This was our second river cruise with Viking: the first was in southern France. In both cruises, the service and ship were exceptionable. In Russia, the staff was superb. The tour guides who were with us for the duration were well-trained, highly informed, creative, friendly, considerate, and spoke English perfectly. The local tour guides were also excellent.
The food was very good, although it was not as exceptional as on the May 2011 cruise on the Rhone in France. Perhaps that was because we had a French chef.
The optional tours were also terrific, especially the behind the scenes at the Hermitage. The other passengers who went on the regular Hermitage tour missed out on seeing the splendors in the other facility. Also, we got in the museum before the normal opening hours and avoided the crush of August tourists. I would suggest that, during August, Viking try to get all passengers inside these prized places before the opening hours.
I would suggest that, for Moscow, Viking inform passengers in advance that the ship is a distance from the main city, and tell them how to use the subway system. There is no city that I have been in, including New York and Paris, that has the traffic problems that Moscow has. It took us almost two hours to get to the Kremlin by bus. We could have cut that time by going to the nearest subway stop from the ship. I know that many passengers could not use the subway, but I would still inform them of this option. It would optimized the time to visit Moscow, which thrilled me with its sights and vibrant life.