As with most river ships, Viking Rurik's fares include a daily city walk or excursion, which you take in groups with your program director or a local guide. At times, groups are designated for slower passengers. Personal headsets are issued at the beginning of the cruise, and you bring them along on group excursions.
Besides typical city tours, unusual excursions included with the cruise took passengers into a Russian home in Uglich, gave them a ride on the Moscow Metro, allowed them to see a ballet in St. Petersburg and took them to an outstanding folk symphony orchestra in Moscow. Exciting optional excursions were also available, particularly in the two large cities, where passengers had plenty of choices.
For cruisers used to leisurely port stops along the Rhine or Danube, the pace of a Russian river cruise will require an adjustment. The beginning and end of the cruise, about three days each in St. Petersburg and Moscow, are packed with activities so people can get the most out of these world-class cities. The rest of the itinerary is light on time spent in port (highlights include the Golden Ring city of Yaroslavl and Kizhi, both UNESCO World Heritage sites) and heavy on cruising along the Volga, Neva and various lakes. That's because the ships must traverse approximately 1,000 miles of waterway and stick to a strict lock schedule on the Volga-Baltic waterway.
The ship does its best to fill these hours with things to do. Lectures on different segments of Russia's long history are held every day at sea, as are cooking demonstrations, visits with the captain on the ship's bridge and language lessons.
The ship's main lounge, the Sky Bar, is on the Sun Deck level and is not big enough to accommodate all passengers at once. It has a small dance floor and a piano, where the onboard musician performs during Happy Hour and after dinner. As with most lounges, the bar is a big draw, and drink prices range from 3 to 7 euros. While traditionally river ships don't attract a late-night, partying crowd, on our cruise, convivial groups of travelers from Canada, Australia and New Zealand kept the bar open longer than we've seen on similar trips, especially on days that weren't as port-intensive.
The Panorama Bar on the Upper Deck provides a secondary lounge and bar for passengers who want to enjoy a floor-to-ceiling view. During the day, several people used this area for reading or surfing the net on their personal devices.