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China, Tibet & the Yangtze tour

China, Tibet & the Yangtze

Uniworld
4.9 . Excellent
96%
Travel Style: A lot of free time, with very few inclusions. Ideal for independent and/or low-key travelers and cruisers. Relaxed
Physical Level: Some walking over short or flat distances. Some trips may include cycling options. Some are wheelchair friendly (check for individual trips). Some cruises. Easy
Lodging Level: 3 to 4 star western hotel equivalents. While not all lodging will be 'luxury' they will be quite comfortable by western standards. Comfort (4*)
14 days
From: $ 7,599 $ 543 / day
Checking price

Overview

Short Description

Their names alone evoke the wonder and timeless allure of China: the Great Wall, Forbidden City, Temple of Heaven, Goddess Stream. Wide enough for cavalry to ride along its crest, stretching from the Yellow Sea to China’s eastern border, the Great Wall is one of China’s legends. In Xi’an, 8,000 life-size Terra-cotta Warriors stand in formation, facing the enemies of an emperor who died 2,200 years ago. The red and white walls of the Potala Palace rise massively above Lhasa, and the floor of the gold-domed Jokhang Temple has been worn smooth by centuries of pilgrims reverently prostrating themselves before a seventh-century Buddha. Experience all of this on an adventure that also encompasses Beijing’s imperial palaces and exquisite gardens, Shanghai’s towering skyscrapers and the ethereal landscape of the Yangtze’s Three Gorges.

These vessels are smaller than most ocean cruisers, limiting which amenties are available. Passenger counts can vary. One of the biggest advantages of a river cruise is the ability to dock at smaller ports and local villages.
Trip Type River Cruise
See all the highlights and popular spots on a classic tour.
Itinerary Focus Classic Highlights
3 to 4 star western hotel equivalents. While not all lodging will be 'luxury' they will be quite comfortable by western standards.
Lodging Level Comfort (4*)
Flight & Transport Inclusions N/A
Start City Beijing
End City Depart Shanghai

Itinerary

2018 version

Cruise Direction: Beijing to Shanghai


Day 1 Beijing

Arrive in Beijing and be greeted by a Uniworld representative who will escort you to the opulent Ritz-Carlton, Beijing.


Day 2 Beijing

Your adventure begins with two quintessential experiences in China’s capital of Beijing. Off limits to commoners for 500 years, the Forbidden City was once considered the cosmic center of the universe (and for good reason, as you’ll see for yourself). Peking Duck is another cultural gem you’ll get to experience today, a complex dish originally prepared for Chinese emperors.   The political and cultural capital of China and home to more than 20 million people, Beijing exemplifies everything visitors find most intoxicating about China: Spectacular ancient monuments contrast with ambitious modern high-rises, and traditional crafts flourish alongside booming international businesses. Exquisite art, stunning UNESCO sites, serene parks, and teeming streets all contribute to the unique flavor of this astonishing city.
Featured Excursions:

The imperial heritage of China’s capital—the Forbidden City and Peking Duck lunch

Delve into the mystique and majesty of China’s imperial legacy today, beginning in Tiananmen Square. The center of contemporary civic life in Beijing, the square was first laid out in 1651 during the reign of the first Qing emperor. Over the centuries the enormous square has been the

scene of imperial ceremonies, political demonstrations, parades and, in 2008, the Olympic opening festivities. Now surrounded by Communist monuments, including Mao Zedong’s mausoleum (note the long line of people waiting to get in for a brief glimpse of the Chairman’s

remains), it is the gateway to the Forbidden City. Take a moment to pose with your fellow guests for a complimentary group photo to commemorate your visit.

 

As you pass through Tiananmen Gate, also known as the Gate of Heavenly Peace, you step into one of Beijing’s treasures, the Forbidden City. For over 500 years the Forbidden City was home to the emperors and empresses of China, a place none could enter without imperial permission (hence its name), but in 1925 it became the Palace Museum—an institution noted for its unparalleled collections of Ming and Qing Dynasty treasures. The UNESCO-designated palace complex, with its temples, pavilions, courtyards and gardens (covering some 100 acres), offers visitors a glimpse into the lives and rituals of China’s imperial families, as well as some of the world’s most outstanding architecture and design.

 

 

Relax after your exploration of the Forbidden City with a festive lunch of Beijing’s succulent signature dish, Peking Duck. Emperors were the first to enjoy this classic preparation of slow-roasted, crispy-skinned duck; in fact, the first mention of this delicacy dates back to the imperial kitchens in 1330, and it became eponymous with Beijing—or Peking, as it was then known—in the 1450s.

 

After lunch, visit a UNESCO-designated site completed in the 15th century, the Temple of Heaven (or Altar of Heaven), which symbolizes the relationship between heaven and earth—and the emperor’s place within that cosmography. Over the centuries, 22 Ming and Qing emperors fasted within these precincts and made ritual sacrifices at the Altar of Heaven for good harvests. The layout of the 92 buildings—containing some 600 rooms—and gardens that make up this complex had a symbolic function; the shapes (mostly circular) gave physical expression to aspects of traditional Chinese philosophy and political worldview. Set amid beautiful parkland and a lush pine forest, the buildings are masterpieces of design that exerted a profound influence over all later architectural styles in China. The area became a public park in 1918 and is popular with nearby residents; pause for a moment to admire the fleeting calligraphy painted on the pavement with water or watch the graceful movements of the many locals who practice the ancient art of tai chi here.


Day 3 Beijing

Today is a Bucket List Moment kind of day, as you stand at last atop China’s most iconic site—the Great Wall. The views are spectacular! You’ll also have tea at a traditional teahouse and take a rickshaw ride through the city’s ancient hutongs—historic neighborhoods that date back to the 15th century—where you will have lunch with a friendly local family at their home.
Featured Excursions:

Culture history and intrigue hutongs teahouses and the Great Wall

Expand your experience of Beijing’s amazing culture with a visit to the hutongs, the historic residential neighborhoods that developed around the Forbidden City during the 15th century. Traditional multigenerational homes built around courtyards line the narrow lanes, along with tiny shops selling everything from luxury goods to everyday necessities. Not only are the sights along these winding streets fascinating, but you’ll get to see them in the most traditional way—via rickshaw. You’re in for another taste of tradition as you take a seat at a teahouse and breathe in the delicate aromas of China’s most famous export, savoring a cup of tea that comes with a ceremonial presentation.

 

Though the Great Wall stretches 5,500 miles (8,850 kilometers) through northern China—for comparison purposes, remember that the United States is about 3,000 miles (4,828 kilometers) wide—part of it is surprisingly close to Beijing. You’ll head off to see the longest man-made structure on Earth this afternoon. The wall was begun in the third century BC as a way to keep out hostile invaders from the north; it proved so stalwart a defense that generations of warlords and emperors maintained and extended it, although it was never a continuous barrier. The section north of Beijing dates mostly to the Ming Dynasty. Now that its military purposes are firmly in the past, you may clamber up the steps and take a memorable walk along this UNESCO World Heritage Site. Its stone and tamped-earth pathway offers an extraordinarily peaceful and awe-inspiring setting with expansive mountain views.


Day 4 Beijing, Fly to Xi’an

Leave the hustle and bustle of Beijing behind today and head north to the serenity of the Summer Palace, home to one of China’s most beautiful classical gardens. From there, plunge into the past in China’s first capital, Xi’an, where you’ll be treated to a traditional (and incredibly labor intensive) dumpling banquet.   You have one more special excursion to enjoy in Beijing this morning, then you’ll fly to Xi’an for the next leg of your Chinese adventure.
Featured Excursions:

Grace and art—Beijing’s Summer Palace and Xi’an’s traditional dumpling banquet

Even emperors suffered in Beijing’s summer heat, so they built a lake just north of the city and then added a series of palaces and pavilions on the banks of that lake (it also provided water for the city), where they could enjoy cool breezes off the water. Over the centuries emperors turned their Summer Palace into one of China’s most beautiful gardens, incorporating elements from myth (the three islands in Kunming Lake represent the three divine mountains in the East Sea), philosophy and other exquisite gardens, including those in Suzhou. Stroll along the Long Corridor, decorated with some 14,000 paintings, and step aboard a small boat to float out onto the serene waters of Kunming Lake. As you take in the views of Longevity Hill, with its temples and pavilions, and the 17-arch bridge, you’ll see a perfect example of Chinese garden design.

 

Leaving Beijing behind, you will fly south to Xi’an, China’s first capital, home to the Terra-cotta Army— and to one of China’s culinary delights. Check into your hotel and then savor a traditional Xi’an dumpling banquet. Traditionally reserved for special occasions (perhaps because making them can be so labor intensive), each little dumpling is a delectable work of art—and, after all, your visit to Xi’an is surely a special occasion, so you deserve every one of the 16 different kinds of dumplings that will be served.


Day 5 Xi’an

Xi’an’s famous terra-cotta army has been called the 8th wonder of the world, and it’s certainly the most extraordinary archeological find of the 20th century. Prepare to be amazed! You’ll also enjoy a traditional Tang Dynasty dinner show with fabulous food, music and flamboyant costumes.   The imperial capital for 10 ancient dynasties, Xi’an achieved its greatest renown under the Tang Dynasty (AD 618-907), when it was a great international metropolis and the eastern terminus of the legendary Silk Road. Today it is the capital of Shaanxi Province and most famous for a museum devoted to the Terra-cotta Warriors and Horses.
Featured Excursions:

China’s first capital—Terra-cotta Army and Tang Dynasty dinner show

In 1974, a farmer digging a well stumbled upon one of the 20th century’s most astonishing archaeological finds: a massive army of terra-cotta figures that stand guard over the tomb of China’s first emperor, Qin Shi Huang (259-210 BC). Though thousands of members of this army have been excavated so far, many more remain; work uncovering the tomb complex continues, with the emperor’s tomb chamber itself yet to be revealed. Terra-cotta acrobats, musicians, and officials were also created to accompany the emperor in the afterlife; all are now on display at a museum devoted to this incredible find. Each life-sized figure is unique—no mass production for those ancient craftsmen!—and as you explore the museum, you’ll be amazed by the intricacy of the workmanship. This terra-cotta army was by no means Qin Shi Huang’s only bequest to China: It might be fair to say that he created the nation of China itself. He unified a vast swath of the country and established the administrative systems that governed China until 1911. In fact, he even gave his dynasty’s name to the nation. Qin is pronounced “chin,” and it is from this name that the modern word “China” comes.

 

End your day with a colorful entertainment that pays tribute to the city’s history. Xi’an reached its apex during the Tang Dynasty, when Tang emperors laid out a city that became a model for Chinese urban development, so the era holds a special place in the hearts of Xi’an’s citizens. A traditional Chinese dinner, complete with a milky rice wine that is served warm, is accompanied by a lavishly staged cultural performance that draws on the music, folk dance and beautiful silk costumes of the Tang era. The performance you’ll see is rooted in early folk celebrations that honored the harvest, and it blends ancient music and movements to visually express the splendor of the Chinese civilization.


Day 6 Xi’an, Fly to Lhasa

Today you’ll fly to Lhasa, the ancient cultural and religious epicenter of Tibet, where the majestic Himalayan peaks will make you feel like you’re on top of the world—figuratively and literally—in the world’s highest capital city.   Upon arrival in Lhasa, you’ll check in to the Shangri-La Lhasa Hotel, where dinner comes with amazing views of the world’s highest city.
Featured Excursions:

Artisan carving
Before you catch your flight to Lhasa, you have one more expedition: a visit to the Jade Carving Center. Jade has been cherished in China for 10,000 years; it is valued for its intrinsic beauty, of course, but it also has tremendous symbolic meaning. Watch artisans carving intricate designs and learn what to look for when buying this special stone.


Day 7 Lhasa

Enter the hushed inner sanctum of the spiritual heart of the city, Lhasa’s holiest temple, where you will have a rare opportunity to gaze upon the most sacred icon of Tibetan Buddhism—an ancient statue of the Buddha that legions of devout pilgrims journey vast distances to see in person.   High on the Tibetan Plateau, Lhasa, the cultural and historical capital of Tibet, is both a thriving modern town and a mystical destination of pilgrimage.
Featured Excursions:

Otherworldly Jokhang Temple and Tibet Museum

Gold-domed Jokhang Temple, a UNESCO World Heritage Site and the holiest temple in the holy city, contains the most revered icon of Tibetan Buddhism, a seventh-century statue of Buddha known as the Jowo Shakyamuni. Throughout the day you can see Tibetan pilgrims following the sacred circuit, some prostrating themselves every few feet, that leads to this statue. Inside this beautiful building, which incorporates Indian, Chinese and Nepalese architectural elements, you’ll find restored sculptures (a reminder of the struggles Tibet has endured), ritual paintings on silk called thangka, and 18th- and 19th-century murals. The extraordinary beauty of the place is made all the more ethereal by dramatic views of Potala Palace looming above the temple and the surrounding snowcapped mountains.

 

You’ll learn more about the history of the region and traditional Tibetan life as you tour the Tibet Museum, which houses a rich collection of prehistoric artifacts, some dating back 50,000 years. The museum is a modern building (it opened in 1999) that fuses traditional Chinese and Tibetan architecture.


Day 8 Lhasa

The enormous hilltop Potala Palace is the first thing visitors see in Lhasa, and today you’ll have a chance to actually venture inside within this vast and well-preserved site. It is said to contain a thousand rooms, including the private rooms where the Dalai Lama himself once resided. Later, visit Sera Monastery, an active place of worship and study with an amazing collection of Buddhist art.
Featured Excursions:

Places of the gods: Potala Palace and Sera Monastery

Tibetan Buddhism is inextricably associated with Lhasa; the temporal head of the Gelug school of Tibetan Buddhism—the Dalai Lama—governed Tibet for 300 years. Potala’s two palaces, the Red and the White, perched 12,100 feet (3,700 meters) above the valley floor, dominate the city just as the Dalai Lama did until the mid-1950s. Originally built in 637, the existing palace— vast and beautifully preserved—dates to the 17th century. Now designated a UNESCO World Heritage Site, it was the seat of Tibet’s government and the winter residence of the Dalai Lama for centuries. As you wander through its rooms (there are over 1,000), you’ll discover chapels, prayer halls, tombs, altars (where pilgrims still make offerings) and priceless collections of jade, porcelain, silver and paintings.

 

Founded in 1419, Sera Monastery, located just outside Lhasa at the base of Mt. Phurbuchok, once housed more than 5,000 monks, who traveled from all over Tibet to study at one of the monastery’s three great colleges. The monastery was shut down in 1959 and used for a time as an army barracks, but monks were permitted to return to Sera in the 1980s. They have rebuilt much of the monastery, and today they conduct daily philosophical debates under the watchful eye of Manjushri, the God of Wisdom, in the courtyard of Sera Je Tratsang temple. As you tour the monastery’s numerous temples—each filled with amazing collections of carefully preserved murals and statues of Maitreya, Bodhisattva and Arhat—you may begin to share the mystical sense of peace espoused by the Buddha and his disciples.


Day 9 Lhasa, Fly to Chongqing (Embark), Cruising the Yangtze River

The word of the day is “panda.” Pandas are one of China’s most beloved (and adorable) cultural symbols, and you’ll get to see some of these gentle giants today at the Chongqing Zoo.   Check out of your hotel and fly to Chongqing, the booming capital of western China. Although Chongqing is a major metropolis, the area is known chiefly for its mountainous landscape and the dense forests that shroud temples, tombs and caves. Your elegant ship, the Century Legend, awaits you here.
Featured Excursions:

Giant pandas
Stop at the zoo to see the endangered giant pandas. It’s estimated that only about 1,600 remain in the wild, but thanks to a massive international effort, the panda population is slowly increasing.


Day 10 Cruising the Yangtze River, Shibaozhai

Do you believe in magic? The bright red Shibao Pagoda was originally built into the side of a mountain peak, but that peak became an island after the completion of the Three Gorges Dam. Step ashore to do some exploring, perhaps climbing to the top to ensure that all your dreams come true (or so an ancient legend says).   Relax and prepare to be dazzled as your ship carries you through some of the most glorious scenery in the world. Limestone cliffs, sheathed in greenery, loom above the water; mountains, wreathed in mist, tower in the distance. The river itself, deep and powerful, busy and serene, will work its enchantment as it carries you past bucolic fishing villages, hillside rice paddies, ancient cliff carvings and historic temples.
Featured Excursions:

The Three Gorges—the Yangtze’s fairytale landscape

Shibao Pagoda is a temple built directly into the side of a steep peak that is now an island, a result of the rising waters from the Three Gorges Dam. Painted a bright red (the color associated with happiness and good fortune) and featuring an elaborately carved entrance and unusual round windows, the 12-story pagoda is yours to explore. At one time the temple consisted of just the top three stories; the other nine stories were constructed essentially to house the ladder-like staircase that leads up to the top. It’s something of a challenge to climb, which may be why legend says reaching the top will make your dreams come true—by your being here, we’d like to think they already have. (Don’t worry— there’s another, less strenuous way to get to the top: You can take a path up the hill and cross a bridge to the temple.) Shibao Pagoda is, quite simply, magical.

 

Once back aboard your ship, you will begin sailing toward the Three Gorges, where you’ll encounter some of the most celebrated scenery in all of China—including cliffs that rise above you to heights of up to 4,000 feet (1,219 meters). This is a perfect opportunity to take advantage of the ship’s decks for unimpeded views of the spectacular surroundings.

Enjoy the Captain’s Welcome Reception with complimentary wine before dinner. Later, you’ll be treated to some evening entertainment.


Day 11 Cruising the Yangtze River, Goddess Stream

Today will be a highlight of your journey—a full day cruising the Yangtze River’s mystical, beautiful and completely mesmerizing Three Gorges, with scenery that has captivated artists and poets for thousands of years.
Featured Excursions:

The magical Goddess Stream

Climb aboard a small motorboat and enter a magical landscape today as you drift quietly along the Goddess Stream, a tributary of the Yangtze that flows through some of the most extraordinary scenery in the Three Gorges region. Pristine turquoise waters shimmer and bubble between the sheer cliffs that rise high overhead. Mysterious traces of ancient peoples appear in the cliff faces, including coffins suspended among seemingly unreachable rocks. There are those who believe the goddess of the stream created some of the ravishing peaks you can see from your boat: Does Feifeng Peak look to you like a phoenix about to drink from the stream’s waters? Legend says that the goddess transformed a golden phoenix into the mountain. Whether you recognize a similarity or not, there’s no denying the enchantment of this region.

 

Note: Due to water conditions, we may substitute a Shennong Stream boat tour if the Goddess Stream is not available.

You’re invited to a special Captain’s Farewell Dinner with complimentary wine on this final night of your Yangtze River cruise. After dinner, enjoy evening entertainment.


Day 12 Cruising the Yangtze River, Yichang (Disembark), Fly to Shanghai

The Three Gorges Dam was a hugely expensive and controversial undertaking, a project that involved relocating entire villages threatened by the rising waters of the Yangtze. The dam itself is an engineering marvel that you can see from a breathtakingly up-close perspective today.
Featured Excursions:

Powering China’s future—Three Gorges Dam

Get an up-close view of a contemporary man-made wonder as your ship navigates the five-stage locks of the massive Three Gorges Dam, located in Yichang. Known the world over, the dam harnesses the power of the mighty Yangtze in order to provide electricity to ever- growing China; it is the largest hydropower project ever undertaken. Talk of building such a system first began in 1919, but it wasn’t until 1992 that the Chinese congress gave it the go-ahead. It opened in 2006, with the final generators being installed in 2012. The dam is also intended to control flooding on the Yangtze, which has been a severe problem for many centuries. It has not been without controversy, but it is an unparalleled expression of national ambition and a major new national landmark.

 

After your visit to the dam, you’ll fly to Shanghai, where you’ll settle into your room and then choose a place for dinner on your own. You may opt to dine at the hotel, but you are in the heart of bustling Shanghai, which brims with culinary destinations.

School visit in Yichang

Arts, sciences, languages, athletics—Yichang International School, Longpanhu, aims to give its students a strong and broad educational base, with the goal of creating citizens of the world. English as a second language is a major focus of the curriculum, so the school partners with schools in the United States, with American students visiting the Chinese campus and Chinese students visiting US campuses in California and Texas. Your visit to the campus will encompass a wide range of classroom experiences: everything from science to ceramics and calligraphy, and you will have a chance to meet and chat with some of the articulate and bright high school students here. The campus itself is beautiful, but the personal encounters with the students will be even more enchanting.

Next, board your elegant ship, the Century Legend, to begin your journey along the legendary Yangtze River. The next few days will offer unparalleled visual splendor as you pass through some of the most extraordinary and dramatic landscapes in the world.


Day 13 Shanghai

After days of panda bears, ancient warriors and timeless Chinese landscapes, Shanghai and its futuristic skyline can be something of a shock to the system. Yet beyond the building boom and the avant-garde architecture, you can still find traces of Shanghai’s colorful and fascinating colonial-era history. Enjoy a taste of both old and new today, including the city’s famous delicacy—dim sum—and a performance by the gravity-defying Shanghai acrobats.   Nearly 24 million people live in Shanghai, China’s largest city. An international economic hub, it has drawn entrepreneurs from all over the world for 150 years. But while Shanghai may be the “city of the future,” you can still find remnants of its history in Old Town and the area known as the concessions, which were controlled by European interests in the 19th century.
Featured Excursions:

Spectacular skyscrapers, famous dim sum and acrobats

Call it the once and future boomtown. Shanghai, China’s onetime window to the West, is once again its commercial capital, and this morning’s tour will take you to some of this engaging city’s most impressive sights. Begin with a ramble through Old Town—the original walled city, where you will find traditional tea houses, temples, narrow alleyways and markets—for a taste of historic Shanghai. When you stroll along the Bund, Shanghai’s famed waterfront promenade along the Huangpu River, you encounter the heart of the old colonial concessions: Buildings here pay tribute to the English, French or German consuls and businessmen who owned them. A plethora of art deco buildings demonstrate why Shanghai was known as the Pearl of the Orient in the 1920s. Today’s Bund features exuberant street life as well as beautiful architecture. It’s also an ideal spot for admiring the views of the Pudong district and its spectacular skyscrapers, among them the tallest building in Asia. What would a visit to Shanghai be without a traditional dim sum lunch? Relax at your hotel over a delectable selection of savory dumplings, steamed buns and rice noodle rolls with a variety of fillings, then go out and explore a little on your own. You might visit Yu Garden, a lovely traditional garden first laid out in 1559, or check out one of the nearby shopping streets for a taste of Shanghai’s famous shopping scene.

 

After dinner on your own, experience spinning plates, flying knives, and whirling hula-hoops as agile acrobats dance across swaying tightropes and perform death-defying leaps. You’ll be truly dazzled as the famous Shanghai Acrobatic Troupe performs their astonishing, gravity-defying routines.


Day 14 Depart Shanghai

Check out of your hotel and transfer to the Shanghai Pudong International Airport for your flight Home, extend your trip with a memorable optional extension to Hong Kong.

2019 version

Cruise Direction: Beijing to Shanghai


Day 1 Beijing

Arrive in Beijing and be greeted by a Uniworld representative who will escort you to the opulent Waldorf Astoria Beijing.


Day 2 Beijing

Your adventure begins with two quintessential experiences in China’s capital of Beijing. Off limits to commoners for 500 years, the Forbidden City was once considered the cosmic center of the universe (and for good reason, as you’ll see for yourself). Peking Duck is another cultural gem you’ll get to experience today, a complex dish originally prepared for Chinese emperors.   The political and cultural capital of China and home to more than 20 million people, Beijing exemplifies everything visitors find most intoxicating about China: Spectacular ancient monuments contrast with ambitious modern high-rises, and traditional crafts flourish alongside booming international businesses. Exquisite art, stunning UNESCO sites, serene parks, and teeming streets all contribute to the unique flavor of this astonishing city.
Featured Excursions:

The imperial heritage of China's capital with afternoon Temple of Heaven visit and tai chi class

Delve into the mystique and majesty of China’s imperial legacy today, beginning in Tiananmen Square. The center of contemporary civic life in Beijing, the square was first laid out in 1651 during the reign of the first Qing emperor. Over the centuries the enormous square has been the scene of imperial ceremonies, political demonstrations, parades and, in 2008, the Olympic opening festivities. Now surrounded by Communist monuments, including Mao Zedong’s mausoleum (note the long line of people waiting to get in for a brief glimpse of the Chairman’s remains), it is the gateway to the Forbidden City. Take a moment to pose with your fellow guests for a complimentary group photo to commemorate your visit.

 

As you pass through Tiananmen Gate, also known as the Gate of Heavenly Peace, you step into one of Beijing’s treasures, the Forbidden City. For over 500 years the Forbidden City was home to the emperors and empresses of China, a place none could enter without imperial permission (hence its name), but in 1925 it became the Palace Museum—an institution noted for its unparalleled collections of Ming and Qing Dynasty treasures. The UNESCO-designated palace complex, with its temples, pavilions, courtyards and gardens (covering some 100 acres), offers visitors a glimpse into the lives and rituals of China’s imperial families, as well as some of the world’s most outstanding architecture and design.

 

 

Relax after your exploration of the Forbidden City with a festive lunch of Beijing’s succulent signature dish, Peking Duck. Emperors were the first to enjoy this classic preparation of slow-roasted, crispy-skinned duck; in fact, the first mention of this delicacy dates back to the imperial kitchens in 1330, and it became eponymous with Beijing—or Peking, as it was then known—in the 1450s.

 

After lunch, visit a UNESCO-designated site completed in the 15th century, the Temple of Heaven (or Altar of Heaven), which symbolizes the relationship between heaven and earth—and the emperor’s place within that cosmography. Over the centuries, 22 Ming and Qing emperors fasted within these precincts and made ritual sacrifices at the Altar of Heaven for good harvests. The layout of the 92 buildings—containing some 600 rooms—and gardens that make up this complex had a symbolic function; the shapes (mostly circular) gave physical expression to aspects of traditional Chinese philosophy and political worldview. Set amid beautiful parkland and a lush pine forest, the buildings are masterpieces of design that exerted a profound influence over all later architectural styles in China. The area became a public park in 1918 and is popular with nearby residents; pause for a moment to admire the fleeting calligraphy painted on the pavement with water or watch the graceful movements of the many locals who practice the ancient art of tai chi here.


Day 3 Beijing

Today is a Bucket List Moment kind of day, as you stand at last atop China’s most iconic site—the Great Wall. The views are spectacular! You’ll also have tea at a traditional teahouse and take a rickshaw ride through the city’s ancient hutongs—historic neighborhoods that date back to the 15th century—where you will have lunch with a friendly local family at their home.
Featured Excursions:

Culture, history and intrigue: hutongs, teahouse and the Great Wall

Expand your experience of Beijing’s amazing culture with a visit to the hutongs, the historic residential neighborhoods that developed around the Forbidden City during the 15th century. Traditional multigenerational homes built around courtyards line the narrow lanes, along with tiny shops selling everything from luxury goods to everyday necessities. Not only are the sights along these winding streets fascinating, but you’ll get to see them in the most traditional way—via rickshaw. You’re in for another taste of tradition as you take a seat at a teahouse and breathe in the delicate aromas of China’s most famous export, savoring a cup of tea that comes with a ceremonial presentation.

Though the Great Wall stretches 5,500 miles (8,850 kilometers) through northern China—for comparison purposes, remember that the United States is about 3,000 miles (4,828 kilometers) wide—part of it is surprisingly close to Beijing. You’ll head off to see the longest man-made structure on Earth this afternoon. The wall was begun in the third century BC as a way to keep out hostile invaders from the north; it proved so stalwart a defense that generations of warlords and emperors maintained and extended it, although it was never a continuous barrier. The section north of Beijing dates mostly to the Ming Dynasty. Now that its military purposes are firmly in the past, you may clamber up the steps and take a memorable walk along this UNESCO World Heritage Site. Its stone and tamped-earth pathway offers an extraordinarily peaceful and awe-inspiring setting with expansive mountain views.


Day 4 Beijing, Fly to Xi’an

Leave the hustle and bustle of Beijing behind today and head north to the serenity of the Summer Palace, home to one of China’s most beautiful classical gardens. From there, plunge into the past in China’s first capital, Xi’an, where you’ll be treated to a traditional (and incredibly labor intensive) dumpling banquet.   You have one more special excursion to enjoy in Beijing this morning, then you’ll fly to Xi’an for the next leg of your Chinese adventure.
Featured Excursions:

Grace and Art: Beijing’s Summer Palace and Xi’an’s traditional dumpling banquet

Even emperors suffered in Beijing’s summer heat, so they built a lake just north of the city and then added a series of palaces and pavilions on the banks of that lake (it also provided water for the city), where they could enjoy cool breezes off the water. Over the centuries emperors turned their Summer Palace into one of China’s most beautiful gardens, incorporating elements from myth (the three islands in Kunming Lake represent the three divine mountains in the East Sea), philosophy and other exquisite gardens, including those in Suzhou. Stroll along the Long Corridor, decorated with some 14,000 paintings, and step aboard a small boat to float out onto the serene waters of Kunming Lake. As you take in the views of Longevity Hill, with its temples and pavilions, and the 17-arch bridge, you’ll see a perfect example of Chinese garden design.

 

Leaving Beijing behind, you will fly south to Xi’an, China’s first capital, home to the Terra-cotta Army— and to one of China’s culinary delights. Check into your hotel and then savor a traditional Xi’an dumpling banquet. Traditionally reserved for special occasions (perhaps because making them can be so labor intensive), each little dumpling is a delectable work of art—and, after all, your visit to Xi’an is surely a special occasion, so you deserve every one of the 16 different kinds of dumplings that will be served.


Day 5 Xi’an

Xi’an’s famous terra-cotta army has been called the 8th wonder of the world, and it’s certainly the most extraordinary archeological find of the 20th century. Prepare to be amazed! You’ll also enjoy a traditional Tang Dynasty dinner show with fabulous food, music and flamboyant costumes.   The imperial capital for 10 ancient dynasties, Xi’an achieved its greatest renown under the Tang Dynasty (AD 618-907), when it was a great international metropolis and the eastern terminus of the legendary Silk Road. Today it is the capital of Shaanxi Province and most famous for a museum devoted to the Terra-cotta Warriors and Horses.
Featured Excursions:

China’s First Capital: Terra-cotta Army and Tang Dynasty dinner show

In 1974, a farmer digging a well stumbled upon one of the 20th century’s most astonishing archaeological finds: a massive army of terra-cotta figures that stand guard over the tomb of China’s first emperor, Qin Shi Huang (259-210 BC). Though thousands of members of this army have been excavated so far, many more remain; work uncovering the tomb complex continues, with the emperor’s tomb chamber itself yet to be revealed. Terra-cotta acrobats, musicians, and officials were also created to accompany the emperor in the afterlife; all are now on display at a museum devoted to this incredible find. Each life-sized figure is unique—no mass production for those ancient craftsmen!—and as you explore the museum, you’ll be amazed by the intricacy of the workmanship. This terra-cotta army was by no means Qin Shi Huang’s only bequest to China: It might be fair to say that he created the nation of China itself. He unified a vast swath of the country and established the administrative systems that governed China until 1911. In fact, he even gave his dynasty’s name to the nation. Qin is pronounced “chin,” and it is from this name that the modern word “China” comes.

 

End your day with a colorful entertainment that pays tribute to the city’s history. Xi’an reached its apex during the Tang Dynasty, when Tang emperors laid out a city that became a model for Chinese urban development, so the era holds a special place in the hearts of Xi’an’s citizens. A traditional Chinese dinner, complete with a milky rice wine that is served warm, is accompanied by a lavishly staged cultural performance that draws on the music, folk dance and beautiful silk costumes of the Tang era. The performance you’ll see is rooted in early folk celebrations that honored the harvest, and it blends ancient music and movements to visually express the splendor of the Chinese civilization.


Day 6 Xi’an, Fly to Lhasa

Today you’ll fly to Lhasa, the ancient cultural and religious epicenter of Tibet, where the majestic Himalayan peaks will make you feel like you’re on top of the world—figuratively and literally—in the world’s highest capital city.   Upon arrival in Lhasa, you’ll check in to the Shangri-La Lhasa Hotel, where dinner comes with amazing views of the world’s highest city.


Day 7 Lhasa

Enter the hushed inner sanctum of the spiritual heart of the city, Lhasa’s holiest temple, where you will have a rare opportunity to gaze upon the most sacred icon of Tibetan Buddhism—an ancient statue of the Buddha that legions of devout pilgrims journey vast distances to see in person.   High on the Tibetan Plateau, Lhasa, the cultural and historical capital of Tibet, is both a thriving modern town and a mystical destination of pilgrimage.
Featured Excursions:

Otherworldly Jokhang Temple and Tibet Museum

Gold-domed Jokhang Temple, a UNESCO World Heritage Site and the holiest temple in the holy city, contains the most revered icon of Tibetan Buddhism, a seventh-century statue of Buddha known as the Jowo Shakyamuni. Throughout the day you can see Tibetan pilgrims following the sacred circuit, some prostrating themselves every few feet, that leads to this statue. Inside this beautiful building, which incorporates Indian, Chinese and Nepalese architectural elements, you’ll find restored sculptures (a reminder of the struggles Tibet has endured), ritual paintings on silk called thangka, and 18th- and 19th-century murals. The extraordinary beauty of the place is made all the more ethereal by dramatic views of Potala Palace looming above the temple and the surrounding snowcapped mountains.

 

You’ll learn more about the history of the region and traditional Tibetan life as you tour the Tibet Museum, which houses a rich collection of prehistoric artifacts, some dating back 50,000 years. The museum is a modern building (it opened in 1999) that fuses traditional Chinese and Tibetan architecture.


Day 8 Lhasa

The enormous hilltop Potala Palace is the first thing visitors see in Lhasa, and today you’ll have a chance to actually venture inside within this vast and well-preserved site. It is said to contain a thousand rooms, including the private rooms where the Dalai Lama himself once resided. Later, visit Sera Monastery, an active place of worship and study with an amazing collection of Buddhist art.
Featured Excursions:

Places of the Gods: Potala Palace and Sera Monastery

Tibetan Buddhism is inextricably associated with Lhasa; the temporal head of the Gelug school of Tibetan Buddhism—the Dalai Lama—governed Tibet for 300 years. Potala’s two palaces, the Red and the White, perched 12,100 feet (3,700 meters) above the valley floor, dominate the city just as the Dalai Lama did until the mid-1950s. Originally built in 637, the existing palace— vast and beautifully preserved—dates to the 17th century. Now designated a UNESCO World Heritage Site, it was the seat of Tibet’s government and the winter residence of the Dalai Lama for centuries. As you wander through its rooms (there are over 1,000), you’ll discover chapels, prayer halls, tombs, altars (where pilgrims still make offerings) and priceless collections of jade, porcelain, silver and paintings.

 

Founded in 1419, Sera Monastery, located just outside Lhasa at the base of Mt. Phurbuchok, once housed more than 5,000 monks, who traveled from all over Tibet to study at one of the monastery’s three great colleges. The monastery was shut down in 1959 and used for a time as an army barracks, but monks were permitted to return to Sera in the 1980s. They have rebuilt much of the monastery, and today they conduct daily philosophical debates under the watchful eye of Manjushri, the God of Wisdom, in the courtyard of Sera Je Tratsang temple. As you tour the monastery’s numerous temples—each filled with amazing collections of carefully preserved murals and statues of Maitreya, Bodhisattva and Arhat—you may begin to share the mystical sense of peace espoused by the Buddha and his disciples.


Day 9 Lhasa, Fly to Chongqing (Embark), Cruising the Yangtze River

The word of the day is “panda.” Pandas are one of China’s most beloved (and adorable) cultural symbols, and you’ll get to see some of these gentle giants today at the Chongqing Zoo.   Check out of your hotel and fly to Chongqing, the booming capital of western China. Although Chongqing is a major metropolis, the area is known chiefly for its mountainous landscape and the dense forests that shroud temples, tombs and caves. Your elegant ship, the Sanctuary Yangzi Explorer, awaits you here.
Featured Excursions:

Giant Pandas visit at Chongqing Zoo

Stop at the zoo to see the endangered giant pandas. It’s estimated that only about 1,600 remain in the wild, but thanks to a massive international effort, the panda population is slowly increasing.


Day 10 Cruising the Yangtze River, Shibaozhai

Do you believe in magic? The bright red Shibao Pagoda was originally built into the side of a mountain peak, but that peak became an island after the completion of the Three Gorges Dam. Step ashore to do some exploring, perhaps climbing to the top to ensure that all your dreams come true (or so an ancient legend says).   Relax and prepare to be dazzled as your ship carries you through some of the most glorious scenery in the world. Limestone cliffs, sheathed in greenery, loom above the water; mountains, wreathed in mist, tower in the distance. The river itself, deep and powerful, busy and serene, will work its enchantment as it carries you past bucolic fishing villages, hillside rice paddies, ancient cliff carvings and historic temples.
Featured Excursions:

Fuling: "816 Underground Project"


Day 11 Cruising the Yangtze River, Shennong Stream

Today will be a highlight of your journey—a full day cruising the Yangtze River’s mystical, beautiful and completely mesmerizing Three Gorges, with scenery that has captivated artists and poets for thousands of years.
Featured Excursions:

The magical Shennong Stream


Day 12 Cruising the Yangtze River, Yichang (Disembark), Fly to Shanghai

The Three Gorges Dam was a hugely expensive and controversial undertaking, a project that involved relocating entire villages threatened by the rising waters of the Yangtze. The dam itself is an engineering marvel that you can see from a breathtakingly up-close perspective today.
Featured Excursions:

Powering China’s Future: Three Gorges Dam

Get an up-close view of a contemporary man-made wonder as your ship navigates the five-stage locks of the massive Three Gorges Dam, located in Yichang. Known the world over, the dam harnesses the power of the mighty Yangtze in order to provide electricity to ever- growing China; it is the largest hydropower project ever undertaken. Talk of building such a system first began in 1919, but it wasn’t until 1992 that the Chinese congress gave it the go-ahead. It opened in 2006, with the final generators being installed in 2012. The dam is also intended to control flooding on the Yangtze, which has been a severe problem for many centuries. It has not been without controversy, but it is an unparalleled expression of national ambition and a major new national landmark.

 

After your visit to the dam, you’ll fly to Shanghai, where you’ll settle into your room and then choose a place for dinner on your own. You may opt to dine at the hotel, but you are in the heart of bustling Shanghai, which brims with culinary destinations.


Day 13 Shanghai

After days of panda bears, ancient warriors and timeless Chinese landscapes, Shanghai and its futuristic skyline can be something of a shock to the system. Yet beyond the building boom and the avant-garde architecture, you can still find traces of Shanghai’s colorful and fascinating colonial-era history. Enjoy a taste of both old and new today, including the city’s famous delicacy—dim sum—and a performance by the gravity-defying Shanghai acrobats.   Nearly 24 million people live in Shanghai, China’s largest city. An international economic hub, it has drawn entrepreneurs from all over the world for 150 years. But while Shanghai may be the “city of the future,” you can still find remnants of its history in Old Town and the area known as the concessions, which were controlled by European interests in the 19th century.
Featured Excursions:

Spectacular skyscrapers, famous dim sum and acrobats

Call it the once and future boomtown. Shanghai, China’s onetime window to the West, is once again its commercial capital, and this morning’s tour will take you to some of this engaging city’s most impressive sights. Begin with a ramble through Old Town—the original walled city, where you will find traditional tea houses, temples, narrow alleyways and markets—for a taste of historic Shanghai. When you stroll along the Bund, Shanghai’s famed waterfront promenade along the Huangpu River, you encounter the heart of the old colonial concessions: Buildings here pay tribute to the English, French or German consuls and businessmen who owned them. A plethora of art deco buildings demonstrate why Shanghai was known as the Pearl of the Orient in the 1920s. Today’s Bund features exuberant street life as well as beautiful architecture. It’s also an ideal spot for admiring the views of the Pudong district and its spectacular skyscrapers, among them the tallest building in Asia. What would a visit to Shanghai be without a traditional dim sum lunch? Relax at your hotel over a delectable selection of savory dumplings, steamed buns and rice noodle rolls with a variety of fillings, then go out and explore a little on your own. You might visit Yu Garden, a lovely traditional garden first laid out in 1559, or check out one of the nearby shopping streets for a taste of Shanghai’s famous shopping scene.

 

After dinner on your own, experience spinning plates, flying knives, and whirling hula-hoops as agile acrobats dance across swaying tightropes and perform death-defying leaps. You’ll be truly dazzled as the famous Shanghai Acrobatic Troupe performs their astonishing, gravity-defying routines.


Day 14 Depart Shanghai

Check out of your hotel and transfer to the Shanghai Pudong International Airport for your flight home, or extend your trip with a memorable optional extension to Hong Kong.

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26 Uniworld Travel Reviews & Ratings

96%
4.9 out of 5 (100+ reviews)
Excellent 24
Great 2
Average 0
Disappointing 0
Terrible 0
Value
4.8
Guide
4.8
Activities
4.8
Lodging
4.9
Transportation
4.8
Meals
4.9

China, Tibet & the Yangtze

Pros, cons and tips

4.0
Details
Value4.0
Guide3.0
Activities3.0
Lodging5.0
Transportation3.0
Meals4.0
This is a review of the Uniworld China + Tibet + Yangtze tour in June, 2019, taken by my wife (80) and me (77). Since knowledge of a reviewer helps readers to judge the applicability to themselves: we are both former academics, normally spry and immersed in cultural, political, and healthful life activities, but we sometimes found the trip daunting, as discussed below. We resist aging, but not always with full success.

The tour had pluses and minuses.

The biggest minuses:
• My wife’s breathing difficulty in our 3-night stay in Lhasa, Tibet (she spent the whole time breathing oxygen and couldn't go on any outings)
• The (inevitable) problem of touring a totalitarian country where citizens are intimidated from talking honestly about the full scope of their lives

The biggest pluses:
• Our guide, Kevin, who was outstandingly attentive, helpful, supportive and patient. He went out of his way to help in difficult situations (like my wife’s breathing problems in Lhasa).
• We were also quite appreciative of Tiger’s brief stint with us.
• With a few exceptions, our baggage was always handled by others. And the exceptions weren’t overwhelming. Apparently for a group, the weight of any individual bag just gets averaged in with all the other group bags being checked. (Some travelers handled their own carry-ons.)

Most of the other people on the tour were quite amiable and unassuming—not always the case when you travel with people whose financial position has to be pretty good to afford this kind of trip (that financial position too often drives unwarranted expectations of privilege and reverence [if that’s not redundant…]).

The accommodations and included breakfasts (and many other meals) were luxurious, though we ourselves didn’t need them to be THAT nice (in this we’re probably exceptions from other travelers—and in this case, a number of our co-tourists had taken multiple Uniworld tours, so they knew and liked what they'd be getting); indeed, we had to learn to stop tanking up at breakfast just because so many goodies were offered, buffet-style. Had we realized those luxuries were part of what we were paying for (and in retrospect we SHOULD have realized), we might have taken a different, cheaper tour. Ironically, what most drew us to the Uniworld trip were the chance to visit Tibet and the expectation that at such a high cost we’d always be getting outstanding, highly informed guides (which wasn’t always the case; as retired academics, we’re unusually demanding in the critical analysis of what we want to hear).

GENERAL NOTES:

We spent several days on our own before the tour (in Beijing) and at its end (in Shanghai). These were quite valuable to us. Perhaps because of time, the Uniworld tour took us to few museums. We are museum junkies, and visited several during our non-tour times. Among other things, Beijing has a terrific national museum, an interesting (partly because of its political subtext) museum about women and children, and an extensive arts district. Shanghai has its own major museum and a tour of the city’s past relationship with Judaism that gives you a more general sense of the troubling antithesis of glitzy life highlighted elsewhere.

I’ve traveled to many parts of the world, and I’ve always been able to learn at least local alphabets and some minimal language skills. China is the first place I’ve gone where I could do none of the first and only a few words (probably wrongly intoned) of the latter. This was extremely frustrating, especially when we toured on our own. Few people outside the major international emporia (I never quite got used to how many upscale stores were in all places we visited) speak English (why should they?). The one ameliorating factor was that many people (especially store employees) had phone apps that did good to excellent translations between spoken English and spoken Chinese. You should have one for your own use.

In major cities, signs quite often include English, so that you can at least know where to shop and what you're looking at. Prices (which you can often negotiate) are typically typed into a calculator.

Perhaps even more than in the West, people are glued to smart phones. Pretty much everyone, it seems, uses an app that includes texts, phone use, and a payment facility, so that people seem to may carry little or no cash or credit cards. No one seems to care—or maybe everyone is just resigned to—that the government can monitor this app and know a ton of stuff about you. As a foreigner, however, you are unlikely to be able to use this app because you need to have a compatible bank account (probably meaning from a Chinese bank).

No matter how you travel in China, you'll see the amazing efforts to accommodate the expansion cities, so that a “town” of which you've never heard might have a million or more people. On the tour, you'll see almost only architectural and shop glitz that the government and cities bask in. You might get very brief glimpses of poverty.

While on the one hand the Chinese government talks a good game and takes some important steps vis-à-vis the climate crisis, on the other hand they still use an enormous amount of fossil fuel for electricity generation. I was also struck—dismayed—by the fact that from all appearances, people only drink bottled water (Westerners are warned against tap water, but I don’t know if local people build up an immuinity to its problems). Especially in warm weather, I can only guess at the billions of single-use plastic bottles that are used every day by the population of 1.4 billion (plus large numbers of visitors). On rare occasions, like at an airport, you might see a place to refill a water bottle (I assume that water is safe).

Please note that in criticisms like the previous paragraph, I do not intend a holier-than-thou American attitude. I am even more critical of what our government does—or more importantly, doesn’t—do vis-à-vis the climate crisis.

THE PEOPLE

Almost everyone was pleasant and upbeat. We mostly moved among middle- (and presumably upper-)class people; we encountered many others, but they were kind of in the background (just as in capitalist countries), and while we made it a point to notice their existence, we had no meaningful interactions with them.

The westernization of outward behavior was almost palpable. My wife had visited 10 years ago and regularly commented on the difference. My impression is that the young (teen-agers, young adults) are especially into western fashion and culture—and to what to me was a surprising extent, seemed to be able to afford indulging that taste.

For what it’s worth, my observation was that people are quite materialistic, focus their lives on that, and increasingly able to afford to indulge themselves. Outwardly, at least, they have little concern with the strictures of their government. Tiananmen Square seems to be in the distant past. Treatment of Moslems and Uighurs (not unlike our current treatment of immigrants and Moslems or our like history of racial and ethnic conflicts) was far away. So far as I could tell, people like Americans (though we’re also bizarre outsiders—there are occasional instances of Chinese people, especially ones who live far from the cities we visited, walking up to a foreigner and asking to take a photo together (this happened to me on the Great Wall, with some pretty young guys).

SECURITY

This abounds. You need to carry your passport everywhere. You'll encounter frequent security checks where you have to put whatever you're carrying through a scanner and show official IDs. In Lhasa, these checks were even present as you wove your way through street markets.

At every airport check-in, you not only go through a security scanner, but you then step up on s short stool so that someone with a hand scanner can go over every inch of your body. (I have sometimes wondered whether proliferation of security folk, including regular police, in nations like this is a clever device for combining meaningful security with full employment.)

The government must have an incredible volume of disk space and incredibly fast computer programs to be able quickly to access information about any given citizen or visitor. Check-in at airports always includes a live photo of you. I’m sure if anyone in the security services had wanted to track me down at any time, it wouldn't have taken more than a few seconds. (For each accommodation where you stay, you have to register with the police. Hotels typically do that for you.)

IN-COUNTRY TRAVEL

We had 4 in-country flights (part of the reason for what Uniworld charges), and much as we wanted to visit the places to which we flew, the time and effort involved in getting from to shuttle bus (then sometimes a long walk) to hotel to airport to check-in to security to boarding to flying to disembarking to shuttle bus to the next hotel became overwhelming.

The tour included 3 nights in a luxury boat on the Yangtze River. This was quite pleasant and included a night’s visit to a show (I don’t remember exactly which one, but when on our own my wife and I went to a couple of shows in Beijing—well worth it even if they're not something to your normal taste). Here, we had some down time. At our ages, we needed more of that. I got sick while on the boat and got what seemed like pretty good medical care.

(By American standards, medicals for my wife in Lhasa and for me on the Yangtze boat were low but not miniscule.)

By American standards, taxis are cheap. They were pretty easy to find in Beijing. (The “universal” app includes signups with services like Uber.) But in Shanghai, they were extremely rare, and we had to get help from strangers to order one. As you would expect, this is especially hard when it’s raining and you're a very long walk from your hotel. Among maybe a dozen or two cab rides during our entire stay, we had two bad experiences with cabbies; I advise photographing the driver’s information and the meter area. I found that this significantly mitigated the problems.

We took the metro in Beijing. After brief adjustment, it was very easy to use. The main difficulty is that stations are far apart, so on (say) a rainy night, you will still need an umbrella and endurance. Shanghai seems to have an equivalent subway system, but we never used it there.

LHASA

Part of the altitude problem my wife (and a few of our fellow travellers) had appears to be the flight’s forcing a lack of transition from sea level to an altitude over 2 miles. (On the other hand, a slower, staged transfer probably would have added cost to an already expensive trip—and maybe loss of a day’s touring.) Especially for older folk, however, I think this is a relevant concern.

I don’t know why, but although I could feel very mild pressure in my breathing, I was fine for the entire Lhasa visit. I had a different disappointment (perhaps idiosyncratic to myself, an academic and non-religious person): if I remember correctly, our entire stay involved visiting Tibetan religious locations. I quite support SOME such visits—religious history is central to human existence—but I would have liked to see aspects of other Tibetan cultural history.

Because of Beijing political issues with Tibet, filing out your Chinese visa involves the charade of not mentioning you're going there (if you do mention it, your visa apparently will be denied).

And a warning re Lhasa (and at least the Great Wall): there can invite lots of climbing, and a number of us, especially some of the older people (even when altitude wasn’t an issue), chose to climb minimally (just enough to get a sense of where steps were going and what the resulting view would be). Kevin and other guides were totally understanding—indeed, we were offered climbing options.
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Company Reviews

better the second time around?

5.0
Details
Value4.0
Guide4.0
Activities4.0
Lodging4.0
Transportation4.0
Meals5.0
This was our 6th Uniworld and 2nd time down part of the Danube.

local guides very good; better than last time. food remains excellent; lunch food choices in particular are better than before. service, in particular Dining room, remains excellent. servers really attempt to learn food and drink preferences. front desk service is excellent. small improvements in room (chocolate jar; audio box chargers in closet; closet hanger rods more like home than ship) appreciated.

the ship is starting to need updating; our shower stall needed to be re-grouted; deck might need to be refinished in areas. elevator never worked during cruise; 24 hr. coffee machine malfunctioned for 3 days. the itinerary itself isn't full of "must-sees" but has has sights and experiences that might be hard for you to do on your own with just a guidebook.

While cruise wasn't perfect, we would travel with Uniworld again; possibly even down the Danube a 3rd time, but on a newer ship.
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Highly recommend

5.0
Details
Value5.0
Guide5.0
Activities5.0
Lodging5.0
Transportation5.0
Meals5.0
Me and Nena are in cruise business more than 38 years and booked so many river cruises in Europe and charter ships in Russia, India, Egypt and Ukraine. Uniworld offer excellent cruise and we highly recommend this great company.
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Fantastic

4.0
Details
Value4.0
Guide4.0
Activities4.0
Lodging4.0
Transportation4.0
Meals4.0
Fantastic cruising the Nile on MS River Tosca, spacious rooms, super crew, delicious meals, fantastic service, awesome waiters, knowledgeable tour guide Marwa! Would love to go back!
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Professioal, friendly and unforgetable experience for the cruise

5.0
Details
Value5.0
Guide5.0
Activities5.0
Lodging5.0
Transportation5.0
Meals5.0
The facility on ship was good. Staff servicing us were very professionally good. For the meals it was indeed very nice especially the kitchen was able to provide some Asian dishes that is fantastically great.
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