We just returned from a wonderful trip on the Helgi! We recommend starting in Moscow, because the days of touring seem to be longer and later in Moscow and could be tiring at the end of the cruise. Also, if you have any leeway, see if you can select an itinerary that has you in Moscow and St. Petersburg over the weekend, when traffic delays are not as common or lengthy.
Our AX cabin on the upper deck was very clean and comfortable. All cabins on the middle and upper decks now feature private balconies, with new chairs, a small table and plenty of room. The Panorama Bar was just down the hallway and was very convenient for a quiet, continental breakfast in the morning or a quick beverage when returning from a shore excursion. Wi-Fi connections were good throughout the ship, including our cabin and balcony.
We found the food to be excellently prepared with a wide variety of selections throughout the cruise. Table wine and beer are available to everyone at lunch and dinner. Also, wines from a separate wine list are available for an additional cost. (Definitely consider the Silver Spirits package. For one set price, it provides soft drinks, juices, sparkling water, special coffees/teas, beer, wine, sparkling wine, cocktails etc. throughout the day, not just at lunch and dinner, including most selections from the optional wine list and drink menu. Remember, there is a lot of time spent on the ship when you are cruising between the two big cities. It's very pleasant to enjoy a beverage while listening to the Viking escorts present their very informative and entertaining briefings.)
We thought the staff members were very friendly and helpful. We were routinely greeted in the hallways by everyone from the cabin stewards to the head chef. As another critic wrote, Viking is fortunate to have so many management and staff members who clearly enjoy their jobs. Unfortunately, the oft-mentioned Konstantin was not the Program Director on this cruise. Our PD seemed to be pretty new to the business and had little to offer that was not in the daily Viking News or on the prepared Power Point screens.
We were very pleased that Viking now offers alternative tours to the standard motor coach tour of Moscow and St. Petersburg. These alternative tours involve significantly more walking and include most of the sights included in the standard tour. (For instance, the alternative tour in St. Petersburg does not include the Peter and Paul Fortress, which was a deal-breaker for some people.) These tours use the subways to get you into the city (potentially avoiding long traffic delays) and return you to the ship by motor coach. We really enjoyed these additional opportunities for exercise. (We're in the 55-60 age range and relatively active.)
A note on two optional tours. We were able to book the tours to the Moscow Kremlin Armoury and the Peterhof in St. Petersburg directly with Viking when we made our original cruise booking. The Armoury is the only place on this trip that you will have the opportunity to see the famed Imperial Faberge Easter Eggs. Tickets are very limited for the Armoury and some people were disappointed that they were unable to acquire tickets when they attempted to sign-up on the ship. So, if you're interested, you should definitely try to book this tour ahead of departure. Concerning the Peterhof tour, although it is optional, I can't imagine missing it. The palace, gardens and fountains are just amazing.
This was our second cruise with Viking—our first was the Imperial Jewels of China in 2011. In both cases, we were impressed with Viking's attention to detail and quality. Thank you for another trip of a lifetime!