We did the Viking "Undiscovered China" version (there are two other shorter alternatives). While onboard, you are together with 250 passengers, but on land you are usually with about 25-30 and one tour guide for the entire trip for that group (Mark--outstanding). We started in Shanghai and stayed at the Wanda Reign, a relatively new hotel right on the river (Bund). This was an over the top Art Deco fantasy with an iPad to control the drapes, lights etc., and a toilet whose lid raised up as you entered the room, plus all kinds of bidet functions. This was typical of the other hotels, St. Regis, Chengdu, Westin Lijiang Old Town, Wyndam Grand Xian and Ritz Carleton Beijing. All were 5 stars.
We did a pre-extension in Shanghai with a trip to a small town outside Shanghai (Suchow) where they have a grand canal and a classical garden. Then we started the "real" 19 day part of the tour. What we at first didn't realize is that all 250 passengers were in Shanghai, but at 4 different hotels so we didn't see many of them until the ship. Same for Beijing. After Shanghai, we went to Wuhan to pick up the ship for 6 days. This included both the Three Gorges Dam (transited via locks) as well as cruising through the Three Gorges. At the end of this, the 250 people split up as some were going to Tibet, some had the shorter 12 day trip which skipped the pandas at Chengdu (which we saw) etc. In the end there were three groups of 30 or so that had our 19 day route.
Lunches on land often included tours to silk factories, jade carving, terra cotta warrior figurines, etc. and were mostly Chinese "round table with lazy-susan) but were all very good and not that repetitive. Dinners alternated nights with large western/Chinese buffets at the hotels, and Chinese restaurants in the local cities. Ship dinners did the same.
What some passengers didn't realize is that the ship had a major interior refurbishment between last November and the beginning of April for this year's season. All the carpets, drapes, upholstery were replaced, so earlier complaints about the condition of the ship aren't relevant anymore. Staff was wonderful. We had the Silver Spirits alcohol package on board and they knew what we liked by the second day.
Highlights of course were the pandas at the Panda Reserve in Chengdu, the terra-cotta warriors in Xian, and the cruise. We learned so much from our guide Mark who took great care of our group.
We've been on Viking's Grand European River Cruise from Budapest to Amsterdam, and this is of course different, but Viking took very good care of all of us throughout. We'd recommend this trip to anyone whose interested in China.
One thing to consider: China is not handicapped friendly as in the US. There are lots of steps, hills and cobblestones. We had two people with canes and they got through, but it wasn't easy.
We were up on the top deck towards the back. Sutes are about 1 1/2 regular cabin wide, and have double sinks in the bathroom. So more space, nice layout. Bathroom was narrow but every cruise ship bathroom is small. Was kept clean and tidy regularly.
Saw both the older city as well as the new skyscraper area. Well arranged
Lots of ancient artifacts including sculpture and bronze
This was part of the 2 day pre-extension that we booked with Viking. They changed from a 2 hour bus ride to the bullet train at the last minute because it was part of the 4 day May Day holiday, and the traffice was horrible. Lovely garden as well as a grand canal ride.View All 5 Suzhou/The Humble Administrator's Garden Reviews
This was a walking tour on the river top walkway. Spectacular views across the river of the wild skyscrapers on the other side.