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River tours in China - please share your experiences

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Although we usually avoid tours and prefer research our trips abroad and travel on our own, China seems large and daunting enough to leave it all to the pros. We had been considering a tour with The New York Times travel group, or National Geographic, but they are very expensive. For less than half the price, and very similar itinerary (4-star rather than 5-star accommodations), we can take a Viking River cruise and tour. The difference in price would allow us to take a second vacation this year!

We've read many glowing and very good reviews, but a few random comments and complaints have us wondering about: first, an exceptionally grueling schedule with many 5 a.m. wake-up calls; second, "forced" visits to factories to buy stuff we don't want; and, finally, not getting to see pandas outside a zoo.

We plan to spend two weeks in early June this year, and would appreciate any comments from people who have taken the Viking tours, or similar ones.

Thanks

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