Day 1 - Welcome to Beijing
On arrival at the airport, you’ll be warmly greeted and escorted to our luxurious hotel in the heart of the capital.
Day 2 - In + Around Beijing
Your expertly guided, full-day exploration begins in Tiananmen Square. Covering more than 100 acres in the heart of the city with a scale reminiscent of Moscow’s Red Square or the Piazza San Marco in Venice, it ranks as one of the grandest public plazas in the world. Then follow in the footsteps of Ming Dynasty emperors as you explore the magnificent palaces, courtyards and pavilions of the sprawling Forbidden City #WHS#. It is said that there are 9,999 rooms within these imposing walls and although you won’t see everyone, your guided tour offers a fascinating look into the splendor of Imperial life centuries ago.
Then explore by rickshaw through the narrow lanes of a Hutong, one of the citys few remaining enclaves of traditional, centuries-old courtyard homes. After lunch, youll tour the resplendent Summer Palace #WHS#. Set on wooded hills surrounding a tranquil lake, this assemblage of pavilions, palaces and gardens offers a fascinating look into Imperial life long ago. From April to November, our tour of the Summer Palace includes a boat ride on Lake Kunming, a delightful and tranquil way to experience the architectural landmarks and sublime natural beauty of this World Heritage Site. Tonight’s festive Peking Duck banquet is accompanied by wine and local beer. Meals B+L+D
Day 3 – The Great Wall
The Great Wall #WHS# stretches for nearly 4,000 miles across northern China - its oldest sections dating back more than 2,000 years when various states and dynasties first began to build these defensive walls. A few centuries after these earliest sections were constructed, Emperor Qin Shihuang consolidated them into a single, massive fortification to guard his empire against Hun invaders from the north. Succeeding emperors maintained, reconstructed and built anew, and much of what is seen today is the result of work that was done during the Ming Dynasty. As a result the wall is not uniform throughout its length; situated farther from the capital than other parts of the Great Wall, the section at Mutianyu draws fewer visitors and is celebrated for its many defensive towers and splendid setting amidst the rugged mountains. Ascending by cable car, youll walk atop the Great Wall here at Mutianyu as our expert guide shares dramatic stories of its past. For lunch today, well take you to the famous Brickyard Restaurant, conveniently located nearby. Back in the city, the rest of your afternoon and evening is free to enjoy and dine as you wish. 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 #WHS#; 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 breakfast. This morning’s optional Tribes 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, 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, we’ll visit the immense Three Gorges Dam where you’ll learn about its far reaching impact on the geography, archaeological sites, industries, and residents of the region. By special arrangement, A+R guests will 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 Three Gorges
Step off ship this morning 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 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 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.
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 – Disembark in Chongqing + Fly to Xian
Disembark the Yangzi Explorer after breakfast and transfer to the airport for your included flight to Xian, Chinas capital for 13 dynasties. On arrival, youll be escorted to our 5-star Hilton Hotel, ideally located within the ancient defensive walls of the city. A+R guests will be upgraded to Club Room accommodations with access to the Lounge for cocktails and breakfast. This evenings congenial dinner features savory dumplings - a regional specialty and favorite. Meals B+D
Day 9 – Touch Antiquity + The Terra Cotta Army
Join staff at the Xian Museum this morning for our exclusive Touch Antiquity experience. Donning white cotton gloves, youll handle and examine priceless ancient objects as museum staff offer insight into their provenance and cultural significance. Next you’ll visit the Terra Cotta Army #WHS#. Discovered in 1974 by local farmers who were digging a well, this site is still regarded as China’s greatest archaeological discovery. It has been estimated that more than half a million laborers and craftsmen worked for nearly 40 years to complete the tomb and the thousands of terra cotta soldiers, horses and chariots that were buried here to serve the Emperor in the afterlife. By special arrangement, you will meet with a local archaeologist - a great way to gain deeper insight into the history and discovery of this UNESCO World Heritage Site. Todays lunch features a lively demonstration into the ancient art of noodle-making! Meals B+L+D
Day 10 – Fly to Hangzhou
After breakfast, youll be escorted to the airport for your included flight to Hangzhou, where well take you to an authentic working tea plantation nestled in the verdant hills outside of the city. Joining tea 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 Chinas best sources for Dragon Well tea. After a congenial lunch with the farmers, youll return to the city for a delightful walking tour. Theres an old Chinese proverb about Hangzhou, "Above there is Heaven; below there is Hangzhou." Indeed, the citys beauty has inspired artists and poets for centuries, and this afternoons stroll along the picturesque shores of West Lake #WHS# is a delightful way to experience its enchanting scenery. This evening, you can dine where you wish before retiring to our 5-star hotel. Meals B+L
Day 11 – By Rail to Shanghai
Sit back and enjoy comfortable Business Class seats aboard the ultra-modern High-Speed Train to Shanghai. On arrival in this cosmopolitan city, youll be escorted to our luxury hotel in the heart of town. This afternoon, your guided sightseeing tour reveals the evocative beauty of Yu Yuan Garden. Originally established in 1577 by a government official for his aging parents, the gardens unique ensemble of plantings, lotus ponds, winding paths, pavilions and bridges is revered as a superb example of classical landscaping during the Ming and Qing Dynasties. Tonight, youll 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+L
Day 12 - Shanghai Sightseeing
After breakfast, your guided city tour begins with the highly regarded Shanghai Museum, home to a vast collection of artifacts spanning millennia of Chinese culture, history and civilization. Here you’ll find breathtaking exhibits of ancient bronzes celadon pottery, precious jade, and exquisite Ming Dynasty furniture. After lunch at Casanova, one of Shanghais most stylish restaurants, youll enjoy a guided stroll along the elegant waterfront Bund. See impressive landmarks built more than a century ago by Japanese and European trading companies as you learn about the citys colorful history and experience its vibrant modern day culture. This evening, gather with your fellow travelers for a congenial farewell dinner. Meals B+L+D
Day 13 – Depart 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