What a fabulous trip! Would highly recommend starting in Moscow.
We had a AX room on the 4th floor which was small but efficient. It was quiet with very little foot traffic on the outside walkway. Our cabin steward magically made everything perfect each day. On arrival we had a small problem with the window blinds not fully closing and mentioned it to the front desk staff on the way out the first touring day and it was repaired immediately.
The daily lectures given by the guides were informative and well attended. I had no problems viewing the screen.
Neva Restaurant staff were attentive, particularly to my need for immediate coffee in the morning so we, like others, soon found a favorite area we wanted to sit in. My husband is a very picky eater with a sweet tooth and always found something to meet his needs at every meal. On our entire trip there was only one issue - an undercooked piece of fish that a colleague received at dinner. I loved the portion sizes as we were eating (and drinking) more than we would at home, but returned home not having gained an ounce..an indication of the amount of physical activity you have during the daily tours. If anything I wished we had more "down time" but I guess that is our fault since we signed up for many optional tours and onboard activities - after all who knows when we shall be back in Russia?
This was a very physically demanding trip, lots of walking, cobblestones, uneven surfaces and climbing of stairs. Our guides were excellent in giving us a "heads up" on the next stumbling point. We took the optional walking tour of Moscow (approximately 11 klm) and loved it.
The audio receivers used by the guides were awesome..so nice not to have to crowd around a moving guide trying to catch information while moving forward. It really did allow one freedom to move around and look at items while listening to the information. On the few times when there was a mechanical failure (once for me) - the guides always had a back up set available and transitioned smoothly.
The free on board WIFI worked well with our ipad. Initially I went down to the library area but soon learned the Panorama Bar offered the strongest signal and best views.
I must comment on the Port Talk briefings by Program Director Konstantin the Sky Bar. Do make a point of attending. First, he is a wealth of information and provides you with insights not included in the daily Viking News. Second, his presentation style is so up beat you cannot possibly leave the briefing without being in a good mood. Viking is fortunate to have so many management and staff members that clearly enjoy their jobs.
If we were to express any disappointment in the trip it would be in the "Hermitage Behind the Scenes" tour which we signed up for prior to arrival. We were fortunate to take the Supplement Armory Chamber Tour which was fabulous and certainly enjoyed the included tour of the Hermitage which covered a lot of territory and was done at a high pace. Our expectation was the Behind the Scenes Tour would deal with restoration of items and discussion with the Curator on processes. Instead it was a slow moving, highly secure exhibit of items that were either too big or not important enough to be included in the Hermitage. Likely we would have been more impressed had we not taken the Armory Tour. It was a slow afternoon after a fast paced morning.
As first time river cruisers we can only thank the staff of the Viking HELGI for making our first trip such a memorable experience.