Should you take China Spree to China?

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I am researching cruises and land tours to determine the best way to see China.

There are drawbacks to each. On a land tour, you must pack and repack every few days. On a cruise, at times you have a long journey from port to a city. As an example, it is approximately 2.5 hrs from Tianjin port to Beijing.

I am still determining the best tour and then I will place it against the best cruise to see, which makes the most sense for me.

Chances are high that I will go to China by myself.  Therefore, I have to pick the best solo pricing.

On TripAdvisor, ChinaSpree continues to be discussed as a great option for the land tour. According to China Spree’s website, tours have no more than 20 people (usually 10-16).   Two tours from their 2018 catalog interest me, The Middle Kingdom tour ($1299) and China’s Best Treasures ($2499). As a solo, I need to add $400 to the Middle Kingdom and  $820 to the Best Treasures.mets_jv_2701_pg45_panda_jv_4

The Middle Kingdom tour is for the first-time traveler to China.  This itinerary presents China’s key highlights in 10 days, 2 days are travel days. The itinerary starts in Beijing with stops at the Summer Place and Zoo as well as the Forbidden City and the Great Wall.  In  Xian, you visit China’s first emperor’s 6,000 life-sized Terra-cotta Warriors. The tour ends in Shanghai. There are also optional tours to Hangzhou and Suzhou. This itinerary has a lot of optional tours.  If you take all the optional tours the cost is an additional $480. For a solo, this itinerary could cost ($1299 + $480 + $400)  $2179.  This is at the low end and does not include airfare and additional meals.

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The China’s Best Treasures tour is 13 days, 2 days are travel days. This tour has inclusive pricing and travelers get to explore five destinations. The itinerary includes the same sights as the previous tour plus Chengdu, Longsheng, and Guilin. In Chengdu, you see pandas. In Guilin,  you cruise on the Li River. In Longsheng, there is an exclusive hiking tour to the hidden Dragon Spine Terraces, inhabited by minority nationalities.  For a solo traveler, this tour costs about $3319.

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Of the two tours, I think the Middle Kingdom tour is the best one through China Spree. Several tour options are given for Xian, Beijing, and Shanghai which allows a traveler to customize this tour to their preferences.  The Best Treasures of China is expensive for the experiences. I don’t understand how a tour company would take you to Chengdu and only show you pandas.  Chengdu is in the Sichuan Province, the place for Sichuan cuisine and a short distance from LeShan, the giant Buddha. I can’t imagine going to Chengdu and paying to miss those experiences.

 

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Best Asia Cruises 2018 – 2019

Here are my top picks for cruises to Asia for 2018 – 2019.

seabourn-cavier-and-champagne-in-the-surf

 

1. Go to India, Myanmar, and Sri Lanka

Relax and explore on this 18-day cruise from Bangkok to Mumbai on the Oceania Nautica. On sea days relax and enjoy the amazing cuisine. Destinations include a busy two-night stay in Yangon and Colombo.  Also, upon booking all guests get to choose between a FREE 3-Night Essence Of Bangkok Pre-Cruise Land Tour or a FREE 3-Night Taj Mahal: The Eternal Masterpiece Post-Cruise Land Tour.

The 18-day Bangkok to Mumbai cruise costs from $3,999 per person, departing April 11, 2017 (855-623-2642; www.oceaniacrusies.com).

2. Japan Intensive during Sakura Season

Azamara Cruises’ has decided to focus on country intensive cruises. On a 15-day voyage in April 2019, the Quest will sail through Japan during Sakura or Cherry Blossom season. Sailing round-trip from Tokyo, the cruise also visits Nagasaki, Hakodate and Busan, Korea.

The 15-night Tokyo roundtrip cruise costs from $5399 per person, departing April 27, 2019 (877-999- 9553; www.azamaraclubcruises.com). Excludes flights.

3. Asia Seas Exploration

Luxuriate with caviar and champagne on Seabourn’s 21-day cruise from Hong Kong to Kobe in April 2018.  This cruise visits Taiwan, South Korea, Japan, and China. Seabourn is the only line to offer a unique combination of multiday stops in ports such as Beijing and Shanghai and stops in lesser-known ports of Yeosu, South Korea and Yantai, China. Finally, depart the Seabourn Sojourn in the Japanese city of Kobe and extend your stay to visit Osaka.

The 21-day Asian Seas cruise costs from $14,999 per person, departing April 24, 2018. Excludes flights. (866-755-5619; seabourn.com). 

Cruising China

I really want to go to China but I don’t want to stay too long in any one city.  I think it would be better for me to take a cruise that has stops in China than to take a China land tour.

I started looking into this a while ago and thought I had found the right trip through Crystal cruises.  All of the excursions in Bejing were included in the price of the cruise. Unfortunately, that cruise was sold out.

I have been looking for something similar and I think I found it with Regent cruises. I challenge you to tell me the dates of this cruise.

***Update****

This is a Regent Voyager 24-night cruise that leaves on December 17, 2017.

 

 

 

 

 

Japan, China and Korea: Crystal Cruises

This  post might be considered a long whine.

Crystal Cruises has a trip from March 31 to April 14, 2017 that is phenomenal.

Why did I say this is post is a whine?  Well, it seems to be sold out. I can only find this trip on sale when packaged with the preceding cruise.

What makes it phenomenal?  They are basically giving a free three day tour of Beijing. The hotel and tours in Beijing are included in the cost of the trip.

See below for the itinerary.

 

DAY DATE PORT ARRIVE   DEPART
Fri Mar 31 Inchon, South Korea Embark
Sat Apr 1 Inchon, South Korea 7:00pm
Sun Apr 2 At Sea
Mon Apr 3 Beijing (Xingang), China 6:30am
Tue Apr 4 Beijing (Xingang), China
Wed Apr 5 Beijing (Xingang), China 2:00pm
Thu Apr 6 At Sea
Fri Apr 7 Fukuoka, Japan 9:00am 6:00pm
Sat Apr 8 Hiroshima, Japan 8:00am
Sun Apr 9 Hiroshima, Japan 6:00am
Sun Apr 9 Takamatsu, Japan 2:00pm
Mon Apr 10 Takamatsu, Japan 4:00pm
Tue Apr 11 Osaka, Japan 7:00am 5:00pm
Wed Apr 12 Shimizu, Japan 11:00am 7:00pm
Thu Apr 13 Tokyo (Harumi), Japan
Please note: The specific pier in Tokyo has not yet been assigned by the cruise line and is subject to change.
6:30am
Fri Apr 14 Tokyo (Harumi), Japan Disembark

 

Japan and China: Celebrity Cruises and a Tour Part 2

Shortly after publishing the Japan and China post, I was dissatisfied with the tour options.

I decided to spend the time to create the tour I wanted.

It is a lot of work, but none of the packaged tours excite me.

Research Sources

Itinerary

Day

City

Activities

Hotel

Day 1 Shanghai Upon arrival you will be greeted by your guide.
Bund Walking Tour + Shanghai Museum + Urban Planning Center
Shanghai Cuisine Banquet
Tonight you will have a local Shanghai Cuisine banquet at Xian Qiang Fang.
Meals: Breakfast, Dinner
Westin Bund Center
Day 2 Shanghai Old Town & Yuyuan Garden Tour
Dim Sum Lunch
Jade Budda + Art District
Meals: Breakfast, Lunch
Westin Bund Center
Day 3 Chengdu Morning transfer to Shanghai  Airport for flight heading to Chengdu
Wenshu Temple Tour + Local Tea Ceremony
Hot Pot Dinner in Kuanzhai Xiangzi District
Transfer back to the hotel after the dinner
Meals: Breakfast, Dinner
Shangri-La Chengdu
Day 4 Chengdu Giant Panda Research & Breeding Center Visit
Sichuan Chili Bean Paste Factory Visit

Museum of Sichuan Cuisine Cooking Class
Meals: Breakfast, Lunch
Shangri-La Chengdu
Day 5 Chengdu Departure for Leshan,
Leshan

Meals: Breakfast, Lunch
Anantara Emei Resort
Day 6 Chengdu Emishan
Meals: Breakfast, Lunch
Ananatara Emi
Day 7  Xian Take flight heading to Xian.
Xian City Wall Tour
Muslim Quarter Night Market Tour

Meals: Breakfast
Shangri-La Hotel, Xian
Day 8 Xian Terracotta Warriors Tour + Lunch 

Small Wild Goose Pagoda Tour
Dumpling Class at De Fa Chang Restaurant
Meals: Breakfast, Lunch , Dinner

Shangri-La Hotel, Xian
Day 9  Beijing Morning transfer to Xian Airport for flight heading to Beijing
Hangyangling Museum
Summer Palace TourMeals: Breakfast
Grand Hyatt Beijing or Park Plaza
Day 10  Beijing Temple of Heaven Martial Arts & Dance Visit.
Old Beijing Noodles Lunch
.
Beijing City Tour
Markets Tour
Peking Duck Dinner
Meals: Breakfast, Lunch , Dinner
 Grand Hyatt Beijing or Park Plaza Wangfujing
Day 11  Beijing The Great Wall Mutianyu Tour
Lunch
Shopping

Meals: Breakfast, Lunch
 Grand Hyatt Beijing or Park Plaza Wangfujing
Day 12  Beijing After breakfast, transfer to the airport

Meals: Breakfast

If the above itinerary matches your needs, feel free to ask a tour operator for an estimate.

Important Notes

  • There is a consensus amongst destination experts, Wendy Perrin site, that The Yangtze River is not worth it.
  • Panda’s, Giant and Red, are also on loan in other countries. For example, the Smithsonian Zoo in Washington D.C has both.
  • Pricing for the above itinerary will probably be more than $5000 per person.

 

Japan and China: Celebrity Cruises and a Tour

Last week, I received the Celebrity Captain’s Club News. It is a magazine for loyalty members of Celebrity Cruises. It gives information about ship refurbishments, new itineraries and most importantly, it has saving certificates.  Saving certificates are the discounts Classic members or higher receive when booking select tours.

While Celebrity lists the cruises they are willing to discount, they  do not list the itinerary in the magazine. It leads  members to use the Celebrity Cruises site to research the itineraries of the prospective discounted cruises. Invariably, members find at least one cruise of interest that may or may not qualify for the savings certificate.

I found a cruise of interest and it does not qualify for a savings certificate.

The Cruise

Celebrity Cruises – October 5 to Oct 17, 2017

The Cost

 Inside $1,849
Single Inside $3,698
Single Supplement 100%
Oceanview $2,049
Single Oceanview $4,098
Single Supplement 100%
Balcony $2,449
Single Balcony $4,898
Single Supplement 100%
Suite $4,529
Single Suite $9,058
Single Supplement 100%


The Itinerary

Day Port Arrival Time Departure Time
1 Tokyo, Japan
2 Tokyo, Japan 5:00 pm
3 Shimizu, Japan 7:00 am 3:00 pm
4 Kobe, Japan 11:00 am
5 Kobe, Japan 10:00 pm
6 Kochi, Japan 9:00 am 5:00 pm
7 Kagoshima, Kyushu, Japan 9:00 am 6:00 pm
8 Nagasaki, Japan 8:00 am 9:00 pm
9 Jeju Island, South Korea 9:00 am 5:30 pm
10 Busan (Kyongju), South Korea 8:00 am 10:00 pm
11 Cruising
12 Shanghai, China 7:00 am

The Tour

If you dock in Shanghai wouldn’t it be great to take a tour of China!

Locating a cruise that I am interested in is much easier than combining it with a tour.

The tour has to:

  • Not be too long.  After a 12 day cruise, I don’t want a 12-day tour.  I want a tour that is between 5-10 days.
  • Have options for solo travel pricing.  A companion may join part of this journey but not all. I need options.
  • Have the right Itinerary.  Panda’s, Great Wall, Dim Sum, and Terracotta Warriors.

Tour Options

  1. Catherine Lu tours       Beijing – Xi’an – Shanghai Private Tour by Train (7 Days) (High Speedy Train & Overnight Train)
    • Cost is quoted in Chinese Yuan but I converted to USD
      1. Solo :$1747.31
      2. Couple:$ 1062.75  per person
    • Items to Note 
      1. You have to secure accommodations separately.
      2. You have to secure transport between the cities separately.
      3. No Panda’s
  2.  Gate 1   12 Day China with Chengdu
    • Cost without airfare
      1. Solo :$2,465.02
      2. Couple:$2000  per person
    • Items to Note 
      1.  1o Days. Always remove 2 days from a Gate 1 itinerary. Day 1 is always traveling from home country to destination and the last day is the same in reverse.
      2.  The timing of this tour fits with the cruise.
  3. National Geographic   Private Expedition: China  10 Day
    • Cost without airfare
      1. Solo :Single traveler prices are available upon request.
      2. Couple:$4650  per person +$720 internal airfare.
    • Items to Note 
      1.  10 Days.
      2.  The timing of this tour fits with the cruise.

Important Information

  1. Pricing for the Celebrity cruise is based on double occupancy. Solo travelers have to pay 200%.
  2. Luggage will need to be checked either at a hotel or at an airport. Tours unlike cruise’s, have baggage restrictions.
  3. If you tour after the cruise, you will need a flight from Shanghai to Beijing. Essentially, Home – Tokyo- Shanghai- Beijing-Shanghai -Home.
  4. If you tour before the cruise, you will need a flight Shanghai to Tokyo. Essentially, Home – Beijing- Shanghai- Tokyo-Shanghai – Home.
  5. A China Visa is necessary for the cruise.

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