The Viking Century Star
The Viking Century Star is a beautiful ship and, according to several passengers with our group who had cruised the Yangtze before, the most luxurious ship on the Yangtze. She carries 186 passengers and 135 crew on 5 decks. Each of the 93 cabins has a private bathroom and good shower, hotel-style beds, balcony, telephone, TV, and air conditioning. The common areas on the ship include a restaurant, observation lounge and bar, coffee bar, small gym, sauna, business center, sun deck, shops, game room, and beauty salon/spa. Since the ship doesn't have to sail under low bridges or through narrow canals (like the Viking European river cruise ships), a Sun Deck bar on the top deck and balconies on all of the cabins are passenger-pleasing improvements over the European ships. My mother and I loved opening the door to our balcony to check out the weather, gaze at the scenery, or just to watch and wave at passing ships.
The cuisine on the Viking Century Star is a mix of Chinese and Western cuisine. Viking has partnered with Martin Yan, the popular chef, television host, and author, to develop distinctive regional menus for its Yangtze River cruise tours. Mr. Yan has decades of experience in preparing Eastern cuisine for Western audiences, and he has created four distinctive family-style meals, each comprised of eight dishes that highlight a variety of regional Chinese tastes. On the seven-day cruises, the Chinese meals are alternated with Western-style meals, including an on-deck barbecue. Mr. Yan is also training the onboard Viking River Cruises' chefs in the essentials of top-quality cuisine. The Viking Century Star has the only "Western" kitchen on the Yangtze, which includes a dishwasher and other quality control elements that will help ensure that the kitchen on the Viking Century Star will meet the high standards of the company's European ships.
A typical day on board starts with "early bird" breakfast from 6:00-7:00 am in the Observation Lounge. Regular buffet breakfast is served from 7:00-9:00 am in the restaurant, and it includes food that will satisfy both American and European palates. A daily briefing of the events ahead or a shore excursion (included in the fare) usually follows breakfast or is in the late afternoon during cocktail hour. Lunch is either back on the ship or is a picnic ashore, prepared by the staff on the Century Star. Like Viking's European cruise ships, lunch is both a buffet and/or from the menu. The afternoon may be spent cruising the Yangtze, followed by tea in the Observation Lounge. Cocktail hour is from 6:00 to 7:00, and the prices are reasonable. Open seating dinner is back in the restaurant, followed by some type of entertainment. The day ends with a "late night" snack at 10:30 or 11:00. I'm not sure many passengers made it to the late night snack! We were all happily fed and worn out from our day spent touring and cruising.
Our cruise included travel agents and travel journalists from the United States and Europe--definitely a discriminating group. The passengers had only one major suggestion for improvement, which is amazingly low for a new ship. Although the cabins were spacious, they definitely needed more drawer and/or closet space and more efficient use of the space in the bathroom. After all, we women need lots of room for both our toiletries and our cruise wear! The Century Star was already under construction when Viking partnered with China's New Century Cruise Company, so this minor design issue will need to be corrected for this ship to meet the standards of Viking's European river cruise ships. Other than that, we all thought the ship was a delightful way to cruise the Yangtze. Let's take a look at the Yangtze and our itinerary.
Author's Note: Viking River Cruises no longer operates the Viking Century Star river ship. However, Viking's other ships sail similar itineraries and offer the same great river cruise experience.