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Grand Tour of China

A great trip despite snow on the Great Wall and near constant rain.
Lots of unexpected little extra touches that really added to getting to know China and the culture. Well done Chris

Review by Julie Gomersal on 8 March 2016

Having just returned from this trip I must commend the tour manager Chris together with the various Chinese local guides who all helped to make this trip really memorable. Whilst there is a lot of traveling involved the sightseeing is well worth it when you get there and the organisation by Chris and his team getting the luggage sorted and all the passengers checked in made the travelling really easy.

The hotels used were all good, especially the ones in Xian and Shanghai due to their location. The optional trips offered were good, especially the kung fu show and visit to water village, and the trip on Maglev train was fun too even though it only lasted 8 minutes.  Both Xian and Shanghai were really chilled out places with lots of squares and people watching opportunities, and the Bund at night with its illuminations and the dancing and fountain show in Xian square not to be missed.

Some highlights of the tour were the Great Wall where we were lucky enough to have a great view on the day we visited and it’s well worth paying to come down on the toboggan slide when you have finished and the terracotta soldiers.  When visiting the pandas in Chengdu I would suggest going back to the baby panda enclosure after lunch as they seem to have returned from having photos taken at that time and you will get the chance to see five or six baby pandas playing together which was a joy. I also visited the Reed Flute Cave independently whilst in Guilin and the Wild Goose Pagoda whilst in Xian which should not be missed, especially for views from top of pagoda. The trip to water village was also lovely, weather great, nice shopping hassle free before returning to Shanghai for last afternoon.

Visit to Lonshen rice terraces was disappointing due to the bad weather and visibility as it was a long way to drive in a steamed up bus only to glimpse a brief view of terraces when rain stopped for about ten minutes. The lunch served here was probably the best of whole tour but apart from that the day was a bit of a washout but I am sure in good weather this would be a highlight of tour looking at images of area.

Review by Debra Roberts on 9 May 2014

This was a fascinating but exhausting tour - at least for a geriatric like me.  First, I would like to give huge thanks to Chris, our tour manager who was well informed, very competent and always helpful.  The travel arrangements were faultlessly organised.  The hotels were comfortable and I particularly remember the Garden Hotel in Xian - a beautiful Chinese garden in the middle of the hotel with ducks, peacocks and a variety of birds.  I would say however, that all of the hotels would be improved if they could provide more simple ‘coffee shop’ meals/snacks.  Twice we resorted to room service as the only way to get a light meal.  The Chinese guides were generally interesting and informative, not only giving historical information but also pictures of life in China post Mao.

Review by John Watt on 10 May 2014

What a fabulous tour, it was very full on, but I can’t believe we saw so many fabulous sights. Chris our tour manager was a star and all the Chinese guides spoke good English and were very knowledgeable about their local areas. 

Highlights of Beijing were the Great Wall (and the Toboggan ride down) and the Temple of Heaven, the park was full of locals playing mahjong, knitting, dancing, a real taste of Chinese life.  Be prepared for the traffic though, it is very congested. 

The Terracotta Warriors were something to behold, and we took the opportunity to walk to the Muslim quarter on our own after visiting the city walls, had great fun bargaining for things on the many stalls and found the mosque, which was an oasis of calm in a busy city.  I never knew you could have so much fun trying to order dinner, I recommend you learn the Chinese signs for rice and noodles! The Hotel was well located but not the best quality, 

Guilin highlight was the River Li Cruise. We did the evening boat trip which was a bit China does Disney! Very touristy and not for you if you are not up for singing jingle bells and silent night.  We visited the rice terraces but visibility was mostly zero, so a bit disappointing, but good fun walking up through the village and the food was the best of the whole tour.

Chengdu we ventured out for dinner alone and managed to avoid duck beak and starling on a stick! Jing Li St was good fun, but absolutely packed as it was a national holiday.  The Pandas were cute, but it was again very busy and more like a zoo than I was expecting!

The train journey to Chongquin was very smooth and the station better than most English airports!

The cruise provided a much needed break and was very relaxing. Cabins were good size and of a good standard. The mini Gorges were spectacular and the views through the Wu gorge as the sun was setting was beautiful.  We went though the ship locks at 1 am and that was something worth staying up to experience! Always chance for a snooze on a bus or plane later!

They saved the best Hotel to last and we loved Shanghai, it is a beautiful cosmopolitan city, far more relaxed than Beijing. The Bund is breathtaking and fabulous when all lit up at night. We had dinner for two for less than £3 in a local noodle bar, so splashed out on the last night and had champagne cocktails in the roof top bar of the Roosevelt building on the Bund overlooking the beautiful view.

Topped it off with a trip to the airport on the Maglev at 431km/ hr

A great time, with a great group of people, I am sure we will be back for more.

Review by Richard and Fiona Ware on 11 May 2014

Our second tour with Riviera, we visited India & Nepal last year, and this tour totally justified our decision to choose Riviera again. Brilliant tour, with Chris proving to be the consummately professional Tour Manager, not fazed by anything and a great sense of humour to boot.

The tour covered most of the sights that we wanted to see (would have liked to go to Hong Kong as well, but you can’t do everything), and all worked as clockwork, making the whole experience relaxed, whilst also being fairly “full-on” in terms of what we covered.

Highlights: well there were so many, the Great Wall, Terracotta Army, Pandas, Li River scenery, 3 Gorges, but most of all for me the Chinese people! Had half expected a downtrodden communist populace, but it’s not like that at all - some of the friendliest, funniest, most dynamic people you will ever meet, loved every minute, and by the way, also felt totally safe in all the cities we visited, certainly more so than almost any Western European or North American city I can think of!

Lowlights: very few - the hotel in Beijing wasn’t great and I would recommend that Riviera review that for future tours, it smelt smoky and location meant long trips to the main sights.

All the other hotels were really good, especially liked the Xi’an Garden and the Central Hotel in Shanghai (when they say Central they really do mean it), and the rooms (or at least ours) were beautiful.

If you’re thinking of booking this don’t hesitate, just do it.

Review by Andy & Sylvia Dell on 13 May 2014

Our seventh Riviera holiday, and again it exceeded our expectations. What an amazing country! I endorse comments made by others above, so won’t repeat them apart from praising Chris for being the perfect tour manager.  Meeting us in the queue as we booked in at Heathrow set the standard which he maintained throughout. Not having to worry about suitcases, checking into hotels, passports etc made a full-on tour surprisingly relaxing.  Thanks, Chris!
One highlight not mentioned was the Han emperor’s tomb on the way to the airport at Xian, which was as wonderful as the Terracotta Army, and we were the only people there.  Another was the meal in the restaurant in Chengdu, where I went with the group early before the evening entertainment, photographed the courses I fancied, and returned later with my wife to eat them (photos being better than language to order!). We were the only non-Chinese in the restaurant, so objects of much amusement, but the food was delicious, would have served 6 people, and with beer cost less than £8. Spending the last day in Shanghai, walking the streets to the French Concession, Chou En Lai’s house, the bronzes and ceramics in the museum, and the Bund at night… so many memories, and such a good natured group to travel with!

Review by Rob Hudson on 20 May 2014

Wow!! What a fabulous time we had. The organisation was superb, everything ran smoothly and our tour manager Chris was fantastic. All the local guides were great, speaking English well and very knowledgeable. We were lucky that we had a great group of fellow travellers- everyone got on well and there was a great sense of camaraderie and fun throughout the trip.
We were a little disappointed with the hotel in Xian, although well situated, as our room was shabby and smelled musty.
We visited so many cities, saw so many wonderful sights and loved every minute! The tour was very full and needed high energy levels but when we got to Shanghai we certainly had our batteries recharged! A fantastic city and a fantastic end to a pretty fantastic tour! Thank you Riviera!

Review by Eileen and Brian Barnes on 27 May 2014

Fabulous tour and tour manager, Chris, terrific in all respects. Food a little repetative - rice & noodles do loose a little after 16 days but it is China.  Highlight has to be the Terracotta Army, quite overwhelmed by the first sight but then what a wow factor seeing all the detail and, yes, we have bought one!! A very full on tour but it did all that we expected and do recommend it. 

Eddie & Polly

Review by Eddie & Polly on 28 May 2014

My wife and I recently went on the “Grand Tour of China” trip with Riviera Travel
I just want you to know how much we both enjoyed it.
Chris, the Tour Manager, was excellent throughout the trip and ALL of the Chinese Guides were very good providing us with all sorts of information. Some did have a slight accent - but all were perfectly understandable.
The food was great in all of the places that we stayed and ALL of the hotels and staff were wonderful.
Surprisingly, one or two of the other guests did mention a few issues - but both my wife and I thought that there complaints were all unjustified (i.e. typical British abroad expecting everything to be the same as back home).
But we both had a wonderful time - it was a holiday of a lifetime with dozens of happy memories.

Review by Andrew & Maureen Godfrey on 12 June 2014

Having just returned from the recent Grand Tour of China I’d like to say that I’ve enjoyed reading these previous testimonials and can endorse all the positive remarks and observations made without repetition, except to say that our overlord was Sam and he was brilliant, a sense of fun, humour and relaxed calm, very beneficial when traffic chaos necessitated alternative plans to be made ‘on the hoof’ and not a ‘hair out of place’  in fulfilling our expectations.
My personal thoughts regarding weather conditions on the Longshen Rice Terraces - A tantalising glimpse of the terraces as the mist crept around the hillsides revealing a little of these wonders at a time - magical!
In the subtropical rain and shine I found my mac was as wet inside as out at one point so I abandoned it and thoroughly enjoyed the showery experience.
This was another remarkably good, well planned and organised RIVIERA TOUR - THANK YOU

Review by Christine Harley on 27 June 2014

The variety of experiences, high standards, care and attention to detail all combine to make the Grand Tour of China a most memorable experience and the holiday of a lifetime.  Everything is well planned and seamlessly executed. Not having to worry about one’s luggage, checking in to hotels or the airport took all the stress out of internal travel.
The tour covered the sights we wanted to see - and more!  Too many highlights to mention them all but the scale of the Terracotta Army is just astonishing; the Great Wall a sight to behold and the Li River just spectacular.  It is worth giving some thought before you travel as to how to maximise free time in Shanghai - there are so many possibilities to consider.
Tihana, our Tour Manager, was a pleasure to be with and you knew immediately that you were in safe hands.  She is very knowledgeable, well organised, warm, friendly and caring - nothing was too much trouble.  The Chinese hosts were interesting and informative - not just delivering the historical facts but also an understanding of life in China pre and post Mao.
With the possible exception of Beijing,  the hotels were well located.  I especially liked the mix of contemporary and traditional style hotels.  Top marks go to the 5* Central Hotel in Shanghai with its stunning rooms and public areas, its facilities and the perfect location; also to the Xi’an Garden Hotel with its traditional appearance and beautiful Chinese garden with ducks and peacocks!  The cruise provided a much needed rest!  The cabins were a good size and the service excellent. 
The food was generally good - but can become a little repetitive. The fact that the tour is not all inclusive is a bonus.  It affords opportunities to seek out authentic Chinese restaurants frequented by the locals, to people-watch and visit the night markets.
We had a great group of fellow travellers - everyone got on well and there was a great sense of camaraderie.  This added to the enjoyment of the trip.
I will certainly book again with Riviera Travel in the knowledge of an exceptionally high standard of service and a great holiday - fei chang gan xie Riviera!

Review by Stephanie Freeman on 30 June 2014

Sorry for the delay in putting this on, but coming back to reality after such a brilliant trip must be like having withdrawal symptoms! We cannot fault the tour and the expertly organised itinerary, which was full on from day one. If you want to see China this has got to be the best way to do it! It went like clockwork and not one delayed or late internal flight. No lugging luggage, it was all taken care of for us. Our Tour Manager Tihana was absolutely brilliant, always felt very secure with her with us.  The local guides were full of information regarding the places we visited.  Hotels were a real treat as they were all so different and of a very high standard.  3/ 4 and 5 stars so no worries there. We have seen some amazing sights and will never forget them.  The cruise down the Yangtze was wonderful as you see such changing scenery ending up at the magnificent gorges and the dam. Shanghai was the icing on the cake. Fabulous place to end our wonderful trip.  Our group could not have been better as we all travelled well together and this made the trip even better. This is our third tour with Riviera and again another wonderful success. Full credit goes to Tihana as she managed our large group without a hitch. She is an asset to Riviera and will hope to be in her company again in the future,  travelling with Riviera, of course!

Review by Pat and Peter Baker on 14 July 2014

We have just returned from China and what an unforgettable experience it was.  I really do not know how Riviera can fit so much into the itinerary - it is exceptional value for money.  Our tour manager Chris went above and beyond the call of duty making our trip even more special.  Unlike some of the other reviews we actually saw the Longshen Rice Terraces in all their splendour - after a strenuous climb in soaring temperatures and high humidity we were rewarded at the top with the most spectacular views.  The meal half way up was probably the best food we had on the tour and very welcomed.  ‘Follow Mary’ at the silk factory was hilarious as was Christine at the Museum in Chongqing - they both got the British sense of humour.  Shanghai was an unexpected delight - we had a wonderful Chinese guide called Cherise who gave us great insight into Chinese life past and present.  We finished our trip - all 26 of us at the Sky Bar at the Roosevelt on the Bund - highly recommended especially if you have a clear evening, the views are spectacular.  Thank you Riviera and a special thanks to our wonderful tour manager Chris.

Review by Penny & Amy Smith on 11 August 2014

Having just read Penny and Amy’s review we can not agree more !

China was unbelievable and Chris made the tour a pleasure to be on. We can only add that the Pandas and the Face Change show were truly unforgettable. We would highly recommend Rivera and this tour, particularly with Chris as your guide http://websitev6.dev/images/smileys/smile.gif

Review by Dave & Jo Edwards on 11 August 2014

My wife and I enjoyed every minute of this tour and all our booking arrangements and trips were handled superbly. Chris, the tour guide, was brilliant in every way and immensely hard-working. Chris was exceptional and because of his expertise we were able to relax and savour every moment without having to worry.

We will be very happy if you pass this information on to Mr M. Wright and to Chris in order to let him know we send him our very best wishes and thank him for all he did for us.

Review by Helen and Bruce Entwisle on 13 August 2014

Our Grand Tour of China was an incredible experience. It’s hard to believe we fitted so much in in such a relatively short time. The whole journey ran like clockwork and was completely hassle free thanks to the slick organisation of Chris, our tour manager.  Although very hot and humid, the weather was perfect for our itinerary. The views from the Great Wall and the Longshen rice terraces were breath-taking and on our one day of rain the pandas were unbelievably entertaining with their gymnastics in the trees!
The whole experience was absolutely brilliant and not to be forgotten.
Thanks again to Chris and to our fellow travellers for making an amazing holiday even more memorable.

Review by Dave and Julie Johnston on 15 August 2014

Whoever created the itinerary for this appropriately named Grand Tour of China did a brilliant job. The order and variety of events, as well as the timing, were excellent. There was certainly no wasted time. The major visits, particularly to the Great Wall, the terracotta warriors, the Longshen rice terraces and the pandas, were all as good as anticipated, possibly even better because we were blessed with just the right weather at the right time (eg dry and clear at the Wall but steady rain at Cheng Du which enticed lots of pandas to frisk about photogenically!) We also joined all the optional outings and were glad that we did. Other people will have different favourites, but top of our list were the Face Change Show (amazing skills), the acrobatic show in Shanghai (more amazing skills), and the delightful Water Village. And while you are in Shanghai why would you not ride the Maglev? Be prepared for heat and humidity, some interesting interpretations of international breakfast cuisine, and for Chinese food at every meal (not my personal favourite, but I am now close to expert with chopsticks). These are not criticisms – coping with the Chinese interpretation of what Westerners expect was part of the experience, and added to the fun.

Having always travelled independently we were apprehensive about taking a guided tour but are now so glad that we did. The only way you could do all that we did independently would be by spending a lot more time and a lot more money - but then you would not have the stress-busting services of the enormously experienced tour manager Chris. He struck the perfect balance between professional and personal, and things went without a hitch for 17 days because of his hard work and attention to detail. A big thank you to Chris, and also to our 26 enthusiastic and entertaining fellow travellers. This was a truly memorable holiday.

Review by Brian and Judy Winter on 17 August 2014

The Grand Tour of China certainly lived up to its title. We hadn’t been on an organised holiday for 10 years, preferring to go it alone, so we were understandably a little apprehensive about being with a large group of people. How wrong can you be! We were fortunate enough to be with a great group, that made it just an even better experience for us.
The Tour was precision itself all aided and abetted by the fantastic tour manager Chris. Nothing was too much trouble (Even arranging a birthday cake for my husbands birthday) and all advice given was spot on - very professional. Chris’s comic disposition kept us all going when we were flagging, plus his personable nature made everything so easy for everyone.
It is hard to find a highlight as all trips were a unique adventure and memorable in their own way. Riviera have assembled an excellent holiday package which encompasses a wide variety of experiences and is exceptional value for money. We will definitely be booking again.
P.S.  suggestion by one of our party Penny to visit the Sky Bar at the Roosevelt hotel in Shanghai on our last night was brilliant
Chris and Tracy Walters

Review by Chris & Tracy Walters on 23 August 2014

The Grand Tour of China has already been well praised by many of our fellow travellers and we can only agree that it really was spectacularly grand. What really made this holiday fantastic for us was the wonderful group of people we shared it with. Within this group we include Chris, our Tour Manager, who made the whole thing run very very smoothly (I think I will even include the weather in this as well) and who thought nothing of giving up his time to make the holiday even more memorable. 
Thank you for such a memorable holiday Riviera. What can you tempt us with next? 

Review by Jane & Alyn Lamb on 9 September 2014

Brilliant 17 day Riviera Grand Tour of China in September 2014.   A memorable experience which contained highlights every day.  I heartily endorse the previous positive comments, and advice.
This was my first solo trip on an escorted tour and I plan to travel with Riviera again.  Many on the tour were previous Riviera customers.  The majority of the group were very sociable and it was a pleasure to meet them and share the adventure.  Minor amendments to the schedule necessitated by weather or traffic issues were well managed.  Marvelous itinerary, only one minor flight delay and all arrangements went well, although not without some judicious exertions by the superb Tour Manager, Chris, who was caring, amusing and efficient.
Excellent suitcase transfer arrangements, super informative and likable local guides, a good mix of organised meals and free occasions.  Circular tables of ten (other than occasional breakfasts) enabled good socialising.  Buffet breakfasts included western style menu items every day.  Organised meals included a large selection of items and an expectation of losing weight on the holiday was utterly wrong!  The shows were all excellent and I enjoyed all the visits, only giving the two optional trips while on the Yangtze a miss as there were other activities of interest on the ship, in particular the story of the Yangtze and the Three Gorges Dam, incredible.  Our small ship was excellent, with a high proportion of enthusiastic staff to guests and every cabin having a balcony and picture window.  The entertainments programme and the shows on board were an unexpected bonus.   Thanks to all the Riviera office staff who helped me over the preceding months and who, without fail, were a pleasure to deal with.
Valerie Moores.  Returned on 18th September 2014

Review by Valerie Moores on 25 September 2014

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