Cruising China's Yangtze River, the 256-passenger Viking Emerald is Viking River Cruises' sole Emerald-class ship — and its only vessel in the region, fully chartered from Chinese-owned Century Cruises. It caters largely to an American clientele, with well-executed, excursion-inclusive itineraries that combine river- and land-based exploration. Cabins on the five-deck, elevator-equipped ship, which is much larger than the riverboats of Europe, start at a comfortable 250 square feet, and all have balconies. Public spaces, anchored on a five-story, skylighted atrium, include a sundeck for sweeping river and gorge views, an observation lounge, a bar, and a restaurant serving American favorites and regional specialties — with free-flowing wine.
What We Love
Shops: Viking's Emerald-class ship scores points for its multiple mini-boutiques, which provide an excellent selection of regional wares and authentic handicrafts, including options such as Chinese-style dresses and jackets, tailor-made on-site. You'll also find snuff bottles, paintings, and fans painted by an onboard artist.
Massages: While you cruise, you can sample Chinese and qigong massage with rejuvenating — and affordable — treatments in Viking Emerald's small spa.
Best Known For
Seamless Itineraries: Viking bundles a sail along the Yangtze — known for its stunning Three Gorges region and the engineering feat that is the Three Gorges Dam — with land-based exploration of Beijing, Shanghai, Xian, and beyond.
Standout Service: Viking's knowledgeable and friendly Chinese tour guides travel with groups from start to finish, and are some of the best in the business. On board Viking Emerald, the pro staff includes a mostly young Chinese crew that is enthusiastic and attentive.
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Who It's Best For
Sophisticated Travelers: Viking Emerald attracts a worldly clientele eager to learn and explore. Expect couples in their 40s and older, or multigenerational families, from teenagers to grandparents, traveling together.
Don't Say We Didn't Warn You
There's a Herd Mentality: Excursions are overseen by excellent guides, but be prepared to be led around en masse at nearly all times. Group touring is the Viking River Cruises way, and its Emerald-Class ship doesn't stray from that philosophy. This is a very social trip and not necessarily for the independent traveler.
Elissa Garay is a Brooklyn-based contributor to ShermansCruise who also writes for Condé Nast Traveler and Travel + Leisure.
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Emerald Class at a Glance
- Line: Viking River Cruises
- Class: Emerald Class
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