the large number of guests arriving had to enter the hotel from the rear. Instead of the guides being allowed to pick up our room keys and hand them out to us, the hotel insisted each of us check in individually. Long lines, with initially only one clerk, and no seats in the lobby. A number of the guests were elderly and standing in a line was not something they would want to do. When we finally got our room key, we were on a floor requiring the room key to be placed in the elevator so to access our floor. It didn't work! A person from the hotel had to use his pass key to allow us to punch in our floor. The key did work in the room door but not the elevator which required a second trip to the front desk to be ignored for a while by staff. Like I said, I would find it difficult to accept even a free room at this hotel. One of the optional thing in Beijing was the Peking Duck Dinner. Forget that. If you have ever had Peking Duck before you will find this is like going to a burger joint and ordering Kobe steak. The dinner was the absolute worse on the whole trip. I will mention though that I was asked by Viking River Cruises how I like my trip and if I had any comments. I mentioned the poor dinner and they refunded me the charge. The trip to the Forbidden City was amazing. Again, the guide was able to keep us all in check and help us maneuver this large place. The trip to the Summer Palace was a little disappointing and would not have been missed by anyone if we hadn't gone. The trip to the Great Wall was yet another marvel. I cannot say enough good things about our guide who helped us in every way possible. One small thing on a personal note, we collect coins from countries we visit to be mounted. Going to China proved to be a place where we thought this hobby would be easily completed. It wasn't. Finding coins proved to be a very difficult task. Finding a bank to manage this was also difficult. Our guide did help with finding coins but I did not get all of them. Overall, the cruise was a surprise for us who were first time Viking guests. The guide made our stay in China feel like we were welcome. We did have an event while on the river cruise portion of the trip. A man became ill and the guide escorted him and his wife ashore to the hospital. There was an issue with the small hospital and dealing with Americans. The guide made contact with the Embassy and worked with them to get the man moved to a larger city with better facilities. At one point, we thought they would rejoin us, but as we neared the end of the tour, we were told on our daily briefings on them that he may not survive. Viking flew their son to China. The good news is that he recovered and was well enough to fly back to the States 2 weeks later. The guide took personal charge of seeing to their needs allowing other guides to manage his group for him. This personal service was well appreciated. The crew on the ship was equally wonderful. There were only two things to avoid, the Peking Duck dinner and the Westin Chaoyang Hotel. Read Less
Sail Date: October 2011
This was a land and river escorted tour beginning in Shanghai for 2 nights and flying to Wuhan to board the ship, sailing for 5 nights on the Yangtze, disembarking in Chongqing, flying to Xian for an overnight and then flying to Beijing ... Read More
This was a land and river escorted tour beginning in Shanghai for 2 nights and flying to Wuhan to board the ship, sailing for 5 nights on the Yangtze, disembarking in Chongqing, flying to Xian for an overnight and then flying to Beijing for 3 nights. Accommodations: In Shanghai, the Pudong Shangri-La was superior. 5 star rooms, 5 star service. The riverboat was surprisingly excellent for a riverboat. Clean, superb staff catering to the needs of passengers. All cabins had balconies. Crew members at two occasions performed for the guests and did a better job than some of the paid performances attended on the tour. In Xian, the Golden Flower Hotel was excellent. Not quite as nice as Shanghai 4 star, but service was 5 star. In Beijing, Westin Chaoyan was the worst experienced in a long time. 5 star rooms, 1 star service. The tour guides were not allowed by the hotel to pick up room keys forcing all guests to register. 5 bus loads of guests arrived being forced to enter from the rear making a poor impression from the start. The one receptionist had difficulty registering guests and was finally joined by others to move the process along. Many elderly guests had to stand in line to register, for there were no chairs in the lobby for them. Once the room key card was given, there was a problem accessing the elevator to the upper floors. Above the 17th floor, the key card was required to punch in the floor. The elevator assistant had to enter the elevator to use his master card in order to get to the floor. The key did work for the room. The key card had to be returned to the desk for a new one, provided with no apology for the inconvenience of the guest. The staff at the Westin appeared to care less about guests' requests. A request for Chinese coins was met with frowns and "your bothering me, boy" attitude. Meals at the hotel were very good. The tour escort: The guide assigned to the group of 36 had an excellent command of the English language and culture. He was able to understand and answer questions with ease, some quite difficult questions about culture. He appeared to treat each guest as a friend and took care to ensure our trip was pleasurable. On the river cruise, one couple experienced medical problems. The gentleman was seen by the doctor on board and referred ashore for treatment. The escort departed the ship with the couple, acted as translator and assistant. He worked with the US Embassy to arrange medical treatment and accommodations. The seriousness of the medical problem prevented the couple from rejoining the tour. The guide rejoined the tour after about 2 days. The fellow tour guides filled in for him during his absence and were good to us. The guide provided us daily reports of the status of the gentleman. The fear that he had a 50-50 chance of living resulted in the cruise line flying their son to China. [As a note: he did recover and flew back to the States about 2 weeks after the tour was over.] Excursions: All were included in the tour except two. They were very exciting and informative. Being able to really see the rural aspect of China was limited and was mostly tourist spots and large cities. The cruise line does support one local school along the river in Yueyang. This was about a close to seeing the "real" China as we got. Half of the school children came to school on a Saturday, a day off for them, to greet us, give us a performance, and then join us in their classroom. This was very nice. Of course, the Terra Cotta soldiers in Xian and the Great Wall & Forbidden City were the reasons for going to China. The side trip to the Summer Palace was dull. The two optional excursions were the Tang Dynasty Dinner & Show in Xian and the Peking Duck Dinner & Peking Opera in Beijing. The Tang Dynasty event was excellent and well worth the cost. It is highly recommended. On the other hand, the Peking Duck Dinner was the worst meal had in China. Having had Peking duck dinners before, this one was a joke. Each guest was given a few slivers of duck breast along with lots of common dishes that were poorly presented and lacked the quality of even street food. The Peking Opera was not to my liking but if one likes opera, it would be of interest. We were ushered into the opera after the dinner and seated at the "VIP" tables instead of in seats with the rest of the audience. Snacks were provided along with tea. Only the tangerine were worth eating. Being bored by the opera and not having anything to do caused more boredom. It was not the way to end one's trip to China. If one were to collect coins from countries visited, in China one must start trying to obtain them upon arrival. They are not worth much and are not used in the main hotels. There is little free time to find an open bank either. My effort resulted in only about 2/3 of the types of coins used and took the entire tour to get 4 of the 6 coins. Viking River Cruises read my critique of the tour. I was refunded the price for the Peking Duck Dinner [if one had the nerve to call it that]. This was unexpected and appreciated. Since I collect coins and many in our group had young ones back home that would be thrilled to get Chinese coins, I suggested that the company give each guest some coins as a gift. One of each coin would cost them less than $0.30 and would be something the kids would appreciate back home. Read Less
Sail Date: October 2011
When my friend and I embarked in the Viking Emerald I immediately noticed that it was much bigger than the Viking Europe and I felt that we were welcomed with much enthusiasm. The welcoming group were all smiles and we were even allowed to ... Read More
When my friend and I embarked in the Viking Emerald I immediately noticed that it was much bigger than the Viking Europe and I felt that we were welcomed with much enthusiasm. The welcoming group were all smiles and we were even allowed to beat the drums while other passengers were coming on board. Wow! There was also an elevator and even if we were in the lowest category cabin, there was a veranda, too. The cabin was much bigger and there was enough room for our luggages under the bed. The waiters/waitresses were more active & attentive and they themselves were the entertainers (dancers) during the post dinner shows. Sad to say, the cruise itself was somewhat boring due to the weather. Maybe I picked the wrong season. Or maybe the agent whom I asked suggested the wrong month (October) for me. It was always foggy. I couldn't appreciate the view from our veranda. I have to delete most of the pictures I have taken. Worst of all, I just heard the roaring of the Three Gorges Dam and never saw it due to the thick fog. All the other iteneraries were spectacular especially the Terra Cotta Army & the Great Wall. We were glad to have joined the optional tour to Hongkong and Guilin. Guilin was marvelous. If I have another opportunity, I would love to go back but next time, maybe on a summer month. Way to go Viking! Read Less
Sail Date: November 2011
We opted for the longer cruise and would probably opt for the shorter version knowing what we do now. The ship is fine, our room was a spacious "Junior Suite" we were with friends who had one of the very large ... Read More
We opted for the longer cruise and would probably opt for the shorter version knowing what we do now. The ship is fine, our room was a spacious "Junior Suite" we were with friends who had one of the very large "Explorer's Suite" it was wonderful with wrap around windows and decks. Though we've only experienced much larger ships with many more amenities this ship had many places to go and do things. The dining room was at times loud with the engines as noted in other reviews. The food was rarely good, most everyone complained and often sent theirs back. I found the always available salmon to be reliably excellent and my partner often ordered pasta with mushrooms which he liked. Its true that the crew is extraordinary and they remembered so many of our names, Lois was a standout. The Viking system of keeping 30 some tourists together with one guide works very well and the guides work very hard to make sure everything goes according to plan, ours even wrote his cell phone # on the back of all of our name tags in case there was an emergency (this worked well for someone who got lost on one excursion). Beware that Viking says you are allowed a max baggage of 44 lbs but never mentions it also must be one bag only (all four in our group had 2 bags each with total weigths under the limit but we were charged for the extra bag when we flew on the extension to Hong Kong) Viking booked us in to fantastically luxurious hotels, the Regent in Beijing was the most outstanding. The downside was how dirty and polluted the cities and river were for the cruise portion, many of the docking situations are pretty ugly (even if you go out to see something wonderful away from the boat)it can be smelly, dank and grim. The extra extension to Guilin has one of the best highlights of the trip, a cruise down the gorgeous Li River - this is amazing, beautiful, clean and serene through one of earth's most gorgeous places - a great departure from the somewhat rushed hustle bustle of most of the trip. Its a trip well worth making but it does incorporates many highs and lows due to the nature of China itself. I recommend Viking, as others have mentioned this would be impossible to book on your own and you will see a lot in a short period of time all while being "handled" by capable staff. Read Less
Sail Date: March 2012
I would recommend this cruise to anyone who wants to see China and is a little daunted by the idea of doing it on your own. Viking handles everything, including your flights to China, your transfers from the airport, everything. The land ... Read More
I would recommend this cruise to anyone who wants to see China and is a little daunted by the idea of doing it on your own. Viking handles everything, including your flights to China, your transfers from the airport, everything. The land portion of the cruise was top notch, all 5 star hotels. The days on land, because of the touring, were long, but you get to see a lot. The same guide stays with you throughout the duration of the trip. All of your excursions are included in the cost. What a fabulous way to see a foreign country. The only negative I have to give this trip was viking dept that books the airfare. I booked my cruise with my mother, we both live in the same city. They booked her on a separate flight to china from me. When we called to get it fixed, we were told that there was nothing they could do, it was a non refundable flight. They said that this would be considered 'custom' and we should have paid a $50 fee (when we booked). Of course, our travel agent (On Line Vacations - I'll never use them again). So after many phone calls and escalations, they conceded to change the flight at a $150 fee to my mother. So that left a bad impression and wasn't a great way to start. When we checked where our seats were on the aircraft, viking literally books you in the cheapest seats they can find. On my flight to and from china I was in the very back row next to the lavatories. Imagine 14 hours of listening to the toilet flush. So, all said, you can call the airline directly and move yourseat up to somewhere else in coach at an additional coast assuming there are seats available, but you may not be able to get a seat with your traveling companion. Despite the negative with the flights it was still a great trip and I would recommend it to anyone. Just make sure that if you have two couples booking together that you pay the $50 bucks (and you might have to bring it up yourself as they didn't tell us about it) if you want to travel together. Otherwise, you may be taking separate flights to china. Read Less
Sail Date: March 2012
This being our first trip to China, we had no idea what to expect. I strongly suggest anyone that is a novice cruiser to read reviews, comments and hints via Cruise Critic. It was so helpful for us with all the questions we had. It was ... Read More
This being our first trip to China, we had no idea what to expect. I strongly suggest anyone that is a novice cruiser to read reviews, comments and hints via Cruise Critic. It was so helpful for us with all the questions we had. It was a very fast paced tour//criuise with so much to see and do. We did not get much sleep and were always up early. (Our choice, did not want to miss a thing). The most challenging for us was my slow walking and some limitations. However, our tour guide was always watching out for me, and getting me a wheelchair or access to elevators whenever possible. The embarkation onto the Emerald at Chongqing was a nightmare! Narrow crumbling 100+ small steps with no railings. I had a porter under each arm and carrying my carry-on luggage down those steps. We were quoted a price and then the porters held us "hostage" for 10 times that amount. Viking needs to make sure that the guests that need this assistance keep them honest! The Viking Emerald was a very nice ship - liked having our own balcony. There was a nice variety of foods - the waitresses were very attentive and quick to get you anything special that you might need. The staterooms were a comfortable size. Seems that everyone on the ship was getting colds - after being told to leave the door to the balcony open rather than using the air conditioner - guess spreading bugs around, would help. A little late for us, we had to visit the ship's doctor - which our tour guide helped translate our illnesses for the doctor. I loved walking on the Great Wall with snow on the ground! Slippery, but what a site. We saw so much, too many to mention. Our guide was adept at getting us to the tour locations early, to avoid the long lines and crowds of people. The local food was good, lots of variety - just need to watch out for the very small bones in a lot of their local fish. Not a lot of activities on board the ship, but a nice selection - from Chinese lessons to a wonderful performance by the staff! It was definitely a trip of a life time for us - glad we were able to see so much of China and the extended trip to Guilin and Hong Kong. Read Less
Sail Date: March 2012
Our visit to China --- traveling with a group of 8 --- was an excellent travel experience. We booked our flight through Viking, connected (from DCA) to a Continental flight from Newark nonstop to Shanghai. We flew business class and ... Read More
Our visit to China --- traveling with a group of 8 --- was an excellent travel experience. We booked our flight through Viking, connected (from DCA) to a Continental flight from Newark nonstop to Shanghai. We flew business class and enjoyed the benefit of a terrific cabin crew. Viking booked our land portion into mostly Shangri La Hotels, which were top notch (Five star quality). The Regent in Beijing matched the others. Shanghai and Beijing are not to be missed cities. The cruise portion on the Yangtze provided full and fulfilling days in several ports. This was our first experience with a tour guide who accompanied us the entire trip. The guide's name is Jessie Xu, and she was a winner. All of the shore excursions were learning experiences, though fewer shopping experiences would have pleased me. The local guides were very good except in Chongquin and Mt. Jiu Hua, but here Jessie, recognizing the problem, filled in the gaps. A different and refreshing stop was Jingzhou, where we visited third graders in one of the elementary schools that Viking supports. The Viking Emerald was well-configured, and the staff were terrific. Many of the wait staff were lined up on the ramp to shore to bid us good day as we departed on excursions and again to welcome us back on board. In fact, the wait staff probably was the hardest working wait staff I've encountered in nearly 25 cruises. Several of them, together with other employees, not only performed various cultural dances and songs in addition to their regular duties but did so at near professional caliber. Our stateroom was ample in size and comfortable. Shipboard entertainment was quite enjoyable, and the Cruise Director's talks on the Chinese culture and history were well prepared, well delivered and well received. The one deficiency of this cruise was the dining room. Too many passengers; too much hubbub; wait staff stretched thin (corrected somewhat after a conversation with the maitre' d). Overall, the food was not up to Viking standards. The breakfast buffet was fine, and lunches were acceptable. Dinners, however, were another story. We had to send items back to the kitchen on more than one occasion, and this was the first time I was forced to order off the fixed menu (steak, salmon, etc.) rather the daily menus. Even the Chinese food failed the taste test. We added a post cruise visit to Guilin and Hong Kong. Guilin is a city that warranted additional time, but in any event was an enjoyable stop that inclued a cruise on the Li River. As we expected, Hong Kong had changed markedly since our visit there 40+ years ago. The trip extension included about a six-hour tour of Hong Kong, which really showed these changes. We were booked into Shangri La Hotels in both cities. Here, also Jessie was everpresent with guidance and advice. This is not a relaxing trip but is definitely a worthwhile one. Read Less
Sail Date: April 2012
This river cruise offered fascinating insights into China. The food was good, staff great and accomodations comfortable. Viking offboat activities were OK -could have been better since they were a bit commercial. The offboat food was OK ... Read More
This river cruise offered fascinating insights into China. The food was good, staff great and accomodations comfortable. Viking offboat activities were OK -could have been better since they were a bit commercial. The offboat food was OK but NOT great. As a groupd of six we enjoyed ourselves on our own on several nights. The boat was clean and relaxing; minimal activities but the scenery (after we reached the first dam (from Shamghai to Beijing) was wonderful; prior to that it was very commercial shipping etc. That's the nature of the Yangtze River. The Three Gorges Dam was interesting. Their Beijing tours were better than Shanghai. All hotels were 4-5 star although some are not in the central part of the local cities... check that before you book. Read Less
Sail Date: April 2012
The Imperial Jewels cruise from Beijing to Shanghai was our second trip with Viking. After cruising with them on the Danube, my expectations were very high. They were exceeded in every way from booking through our return flight home. I ... Read More
The Imperial Jewels cruise from Beijing to Shanghai was our second trip with Viking. After cruising with them on the Danube, my expectations were very high. They were exceeded in every way from booking through our return flight home. I made our reservation direct with Viking including airfare. By using the Viking Air Plus Service, we were able to confirm the direct flights we wanted as soon as they were available from the airline. Even 320 days in advance, Viking's response to my request was 'no problem'. The other advantage of booking airfare through Viking was the included transfers and extra night in Beijing. About 6 months before departure we were notified that our hotels were the Ritz Financial District in Beijing, Westin in Xian, and Portman Ritz in Shanghai. All three were ultra plush with outstanding rooms, food, and concierge services. Checking in and out was seamless. We never had to wait for keys. Luggage always seemed to take a little longer but it was never a big deal. We arrived in Beijing on a rainy Tuesday afternoon and were greeted by Viking as soon as we exited customs. Those scenes of Beijing with thousands of bicycles are long gone. They have been replaced by horrible traffic jams. Since the official tour program didn't start till Thursday morning we had an extra evening and full day to explore on our own -- something we are very comfortable doing. Tuesday's rain led to a beautiful blue sky on Wednesday. We took the subway to the Temple of Heaven complex which is a huge park area with several different ornate temple structures. The temples are spectacular but the added bonus was all the locals doing Tai Chi, playing cards, singing and dancing. They really take advantage of the beautiful park. There were more locals there than tourists. We then took the Subway back to the hotel to meet up with some friends for lunch at the Whampoa Club. It's an old courtyard house in the middle of new office buildings about 3 blocks from the Ritz. The Concierge made us a reservation but none of us was prepared for the 'WOW' factor of this place. We had a huge fancy private room just off the main courtyard. It had a sitting area and a big round table set for only 4. The food was probably the best local food we had on the trip and that's saying a lot. After raving about the clean, efficient, and cheap Subway (about 32 cents one way anywhere in the system) we all headed for the Lama Monastery. It's a huge complex of buildings and courtyards and also very interesting. We were really glad we took the subway because the rush hour traffic was in full swing. We heard from others that it was an hour plus to get back to the hotel. There are only 2 optional tours in this itinerary: Peking Duck & Opera in Beijing; and Tang Dynasty Dinner & Show in Xian. Based on other reviews we decided against the Opera. So Wednesday evening we went to 'Duck de Chine' for Peking Duck. We were going to go someplace else but the Concierge said that this was really the best place. They were roasting the ducks over wood fires which made the restaurant smell really good. It was an older courtyard building that was probably originally someone's house. We ordered a duck and broccoli with Garlic. It was more than plenty for 2. The duck comes with pancakes, little sesame buns, hoisin sauce, and some thinly sliced radish, carrot, and celery. When the duck is presented they bang a gong and announce 'Your Duck has arrived'. The chef then carved it at our table and arranged it on 2 plates with the trimmed meat under the crisp, but still greasy skin. It was a terrific dinner and we were glad we had a chance to try the famous duck. But I also think it's an experience that doesn't need to be repeated. Viking assigns a guide to a group for the entire trip. Thursday morning we met Daniel and the other 26 people in our group. Since you travel together, tour together, and mostly eat together you tend to get pretty attached to your group. Daniel was outstanding and I can't imagine any guide being better. Fortunately we didn't have any problem individuals in our group. Everyone was good about meeting times and moved at a decent pace. Plus the VOX headsets they use make guided tours a pleasure as you don't have to gather around close to hear the guide. All aspects of the tours and meals in Beijing went like clockwork. The sites are amazing, big, and crowded. But timing is everything and we tended to visit the sights early before the crowds of Chinese tourist became overwhelming. This was especially true at the Great Wall where we had the section toward Mongolia almost to ourselves. As we were leaving, hundreds of Chinese School groups were charging toward us. Timing is everything! Our blue skies were long gone as every day the smog got progressively worse. By the time we left Beijing on Saturday you could barely see a few blocks down the street. Our morning Rickshaw ride was really fun and tour of the Hutongs very interesting. It really showed the contrast between the old neighborhoods and the new high rise apartments. We then had an afternoon flight to Xian and the Tang Dynasty show that night. Everyone who attended both shows said the Tang Dinner & Show was ten-times better than the Duck & Opera. We definitely made the right choice. The next morning we headed out early to the Terra Cotta Warriors. Once again, timing is everything and we were in and out before it got really crowded. Even the guides remarked that they expected heavier crowds. We were then off on a flight to Chongqing to meet up with the Viking Emerald. The flights within China were always easy due to both our guide and the Viking staff. Luggage disappeared then reappeared without us having to do anything. Daniel always had our boarding passes so once we got through security all we had to do was walk on the plane. All the flights were about 1.5 hours and wait time was much less than if we'd been on our own. The Viking Emerald was new to Viking in 2011 but was an older ship that was totally refurbished. Everything about the ship was fantastic including the food and wine at dinner. They poured Beringer Chardonnay and Cabernet as their house wine. It flowed freely at both lunch and dinner -- in addition to beer. The breakfast buffet had a huge variety of items and always included Chinese specialties like noodles and dumplings. Eggs, omelets, French toast, and pancakes were prepared in the dining room by 4 or so cooks. The only item ordered from the kitchen was Eggs Benedict, which we had several times. Lunch had 3 entree choices in addition to the soup, salad bar, buffet items and Chinese options. Dinner also had 3 appetizer, entree, and dessert choices. Plus you could always have a steak and Caesar salad if nothing else sounded good. Everything was so outstanding it was hard to abstain. The Beef Tenderloin, Rack of Lamb, and Lobster Thermidor were especially good and cooked perfectly. The staterooms all had balconies, a couch, a desk area, and a good size bathroom with a glass enclosed shower. The only item missing was a refrigerator. You also had to make sure to close the balcony doors correctly so the top sensors matched up, otherwise the air conditioning system thought the doors were open and would not work. We once again had great weather when we went on the small boat tour through the Lesser 3 Gorges. It was a perfect day as we sailed toward the Dam on Tuesday evening. Then the FOG came in. The Chinese authorities stopped all traffic going through the locks and ship traffic backed up quickly. Viking used their connections to jump the Dam lock queue and we managed to go on the Dam tour on Wednesday while waiting for our turn. But the fog came back, the locks shut down, and we didn't get through till early Thursday evening. By then there was no way we could sail to Wuhan so we docked right outside the locks, once again in heavy fog. We ended up missing Xiling Gorge, the stop at the Viking School, and Museum in Wuhan. Viking made alternate arrangements to get us to Wuhan by bus so we could catch our flight to Shanghai. Because of this detour, we saw a different view of the Chinese countryside that we would not have normally seen. Seeing all the farmers in the rice fields plowing with their water buffalos was pretty amazing. Saturday in Shanghai was busy from morning till night. Viking certainly made the most of day there. The grand finale was the Acrobat show which was ideally located adjacent to the Portman Ritz. Only 8 of our group of 28 were headed home. The rest were off to the Guilin and Hong Kong. We would have liked to have gone to Guilin but since we had already been to Hong Kong the additional cost seemed extreme. So we were off to the Airport Sunday morning and even arrived early back in San Francisco. This was probably one of the best trips we've taken. I could not even imagine going to China with any company other than Viking. From start to finish everything was first rate!   Read Less
Sail Date: April 2012
We were so delighted with our recent Imperial Jewels of China cruise that, on our return, I actually emailed a review, very similar to the one below, to the Viking office in Beijing and in the UK. The whole trip was magic from start to ... Read More
We were so delighted with our recent Imperial Jewels of China cruise that, on our return, I actually emailed a review, very similar to the one below, to the Viking office in Beijing and in the UK. The whole trip was magic from start to finish. From the first contact 12 months ago to the final goodbye from our tour escort Francis at Shanghai Pudong airport, the organisation, service and product were quite superb. We cannot fault the choice of hotels, the people, the excursions or the entertainment in any way. The ship itself (the Viking Century Emerald) was wonderful, and the food, accommodation, on-board shops, staff and crew all far exceeded our expectations, but with one important criticism: when I was ill and needed help, I pressed the SOS button in our cabin repeatedly, but it failed to elicit any response. Had I been dangerously ill, this could have had serious consequences. However, having said that, the attention I received once I had attracted attention, was excellent and very kind. Our flights to and from China were with BA, and were fine, and the internal flights we took all happened smoothly and according to schedule. All the Viking people we dealt with - admin staff, local guides, coach drivers, and especially our tour escort and the ship's staff and crew - deserve the highest praise. Every aspect of the organisation was superb, and we were particularly impressed with the efficient and apparently seemless way the schedule was reorganised at very short notice and extra entertainments and coaches were laid on, when fog on the Yangtse caused the boat trip to be curtailed unexpectedly. This was our first trip with Viking. We will definitely be travelling with them again, and in fact are now considering booking in the next few weeks for 2013. Read Less
4 Helpful Votes
Sail Date: April 2012
We are experienced travelers, having sailed on 35 cruises in Europe, Mexico, Central & South America, Asia, the Caribbean and Alaska and at least 9 land and cruise tours. From the moment you arrive in China, Viking Tours controls your ... Read More
We are experienced travelers, having sailed on 35 cruises in Europe, Mexico, Central & South America, Asia, the Caribbean and Alaska and at least 9 land and cruise tours. From the moment you arrive in China, Viking Tours controls your time, everything is a hustle. Our tour began in Shanghai (two days in Shanghai, with a short visit to a museum; but the emphasis was a Rug Manufacture (Carpet Weaving) and Silk embroidery factory with lunches on both days in the rear of each establishment. A quick tour of the Bund, and a very short time provided to see YuYuan Gardens before flying in afternoon of the 2nd day to Wuhan. Would much rather have had the time to experience the people in Shanghai like in "Old Street" and the Financial Center district, the 2nd tallest building in the world. We had a Bad experience at the airport in Shanghai, our line ran slow going through Security at the airport and we got separated from the tour guide and the group; an elevator operator let go of the elevator door and it knocked my wife on the ground and she injured her ankle, shoulder. and jaw when she hit the floor; with the help of airport security we found our group. In Wuhan we boarded the ship Emerald Viking; while it was billed (our newest ship) to be a new ship; it is not a new ship by any means. Communication skills of breakfast short order cooks and purser desk were very poor. Purser desk mostly unfriendly as they liked to play the game, no speak English. Asking cabin Stewarts for extra towels or for bottled water was often met with great difficulty and with no speaks English. Lunch was 12noon to 1:30pm and the time schedule was rigid at 1:15pm the buffet was being taken down. The $300. shipboard credit could only be used for goods and services on the ship, but not any for TIPPING. The Cocktail party started at 5:30pm; champagne was offered, I asked for a beer instead but was told that I could buy a beer at the bar, and appetizers were removed fifteen minutes later at 5:45pm; it is interesting to note that beer and wine were served for FREE at 6:00pm at dinner; no music at the cocktail party; not much of a cocktail party. There was no entertainment aboard other than for one crew show. Most of the time aboard the ship, we were without any knowledge of names of the towns along the way. Weather wise we experience smog for most of the 12 days on the Viking tour; a serious problem about anywhere in China. Positive shipboard comments, bed was comfortable, room was clean, a/c worked fine and dinner was ok, the two servers assigned to our table were very nice and accommodating. As far as the Yangtze River cruise, the Three Gorges Dam & Xiling Gorge, Qutang Gorges, Lesser Three Gorges anyone could have seen more on a TRAVELOG as most every day was Smog limiting visibility to less than a half of mile. Disembarking at Chongqing was a real experience walking about 250 steps on Floating Docks and then up 72 Steps to the awaiting bus. Then it was Bus ride to the Chongqing Zoo with about 30 minutes Free Time to see the PANDA BEARS followed by a long walk to an art gallery for a 30 minute presentation by an accomplished artist. Then lunch and off to the airport again for about One and a half flight to Xian to the hotel; next day off to see the Terra Cotta Warriors about a two hour visit before flying to Beijing. Most days on this tour you were required to have luggage out of the room by 6:00am or 6:30am and to be on the bus by 7:30am and one day it was required to be on the bus by 7:00am. The two days in Beijing were about the same, a constant hustle; the tour director was well prepared and gave excellent information about China on the bus and along the tour. Two (2)of the dinners were box lunches.We are happy that we had a week (7) nights in Shanghai before the Viking Cruise & Tour and Seven (7) nights in Beijing following the tour to see and experience the people and culture of China. Shortly, after we arrived home, I wrote a letter dated May 24, 2012 to Mr. Jason Pashko, Sr VP and copied Mr. Michael Sr VP and Mr. Eric Welter, Sr. VP about an issue that occurred in the final stages of booking this cruise. Unfortunately as of July 13, 2012, I have not been given the courtesy of a reply to my letter. Based on our experience noted above, we cannot recommend the 12 day "Viking River Cruises Yangtze Experience." We would rate this cruise tour as Poor. We would say the cruise was well marketed; but is Over Rated, the tour is Extremely Controlled consequently not much fun. This was a poor example of a China Experience. If all one did was get off the airplane and go on this Viking River Cruise Tour they would not have had much of an experience of the Chinese culture. Also we view the cost of this 12 day Viking Yangtze experience at $7,184. to be way overpriced. And lastly, we can't say much favorable for the quality of the management of Viking as they did not have the courtesy to reply to my letter of May 24, 2012; almost two (2) months ago. Our Recommendation is to Pass on Viking and look elsewhere for a Yangtze River cruise and tour experience. Read Less
Sail Date: April 2012
This took care of a couple of items on my bucket-list specifically the Terra Cotta Warriors and the Great Wall. We are 2 people in our late sixties. Neither of us are the types that want to go out into a city where we don't know ... Read More
This took care of a couple of items on my bucket-list specifically the Terra Cotta Warriors and the Great Wall. We are 2 people in our late sixties. Neither of us are the types that want to go out into a city where we don't know the language and explore. But we want to see and learn as much as is possible. I'm glad we took the Beijing to Shanghai instead of the reverse because Beijing is the most tiring. We aren't very athletic people. I can't say enough about the service provided by Viking. This was truly a care free vacation. I think it is similar in one respect to travelling with your parents when you were a kid. You just show up when and where you are told and everything is taken care of for you. No standing in lines to check-in or to collect your luggage at airports nor to buy tickets for any of the attractions or sites. It's all taken care of by your Viking escort who is with you through the entire trip. Also on the excursions the guide uses a microphone which transmit to a head set that you wear so you can hear everything being said which is great since I'm usually bringing up the rear. There were 2 optional excursions (if you opted out they took you to dinner at a restaurant): The Peking duck dinner with excerpts from the Peking Opera in Beijing and/or Tang Dynasty Dinner show in Xian. Not wanting to miss anything, we went to both of these. Most people went only to the Tang Dynasty show but I enjoyed the Peking Opera more. I found the Tang show rather glitzy. We stayed at the Westin Beijing on Financial Street, The Crowne Plaza Xian and the Westin Bund Center in Shanghai. We like Westin Hotels much better than the Crowne Plaza. FOOD: The breakfasts in the hotels and on the boat were the best because there was such variety. I loved the shipboard-made yogurt with fresh fruit. The rest of the meals were average. When Chinese food was served I believe it was "dumbed down" because I found it bland in comparison to what you can get in San Francisco. But you did get wine or beer with lunch and dinner. The three flights within China were short and sweet. I was pleasantly surprised. We booked the air through Viking so even though our flight was delayed we were met by their representatives who collected our luggage and got us settled at the hotel. They suggested we go to the Lama Temple or to the zoo on the next day which was free time. We went to the Lama Temple which was beautiful but very smoky (incense). Great pictures. When the tour part actually began we were kept moving. There are a lot of places to see and a limited amount of time. In Beijing, there's Tiananmen Square, the Forbidden City, the Summer Palace, the Great Wall and the Ming Tombs , all involve a great deal of walking on the flat. In the case of the Wall we're also climbing, those "I climbed the Great Wall" tee shirts aren't lying. It is very strenuous. The wall has steps on it. Very steep steps. Xian -- The Terra-cotta warriors was the biggest thrill for me. I have wanted to see them since they were first discovered. Chonqing is where we actually boarded the Viking Emerald. When we arrived I was amazed to see what we had to do to board the vessel. There were steep stairs (no railing) to go down and then there was what looked like a jury-rigged long floating walkway that led to the boat. Everyone had their carry-ons with them but there were men who would carry your stuff for you for a small fee. I carried my own. I wish I had taken pictures. Once on the boat the cabin was great. First stop on the boat was the Shibaozhai Temple. It was beautiful and worth the 12 story climb to the top. But to get to it there was a very steep hill to climb. You could get someone with to pull you up in a rickshaw. I passed on this. The next day was an excursion in a smaller boat to the Lesser Three Gorges. There we saw some great scenery including the hanging coffins. We didn't enter the locks for the Dam until around 11:00PM and I missed it but I awoke around 3:00AM and was able to watch the boat go through the final lock. This was nice. I was alone on deck and got some very good pictures. The Three Gorges Dam itself wasn't interesting to me. They don't allow anyone to enter the dam so there's not a lot to see. There are displays about it and there was a lot of technical information but that leaves me cold. The next day we cruised through the Gezhou Dam Shiplock. This was one lock in the afternoon so we got to see everything from start to finish and take pictures in the daylight. They jam as many boats as they can into the lock. The whole procedure took less than an hour. We disembarked at Wuhan and flew to Shanghai. The Yuyuan Garden tour was the highlight here for me. Read Less
1 Helpful Vote
Sail Date: April 2012
We began our land/river cruise in Shanghai but boarded the boat in Nanjing after 2 nights in Shanghai. Viking was top notch from beginning to end. However, we had some issues with the boat. While t was a gorgeous boat only a couple of ... Read More
We began our land/river cruise in Shanghai but boarded the boat in Nanjing after 2 nights in Shanghai. Viking was top notch from beginning to end. However, we had some issues with the boat. While t was a gorgeous boat only a couple of years old there were some negatives. The cabin was large and comfortable with a large plasma flat screen TV on the wall. There was a full floor to ceiling window and door opening to a small balcony. However, it was impossible to regulate the a/c being too cold during the day and too warm at night. The areas of the ship were always too cold. Communication with the housekeeper (cabin attendant) and front desk (Chinese) was a constant problem. I asked the housekeeper for a new battery for the alarm clock and I got a bar of soap. It took 3 Chinese housekeepers to get me a battery. The front desk with the exception of the supervisor had a problem understanding my requests. The dining room food was inconsistent and very seldom hot. The wait staff however were excellent and spoke good English. We were always provided with water and wine at lunch or dinner. The hotels for the land portions were excellent except for the Crown Plaza in Xi'an where the a/c would not go below 78 deg F. This trip is not for persons who as physically challenged. There are steep ramps and steps to get from the boat up to the shore where the buses await passengers for the excursions. We were assigned to the same group and tour guide who was outstanding for the whole 16 days. Again, Viking does an outstanding job as far as never having to worry about anything. There are wheelchairs with local farmers as pushers for nominal amounts at the terra cotta warriors, great wall, and in Beijing at the Forbidden City and Tiananmen Square. On deck 5 there was a nice lounge with coffee bar where you could get coffee, tea, hot chocolate, cookies, Chinese instant soup at any time. The lounges on deck 5 and deck 6 were very comfortable. To get to deck 6 you had to climb up 2 flights of steps. The elevators only went to deck 5. There were nice decks at the front of deck 5 and 6 and a large deck at the rear of deck 5. There was a small workout room, sauna and salon services. My wife had her hair done twice at the saloon for $20 each time including head, neck and shoulder massage. The gal refused a tip. It was an unbelievable bargain. Read Less
Sail Date: May 2012
The Imperial Jewels of China was more than we expected. We had always wanted to go to China but could not figure out how to see everything we wanted and not spend a lot of money and time. Then ending up only see about a 1/4 of the great ... Read More
The Imperial Jewels of China was more than we expected. We had always wanted to go to China but could not figure out how to see everything we wanted and not spend a lot of money and time. Then ending up only see about a 1/4 of the great sights in China. The Viking River cruise from Shanghai to Beijing was exceptional, it not only met all of our sighting needs, it took away all the worry of traveling and turned it into a leisure trip. We not only got to do a land trip of china but it also combined a great 6 days river cruise along the Yangtze river. The cruise guide and all the staff on the cruise were the best we have ever met. They catered to every need and want from the time they picked us up at the Shanghai airport to the time they returned us back to the Beijing airport. Each day was filled with an exciting adventure but at no time did we feel like we were just rushing from one site to the next. My wife an I are looking forward to our next cruise with Viking. We can not imagine using another River cruise company. We are glad we chose Viking to handle our trip to China. Read Less
1 Helpful Vote
Sail Date: May 2012
This was our first trip to Asia. After a great deal of research of tour operators, we settled on Viking because of their willingness to deal with dietary needs and conversations with previous travellers on similiar trips. A number of ... Read More
This was our first trip to Asia. After a great deal of research of tour operators, we settled on Viking because of their willingness to deal with dietary needs and conversations with previous travellers on similiar trips. A number of acquaintances had travelled on less expensive excursions that were all fine, but Viking came out ahead on first class hotels, a new ship, meals and organization of tours. From the moment we arrived in Beijing and were met by a Viking representative to the time we were escorted to the check in counter to depart Shanghai, every detail was looked after. Our guide Jimmy was extremely knowledgeable, caring and organized. We were kept on a tight schedule but we saw everything and received a in depth education of the culture, history and understanding of today's dynamics. We stayed at the first class Westin's in Beijing and Shanghai, and the beautiful Crowne Plaza in Xian. The Viking Emerald is a very comfortable ship with good cabins and excellent public spaces. Meals at hotels, restaurants, performances an on the ship were all very good with much choice and accommodated western palates. All the tours and stops had something to offer. The big disappointment though was the Three Gorges Dam Project. Because of the permanent mist you can't see the dam, and do not get to see the inner workings of this massive project. You are limited to the displays, grounds and gift store. For a first glimpse of China, don't hesitate to choose Viking. 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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