I just returned from this trip (May3-16). We booked the trip with little research, based on our positive experience with Viking in Russia last year. We were not dissapointed. Great people, great shopping (and we are not big shoppers), good food. Tour organization, transfers and guides were excellent. We did not book the extension in Shanghai and found ourselves wanting to return.
Fire away with any questions you might have. We had a great time and would be happy to share.
Also looking at this trip for next year, possibly in September. It appears that some of the trips with Viking are now 7 days on the Yangtze instead of the former 3 downstream and 4 upstream. Any comments on taking 7 days on the river? Also, I am interested in one of the all inclusive tours that also includes a 3 day trip to Lhasa, Tibet. Those who have been there with whom I have communicated say that it is worth the extra effort and cost although it extends the trip to 18 or 19 days. So many variations from which to chose! Clarence
In 2004 Viking, all of Viking's cruisetours are centered around 7-day cruises on the Yangtze. There is only one ship, the Century Star, and there are five itineraries to choose from: one 9-day itinerary, one 12-day itinerary, and three 16-day itineraries.
There will be lots of changes in 2005. The China Star will offer only one itinerary--a 14-day cruisetour that includes three nights in a 5-star hotel in Beijing, one night in a 5-star hotel in Xian, a 9-day cruise along the Yangtze from Chongqing to Shanghai, and a one-night stay in a 5-star hotel in Shanghai.
But...Viking is introducing a new all-vernada ship, Viking Sky. The Sky will offer several itineraries, all centered around either 3- or 4-day cruises along the Yangtze. One of the itineraries, Roof of the World, is a 13-night cruisetour that includes Tibet. Imperial Jewels offers a choice of a 9- or 10-night plan, Beijing to Shanghai, including a 3- or 4-night cruise.
Two other itineraries, Imperial Jewels and Shoppers Paradise (choose 13- or 14-night plan, with 3- or 4- night cruises) and Cultural Delights and Shoppers Paradise (an 18-night plan with a 4-night Yangtze sailing) include a visit toHong Kong, including a hotel stay there.
Hopefully Viking's 2005 China brochures will be mailed out within the next week or two. Until then, if you have additional questions or want additional information, please let me know. Hopefully I'll have the information!
Thanks Shirley. That is really important information. I have looked online at some of the 2005 offerings of Viking on their China tours/cruises and am somewhat disappointed in the paucity of add-ons that they are offering for next year. I can only conclude that they were not sufficiently popular in 2004 to merit adding in 2005.
I am inclined to use another provider for the land portion to get exactly what I want and have them purchase the cruise portion through Viking. I am sure that won't be a problem. Many deals are available on trips to China with varying levels of accommodations and combinations of cities. It also seems that the dollar goes farther with the Yuan than it does with the Euro! Plus, it is actually cheaper to fly to China than to Europe! Go figure.
I have ordered the 2005 catalog and am anxiously looking forward to receiving it. I know that the preferred time of year for a China trip is in the Spring but do you know when the comfortable weather season returns in the Fall? How does early September sound to you? You sound quite knowledgable about Viking. Have you traveled to China with them or are you related in some way to the company?
Where did you find information about Viking's 2005 China itineraries on the internet? The 2005 brochure will be out soon, and so far, I haven't been able to find anything on the web that even hints at next year's Viking plans. Don't tell anyone, but I am a travel agent who books lots of Viking River Cruises; and therefore I have been able to gather some information--but again, not from the web.
September is definitely a high season for China. Airfare and cruise fare is most expensive then--and that says something.
Although I've sailed on Viking several times, I haven't been to the Far East yet, but I have definite plans to visit China via Viking River Cruises at the beginning of May, 2005. My husband and I are planning to tour Thailand on pre-cruise--probably Bangkok and Chiangmai on our own. An airlines consolidator has convinced me that it will only cost an additional $250 in airfare to do multi-destination open-jaw flights to include the two Thailand cities. Hotels seem to be very, very reasonably priced, and I understand that restaurants offer real bargains--especially compared to paying European prices with Euros!
If anyone reading this message can recommend hotels, must-sees and must-dos, please share your knowledge with me! And if you have any questions about Viking River Cruises, I'll be glad to share my knowledge with you.
Shirley, if you go to the web site and click on cruise finder on the left side it brings up some boxes to check. The top one is for 2004. The one under it is also marked 2004 but obviously is meant to be 2005. Then just click on thru with China as the destination and it brings up dates and feature for all of the 2005 trips on the Sky.
Do you know any consolidators who do Business Class to China? Viking wants an additional $2,900 per person which seems kind of steep when compared to Grand Circle's $1,900. Both are plus the cost of economy fare built in to the trip price. That puts the total value of Viking's Business Class up to $3,600 which is close to the cost of the rest of the package.
I am disappointed that they will not be offering an add-on to Guilin and the Li River day cruise. That is supposed to be quite delightful. It is offered on some trips but not on the Roof of the World itinerary for some reason. I called their reservations department and they said "no can do." If you want to do it you have to do your own air and book that seperately after leaving the group. That is not encouraging. I would hate to go that far and miss one of the real highlights of China. I can stand missing Hong Kong.
Just read a report on CruiseCritic from someone who just got back (not on Viking) and said "by all means go!"
How in the world did you discover that 2005 itinerarie were stored in the 2004 "box"?
Thanks so much for the revelation!
I know several people who have "done" Viking's China cruise, and they all were very, very pleased. I'm looking forward to it!
I've been working with a consolidator for our China vacation--I'll ask him tomorrow about business air. Why don't you write to me privately (firstname.lastname@example.org) and let me know your departure city and when you are planning your trip.
I've been giving heavy consideration to doing an add-on in Bangkok and Chiangmai. The consolidator tells me that it will only cost about $200-$250 per person for the open-jaw air!
We are taking the Imperial Jewels tour this summer. Do you know of anyone who had problems with the 44 pound weight restriction on the Chinese airlines? Were people over? Did they weigh bags individually? Were people required to pay?
We are going on the China Cultural Delights tour from June 6 through 18th, 2005 that cruises on the Century Star. I hope it is just as good as the Po River cruise in Italy we went on a couple of years ago.
If anybody has advice or tips about the trip would be appreciated?
We're going on the Imperial Jewels and Shopper's Paradise on Sept 1. What are the best shopping spots? I know, it depends on what you want to buy, but in general - are there some stops considerably better than others?
"We are going on the China Cultural Delights tour from June 6 through 18th, 2005 that cruises on the Century Star. I hope it is just as good as the Po River cruise in Italy we went on a couple of years ago."
You will not be disappointed! Many of the people in my group called the China cruise the best ever--and these were heavy-duty cruisers, having sailed many ocean cruises and river cruises in the past. The Yangtze scenery is magnificent--much nicer than the Po; and the ports are unique and lovely.
I have five "chapters" of information that I provided to members of my group--everything from shopping to precautions to port information--and a couple of reviews of the cruise by past guests, etc. Please send me your email address if you'd like a copy of the information.
If anyone else reading this post would like the information, please let me know. If you're leaving soon, you might want to write to me directly, as I'm off to Alaska this weekend. You can reach me at email@example.com.
"We're going on the Imperial Jewels and Shopper's Paradise on Sept 1. What are the best shopping spots? I know, it depends on what you want to buy, but in general - are there some stops considerably better than others?"
We sailed a different itinerary, but I can give you some advice about shopping in the ports we visited. First things first: be ready to use your bargaining skills! In every place except the government-run silk factory, prices were VERY, VERY NEGOTIABLE. For example, I was given a price of 660 Yuan (approximately 8 Yuan to a US dollar, so let's say $85.00) for a jade necklace. By the time I concluded the sale, I had the necklace, earrings, and a bracelet to match--all for 200 Yuan, or about $25.00.
In Beijing, during the tour of the hutongs, I was able to purchase knock-off Rolex watches for $2.50 each (altho the initial asking price was $15.00). They are still running!
There's good shopping at tje Great Wall--again a place to practice your bargaining skills. Tee shirts can be had for as little as $2.00 each; knock-offs of designer pocketbooks, scarfs are rampant. Souvenirs for a dollar or two are all over the place! Rolex watches (supposedly "good ones") are priced at $25.00 or more. There are lovely porcelain dolls, too.
The shops in Xian feature copies of the Terra Cotta Army sculptures. They make very nice souvenirs! You can find some museum quality pieces--very expensive--all the way down to a box of five small pieces for $2.00. There are also beautiful jade masterpieces available.
Your first stop during the river cruise portion is Shibaozhai. The Shibaozhai Temple is very interesting...and it's a great place to get souvenir-type purchases: "silk" jackets, kimonos, robes, pajamas; purses, wine-bottle covers, wallets; chopsticks; China dolls; toys, etc. Do not pay more than $8.50 for a jacket, even though the opening request might be as high as $80.00!
In Shanghai I bought a pulled silk blanket and duvet at the government-run silk factory. The fabric is guaranteed to be silk--and prices for everything seem to be non-negotiable. I paid about $160 for the two pieces and I love them! In the shopping area near the Bund you can find all kinds/all qualities of jewelry, jade sculptures, knock-off Rolexes (I bought two that aren't working anymore and two others that are doing just fine, thank you!).
Our cruisetour ended in Shanghai, so I can't give you any information about shopping in Guilin or Hong Kong at this time. Someday I'll get there...and to Thailand, too!
I would appreciate a copy of your information packet. We are doing the Imperial Jewels tour beginning Aug 31. My email address is DL111255@AOL.COM, please put Viking River Cruise in the subject line. Thanks
Thanks for the information I'm really looking forward to the cruise, which will be my second with Viking.
It's a pity that we can't rely on the weight resrictions not being enforced (from one of your other posts). We are really cutting down, and while I'm not contemplating buying a life-sized statue of a warrior, the weight restrictions do put a crimp in our shopping style, unless we want to ship a lot of goods home.
If anyone else is going on the same cruise, drop me a line ... it's always nice to correspond with future shipmates.
We are leaving in one week from Sunday and I have nothing to wear. Please ladies help a girl out. I'm not fussy but I do want to look good day and night. What can I take that won't wrinkle so badly. I think I can work a wardrobe around 6 main items. (Plus extras shirts, too) Thanks in advance to all that reply.