Cruise Line: Viking River Cruises Cruise Ship: Viking Century Sun Reviewer's Name: Mary B. Location: Farmington Hills, MI Does the reviewer recommend this ship? Yes Sailing Date: July 2008 Cruise Length: N/A Destination: Asia Room Type: Mini-Suite
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This was our 10th cruise but first time on Viking River Cruises. We have sailed Europe and the Caribbean on Celebrity, RCCL, Princess, NCL but Viking is now at the top of the list for the way they take care of their passengers and handle the tours!
What an awesome experience. We were to leave Detroit on June 28 on NWA, unfortunately prior to leaving we learned our connecting flight in Tokyo was delayed with a non-scheduled maintenance until the next morning which would make us miss part of our first day in Shanghai. We called Viking and they were aware of the problem and we contacted NWA who had already re-accommodated us on Japan Air Lines flight. But the NWA flight was late leaving and no hope of making the JAL connection. NWA put us up in a hotel in Tokyo and while the next morning, we were put on an ANA flight to Shanghai. We assumed that we would be on our own when we got to Shanghai and would have to find our own way to the hotel since this was not Viking's fault. Much to our surprise, a Viking representative was waiting and she quickly put us in a van to try and catch up with the rest of our tour. When she found it was too late to catch the tour at the Yuyuan Garden Tour, she took us through the garden on a private tour and then took us in a cab to our hotel and introduced us to our tour host, Grant Qin. Grant had us sit down and he quickly got us checked into the hotel and arranged for our luggage to be delivered to the room. It was the beginning of an amazing trip.
In Shanghai, we were put up at the 5-Star Shangri-La which is one of the most beautiful hotels ever, and the breakfast buffet there was unbelievable, put most of the large scale buffets in Vegas to shame. We saw a performance by the Shanghai acrobats that evening and it was a wonderful show.
The next morning we visited a silk rug factory/cashmere shop and the only bad meal of the entire trip was the box lunch prepared by the hotel since we did not have time to stop at a restaurant for lunch before catching the plane. The luggage was handled seamlessly by Viking, you left your luggage outside your room in the morning and it appeared in your hotel room in the next city or on the boat, what a nice touch not to have to worry about your bags. We flew to Wuhan where we got the boat (Viking Century Sky) to begin the sail up the Yangtze. We were offered the opportunity to upgrade to a Junior Suite for $550. We looked at our original cabin (227) which was perfectly lovely but decided we would treat ourselves. The location of the suite at the foot of the steps and next to the small Internet cafe, it was a great location, convenient to everything. The suite seemed to have a larger bed and bigger bathroom. The only criticism we had of the cabins was that there were no drawers, some shelves in the triple closet and ample room to hang clothes but we missed the ability to put things in drawers. The bedstands had a drawer and the desk and a small cabinet under the TV but no real place to store socks, underwear etc except on the shelves in the closet.
There were 159 passengers and while the ship holds about 300, it was lovely to sail with that small of a group. Each tour host handles a group of people - our group was 34. It was nice because you got to know your group quite well which was fun. Grant was an amazing host - he was so knowlegeaable and helpful, he made the trip a fantastic journey.
We spent the next 5 days on the Yangtze, each day was filled with activities and tours. The visit to the Viking school was quite charming. Viking sponsors this school and two others and it is very impressive how they have stepped in to help the children receive an education. The kids put on quite a performance. Of course the highlight of the river was the visit to the Three Gorges Dam project and the amazing scenery in the Lesser Three Gorges.
We disembarked the ship at Chongquing, visited the zoo to see the pandas, which was so fun and then flew to Xian to see the Terra Cotta warriors. What an amazing sight that was! There is a wonderful gift shop at the Museum there and a great place to get jade carvings and other great gifts. Our hotel in Xian was the Soffitel which was another 5-star wonderful hotel. We saw the Tang Dynasty show in Xian and it was colorful and interesting but we were tired and it seemed to go a little long. We flew to Beijing from Xian and our hotel in Beijing was the Ritz Carlton, another fabulous hotel. Beijing was amazing and seeing the preparation for the Olympics was pretty amazing as well. We thought the Shanghai to Beijing rather than Beijing to Shanghai was the best way to take the cruise.
Some comments that you may find helpful: Tour hosts and local guides will always let you know where the "clean" restrooms are - most restrooms have at least one Western style toilet but the majority of Chinese bathrooms are Eastern style where you must squat. Toilet paper is not the norm so always carry Kleenex and hand wipes. You can't drink water from the tap in China-ample bottled water is provided to you both on the ship and in hotels and both have kettles to boil water for tea, coffee or to use while brushing your teeth. All of the hotels provided disposal toothbrushes and toothpaste. Each tour bus had bottles of water to provide to all of the guests and the ship also provided bottled water prior to each shore excursion. All of the food on the ship was cleaned and prepared with bottle water and the ice was made from bottled water - there was no problem with eating anything on the ship (salads, fruit, iced drinks). There was an exercise room on the ship but it was very small - only two recumbent bikes, three electric type bikes, one spin bike and a small number of free weights. Water and towels were provided in the exercise room but it did not have a fan and was pretty warm.