We used Viking air and joined about 15 other couples on the optional Helsinki Finland pre-cruise. Viking provides a city tour on the first day and then the next two days are free time. The Radisson hotel was just ok, and the local Viking hotel guides, that were stationed there were not very helpful. We had wonderful weather and stayed in Helsinki the entire time. A great city to take time out and relax. Helsinki is a small city any one to two days are sufficient. Good restaurants are expensive. Viking booked the high speed train to St Petersburg and we found it to be a new and memorable experience.
St Petersburg was great. THe museums and palaces are unbelievable. We booked the optional ballet back stage tour and although very pricy, was fantastic, not to be passed up. The ship, Viking Rurik was just refurbished and was excellent although all of the Viking Russian ship's interior stairways are extremely steep and difficult. Food was good although service needs more work. Viking needs to work with the cabin stewards, who although do excellent work, do not speak English.
The ports of call were all very well managed and the local tour guides were excellent. The ships tour guides were just OK, and Viking has a lot of work to get them up to standard. Our highlights include: the breakfast at the Russian home in Uglich; the visit to the school in Kuzino; the Hermatage and Peter the Greats Palace in St Petersburg; the traffic in the cities. Moscow was also another wonderful experience but rushed.
We stayed the optional extra two days and it made huge difference. The Radisson Royal Ukraine Hotel is over the top. Advice: STAY THE EXTRA TWO OPTIONAL DAYS. The local Moscow Viking hotel guides were outstanding. The subway tour is a must see and not miss the opportunity to take the Moscow river cruise at the hotel.