Our intimate style and China’s finest all-balcony small ship distinguish this journey. Delight in our 5-star city-center hotels and let our expert Chinese Trip Leader bring you deeper inside the history and culture of their native land. Exclusive cultural engagement, like spending time with tea farmers outside of Hangzhou, promise truly unique and rewarding experiences.
Day 1 - Welcome to Beijing
You’ll be warmly greeted at the airport and escorted to the luxurious Fairmont Beijing Hotel. The rest of this day is yours to relax and enjoy as you wish.
Day 2 - In + around Beijing
Stand in Tiananmen Square and admire the architectural landmarks that surround one of the world’s grandest public plazas. Then follow in the footsteps of Ming Dynasty Emperors on an expertly-guided tour through the magnificent Forbidden City #WHS#, a sprawling complex of palaces, courtyards and pavilions. At colorful local market, you’ll mingle with city residents and experience a slice of daily life as you help your guide to select some produce for a local family. Joining this family for lunch in their home, you’ll enjoy congenial conversation and gain real insight into Chinese traditions that still endure in this rapidly evolving city. Then hop aboard a rickshaw to explore the ancient streets of a Hutong, an ancient enclave of traditional courtyard homes. This evening, sit down to a festive Peking Duck Banquet with wine. Meals B+L+D
Day 3 - Great Wall + Summer Palace
Situated farther from the capital than other sections of China’s most famous landmark, the Great Wall #WHS# at Mutianyu draws fewer visitors. And with its many defensive towers and splendid setting amidst the rugged mountains, Mutianyu offers a more authentic and rewarding experience. Ascend by cable car and walk atop the Great Wall as your expert guide shares insight and history. After lunch at the famous Brickyard Restaurant, you’ll continue your touring with the beautiful Summer Palace #WHS#, erstwhile seasonal retreat of China’s emperors. Set on wooded hills surrounding a tranquil lake, this assemblage of pavilions, palaces and gardens offers a fascinating look into Imperial life long ago. Meals B+L
Day 4 – Fly to Yichang + Embark your Yangtze Cruise
This morning, you’ll enjoy a guided tour of the Temple of Heaven; it’s a resplendent example of Ming Dynasty design and engineering that also offers fascinating insight into ancient Chinese beliefs in numerology and cosmology. The temple’s tranquil grounds are the perfect place for our specially arranged private class with a Tai Chi Master.
After sightseeing, we’ll take you to the airport for your included flight to the river city of Yichang. On arrival, you’ll be escorted to the pier to board the Yangzi Explorer, China’s finest river ship. You’ll have time to settle in to your balcony stateroom and refresh before dinner is served in the Explorer’s elegant restaurant. Choose from a tempting array of international and regional Chinese dishes, accompanied by free-flowing wine. This evening, the 7 Wonders of China documentary will be screened in the Tang Theater. Meals B+L+D
Day 5 - Xiling Gorge + The Three Gorges Dam
Early risers can start the day with invigorating Tai Chi exercise before an expansive buffet breakfast. This morning’s optional Tribe of the Three Gorges excursion has been specially prepaid for A+R guests. Taking you into one of the most scenic areas of Xiling Gorge, a realm of majestic mountains, caves and waterfalls, you’ll be introduced to some of the region’s indigenous peoples. Through their food, dress and a lively folk performance, you’ll learn about the history and culture of the Tujia, Ba and Chu ethnic groups.
After lunch onboard, you’ll step off ship to visit the Three Gorges Dam; stretching more than 3,300 yards across at the top and towering over 600 feet, this massive construction project took 17 years to complete! It’s still the world’s largest hydro-power dam and this afternoon’s guided tour explores its far reaching impact upon the geography, archaeological sites, industries, and residents of the region. At the Dam, we have made special arrangements for A+R guests to get an up-close look at the Three Gorges Ship Lift. Like a giant elevator, this engineering marvel - built in cooperation with BMW - is capable of raising and lowering ships and freighters weighing up to 30,000 tons. It’s the largest ship elevator in the world and turns the 3 to 4-hour passage through the multi-step locks into an 8 minute ride!
Back onboard, the Yangzi Explorer will navigate through Xiling Gorge, the longest of the river’s Three Gorges. Then as the river widens and sweeps through groves of orange and pomelo trees, you’ll experience the tranquil side of life along China’s mightiest river. Tonight’s Captain’s Welcome Reception is followed by dinner and then entertainment in the Tang Theater. Meals B+L+D
Day 6 - Up Shennong Stream + Through the Yangtze Gorges
If you wish, you can join fellow passengers for early morning Tai Chi before breakfast is served. Then step off ship for an unforgettable journey up Shennong Stream. You’ll explore this spectacular region in traditional sampan boats poled by Tujia boatmen. The landscapes here are unrivalled, encompassing crystalline rushing waters, dense forests and towering rock formations. As you venture upstream, you’ll espy coffins stowed high within the limestone cliffs that tower above you – a legacy of the region’s earliest inhabitants. Before returning to ship, you’ll visit a nearby village to experience life in a rural community.
After lunch onboard the Yangzi Explorer navigates Wu Gorge, renowned for its massive cliffs rising sharply from the river. Later, our ship cruises through spectacular Qutang Gorge, the narrowest of the river’s Three Gorges. If you wish to join this afternoon’s optional excursion to the White Emperor City, it has been specially pre-paid for A+R guests. Set on the top of Baidi Mountain overlooking Qutang Gorge, you’ll discover a fine ensemble of Ming Dynasty halls including the lovely Observing Stars Pavilion where Zhuge Liang, a great military strategist of the Three Kingdoms Period, would come to observe the night sky and make weather forecasts that helped him plan his victorious battles. Meals B+L+D
Day 7 - Ashore in Fuling
A delightful morning onboard our 5-star ship is yours to do as you wish. You might learn about China’s thriving pearl industry or attend a workshop on traditional Chinese painting and calligraphy. After lunch, you can tailor your touring with the included excursion of your choice:
The 816 Underground Project: This unique tour takes you underground into a vast cavern that was built by more than 60,000 laborers as part of a top-secret military project. Initiated in the 1960’s and designed to house China’s first nuclear reactor, construction was halted after 17 years before the project’s completion. The tunnels and cavern remained a closely guarded secret for nearly 50 years until the Government revealed its presence in 2002.
The White Crane Ridge Underwater Museum: Venture close to 150 feet under water to see what lies beneath the surface of the Yangtze River. You’ll discover ancient rock carvings from the Tang Dynasty that were permanently submerged after the construction of the Dam and also learn about the Yangtze’s flora and fauna. Before returning to ship, you’ll spend time with local farmers and other residents at a lively market filled with a wide variety of fish, meat, produce and Fuling’s famous pickles.
Note: Today’s morning at leisure and your choice of an included afternoon excursion applies to cruises from May to September. Guests on our other sailings will visit the 816 Underground Project in the morning and the White Crane Ridge Underwater Museum in the afternoon. Meals B+L+D
Day 8 - Fly to Xian
Disembark the Yangzi Explorer after breakfast and visit the Chongqing Zoo to see their marvelous Panda exhibit. Then transfer to the airport for your included flight to Xian, China’s ancient capital for 13 dynasties. At a bustling local market, an engaging Xian resident will share his lifetime of experience – offering a firsthand look into the culture of the city and the many exotic products for sale. Enjoy dinner and two nights at the 5-star Hilton Hotel where A+R guests enjoy Club Room accommodations with access to the Lounge for cocktails and breakfast. Meals B+D
Day 9 - Discover the Terra Cotta Army #WHS#
In 1974, local villagers digging a well stumbled upon what would ultimately become China’s greatest archaeological discovery… Thousands of life-sized terra cotta soldiers, horses and chariots that had been buried in perfect infantry formation to guard the tomb of an Emperor! This morning, we’ve arranged for you to meet with a local archaeologist – a great introduction to this World Heritage Site. Gaze upon this extraordinary terra cotta army as you learn about their history and discovery. This evening’s guided stroll through the Muslim Market offers a chance to engage with some of the food vendors – and to sample their exotic delicacies. Tonight you’ll dine on savory dumplings, a regional favorite. Meals B+L+D
Day 10 – Fly to Hangzhou
After breakfast, you’ll be escorted to the airport for your included flight to Hangzhou, where we’ll take you to an authentic working tea plantation nestled in the verdant hills outside of the city. Joining the farmers to prepare the soil and pick the tea leaves is a fun and enriching way to learn how the region has earned its reputation as one of China’s best sources for Dragon Well tea. After a congenial lunch with the farmers, you’ll visit Lingyin Temple. With a history that traces back to the 4th century and its dramatic setting sheltered by deeply forested hills on three sides, this is one of China’s most impressive Buddhist sites.
There’s an old Chinese proverb about the city, “Above there is Heaven; below there is Hangzhou.” Indeed, the city’s beauty has inspired artists and poets for centuries, and this afternoon’s sunset stroll along the picturesque shores of West Lake is a delightful way to experience its enchanting scenery. This evening, you can dine where you wish before retiring to your generously appointed room at the 5-star JW Marriott Hotel. Meals B+L
Day 11 – By Rail to Shanghai
Ride the ultra-modern High Speed Train to Shanghai where you’ll be escorted to the Fairmont Peace Hotel, a luxury landmark in the heart of the city. Begin your exploration with a guided stroll along the historic waterfront Bund, still graced with architectural landmarks built by European and Japanese mercantile companies after the 1842 Treaty of Nanjing opened the city to international trade. Then ascend the 128-story Shanghai Tower for breathtaking views over the city!
This evening, thrill to the daring feats and graceful artistry of the Shanghai ERA Acrobatic Show, a multimedia extravaganza that blends traditional Chinese acrobatics, martial arts, dance and music with spectacular costumes and cutting-edge technology. Meals B+D
Day 12 - Shanghai Sightseeing
After breakfast, your guided city tour begins in Yu Yuan Garden, originally established in 1577 by a government officer as a tranquil retreat for his aging parents. Hailed as a spectacular example of classical Chinese landscape design during the Ming and Qing Dynasties, you’ll discover a sublime ensemble of plantings, lotus ponds, winding paths, pavilions and bridges. After lunch, you’ll visit the highly regarded Shanghai Museum, home to a vast collection of artifacts spanning millennia of Chinese culture, history and civilization – from ancient bronzes and celadon pottery to precious jade and exquisite Ming Dynasty furniture. This evening, gather with your fellow travelers for a congenial farewell dinner. Meals B+L+D
Day 13 - Farewell to Shanghai
After breakfast, you’ll be escorted to the airport for your homeward journey. Or why not travel on with us to Hong Kong? Meals B