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  #21  
Old October 6th, 2011, 12:57 AM
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Peregrina651 Peregrina651 is offline
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We're considering this trip for 2013 and would love to benefit from the experience of others. While I understand there is so much that is subjective, there is also some information based on fact and I'm interested in the subjective opinions to see if there is a trend. I promise I won't ask about tastes of food or coffee, softness of mattresses or which tour guide I should ask for!
The hotel mattresses were luxurious, just like the hotels (especially in Shanghai and Beijing).

All of the guides are GREAT, so as much as we loved our guide Larry and wish everyone could tour with him, you will not be disappointed no matter who your guide turns out to be.

Also, you are welcome to read my travel journal. The link is below in my signature.


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Here are my questions, please share your opinions:
**Which month is the most comfortable to travel related to cool temperatures (between 65-80) and low humidity and smog? Or which month did you go that was bad? Our plans are very flexible.

The first and last cruises will give you the best weather. We went in May (8-24) and by the end, it was too hot for me. As for beating the smog, I don't know that it is predictable.


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**What are the pros and cons to starting in Shanghai as opposed to Beijing? Why did you like/dislike the direction you went?
Shanghai to Beijing saves the best for last--Terracotta Warriors, Forbidden City, Great Wall. We prefer a trip that builds up to the best, so S to B was great for us.

S to B includes a visit to the pandas, which was a good thing because that is what DH wanted to see.

We also did the longer Cultural Delights itinerary, which we loved. The extra stops were fascinating and were one of the reasons that we did not feel it necessary to add extra days in Shanghai or Beijing.



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**Do you recommend flying in a day or two early to get used to the time zone? (I understand that Viking transfers are not available if you come in early and that there may be a deviation charge added to the air)
Next time I would consider adding a day or two just to get over the jetlag. Seems the older I get, the less able I am to deal with it.


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**Is there a preferred deck or side of ship for either direction? More sun/less sun, noise, scenery, etc.

We chose cabins forward of the lobby to make sure that we were away from the engine noise. Most of the scenery watching is done from the upper deck, so it didn't seem to matter which side our cabin was on.


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**If you could change one thing you planned with your trip what would it be? It doesn't really matter what you wished VRC did different, because I can't change that.... just something extra you planned.. a special tour you wished you did on your own time, a show that you wished you had skipped... or you skipped that you regret, etc.

Other than staying longer (which was not a possibility), I would not have changed anything.


Thank you so much. I really did read more than a year's worth of posts on the now closed thread and appreciate so much people's time sharing all the great information.


As an aside, this will be our first River Cruise![/quote]

It was our first river cruise as well. I'd been getting the VRC brochures for years and had my eye on it but the clincher was talking to my brother the day after he got home from his trip in 2008. After listening to him tell about his trip, it was just a matter of choosing a date!
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PHOTOS: CHINA'S CULTURAL DELIGHTS • VIKING CHINA PHOTOBLOG • BUENOS AIRES TO VALPARAISO • BALTIC CAPITALS/St.PETERSBURG • FOOTSTEPS OF THE COSSACKS PHOTOBLOG •

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  #22  
Old October 6th, 2011, 05:30 AM
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Default Pandas v. Hutongs

Peregrina's post above helpfully flags one of the actual differences in the itineraries that is dependent on whether you start in Beijing or Shanghai. As she notes, only the trip that starts in Shanghai visits the zoo in Chongqing to see the pandas. (This is NOT the famous panda preserve in China, it is a zoo.) [In prior years, some folks who started in Beijing reported that they arrived in Chongqing so early they were taken to the zoo also, but this is not on the itinerary if you start in Beijing and should not be counted on.]

The trip that starts in Beijing, on the other hand, includes not only an outside tour of an ancient hutong neighborhood, but also has you spending a portion of that morning visiting a hutong family inside their home and learning about their life. This was one of the highlights of the trip for us.

If you want to see pandas in China and still start in Beijing, you can go to the Beijing zoo, as did some of the folks on our trip. (Some arrived early, some did it on the Viking arrival day, which is actually a free day -- no touring with Viking.) For us, having seen the pandas in the National Zoo in D.C., seeing pandas in a Chinese zoo was not a priority over the many other things that can only be done or seen in China. Again, I am giving only our own personal, subjective thinking here of course (and I realize that lots of Americans have never seen pandas).
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  #23  
Old October 6th, 2011, 07:22 AM
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Yes, our guide In Beijing was Sunflower Lee (Lee Lei, aptly nicknamed "Sunflower"). I found her via reviews on Trip Advisor, and we thought she was great. (Her brother is a guide in Shanghai, btw.) Here's her email:

sunflower9811 AT hotmail.com
Thanks! I've filed it for future reference!
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  #24  
Old October 6th, 2011, 07:37 AM
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Also, you are welcome to read my travel journal. The link is below in my signature.[/b][/color]

S to B includes a visit to the pandas, which was a good thing because that is what DH wanted to see.

We also did the longer Cultural Delights itinerary, which we loved. The extra stops were fascinating and were one of the reasons that we did not feel it necessary to add extra days in Shanghai or Beijing. [/color][/b]

Next time I would consider adding a day or two just to get over the jetlag. Seems the older I get, the less able I am to deal with it.

It was our first river cruise as well. I'd been getting the VRC brochures for years and had my eye on it but the clincher was talking to my brother the day after he got home from his trip in 2008. After listening to him tell about his trip, it was just a matter of choosing a date!
Thank you, I've looked at your photoblog and shutterfly pictures, your blog is saved with a bookmark for weekend reading. I can't wait!

The pandas aren't as exciting for us, we've been to the National Zoo often enough to see them and I'm afraid that the "living conditions" of all the animals in a Chinese zoo will leave me with nightmares.

We are going to do the Cultural Delights too, which from everyone's posts seem to be physically demanding. It would be nice to have recovered from jet lag, but frankly I'm more worried about arriving late for the tour. We missed the first day of a cruise once due to "mechanical" issues with a flight, so we never fly on cruise day anymore.

I understand what you must have felt after hearing about your brother's adventure, it's how I feel after reading hundreds of posts without one negative! On CC that's a real testament!
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  #25  
Old October 6th, 2011, 10:29 AM
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The pandas aren't as exciting for us, we've been to the National Zoo often enough to see them and I'm afraid that the "living conditions" of all the animals in a Chinese zoo will leave me with nightmares.
No, the habitats were beautiful and all the animals we saw were well taken care of. I've seen worse in some of Boston's local zoos. I've seen pandas before but there was something special about seeing them IN CHINA.

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We are going to do the Cultural Delights too, which from everyone's posts seem to be physically demanding.
I disagree with that assessment of Cultural Delights. It is longer but not more physically demanding--unless you can't walk very far (in which case, you should reconsider taking this cruise). The added tours are half day tours, except for the trip to the Porcelain History Center.

On the other hand, I would say that the Roof the World itinerary is physically demanding because of the very high altitudes in Tibet.


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It would be nice to have recovered from jet lag, but frankly I'm more worried about arriving late for the tour. We missed the first day of a cruise once due to "mechanical" issues with a flight, so we never fly on cruise day anymore.
Our flight was late leaving Chicago. We were waiting for some passengers from connecting flights. We stayed overnight in Chicago because that is exactly what we were afraid would happen to us. The good thing about arriving late in Shanghai is that all you would miss is a day our touring in the city, which is interesting but not the same as missing the Great Wall or the Forbidden City.

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I understand what you must have felt after hearing about your brother's adventure, it's how I feel after reading hundreds of posts without one negative! On CC that's a real testament!
Actually, I saw one negative on the VRC's Facebook page, but that was from someone who was expected a river cruise to be just like a Caribbean cruise with a casino and Broadway production numbers. IMHO, I think that expectations are different on a trip to China than say a river cruise in Europe and that travelers are willing to gloss over negatives that in other situations they would be screaming about.

One thing about the Viking team in China is that they really care about and care for their guests. The guides are all very well trained and have chosen this as their profession; it is not a summer job or a part-time gig for them.

BTW, have you found Viking's Facebook page. It is almost worth joining FB just to read what has been posted there.
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  #26  
Old October 6th, 2011, 10:41 AM
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No, the habitats were beautiful and all the animals we saw were well taken care of. I've seen worse in some of Boston's local zoos. I've seen pandas before but there was something special about seeing them IN CHINA.
I agree.

In addition, when we have seen Pandas in US Zoos, they have basically been sleeping and were not active.

On the Viking tour, our guide "bribed" the keeper to bring the Pandas out and feed them. It was a highlight of the day.
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  #27  
Old October 6th, 2011, 11:57 AM
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.

In addition, when we have seen Pandas in US Zoos, they have basically been sleeping and were not active.
Sorry for your bad luck ...

And I'm sorry this isn't a video (and that I'm in my office w/o access to more of my pics), or you would have seen romping pandas at the National Zoo in DC:




(photo by turtles06)

Last edited by Turtles06; October 6th, 2011 at 12:08 PM.
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  #28  
Old October 6th, 2011, 07:54 PM
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Sorry for your bad luck ...

And I'm sorry this isn't a video (and that I'm in my office w/o access to more of my pics), or you would have seen romping pandas at the National Zoo in DC:




(photo by turtles06)
Yes, this is what we've seen at the National Zoo in DC. Very active pandas, over many years, they seem to have adapted well. But I'm sure it's amazing seeing them in their home country.

I'm glad to know that the trip is not as physically grueling as I gathered from the thread, but we are in good physical shape, so maybe we don't need days to acclimate.
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  #29  
Old October 6th, 2011, 09:12 PM
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I'm glad to know that the trip is not as physically grueling as I gathered from the thread, but we are in good physical shape, so maybe we don't need days to acclimate.
Do keep in mind, though, that jet lag is still jet lag, and it's real. You'll be going halfway around the world, literally. As I noted, we flew to Beijing in business class, so short of first class, we were about as comfortable as could be. It was not a difficult trip over, but it was a very long one, and when we checked into our hotel at about 4pm or so local time, it was of course 4am body time. After we unpacked, we walked over to Tiananmen Square to watch the evening flag lowering ceremony, took the subway back, had dinner, went to sleep, spent the next morning and early afternoon touring with our private guide, and by about 2pm or so, we had pretty much hit the wall. Could not do more without a nap. We were good to go after that, and spent the next day climbing the Wall at Mutianyu.

I recommend giving yourself a little time to get over the inevitable jet lag. You'll enjoy things that much more!
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  #30  
Old October 6th, 2011, 09:49 PM
roothy123 roothy123 is offline
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We leave tomorrow to fly to San Francisco and then fly to Shanghai on Saturday. From what I can tell, now is a good time to go to China weather-wise and crowd-wise. It is supposed to be about 70-75 degrees F. in Shanghai, and about 5 degrees lower elsewhere. Crowds are supposed to be less, too.

We chose Shanghai to Beijing so that the most strenuous, packed days would be at the end of the trip, when we had hopefully recovered a bit from jetlag. However, we really only have one day in Shanghai, so that may disappoint some folks. I am really wishing now that we had added a day or two before the trip, as I know the jetlag will kill me. I can't even fly from the east coast to the west coast without waking up at 3AM for several days, so I know I will be in a fog in China. Well, I may be in a pollution fog, too, I guess...but hopefully that's a little better in early October than it would be in August!

Turtles, that's a wonderful picture of one of the National Zoo pandas. I have a nice one of Tai Shan (or however you spell it), but that's about it.

Last edited by roothy123; October 6th, 2011 at 09:52 PM.
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  #31  
Old October 6th, 2011, 11:38 PM
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We leave tomorrow to fly to San Francisco and then fly to Shanghai on Saturday. From what I can tell, now is a good time to go to China weather-wise and crowd-wise. It is supposed to be about 70-75 degrees F. in Shanghai, and about 5 degrees lower elsewhere. Crowds are supposed to be less, too.

We chose Shanghai to Beijing so that the most strenuous, packed days would be at the end of the trip, when we had hopefully recovered a bit from jetlag. However, we really only have one day in Shanghai, so that may disappoint some folks. I am really wishing now that we had added a day or two before the trip, as I know the jetlag will kill me. I can't even fly from the east coast to the west coast without waking up at 3AM for several days, so I know I will be in a fog in China. Well, I may be in a pollution fog, too, I guess...but hopefully that's a little better in early October than it would be in August!

Turtles, that's a wonderful picture of one of the National Zoo pandas. I have a nice one of Tai Shan (or however you spell it), but that's about it.
Have a fabulous trip. By the time you return we'll be starting to organize the packing. I'm looking forward to your comments and what you have to say about visiting in the cooler weather.
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  #32  
Old October 7th, 2011, 12:18 AM
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bon voyage, ruth!!
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PHOTOS: CHINA'S CULTURAL DELIGHTS • VIKING CHINA PHOTOBLOG • BUENOS AIRES TO VALPARAISO • BALTIC CAPITALS/St.PETERSBURG • FOOTSTEPS OF THE COSSACKS PHOTOBLOG •

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  #33  
Old October 7th, 2011, 09:00 AM
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Have a great trip, Roothy!
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  #34  
Old October 7th, 2011, 09:14 AM
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We leave tomorrow to fly to San Francisco and then fly to Shanghai on Saturday. From what I can tell, now is a good time to go to China weather-wise and crowd-wise. It is supposed to be about 70-75 degrees F. in Shanghai, and about 5 degrees lower elsewhere. Crowds are supposed to be less, too.
Have a great trip, can't wait to read about it! Thanks for the helpful info
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Old October 7th, 2011, 09:42 AM
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Thanks, everyone! I'm about to go stuff everything in the bags and do a To Do list check. We leave around 2 for the airport, although we will "only" be flying to San Francisco from DC today. I'm now pondering how my husband and I are going to handle the meds timing issue. I only take one, plus an allergy med, and the timing isn't that critical. However, my husband has AM and PM pills. We are on the east coast, so China is 12 hours later than us. He thinks it might be best to phase in the switch, but I'm thinking maybe do the switch over 3 days at the most. I think there are one or two pills that are really morning pills or night time pills, so it's a little complicated. Can anyone suggest how to handle the time difference? I know our bodies will be totally messed up (and wish we were flying in early) but we'll try to manage. We get into Shanghai late afternoon, so I figured even if we're not sleepy then, we'll just take sleeping pills around 9 or 10 pm so we can hopefully start out the day in Shanghai with half a brain!

Also, in Xian, did you guys have access to your checked bag, or did Viking just hold on to those for the night? We are planning on putting everything we need for the overnight in the carry-on bag (11 pounds) for the Xian flight, but just curious how the baggage there worked - at least for you guys!

Thanks.

Last edited by roothy123; October 7th, 2011 at 09:45 AM.
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  #36  
Old October 7th, 2011, 11:16 AM
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Also, in Xian, did you guys have access to your checked bag, or did Viking just hold on to those for the night? We are planning on putting everything we need for the overnight in the carry-on bag (11 pounds) for the Xian flight, but just curious how the baggage there worked - at least for you guys!

Thanks.
Yes we did. In every city, your checked bags are delivered to your hotel room; Viking does not "hold" them. (As you know, we were traveling B to S.) We didn't get to our hotel in Xi'an that early, though, and our bags still hadn't come up when we needed to get ready to leave for dinner. I had to go down to the lobby, where I found an entire cart stacked with Viking luggage, and got the hotel guys to bring them up to people's rooms. (We never put valuables or medicines in our checked bags, and I'm sure you don't either.)

The one time we wished we'd brought a change of clothes in our carry on was the day we flew from Xi'an to Chongqing to get on the Emerald. We did not board till right before dinner, we'd been on the go all day, it was really hot out, we were sweated out through and through, and to say that we could have used a shower and a change of clothes before dinner was an understatement. The checked bags did not show up at our cabins for several hours after we boarded. On the whole trip, this was pretty much one of the only things Viking could have done better --- given us a better handle on the schedule and told us we shouldn't expect to have access to our luggage before dinner. (The printed materials give you quite the opposite expectation -- relaxing on board after your arrival, etc.)

I'm not complaining -- it was an extraordinary trip!
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  #37  
Old October 7th, 2011, 11:49 AM
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Yes we did. In every city, your checked bags are delivered to your hotel room; Viking does not "hold" them. (As you know, we were traveling B to S.) We didn't get to our hotel in Xi'an that early, though, and our bags still hadn't come up when we needed to get ready to leave for dinner.
We did S to B and the evening we arrived in Xi'an we went directly to dinner (and the show) and did not get to the hotel & our luggage until after dinner.

Of course, whether this happens depends on what time your flight to Xi'an is.
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  #38  
Old October 7th, 2011, 02:30 PM
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Yes we did. In every city, your checked bags are delivered to your hotel room; Viking does not "hold" them. (As you know, we were traveling B to S.) We didn't get to our hotel in Xi'an that early, though, and our bags still hadn't come up when we needed to get ready to leave for dinner. I had to go down to the lobby, where I found an entire cart stacked with Viking luggage, and got the hotel guys to bring them up to people's rooms. (We never put valuables or medicines in our checked bags, and I'm sure you don't either.)

The one time we wished we'd brought a change of clothes in our carry on was the day we flew from Xi'an to Chongqing to get on the Emerald. We did not board till right before dinner, we'd been on the go all day, it was really hot out, we were sweated out through and through, and to say that we could have used a shower and a change of clothes before dinner was an understatement. The checked bags did not show up at our cabins for several hours after we boarded. On the whole trip, this was pretty much one of the only things Viking could have done better --- given us a better handle on the schedule and told us we shouldn't expect to have access to our luggage before dinner. (The printed materials give you quite the opposite expectation -- relaxing on board after your arrival, etc.)

I'm not complaining -- it was an extraordinary trip!
Dear Turtles06,


We are pleased to hear that you found your trip to China to be ‘extraordinary’! We truly value the feedback you have shared here. If you have additional feedback you would like to discuss with us directly, please feel free to contact us at TellUs@vikingrivercruises.com. Thank you, sincerely, for being such an active and informative member of the Cruise Critic community. Your comments and input have been greatly appreciated by your fellow travelers and the Viking family!


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  #39  
Old October 8th, 2011, 11:36 PM
ballfamily ballfamily is offline
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BlueDevil75 -- Thanks for the great trip report. We are booked on the same trip starting 3/27/12, Shanghai to Bejing. Given your report, I plan to bring my laptop to access internet in the hotels and in bar areas of ship -- hope I have same luck you did. Thanks for the heads-up on tipping. Sounds kind of steep to me, but suppose its expected like on the larger ships. Just wondering if you found some really good deals on particular souvenirs that we should watch out for? Thanks agin for all the info....
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Old October 9th, 2011, 04:00 PM
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Just wondering if you found some really good deals on particular souvenirs that we should watch out for?
You can't beat the "waving Mao" watch. A few bucks on the streets in Beijing. Won't keep time well, but wind it up, and Mao will wave at you. Bargaining for these became a little running joke among some of us on our trip....
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