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60 Viking River Shanghai Cruise Reviews

This cruise-land tour combination is a great way to see quickly the well-known highlights of the huge country of China. Viking River Cruises takes care of all the details and we just had to enjoy the trip. We were met at the airport and ... Read More
This cruise-land tour combination is a great way to see quickly the well-known highlights of the huge country of China. Viking River Cruises takes care of all the details and we just had to enjoy the trip. We were met at the airport and quickly taken to our hotel. There our guide, Johana, met us and started taking care of us. She was excellent! The land tour part of this trip involved 3 intra-China flights. I had been a little apprehensive about that. Johanna handled all the check-in details, all we had to do was go thru security and customs once she took us to the airports. the cruise part of the trip is on the Viking Emerald, a very comfortable ship with every cabin having a private balcony. Spacious for a river cruise. Flat screen TV with the basic news channels and movies. Balcony had room for 2 chairs and gave great perspective of Three Gorges. We were on the same deck as the dining room which was very convenient. Dining Room was very noisy, but the service was excellent and the food good. The weather thru the Three Gorges was misty and rainy. The fog held us up one night so we were almost 12 hours late going thru the ship locks. The staff worked most of the night to secure an alternate excursion for us so we did not feel as though we had missed a thing. The Great Wall is a hard climb, once again Johanna was helpful and honest, giving everyone options. The mornings at the Terracotta Soldiers in Xi'an and at Tiananmen Square-Forbidden City involved hours of walking and were worth every step. For anyone who wants to hit the high spots of China from panda bears to the world largest dam, this is the trip to take. Read Less
Sail Date April 2014
Recently returned from an excellently organised trip with a very comprehensive itinerary. April would appear to be a good month to visit this vast country.No smog encountered anywhere.Some rain on the Yangtse but pleasant weather in Xian ... Read More
Recently returned from an excellently organised trip with a very comprehensive itinerary. April would appear to be a good month to visit this vast country.No smog encountered anywhere.Some rain on the Yangtse but pleasant weather in Xian and Beijing. Dealing with the river cruise part first. This was five nights .The cabins on board Emerald are very spacious . The staff in all departments were outstanding.The food was exceptional on board . The dining room in the evening did tend to be noisy.The organisation of on-shore excursions was very good. The land part of the tour involved several internal flights which did make it somewhat tiring.However, the tour escort handled the logistics of this with true professionalism and was a great ambassador for his country. The hotels we stayed in were all four star or above and were all worthy of their rating.The land itinerary contained some nice touches . The acrobatic show in Shanghai was amazing. The rickshaw trip in Beijing was fun. The historical sites tended to be exhausting but overall things were well-paced. I have only one criticism and that was the lunch/evening dining arrangements which were Party Susan affairs. This meant that sometimes the demand and supply were somewhat unmatched and they were also not terribly relaxed dining experiences. Read Less
Sail Date April 2014
Subject: Viking Cruise, China Nov 1-18, 2013 – Tour Guide-Arnold Zheng We experienced 18 amazing days in China! My sister-in-law and I decided to take a Viking Cruise to China. I love travel and have been on over 25 cruises with various ... Read More
Subject: Viking Cruise, China Nov 1-18, 2013 – Tour Guide-Arnold Zheng We experienced 18 amazing days in China! My sister-in-law and I decided to take a Viking Cruise to China. I love travel and have been on over 25 cruises with various cruise lines in the states and in Europe, so I was anxious to try a river cruise. Growing up in St Louis, on the Mississippi River, I was interested in travelling down the Yangtze River. I had absolutely no idea that this trip would be the very best I had ever experienced in all my travels. It was a trip of a lifetime! In retrospect, the credit for such a fantastic experience should go to Arnold, our amazing guide. Arnold set the tone for tours and his professionalism, sense of humor, incredible knowledge of history and love of his country and family, and his genuine kindness and concern for all of us, made this an exceptional time in China. His English is superb, and his openness and willingness to share stories and his knowledge gave us all a new perspective of Chinese culture. Arnold is certainly a premier tour guide and a genuinely wonderful person who cares about the people who are touring with him. He went above and beyond to ensure that everyone’s needs were met. There wasn’t a situation that he couldn’t handle and did so with kindness and professionalism. Every tour, hotel arrangements, schedule was handled perfectly. Arnold always prepared us for what we would see and do, and he gave us the comfort level in travel that is rarely experienced. Everything was so well planned; and we were very well taken care of during our stay. He showed ultimate respect for all of us, and I have the highest respect for Arnold and his professionalism. It isn’t easy to be away from family for extended periods of time, but it is evident he loves his family and is devoted to them and to his career. Arnold has a great perspective on life; and he is a wonderful ambassador for not only Viking Cruise Lines, but his country, China. The people on the boat were very well travelled. While we docked in some "interesting" places with lots of stairs and ramps that were definitely not the Caribbean docks and ports, everyone seemed to just go with the flow and experience the culture. Stairs were many with few hand rails, but we were always well prepared for the day by our tour guide. Food on the boat was very good and yogurt superb! Chinese local restaurants were very nice, if you like Chinese food. The Peking Duck was wonderful! Optional tours were definitely worth the time and money. Tours were filled with outstanding local guides and a wealth of information. Always plenty of time to shop or take pictures. We left with wonderful memories, great pictures, new friends, and we will definitely book another Viking Cruise in 2014. Hopefully we will experience more “Arnolds” in other countries. It was one fantastic trip!   Read Less
Sail Date November 2013
We just returned home from a 17 day trip to China starting in Shanghai and ending in Beijing. We had a 6 day cruise along the Yangtze River and an incredible 3 day excursion to Lhasa in Tibet. The entire trip was fascinating. We are ... Read More
We just returned home from a 17 day trip to China starting in Shanghai and ending in Beijing. We had a 6 day cruise along the Yangtze River and an incredible 3 day excursion to Lhasa in Tibet. The entire trip was fascinating. We are seasoned travelers and usually rent a car and tour through countries on our own. We knew this was not possible in China if we wanted to see as much as we could during our time there. Plus the maneuvering from flights, river cruise and historical sights was a massive task. Our amazing tour guide Jessie made it look easy but it would not have been possible as an American tourist. Just working our way through 4 Chinese domestic flights was overwheming with the language barriers. We both agree that Viking was very smart in hiring the best tour guides which stay with you during your entire trip from start to finish. Jessie was always diligent in her attention to details. She would tweek our schedule slightly to work us around obstacles which came up in our tours because of the Chinese government. If she saw that we were moving faster or slower than the schedule had allowed she would call ahead and change our tickets for the next event accordingly. She was friendly and helpful but more than that she was incredibly knowledgeable about the country. We learned so much from her oratory about her family experiences, the changes in China and her personal daily life. It was like she understood that if you were traveling in China we must be very interested in its culture and its people. Tibet was certainly not an easy part of our trip but again Jessie knew just how to plan the three days to allow for some altitude sickness which can range from a slight headache to dizziness and nausea. Because of her attention to this we never missed one event and Tibet was one of our favorite places. We always felt safe and well cared for during our entire time in China because Jessie was thorough in her planning and her attention to our needs as travelers in her country. Our China trip was an amazing experience, of course there were some minor mishaps just as you would have on any travels but the people that Viking hires to deal with such things did their jobs and we were never inconvenienced by the changes or problems that arose. We would definitely use Viking Cruises again to travel in other parts of the world and we would highly recommend them to our friends. Read Less
Sail Date October 2013
Just returned from Viking Imperial Jewels of China cruise. We booked our own air with Delta. A Viking local tour guide met us at the airport in Shanghai and the transfer to the Ritz Carlton was flawless. At the hotel we met our guide Jane ... Read More
Just returned from Viking Imperial Jewels of China cruise. We booked our own air with Delta. A Viking local tour guide met us at the airport in Shanghai and the transfer to the Ritz Carlton was flawless. At the hotel we met our guide Jane who was with us for the entire trip. I cannot say enough about her. I called her our security blanket. She managed to get us on early domestic flights which resulted in 3 on time flights. China's domestic airlines are notoriously delayed. We also arrived at all of the crowded venues (pandas, terracotta warriors and Great Wall) ahead of the crowds. We booked the extra nights in Shanghai and were glad we did. Gave us an opportunity to get over jetlag and to see more of this remarkable city. We flew to Wuhan where we boarded the Viking Emerald which was built in 2010 not 2011 for Century cruises. It is chartered by Viking. Chinese shipbuilding is not up to Western standards. The air conditioning cooled all of the rooms, but did not dehumidify which is important. The climate along the Yangtse is subtropical with lots of heat and humidity. The interior decoration of the ship was very attractive. Carpet in some areas is wearing thin. Fall is the best time to cruise. Shipboard staff were excellent and well trained in customer service. Food was good, not great. Pretty much what we expected based on previous Viking cruises in Europe. I would suggest cruisers get the extra alcohol package unless they enjoy the really cheap free wine provided free with meals. This also includes soft drinks used at non meal times. I realize this is a casual cruise, but gym shorts and tee shirts at dinner was too casual for our group of ten. The scenery in the 3 Gorges is spectacular, but be aware this is a humid foggy area with an overlay of the air pollution seen throughout China. Visiblility was only fair except for one day when it was a little better. The river is very busy with commercial traffic. Many river boats carrying raw materials for the massive construction boom we saw everywhere we went along with coal for the many power plants located along the river. The children at the school sponsored by Viking were delightful. We could barely see the 3 Gorges dam because of limited visibility. The Lesser 3 Gorges tour on a smaller boat is very good. We saw the pandas in Chongquing as they were waking up. They are wonderful. The terracotta warriors in Xian are spectacular. The highlight of Bejing was the trip to the Great Wall. We had time to walk as much of the wall as we wanted. Again, visibility was fair at best. During the trip, we toured a silk factory and jade factory, Very interesting, but mainly intended to entice us to purchase their wares. Thankfully, no hard sell. Overall, the trip met our expectations. One peeve was that at all non-ship meals the drink choice was beer, water or soda. Several in our group would have preferred a glass of wine which was either not available or at extra cost. Read Less
Sail Date September 2013
First of all, this was not my choice of trips, it was my mom's. She wanted to go for a long time and since she treats me so well and lets me choose destinations a lot of the time I knew that I had to do it for her. I have a hard time ... Read More
First of all, this was not my choice of trips, it was my mom's. She wanted to go for a long time and since she treats me so well and lets me choose destinations a lot of the time I knew that I had to do it for her. I have a hard time with being in a country when I cant speak the language and I am a very very very picky eater so China checked off those two boxes for me right off the bat. I had decided I could always get rice so that would be what I would do if I had to...and I brought a bunch of meal bars with me. I have to say that I never ate any of those bars I brought with me....and this trip is in my top 2, actually its in a class all by itself in the number one spot. I was very pleasantly surprised and very very very impressed with Viking. From the time I collected my luggage from baggage claim upon arrival in Shanghai to the moment I checked in my luggage when leaving from Beijing I was completely taken care of. I felt comfortable and safe and free to enjoy myself. I never actually handled my luggage (other than carry on) during that trip except for arriving and departure from the country. The food on the Viking Emerald is the best I have ever had...ever. They make their own yogurt everyday.....6 different flavors...everyday!! To die for! The ice cream and sorbet was also homemade and so so good!! Great choices for meals and breakfast was killer. I loved going to the same table for every meal and getting to know the staff. Lucy, Amy and Andrew rock!!! There is an anytime menu available that I ordered from twice. I also loved the on board shops!!! Hand carved personalized stamps, tailored clothing, jewelery, tea (and instruction), painting and souveners (I loved the girl in the shop, Cherry), all very nice quality and good prices. The room was perfect, great size, loved the shower! Loved the shows put on by the staff and the lectures and narrations. The 12 days were balanced very well time wise. We had only a couple of days that were hectic, but only because we chose to do the optional excursions, and even then we had a few hours of down time on those days. The on board ship days we had excursions each day and the rest of the time on the ship, it was so relaxing. We saw and did so many amazing things that it was hard to wrap your mind around everything we saw and did, the photos bring it all back each and every time I look through them. I really enjoyed the Acrobatic Show (included excursion), the Bells Performance (included excursion), the Tang Dynasty Dinner and Show (optional excursion) and the Peking Opera (optional excursion). My favorite stops were the Lesser Three Gorges excursion, the Pagoda Visit, seeing the Giant Panda bears, the Terra Cotta Army visit and the Great Wall. Usually you have just a few highlights....I have many more from this trip. I loved The Regent Beijing the best of the hotels, they were all 5 star but this one was much more in my opinion. The best part of this trip was the Tour Escort and the group tho. We had a group of 31 and our Tour Escort was Terry. Terry managed to create a family of us and he was always there for anything we needed. His relaxed attitude and his love of his country shined right through and was very comforting and fun. He shared the right balance of personal information about life in China as a child and as an adult and history of the country. He held our attention with interesting facts and stories and was so natural. We had some great local guides as well but no one could compete with Terry. Of the 31 people in our group we became close with 10 of them, not bad for a group of 31! By the end of the trip Terry was able to peg us pretty closely as to what type of person we were. I hope that Viking realizes what a gem they have in Terry. As for the very very very picky eater, I did well, there were only 2 meals out of 36 that I had a tough time with and ate mostly rice. The lazy Susan meals were fun, and Terry did tell us each time what each dish was. My mom was the taster, she tasted first and gave her impression. We all had great time at the table discussing the foods. It did'nt take long for any of them to figure out that I was the picky one, lol! So in closing I will share the one negative I had about the trip and that was the Intra China flights. There were problems with delays and gate changes and even being bussed out to the field to board a plane. These are not things we typically experience in the US but it happened on all 3 flights and it didnt appear to be out of the ordinary for China. This in no way reflects upon Viking. And I am aware that the flights are necessary to be able to see that much of the country in 12 days at a pretty relaxed pace (which was so welcome). Read Less
Sail Date September 2013
This was a wonderful trip. We were treated as VIP's throughout the tour. It is a hybrid cruise and tour. Because of language barriers the guides have to work harder and they did a great job assisting every person. Don't expect as ... Read More
This was a wonderful trip. We were treated as VIP's throughout the tour. It is a hybrid cruise and tour. Because of language barriers the guides have to work harder and they did a great job assisting every person. Don't expect as much free time just wandering around but every minute is a wonderful memory. Our guides went above and beyond. Jenna Chen, our tour escort, was wonderful, funny, intelligent and super helpful. We asked her to make reservations at NOBU in Beijing and she totally took care of it. She arranged taxis and helped us with every request. All the guides helped informing the group about everything we were going to experience. They were always patient with our group (even when some of the people talked through everything they said and they had to tell them over and over)...the longest delay our group experienced was one hour in the Xian airport...the trip was always on time All the Hotels were five star. The ship was wonderful...The crew accommodated every request. They were friendly and helpful...They anticipated every need. If you wanted chili paste with your food they remembered and had it waiting for you. Jamie, our program director, was informative and had a wonderful sense of humor. It was her first cruise as program director but it seemed she had been doing it forever. Ben was fun and made the cruise more fun. Lois and Nora put up with our nonsense with good humor. Bella and Maggie waited on us hand and foot... We had a Junior Suite which was conveniently located to everything. It was still extremely quite. We were not able to book a Suite so this was a great compromise. It gave us some extra room. With size of our bags that was great. We didn't spend much time in our room because we were always on the viewing deck, lounge or dining. But, the cabin was extremely nice. Beds were comfortable. Bathrooms were a little dated but functional (It is China)...Baths took care of all my requirements. Veranda was wonderful. Super nice experience...Cabin was always clean and tidy....Super wonderful cabin.....CLEAN, Great Veranda and Bed.... We made lifelong friends on this tour. The river cruise was something you just can't experience in China any other way. The beauty of the trip just can't be described. The Viking River Cruise arranged for us to be the only quests at the Wuhan Museum for a Concert of the Bronze Bells. We traveled to China during the National Holiday but spent the Holiday on the cruise down the Yangtze...So we missed most of the crowds...But, the crew was still aware of the issue and arrange things to avoid as much of the crowds as they could. Definitely would advise to take the Shanghai to Beijing trip gives you a chance to relax and adjust to the time change. The crew and guides made this trip so special...The facilities were wonderful...I would definitely travel with Viking again. I would recommend this trip to anyone...Don't hesitate to take this trip but remember it isn't Europe...There aren't always Western Toilets (but the guides warn you where to use them) The Peking Duck was super....Loved the Tang Dynasty Show. It was beautiful (food was yuck but worth the it)...I can't say enough about how great the food on the ship was.. Loved every excursion. The Great Wall was awesome. Because we went during the National Holiday there were flowers everywhere. I will say nothing I have said above does this trip justice. Read Less
Sail Date September 2013
Our total trip, land + river, was 12 days. A viking representative met us at the airport in Shanghai and from that point on we were superbly cared for until a Viking rep dropped us at the airport in Beijing. The attention to detail, the ... Read More
Our total trip, land + river, was 12 days. A viking representative met us at the airport in Shanghai and from that point on we were superbly cared for until a Viking rep dropped us at the airport in Beijing. The attention to detail, the very personal care, the knowledge of our guide, the friendships we made - all exceptional. Quality 5 Star hotels, no cuing in lines for tourist sites, spectacular World Heritage tours. The Viking ship, Emerald, was good - not great....it's a little tired and could use some updating, but again the service of the Viking employees was exceptional. Breakfast and lunch buffet were excellent, but chef could use a course in preparation of western cuisine. When local fare was prepared, it was wonderful, but the kitchen struggled a bit with anything out of their traditional comfort zone (Chilean Sea Bass cooked till dry as wood chips) And cookies! How difficult would it be to offer a simple Toll House Chocolate Chip instead of dried compressed sawdust. But if those are the only two things that weren't up to par they were more than compensated for by the overall excellence of our experience. Read Less
Sail Date July 2013
My son (25) and I (58) took the July 9, 2013 Shanghai-Beijing "Imperial Jewels of China" 12-day tour, which included 5 nights on the Yangtze River going upriver. It was a trip of a lifetime. As an American, the cultural ... Read More
My son (25) and I (58) took the July 9, 2013 Shanghai-Beijing "Imperial Jewels of China" 12-day tour, which included 5 nights on the Yangtze River going upriver. It was a trip of a lifetime. As an American, the cultural differences between China and Northeast US where we live cannot be overstated. China, for the most part, is still a third-world country in many aspects. It's clear that this country only opened itself to the world in recent decades. The Chinese culture has a very strong history which is still unchanged by other cultures due to their centuries of self-seclusion. Celebrated in music, in theatre, in daily living, every day on this trip introduced my son and I to new outlooks, new foods, new scenery, new ideas and traditions, and new friends. We were able to see the truly amazing natural sites like the historic Yangtze River/extensive and awe-inspiring gorges and Chongqing's giant pandas, plus ancient and extraordinary man-made artifacts such as a buried enormous set of Chinese Bells, jade, Oriental rugs and rug-making, the Terra-Cotta Warriors, the Great Wall, the new largest-in-the-world (Three Gorges) Dam/5-lock system, which changed the face of that part of the world with the rising river water it produced, Shanghai's cosmopolitan modern city and Beijing's historic Tiananman Square and the Forbidden City. And more. The ship was lovely, the food was great, if sometimes experimental (the Chinese really do eat everything), and there were artisans onboard who could create you Chinese clothing made-to-order, beautiful Chinese paintings and painted articles, tea sets and Chinese tea culture, Chinese dancing and traditional costumes of various dynasties. You could also receive an introduction to Tai Chi or receive Chinese massage, pedicure or other delights. Daytrips were mostly covered financially as part of the tour price with only 3 charged extras, all of which we experienced, including two dinner-theatre events (Tang Dynasty and Peking Opera), and a traditional Peking Duck dinner. The boat is small, only accommodating some 240, which split into groups of approximately 30, each led by a Chinese tour guide, which traveled on individual buses for the land portions of the tour. Although ship cabins are always challenging in size if one doesn't have a huge budget, I found the shower to be larger than expected and the bathroom fairly spacious. The interior 270-sq-ft space was nicely fitted, with unanticipated added "comes-with-the-room" features like an umbrella and robe. Loved the veranda as well. In a very hot climate as the Yangtze river areas were, it was a pleasure to be able to sit in a private space to enjoy the view, or to, as we did, rig up a clothes-line system (we brought clothes line and pins) so we had a place to dry laundry, which we washed by hand on-board several times. This was allowed since it's a very common thing in China to hang your laundry; almost no one uses a clothes dryer anywhere, there. Definitely a good decision on the part of Viking to allow everyone to have a veranda. I was dismayed, on the next-to-last day of the tour when we were at the Great Wall, when I inadvertently took a wrong turn when trying to return to our meeting place and found myself far, far away from where I was supposed to be. Although I missed getting back to my meeting place in time and my bus returned without me on the 50-minute ride back to Beijing, this extremely frightening experience (I had no Chinese language and the people where I found myself had little to no English skills) cost me a taxi-ride back to where I was supposed to get to, where I found out for the first time I had been "stranded" by my bus at the Great Wall, Viking River Tours already had anticipated such innocent mistakes as mine, and because I was wearing a name tag with a Chinese character on it telling the Chinese who I was with and therefore where I was supposed to meet, and because that same name tag had the phone number of my bus's Chinese (Viking) travel guide, I was rescued by Viking. In fact, the company even paid for my second taxi...the 50-minute one back to Beijing to the luncheon spot where the rest of my group had gone ahead of me. So, two things about that....they rescued me and took care of/paid for my rescue....and they didn't hold everyone else up while my rescue was happening. Although I was terrified at the time, I was actually under good care (which no one could share because of the language barrier) and was safe all the while, due to Viking's efficiency and management of their tour spots. Because of this rescue and the Viking's overseeing my well-being, my son and I have decided to go on the Viking Oceans 15-day "Viking Homelands" tour on their new 2015 Ocean cruiser, the Viking Star. Read Less
Sail Date July 2013
We are experienced travelers and cruisers and we had never taken an escorted vacation before the Viking Emerald Imperials Jewels of China. However China presented challenges that we did not feel qualified to meet, so we signed up with ... Read More
We are experienced travelers and cruisers and we had never taken an escorted vacation before the Viking Emerald Imperials Jewels of China. However China presented challenges that we did not feel qualified to meet, so we signed up with Viking. We found the vacation more than met our expectations and we were satisfied in every way. We decided to take the Shanghai to Beijing route rather than the reverse because we wanted to begin the trip in Hong Kong (on our own) in order to deal with the jet lag before the main part of the trip and because my husband had been the Hong Kong on business before (albeit a long time ago). We discovered later that there was an additional benefit because this version of the trip allows one to visit the zoo in Chongking and see the pandas where the Beijing-Shanghai does not. Hotels: This trip includes hotels before and after the Yangtze cruise, in Shanghai and Beijing, and a hotel in X'ian where you see the Terracotta warriors. Our hotels included the Shangri-La Pudong and the Hilton in X'ian and the Regent in Beijing and we thought they were all very luxurious and beautiful and probably far beyond what we would normally be able to book for ourselves. We particularly loved the Shangri-La and would recommend asking Viking for it if possible. Ship Info: We booked an entry-level cabin at the Category F level. It had a sliding door that opened to a French (i.e., non-existent) balcony. In size it was exactly the same as all the other balconies and we would recommend getting one of these if you can. There are some larger cabins but frankly you are not in them very often and unlike cruises, you are probably not going to either eat or watch television in your cabin. We thought the cabin was well-appointed and comfortable and while not as luxurious as some cabins we have had on ocean cruises, it was much more comfortable than what we expected on a river cruise in China. We also were very pleasantly surprised with the activities, shops and food aboard the Emerald. They had quite a few lectures on local sites, history (with surprisingly open discussions of current events, including Tiananmen Square), culture (including tea and painting demonstrations) and other interesting information. They also managed to present several little evening shows that featured ethic costumes and the like that we thought were well done particularly given the limited space and the fact that they were using personnel that performed various other functions on the ship. All the staff were courteous and friendly and certainly the folks manning the desk, the bars, and the dinner tables were comfortable using English. We thought the small number of shops on board were fine and well balanced - there was a shop featuring a tailor who made, with the help of a very hard working staff, silk jackets and other clothes made to your specifications and finished before the end of the cruise, a painter who I really loved - I would have purchased everything in his shop but settled on two items that I framed upon our return (in Michael's-nothing fancy) and they are a wonderful souvenir of our trip, a jewelry store, a store specializing in tea where they demonstrated the tea ceremony frequently. There was also a library where there were tables to play games (there was a Chinese Mahjonng demonstration during the cruise). In short, it is different from an ocean cruise but I was pleased and surprised at the extent and variety of activities especially given our limited time on board and their limited space. We were also pleasantly surprised by the food. I thought we would be given nothing but Chinese food and that I would get tired of it quickly. Instead I found that the food was mostly Western and mostly well-prepared. At the hotels, there was generally a big breakfast buffet with a big selection of food. On the ship, there was really no assigned seating except for one or two groups that travelled together from Scotland or wherever and it was nice to meet new people frequently. Once we made a few friends with like interests, we tended to see them out and sit with them. But it was all very low key and friendly. Our servers often became familiar with our personal likes, such as ice-tea with lemon, and were very friendly. Most of the food we had off the ship at banquets and other places was uneven - the lunches were generally better than the special dinners which tended to be very touristy. Some of them, like the Mongolian stir fry and buffet in X'ian and one of the lunches in Beijing were very good. The lunch in the airport in X'ian was surprisingly good. Excursions: We thought all of the excursions were well done and our tour escort Matthew was wonderful (ask Viking for him if you can although we also thought the other tour escort were also good). You are assigned a specific tour escort who is yours from the beginning to the end of the trip. Occasionally, at specific ports/sites, a second guide will also accompany your group and take over delivering the tour for that particular day or site. It was all very well done- they dole out an audiovox guide (about the size of a small tape recorder) that you wear around your neck with headphones like an IPod and these allow your guide to talk to you without raising his/her voice. It also permits you to wander somewhat away from the group, which if you are a photo nut like me, is very welcome. Although groups are only 35 people, it is nice to be able to wonder to nearby display cases without worrying about a crowd getting in the picture. The tour escorts are responsible for all the logistics. They get you to and from the buses, and in and out of your hotels and to and from the airport. They did a phenomenal job which made the various transfers painless. If you are used to an ocean cruise where you pack once for the duration, it is a little different to have to leave a hotel in Shanghai, a cruise cabin, a hotel in X'ian and a hotel in Beijing. But they collect your bags at night and they deal with delivery and check-in at the airport and delivery to your rooms at the next location. It was amazing to see how smoothly this was accomplished. The only issue came at the port of Chongking, where we disembarked and there was a long causeway followed by a stairway where we were expected to manage our carryon items ourselves (we still had them because we needed to dress, etc. in the morning even though our suitcases had already been collected). There were certainly some passengers who found this transfer a little more difficult than expected and we commented on that to Viking even though it wasn't a big problem for us. They may arrange for some sort of porters in the future to help. In sum, we would definitely recommend this trip and thought it was a very good value for the price. Certainly there are more expensive tours but we can't imagine what they could have done better. Lessons learned- a few comments on things I was wondering about before the trip: Money: we found that most large purchases in most gift shops can be done with a credit card. If you need local Chinese currency, the best place to get it is in the ATMs around your hotel. In fact, we found that most hotels, and the ship, will not change Dollars (or other foreign currency) to local currency. But they will change local currency into the smaller denominations you will need if you want to make some small purchases from the local markets or street vendors that you will meet. If you are getting a transfer through Viking to your hotel, you probably won't need local currency before you get there although you can get some in advance at a bank in a major US city like New York. Internet: We brought my Kindle Fire and were able to access the internet in our hotels and on the ship. We were surprised that we were able to send and receive messages through our Yahoo account and most news from the outside world was not blocked. Medical: We brought a regular drug store of stomach medications in case of illness but thankfully we did not need it at any time. They provided bottled water which we used and we drank bottled beverages or beer at meals off the ship. The food on the ship presented no adverse health problems - we ate salad and fresh vegetables without fear and with no after effects. Luggage: We were concerned about the size of our carryons, which are standard domestic rollerboards but somewhat larger than the 20" that they advised we needed. At no time, in any internal flight, did anyone look or comment on our carryons (or our other luggage). You do have to comply with their requirements on not carrying open liquor bottles - one couple that packed a partial bottle of vodka had their luggage held up by the authorities until they removed it- but otherwise there was never a problem with that. Peking Opera: We were leery of this additional evening excursion because we knew that Chinese opera can be dissonant and difficult to follow. However they selected several pieces that were beautiful and sometimes very funny- there were translations in English to help you follow and the costumes were so amazing that our pictures here because some of the best of the trip. We would definitely recommend going on this excursion and the Tang Dynasty evening (where the food was mediocre) which also had beautiful costumes and music. How many times are you going to be able to experience this? Pre/Post Cruise: For what it is worth, we stayed in the Sheraton in HongKong precruise and the Westin Beijing after the cruise for a few days on each end. We had been told that the Viking folks would be booked in the Westin so we anticipated that we could stay on at the same place but they changed it to the Regent at the last minute and we did not want to pay more for the Regent particularly as we had Starwoods points to use for the Westin so we transferred by taxi at the end. I think the extra time in HongKong was good for the reasons mentioned before and the extra time in Beijing (we obtained a local guide) allowed us to see the hutong neighborhoods, the museum and a few temples we did not see with the Viking tour and eat in local restaurants with our guide. But if you don't have time to do that, you will not have missed anything significant. We wished there was a second day in X'ian, as the ancient capital of China there is a lot to see there beyond the Terracotta Warriors, and we have so advised Viking.   Read Less
Sail Date April 2013
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