We have cruised with HAL. Celebrity, Princess, RCL, Costa, MSC, Carnival. Azamara, and Oceana. This was our third Viking Cruise, second Viking Ocean Cruise. We had a very good experience on our previous Viking Ocean cruise, including the quality of the excursions, so we were disappointed in the very poor quality of the excursions in China. Viking claims that China was not experienced in handling American visitors at most of their ports. However, when we booked a private tour with a reputable Chinese travel agency for the port for Beijing, we received excellent and knowledgeable service, were taken to a clean and high quality restaurant, had a guide who spoke good English and took care of us. The excursions that Viking provided were low quality, with make believe tour guides who could not speak English and who did not know what they were doing. The "restaurant" that we were taken to was a overcrowded "banquet hall" with dirty rest rooms that lacked soap and the food was not good. On our private tour in Beijing, the guide sat with us and made sure that people with special diet concerns got what they needed. With the Viking tour, my wife told the guide that she must have a vegetarian meal and she was assured by the guide that she would get that. What happened was that the guide totally disappeared for the whole meal. We tried to communicate with the wait staff but they did not understand English. Therefore, since the food was served family style with no explanation of what we were getting, my wife could only have tea for her lunch. Certainly not a 5 star experience. The included tours were far from being a luxury experience from a luxury ship. They were quite miserable, especially on the 6 hour round trip on a bus to the great wall. The guide barely spoke and we were left to stare out the window with no narration. When we arrived at the wall we asked if the guide was going to accompany us to the wall to provide some guidance or narration. Her answer was that she had been there before and that she had no interest in seeing it again and that we were on our own to see it. Is that what the Viking excursion department considers to be a guided tour?
Since there were a number of days at sea, entertainment is important. Viking decided to have 4 singers and no dancers on this ship Viking decided to schedule only 2 shows with this limited staff which worked out to one major show per week. Some nights just a movie was shown as the "entertainment". Again, not a 5 star experience.
The ship is beautiful and the food is good, especially in the specialty restaurants. The historians on board gave high quality lectures.