Set on the banks of the Yangtze River, the sprawling, ancient Chinese city of Jingzhou is typically bypassed on river cruising routes, which instead focus on the Three Gorges Dam and the Lesser Three Gorges region. The walled metropolis has a relationship with Viking River Cruises, however, which sponsors an elementary school and offers passengers half-day excursions to engage with local schoolchildren.
What We Love
Jingzhou City Walls: These centuries-old stone walls are punctuated by gates, battlements, and watchtowers that make for an atmospheric stroll or bike ride (bicycle rentals are available).
Jingzhou Museum: Visitors can view some 130,000 cultural artifacts, many of which were excavated from ancient regional tombs. Among the displays: collections of jade, lacquer work, and weaponry, as well as "Sui," a remarkably well-preserved 2,000-year-old male corpse.
Best Known For
Elementary School Visit: During the excursion, expect an enthusiastic greeting in the form of an adorable song and dance before being led into the classrooms to learn more about the Chinese educational system.
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Who It's Best For
Authentic Culture Vultures: If you love interacting with the locals, you'll be right at home. The giggling, curious children don't frequently get visitors at school. You'll be a novelty to them and a window into the outside world.
Don't Say We Didn't Warn You
Watch the Clock: The stop in Jingzhou is only a few hours. Beyond the scheduled excursion, there isn't much time for independent exploration.
Direction Matters: Only passengers sailing from Beijing to Shanghai will have the opportunity to anchor at this port. Itineraries offered in the reverse direction stop at a school in Yueyang.
Elissa Garay is a Brooklyn-based contributor to ShermansCruise who also writes for Condé Nast Traveler and Travel + Leisure.