China First-hand: What It’s Really Like To Cruise Down The Yangtze

July 23, 2015’s Rachael has just come back from her “Imperial Jewels of China” fourteen day river cruise and tour with Viking Cruises. We interviewed her about the trip as she explained the highlights of her journey and what she enjoyed most about China.


What were your favourite excursions?

The Great Wall of China was the trip I was most looking forward to – and I wasn’t disappointed! I was amazed at its size and also how busy it was. So many people treat it as a pilgrimage and it was a great feeling to climb to the top of a section and stand and survey the surrounding mountains and valleys. You can read more about this here.

The Great Wall Of China

Yuyuan Garden in Shanghai was also a stand out highlight for me. It was so tranquil and quiet in such a fast paced city and full of rich history. The gardens were stunning and hidden statues of dragons peaked out at you as you walked round.

Yuyuan Garden

Tang Dynasty Dinner show was an optional excursion that I took and I’m really glad I did. You ate a range of local fine food including rice wine and then sat back to watch the performance. It was all singing all dancing and you could imagine how impressive the show would have been if it had been performed to the emperor! The traditional costumes also dazzled the audience and gave you a great sense of the culture and history of these performances. You can find out more about this here.

Tang Dynasty Dinner Show


What did you think of the Viking Emerald?

It was so much bigger than I was expecting and consequently you felt like you had much more space! The range of shops and facilities on-board was really good and I can personally recommend the back massage at the spa!

Spa on viking emerald

The staterooms had plenty of space and were restocked with water and a planner daily. The ship had a casual dress code and there was a very relaxed atmosphere on-board. Evening entertainment was enjoyable with live music, shows and a cosy bar to enjoy the range of cocktails. Read more about my thoughts on the ship here.

Lounge Viking Emerald


What was the other accommodation like?

The hotel in Beijing was my favourite room, because of the masses of space. Bizarrely it had a toilet with at least ten settings (who knew a toilet could be that sophisticated?) But the hotels in other cities all had very distinctive features as well!

The Westin Bund Hotel in Shanghai was impressive as aside from being stunning on the inside – it also acted as a landmark. This meant that you never got lost trying to find your hotel, no matter how many glasses of wine you enjoyed at dinner…

Westin Bund Centre Shanghai

Staying at so many fine five star hotels has meant that I’ve had a bit of a struggle adjusting back to my own house!


Tell us about some of your favourite food that you tried.   

Food on-board was a great variety of local delicacies and western favourites. If lunch fell during an excursion it would be had as a buffet in local workshop – the best of which was a Mongolian BBQ at the Shanghai Carpet Factory. It was also great to try some local street food in Jingzhou and I tried a range of weird and wonderful things – from oysters to the roots of a lotus flower, from crawfish to the leaves of a sweet potato. It was nice to dine with the locals and see what they eat – as well as enjoying a western feast from time to time! Find out more here.

Street food style


Would you say that you got to know the real China?

Yes! Well, some of it. It was a completely immersive experience and the inclusion of particular excursions got you to the heart of the places you visited.

Having tea with a local in Beijing showed you the Hutongs, which are the traditional houses in Beijing. Walking amongst these streets showed you the life of the locals who can’t afford high rise apartments and live the traditional way of life. The tea ceremony in a local’s house also showed us local art of snuff bottle painting and how the traditional arts are used to make a living today. You can read more about the real Beijing here.

Snuff bottles in Beijing

Meeting the school children in Jingzhou was also incredibly memorable as the children danced and sang for us before inviting us into the classrooms. We watched them recite poetry, sing and recite the names of countries before singing for them in turn. Learning about how important education is to these children as well as realising that some of them live at the school because they live so far away was both heart-warming and breaking.


Viking Sponsored school


Do you have any top tips?  

Go expecting to be surprised and amazed by the people, the culture and the locations. It was nothing like I expected, despite researching the destinations a lot before I went!

For all my other top tips, read my blogs here.

Have you ever taken a trip down The Yangtze ?

Interested in booking this trip? Give one of our specialist cruise consultants a call!

If you want to read more about Rachael’s adventures in China then read of the rest of her live blogs here.
Would you ever consider a trip around China? Have you travelled here before? Let us know in the comments below!