Waterways of the Tzars, Viking Helgi, June 23 - July 5, 2012: Viking Helgi Cruise Review by aaallison
Overall Member Rating
Waterways of the Tzars, Viking Helgi, June 23 - July 5, 2012
Destination: Europe - River Cruise
Embarkation: St. Petersburg
The waitstaff were extremely friendly and, like their supervisors, utterly incompetent. Their training obviously focuses on the former rather than seeking opportunities to be of service. Typically, when the attention of a waiter was finally obtained to, for example, get a cup of coffee or glass of wine, the waiters provide the requested service and then return to their stations without looking around to see if there are other any cups/glasses on the way that need attention. Note to management: Viking is a US company, and in the US the very first thing which happens upon taking a seat for breakfast is that a waiter appears with a coffee pot (the coffee, incidentally, is better from the instant dispenser outside the dining room). Our last breakfast aboard was typical: one of two table settings missing a fork and an empty milk jug.
The poor service may also have something to do with Viking's tipping policy which, unlike any other vessel I've been aboard, recommends a single tip to be shared among the entire crew (stewards, waiters and crew). Tipping is for personal, not routine, services and the policy does not differentiate between the (exemplary) cabin stewards and (incompetent) restaurant staff.
Another example of an easily remedied issues is the sorry (and unsafe) state of the computers in the Internet Cafe, the two computers provided apparently having never been updated since the were installed (auto-update off, 192 updates available for the obsolete Windows Vista and IE7 operating environment). Despite the fact that there are wired Ethernet cables available at both stations, the computers both utilize the overworked WiFi network aboard ship. Yet another is the fact that although the beds are not reconfigurable, the double beds are two twins with separate sheets. This doesn't work if you sleep together, rather than in the same bed. Switching to a single bottom sheet would help, but "gap fillers" are inexpensive.
There's also an obvious lack of environmental consciousness: the 24-hour coffee dispensers encourage the use of paper cups and provide plastic spoons instead of wooden stirrers.
Adding insult to injury, having charged an additional $200 to schedule our return on a different date from the end of the cruise, Viking dinged us $40 for the transfer to our hotel. Less