I've just returned from the September 17-29 Viking Rurik Waterways of the Czars cruise. The ship was a pleasant surprise, considering some of the reviews I'd read here. It has been remodelled and is more attractive than its sister ship, Viking Truvor, in the areas I saw. (We were tied up with Truvor on several occasions, and walked through.) Our BX cabin in the mid-range of the 300 range was quite well-appointed and comfortable, with excellent housekeeping by Rosa. The only downside is that the walls are thin, and on two or three nights, neighbors were obviously Skyping family in the literal middle of the night, and we felt we should say hello as well. I also heard from fellow passengers that some cabins on the 200 level are very noisy and prone to vibration, particularly EX classes.
The dining room was arranged with a good choice of small and large tables, and one could be social or not as one desired without being constrained by the set-up. The food was much better than I expected from other reviews, and included a number of excellent Russian specialities. Our waitstaff was excellent and personable. Norman, in particular, was a joy with his youthful ebullience. The bars were small, and the Sky Bar could not accommodate all passengers for events such as meeting the staff. Lectures were given twice for half the clients at a time. Panorama Bar was lovely, but also small. Bar staff Charlene and Jefruna (?) were charming.
Included excursions were very well organized and passengers were escorted in groups of about 30 by permanent staff and local guides. Staff member Alexey and local guide Dina did a miraculous job of not losing any of us on a Metro trip to the center of Moscow for a walking tour! Guide Sasha made the initial trip from airport to ship in Moscow bearable, but the traffic was incredible every day, and a lot of time is wasted getting to venues in Moscow because of this. I would recommend a pre-trip hotel extension, or one of the cruises that starts with a central hotel stay, though this is only done on sister ships that are probably not as nice as the Rurik.
Lectures on history and politics by guides Alexey, Elena and Sasha were interesting, and available on internal TV if you wished to stay in the cabin rather than go to the Sky Bar. TV reception of BBV, CNN, Bloomberg, etc. was generally excellent, and wireless worked reasonably well, particularly early and late in the day (unfortunately so, in view of the Skyping!).
We arranged for an evening at the ballet in St. Petersburg, and the taxi and restaurant reservations made by the management staff worked flawlessly.
On the down side, we could not get to Kizhi due to rough weather on Lake Onega, and we also had to set a sea anchor for 12 hours on Ladoga due to rough weather. This delay was compensated for by taking the passengers into St. Petersburg by hydrofoils as soon as we got into the Neva, and giving us a brief but good tour of the Peter and Paul Cathedral and exterior of Spilled Blood while the Rurik got itself into port. The Peterhof excursion, usually optional and extra cost, was subsequently provided free of charge to all passengers.
The major disappointment has to be the time spent in horrendous traffic in Moscow, with the rough weather a second. The unusual cold snap was the third, but Viking, of course, was not responsible for any of these. I would certainly advise doing the trip in the Moscow to St. Petersburg direction, to leave a better aftertaste, and to consider June or late August. All in all, though, a wonderful time.