This 13-day river cruise on the Volga from St. Petersburg to Moscow was extraordinary in every way. The food was wonderful; cabin staff/crew very responsive; ports of call and tours were fascinating; cruisemates were lovely; and all arrangements were flawless. The only minor downside was the weather but Viking River Cruises is not responsible for that. Actually we had some beautiful fall days with sapphire blue skies but also several days that were overcast and rainy. We were prepared and didn't let the rain slow us down a bit.
This was our second trip to Russia and we decided to hire private guides for our days in St. Petersburg and Moscow so we could accomplish more individually than we knew we would be able to with a group. The money was well spent and we couldn't think of a better use of our travel funds. I highly recommend that others do the same in order to avoid feeling herded from one place to another in a large group. Since we had already toured many of the More
sites on the Viking excursions, we were able to visit others that were off the beaten path. The palace "Pavlosk" near St. Petersburg is every bit as lovely as Peterhof and Pushkin and we had it virtually to ourselves on a stunningly gorgeous fall day. We were also able to spend time at the Siege Memorial and in the various churches and cathedrals that we only saw as a "drive-by" on our previous trip. As a result, this vacation was a vast improvement over our initial Russian trip, and probably because we were slightly off-season rather than at the height of the tourist season. There are trade-offs, certainly, because we didn't have 22 hours of daylight but we gladly sacrificed that for greater access to the various sites. Viking River Cruises is to be commended for their excellent product. We will definitely be back! Less
Our friends on the Viking Cruise said that only got to visit the outside of the Church of the Savior on Spilled Blood. What a shame when the interior is so magnificent. I can't imagine traveling thousands of miles and then feeling the frustration of someone telling you that the group didn't have time to go inside. I am soooooo glad we had a private guide who took us inside, secured photo permits, and then also gave us a guided tour of the interior, including the spot where Alexander II was killed, which served as the inspiration for the structure.
We opted for the "Behind the Scenes" Hermitage tour. Be forewarned that this must be booked more than 30 days in advance through the cruise line and it is an extra-cost option. But it was worth every penny. We had access to the Hermitage before it opened to the general public. We also were able to visit their off-site vaults and storage facilities. Lunch was included. This was an excellent tour that I would highly recommend.
This is my favorite palace and in my opinion outranks Peterhof and Pushkin. We had this site virtually to ourselves and walked the grounds on a gorgeous fall day. I would HIGHLY recommend this venue to other visitors to Russia.
The ballet company that Viking took us to see was interesting but I would have gladly paid more to see one of the highly talented companies such as Marinsky or Alexandrinsky. The company we saw seemed semi-professional and the theatre was clearly in need of renovation, but the performance of "Sleeping Beauty" was entertaining