My review: Charlotte and I just returned Sunday night from a 12 day visit to Russia through Viking River Cruises. We flew from Atlanta to Paris and connected with Air France to Moscow. Boarded a large Viking Russian river cruiser, MS Pakhomov and spent three nights on board as a hotel in Moscow. Spent our anniversary in Red square. We got to see Putin and the Russian Orthodox Patriarch as they came out of a Kremlin church. The churches are magnificent - covered with icons. People are very friendly.
Traffic in Moscow was worst than Atlanta, LA, etc. City of 25 million who are now buying autos on roads built in the 30's. The Moscow subway carries 9 million people daily and the stations are like art museums with marble statues, paintings, frescos - and they are spotless! People were very nice. Saw the Moscow circus, KGB headquarters, Kremlin, St. Basil, palaces, palaces, palaces.
The biggest surprise - the young women - they are gorgeous. Then cruised up the Volga River visiting, the small towns of Uglich, Yaroslavl, and Kostroma, and Kizhi were we saw the wooden church built with out nails on 1 mile between 4 mile island. On the way I made my Russian singing debut, singing "Some Enchanting Evening" during passenger night. Cruised up the Neva River and then the Svir into St. Petersburg. Saw Peter and Catherine's castles. the Hermitage the gold, amber, and Wedgwood on the walls, ceilings, staircases is incredible. Went to the Marinsky Opera house where we saw "Samson and Delila" and to the St. Petersburg theater and saw "Swan Lake".
We had lunch with a very modest Russian family in their small flat on the 4th (walk up). Grandma was a big women. Her daughter a beautiful blue eyed blond who dances in the Bolshi ballet, and her 18 year old daughter who is studying ballet. It was a wonderful meal and a memorable experience. This and many other optional tours were arrange by our travel agent and dear friend Shirley Binder. She gave us a completer turn-key package on several trips. You will be pleased with her service - her e-mail is firstname.lastname@example.org
St. Petersburg is the Venice of the north with canals throughout the city. Gets to -40 F in the winter. More that 30%of the land in Moscow and St. Petersburg is devoted to parks. Many statues of Lenin... Stalin nowhere to be seen. Of the 200 passengers on board and we have traveled with 34 of them before on other Viking Cruises, so it was like a big family reunion. More churches in Russia (and they are active) than Italy.
I purchased the new Sony DCRDVD camcorder that writes directly on DVD. The pictures and color are fantastic. Have 9 1/2 hours of video plus over 450 digital stills.
The crew and staff on board could not have been nicer.
Would be our number 1 recommendation to anyone traveling to Europe for the first time or considering going back again.
Richard and Charlotte Loehn