The Viking Emerald provides a first class river cruising experience. The ship is a new edition the the Viking River Cruise line, and is up to the highest standards for such a boat. We had a suite, and it was spacious, well-designed, attractively furnished and impeccably kept. The public areas of the ship were all tasteful, clean, and well-designed for their purposes. The boat lacks the many amenities of large cruise ships, such as casinos and swimming pools, but that is to be expected on a river cruise. There were many charming extras provided, such as a small daily gift at bedtime tied to the setting in China, free coffee and tea including specialty coffees available 24/7, and unlimited free house wine at every night. The staff were polite, helpful, and attentive.
Food and Dining
5 out of 5
Viking provided a varied and interesting menu for the cruise. Each night there were at least three new dishes, in addition to grilled choices (steak, salmon, chicken) that were always available. There were vegetarian options pointed out on the menu at every meal. At breakfast there was a large buffet, with omelets, waffles and pancakes made to order as well as congee and other Asian foods. Lunch featured a buffet again, with numerous salad, soup, sandwich, and dessert offerings. In addition, there was a choice of lunch entrees served by waitstaff, including items such as Weiner schnitzel and a daily Chinese specialty. Dinner was more formal, with four courses served to us and an unending stream of house wine served at no charge! The food was good, but not exceptional. Dining times were conveniently tied to excursion times. There was no required seating, but the wait staff assured everyone of finding places, which was usually easy given the friendliness of the passengers.
5 out of 5
Much of the trip was a tour of sites apart from the cruise: the Great Wall, the pottery army, the forbidden City, the Shanghai Museum, etc. These experiences were fantastic! The sites themselves were incomparable, the tour and transfers were as smooth as Chinese silk, the information was fascinating and complete without being overwhelming, and China itself is a manifold delight. The trip is strenous, involving travel over 1800 miles and three internal air flights, but was more than worth the effort involved, especially since Viking made it almost effortless for us. We stayed at excellent hotels, had delectable meals at restaurants in varied cities, and were treated to fantastic shows in three different cities. The tour part of the experience was more important than the cruise part, though the two melded seamlessly together to create one of the best vacations I have ever had.
Service and Staff
5 out of 5
Everything we asked for was done for us with alacrity. A big part of this cruise was the Tour Escort who met us at the airport and stayed with us throughout the cruise. He was simply phenomenal. His English was equal to that of a person brought up in the US. His knowledge of Chinese history and traditions was wide-ranging, and he knew how to make his stories humorous and lively. He made the trip! In addition, the wait staff was polite, attentive and jumped to attend to our needs. The cleaning staff was unobtrusive, and yet our stateoom and all public areas were always fresh and inviting. I cannot praise the staff enough.
5 out of 5
The boat is much smaller than most cruise ships, with only about 130 staterooms, but very large for a river cruise ship. There were 6 decks, which is quite a few for such a vessel! It was small enough to meet many of our fellow passengers, but large enough to avoid any feeling of claustrophobia. The public areas were attractively laid out and the decor was modern and attractive in an understated sort of way consistent with the Scandinavian theme of Viking. There were always people at work cleaning the boat, so all public areas were spotless. Accessiblity is an issue in China. Even disembarkation and embarkation required walking many stairs in most places. The ship was equipped with a small elevator that could be used to get from deck to deck, but could not accommodate many people. Most travelers, including my husband and me used the stairs. This is not a suitable trip for people with mobility issues.
Cabin / Stateroom
5 out of 5
I loved my stateroom! The layout was clever, the bed large and comfortable. We had a bath, which is great on a river cruise! The closet and drawer space were more than sufficient for our needs. There was a comfortable seating area and a large flat screen TV with numerous English language channels. The condition of the stateroom was excellent; everything was in working order and was meticulously maintained. We had free champagne and fresh fruit waiting for us when we arrived, and the fresh fruit was renewed daily. The balcony was a nice addition, and the large picture window leading to the balcony was a delight.
Ports of call
3 out of 5
We visited and local school sponsored by Viking. The children put on a charming performance for us, and we got to sit in on a class and meet third graders. they were adorable!
The Three Gorges Dam is an interesting engineering achievement, but I'm not terribly interested in engineering. The view from on top of the Dam was lovely. There was little informed discussion of the environmental and human costs of building the Dam and displacing a million people.
The temple and pagoda were wonderful to see. One important point is that to get to the top of the pagoda and see the temple one must climb many stairs. It was about 100 degrees Fahrenheit when we were there, which made this quite strenuous. However, the guide took us up gradually, while pausing at each level to discuss Chinese religion and history. A fascinating place!
Don't Miss: Climbing the pagoda and taking in the view.
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