Exploring Asia Overview
Cathay Pacific B777-300ER Business Class San Francisco to Hong Kong
Cathay Pacific Lounge Review: The Cabin at HKG
Cathay Dragon A330-300 Business Class Hong Kong to Beijing
Lodging Review: Regent Beijing Hotel
Beijing: Dongcheng District
Beijing: The Great Wall
Beijing: Run-ze Jade Garden
Beijing: The Sacred Way of the Ming Tombs
Beijing: The Legend of Kung Fu
Beijing: Tiananmen Square
Beijing: The Forbidden City
Beijing: Hutong Tour via Rickshaw, Tea Tasting, Flying to Xi’an
Lodging Review: Hotel Shangri-La Xi’an
Xi’an: Qing Dynasty Terra Cotta Warriors
Xi’an: Tang Dynasty Dinner and Show
Xi’an Wrap-Up, Flying to Lhasa, Lhasa Home Visit
Lodging Review: Shangri-La Hotel Lhasa
Lhasa: Jokhang Temple and Barkhor Market
Lhasa: Canggu Nunnery and Sera Monastery
Lhasa: Potala Palace
Leaving Lhasa and Flying to Chongqing
Cruising the Three Gorges
Three Gorges Dam
Jingzhou City Walls Tour
Wuhan: Hubei Bells Performance and Provincial Museum
Shanghai: Shanghai Museum
Lodging Review: Fairmont Peace Hotel, Shanghai
Shanghai: Old Shanghai and Yuyan Gardens
Lodging Review: The New Otani Tokyo Hotel
Tokyo: City Tour
Mt. Fuji and Hakone Tour Returning by Shinkansen
ANA Suites Lounge Review, Tokyo Narita
All Nippon Airways B777-300ER First Class Tokyo Narita to Houston
Our previous experience with Viking boats was on the 3-deck boats that cruise the rivers of Europe, like the Rhine and the Danube. The boat that is known as the Viking Emerald is not like that at all. During the cruise we learned that only Chinese-owned boats were allowed to traverse Chinese rivers, so this boat was actually owned by a Chinese company and leased by Viking though it was apparent that Viking had been in charge of the decor as there were lots of similarities to the European river cruise boats.
As we had previously experienced, we received a warm welcome once we arrived – perhaps even more than usual because the staff was all aware of the ordeal we’d been through in Lhasa. The boat was already bustling with other passengers who’d done the Imperial Jewels of China tour. That tour is the same as our Roof of the World tour but without the stop in Tibet. Though the Emerald is a little larger than the European boats, the lobby made us feel right at home as the layout was very similar.
The Emerald has six decks (Viking deck plan):
- Deck 1 is mostly below waterline and is for the crew
- Deck 2 has the restaurant in the stern, the lobby, and passenger cabins in the bow
- Decks 3 & 4 have passenger cabins both fore and aft
- Deck 5 has passenger cabins in the stern and the Observation Lounge in the bow.
- Deck 6 has an outdoor area in the stern, the gym, beauty salon, doctor, spa and internet cafe mid-ship and the bar in the bow
An elevator is available on Decks 2-5. Once reaching Deck 5 it was quite an impressive view down to the lobby floor.
My roommate for this trip wanted to be sure we had a great time so we booked a suite, which at 301 sq. ft. was about 50 sq. ft. larger than the standard cabins. Unlike the European boats, all passenger cabins on the Viking have a balcony, though they’re all quite small.
The layout of the Suite and of the regular Veranda rooms are quite similar, but the elbow room is significantly different. In some ways the cabins feel like a regular hotel room upon entering: a bathroom on one side, a wardrobe on the other, then step into the area with the beds and beyond that is the balcony.
Our beds were waiting for us with the latest copy of the Viking Daily, the newsletter we’d find on our beds each night telling us about the next day’s plan. I like the rubberized cover that is on the beds when we check in, it’s a simple tool that allows us to put our suitcases on the beds without worrying about getting the duvet dirty. During turndown service the housekeeper simply rolls those up and tucks them out of the way for the rest of the trip. All cabins can have the beds joined together or split apart, which is night. Only downside was there were no outlets near the bed.
Between the beds and the balcony we had a sofa and a coffee table. Not sure if it’s because we were in a suite or because it was my third Viking cruise but we got a bottle of champagne and a flower as a welcome amenity.
Across from the sofa was the desk which had several outlets handy. Unlike the European boats there were no 110v outlets but fortunately all our electronics could handle the 220v with just a plug adapter.
To the left of the desk was a wall-mounted TV with a low counter and drawers. This is where the suite really started to distinguish itself from the Veranda cabins. The Veranda cabins are much narrower so there was no storage space at all below the TV.
To the left of the TV was a corner cabinet with several shelves and space for a mini-fridge though we did not have one (and that didn’t matter to us).
To the left of that cabinet was the wardrobe, fronted by a full-length mirror. Across from that was the bathroom. No worries about space in here either. The whole right side of the bathroom (the side that shares the hall wall) was counter space with dual sinks and a shelf underneath that ran the length of the wall as well. The toilet was against the far wall.
On the left side was a full-sized walk-in shower with sliding doors and behind the bathroom door was yet more shelving storage space. We didn’t even need that much storage space!
Unlike the European boats that use made-for-Viking toiletries, the Emerald stocked L’Occitane products, which I really liked.
On Decks 2 and 3 mid-ship near the central staircase there are a few little shops. One sells locally-made products, another sells mass merchandise items and the third sells jewelry.
As mentioned above, Deck 5 contains several hotel-like services including the business center
with an area for playing cards or just conversing at the other end of the room.
A very small gym is on the port side, mid-ship
The library is on the starboard side.
And just like on other Viking ships, the coffee station (often stocked with cookies!) is just outside the Observation Lounge. The Observation Lounge was the site of the nightly briefing and was where the ship’s doctor led a tai chi class each morning.
On the European cruises the staff is truly international. On this boat almost every single staff member was Chinese. But that makes perfect sense in that the population of China is many times the size of any one European nation. Fortunately for us English-speakers, each of the staff members adopted an English name which made it so much easier for us. And the waitstaff, front desk staff and any of the crew who presented the daily briefings or made announcements over the PA system spoke excellent English.
I can’t say enough good things about the staff on board the Emerald. They did an excellent job and were always smiling.
There were differences in the European and Asian Viking boats but not huge ones. The one complaint I had was the humidity and I wasn’t alone in that. When we arrived there were dehumidifiers running in the hallway outside our cabin. They seemed to rotate decks periodically but often the hallway carpet seemed damp. But that’s my only real complaint so that’s pretty darn good.