We enjoyed the Russian river cruise on the Rurik in September 2013 from Moscow to St. Petersburg. We were impressed with cruise director Kris and hotel director Caroline and how well they ran the cruise, particularly when nasty weather threw in some real challenges. They were more than up to the task and we hardly missed a beat, despite arriving in St. Petersburg more than 12 hours late. Major kudos to them and their staffs! Viking’s bottom line on that trip took a real hit, I’m sure.
Cabin: Very nice: Our cabin was nicely appointed and the veranda was lovely, though rarely used due to time of year. The L’Occitane bath products were impressive. Lubow, our cabin attendant, made sure it was always clean and straightened up. The television was good and having the safe was a big plus, as was having bottled water replenished whenever it was running low in the cabin. Need more hangers? Call the front desk and someone brings you the number you request. Everyone was responsive to requests and inquiries.
Staff: Superlative. The Filipino wait staff was superb. We found Chester, Jefrena, Gabriel, and Cherilyn in Panorama and Sky Bar incredibly personable. We arrived at 9:30 p.m. the first day and they still knew our names the second day. Rommel, Norman, Rosie, Djober, and others were really good wait persons in the Neva Restaurant and made the dining experience fun. Viking would be lost without the Filipino staff. They have a work ethic that is beyond impressive.
Speaking of dining, let’s give a hand to Julian and Sofia, in charge of the dining room. Oh, and they put on a pretty mean Vodka Tasting, too! And by ‘mean,’ I mean hilarious. Definitely one of the premium onboard events worth the money and I don’t usually do shots of anything!
The food was good, and we appreciated and enjoyed the Russian specialties that were regularly featured. We found the food a bit bland, though. We wouldn’t expect the chef to make it to our tastes, but the addition of some condiments other than salt and pepper would have helped.
Meals offered another bonus: Meeting fellow passengers. We chatted with quite a few over the course of the first week and then settled into a table with four other passengers for about the last week. We forged nice friendships and hope to see them again one day.
Silver Spirits Package Not Recommended. My husband is not a wine lover, but he is a beer snob. I showed him the list of possible premium beers to be offered onboard such as a hefe weissen and several British and Belgian ales , so he insisted we pay for the Silver Spirits package. I am not a big drinker, but if one person in a cabin gets it, the other must be charged for it, as well. Imagine his surprise and massive disappointment when the ONLY beer served the entire 12 days was Baltica 7, a Russian lager. That was about $300 pretty much wasted on the Silver Spirits package. And Baltica was served at dinner and lunch. That is something to note: house wine and beer are served with dinner and lunch without charge. Silver Spirits is, apparently, for those who drink hard liquor . . . and a lot of it or who want to choose bottles of wine from the separate wine list. I managed to drink two bottles of wine off the list during the 12-day cruise because we had paid for the package, but it was not necessary.
Lectures and Tours: Applause. The tour escorts, Sasha, Alexi , and Eleyna were extremely knowledgeable and their lectures, which we watched from our cabin, were informative, interesting and entertaining. Alexi and his rolled Rs always made me smile. Sasha has a wicked, dark and dry sense of humor that we loved. And local guides provided entertaining and enlightening insight into their hometowns. The home visit at Uglich was definitely a highlight of the trip.
Cabin Noise: GRRRR. Please! Do Something! We were on Level 4 in a Veranda cabin toward the back of the boat directly above the Neva Restaurant. The noise and vibration were, at times, teeth-grindingly annoying, particularly when trying to sleep. One night I got up about midnight, turned on my phone to video, which also has audio, and recorded the noise. I’ve seen other comments about the vibration and noise and want to emphasize something needs to be done about it.
Moscow Drivers: Great. Traffic: Awful. Moscow traffic is a nightmare. Sorry. I have to complain even though Viking is not at fault for the traffic. It is beyond anything I have seen anywhere else in the world. I will say, however, the drivers are the most considerate I’ve ever seen in a large city. Horns are not honking and cars and buses are allowed to change lanes and merge without being cutoff. But, every time we left the boat for a tour, it was at least an hour ride to get wherever we were going and at least an hour back. Not enjoyable.
Also, please, please, please, tell the tour escorts to tell the guests they meet at the Moscow airport BEFORE they board the bus that the trip will take 2-to-4 hours so that they can make a bathroom stop beforehand. We were met outside baggage claim (after our flight and waiting an hour+ for luggage that did not arrive and then dealing with filing complicated lost luggage claims) and told to "stay right here; I’ll be right back.” The 2-hour bus ride we were warned of AFTER boarding was actually 3 ½. Miserable does not begin to describe the ride.
I second (or third) the suggestion to take the Moscow-St. Petersburg cruise. Moscow is interesting and there are great things to see but, other than the gold onion domes, most of it struck me as being all the same gray color. We were very happy to begin sailing toward what can only be described in comparison as a Spring flower: St. Petersburg. Fantastic city. Truly breath-taking.