Sail Date: October 2011
My husband and I are usually solo travelers, with a full agenda of art, antiquities and scenic wonders to see, and food to sample, taking photographs as opportunities present. Some places are not so easy for the solo traveler. For two of ... Read More
My husband and I are usually solo travelers, with a full agenda of art, antiquities and scenic wonders to see, and food to sample, taking photographs as opportunities present. Some places are not so easy for the solo traveler. For two of those, Russia and China (so far), we've had outstanding experiences on Viking. Our Waterways of the Czars cruise on the Viking Kirov (now renamed Truvor) was exceptional. The Kirov was very comfortable: not too big, recently updated, good wi-fi reception throughout, and ample seating inside and out; the food was very good with lots of choices; and service throughout was attentive. Ours was the last cruise of the season (October 9 to 22), which gave us stunning foliage, many glorious cool days interspersed with some rain and even some snow, which we could enjoy without the crush of other tourists. There are many treasures to see and much history and culture to absorb in Moscow and St. Petersburg, and at ports in between. Viking seems to attract informed and curious travelers, and it makes every effort to ensure that everyone can do and see as much and as thoroughly as they wish. The guides (there were 6 who accompanied the trip from beginning to end, each responsible for approximately 26 passengers), were well educated and informed, and were refreshingly candid in discussing Russia's recent past and present. The tour director and her staff were very helpful (and quite entertaining). It was a great trip! We look forward to seeing more of Russia on Viking. Read Less
Sail Date: September 2011
First time cruising with Viking Cruise Lines. The service was excellent. Food was great. Good variety. (Presentation was superb) Unlimited wine during dinner. Very efficient, cheerful and friendly dining room staff, specially the ... Read More
First time cruising with Viking Cruise Lines. The service was excellent. Food was great. Good variety. (Presentation was superb) Unlimited wine during dinner. Very efficient, cheerful and friendly dining room staff, specially the Filipino crew. Fluency in English and several languages was very impressive. Always helpful and accommodating. Overwhelming positive feedback from our new friends about the service. Viking Senior Staff provides very personal service. Always around when guests leave for day excursions and there again to welcome them back. Daily agenda provided and kept guests informed of what is expected for the day. All the Guides speak good English and very knowledgeable. Living quarters were adequate. Ship activities, e.g., Russian language classes, cooking class, and lectures on Russian history, were good. Filipino pianist and entertainer, Edgar, was very good. We would definitely travel with Viking Cruise Lines again. Read Less
Sail Date: July 2011
What a wonderful river cruise in Russia. We started in Moscow, where we lived on the boat for 3 days and did local tours, then cruised for 5 days, with stops each day, then spent 3 days in St. Petersburg with local tours. What a fabulous ... Read More
What a wonderful river cruise in Russia. We started in Moscow, where we lived on the boat for 3 days and did local tours, then cruised for 5 days, with stops each day, then spent 3 days in St. Petersburg with local tours. What a fabulous experience. Room was comfortable, windows open widely to take in fresh air, the beds were a bit hard, WiFi very basic but worked fine for email, TV with news stations in many languages and movies. The ship has two bars, a sun deck, seating on all deck levels outside and inside, a very nice restaurant, 24-hour coffee/tea/hot cocoa bar. But we were so busy, little of it mattered.The first day in Moscow we took a city tour where we were assigned our regular tour guide, and met a local Moscow guide. Wandered Red Square, rode the subway, and got oriented to the city. The boat is docked quite a ways out of town, and we spent a fair amount of time stuck in traffic. But never fear, Maria, our fearless leader, entertained us with Russian language lessons, poetry, history snippets, and always entertaining chatter. Subsequent days took us to the Kremlin (fabulous) and various optional tours. Most of the cruising stops were wonderful. We visited Uglich, a small town; Yaroslavl, a medium sized city; monastery at Kuzino; wonderful wooden historical structures at Kizhi; craftsmen at Mandrogy. It was a good variety of activities to break up the sailing days. And I can't say enough about St. Petersburg. Palaces, art, and canals - an unbeatable combination. Truly an embarrassment of riches. Very difficult to take it all in.Food was generally very good, soups were excellent. Fellow travelers were all delightful and very experienced travelers. Lots of wonderful long mealtime conversations. We spent much of our free time up on the sun deck or seated on the outer deck reading and watching the scenery. Sun didn't set until about 11 p.m., so we had lots of time to look!We had wonderful history lectures, and the guides were very honest and sometimes emotional about their lives in the transition to democracy. A very real, enriching, exhausting experience. We never thought we'd visit Russia. Thanks to Maria and all the Kirov staff for the best trip ever. Read Less
Sail Date: June 2011
We traveled on Viking's Waterways of the Czars river cruise on the Viking Kirov, starting in Moscow June 12th, 2011 and ending in St. Petersburg on June 24th. We have only done one other river cruise, which was on the Danube with ... Read More
We traveled on Viking's Waterways of the Czars river cruise on the Viking Kirov, starting in Moscow June 12th, 2011 and ending in St. Petersburg on June 24th. We have only done one other river cruise, which was on the Danube with another company a couple of years prior, but let me say that Viking really did an outstanding job on this cruise. The ship was first rate, the crew was extremely professional, the food was superb and the tours were well organized. The onboard activities, such as the history and language lectures, were excellent. That's not to say everything was perfect, but rarely is that the case when it comes to travel. Now, let's get into the details. We were not entirely satisfied with the Viking air travel department because they put us on a really tough and tiring itinerary to get over to Moscow, with crack-of-dawn departures, less direct routes and long layovers, which left us pretty wiped out by the time we got there. The lesson here is to stay on top of things and make sure you get the arrangements that work best for you. The pickup and transfer in Moscow was flawless, however, and we got settled on the ship in no time. Even though we arrived well after 9 p.m., the dining room stayed open so we could have dinner before unpacking and getting to bed. One of the drawbacks of the docking locations in both Moscow and St. Petersburg is that they are quite far from the city centers. This is not peculiar to Viking as all the river boats dock in the same area. However, this means most bus tours start and end with almost an hour in horrible traffic moving at a crawl. This also means you will see the outer regions of those cities and their enormous number of dilapidated Stalin-era buildings, thereby providing a very bad first impression. In my opinion, the river cruise lines should put their passengers up at city center hotels to avoid these issues. Having said that, I have to give our guides major kudos for utilizing the travel time to inform and entertain, so it's not just wasted time. I don't mean to harp this, but another drawback of not staying in a downtown hotel is the lack of time for just walking the streets and getting to know the city. We would've loved to have explored more of the area around Red Square. Likewise, in St. Petersburg, there was a great area downtown that offered a much in the way of exploration possibilities. It was ironic that, as much as the river cruise lines tout their ability to dock in the city centers of their various ports of call, in the case of St. Petersburg, it was some of the larger cruise ships that were berthed very close to the downtown area. Of course, those same large ships cannot go to Moscow, so that's the trade-off. Bottom line is that, if your focus is on Russia, then a river cruise is the way to go. This trip is not about seeing great cities, though there are flashes of greatness to be seen, it's really about discovering Russian history, meeting its people and knowing what today's Russia is like. You will learn that Russia is struggling mightily to move from the Soviet era to the modern era and it's going to take a long time. There is great architecture mixed in with some of the most depressing blocks of prefab housing you've ever seen. Keep all this in mind and you will be able to better accept what you are seeing. The Viking guides did an outstanding job of telling it like it is. The thing I liked about this itinerary is that, in between the hectic pace in both Moscow and St. Petersburg, the schedule is more leisurely on the river as you visit the small towns or just cruise the waterways. The scenery was just beautiful, better than I had anticipated. I should mention that, once you select a bus on the first day of tours, you will stay with that bus, and that tour guide, for the rest of your trip. On the Kirov, we had Misha as our guide and he was excellent. On one of the optional tours, where you don't necessarily use your original bus, we had Victoria as our guide and she was absolutely brilliant. Of the optional tours offered, in Moscow we did the Military Museum (good) and Moscow By Night (very good), in Uglich we did the Home Host Visit (very good), and in St. Petersburg we did the Peterhof Palace (excellent). One of the highlights of the trip was definitely Red Square and the Kremlin, part of the included tours in Moscow. Being a baby boomer and having grown up with so many references to that place, it was a thrill to see it in person. Regarding the onboard experience, we thought the Kirov was a much nicer ship in the way of stateroom decor, passenger space, dining room set-up, outdoor deck layout and lounge comfort than the smaller European river ship we were on. All of the ships used on the Russia river cruises are an East German design and many, but not all, of them have been fully gutted and remodeled like those in the Viking line. Just be mindful that all river cruise ships are NOT anything like the large mega-ships cruising the oceans of the world so don't expect fancy. In the mind of most passengers, the quality of the cruising experience is mostly defined by the quality of the food. Maybe the reason we were so impressed with the food on this cruise is because the food on our Danube cruise on another cruise line was so mediocre. However, our friends who traveled with us and who have never been on any river cruise, confirmed our assessment that the food on Viking Kirov was just superb. I will focus on dinner, as breakfast and lunch on most cruise lines is pretty straightforward (usually buffet style with the option of ordering off the menu - all very good). We have never had a selection of soups that was so consistently good, day after day after day. In talking with the restaurant manager, he said they take pride in making their soups from scratch and not re-hydrating powdered soups as some might do and that tells me something. Next, from the appetizer course to the main course to the desserts, the presentations were excellent. And not just at the Captain's Dinner as some cruises do, but every single day. Were there any dishes that just didn't measure up? Sure, but I would say we encountered about a 95% success rate. My understanding is that, after some complaints a while back, Viking now uses beef that exclusively comes from the U.S., and a good tender sirloin steak (as well as salmon and chicken) is always available at every dinner, no matter what else is on the main menu. Without going into too much more detail, let me just say that we were continually amazed at the quality of the presentation being put out by the kitchen for such a large group of passengers. The chef makes it a point to provide a variety of menu themes from various parts of the world, which really makes things interesting. There was never a repeated menu throughout the 13 days of our trip. The dining room staff was consistently good, with some wait staff even exceeding that standard with some of the most attentive table service I have seen. I have to acknowledge the restaurant manager, Gunther, as the driving force behind the dining room performance. Clearly, he has developed a team, one that has stayed on the Kirov for several seasons, that works so well together and respects his leadership. Gunther always had time to stop by your table to see if you needed anything or to explain what goes into various dishes. Now, having said all this, I am realistic to know that it's possible not every dining room in every Viking ship will have the same level of accomplishment. However, I have to believe the basic corporate philosophy that enabled the performance we enjoyed on Kirov would also be in evidence on all their ships. Ok, a just little bit more about our shore experiences. We are very comfortable using public transportation but the couple we were traveling with was a little more apprehensive so we didn't push it. The Moscow dock is at the very end of the Green Line, so it would be hard to get lost, especially if you know the Cyrillic alphabet. The schedule of tours we chose in Moscow, however, did not lend itself to a lot of free time and to using the Metro on our own. We did have a free afternoon but chose to relax back at the ship as we were all still pretty tired after our trip over. So, I used that time to take a nice walk around the park adjacent to the dock, see some of the other ships, have a closer look at the Stalin-era terminal building, etc. In St. Petersburg, you need to take a shuttle bus from the ship to the metro station and then the metro ride itself into the city center. That seemed too complicated to us so, on our free afternoon, we opted for the shuttle bus offered by Viking for $20, which was expensive but included a guide to help you navigate the downtown area if you needed it. I have no idea which method would be faster, the bus fighting the traffic or the metro with the required shuttle. Perhaps the best way to get into the city center is a new water taxi service. There is a pickup point right near where Viking docks and I believe the cost is reasonable. I know there's always the temptation to fill absolutely every minute of every day with some activity because you figure it's your one and only chance to see each destination. For us, however, there is some wisdom to not overdoing it to the point of getting exhausted. I don't much like the feeling at the end of a trip that I can't take anymore and just want to get back home. I think it's best to leave a little something in the tank to prime your next great adventure. One final note, when the Program Director tells you they are taking you to the airport 3 hours early for your flight back home, don't question it. The process through the airport is excruciatingly slow. In summary, the Waterways of the Czars is a great cruise and Viking does an excellent job of taking you there. Read Less
Sail Date: June 2011
If you enjoy touring but not packing and unpacking then this is the trip for you. Once you have checked in on the boat all your practical needs are taken care off and you can relax and just enjoy the holiday. We were on Viking Kirov, a ... Read More
If you enjoy touring but not packing and unpacking then this is the trip for you. Once you have checked in on the boat all your practical needs are taken care off and you can relax and just enjoy the holiday. We were on Viking Kirov, a modern, clean, well appointed and very well run ship. Organisation is first rate and the food is very good and plentiful. The tours, included and optional, gave a good introduction to the sights of St.Petersburg and Moscow, including poor driving habits (not the coach drivers!) and mammoth traffic jams, and the stops during the cruise provided enjoyable, interesting and occasionally quirky contrasts. The history lectures given by the guides during the cruise were very good and together with the almost impossible language lessons considerably enhanced the Russian experience. The audio system used by the guides was a constant problem. The ear-buds supplied were not as easy to use as the Quietvox earpiece on our Seine cruise in June, and the guides microphones were highly directional and some of the local guides did not understand that if they turned their heads to point out something to either side then the microphone was no longer in front of their mouth and their words were inaudible to many. Other criticisms are minor and refer to the boat. We would have liked an organised option to the 4 course lunch, it was just too much with a 4 course dinner every evening. We did, in fact, emulate the example of another couple and simply make up plates from the buffet starters and take them to the Panorama bar and have them there. As a beer drinker I would have liked a draft beer available rather than just two types of bottled beers. Finally the layout of the lounges and dining room was not as good as our Seine Cruise on the Viking Spirit. The Panorama Bar was very nice, but quite small, while the Sky Bar, which was used for all the lectures was large but had no forward view and this, for me, limited its appeal. The dining room, which was used for all meals, was effectively split in two by the central kitchen and services station and this detracted from the atmosphere and versatility of the space. Do not, however, let these minor criticisms put you off a terrific cruise full of memorable experiences. Viking are a very professional company and the fact that this was our second cruise says it all. Read Less
Sail Date: May 2011
We have traveled extensively, but have only started our cruising career. We have had two extensive cruises, one for 26 days, and the other for 30 days. Cruising is our preferred method of travel in the future. Having visited Europe ... Read More
We have traveled extensively, but have only started our cruising career. We have had two extensive cruises, one for 26 days, and the other for 30 days. Cruising is our preferred method of travel in the future. Having visited Europe more than 30 times, I am familiar with Europe and love it dearly. My desire to visit Russia was based on my study of history (I am a retired University VP, amongst other executive career positions in government and industry). My expectations of Russia were mixed, with an expectation of many Stalinist buildings and drab city facilities. My experience was exactly the opposite and the cruise exceeded every expectation. Russia is fantastic. St. Petersburg was a surprise and a delight. The visits to Peterhof, Catherine's Palace, the Hermitage, the Swan Lake Ballet, and the city in general were breathtaking. The quality of life was much better than expected and the Russian people were polite and helpful. Our cruise to Russia and the stops along the way have become life-time memories. Moscow was everything you could hope for and much more. The tours to the Kremlin, Red Square, the Metro, and the folk concert were simply beyond description. Our experience on board the Kirov, our cruise ship was exceptional in every respect. The food was 10 star, the staff were exceptional, the tour guides were first class, and the entire experience was amazing. We have made a movie of our cruise and have now convinced several other couples to go to Russian on Viking River Cruises. My sincere thanks to everyone associated with Viking River Cruises. I could write a book on this trip. Thanks again. Read Less
Sail Date: July 2010
Our cabin was a good size and the bed was comfortable; linked twins, with 2 duvets. The shower room was small, but reasonable and there were good sized fluffy towels and also face towels. Storage space in the cabin was adequate, with ... Read More
Our cabin was a good size and the bed was comfortable; linked twins, with 2 duvets. The shower room was small, but reasonable and there were good sized fluffy towels and also face towels. Storage space in the cabin was adequate, with sufficient hangers. A large bottle of water was provided every day. We had a 'fridge and a safe. We were glad to have a cabin in the bows of the ship as it was further away from the engine. The curtains were heavy and kept out the light. There was air conditioning, but it found it difficult to cope in the heatwave. The laundry service was very expensive. The lunches and dinners were excellent and consisted of several courses. Breakfasts were good but we would have liked more low cal. choices. The Philippino waiting staff were friendly, spoke good English and could not have been more helpful. There was 'free seating' in the restaurant. House wine was included, but was not very good. We opted for the drinks package; money paid up front to include cocktails, a choice of good wines, spirits and juices, water and soft drinks. Excursions were well organised and our guide, who spoke excellent English, was very good. Earphones were provided. these enabled us to hear everything said by the guide. The more popular sights were very crowded and very hot in the heatwave.Smaller events were unexpectedly fun, like Russian doll painting classes and a cookery lesson. On-board lectures were excellent. The staff were friendly and helpful at all times. The port of Moscow where we docked was rather a surprise at first, located by a semi-derelict building which sometimes had music blaring from it. However a park was behind this and there was easy access to the Metro for the brave! The Metro is worth seeing, as it contains a variety of art and some wonderful sculpture. Red Square and the Kremlin are sights not to be missed. The Kremlin is best visited with a group, otherwise the queues to get in can be horrendous. Lenin's tomb can be visited at times and it is free. It felt rather spooky. One is forbidden to show any sign of amusement and we were told to take passports, as an involuntary giggle can result in police questioning. The big department store, GUM, was a disappointment to most people, except possibly the very rich. It was not like stores in the West. However the building was worth seeing. There was an underground shopping mall opposite which was more user friendly and air conditioned. We went to an evening performance of folk music, showcasing Russian instruments and everyone loved it. Read Less
Sail Date: July 2010
Being children of the cold war, we had mixed feelings about visiting Russia. Needless to say, our concerns were unfounded. Not only did we have a great time on the Viking Kirov, but we updated our image of Russia and the Russian people. ... Read More
Being children of the cold war, we had mixed feelings about visiting Russia. Needless to say, our concerns were unfounded. Not only did we have a great time on the Viking Kirov, but we updated our image of Russia and the Russian people. Plus, we met may wonderful people on the cruise some of whom we'll add to our friends list. As for the ship and the crew, they were very professional and accommodating. The food and service were excellent with plenty of variety including local dishes. The guides were exceptional, all native Russians, mostly from St. Petersburg. Their English was excellent and, along with local guides, they provided us with reams of information about Russian history up to the current day. They were open about their recent history and the transition from Soviet to modern day Russia. After may years of propaganda on both sides of the Iron Curtain, it was refreshing to experience the openness. We were impressed with how clean and friendly both Moscow and St. Petersburg were. You've read about the heat and the smog. That was a challenge but we worked around it, thanks to an air conditioned boat and tour buses. This is an education trip, not one that you kick back and snooze ... although you can to that, but you would miss the best parts. When the trip is over, you brain is full and needs a rest. At least mine does. Not everything was perfect. Viking advertises WiFi. It worked sporadically and when it did, the bandwidth was very narrow. I took my new iPad which does not have an Ethernet connection, which was a problem so I had less access than those with net books or laptops. I wish Viking was fix the connectivity or set expectations better. Several people complained of feeling ill. Nothing serious but certainly took the fun out of the trip. We're not sure if someone brought a virus on board or maybe the ships water wasn't purified enough. Although hand cleansing stations were available, Viking was not as diligent as other lines in encouraging their use. I don't know if that would have helped. All in all, the experience was well worth the money. It gets four thumbs up from us. Read Less
Sail Date: June 2010
This was our first big river cruise and we are so happy that we chose Viking. Our cabin was small, but adequate. We had a wonderful view of the river (unless we were tied up next to another ship in port). I brought my computer and internet ... Read More
This was our first big river cruise and we are so happy that we chose Viking. Our cabin was small, but adequate. We had a wonderful view of the river (unless we were tied up next to another ship in port). I brought my computer and internet access, though spotty, was adequate. Meals were fabulous. Each one was a winner, some better than others. The restaurant staff, all Filippino, were excellent. We loved Mary Jane, our waitress. The ship staff was pleasant, though not all spoke English and sometimes I met a blank stare when I attempted to get information at the front desk, but someone else was along soon enough to answer my question. There were varying degrees of competence among the tour guides. Some were excellent performers, others were not, though they had great command of the information. (Sadly, we did not have one of the better performers). There were several activities, including lectures, Russian lessons, a Gershwin concert, a talent show, a couple of special dinners, lessons on buying gifts, and of course the vodka tasting. Special notice must be given to Victoria's lecture on Gorbachev...best lecture of the whole trip. Material I read before the cruise said there were spa and massage (and hairdressing) facilities on board. We never saw sign of those, but the ship had been recently renovated and perhaps those were eliminated with the remodeling. Most of the optional excursions were well worth the money, though Moscow by night was less spectacular than I expected. I loved the opportunity for all the musical performances. This was our first trip with Viking and from reports I have read, people are not all satisfied with it. If this is one of their "less satisfying" cruises, I look forward to one that gets high marks from everyone, because I certainly give this one high marks. Read Less
Sail Date: July 2004
I was one of 50 mostly "seasoned" travelers who signed up with Smithsonian Journeys for a trip from Moscow to Saint Petersburg on the Sergei Kirov (named for a well-liked Communist Party leader) that is now run by Viking River ... Read More
I was one of 50 mostly "seasoned" travelers who signed up with Smithsonian Journeys for a trip from Moscow to Saint Petersburg on the Sergei Kirov (named for a well-liked Communist Party leader) that is now run by Viking River Cruises under a joint venture between a Russian and a Swiss firm. Its sister ship, the Viking Pakhomov, was recently rated by Richard Loehn, who pretty well covered the itinerary, so I will focus more on the voyage itself. The ship, like so many of those now plying the same route (Moscow Canal, Volga River, Lake Rybinsk, Lake Onega, Svir River, Lake Ladoga, and Neva River), was designed and built in East Germany in the late 1980s. It has been refurbished a few times since, and both it and the Pakhomov are marketed solely to the English-speaking market. (The other 150 passengers on our ship were either Brits, or Americans who'd booked their trip directly with the line). All personnel who had contact with passengers spoke at least enough English to handle their jobs. The cruise manager, Michael Bordokoff, is an American of Russian descent, with an ideal personality for that function. The waitresses and female bartenders looked really young, with flawless complexions and most of them with natural blond hair. The ship has three passenger decks, a library, two dining rooms (open seating but you are assigned to either one or the other, and there's just one sitting, with the exact timing adapted to the tour schedule), two bars, a sun deck, and a few other deck areas for sitting or fitness walking. There are NO elevators, which means that people who have trouble climbing stairs should probably not take this trip - also the means of exiting the ship can pose minor hazards - Smithsonian made sure to warn us of all this in advance. The gift shop is barely worth mentioning. There is NO source of between-meal snacks and NO availability at all of news bulletins or even weather forecasts. The satellite phone for outbound calls didn't work. One is truly incommunicado. Most of the cabins are 90 sq. ft., with narrow twin beds covered with a blanket in a spotless white duvet. Many in our group regarded these accommodations as very small - some had tried to obtain larger ones but there are relatively few of them. All cabins are outside, have plenty of storage space, and a small refrigerator. Cabins are immaculately clean, used towels replaced twice daily, and the temperature is individually controlled (the a/c can be deafening, though). The shower system is unique, clever and a source of jokes, and hard for people accustomed to paying for more luxurious quarters to adapt to. It's important to remember that this is a river cruise through a part of the world that has only recently opened up to tourists, and one should not expect a traditional "cruise ship." And, by the way, we almost never felt the motion of the boat. The ship has a draft of only 10 feet, and the waterways were not deep. We truly "glided!" The food was excellent. The executive chef is Swiss, as is the hotel manager. Early continental breakfast in the forward bar, slightly later full breakfast buffet and to-order fare in the dining rooms. Four-course lunches and dinners (salad or salad buffet, soup, entree, dessert). Always two choices of entree and dessert. Portions modest but satisfying, and everything very artistically arranged on the plates. I suppose the only criticism might be that there isn't enough "typically Russian" food. Most passengers get all their meals on board or in a snack box taken on the tours, so there's not much chance to eat a meal in a Russian venue. All passengers go out on shore excursions on buses with good guides provided by the line - often substituted at intervals by guides that must by law be hired locally or at specific sites. The Smithsonian Journeys group had a slightly different itinerary that included three lunches in typical Russian restaurants that cater to tour groups. There is also an on-board lecturer (Russian woman) who was very well liked by all the passengers - a dynamic speaker, covering both history and current Russian politics. Group lessons in Russian were also given. There are a few days "sailing" when no land tours are taken, so these events are welcome. There's some interest in watching the ship go through many locks. In the evenings (except in St. Petersburg when there were tours to ballet, a canal cruise and a folklore show) a combo or pianist played in the bar, or there was a "crew show" and a "passenger talent show" plus a good folklore show. We also had - at extra cost, a caviar tasting and a vodka tasting, on separate nights. The vodka tasting especially was a lot of fun, as a lot of Russian jokes were told (in English). On caviar night - actually held before dinner - we learned a lot about the various types and why they're so expensive. Daily handouts gave full information about the stops we'd make, a detailed schedule for every day. It seemed to me that there should have been more announcements about places of interest that the ship was passing - I can recall only two or three landmarks that were pointed out. We did not see much wildlife at all, and of course we were traveling in some very lightly populated areas so the scenery did not vary much. We stopped at Uglich (home of the famous watch factory - sold for $20 each), Yaroslavl and Kostroma, and Kizhi. The first three are thriving towns/cities in which I'd liked to have lingered a bit to observe the locals after the obligatory visits to churches and monasteries. Kizhi is more of a "museum" and not inhabited except during the tourist season. This was a great way to see some of Russia - I'd recommend a post-cruise or pre-cruise day or two in either Moscow or Saint Petersburg if you really want to see either place more thoroughly. The cruise that starts in Moscow really gives it short shrift, focusing more on three days in Saint Petersburg. The cruise that starts in Saint Petersburg gives two days there and, I heard, a bit more time in Moscow. Always work with a travel agent because of the need to obtain visas that specify EXACTLY the days you will arrive in Russia and leave Russia - also you may have to obtain an "invitation" from a hotel that you plan to stay in before or after your cruise. The "invitation" from the cruise line won't cover those days. Reports I heard indicate this takes some time and effort. Shopping: People seemed to be particularly interested in amber jewelry. There certainly were a lot of beautiful items at varying prices. I bought mainly nesting dolls and Christmas ornaments, plus two watches. Russians haven't yet caught on to Americans' interest in t-shirts and coffee mugs. I also bought the tourist books, beautifully illustrated w/photos of buildings and interiors that one could never take on one's own. Dress: Smithsonian guests, female, were advised to take a skirt and also a head covering in order to visit certain of the churches. The skirts are not really necessary, we found. Pants are OK, as Russians have become resigned to the outfits favored by tourists. The main prohibition is against shorts and short dresses/skirts. Head coverings are needed from time to time. Photography: A modest fee - no more than US$3 and usually less - may be charged for use of your camera in certain churches or museums - your guide will tell you. Make your decision when you enter because it's hard to go back and find the permit-seller after your group has passed through the ticket takers. A higher fee may be charged for videotaping. Just remember these churches need to spend a lot on reconstruction and preservation and the extra money presumably will help. Read Less
Viking Truvor Ratings
Category Editor Member
Cabins 4.0 4.5
Dining 4.0 4.5
Entertainment 4.0 3.7
Public Rooms 3.0 4.4
Fitness Recreation 1.0 2.8
Family 1.0 2.8
Shore Excursion 5.0 4.6
Enrichment 4.0 4.5
Service 4.0 4.7
Value For Money 5.0 4.2
Rates 3.0 3.8

Find a Viking Truvor Cruise

Easily compare prices from multiple sites with one click
Compare and book excursions for your next cruise