Experience China in depth on this mesmerizing river cruise vacation. Visit world-famous historical sights in Beijing, Xi’an, Lijiang, and Shanghai, including the Forbidden City, Great Wall, Sacred Way of the Ming Tombs, Terracotta Warriors, and Yu Yuan Gardens. Attend special cloisonné and lacquer workshops, a noodle-making demonstration, and a calligraphy class; ride a rickshaw through Beijing’s hutongs. Enjoy a Peking Duck welcome dinner, as well as “The Tang Dynasty” dinner show, an acrobatic show, and the Lijiang Impression Show. Marvel at the Three Gorges Dam site on your magical 3-night Yangtze River cruise and take a sampan ride on the stream. This vacation is a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to visit famous historical sights, learn about new cultures, shop for unique gifts, and taste authentic Chinese cuisine.
Day #1 Arrive in Beijing, China. Welcome to China’s capital city. Hotel rooms are available for mid-afternoon check-in.
Day #2 Beijing. Your full-day sightseeing starts with a visit to the FORBIDDEN CITY and its IMPERIAL PALACE, once the home of China’s great emperors. Nearby is 100-acre TIAN’ANMEN SQUARE, the largest public square in the world. After lunch in a local restaurant, visit the the former SUMMER PALACE, a complex of pavilions, temples, and galleries set among beautifully landscaped grounds and situated on Kunming Lake. This evening, enjoy a special PEKING DUCK WELCOME DINNER at a local restaurant. (B,L,D)
Day #3 Beijing. The GREAT WALL OF CHINA once stretched 4,000 miles across China’s barren northern terrain from the Bohai Sea to the Gobi Desert. Head north to a village where the Great Wall is well preserved and walk along the wall to enjoy sweeping vistas of this mammoth fortress. Then, visit a CLOISONNÉ WORKSHOP and see local artisans use the techniques of this ancient art form to turn pieces of copper into colorful decorative items. After lunch at a local restaurant, take a leisurely walk down the SACRED WAY of the Ming Tombs and marvel at the impressive hand-carved stone statues. Tonight you will have dinner at a local restaurant followed by a WALKING TOUR of the Donghuamen night market. Here, witness some of the bizarre street food on offer. Along the way, SAMPLE A FEW SWEET TREATS. (B,L,D)
Day #4 Beijing. This morning, enjoy a rickshaw ride through one of Beijing’s HUTONGS, the city’s ancient alleys. Experience life in this historic neighborhood as you are invited into the courtyard of a family’s home for tea. The afternoon and evening are at your leisure. Perhaps consider a tour to some of the Olympic sites, visit the Temple of Heaven, or experience local culture at a performance of the famed Peking Opera. (B)
Day #5 Beijing–Xi’an. This morning, fly to Xi’an. Upon arrival, visit the Xi’an City Wall South Gate and learn to write like a local during a traditional Chinese CALLIGRAPHY CLASS. This evening, enjoy the “Tang Dynasty” DINNER SHOW, featuring a colorful assemblage of classical performances. (B,D)
Day #6 Xi’an. One of the largest and wealthiest cities in the world when China dominated the silk trade, Xi’an today is an archaeological treasure trove. Sightseeing begins with the enormous tomb of China’s first emperor, Qin Shi Huangdi, accidentally discovered by local farmers in 1974. Marvel at the legion of TERRACOTTA WARRIORS that has been guarding the burial site for 2,000 years. During lunch, enjoy a NOODLE-MAKING DEMONSTRATION by a master chef and learn how Chinese noodles are made by hand. Next, visit a LACQUER WORKSHOP followed by the DAYAN PAGODA, built in 652 AD. (B,L,D)
Day #7 Xi’an–Chengdu. This morning, fly to Chengdu, capital of the province of Sichuan and a city known for its flavorful food. Upon arrival, visit the GIANT PANDA BREEDING RESEARCH BASE and marvel at these beautiful animals. Time permitting, enjoy a brief city tour. (B,L)
Day #8 Chengdu–Lijiang. A short flight brings you to Lijiang, home to the Naxi people, one of China’s minority ethnic groups. This afternoon, take a WALKING TOUR through Lijiang’s medieval Old Town, a UNESCO World Heritage Site surrounded by 16,000-foot-plus mountains. Dinner tonight is a fascinating experience at a local Old Town restaurant. (B,L,D)
Day #9 Lijiang. This morning, take a short trip outside of Lijiang to the 18,464-foot-high Jade Dragon Snow Mountain. Here you will witness the impressive LIJIANG IMPRESSION SHOW, created by the co-director of the 2008 Beijing Olympics Opening Ceremony. The show features over 100 horses and 400 costumed actors, representing 10 ethnic groups, performing folk songs, dances, and local rituals. Afterward, hike to a mountain meadow for a closer view of the mountain. This afternoon, visit the MUSEUM OF NAXI DONGBA CULTURE to learn about the ancient culture, or Dongba, of the Naxi people, which consists of hieroglyphs, scripture, paintings, music, and dance. Then, visit BLACK DRAGON POOL with stunning views of Jade Dragon Snow Mountain. (B,L)
Day #10 Lijiang–Chongqing (Embarkation)–Yangtze River Cruise. Enjoy the morning at leisure in charming Lijiang. In the afternoon, fly to Chongqing, China’s capital during World War II. Board the Century Legend for a 3-night cruise through the breathtaking Three Gorges of the Yangtze. (B,D)
Day #11 Cruising: Shibaozhai. The morning is at your leisure to enjoy a variety of onboard activities. You may choose to start your day with a Tai Chi session on the Sun Deck, take a swim in the pool, or simply relax and enjoy the scenery. After lunch, take a WALKING TOUR of Shibaozhai with its 400-year-old, 12-story red wooden pagoda perched high on a cliff side. This evening, the Captain hosts a welcome party followed by dinner and a special performance by the ship’s crew. (B,L,D) NOTE:Depending on river conditions, an alternate shore excursion may be offered.
Day #12 Cruising: Qutang Gorge–Wu Gorge–Shennong Stream. Again, enjoy the morning at your leisure on the ship. You may choose to take an optional shore excursion to Baidi Cheng, known as the “White Emperor City,” to see the Baidi Temple. Later in the morning, sail downstream through the first and second of the three gorges—Qutang Gorge, the shortest but most dramatic gorge, and Wu, known for its quiet beauty and forest-covered mountains. You can nearly touch the perpendicular walls rising from the riverbanks as your Captain negotiates this narrow gap. After lunch, disembark for a BOAT EXCURSION down the Shennong Stream. Along the way, see four natural gorges and the mysterious hanging wooden coffins. Before returning to your ship you will also take a SAMPAN RIDE on a smaller section of the stream, where the sampan crew will sing songs as you glide across the stunning deep emerald-green waters surrounded by densely forested hills. This evening, join the Captain for a special Chinese-style farewell banquet. (B,L,D) NOTE:Depending on river conditions, the boat excursion may be on the Daning River.
Day #13 Cruising: Three Gorges Dam Site–Xiling Gorge–Yichang (Disembarkation)–Shanghai. This morning, visit the THREE GORGES DAM SITE, where the Chinese progress toward building the largest dam of its kind in the world. Afterward, sail through Xiling Gorge, the last of the three gorges, before bidding farewell to your ship’s crew in Yichang. After lunch in Yichang, transfer to the airport for your flight to Shanghai, China’s most populous city and center of trade and industry. (B,L)
Day #14 Shanghai. Your sightseeing starts at the YU YUAN GARDENS, dating back to the Ming Dynasty. Then, stroll along the Bund, the city’s riverfront boulevard lined with historic buildings, housing, banks, and trade houses. Visit a SILK FACTORY to learn about the silk-making process. After lunch in a local restaurant, visit the SHANGHAI MUSEUM. This evening, your Tour Director hosts a special farewell dinner followed by a spectacular ACROBATIC SHOW. (B,L,D)
Day #15 Shanghai. Your vacation ends with breakfast this morning. (B)