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33 Helpful Votes
Sail Date: August 2017
This was our 5th cruise, 3rd with Viking. This was the best boat we've been on, but Viking continues to be plagued with problems. Embarkation was very smooth, as was disembarkation when we finished. Dining: It was extremely ... Read More
This was our 5th cruise, 3rd with Viking. This was the best boat we've been on, but Viking continues to be plagued with problems. Embarkation was very smooth, as was disembarkation when we finished. Dining: It was extremely difficult to make restaurant reservations ahead of the cruise, with a limit of 1 reservation per restaurant. That didn't get any better when we boarded...one of the staff members took all our requests, said he'd leave us a message confirming them, and then did absolutely nothing about it. The main dining restaurant (The Restaurant) doesn't open for breakfast until 8am, much too late for early morning shore excursions. And you can't just go in and find a table — get in the line and let them seat you! I have no idea why on earth they need to know your cabin number for a meal...it's all included! It just slows the whole process down, and I would not recommend going there at all for breakfast. They aren't even open for lunch. Dinners there were decent. The one day we ordered room service, they showed up with stuff we didn't order, and were missing stuff we did order. Not good. Shore Excursions: In this area, Viking gets an EPIC FAIL. Viking's cruises are plagued with old, infirm, and obese people who simply cannot walk comfortably around a town or city. So every single excursion you take will have several people who are limping along telling the guide to slow down, etc. It drove us nuts. Even on the St. Petersburg Hermitage Museum excursion, which was rated by Viking as "Demanding", we had 8-10 people in our group who could barely climb stairs. This aspect ruined most of the shore excursions for us. Local Guides: they weren't as good as we've had in the past. 2 of them gave us incorrect info about the location of shuttle buses back to the ship, leading to some anxious moments. Tipping: As usual, you need to constantly be looking to ensure you've got 5 Euros or 10 Krone or whatever, to tip the bus drivers and guides. Viking advertises itself as "all inclusive" but it isn't. Those tips and the daily "tip" that they automatically add to your stateroom bill add up. Viking needs to adopt the Scenic Cruises model — get on board and put your wallet in your safe...no tipping needed, it's truly all inclusive. That includes the beer you have after returning from an excursion at 3pm — on Viking, it'll cost you $8 but on Scenic it's all included. One of our shore excursions (Flam Railway) returned too late so we missed our afternoon excursion, despite Viking's schedule showing them as do-able. And on that excursion, our guide neglected to tell us that we'd be getting lunch. So I bought a couple sandwiches and sweet rolls on the train — for about $40 CDN — only to subsequently discover that they were giving us lunch at the end of the train ride. Staff: All the staff, with the exception of the ship's security officer, were friendly and helpful. We got very rude and aggressive treatment from the ship's security officer when we tried to join a shorter line re-boarding the boat after Berlin. I explained that we were just trying to help speed things up, but we were ordered to get back into our original line (now at the very end of the line). So about 40-50 people had to wait an additional 10 minutes to clear security when the other shorter line cleared, but Mr. Gestapo refused to let anyone go to that line. After a very long day, that finished us...we'll find another cruise line in future. Staterooms: Wonderful. This was the best boat we've been on. The rooms were very quiet compared to any other ship we've been on — you couldn't even hear your neighbouring rooms flush a toilet, or their TV. Comfortable king-sized bed, and plenty of room in the shower. Other: the ship had lots of nice lounges and areas to go have a coffee, read a book, play cards, have a drink, etc. The spa didn't meet my wife's simple needs — a gel fill for her nails. They don't do gel nails, which is ridiculous, as nearly every nail salon in Canada or the USA does. So they proposed to remove her gel nails in one session ($$$) and then put nail polish on her natural nails (um...NO) in another session ($$$). Another EPIC FAIL. Entertainment: we don't go on cruises to see the entertainment. But feedback from our travelling companions led us to believe that the entertainment on Viking Star was very middle class. Port Talks & Info Sessions: a few of these were very educational and entertaining. But the Port Talks (about next day's port) were held at 6:45 PM, right in the middle of the dinner hour! Another questionable judgement by Viking. All in all, I doubt seriously we'll be back on a Viking cruise. These same problems come up again and again with them, and it's time to move on. Our experience with Scenic Cruises was that they have the same boats, service, etc as Viking, but you don't have to bother with all the tipping as it's pre-paid...well worth the extra few bucks. Read Less
4 Helpful Votes
Sail Date: June 2017
We’ve been on two previous Viking River cruises and this was the first Viking Ocean cruise – we have trusted and been happy with all aspects of Viking – we wanted to cruise the Baltics and our favorite stops were Tallin, Estonia – ... Read More
We’ve been on two previous Viking River cruises and this was the first Viking Ocean cruise – we have trusted and been happy with all aspects of Viking – we wanted to cruise the Baltics and our favorite stops were Tallin, Estonia – Gdansk, Poland – Aalborg, Denmark and all of Norway - all ports were easy to navigate on to shore (no tethering) most by bus but several were walk right off into the community like Aalborg, Denmark and Eidfjorde, Norway - after several free excursions by bus and the general 2-3 hour tour we started to appreciate some of the paid excursions that had around 20-30 people - more personable and enjoyable - we weren’t impressed with larger cities like St. Petersburg as tours to landmarks and museums were rushed and crowded - we are on vacation and do enjoy relaxation and that's what the ship offers in all areas - it's OK to skip a port and just relax on board as there is so much to do - the spa and fitness area offered programs and the top deck had the best fitness equipment and activities like shuffleboard - movie theatres provided themed movies in connection to the areas we cruised - on board musical entertainment was fun and vibrant from lounge shows to pool parties and the dining offerings ranged from great lasgna and an Italian menu at Manfredi’s to a wonderful wine and food pairing at the Chef’s Table – the Restaurant offered a wide range of choices from fish to steak and local favorites – the World Café offered a smorgasbord of main entrees – desserts and snacks – Mamsen’s served a wonderful daily breakfast with fresh pastries and fruit plus waffles and breakfast platters made to order - the lounge choices were fun – warm and friendly – relaxing views of the sea and countryside from the Explorer’s Lounge listening to a guitarist or pianist - to night time entertainment at Torshavn with shows like The Rat Pack – the Viking Bar and Living Room was a great place to hear music from highly skilled musicians and entertainers – we will be cruising another itinerary with Viking Ocean in the future and we highly recommend connecting with Cruise Critic through their Meet & Mingle on board – we have many friends just from that connection – we like the smaller ship with 930 cruisers and no casinos or themed gimmicks – this allowed us to meet so many great people - fun ship and wonderful staff !!! Read Less
3 Helpful Votes
Sail Date: August 2016
I chose the cruise because of ancestors' homelands were around the Baltic & Norway and Viking had an excellent reputation. I never dreamed the experience would be so beautiful. The Ship's decor was wonderfully thought out ... Read More
I chose the cruise because of ancestors' homelands were around the Baltic & Norway and Viking had an excellent reputation. I never dreamed the experience would be so beautiful. The Ship's decor was wonderfully thought out with Viking and nautical themes. The spaces were so designed that there were many cozy areas to relax, read, visit with others. The Crew, no matter how busy they were, never failed to smile and greet you as you went by. The Tour choices were numerous and well planned with very knowledgeable guides. You could do as much or little to none of them of course. Our Room was spacious enough for the two of us even though adjusted for 2 twin beds. We even took pictures of the bathroom because we were so impressed by the Euro features. I've been in hospitals and rehab facilities that weren't as immaculate as the Viking ship. The excitement has not worn off after a month being home. I'm encouraging everyone I know to go with Viking. Read Less
4 Helpful Votes
Sail Date: May 2016
We had never been to Scandinavia and thought this cruise would let us see a lot of it efficiently. We really signed up primarily for the shore excursions, but were pleasantly surprised how nice the ship and the crew were. (It was our ... Read More
We had never been to Scandinavia and thought this cruise would let us see a lot of it efficiently. We really signed up primarily for the shore excursions, but were pleasantly surprised how nice the ship and the crew were. (It was our first cruise) Even though the ship was fully booked we never had a sense of overcrowding...all the facilities were always available and many times we had them almost to ourselves. The ship itself was beautiful, the dining facilities were amazing, and our cabin was so spacious, more like a hotel room than a cabin. The World Cafe had excellent buffets for breakfast and lunch, and we never had to wait for a table to become available. The Restaurant had a wonderful menu and service was excellent. And the two specialty restaurants were truly experiences, and we were able to secure extra nights in them once we were on board. Read Less
4 Helpful Votes
Sail Date: May 2016
The ship was beautiful. The staff and crew were very helpful and friendly. The variety of food served at all of the dining venues was delicious. Each deck had a free laundromat. The port talks and enrichment lectures were very ... Read More
The ship was beautiful. The staff and crew were very helpful and friendly. The variety of food served at all of the dining venues was delicious. Each deck had a free laundromat. The port talks and enrichment lectures were very informative. It was easy rearranging booked tours or booking additional tours. All the tours had expert guides, were very well organized, interesting and worthwhile. As Viking’s tours for St. Petersburg were full, we booked the two-day deluxe St. Petersburg tour and the evening ballet with SPB Tours. This was a suburb tour and included more sights than the Viking tour and was less expensive. Sunrise was at 4:00 a.m. and sunset about 10:00 p.m. The weather was cool—ranging from the 40s to the 60s. The only day of rain was in Stockholm. We tipped local tour guides in Euros. The Baltic was very calm; only twice, did we feel unusual motion. Read Less
4 Helpful Votes
Sail Date: May 2016
We choose this trip because of all the places we would visit. This was the most amazing trip. The staff was beyond friendly and helpful in every way. We went on some included excursions and some optional ones. By far. Waking up ... Read More
We choose this trip because of all the places we would visit. This was the most amazing trip. The staff was beyond friendly and helpful in every way. We went on some included excursions and some optional ones. By far. Waking up before 5:00 am and traveling through the fyords going into Flam Norway was the ultimate experience. We took the full day rail excursion up into the mountains was the highlight of our trip. We booked a private tour in St petersbutg withAlla Tours and between Viking and Alla it could not have been easier. We enjoyed every city, best of all Estonia and Gdansk. Every city was so different and so much to see. Wod love to go backto every one. The tood was exellent in every venue. We especially loved Manfreds, we ate there 3 times during our trip. They tried to get us to book at The Chef's Table, just was not interested. This was our 2nd trip with Viking and we cannot wait to go on another. Read Less
11 Helpful Votes
Sail Date: June 2015
We stayed in London as part of our pre-cruise package. Viking reps were consistently present and were available for all our queries.We have taken five ocean cruises before this cruise. the Viking Star is a beautiful well deigned ship ... Read More
We stayed in London as part of our pre-cruise package. Viking reps were consistently present and were available for all our queries.We have taken five ocean cruises before this cruise. the Viking Star is a beautiful well deigned ship with classy decor. Food and staff were exceptional always attending to our 'needs' and continual questions....very very gracious. cabin 3077 was immaculate. Cabin stewards were excellent. Numerous activities on going. Service was first class. Dining was super delicious. Yum yum. Staff, again, excellent. The port and shore excursions were all excellent. We took most of Viking's complimentary excursions. We enjoyed each and every shore excursions. Every tour guide was well versed in the purpose of the tour. Where would you see little ducks climbing little stairs from the harbor onto the pier and escorted across to the park? Stavanger, Norway!! Entertainment was always good. All performers were excellent. Disembarkment went smoothly. All 'hiccups' were handled professionally by Viking personnel. We had a wonderful time. Thank you very much. Read Less
1 Helpful Vote
Sail Date: May 2015
As always, Viking's focus was on destinations and enrichment. The ship is pristine, superbly designed, relaxing and entertaining. We enjoyed all the included excursions. I'll note that the quality of the guides was not up to the ... Read More
As always, Viking's focus was on destinations and enrichment. The ship is pristine, superbly designed, relaxing and entertaining. We enjoyed all the included excursions. I'll note that the quality of the guides was not up to the normal Viking bar - with some notable exceptions. However, I'm sure Viking will sort that out in short order. The food was plentiful and easily accessible. And what a pleasure it is to sail without the constant pestering to spend money on ship. There are so many quiet places on board where the traveler can go and recharge, read, have conversations with other guests. The crew, as is always true with Viking, is superb - friendly, cheerful, accommodating. We couldn't ask for more. And the destinations are topnotch. Gdansk was the only destination that wasn't fulfilling. I hasten to add: I'm still happy Gdansk is included because of its historical significance. I enjoyed seeing the city. It simply didn't impress. Read Less
1 Helpful Vote
Sail Date: December 2014
My husband & I just got home from our Viking Christmas Rhine Cruise. We're experienced travelers in our 60s who used to do most of our European travel by train, limit our itinerary to 3 cities at most & stay at least 2 nights ... Read More
My husband & I just got home from our Viking Christmas Rhine Cruise. We're experienced travelers in our 60s who used to do most of our European travel by train, limit our itinerary to 3 cities at most & stay at least 2 nights in each city to minimize packing & unpacking. However now that we're older my husband wants to take more cruises because the tour companies handle luggage & airport transfers for us. This was our 1st Viking cruise. (A yr & a half ago we took a Tauck French Art cruise. The price for our Viking cruise was much less than the Tauck cruise.) Overall our Viking cruise was enjoyable & went smoothly, but there were a few things that could have been improved. We took a 3 day Brugges, Belgium extention, which began when we landed in Brussels. Unfortunately no one was at the airport when we arrived to take us to Brugges. We waited 45 mins. & the driver eventually showed up, said he was in a traffic jam due to rain & apologized. When we arrived at our hotel, the Duke's Palace (a real Medieval palace in the center of Brugges) at 11 am. they said our room wouldn't be ready until 3 pm. They had a rigid policy & refused to let us go on a waiting list if a room became available. We were exhausted from our flight, but we knew of a nearby reastaurant, Lizzies that serves excellent waffles, so we had lunch. Then we returned to the hotel lobby around 12 noon & met up with 3 other couples from our tour. We got acquainted & then commiserated about having to wait so long for our rooms. Eventually all 4 couples fell asleep in the hotel lobby on the sofas & armchairs. In all other respects the hotel was very nice including their bar & restaurant. Finally at around 2:45 pm 4 rms became available all at once. The hotel clerk tried to give us a room opposite an elevator, but the desk manager eventually found us a new room. It was nice with copies of old Flemish portraits & had a hi-tech bathroom with a huge shower. So we fell asleep, caught up with our jet lag then had dinner nearby later. The 2nd day an excellent guide took us on a walking tour of Brugges & the following was a free day. The last day we were loaded on a bus with an amusing guide who told us all about Belguim & Holland. We arrived in Amsterdam at the Bragi around 5 pm, so we didn't get to do any Amsterdam sightseeing, but we were tired, so it didn't matter. The weather was unseasonably warm, in the 40s & down around the 30s for the rest of the cruise, except when we were in the Black Forest on Christmas Day when there was a pretty snowfall. The passengers were a mixture of people on their 1st European trip & travel veterans. The majority were in their 60s, but there were a few college-aged, some as old as their 80s & a few disabled people traveling with family members. (Viking does a excellent job of accomodating for the elderly & disabled.) I would guess that most passengers were middle & upper-middle class with a good number of teachers, college professors, ex-military & civil servants. Since the theme of the cruise was Christmas Markets we visted cities with markets & took walking tours of Cologne, Heidelburg, Strasbourg & an optional tour to Colmar. Along the way we saw castles on the Rhine. Viking offered optional tour groups for slower walkers & photograhers. There were other tours & attractions as well, but jet lag & short, dark days made me feel lazy & require an afternoon nap, so I took a pass on some of the scheduled afternoon events. At night there was a fantastic pianist, Emil who could play just about any request. On Christmas Eve there was a sing-a-long of Christmas music & some people got up & danced. All our meals were provided on the boat, which was convenient, helped save money & the time required to figure out where to eat while ashore. At breakfast they served a buffet with all sorts of sausage, cheese, fruit, potatos, breads, veggies etc. plus omlettes & French Toast. At lunch there was a choice of soup, cooked dishes & a fantastic salad bar. There was also a casual dining restaurant in the bar with soup, sandwiches & a less extensive salad bar. At lunch & dinner there was always nice dessert choices. There was a free coffee bar with cocoa, espresso & afternoon cookies. Dinner was a multi-course, more formal event. Many fellow passengers raved about the refreshments at the Christmas Markets, such as Gluwein but I was more focused on chocolate & marzipan. Most passengers we spoke with agreed that the food was somewhat bland, became repetitive by the end of the cruise & was often not hot enough. The wine was good, but they kept serving the same red & white with each dinner. Some variety would have been nice. I think the Christmas tour is more of what I would describe as a "beginners" tour--more low-stress for people who are timid about mixing in with real Europeans, but it was great for people who like to sit on the boat & watch the scenery. Life on the boat is like living in a North American bubble & I felt cut off from real Europeans, except for the Viking staff. I love art & had to break away from the tour & go on my own at one point, so perhaps this wasn't the best cruise for me. I think I'd do better on a specialist art tour, but If you just want some jolly Christmas fun & a chance to make some new friends it was great. Read Less
4 Helpful Votes
Sail Date: October 2014
It was fantastic on so many levels. It was more than I ever expected. The crew was so professional and personable. Loved the meals and the wine to go with. Loved the tour guides on the ship. They were very well informed on the history of ... Read More
It was fantastic on so many levels. It was more than I ever expected. The crew was so professional and personable. Loved the meals and the wine to go with. Loved the tour guides on the ship. They were very well informed on the history of the country as well as being fun and personable. Same with the Russians hired to do the tours. Loved the smaller amount of people that the Rurik ship could accommodate. I really do not think any other Viking cruise could top this one. Hopefully, I am wrong about this. Room was perfect. Always kept very clean.   Read Less
2 Helpful Votes
Sail Date: October 2014
I really enjoyed the cruise because; It was small The food , service and ambiance was great The meals were excellent and I appreciated the the many choices and the portions were just right for me. The lectures were informative The ... Read More
I really enjoyed the cruise because; It was small The food , service and ambiance was great The meals were excellent and I appreciated the the many choices and the portions were just right for me. The lectures were informative The tours were good, however, it depended on the expertise and interest of the guides leading the tour. I would have liked to have had some input in what I wanted to see especially in the Hermitage and Armory. The rooms were very comfortable and I appreciated being able to watch lecures on the room TV.   Read Less
Sail Date: September 2014
After a stress free flight from London Heathrow my wife and I enjoyed 12 days of luxury cruising between St Petersburg and Moscow. The ship was very well appointed and spotlessly clean. The on board staff were very friendly and very ... Read More
After a stress free flight from London Heathrow my wife and I enjoyed 12 days of luxury cruising between St Petersburg and Moscow. The ship was very well appointed and spotlessly clean. The on board staff were very friendly and very helpful especially as my wife was disabled, they were always there to assist. The food was excellent with a wide variety of choice. The Viking Daily was very informative giving details of what was happening the following day. Having 4 days in St Petersburg at the beginning of the cruise and 3 days in Moscow at the end gave us ample time to see the main attractions. The organised excursions were well planned and had excellent guides, nothing was rushed. We will have no hesitation in booking another Viking Cruise.   Read Less
3 Helpful Votes
Sail Date: August 2014
Just returned from the trip that started in Moscow on August 24. About a week before leaving I finally read the reviews of this trip posted on this site and found them to be very mixed. Along with the political situation, some of the ... Read More
Just returned from the trip that started in Moscow on August 24. About a week before leaving I finally read the reviews of this trip posted on this site and found them to be very mixed. Along with the political situation, some of the reviews added to my doubts about whether this was the right trip to take. I have never posted a trip review before but wanted to address the concerns I read about, some of which I found to be accurate and others not of consequence. Some of them really depend on your expectations. Reading the reviews did help to properly set my expectations. Getting around Yes, the boat is docked quite a bit away from the center of both Moscow and St. Petersburg. In Moscow my husband studied the metro system (which is a sight in itself to tour!) and when we wanted to go somewhere during free time, we used the metro which was a 10-15 minute walk from the ship. It made me nervous at first but turned out to be quite safe and a pleasant way to get around. In St. Petersburg we never used the metro. Because of the timing of excursions and free time, on 2 out of the 3 days we chose to not return to the ship with the tour group but to stay in St. Petersburg after the Hermitage so we could visit the Faberge Museum and on the final day we took the hydrofoil from Peterhof back to St. Petersburg for more touring on our own. (Viking plans excursions so that you always return to the ship for lunch even if there are morning and afternoon tours. This does waste time.) The ship We have been on one other river cruise, not Viking, and that ship was newer and nicer. These ships were built in Russia and are rather old. Even with refurbishing they look a little run down in some of the common areas. But that was okay with me. Having read the reviews, my expectations were set. Our cabin was mid-ship, perfectly clean and beautiful, no special noise (yes you can hear some noise from adjacent cabins but the people travelling on this type of cruise are not really party people so no problem there). Twice a day the staff replaced towels, cleaned, everything sparkling. I cannot complain about the ship. Some said the bar areas were small and one was used for lectures and could not fit al the people. That is true, but they always gave 2 sets of the same lecture dividing the population so not a problem. Just once there was a welcome type of reception and the room was overflowing. The other river cruise I was on had a bigger bar/common area. But the Helgi had a number of smaller seating areas that were really a nice concept. You could go there and read, or sit with a small group of people. I liked these areas although they could use some sprucing up. Food Some people complained it was awful. I thought it was quite good. Someone complained that the wait staff were not properly trained. Maybe that was at the beginning of the season - don't remember the review. I found them to be quite good with a few exceptions here and there where it seemed my table was forgotten! Mostly though they were right there when you needed them, very pleasant and accommodating. Tours and tour guides Very good. The 3 tour guides were a wealth of information on all aspects of Russian life. They gave multiple lectures on Russian history. There was a final round table at which they answered questions. It was interesting to hear their opinions of Russian life. Some reviews said they could have done without the stops and tours between Moscow and St. Petersburg. This depends on what you are looking for. They do give a slightly different view of Russia but some were really just fill ins. There is a trade off between taking this river cruise and doing a land tour of Russia. On the river cruise you sacrifice more time touring areas that might be of more interest to you vs having some more relaxing time while the boat cruises (and this is the time when they had the lectures which I found very valuable). It really depends on what you are looking for. I looked at the itineraries for some land tours and other than St. Petersburg and Moscow which are always multiple day stops, they then visit other areas (Latvia, Estonia, etc) generally for one day at a time. So you are always packing up. Again, it is personal preference. Overall I am glad we did this trip. I learned a lot, saw some incredible sites, have lots of pictures, ate too much, enjoyed a mix of group and free time. This was my first Viking cruise and I think they did a very good job. Would I have preferred a land tour of this area? Will never know! Read Less
2 Helpful Votes
Sail Date: July 2014
Warren and I thoroughly enjoyed our trip from Moscow to St. Petersburg, Russia in July 2014. So much so, in fact, that we put together a booklet containing historical facts, our insights, and pictures of the sites we visited for our ... Read More
Warren and I thoroughly enjoyed our trip from Moscow to St. Petersburg, Russia in July 2014. So much so, in fact, that we put together a booklet containing historical facts, our insights, and pictures of the sites we visited for our friends and relatives. We have heard back from many of them about how they would like to take a cruise with Viking too. We were helped every step of the way, from obtaining our visas to arranging for our airline tickets. We were met by our tour guides at the airport after we had arrived in Moscow, and were assisted by them when it came time to leave. The tours were educational as well as well planned. We not only learned about the history of the places we visited, but gained an appreciation of the culture of the Russian people. The accommodations exceeded our expectations.. The staff were friendly, the rooms were clean and the beds were very comfortable. The food, however, was good enough for royalty!!! Our tour guides not only knew their stuff, they had a sense of humor. That makes touring a real pleasure. We loved our trip so much, we are already planning our next one. Read Less
Sail Date: June 2014
Having read the reviews, I went with low expectations for the ship. I was pleasantly surprised in many ways. First, the staff onboard were friendly and anxious to please and be helpful. The AMA guides were very, very good at their jobs - ... Read More
Having read the reviews, I went with low expectations for the ship. I was pleasantly surprised in many ways. First, the staff onboard were friendly and anxious to please and be helpful. The AMA guides were very, very good at their jobs - most knowledgeable and ready to answer questions as well as being masters at keeping up with tourists who tend to wander from the group. We were herded through the most crowded and challenging circumstances (for them) with much skill. No one ever got separated unless they chose to go off on their own. The dining rooms on board - and there are two, surprised me with the variety of food available at all meals. Some of the dishes cooked were better than others, but never did I feel underfed. I could have lived off the wonderful soups, the various salads offered and the fresh bread. Luckily I didn't have to do that, as there were many other dishes to choose from. Waiters and waitresses were young - many college students at summer jobs - and made up for their occasional lack of serving skills with many smiles, much attention to diners' needs and a great desire to please. I heard some passengers, who had cruised with AMA to other European ports and were disappointed with the style and luxury level of the ship, say that the cabins were like a Motel 6. I really can't argue with that, but the cabins were cleaned daily, the beds were comfortable and the water pressure in the showers was fantastic. Frankly, that suited the two of us. Luxury is nice, but in order to see a good bit of Russia and not have to pack and unpack, I found the cabin to be a good trade-off. All the cruise ships are Russian owned - the cruise companies can refurbish the interiors. There was no feeling of discomfort for us due to the political situation in the Ukraine. There had been a fair amount of cancellations on the ship, but everywhere we went was packed with tourists from all over the world. The tourist industry in Russia may be suffering this year, but it was surprising to me how many tourists were there (we all go to the same ports) on the river cruising and in the cities. We never felt unsafe in any way, except from being trampled by tourists in the Hermitage. We had a wonderful time. AMA Katerina is a good choice for this trip.   Read Less
1 Helpful Vote
Sail Date: June 2014
Wow, where to begin. We would have never travelled to Russia on our own. After seeing how Viking handled our two week "Grand European" tour in 2013 from Budapest to Amsterdam during the "500" year flood, we knew that we ... Read More
Wow, where to begin. We would have never travelled to Russia on our own. After seeing how Viking handled our two week "Grand European" tour in 2013 from Budapest to Amsterdam during the "500" year flood, we knew that we would always be safe and stress free with Viking. We were right. It was a marvelous trip to a country we would have never put on our wish list if Viking was not hosting it. They continue to amaze us. The staff, the service, the food, the cleanliness and the tours are all 5 star. They offer us interesting places to visit not only stress free but with a feeling of security. In addition, their teams are friendly, helpful and full of fun and enjoy their work. Great service is the norm. As I said before, "Viking rules the rivers". Gord Haddock, Saskatchewan, Canada PS We are already booked on Vikings first ocean going ship the Star on their maiden voyage. I already know that we are going to have a wonderful trip. It's Viking........that's all we need to know. Read Less
2 Helpful Votes
Sail Date: May 2014
Have recently returned from a short cruise sailing from London - Tower Bridge to Copenhagen through the Kiel Canal. The info we received from Ponant re embarkation started us off on a wrong footing - giving us incorrect info re boarding. ... Read More
Have recently returned from a short cruise sailing from London - Tower Bridge to Copenhagen through the Kiel Canal. The info we received from Ponant re embarkation started us off on a wrong footing - giving us incorrect info re boarding. Suffice to say we overcame that but made us look out for anything else that would be wrong. Our booking through a local agent was extremely smooth - and we looked forward to sailing with this particular line for the first time. Once we had boarded the ship, we found the crew and officers alike extremely friendly and helpful. The cabin was on deck 3 forward which suited us, at least we got a bit of a walk going for meals or up to the lounges etc. A good sized cabin with a king size bed (two twins pushed together no doubt.) but comfortable. Ample storage space around. and our cases fitted under the bed with no problem. The bathroom is on the small side but a good size shower and then the toilet is separate - which is good. All with the usual complimentary soaps, etc. Bathrobes and slippers for use which is good less to pack . Balcony was a good size with two chairs and a table. Another plus was the good size of the safe . Constructive criticism to sit in front of the mirror - one couldn't get past. Complimentary bottled water, which was given continuously. Loved the layout of the ship with a lift forward or aft if needed and found her "beautiful" Had a couple of dinners in the main dining room (silver service) and must point out that the Maître D'hôtel put English speaking with English speaking etc. but we preferred eating up in the buffet. Liked the big windows to look out. A good selection for Breakfast. Lunch was also served in both venues, but then again we ate in the buffet on deck 6, and occasionally sat out by the pool - glorious. Afternoon Tea/Coffee served in the lounge with mini cakes and snacks. Was a tad disappointed with the food. thought we were going to have a very good gastronomic experience. Yes, the breads, cakes, desserts, pastries etc. were wonderful . Good choice of various salads etc., but the main course - mediocre. Our main reason for doing this cruise was to sail through the Kiel Canal on a small ship. Wonderful. We knew it was a French speaking ship and announcements were given first in French and then English, but definitely more was said in French than English!! We did one ship tour - something we don't normally do but as we had on-board credit, wanted to use it up. Do feel tho, ships tours are a rip off, but that is on any ship anywhere in the world. We were very lucky to have had the most amazing weather. Would we sail with this company again,? they must sort out their information re embarkation - a major failure. Mores the pity as it is a beautiful ship.   Read Less
6 Helpful Votes
Sail Date: May 2014
My husband and I wanted an immersive experience of Russia, and we decided that a river cruise would be the best way for us to experience it. We have sailed with Regent and Crystal previously (3 ocean cruises in total) and this was our ... Read More
My husband and I wanted an immersive experience of Russia, and we decided that a river cruise would be the best way for us to experience it. We have sailed with Regent and Crystal previously (3 ocean cruises in total) and this was our first time on a river cruise. From our first interactions with Viking sales representatives at the London cruise show in March 2014, we were confident we had chosen a good cruise line. The traffic in Moscow and St. Petersburg was terrible, but we used the time to listen to the tour guide, gaze out the window and watch the world go by, people watch, and occasionally we would read books that we had borrowed from the Viking library. This is a key consideration for some people, and we knew about this in advance, so I think it helped to have our expectations set. A key difference between this cruise and our previous ocean cruises was that there were three Russian tour guides who were on board with us the whole time, and all three of them were highly regarded. They were assisted at some ports by additional local guides, but most of our tours were hosted by one of these three guides (who was exceptional). Our three host tour guides also delivered outstanding lectures, as well as fielding questions at a round table Q&A, to finish off the lecture series. The overall standard of the lectures and excursions was much higher than they have been on the ocean cruises, which can be more hit and miss, and we felt that we learned a lot more and had a better experience overall due to this consistency and the very high standards that Viking has for their staff. We were not expecting the food to be exceptional, but it surpassed our expectations. We were pleased that there were a lot of Russian menu items to choose from, as well as more standard fare. We had a German head chef whom the Russian tour guides said had varied the recipes, so if you are looking for 100% authentic Russian food all of the time, be aware that you may have variations, but in our view, this was a good thing. Beef Stroganoff served with spaetzel (small dumplings) was simply perfection. The crew were very friendly and the management were very professional. Entertainment was more "local", with Viking taking us to music and dance performances, and even bringing two local performers onto the boat for the farewell evening show. This was a refreshing change for us, as we have not particularly enjoyed the larger ship production shows on our previous cruises. A few things to mention that might be helpful for first time Viking cruisers: We managed to walk through all of the other Viking Russian cruise vessels, and they all looked the same to us, except for the Akun, which had more/brighter lighting in the corridors. The stairs on the boat are very steep. Be very careful, and watch your step at all times. One of our fellow passengers slipped on staircase upon embarking, and sprained her wrist. She had to wear her arm in a sling for the entire cruise. Bottled water was provided free of charge. This saved me a small fortune, as I drink a lot of water! The walls between staterooms are thinner than on a larger cruise vessel, so be prepared to hear your neighbours. Our neighbours were very polite and did not speak loudly in their rooms, and we tried to be equally respectful. As there are no exercise facilities on board some of the river boats (including the Helgi), you'll need to find other ways to get your exercise. Fortunately, the boat was docked in safe areas (including the outskirts of Moscow and St. Petersburg) and it was possible to walk/jog/run in each of the dock areas if desired. On embarkation day, we initially sat in the front of the restaurant for our first meal, then we decided we weren't happy sitting there and we moved to the back of the restaurant. The key difference is the amount of natural light. Some people preferred the more "clubby" ambience in the front, and others preferred the windows and light available in the back. This is an important choice to make, because you will be encouraged (but not required) to sit in the same section of the restaurant for all of your meals. This helps the wait staff to learn your names and your preferences, and it also enables you to sit with the same people more easily, or to move around and sit with other people at meal times. I am only focusing on the positives, because the cruise was overwhelmingly a positive experience for us and we look forward to our next river cruise with Viking. Read Less
Sail Date: April 2014
We had a delightful time on our first river cruise. I was somewhat nervous about river cruising as I love the sense of expansiveness with ocean cruising. I absolutely loved the simplicity of getting on and off the smaller ship and I ... Read More
We had a delightful time on our first river cruise. I was somewhat nervous about river cruising as I love the sense of expansiveness with ocean cruising. I absolutely loved the simplicity of getting on and off the smaller ship and I enjoyed the relaxed atmosphere. The cruise manager, Nick Hartog was amazing: knowledgeable, helpful, and great at handling the myriad of details in making the cruise run smoothly. I appreciated his dry sense of humour. Also, the food was first rate. The room was amongst the best appointed I have experienced (about 10 ocean cruises ranging from ocean view to suite). The pianist who played every day was tremendous. One suggestion I would make is to have some covered area on the sundeck. My husband is a smoker and he said that it was really windy whenever he went for a smoke. Also, my husband said the treadmill was very noisy. The daily excursions are a more integral part of the river cruising compared to ocean cruising. If someone is looking for lots of on board stimulation they are probably better off taking an ocean cruise. Otherwise, I highly recommend river cruising and AMAwaterways.   Read Less
2 Helpful Votes
Sail Date: March 2014
We had a long flight to Amsterdam, we were met in the airport by a clearly marked tour guide, which was a greatly appreciated help with customs and baggage. The transport to the ship was on a clean, climate controlled bus right to the ... Read More
We had a long flight to Amsterdam, we were met in the airport by a clearly marked tour guide, which was a greatly appreciated help with customs and baggage. The transport to the ship was on a clean, climate controlled bus right to the pier. The people of the ship greeted us warmly and immediately it was clear this was a well planned, well trained crew, that were doing everything they could to make our cruise a great one. We were shown to our cabin that was spotless and very well appointed, with a balcony, a cafe table and two chairs that we came to love sitting in to watch the beautiful sunsets as well as the cities along the river. The dining was great with a varied selection of entrees and wine served with the meal, included with the cruise price. The housekeeping staff was very professional and never interfered with our privacy. The tours in the various cities and towns from the ship were planned and even rated as to the amount of stamina required to complete. One highlight of the trip was an exclusive visit to a local family in their home which allowed us to learn a great deal about the lifestyle and life in their own words. It was a delight to have this opportunity that was completely out of the ordinary for a cruise. The cruise could not have been any better planned or carried out. The places visited were interesting, the food was superb, the crew, polite, knowledgable , and dedicated to making every aspect of our cruise memorable, and they exceeded all expectations. The entertainment on board was great and again allowed us to get to know a little more about the local culture. Overall, this was the best cruise we hav been on, hands down! Thank you Viking, we will be back! Read Less
8 Helpful Votes
Sail Date: September 2013
My husband and I and three other couples recently sailed on the Viking Helgi from St. Petersburg to Moscow. Here is the good, the average, the bad and the ugly. The good: The food was consistently very good to excellent. The lectures by ... Read More
My husband and I and three other couples recently sailed on the Viking Helgi from St. Petersburg to Moscow. Here is the good, the average, the bad and the ugly. The good: The food was consistently very good to excellent. The lectures by the guides on the boat were also very good, as were the ports of call. We enjoyed both St. Petersburg and Moscow as well as all the stops along the Baltic-Volga Waterway. The weather was amazing, with the only rain coming on the very last afternoon. Everyone is in a better mode when there is good weather! The Wi-Fi was great everywhere we sailed. Our housekeeper was amazing. The room was always made up and ready when we out. We tipped her generously, although we never saw her! The average: Our guides gave great lectures on the ship, but they rarely led us off the ship. The local guides were very uneven. We were suppose to tip our Viking guides $10 per day per person, but at the end of the cruise, we only did this for days we were actually with her. Some days we never saw her or any other guide from the ship, only local guides. Somedays she just rode on the bus with us. Unlike our China trip, our Russian guides had no interest in the passengers. One of the three main guides got on the bus everyday and promptly fell asleep! Very unprofessional. The bad: The ship docks in both cities are far from the center and main tourist sites and since the traffic is horrendous you will spend a lot of time on buses traveling, even in the evenings. In St. Petersburg you cannot even walk to a metro station. In the ports along the river there is rarely time to go off on your own unless you skipped the guided tour. The exception was Mandrogi. Service in the dining room was very uneven and not friendly. The crew often acted liked the passengers were inconveniencing them. The cruise director was poor in that he did not have answers to many questions, and on several occasions he turned out to be wrong. I gave up asking him anything as his answer was usually "I don't know." Not "What is your cabin number and I'll check for you?" The A/V equipment on the ship rarely worked so the presentations were often done without a visual. They said (as they did about many things during the cruise.), that it was "the end of the season." The wine for lunch and dinner was okay, but it never changed for 12 days. We did a river cruise with a different cruise line in Holland and they changed the wines all the time. Viking has too many optional excursions. You spend a lot of time figuring out what you want to do. Viking should include more and charge more if necessary. There were numerous days when no excursions were included. Yes, we knew this going in, but didn't realize how difficult this would actually be. Again, comparing Viking's China trip, where the only optional were evening events. Also, there is no exercise room or walking track, so on the days along the river there is no place to walk on the ship. (I've noticed Viking did not put exercise rooms or bikes on any of there new "longships", which is a deal breaker for us in the future.) The remodeled cabins are still small and the walls paper thin. We were lucky because our neighbors were quiet, but our friends complained. We did hear the music every night from the lounge above our room, but it did not usually keep us awake. The ugly: When the Viking ships in Russia were renovated last year, they did not enlarge the lounge area (Sky Bar) and it could only hold about half of the passengers on board. Most of the talks and parties were there, but unless you came early there was no seating. Everyone on board complained about this. There was only one table for eight in the dining room, so one of our party had to be early to line up for dinner or we would not get it. If we did not get it, we had a waiter make a table for six into a table for eight. If Viking wants us to bring friends and/or a group they should have more larger tables. Also, we were told tables could not be reserved, which was an out right lie. One night my husband and I were the first ones in line. We went to a table we knew was "reserved" and sat down. We were immediately told to get up that someone was sitting there. We said we the first ones in the door! The server was embarrassed, but said we had to move. 30 minutes later the "usual group" came and claimed their "unreserved" table. It was apparent that you had to pay off the dining staff to get a specific table. It became very ugly at dinner. The singer on the ship was outright awful. Our group was thinking of paying her to not sing! In the end, we felt that while we throughly enjoyed Russia, we will look elsewhere for any further river cruising. The unprofessional staff on all levels, the layout of the ship, the lack of an exercise room and/or bikes, and numerous optional tours will not have us returning to Viking River Cruises or recommending it to friends. Read Less
1 Helpful Vote
Sail Date: September 2013
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 ... Read More
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.   Read Less
Sail Date: September 2013
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 ... Read More
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.   Read Less
33 Helpful Votes
Sail Date: August 2013
A few years after my wife and I had a very positive experience on a Uniworld River Cruise ' we did Amsterdam to Budapest on the Rhine and the Danube on the River Princess in 2008 ' we decided to try it again, this time on ... Read More
A few years after my wife and I had a very positive experience on a Uniworld River Cruise ' we did Amsterdam to Budapest on the Rhine and the Danube on the River Princess in 2008 ' we decided to try it again, this time on Russia's waterways linking Moscow to St. Petersburg. Uniworld has only one ship running this schedule ' the River Victoria ' and you can either choose to go from Moscow to St. Pete's or the reverse. In its brochure, Uniworld warns would be customers that since they don't own the ship and are not in total control of how some of the activities are conducted, travelers may find that the amenities 'may differ from those of a Uniworld company-owned ship'. Our experience from this cruise, however, is that in terms of comfort and services, the River Victoria meets and even surpasses the levels of comfort and quality of services on other cruise ships. For one, the River Victoria is considerably larger than most cruise ships on the Rhine and Danube ' there are no low bridges to deal with on the Russian waterways ' which provides more comfort and room to move around (for example, the tables in the dining room are not so tightly packed on the River Victoria); the ratio of staff to guests is almost double on the River Victoria compared to the other Uniworld cruise ships (110 staff to 202 guests on the River Victoria vs. 41 staff to 130 guests on the other ships). This, of course, reflects on the level of service provided. The staterooms are not larger on the River Victoria than on the other ships, but where there is a difference is that on the two upper decks, the Volga and the Neva, the staterooms come with oversized (about 12 x 8 ft) private balconies. These balconies were originally part of the public decks and were divided up into private balconies when the ship was remodeled in 2011. It is hard to imagine a cruise that would offer better food in terms of variety and taste than what was provided for us on the River Victoria ' we were even served caviar and Champagne for breakfast! It is true that many of the menu items are prepared with plenty of cream, which is great for the palate, but perhaps not so great for the rest of the body ' but it's only for two weeks! The quality of the service in the dining room is also worth noting. The staff is made up of young Russian college students who are mostly studying languages; they are well trained, always very polite and extremely keen to provide the best service possible. They seemed to work 24 hours a day but they were always smiling and very cordial. As for the cruise itself, spending three days visiting the two mega cities at each end, Moscow and St. Petersburg, certainly makes the entire trip worthwhile. However, guests should not expect the same spectacular scenery along the Imperial Waterways of Russia that one finds along the Rhine or the Danube. Northern Russia is flat and mostly undeveloped with a relatively low population density. The waterways run mostly through pristine forest with little sign of human activity. There are a few villages along the way but most are uninteresting and appear rather run down. There are a few exceptions, including the city of Yaroslavl on the Volga and Kizhi Island on Lake Onega. These are real gems; both places are important historical centers with spectacular architecture, including colourful onion-domed churches, and represent the two most interesting shore excursions along the waterways. The other three stops, Uglich, Kirillov and Mandrogi, are interesting but not nearly as attractive as the two mentioned above. Some visitors regard Mandrogi as a tourist trap due to the large number of souvenir shops, while others complain about the rainy weather that often prevails here as well as the abundance of mosquitoes. We were blessed with perfect weather on the day we went and not a single mosquito (this was in late August which may be the best time to go to avoid the bugs). I should add that the tour guides, all Russians, were very knowledgeable about the history and other facets of what they were guiding us through. All spoke English well and with the Quietvox Transmitter System provided, it was very easy to follow what was going on even at a distance. In addition to the numerous cruise ships that sail these waterways ' cruise ships that all look alike, at least on the outside ' you will see many other types of ships including tankers and bulk carriers. These waterways constitute a major commercial artery linking the Baltic and St. Petersburg with Moscow and all the cities and towns along the Volga as far south as the Caspian sea. So, if you enjoy watching large ocean-going ships up close, it may compensate for the lack of great scenery.   Read Less
1 Helpful Vote
Sail Date: July 2013
We just returned from a wonderful trip on the Helgi! We recommend starting in Moscow, because the days of touring seem to be longer and later in Moscow and could be tiring at the end of the cruise. Also, if you have any leeway, see if you ... Read More
We just returned from a wonderful trip on the Helgi! We recommend starting in Moscow, because the days of touring seem to be longer and later in Moscow and could be tiring at the end of the cruise. Also, if you have any leeway, see if you can select an itinerary that has you in Moscow and St. Petersburg over the weekend, when traffic delays are not as common or lengthy. Our AX cabin on the upper deck was very clean and comfortable. All cabins on the middle and upper decks now feature private balconies, with new chairs, a small table and plenty of room. The Panorama Bar was just down the hallway and was very convenient for a quiet, continental breakfast in the morning or a quick beverage when returning from a shore excursion. Wi-Fi connections were good throughout the ship, including our cabin and balcony. We found the food to be excellently prepared with a wide variety of selections throughout the cruise. Table wine and beer are available to everyone at lunch and dinner. Also, wines from a separate wine list are available for an additional cost. (Definitely consider the Silver Spirits package. For one set price, it provides soft drinks, juices, sparkling water, special coffees/teas, beer, wine, sparkling wine, cocktails etc. throughout the day, not just at lunch and dinner, including most selections from the optional wine list and drink menu. Remember, there is a lot of time spent on the ship when you are cruising between the two big cities. It's very pleasant to enjoy a beverage while listening to the Viking escorts present their very informative and entertaining briefings.) We thought the staff members were very friendly and helpful. We were routinely greeted in the hallways by everyone from the cabin stewards to the head chef. As another critic wrote, Viking is fortunate to have so many management and staff members who clearly enjoy their jobs. Unfortunately, the oft-mentioned Konstantin was not the Program Director on this cruise. Our PD seemed to be pretty new to the business and had little to offer that was not in the daily Viking News or on the prepared Power Point screens. We were very pleased that Viking now offers alternative tours to the standard motor coach tour of Moscow and St. Petersburg. These alternative tours involve significantly more walking and include most of the sights included in the standard tour. (For instance, the alternative tour in St. Petersburg does not include the Peter and Paul Fortress, which was a deal-breaker for some people.) These tours use the subways to get you into the city (potentially avoiding long traffic delays) and return you to the ship by motor coach. We really enjoyed these additional opportunities for exercise. (We're in the 55-60 age range and relatively active.) A note on two optional tours. We were able to book the tours to the Moscow Kremlin Armoury and the Peterhof in St. Petersburg directly with Viking when we made our original cruise booking. The Armoury is the only place on this trip that you will have the opportunity to see the famed Imperial Faberge Easter Eggs. Tickets are very limited for the Armoury and some people were disappointed that they were unable to acquire tickets when they attempted to sign-up on the ship. So, if you're interested, you should definitely try to book this tour ahead of departure. Concerning the Peterhof tour, although it is optional, I can't imagine missing it. The palace, gardens and fountains are just amazing. This was our second cruise with Viking—our first was the Imperial Jewels of China in 2011. In both cases, we were impressed with Viking's attention to detail and quality. Thank you for another trip of a lifetime! Read Less

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