After hearing several favorable reports on Viking River cruises we signed up for the Odessa to Kiev cruise on the ship Lomonosov, now being refitted to look like the Viking Rurik, but with the same staff. Our disappointment cannot be overstated.
We knew, of course, that the ship has no elevator. But who would dream that it has no telephones either? Every question means a separate trip down the stairs to the reception desk. This was not among the features mentioned in Viking's literature!
And there are no smoke detectors, an amazing omission!
Our upscale large stateroom was hard to heat and harder to cool. The lack of heat was solved by the ship's maintenance staff by bolting the three large windows permanently shut. This did nothing for cooling.
The food is alright if somewhat bland. But the din in the two dining rooms comes close to defeating conversation. No sound absorbing materials are anywhere in view.
Service is slow and limited to one item at a time (do not ask for desert and a beverage ... they do mean one at a time). Refills of wine or coffee or tea were infrequent in the larger dining room.
Diet soda ran out on the fifth day of the voyage but was restocked later on. Although it was on the bar list, there was never any port, and the supply of gin ran out.
There is very little on board entertainment. Two lectures - one an hour, one a half hour - are the total history and culture offered onboard the ship. A folk music show was the only cultural event. How did having the waitresses dress as pirates one evening help? The daily movie on TV ran at times other than scheduled and was sometimes not the announced film.
At the end of the first half-day city tour we realized that our assigned guide would not work out for us ... her walking pace and content were both problems. We asked to be reassigned but the tour and activities director told us that would be impossible because all bus seats were taken. In actual fact one of the five tour busses was only half full.
Since our assigned guide also presented the two history lectures, our entire perspective on Ukraine was through her eyes and she was a cynical, biased person who ignored questions she didn't like.
"Jewish Odessa” tour was inexplicably switched from Friday to Saturday, which made it impossible to visit any synagogues. Our Viking guide urtes all of us to cancel the "Jewish Kiev” trip, which she assured us would be "depressing.”
One last insult: two preliminary bills didn't show the cost of our extra tours, although we signed up for them on the first day. Only the final bill picked up the charges.
We were prepared for a three-star ship about to be retired, but Viking's promised five-star personal service was nowhere in sight. What a disappointment.