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 – Imperial Highlights
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 c, a sprawling complex of palaces, courtyards and pavilions. Then hop aboard a rickshaw to explore the ancient streets of a Hutong, an ancient enclave of traditional courtyard homes. Joining a local family for lunch in their home promises genuine connections and real insight into Chinese traditions that still endure in this rapidly evolving city. 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 c 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 c, 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 pleasant grounds draw city residents who come to meet with friends, play card games and do their morning Tai Chi – making your visit a rich cultural experience as well.
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 - The Immense Three Gorges Dam
Early risers can start the day with invigorating Tai Chi exercise before an expansive buffet breakfast. A relaxing morning onboard offers a chance to relax on your private balcony, attend an informative talk on Chinese traditions, or indulge in a treatment at the shipboard spa. After lunch, 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. Back onboard, you can enjoy a lecture on traditional Chinese medicine. Later, 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, you’ll want to be on your balcony or with fellow passengers on the Sun Deck as the Yangzi Explorer navigates Wu Gorge, renowned for massive cliffs that rise sharply from the river. Later, our ship cruises through spectacular Qutang Gorge, the narrowest of the river’s Three Gorges. Then enjoy a demonstration of traditional Chinese arts and crafts before sitting down to another elegant à la carte dinner accompanied by free-flowing wine. 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 – Disembark in Chongqing + Fly to Lhasa, Tibet
Enjoy a final buffet breakfast onboard before disembarking the Yangzi Explorer in Chongqing. You’ll be escorted to the airport for your included flight to Tibet. After arriving in Lhasa, you’ll spend some time with a family in their home, a wonderful introduction to the life, traditions and warmth of the Tibetan people. Then check in to the sophisticated, 5-star Shangri-La Hotel where you’ll have time to refresh before dinner. Meals B+D
Day 9 – Tibetan History + Culture
Your guided tour of this fascinating city begins after breakfast at Norbulingka, the summer palace of the Dalai Lamas. Built in the 18th century, this expansive palace complex encompasses tranquil wooded areas, landscaped garden grounds and lovely pavilions. You’ll also visit Jokhang Temple. Originally founded in the 7th century, this 4-story timber structure topped with gold remains an important pilgrimage site for Tibetan Buddhists. Nearby, you’ll have a chance to explore Barkhor Street with its lively and colorful markets. Then spend some time with a master Tangka painter in his studio, learning about the history and techniques of this unique and spiritual art form. Meals B+L+D
Day 10 – Experience Kora + Tour the Potala Palace
This morning, you’ll join local residents as they perform Kora. Observing and even participating in this ancient Buddhist rite of walking and prayer will give you an authentic experience of Tibet’s enduring spiritual traditions. Then tour the magnificent Potala Palace c. Built on a mountain ridge in the heart of the Lhasa Valley, this was the winter palace of the Dalai Lama for more than 1,000 years. Continue with a visit to the Sera Monastery, founded in the 15th century at the foot of Tatipu Hill. This evening’s dinner features traditional Tibetan cuisine. Meals B+L+D
Day 11 - Fly to Chengdu
We’ll take you to the airport this morning for your included flight to Chengdu where you’ll be escorted to the 5-star Shangri-La Hotel. Later this afternoon, join your guide to experience a bit of the city – starting with a stroll in People’s Park where you can join residents to refresh with a cup of tea. In the Kuanzhai Xiangzi district, you’ll discover evocative pedestrian-only alleyways where old stone and brick buildings and traditional courtyards have been given new life as cafes, restaurants and shops. This evening’s Hotpot Dinner, a regional specialty of Chengdu and Sichuan Province. Meals B+D
Day 12 – Our Exclusive Panda Encounter + Rail to Xian
After breakfast, we’ll take you to the Dujiangyan Panda Center for our special Panda Encounter. Taking you behind the scenes, this unforgettable experience offers a rare and unique opportunity to learn about Giant Pandas as you join the Center’s staff to participate in their care and feeding. You’re sure to get close to these amazing creatures – figuratively and literally – as you help to clean their enclosures and prepare their food. Educational sessions and time to explore the grounds of the Panda Center complete this morning’s Panda Encounter.
After lunch, you’ll be escorted to the station to board the ultra-modern high-speed train to Xian, China’s ancient capital for 13 dynasties. On arrival, you’ll be escorted to the Hilton Hotel where your Executive Room includes access to the Club Lounge. Meals B+L+D
Day 13 - Discover the Terra Cotta Army c + Touch Antiquity
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.
After lunch, a specially arranged experience awaits you at the Xian Museum. China’s history, of course, stretches back for thousands of years and excavated relics now offer extraordinary insight into the culture, beliefs and daily lives of China’s ancient civilizations. This afternoon, you’ll join museum curators to literally Touch Antiquity – donning white gloves to hold and examine some of these ancient artifacts as these experts illuminate their historic significance and explain what they can teach us about ancient China. Meals B+L
Day 14 – Fly to Shanghai
Transfer to the airport for your included flight 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. Meals B
Day 15 - 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. Browse in the bustling Old City Bazaar and then visit the highly regarded Shanghai Museum; home to a vast collection of artifacts spanning millennia of Chinese culture, history and civilization, you’ll find ancient bronzes, beautiful celadon pottery, precious jade, and exquisite Ming Dynasty furniture. This evening, gather with your fellow travelers for a congenial farewell dinner. Meals B+L+D
Day 16 - Farewell to Shanghai
After breakfast, you’ll be escorted to the airport for your homeward journey. Meals B