This was the trip of a lifetime for us. Viking staff made all of the difference in the success of this trip.
We began in Beijing. We flew on United from Tampa via Washington Dulles. IAD to PEK was a whopping 14+ hours. Customs clearance in Beijing was fairly painless.
We were met by Viking guide Peter, who would be our guide for the next two days. We were taken to the Kerry hotel, where we spend 5 nights. Lovely hotel with small but well equipped room. The hotel has an outstanding health club and indoor pool. Their restaurants are all quite good. Kerry's Kitchen serves buffet for B,L & D. Nice array of Chinese and Western fare. Kerry's Pantry was sort of a take-out restaurant with some seating. Great salads, sandwiches and desserts. Centro is a 24 hour bar and restaurant. The bar was a good hiding place....with an excellent cheeseburger, btw!!
We bought the Beijing extension, which gave us a tour of the Temple of Heaven and Summer Palace. Weather was a bit cool - 40's to 50's, but nice and sunny. We had our first lunch at a very large Chinese restaurant. It was pretty good. We had the second day free. We stayed close to the hotel, shopping in the two astonishing adjacent malls.
Our actual tour then began. Our guide for the remainder of the journey was Roy. He made the trip for us. Expertly knowledgable and responded to every request and problem.
We toured the Great Wall in perfect weather - 50's and piercing bright sun. Roy brought us to a location on the Wall which had almost no other people! Fabulous vantage points and lots of time to shoot photos and just marvel at this wonder of the world.
The next day was Tiananmen Square and the Forbidden City. Again perfect weather and great commentary from Roy.
Next day we flew to Xi'an. Great flight on China Eastern Airlines. Comfortable seating and on-time flight. Getting through security in all of the Chinese airports is arduous....Full pat downs every time. We stayed at the Wyndham South. This was one of the nicest hotels we've stayed in. It is adjacent to a wonderful ourdoor mall with an engaging walk down to a pogoda. The Terra Cotta Warriors exceeded our expectations. Too much to try to describe here.
Next, we flew to Chongqing on Hainan Airlines. It's the largest city in the world. We believed it when we rode through it. It was late in the day, so the building lights were coming on. Breathtaking! It was the first day of a holiday, so traffic was at a standstill. We finally got to the ship's boarding area at around 9pm. We had to descend a large, dangerous set of stairs which had no railing. Points off for Viking on this.
We had a suite, # 508. It, along with every other aspect of the ship was just average. The ship is only 8 years old, but is quite worn. The service on the ship was excellent. The food was hit or miss. Everything needed salt, and I normally never salt my food. We had bought the Silver Spirits drink package and found that to be a waste, as we drank mostly the free-flow wine in the restaurant. The noise level in the restaurant was very high, probably due in part to the low ceiings on the ship. Very small fitness room with 2 treadmills, 2 bikes and 2 ellipticals....nothing else.
The 6 day cruise was the most scenic cruise we've ever taken. Again, too much to try to describe here.
Next, we flew on China Eastern to Shanghai. Exciting drive through this metropolis to the Westin Bund Center. Great hotel with good restaurants. Strange room setup, trying to be funky modern, but was rather dysfunctional. We toured the Yu Gardens and the Shanghai Museum. I'm not a museum person, but this one really appealed to me. It was very spacious and easy to get around.....and it was overwhelming!
Finally we flew home on United, connecting in Chicago.....with less than two hours to clear customs and get to our connecting flight. Folks, don't let anyone do this to you. You need a minimum of 4 hours to do this. We barely made it, using the Mobile Passport app.
In all, we highly recommend this trip, even though the actual ship is less than Viking's standards.
Small, but functional. Worn out bathroom fixtures and shower. Tiny balcony. Not up to Viking standards.