China, a vast nation with a fascinating history, can be explored by ocean-going cruise or river cruise. Ocean-going ships generally call on two major ports, Shanghai and Tianjin (for Beijing); river cruises explore China’s mighty Yangtze River.
Shanghai, one of the world’s largest cities (24 million people as of 2013), is located where the Yangtze River joins the East China Sea. It’s the world’s busiest port for container ships, but also welcomes cruise ships at the Shanghai Port International Cruise Terminal. Some larger ships dock at Shanghai Waigaoqiao Port, about 20 miles from the city center.
The international terminal is close to the Bund, a waterfront street of colonial-era buildings that contrast with the city’s sleek skyscrapers. Cruise ship passengers flock to Nanjing Road, a major shopping street that extends from the Bund. Or, head to Shanghai’s Old Town and sample fragrant dim sum in the bazaar before strolling through the beautiful YuYuan Garden. Many cruises either begin or end in Shanghai, so you may want to extend your stay to see more of what the city has to offer.
After docking in Tianjin, about 80 miles southeast of Beijing, you can take a bus, taxi or high-speed train into Beijing. The massive city is a treasure trove of history, starting with the Forbidden City, a compound of palaces, temples and gardens that was home to the emperors of the Ming and Qing dynasties.
It can take an entire day or more to explore the Forbidden City, but don’t miss walking through the Gate of Heavenly Peace into Tiananmen Square, site of several pivotal events in Chinese history. You can also tour some of the Olympic venues, including the “Bird’s Nest” stadium, “Water Cube” aquatic center and Olympic Forest Park. Another popular excursion is a trip to either the Badaling or Jinshanling sections of the Great Wall of China.
A wonderful option for exploring China’s interior is a river cruise on the Yangtze, which flows across the width of the country. Sights along the way include Shibaozhai Temple, the “Pearl on the Yangtze;” markets, temples, and much more in towns and villages along the river; and the 6,000 warriors of the Terracotta Army in Xian. You’ll also pass through the locks of Three Gorges Dam, a wonder of engineering that took 17 years to build.
For more information about cruising in China, talk with your Cruise Holidays personal cruise expert.