Blue Water Holidays
Blue Water Holidays - ABTA - ATOL - CLIA
Experts in River and Small Ship Cruising Holidays since 2002
01756 706500 +44 1756 706500
Blue Water Holidays - ABTA - ATOL - CLIA
01756 706500
+44 1756 706500

Yangtze River Cruises and Land Tours in China

China is one of the most fascinating destinations on earth, best explored on one of our tours to the highlights of China

On your visit marvel at the mighty Yangtze River and geographic diversity of China. See the contrast between ancient Chinese culture and its more recent entrepreneurial spirit. Be inspired by majestic landscapes and impressive historical sites. Yet all the while enjoy the comfort of deluxe hotels and luxurious ships on our fully-escorted tours.

  • China Map
  • Wuhan temple
  • Yangtze Gorges
  • Sunset in the Three Gorges
  • Three Gorges
  • Pastoral scene
  • Three Gorges Dam

About Yangtze River Cruises

We offer a range of carefully planned itineraries, all of which include a journey along the most scenic section of the River Yangtze. The landscape is truly captivating, in particular the Three Gorges and Lesser Three Gorges, where sheer cliffs and mountain peaks rise dramatically from the water.

Our tours take you to the highlights of China. Depending on the holiday, you can visit:

Visit the Forbidden City with its grand palaces and courtyards, Tiananmen Square, the Imperial Summer Palace with its lakeside Chinese gardens, and excursions to the Great Wall of China

Home of the Terracotta Warriors, 8000 life-sized terracotta infantrymen still guarding the tomb of the first Quin Emperor

The Panda Breeding Centre

Cosmopolitan and scintillating city with its famous waterfront and Nanjing Road, the longest shopping street in China

Hong Kong:
Unique former British colony with its bustling atmosphere and superb harbour setting overlooked by Victoria Peak.

Great Wall of ChinaGreat Wall of China The terracotta warriorsThe terracotta warriors

Cruise Collection 2019

  • Grand Tour of China

    15 Nights - Shanghai and Back

    Century Sun Century Sun

    Discover China's iconic sights, from the magnificent Forbidden City in Beijing to the famous Terracotta Warriors in Xi'an and and the endangered Giant Pandas at Chengdu Zoo, and enjoy a 2-night cruise along the mighty Yangtze on the luxurious Century Sun, on this superb cruise and land tour, with return flights from the UK 2019 - Mar, Apr, May, Jul, Sep, Oct

    Forbidden City, Beijing Fly Cruise Package
    From £2599pp
    View Full Details

  • Imperial Jewels of China

    14 Nights - Shanghai to Beijing

    Viking Emerald Viking Emerald

    A superb Yangtze River cruise and land tour combining hotel stays in the magnificent cities of Shanghai, Xian and Beijing with a Yangtze River cruise through the spectacular Three Gorges. Includes travel package from the UK, transfers and excursions 2019 - Mar, Apr, May, Jun, Aug, Sep, Oct, Nov Save £500pp!

    Chinese lanterns Fly Cruise Package
    From £3295pp
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  • Best of China

    13 Nights - Beijing to Shanghai

    Sanctuary Yangzi Explorer Sanctuary Yangzi Explorer

    This luxury holiday includes 4-nights on the mighty Yangtze and hotel stays in the spectacular cities of Beijing, Xi’an and Shanghai. Includes travel package from the UK, drinks with meals on board and exclusive benefits including Freedom of Choice Touring and signature experiences 2019 - Mar, Apr, May, Jun, Aug, Sep, Oct, Nov FREE Economy Class flights - save up to £2700 per couple!

    Forbidden City, Beijing Fly Cruise Package
    From £4645pp
    View Full Details

Yangtze River Highlights

Chengdu (China)

The Giant Panda Breeding Research Base is one of Chengdu’s most popular attractions. The enclosures house around 120 giant pandas and 76 red pandas. Other highlights include the Tomb of Wang Jian, decorated with carvings of musicians and the Jinsha Site Museum which contains ruins of the Shu kingdom.


Hong Kong (China)

Hong Kong is one of the world's busiest ports. The cruise terminal in Victoria Harbour is within walking distance of markets and restaurants, set against a skyline of futuristic skyscrapers, and junks and sampans plying the harbour. Stanley Market sells a range of goods, and an historic tramway takes visitors up Victoria Peak for panoramic views. Dining in floating restaurants, shopping in Causeway Bay and visiting Man Mo Temple are popular Hong Kong experiences

Hong Kong


This tourist resort on Hainan Island has a tropical atmosphere, and the scenic, 4-mile long Yalong Bay where there are watersports on offer. Snack vendors and barbecue stands can be found in Sanya around the clock. On the coast nearby is Tianya Haijiao, an area of interesting rock formations, some inscribed with poems. The island's landscape is mountainous, and crossed by rivers and valleys.

Sanya (China)

Three Gorges

The Three Gorges region is a beautiful stretch of the Yangtze River. Qutang Gorge is the shortest of the three gorges but the most dramatic, Wu Gorge is known for its forest-covered mountains and Xiling Gorge is the longest. The Three Gorges Dam, the largest hydropower project in the world is located in the middle of the Xiling Gorge. Some cruiselines offer excursions to the Lesser Three Gorges on the Daning River – Dragon Gate, Misty and Emerald.

Three Gorges (China)


Xi’an was one of the wealthiest cities in the world when China dominated the silk trade. Today, it is home to the famous Terracotta Warriors, 8000 life-sized infantryman who guard the tomb of the first emperor Qin Shi Huangdi. The tomb was discovered by farmers in 1974. Other highlights include the impressive Ming-era city walls, atmospheric Muslim Quarter and the Bell Tower, dating back to the 14th century.

Xi'an (China)

Customer Reviews

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We thoroughly enjoyed our two busy weeks in China, encompassing everything from the futuristic architecture of Shanghai to the beautiful and evocative Forbidden City in Beijing, taking in the Terracotta Warriors, pandas, pagodas and the Great Wall on the way. Our tour also included a fascinating 5 day cruise along the Yangtze river visiting the very impressive feat of engineering which is the Three Gorges Dam contrasting with the timeless beauty of the three gorges themselves. We saw everything along the river from huge coal barges to tiny sampans and junks; from the massive conurbation of Chongqing to ancient and isolated Taoist monasteries.

We were very well looked after by our tour escort who accompanied us the whole way and by knowledgeable local guides, fluent in English. China is a country of huge contrasts and it is changing rapidly. We would unequivocally recommend this trip, the only caveat would be it is not really for people with mobility problems. There is a fair amount of walking involved and to access some sites there may be a considerable number of steps. We saw and learnt a great deal in our 13 days and had many new experiences from trying Tai Chi to the challenge of a 15 dumpling banquet. We even learnt some Mandarin!

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    Lesser Three Gorges
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    12-storey Shibaozhai Temple, a red pavilion built in 1650.
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    Chongqing Zoo giant pandas
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    The Great Wall

We have recently returned from China and had a fabulous time.  The organisation of the Viking holiday was second to none.  The hotels (with the exception of The Golden Flower Xian, which was tired and not up the the standard of the rest of the hotels) were super and the ship, Viking Century Emerald was perfect. The staff were attentive and efficient and made the holiday more personalised.

 If we had any criticism, it would be that there wasn't enough free time built in, except on the ship, to explore the areas independently, and to shop, which is how we have previously holidayed.  As this was only our second cruise experience, both being river cruises, Nile and Yangtze, we were not disappointed, but still not sure if cruising on a larger vessel would be for us.

I would certainly reccommend this cruise as an ideal way to see the main sites of interest in China, staying in luxury with all excursions included and managed by someone else. Everything ran smoothly and all needs were catered for.  Well done Viking.

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    Dawn approaching Fengdu
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Our yangtze cruise was part of a once in a lifetime holiday exploring China which is truly awe inspiring and way surpassed anything we imagined it would be.  The cruise itself was breathtaking; the Three Gorges are majestic, fascinating and beautiful and the boat trip along shennong stream shouldnt be missed if only for the greater connection to peace and nature.  The visit to the Three Gorges dam is interesting and the view from the top stunning. Going through the five locks takes just over four hours, so take the time to relax.  Fengdu is well worth the visit. We didnt see anything that came close in terms of unusual interest - it really is the strangest and atmospheric place but far too many people in such a small place, all crowding round to see everything and possibly not quite long enough for me.  Trainers or safe shoes are a must - there's a bit of climbing at Fengdu but theres always the cable car if you cant face the climb!

 We were incredibly lucky with the weather, raining only on the day we boarded and part of the next day - the rest was warm and sunny - mid september is a great time to go - it is worth taking a light raincoat/anorak - you do need it. We anticipated mosquitoes by the army but never even got bitten. Clothes need to be casual with at least one smart outfit for the evening if you are inclined to dance and join in the planned festivities which are quite sweet.  Chinese food, even on board the cruise, is a bit of an aquired taste. Its not like the takeaways or restaurants in the west - quite different and as a vegetarian, I found it a bit of a challenge although on some days, so did the meat eaters. But if you are going to travel, you have to be nothing if not adventurous!


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    Breakfast time
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    Emp Carriage
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    Great Wall
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    Lazy Panda
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    Marble Boat
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    Thirsty panda
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    Tea house Chengdu
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    Great Wall 2

Excellent trip

Got stuck at Guilin airport but Thangh (Guilin tour guide) sorted everything out + she was hot stuff as well :-)

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    The Gorges
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    Water Villiage, Shanghai
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    Victoria Prince
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    The Great Wall

On the 2nd September we arrived in Shanghai to be met by our guide and checked into our hotel, our guide and hotel were excellent and although Shanghai was very warm and very humid we enjoyed our days. On the afternoon of the 6th September Michael our guide took us to our ship to begin our cruise up the Yangtze, we were onboard the Victoria Prince. The ship was excellent and we were lucky enough to have a 4th Deck cabin which meant when we got into the gorges we had excellent views without leaving our balcony. The Food and Service was excellent on the ship, I can particularly recommend the laundry service which was very cheap and very efficient. The included daily trips ashore were well organised and very interesting, we particularly enjoyed the boat trip along the lesser gorges. On arrival in Chongqing our guide Jackie picked us up and took us first to the zoo to see the wonderful pandas and then to the old town (which was amazing)! He then took us to the airport and checked us in for our flight to Beijing. We had 3 wonderful days in Beijing, again the guide Chris was excellent and the last day, which we spent on the "Great Wall" ended the holiday on the high it started on! All in all this was an excellent holiday was we think was great value for money, being on a cruise meant we saw so much of China whilst relaxing at the same time.

Negative: Our hotels changed with giving us prior notice, they were excellent hotels but I would have liked to have known in advance.  

I would recommend this trip to anyone who is visiting China.

We have just got back from the Imperial Jewels of China tour and WOW what a super holiday it was!

We chose the Shanghai to Beijing itinary including the giant pandas and elementary school visits. The hotels in Shanghai,Xian and Beijing were 5*. The Viking Emerald boat was plush and very comfortable - the staff,food and cabins were excellent, as were the trips, excursions and internal flights.

Every thing went like clock work, the highlights for me being the Terracotta warriors and the Great wall and all the things in between were also amazing, Summer Palace, Shibaozhai pagoda to name a few and a must is the Tang Dynasty dinner and show.

Our guide was called Bonnie who for the whole duration did an incredible job she was very informative with a good sense of humour and had a lot of patience with us all!

I can not praise the whole experience and Viking River Cruises enough it has been a holiday of a life time. Will I do another Viking holiday....i most certainly will.

t was entitled "Cultural Delights" and delightful it was! This trip challenges all your preconceptions about China and even 5 years ago would not have been possible, in the current format. The Chinese people were friendly and helpful, it was a novelty being asked to have my photo taken and practice of basic english.
With Viking you get a total package with great service, little details like minimal handling of your luggage. The hotels chosen were 5 star, good enough in Xian for Michelle Obama a week later!
Beijing to Shanghai is the better direction as the intense sightseeing is over at the beginning and you can recover on the river cruise. This also means several days without being able to really unpack, careful arrangements of suitcases required! This trip proved to be a challenge for people with mobility problems as getting ashore with low river levels meant that several steps and long walk, a cardio-vascular workout! Some of our group missed some excursions because they couldn't face this.
Unlike the european river cruises you are attached to a tour guide throughout. Our guide was Jin who is an amazing ambassador for China giving us insights into China past and present, he has excellent english, a great sense of humour and is both knowledgeable and helpful. Another difference was the domination of americans, we were the only Brits in our group. Good use was made of the "vox box" to provide commentary for tours.
We chose March because we dislike it too hot or humid although it was chilly on the Great Wall. We were fortunate with pollution levels. a week after we were in Beijing the levels trebled although it was warmer. Definitely a trip for layers.
Difficult to pick a highlight but amongst them must be seeing pandas up close without screens or real crowds and plenty of time. On my husband's birthday we saw the terracotta army. Not only did the hotel provide a cake and candles, so did Viking on our first day on board.
Recommend taking local currency, hotels will change large bills into small. We were advised to beware of local traders offering substandards "bargains" and giving change in counterfeit notes. Stick to bottled water even for cleaning your teeth, this is plentifully provided at the hotels and onboard, we did and had no problems.
Highly recommended.
"Imperial Jewels of China" by C.Haycroft5 star

We were very impressed at how well everything was organised and also on the high quality accommodation in each city that we stayed in. Our guide was very efficient and knowledgeable with good local knowledge and a good sense of humour which was appreciated especially on the early morning starts!

One of the best holidays we ever had and fantastic value for money. My two less than excellent comments above are:

1. We could have done with more detailed information about each place the ship stopped at and the excursions 2. Movies on the plane were on a central screen, no choice - not ideal for a 10 hour flight. Otherwise, really excellent.

Staff were very helpful with detailed information about plug sockets etc which I asked about prior to the trip.

Blue Water Reviews

Exploring China with Viking River Cruises

Weds 28 Jul 2015

Having already experienced a Viking River Cruise in Europe on the River Danube, I was beyond excited to be heading off to China to sail on the mysterious Yangtze River onboard Viking's largest river cruise vessel, the Viking Emerald. Combined with land stays in the bustling capital of Beijing, the ancient city of Xi'an and the super sized city of Shanghai, I was certain the Imperial Jewels of China itinerary would not disappoint, and was sure to be a trip of a lifetime.

The 5* Kerry Hotel, Beijing Impressive pagoda in Tiananmen Square, Beijing Discover the Forbidden City in Beijing The Forbidden City The beautiful Imperial Garden, Forbidden City The Great Wall of China, a UNESCO World Heritage Site Walk along the Badaling Hills section of the wall See the impressive sculptures along the Sacred Way Terra Cotta Warriors in Xi'an The Terra Cotta Army was discovered in the 1970s Explore the local markets Enjoy a traditional Chinese dinner over the Tang Dynasty show Viking Emerald Spacious Veranda cabin Enjoy spectuaclar views of the passing scenery Stylish interior on board Viking Emerald Relax in the lounge Buffet on board Superb selection of food

With Beijing to be the first part of our adventure we transferred from the airport to the 5* Kerry Hotel, part of the Shangri La chain, which was to be our base for the next three nights, and what a base it was! From the bright and intricately decorated lobby to the soft and spacious luxury rooms with floor to ceiling windows and stunning marble bathrooms, it was tempting to stay in this hotel forever, but as our tour guide Jimmy outlined the days ahead I could not wait to get out there and see it all!

To say this trip started off on a high would be an understatement, with in depth tours of Tiananmen Square, the world's largest public square, and the fascinating Forbidden City, the world's largest palace complex and UNESCO World Heritage site. Adding to that one of the most impressive sights I have ever seen, the Great Wall of China, it was difficult to imagine the trip getting any better! The Great Wall was a personal highlight for me. Travelling to the Badaling Hills section of the Great Wall, nothing can prepare you for the first glimpse as it emerges over the mountains shadowed by the eerie low clouds. It seems rather surreal when you first step foot onto it. Even if you were to walk the full 3750 miles of the Great Wall I do not think you would ever get bored of it stretching out before you. It was a magical experience.

As if these experiences weren't enough during our stay in Beijing we also enjoyed a visit to the sacred Ming Tombs, where the Ming emperors are buried, and a fascinating rickshaw tour through the shanty towns of old Beijing where the locals live out their everyday lives peacefully and contently, away from the hustle and bustle of the ever developing capital city.

From the first few days of touring it was evident to see that our guide Jimmy, who was to stay with us through the entire trip, was exceptional. With 10 years of experience, his knowledge, expertise, interest, organisation and great sense of humour meant that everybody warmed to him straight away and he became a huge part of the trip.

I must also mention the food as with all holidays this is a very important part of the overall experience. We dined at the hotel for breakfast daily, which was delicious and everything you would expect from a 5* hotel. We enjoyed a buffet style dinner at the hotel twice, as well as a fantastic optional evening at one of Beijings best Peking duck restaurants. Here we feasted on a duck banquet, along with other Chinese specialties, over 4 or 5 courses!! Lunch each day was provided in a local restaurant so that it could be incorporated into the days activities and the restaurants used for the land stay sections (in Beijing, Xi'an and Shanghai) have all been handpicked by Viking to meet with their high standards.

After an amazing start to the trip it was time to take our first internal flight to Xi'an in central China where we would stay for 2 nights. Thanks to Jimmy and the impressive organisation of Viking, we parted with our bags at the hotel in Beijing and did not see them again until we arrived at our rooms at the Hilton Xi'an. Viking seemed to have the luggage handling down to an absolute tee, and with 3 internal flights throughout the whole itinerary the feeling of knowing you do not need to worry about checking in/collecting your bags just completely takes the stress out of travelling.

The Hilton Xi'an had the most beautiful welcome lobby. It was huge and grand and both modern and traditional at the same time. The rooms were equally as luxurious as the first hotel and it seemed a shame we would only be staying here two nights! During this short stay however, we experienced not only the sights and sounds of this fascinating historical city but also what was most definitely one of the trip highlights, the Terracotta Warriors. Another UNESCO World Heritage site, the sight of the uncovered Terracotta Army is one to behold. Buried almost 2000 years ago with the Emperor Qin Shi Huang there are still thousands of warriors yet to be unearthed, but the 2000 that are currently visible are enough to send shivers up your spine. To top off a memorable day we enjoyed a traditional Chinese dinner over the Tang Dynasty show in a local theatre which was great fun.

After another smooth flight transition we arrived in Chongqing, the embarkation point for our much awaited cruise on the Yangtze River.

Visit the Shibaozhai Temple on your Yangtze River cruise The beautiful Yangzte River Enjoy the scenery as you cruise along the mighty Yangtze Settlement along the Yangtze The dramatic Three Gorges Enjoy a visit to an elementary school in Jingzhou Stroll along Shanghai's bustling streets Admire the impressive architecture in Shanghai The Bund Waterfront, Shanghai Visit the beautiful Yuyuan Garden which dates back to the Ming Dynasty Dragon at the Yuyuan Garden Pavilion at the Yuyuan Garden

The Viking Emerald is beautiful. From its huge central atrium that rises up 5 floors to an impressive chandelier structure hanging from the ceiling, to its dark wood staircases and its traditional Chinese artwork throughout. It has a large observation lounge and bar where you can relax during the day and watch the world go by, as well as a livelier bar and lounge on the deck above for those who like a twirl on the dancefloor after dinner! There is plenty of outside space on the sun deck, with chairs, full length sun loungers, and pretty swinging benches. The little touches onboard are really lovely, like the tea tasting workshop and the traditional Chinese arts and crafts workshop. There is even a tailoring workshop where you can get your own clothing garments made out of the beautiful local fabrics. This was surprisingly popular among the guests!

I stayed in a category B veranda stateroom on the upper deck. It was the largest stateroom I have found on a river cruise vessel and the sit out veranda with two chairs was a real bonus as although the sun deck and observation lounges have plenty of space for everybody it was lovely to be able to enjoy the view from the privacy of your own balcony. All the staterooms have verandas on the Viking Emerald so you can enjoy the view from your room no matter which deck you are on. My stateroom had all the standard amenities, bath robes, slippers, hairdryer, L'occitaine toiletries, large white towels, laundry service, wide screen tv etc. It even had tea and coffee making facilities as well as a 24 hour tea and coffee station out in the main lobby. The room was comfortable and completely spotless with it being cleaned twice a day by the ridiculously hard working and friendly housekeeping team. Infact, all the staff members that I came across were friendly and hard working. They would literally do anything for you and I do believe the service to be the best I have ever experienced on a river cruise before.

The whole cruise section of this trip was a highlight in itself, the pace had slowed down greatly from the land stays at the beginning and meant you could really take the time to relax and take in the sights of the 3rd longest river in the world. Sailing through the Wu Gorge and the Lesser Three Gorges was breathtaking, and for the very narrow stretches of the gorges we enjoyed an excursion on a smaller local boat which meant you were just metres from the sheer cliffs and the crystal blue water below.

During the cruise we also enjoyed a unique experience visiting a primary school in a remote town along the river. The school is sponsored by Viking River Cruises themselves and the children were so friendly and welcoming, putting on a performance for us and showing us round their classroom. It was fascinating and heart warming to see, and they loved practising their English on us, and teaching us their Chinese!

I was impressed with the food onboard the Viking Longship when I sailed on the Danube, and I can easily say the food was just as, if not more, impressive onboard the Viking Emerald. The food was quite westernised but with Chinese dishes always on offer aswell. I found this ideal as it meant that if you really fancied a spring roll and noodles for breakfast you could, or you could tuck into bacon and eggs!! The extensive hot and cold breakfast buffets served everything you could ask for and more, and lunch had a just as impressive buffet along with options to order off the menu if you wanted a larger dish. It would be extremely difficult not to find something to your taste. Dinner was a set 3 course meal, with a choice of 2-3 starters/mains/desserts each evening, and I can honestly say I did not have a bad meal onboard this ship.

After such a superb voyage we were all sad to be disembarking the ship in Wuhan on the last day, but this feeling did not last long, as the excitement built about reaching our final destination, Shanghai.

Shanghai was impressive to say the least. Sky scraper upon sky scraper and millions and millions of people, it seemed like another world compared with the serenity of the Yangzte River. Our hotel, The Westin Bund (which was my personal favourite) was just 2 minutes walk from the famous Bund Waterfront where you can stand for hours simply marvelling at the skyline. In complete contrast to the futuristic skyline, we enjoyed a tour to old Shanghai, a tucked away section in the middle of the city where you find yourself amidst the beautiful Yuyuan Gardens, along with markets galore. It was a perfect opportunity for some last minute souvenir shopping. Our stay in Shanghai was rounded off by an evening out to see the Shanghai Acrobatic Troupe. This show was unbelievable and a great way to end such an incredible trip.

During the 12 hour flight back to the UK, I reflected on the last two weeks and could not wait to tell all my friends and family about it. Not only will you take away memories forever but it is the most fantastically put together itinerary and Viking River Cruises really do excel here, from start to finish.

This trip is an absolute MUST for anybody wanting to visit China!!

Joanne, Blue Water Holidays Cruise Specialist

Blue Water Blog