Posted April 7th, 2011, 11:32 PM
A comment about Victor and another guide I recommend highly.
Last year, before our cruise, we exchanged some exploratory emails with Victor about using his services. Shazaam is right about Victor's excellent English, but I want to clarify the comment about his not being able to guide you inside important sites. Victor is not a licensed tour guide; he has no guide badge that will allow him to enter places like the Forbidden City for free. However, if you're willing to pay his admission to any site, he can accompany you inside and tell you what you're seeing.
In spite of our positive impression of Victor, we ultimately chose to use Justin's services. Justin is a senior licensed tour guide who does the guiding for visitors touring Beijing with Abercrombie and Kent as well as doing free lance work. Justin's English is good enough that he was hired by a corporation that holds an annual conference in California for the purpose of helping small businesses in China make connections in the US. Justin served as one of the translators and facilitators. (In fact, we both arrived at the airport in Beijing within hours of one another after our trans-Pacific flights.)
If Justin recommends taking you to the Guanfu Museum, follow his advice. This private museum -- the first private museum in China -- has a wonderful collection of furniture, jade, bronzes, and ceramics. Another atypcal activity: Justin took us to the tea wholesale market and we had a tea tasting experience. (Incidentally, this was our second visit to Beijing so we were able to go beyond the must-do list of first-time visitors. I think we spend a total of three 3 1/2 days in Beijing prior to embarking on Nautica.)
Here's Justin's email address: firstname.lastname@example.org
Justin made arrangments for Mikki, his Shanghai-based colleague to take us touring when we docked in that city.