The Viking Helgi has too many cabins and too little public space and the open air deck is adjacent to the exhaust fumes and engine noise so passenger amenity has been sacrificed to packing in as many paying customers as possible. That is not the most promising of starts and as you voyage along the Moscow drainage canal on a small boat and contemplate the joys of Red Square for the third visit (we declined to go on the fourth) you might conclude that you wished you were somewhere else.
Moscow is short of tourist attractions but the voyage along the canals and lakes to St Petersburg suggests that the problem is not limited to Moscow. Russia has not quite worked out what to do with tourists and the unrelieved flat landscape of canals forests and lakes is not one of the great jouneys of the world. There are distractions along the way and the amazing wooden orthodox church was worth the stop although, since it was covered in scaffolding, the impact was somewhat reduced. Other stops include very forgettable and forlorn small towns and an arts and crafts village devoted to parting tourists from their money. And then you arrive at St Petersburg which makes up for all of the shortcomings of the effort to reach there. It is one of the most amazing culturally and architecturally luxuriant cites on earth and a must see. Viking park their boat a 20 minute ride from the centre - no doubt mooring fees are high in such a place - but it is truly wonderful. We will return to St Petersburg but not with Viking and, on this performance, to nowhere else either.