3 Helpful Votes
Sail Date: September 2018
We chose this cruise for the two end destinations - St. Petersburg which we had seen briefly in the past, and Moscow which we had no special knowledge about. The ports in between were not "must see" destinations but were very ... Read More
We chose this cruise for the two end destinations - St. Petersburg which we had seen briefly in the past, and Moscow which we had no special knowledge about. The ports in between were not "must see" destinations but were very pleasant places to spend a short amount of time. There is very little jaw-dropping scenery as there are in fjords, but the birch forests are calming and beautiful. The Viking ship was quite nice, with good room amenities, and staterooms seemed slightly larger than comparable ocean cruise staterooms. The food was good, but not varied, due to the small size of the ship and kitchen. The local specialties were well done and tempered to western expectations. The ship had a stellar housekeeping crew, both charming and efficient. The land tours, most which were part of the basic cost, were excellent, and the tour guides were also responsible for the learning and orientation sessions on the ship, which gave good continurity throughout the cruise. Read Less
24 Helpful Votes
Sail Date: May 2018
My husband and I are in our mid-fifties and wanted to see a lot of Russia but not be packing and unpacking so we thought a river cruise would be ideal. I went on a Viking cruise a few years ago with my Mom and told my husband that it would ... Read More
My husband and I are in our mid-fifties and wanted to see a lot of Russia but not be packing and unpacking so we thought a river cruise would be ideal. I went on a Viking cruise a few years ago with my Mom and told my husband that it would be a good choice. I booked directly with Viking - not my best move. Once I got on the boat I found that those who booked with a travel agent got some great pointers about rooms (for example if there was a post in the middle or not - we got a post). Even though we were one of the first bookings -- the Viking representative recommended the room - which turned out to be right behind the reception desk and across from the computers - perhaps not the best room as he had promised but on the other hand - although it was the lowest category room - it was very comfortable. The washroom was soundproof and cozy and the room had a very large window that opened which was very pleasant. You could however, hear the goings on in the cabin next door and the one above. We spent so little time in the room that it really was not an issue. The food on the cruise was up to Viking standards and was excellent. We quickly learned to get a seat on one side of the boat in the dining lounge. On the side we declined was a very loud server who huffed about in a show of great speed and importance but it was a show. He had very docile women working with him who consistently got the orders wrong, would not give you a menu in the morning, would not offer juice just coffee and would leave you sitting. We changed over to Bim's side and it was a whole new experience. Prompt, efficient, friendly service. Artemis and Yaroslav were especially dedicated. We attended all but the Russian language lectures (we missed the first one as we were too busy talking on the sundeck - so to go to the rest seemed useless). The lectures were great with a lot of insight. We also learned about making pelmani (or something like that) and it was interesting. We attended the wine tasting and the vodka tasting which were at an extra cost. They were will worth it! We had a riot and really loved the group of British ladies we joined. All of the drinks were paired with food. Damien was very good at the wine tasting (who knew Russia had some very good wines) and Julia and Damien were amazing at the vodka tasting - teaching us the proper Russian way to drink. I was somewhat saddened by the excursions in that they were not all included as was the case when I went on the Danube cruise. I particularly dislike big cruise lines and their propensity to nickel and dime their customers to death and found the extra charges for various excursions to be a sign of Viking going in that direction which is too bad. Overall the excursions though were excellent but Viking needs to take into consideration their passengers level of fitness. They appeared to do this on the Danube cruise but it was not done on the Russia cruise. Multiple times my husband and I were in groups wherein one or more people had a very hard time keeping up. Three times my husband and I either stayed back trying to help an individual catch up or help them carry things (portable chair etc) and missed part of the tours. I understand that the tour guide wants to go fast but to leave behind people is not really acceptable. Only a couple excursions had a gentle group. A few of the people we helped had stated that if they knew there were cobblestones they would have avoided the tour - maybe this should be added to the descriptors. Below I will describe the excursions: Moscow - the traffic, as is stated in multiple posts, is a disaster. Get ready to spend a lot of time trapped on a bus although Viking does use government buses which get a special lane - so they have tried to alleviate it but if your fitness level allows it - try to do the walking tours. Perhaps Viking can make smaller groups and utilize the amazing metro system to move people in and out of Red Square on the other tours. We went on the walking tour of Moscow- it was amazing - the metro is not to be missed - GUM is amazing as is Red Square. it is a great tour. One late afternoon, early evening Viking took us to a surprise folk show - we so enjoyed it- way to go Viking. We also did the Moscow by Night shore excursion (extra cost) - it was breath taking and very good. You do visit Red Square (yes once again) so there is some walking and with a tight time line - this is one where we had to help someone who was having a very hard time keeping up - I would highly recommend it. We also did Sergiev Posad (Monestary) at an extra cost - although relatively close to Moscow we had to go by bus - it took over 3 hours to get there (should have taken about 40 minutes). It was so crowded it was insane and we hardly had any time there - it was pouring rain so everyone was crowding into the buildings - it may have been better if it was a sunny day as more people may have been outside. Our tour guide had to go to battle for us when some other tour groups tried to squish in front of us. it was quite the showdown. We then went to eat from the same kitchen as the Monks. It was fish soup followed by fish stew (we all swore that they just poured out some of the broth and gave us a new bowl - it was pretty funny). We then went to a lookout and had some free time to explore. It was fun - don't buy souvenirs in the tunnel - they just buy them from the souvenir shops above - you will get better prices above. I would re-think this excursion. Word to the wise - use the bathrooms near the restaurant as the ones just outside the gates of the Monestary are squat toilets (I lost my earpiece in the hole!). I really wanted to see the Armoury but it was an additional cost at the same time as an included shore excursion. I wish this outing was available on our free day wherein I did Sergiev Posad. Uglich - Loved it - the home hosted visit was a big hit with us - we thought it was great. Purchased a hand painted box from the Church - it is so beautiful and a beautiful wool and silk shawl for my daughter. Yaroslav - take the walking tour if you are up to it. It is a beautiful walk and it is so pretty. You will not see the inside of the governor's house but you do visit the grounds and it didn't look like you were missing much but not visiting the interior. There is free time at the food market. There is an ATM close by that is in English. At the food market is Red October chocolate that we purchased to take home - good prices. Kirillo Monastery - This was interesting but was too taxing for some people it was one where my husband stayed back with someone while I continued with the tour and then I had to run back and find them and get them to rejoin - the ship's tour guide came upon me waiting for my husband and waited with me. Beautiful icons are for sale in the Monestary itself at this location. There are some cute handmade crafts outside the Monestary where the buses are - many people purchased items from here. Kizhi Island - I was really looking forward to this one and it was interesting but it was really rushed - a couple more hours on the island would have been really appreciated. Some of the people from the boat purchased furs from this location - I think I would be axe murdered if I wore one in Toronto! Mandrology - the boat docks right at this place and you can go out into the area - its like our pioneer villages but more liberty taken on the history aspect - artisans all over doing their crafts in beautiful re-created buildings. Its actually a big resort. Although we did not go to the vodka museum (it was extra) we heard that it was fun. We did however buy some of the glass from the glassblower and some christmas decorations from the birch bark maker. This stop was a lot of fun but I could see it becoming really busy in the summer months. St. Petersburg The Hermitage - absolutely beautiful with an amazing collection of art. It was here that I purchased an amber necklace (with certificates for the amber and the designer - one of the individuals who worked on the amber room). It was really, really busy with crazy crowds. My husband and I opted not to go back to the boat for dinner but to stay and then meet the group at the ballet. We had such a good time. Julia (an amazing program director) showed us a restaurant on the map Katyuska (or something like that) - the food was out of this world. We then decided to walk to the Summer gardens and they were having a classical car show (for Russian cars) - it was great and then we found the classical bus show! it was too funny. We meet everyone at the Pushkin Theatre for the ballet and went home with them. The Ballet was good - although not being a real fan of the ballet I am sure I missed some of the story! Petersburg up close - wow talk about walk! My husband and I loved it but we are walkers. By the end of the 7 miles - yes 7 miles - some people were done. Although it was long it was really really good and gave a good overview of St. Petersburg. Catherine Palace - take your breath away - amazing. Peterhof Palace & Park - Extra cost - this was one of two peterhof exercusions - the other one was behind the scenes and was significantly more expensive - this one was excellent and fully informative - I am really happy I chose this one as it gave me time to do St. Petersburg by Water. St. Peterburg by the Water - Extra cost - I read about this one and someone said don't do it but it was after I booked. I did not have their experience. It was a great tour but the tour guide did mention that it was dependent on the river levels - so maybe the other person had bad levels. Anyway it was really good and my husband and I really enjoyed ourselves. Most of our excursions were done by our shipboard tour guides and we mainly had Misha -- who was very professional and very nice. We did have a retired Viking tour person in St. Petersburg who was excellent although there were some very rude Viking customers who were fairly insulting to her. It was shameful and I was ashamed of their behaviour but it was the end of the cruise and I think some people just wanted to go home. All and all I would recommend Viking - Waterways of the Tsars but I am unsure if I will continue with Viking or try to find a river cruise company more for people our age. Read Less
4 Helpful Votes
Sail Date: September 2017
Rural look at Russian interior. Paid for transfer package - Our flight was late so we were left our own to get to the ship from St Petersburg. We gave advance notice of the delay. Some of the bus versus walking excursions were more ... Read More
Rural look at Russian interior. Paid for transfer package - Our flight was late so we were left our own to get to the ship from St Petersburg. We gave advance notice of the delay. Some of the bus versus walking excursions were more walking than desired or anticipated. Talks on board should be recorded and streamed so passengers can watch in their cabin at a better time. Sometimes there were not enough seats. Sophia, our stewardess, was particularly good. We have traveled with Viking 5 times and she is the best so far. The Truvor is tasteful considering its age but the public seating area is not at all cozy. All the couch/seating areas feel like you are sitting in the hallway. On the whole, the trip was very good and all bu one of the local guides were excellent. Read Less
55 Helpful Votes
Sail Date: June 2017
Truvor Waterway of the Czars-Fantastic cruise, boat and staff. Several tips and tricks you need to know before booking and while on board. These were learned from experience! Given a choice, Moscow to St. Petersburg direction is ... Read More
Truvor Waterway of the Czars-Fantastic cruise, boat and staff. Several tips and tricks you need to know before booking and while on board. These were learned from experience! Given a choice, Moscow to St. Petersburg direction is better. • Reservations and getting ready 1. Often they offer two for one sales on these cruises in January of each year and they include airfare on some packages. We had Delta over and Lufthansa back. 2. You have to have a visa for Russia and to get one you need a letter of invitation from the tour operator (Viking). The Viking literature says that once you have filled out the paperwork they will furnish you with the letter of invitation to fit your schedule (a necessity since you have to send your passports and the letter into the agency you have chosen to apply for your visa and your passports are unavailable for international travel while they are in the hands of the visa agency). In my experience, they would not deviate from their schedule to fit mine. I had 4 international trips scheduled and only a small window to give them my passports. The invitation letter division of Viking would not send me the letter prior to their 90 day schedule. Luckily I found that the Caring-Hands-services (caring-hands-services.com) could get the visa done with short turnaround and no additional charge. I would highly recommend them. Faster turnaround is available for extra but not needed as their standard service is fast and excellent. Beware, when you get your visa back, check it carefully for accuracy. One lady had two numbers transposed on the visa and it took her hours at the airport to get it corrected. 3. The package we purchased included airfare and airport transfers. Unfortunately, Viking did not notify me of the reserved air tickets until it was too late for me to upgrade. Since Viking gets low fares as a tour operator or consolidator, the fares they supply are the lowest and cannot be upgraded once they are issued, therefore it is important to address upgrading your tickets as soon as you can. The buses and people used for transport are great and efficient. Best way to go if you can. 4. Once you have booked, Viking will send you a marketing pep talk email every day telling you all sorts of information about the trip. Unfortunately, the essential stuff is included in these pep talks and if you opt out of them you could miss information or deadlines. 5. Note that your passport has to be valid long past the end of your trip and have two blank pages for the visa. 6. Once you obtain your ticket data you need to contact the airlines to reserve a seat. 7. There are several River Cruise schedules to choose from and the one starting in Moscow and ending in St. Petersburg gives you time to recover from jet lag in Moscow (where there are fewer treasurers to explore) and more time at the end of the trip in beautiful St. Petersburg where you need it. The Truvor was the ship we were on and I believe it is the best choice (based only on conversations with other passengers). Viking runs 5 ships on this route (perhaps more) and each sailing has different options. • On Board: 1. The food is excellent! Breakfast and lunch both have buffets and a fixed choice menu is also available. Chefs on the buffet prepared dishes to order. Breakfast is probably the best meal (which we routinely slept through), offering standard fare too plentiful to list here. Lunch was varied and similar to breakfast choices but often with themes such as Russian fare, etc. Dinner was from a menu that changed daily and you could substitute if the offering didn’t conform to your taste exactly. Several items were always available such as filet with mashed potatoes, salmon, etc. Be prepared to put a new hole in your belt when you return! 2. While there are coffee machines available full time, there is little provision for taking coffee and cookies to your cabin in the morning (obviously I missed breakfast!). I learned to hide a dinner plate in the room refrigerator and use it as a tray to carry several cups of coffee and goodies back to the cabin. 3. The staff is unbelievable in their desire to help and fulfill your every need. Don’t even think hard about something you want while on board, because if you do, one of the crew will get it for you! The crew is attractive, well dressed, motivated, competent, extremely well trained, honest, and just plain nice. American HR could take a lesson from Viking. 4. Our cabin was located near the stern of the ship and, as such, we could feel the vibrations caused by the shafts when operated at high speed (12-15 MPH for Truvor). From my experience, this is usually caused by one of the shafts being bent or out of balance, and/or improper synchronization of the engines. Since the vibration came and went with a cycle of about 5-7 seconds, I believe is it more of a synchronization problem they could correct without great effort. When the vibration was present, it would rattle the mirrors, doors and ceiling panels. I overheard an interview with one of the ship’s officers and when asked about the problem he was unaware of the vibration. 5. The staterooms are laid out very well and are roomy. Soundproofing between cabins is almost non-existent and if you have noisy neighbors you get to know their business in great detail. Soundproofing in the bathroom is almost complete (so why couldn’t they have done the same with the cabin?). Be sure to let them know the desired bed configuration before the trip (the beds are very comfortable). 6. If you need Rubles once you are there for souvenirs or tips, a debit card used at a bank ATM will give you a good rate of exchange and the fees are often reimbursed by the larger banks if your account warrants it. 7. Charges on the ship can be paid in Rubles or Dollars. If you pay with a credit card they first convert the dollar cost to Rubles (at a rate advantage), then make the charge to your card in Rubles which your card company then converts back to Dollars (at their rate advantage) plus charges a foreign transaction fee for most cards. We purchased the Silver Spirit Beverage plan (highly recommended if you plan to drink even moderately) and it was $550 for two. I calculated a savings of almost $100 by paying in cash dollars rather than putting it on my American Express. Bring some cash to settle on board charges. 8. A number of people appeared surprised and irritated when they got their final bill from the ship as they hadn’t understood that the ship supplies beverages only at mealtime (except for coffee or tea). They found that they were paying for cola, drinks, and house wine when ordered outside of dining hours. Again, the Silver Spirit package covers all beverages, all of the time with the exception of vintage wines. This means you can drink single malt scotch, Limoncello, or rotgut of your choice all day without incurring additional charges. On the other hand, a Coke in the afternoon costs dearly if you are not on the plan. 9. The internet access is terrible but I hear this is universal with all of the ships on river cruises in Russia. I had an access point with me (T-Mobile) and often had good service with that when the ship’s system was down. • Tours and shore: 1. Being in crowds is not my forte, and thus, going on the shore excursions in a group was painful, especially when they moved like a sloth. The guides are good but in my personal opinion they continue to patter on even when stuck in traffic or waiting for the next phase of the tour. A little silence would be golden. 2. The Hermitage was far too crowded to appreciate the offerings. The Catherine Palace was fantastic. Not too crowded and well maintained. Get Helen as a guide if possible (based in St. Petersburg). She speaks English without a heavy accent, is funny, knowledgeable, and irreverent. Read Less
6 Helpful Votes
Sail Date: September 2016
We took this cruise to see places we never thought we would see. The excursions were very good, but the excursion to the northern island, while interesting, was a long way there and back. My major complaint was the lack of shipboard ... Read More
We took this cruise to see places we never thought we would see. The excursions were very good, but the excursion to the northern island, while interesting, was a long way there and back. My major complaint was the lack of shipboard entertainment. The piano player and singer were okay. The trivia contests were okay. All together, there was very little evening entertainment. The daytime education sessions on Russian history periods were okay, but were the only entertainment outside of the excursions. There should be a fitness room. While the age of the passengers seemed to be older than my wife and I, I think a lot of people would have used a fitness center to some extent if available. The number of TV channels needs to be expanded. The choice of movies definitely needs to be expanded. The food and food service were excellent, although Western name brands of sugar and artificial sweeteners should be available. The cabin service was fine. I think the excursion to the ballet should have been optional. Our primary tour guide was excellent; because he spent 10 years in the USA, he spoke with very little accent, understood USA customs and expressions, and was very entertaining. Read Less
48 Helpful Votes
Sail Date: September 2016
I took this cruise with my sister and six other family members including my 80 and 82 year old parents. We flew KLM to St. Petersburg Russia. The flight was excellent, we were in the lap of luxury being fed every two hours and enjoying ... Read More
I took this cruise with my sister and six other family members including my 80 and 82 year old parents. We flew KLM to St. Petersburg Russia. The flight was excellent, we were in the lap of luxury being fed every two hours and enjoying our own personal entertainment systems with free headphones. The plane was not full and there was room to stretch out and lay down on vacant rows. On arrival, we were met by the red jacketed Viking tour guides who quickly organized our luggage and escorted us onto nice buses for the ride to our ship. Embarkation went smoothly and we were escorted to our cabin by a cheerful Russian girl. All tips were handled at the end of the cruise so we were spared the hassle of tipping on board. Cabins Our cabin was very nice with adequate room for our belongings. We were situated on the lowest deck right outside the library. The ship is much smaller than a normal cruise ship. It is long and narrow and easy to remember where everything is on board. Our room had two twin beds, a desk with drawers and cupboard, bathroom and a tall closet to hang clothes in. Suitcases were stored under each bed. Storage was not a problem as the room had plenty of cupboards to put our belongings away. We decided to store our dirty laundry in our empty suitcases under our beds and that worked out well. There were not enough outlets for all the things I wanted to plug in and I was glad I brought a small outlet adapter to expand the number of devices I could plug in. The beds were very comfortable with the best comforter ever. Linens were plush and comfy. Towels also great. Our cabin had glasses and an ice bucket for bringing ice from the hallway ice machine. The bathroom is well stocked with shower cap ,shampoo, conditioner, bar soap, lotion, q tips and cotton squares.The shower has a clothes line you can pull out to hang anything wet. My sister washed some undies and hung them up to dry and that worked out fine. For our wet coats, scarves etc...we hung them in the closet and they were dry the next day. We also sent clothes out to the laundry and they were returned the same day. The cost was about $20 for two pairs of pants and three shirts-well worth the money. One of the best features of the cabin was that the window opens! We enjoyed opening the window to get the fresh breeze as we watched the beautiful scenery slip by. The window opens onto a passageway on the outside of the ship and sailors do walk by often so we learned early on to keep our curtain closed when dressing! Our next door neighbors watched TV constantly at a loud volume (remember the passengers were almost all the 70 and older set). I can't imaging what they were watching as the TV choices were terrible. There was nothing worth watching other than the dancers up in the lounge. If you plan to entertain yourself in your cabin, bring your own device and watch Netflix. Dining Room The dining room is at the end of the ship and it was up one floor from our cabin. An elevator is conveniently located right next to the dining room and my parents used it daily. Tables are not assigned and seating is first come, first served. There were only two tables large enough to seat all eight of us, and we found out that we had to get to the dining room early to get one of the large tables or we had to break up into small groups. One of my family members volunteered to go to meals early to reserve our table. It was irritating that we had to plan how to get our table for every meal. The atmosphere in the dining room was wonderful. The waiters were friendly and attentive. The room is spacious but intimate with comfortable lighting and real linens. Mealtime was so much fun for us as we could plan our day, rehash what we saw that day, joke around and just enjoy being together. Library/Computers/Wifi The library is small with a couch, small table and a couple of chairs. Most of the books are coffee table type books on Russia. The ship could provide a leave and take shelf for passengers to donate a book or take one. The computers were in the hall by the library. Two computers with a printer and chairs were available with wifi. I am a college professor and I was teaching my online classes while on the cruise so the computers and wifi were very important to me. The computers were rarely being used and the internet service was very good. Paper and printing were free as well as the internet access. I took my laptop just in case but I didn't need it. I tended to wake up early and go online to do my work before the start of the day. I was worried that I would not get good internet but it turned out fine. I did struggle with the wifi while we traveled through the many locks we encountered on the river. The locks have tall cement walls and as the ship moves into a lock, the wifi is interrupted until the ship rises and moves out of the lock. It was difficult to get any work done at certain places as we encountered lock after lock along some stretches. Lounge/Entertainment On top of the ship above the dining room is a lounge with drinks and snacks. This is where the entertainment takes place along with lectures and games. The passengers were almost exclusively senior citizens so not too many late night activities were going on up here. All of the lectures were broadcast on board into our cabins so we could watch in bed if we wanted to. The couple who provided music every night in the lounge were good. My sister and I enjoyed watching the feed from the lounge at night when passengers danced, not knowing they were on camera. It was strange that we could see them dancing but we could not hear any music (it was still fun to watch them dancing even without music!). The lectures held here were very good. A lot of history and culture discussions. The last lecture was on Russia today and the tour guides answered questions at the end. I was surprised at their candid answers to some hard questions about Russian culture. They were very open and honest about life in Russia under communism and the way Russians live today. The lectures were definitely worth attending or watching in your cabin. There were also games and karaoke in the lounge and we attended some. It is available if you get tired of being in your cabin and decide to mingle a bit. Gift Shop The ship has a small gift shop on board selling Russian items like amber jewelry, stacking dolls, hats, Christmas ornaments, chocolate and other trinkets. The gal who runs the shop was very friendly and helpful. We stopped at her shop almost every day and she was always happy to pull items out of their cases so we could look. My Dad bought me an amber ring at the shop to remember our trip. It is silver with a large amber stone. I love it very much but, alas, it has begun to turn pink as the very thin layer of silver is wearing off. It was not expensive, $30, so I didn't expect it to be the best quality but have only had it two months and it is already failing. It is disappointing that Viking is selling such cheap jewelry on board. You might want to ask the tour guides where to get good silver jewelry rather than purchase it on board. Food Breakfast was a buffet or we could order off a menu. The buffet did not change from day to day. It offered sliced cold cuts of unknown meats (nothing was labeled), breads, eggs, potatoes, meats such as sausage/bacon, omelet station, oatmeal, cold cereal, fruit and drinks. I tired of the choices after a few days and got creative with the offerings, a BLT worked well. Berry smoothies and baked goods were passed at our tables by a charming Russian girl carrying a large basket of baked goods. The pastries looked great but were more bread like than pastry. As in many countries, the pastries were not very sweet which was fine with me. I was on Weight Watchers the entire cruise and I was able to make healthy choices and stay on my meal plan mostly. I only gained three pounds in the two weeks so I was very happy. At lunch we were given 3-4 choices usually a soup, sandwich and a hot meal with of course, dessert! Dinner was the highlight of the day. Appetizers, entrees, fruit and cheese plates and dessert. There were always available chicken breast and a steak if you didn't like the entrees offered. One of my family members ordered two entrees for every dinner meal and that was no problem at all. Our waiters were happy to oblige any request. One night my mother asked for a fruit plate and our waiter brought a lovely plate with the fruit artfully arranged and carved. My sister is a vegetarian and there were always choices for her. After meal times snacks were available upstairs in the lounge with coffee, tea and water always provided in the hall outside the dining room. If we got a very late night craving, there was no food to be found. We were glad we brought some granola bars and nuts with us. Staff I can't say enough about the staff on board. They were patient, friendly, accommodating, funny, charming and entertaining. They were the best part of our on board experience. The tour guides were with us most days and they got us where we needed to be and answered endless questions with enthusiasm. It can't be easy to guide a large group of older people but they know what they are doing. Excursions were just the right length and speed for this crowd. Except for my parents, our group was probably the youngest on board (50-60), It did get frustrating at times to be with such an older group. When we would arrive at a destination, there would be time set aside for the bathroom, leaving coats at the coat room and then the tour would begin half an hour later. It was perfect for my parents but some of my family members got antsy waiting. For them, the tour guides were always happy to help them work out a plan to take the subway on their own and explore the city at their own pace. Excursions On this cruise you will see a lot of palace museums and churches. Take every opportunity to go on excursions and see everything but build some down time into your schedule too. Here is my take on the excursions: Hermitage: talk about drinking from a fire hose! So much beauty in one place! So much art work and the building itself is a work of art. The Russians loved to decorate with gold. The museum was busy but we were able to see everything. There is a lot of walking with no benches to sit until the very end. I think my parents would have liked a small folding stool so they could sit down once in a while. We did not buy the early access and I am glad we didn't, the included tour was plenty. Catherine's Palace: Really beautiful. Take time to go outside and explore the gardens and fountains which were running even in October. The amber room is amazing. So many beautiful photo opportunities. Bring a selfie stick, you will tire of asking people to take your picture. Peteroff Palace Probably my favorite of all the palaces. Peteroff is a beautiful town about a half hour outside St. Petersburg. The bus ride was interesting and the town is so pretty and normal. We saw kids playing in the school yard, people walking to the shops and to work. It was nice to get out of the big city. Faberge Museum We had a private tour of this museum, there were about 30 of us and we were in the museum all alone. That was great. We were able to view everything easily. Our guide was very knowledgeable in fact, she gave too much information for me. I found a bench and sat for a bit after looking. I was overloaded with information. The museum is in a beautiful building which was a home. It was well done and modern. Khizi Walking tour Definitely a highlight of the trip. This is fascinating. Loved the old home tour, the church and the bell ringing. The scenery is so beautiful and it was good to get outside and walk around even though it was cold. We dressed for the cold and it was fine. The old church sells icons and it was fun to buy from them. There was some shopping by the dock but not much-save that for Uglich. Yurislaval It rained very hard this day so it was difficult to walk around but we did go to a market where the chef from our ship offered samples of Russian produce, nuts, meats etc... There was a sort of outdoor market there with goods and local people were shopping there. My sister bought a lovely coat for a good price. We also saw a church (of course) and a highlight for me-a group of teenagers in military uniform marching and singing in the park. It seemed to be a youth military group and they were cute. We visited a bank to get money out of an ATM then exchange it for rubles. That was an experience as they did not speak English. Uglich This is the place to shop! The souvenirs are plentiful and the prices are the best. Take a large shopping bag to put it all in or you will have to carry multiple bags. There is a watch shop on the pier with reasonable prices and nice choices. I bought army watches with a Russian tank and red star-great gift for a man, for about $30. Uglich has the best variety of Russian hats in all colors but check the sizes, some are smaller than others. Great Wooden Christmas ornaments, nativities, Santa etc... But buy them on the way back to the ship as they are heavy to carry around. It was raining again so we didn't see much of the town other than the shops close to the pier. Moscow I can only say: Amazing! Red Square is the best. The Kremlin is a lot of walking but so much to see. On our second day in Moscow, some of our group took the subway into town early to see Lenin's Tomb. All of the guidebooks say to skip it but, it was one of my favorite things, so bizarre, so quirky and hey, you just have to see it. I don't understand the desire to keep a man who died 70 years ago on permanent display. Riding the subway was great too. Easy to navigate, safe and clean. The Jewish Museum was the best. New, modern and interesting. Loved being there. Take a minute to order a pastry from the cafe and sit down at a table. Lovely quiet moments there. Leaving Russia was difficult. The entire ship full of passengers arrived at the airport at once and the lines were so long and unorganized with piles of luggage everywhere. Our Viking Guides stepped in and after a couple of shouting matches with the airline reps, we all got where we needed to be. Advice Here is my random advice for anyone on this trip. 1, Take Medication. We got sick with cold/flu. I mean the entire ship got sick, even some of the staff. Take meds like Nyquil, antihistamine, nasal spray, Tylenol whatever you need to feel as good as you can if you get sick. We had to see the on board doctor and pay $50 for what would cost less then $5 at home. If anyone is sick on board, it quickly spreads like wildfire. 2. Take a selfie stick for great pictures with people in them. Much better than just pictures of things. Keep the daily newsletters placed in your cabins, they are a great summary of what you did every day. 3. Try to go out on your own in Moscow if you are up to it. Its fun to mingle with the locals. 4. Try the horse meat. One dinner is Russian food and horse meat is offered. Hey, where else are you going to get a chance to do that? 5. Tip your staff well. Most of them are away from their families trying to earn enough money to get ahead in their home country. Our waiters were both married with children from the Philippines. They were so cute and helpful. One was trying to earn money to buy a mini bus so he could run a business at home. We have so much and they have so little, plan to tip them well but put it into an envelope and give it to them-do not drop it into the Viking tip box at the front desk if you want to be sure they get it. 6. Ask a lot of questions. The tour guides are very helpful and willing to answer anything. 7. Buy Red October Chocolate. It is in a yellow wrapper with a baby on the front wearing a scarf. Delicious and a really great cheap gift for those at home. 8. Don't worry about what you wear. Be super casual and comfortable. No one cares about your wardrobe. 9. Be patient in traffic. St. Petersburg and Moscow have the worst traffic I have ever seen. You will spend a lot of time on the bus stuck in traffic. Take an audio book and headphones on your ipod or phone or some music to pass the time. I enjoyed sitting up front and watching our bus driver navigate around the road rage but you might want something less stressful. Many of our older passengers slept. I hope this is helpful. Read Less
1 Helpful Vote
Sail Date: July 2016
My favorite part of river cruising is viewing the life on the river, both human and nature. The cruise from St. Petersburg to Moscow was interesting but the wildlife was nearly nonexistent, mostly supplanted by the human life that this ... Read More
My favorite part of river cruising is viewing the life on the river, both human and nature. The cruise from St. Petersburg to Moscow was interesting but the wildlife was nearly nonexistent, mostly supplanted by the human life that this ancient waterway supported. It was great to see the small villages and dachas lining the banks with people enjoying the water, fishing, gardening and boating. Commerce on the water was mostly barges loaded with forest products, gravel and tugs. The stops were interesting, especially if you enjoy seeing old churches and tourist attractions. Some stops, where we had more time, were more interesting as we could explore on our own and visit shops and markets. St. Petersburg was fantastic as we visited great museums and saw a city that was brimming with life. The ship was docked too far from the city and there was no way to explore by foot, so that was a bummer. Moscow was a cosmopolitan city that was clean, friendly and bustling. The dock was near a subway stop so getting into the city on Moscow's great subway system was easy. We spent some free time meeting an old friend for lunch and it was easy to get around the center of Moscow, twice we hesitated as we struggled to decipher the street signs against our map, but both times Muscovites were quick to help with their great English. The Russian guides on the ship were great and the programs, meals and entertainment were good. My only comparison is a cruise we took on Oceania lines where I would have rated their onboard amenities as being better. The one standout for me was the warmth of the crew and the great attention we received for every request. Read Less
14 Helpful Votes
Sail Date: July 2016
Our lovely fourth Viking voyage was on the Truvor, which sailed July 5, 2016 from Moscow to St. Petersburg. We also did the pre-extension in Moscow and the post-extension in St. Petersburg. We love Viking. This fall we are heading to ... Read More
Our lovely fourth Viking voyage was on the Truvor, which sailed July 5, 2016 from Moscow to St. Petersburg. We also did the pre-extension in Moscow and the post-extension in St. Petersburg. We love Viking. This fall we are heading to Portugal with them, and we are starting to think about which trips of theirs to pick for 2017 and beyond. We are in 60s, which was a typical age for our fellow travelers. We had friends who went a month earlier on the same trip when it was still cold in Russia. July is the perfect month. Except for some sporadic heavy rain, the Russian weather was ideal with highs mainly in the 70s. We had a wonderful time, but there were some things that we wished had been better. I'll break this review into Pros, Cons, and Mixed. PRO One of my hobbies is photography, so one of the most important trip enjoyment metrics is my count of outstanding photo ops. Russia is a cornucopia of colorful images from the many onion-domed churches to the elaborate Moscow subway stations to the people in costumes at the festivals we lucked into seeing. I was like a kid in a candy shop. I got some amazing pictures. Of these, two of my favorites are a glassy blue river picture captured in the early pre-sunrise at 2:25am from our veranda (in early July, it's the time called the "white nights" since it starts lighting up way before the sun rises) and another was a great sunset picture. But my absolute favorite was a picture I took of a young girl in costume at a festival on the island of Kizhi. The best day we had on the trip was our full day in Moscow during our pre-extension. We had a guided tour of about eight or so subway stations, each with unique features (stained glass in one, heroic statues in the second, mosaics in the third, etc.). During our visit to St. Basil's in Red Square, we came upon a men's a Capella singing group in a small alcove. Their deep voices reverberated around the room and gave me goose bumps since their singing was so moving. (We got to hear several more such groups during our trip.) Our Moscow pre-extension hotel was a palatial palace known as the Radisson Royal (which used to be called the Hotel Ukraine). Our room had a great view of the river, which is all lit up at night. But the best part of the hotel was the Italian restaurant on the top. The food was fantastic, and the views in and from the restaurant were gorgeous. All of the lunches and dinners we had on the trip -- on the boat and on the shore -- were great. Usually we find the Viking dinners hit and miss, but our chef on the ship never missed a beat. Almost every course was extremely good. Between lunch and dinner, I liked the lunches a little bit more because of the custom made pastas I got prepared each day by Alexander at the pasta station. Still, our favorite meal of all was the dinner atop the Radisson Royal. The service we got on the boat was absolutely perfect. The waiters and waitresses quickly learned our names and exactly what we liked, in our case -- two diet cokes, refilled frequently and promptly. Half of the wait staff were Filipino and half were Russian. They were all excellent. Our favorite was Elaine, who called me Sir Steve and my wife Ma'am Sally. Personable and hardworking, she could not have been a better waitress. We tipped according and individually to those who really deserved it in addition to the overall recommended gratuity. We really enjoyed the new friends we met, especially Carol and her grown daughter Erica, as well one couple we already knew, Frank and Kay, a couple from our Viking China trip who joined us on this Russia cruise. The musical group we all went to one night in Moscow (balalaikas, singing, humor, etc.) was great. What fun and what lovely music! Our home hosted visit in Uglich was good, as was the fascinating, albeit a bit too long, visit in St. Petersburg to a Kommunalka, a Soviet-era communal style of living that still exists today in ten percent of St. Petersburg. Four to six apartments share a single toilet and a single sink. Yikes! Kizhi Island with its amazing wooden churches and buildings was certainly a trip highlight. Our tour just happened to be at the right place at the right time. On Kizhi and in Uglich, we were there when once-a-year festivals were in progress. The locals were dressed up in traditional Russian garb and were happy to have their pictures taken. There was lots of energetic singing, dancing and performing going on too. My only regret was that we didn't have an extra hour or two in both places to see more of the festivals. Our Veranda B class room was comfortable and well laid out. Rarely felt did we feel we needed more space. Although we used the veranda to stand on to enjoy the views, we never sat outside on it for very long. And, unlike some river "cruises" where you cruise mainly while you sleep, this one did a lot of cruising during the day. But I don't want to oversell this part. It's not the Rhine with stunning mountains. The Volga and lakes are all surrounded by flat land with lots of trees. Still we found the scenery very peaceful and relaxing. Overall, I think I liked Moscow best, but Kizhi was really lovely as were Yaroslavl, Uglich and St. Petersburg. CON My wife has mobility issues. Russia is easily the least handicap friendly country we've ever been to. In some places there were no lifts; in others, like the Faberge museum, you were actually supposed to book the lift a day in advance; and, in some places, like the Impressionist wing of The Hermitage, you have to climb up 30 stairs with no handrail to get to the second floor, since the lifts started at the second floor, which makes no sense whatsoever. The staff and guides were not helpful in letting us know what to expect on the outings. While the bedrooms on the Russian ships are similar to the longships, the public areas have several problems. On the longships, it is easy to meet people because the lounge is large, centrally located, and has lots of comfortable seating areas. On the Russian ship the lounge is too small for talks and daily briefings, so they have reconfigured it into rows of chairs auditorium style in order to pack more people in. This makes it an uninviting and uncomfortable place to hang out. The net result of this is that it makes meeting new people less likely, which is the single best part of Viking cruises. The layout of the restaurant has problems too. Rather than the large, open and airy space of the longships with lots of large tables, the dining room on the Russian ships is broken into three continuous parts because of a room in the middle used by the kitchen staff. The first part is dark and depressing with small windows only on two sides, the second part is the corridor on each side of kitchen room, and the third and only good part is the back which has windows on three sides. The tables, even those for six, are much smaller than normal. If four of you sit at a table for four, you will feel really crowded. There are also many tables for two and four, which discourages people meeting other people. In China, the tables were all round ones for eight. We met many lovely people because of this arrangement. The Hermitage and Tretyakov art museums suffered the fatal flaws of such awful lighting designs that you could see almost none of the paintings because of the horrible glare and the Russian proclivity to put most of the paintings under glass. (The Pushkin Museum was a delightful exception to the lighting problem above, but it had a total lack of lifts, so my wife wasn't able to tour it.) The lack of toilet availability was a needless problem. All of the buses -- which you spend way too much time on, especially in Moscow -- have restrooms, but they keep them locked, which makes no sense whatsoever! You must make a special request to get them temporarily unlocked, but, when I asked, I was told they would unlock it for me but then they didn't. Another time we weren't allowed to use the restroom outside the Kremlin because the bus was coming right away, which it wasn't, as it turned out, as we waited and waited. On our other Viking trips, the toilets on the bus were always unlocked -- why the heck wouldn't they be? -- and the guides went out of their way to make sure we always had restrooms when we needed them. The Kirillo-Belozersky Monastery monetary had a few good views, but mainly it was just a long visit to a boring museum of icons under glass. The day at the touristy Mandrogy was a waste other than a short carriage ride, which was fun. Our Tour director was energetic and easy to understand, but she wasn't very warm and certainly didn't know how to entertain, which is one of the most important parts of her job. While lunches and dinners were uniformly very tasty, every single breakfast on and off the boat was disappointing. Mediocre food with no good bread (or cheese) choices. Eggs usually weren't worth eating. And so on for the rest of the breakfast choices. MIXED While we had one extremely fun game on ship ("Liar" -- where three people explain the meaning of an obscure word but two are lying), there should have been one or two more such games. On our other Viking trips, they have had more than one, and they have turned out to be tremendously fun for all the participants. The staff dressed up somewhat one night in traditional Russian outfits, but only a few really dressed up much. Most had fairly small changes in their outfits. On other Viking cruises, they put a lot more effort into this, making for a colorful and fun time. The school visit was sort of interesting but felt pretty contrived since school wasn't in session and since we weren't given much time to ask our one 10th grader many questions. OVERALL Had a great time, have wonderful memories and got some fantastic photos. I would definitely recommend the trip. Read Less
2 Helpful Votes
Sail Date: June 2016
My wife and I have sailed with Viking before (on the Danube) and so thought this would be more of the same, just with different ports. Also, our whole lives we have considered Russia to be a dark country, filled with communists and run by ... Read More
My wife and I have sailed with Viking before (on the Danube) and so thought this would be more of the same, just with different ports. Also, our whole lives we have considered Russia to be a dark country, filled with communists and run by dictators, Well, apparently we have always been wrong, it was a most welcoming country (even though we had to pay $500 for visas to get in--this is one of the sanctions that Obama has put into place to punish Russia...) Moscow was a VERY European city and not at all what we anticipated. Lots of fine and expensive cars, well dresses young people--the men and women appear to be in good physical shape, not like the fat-sos we see when we walk the sidewalks of NY. The guides knew the answers to all our questions, and they could name all the leaders starting with the Tsars of the fourteenth century and running right though Puton. Our final stop was St Petersburg and the traffic there is dreadful. Our dock was only about 15 miles from center city, but it was 1.5 hours by bus in the traffic. So on a day when we had a long tour, then back to the ship for a snack, and back on the bus to go to the ballet--that day was 6 hours in a bus. If we had known, we'd have stayed in town and had dinner at a local restaurant before the ballet. We were told that the dock we stayed at was as close as we could get due to the bridges being closed during the day--but really, the capt could have navigated through the bridges when they were open (from 2 AM until 6 AM), and then--like the ocean cruise ships, we'd have been in the downtown, and no need for all the busses. Who makes these plans? Well if it is the Cruise Director, I would say she was not at the top of her game (or if she was, she needs a new assignment). If someone else--they should be told. Read Less
3 Helpful Votes
Sail Date: May 2016
The Russian River Cruise was on sale and was a good value so we booked the cruise. The only thing we were truly upset about was giving a $500.00 tip that was recommended and finding out from some of the wait staff that they have never ... Read More
The Russian River Cruise was on sale and was a good value so we booked the cruise. The only thing we were truly upset about was giving a $500.00 tip that was recommended and finding out from some of the wait staff that they have never gotten a share of the tips that are given to Viking for them. Our personal wait staff weren't the ones who told us that but I asked and was told by four other servers. We would have given our tips directly to the people who helped make our trip more pleasant rather than having Viking decide who received it. That seemed less than honest to us since we were told it would be split among the people who served us. Those monies may have gone to Viking instead of the people who should have received tips. We will allocate tips to whomever we choose and as we see fit from this point on... A few of the tours were extremely rushed and there was too little free time to personally check things out on excursions. Read Less
6 Helpful Votes
Sail Date: May 2016
I went w/my aunt on this trip last May. We'd been to Russia before, and I speak Russian decently. If you don't speak Russian, you need to stick w/your guides, who were very good. Most people you will encounter while touring ... Read More
I went w/my aunt on this trip last May. We'd been to Russia before, and I speak Russian decently. If you don't speak Russian, you need to stick w/your guides, who were very good. Most people you will encounter while touring do not speak English, and most signs are in Cyrillic. The staff is terrific, supportive and helpful. Embarkation and disembarkation went smoothly, food was excellent (eat as much Russian ice cream as you can; it's the best!!!) and well-prepared, but don't accept the "Russian" food as authentic; it isn't. The cabin was comfortable enough, but the air conditioning didn't always work well in the room, even when it was cool in the hallways. Be ware: boats stop very far away from the center of town, where things to see are usually situated. This is probably not an issue for most people, but if you want to go into St. Petersburg or Moscow not w/the tour, you need to take a taxi. Since I speak Russian, we could do that. The staff informed me that it would cost $40. one-way into town, which isn't terribly expensive. The taxi driver gave me his cell phone # should we need him again. When we wanted to return to the boat, I texted him, and he was unavailable, so he called his dispatcher, who called me for our location. She quoted me $7. to return to the ship! I don't know who's getting what kickback, but as I said, this is probably not an issue for most travelers. The presentations about Russian history were very interesting. What I would suggest is Viking having, where their able, shuttle buses for people who want to go into town to explore on their own; it could be at an extra charge. The biggest gripe I have with this trip is that there wasn't enough time for self-exploration or shopping! There was a folk dance performance held outside the ship in St. Petersburg one evening, but it was an extra $75. apiece; that's expensive for a boat performance. The only other things I would like to mention is that when we left the ship one day to explore Moscow, the gangplank was set at a very dangerous steep angle, when we left our ship to go to the airport in Moscow, everyone had to walk down a long pier in the rain to be able to access our bus, and since the trip from the boat to the airport is over 2 hours (Moscow traffic is HORRIBLE), it would have been nice of Viking to provide a snack/lunch for everyone, because a lot of time passes between leaving the boat and going through security in the airport. BTW: the ship does NOT take Amex; it would have been nice if they had. Read Less
8 Helpful Votes
Sail Date: September 2015
I really enjoyed the whole trip and all the places we visited and would recommend it to people. The crew members were amazing and fun. I would have given it 5 stars, but for three things. i think there should b some type of group ... Read More
I really enjoyed the whole trip and all the places we visited and would recommend it to people. The crew members were amazing and fun. I would have given it 5 stars, but for three things. i think there should b some type of group exercise offered since the is no gym on board. Also on the tours I would like to see different levels of walking, maybe a quicker pace for those who like that type of thing. Lastly have the bar at the front of the boat stay open later., maybe til 10. Other than those three things it was a wonderful experience and I am very glad we chose that trip Read Less
7 Helpful Votes
Sail Date: September 2015
This was our first cruise of any sort, but hopefully will not be our last. Wonderful experience, staff at all levels were superb. Plenty to do and see every day. Our stateroom was bigger than we expected and the bed really comfortable. ... Read More
This was our first cruise of any sort, but hopefully will not be our last. Wonderful experience, staff at all levels were superb. Plenty to do and see every day. Our stateroom was bigger than we expected and the bed really comfortable. The excursions were on the whole really good and very interesting and the guides both from the boat and the local ones were excellent. The daily newspapers and the daily information sheets were really helpful. Wifi connection was much better than expected. The restaurant was great, especially liked the no reservation policy. It was nice not always to have a buffet in the evening. Sometimes the wine service was slow. The only reason we have not given it 5 stars is the tipping problem. Not only having to worry about it, but also we did find the guidelines given to us quite confusing. We would like to either have it included in the price or the guidelines made more simple. Read Less
2 Helpful Votes
Sail Date: July 2015
This was our 3rd Viking cruise and proved to be even better than we expected. The vessel was not quite up to the "Longships" standards, but was quite good. There is only so much you can do with old KGB boats and Viking has done ... Read More
This was our 3rd Viking cruise and proved to be even better than we expected. The vessel was not quite up to the "Longships" standards, but was quite good. There is only so much you can do with old KGB boats and Viking has done everything possible. The staff and service were both excellent; the dining experience quite good. Rommel Jamaquio, our waiter was extraordinary! The enrichment programs and shore excursions were excellent, using well qualified local guides, as has always been our experience with Viking. The Cossack dance program was incredible. The on-board entertainment was probably OK, but we were too busy to notice. The schedule was much busier than on our previous Viking cruises, simply because there is so much to see. Even the short visits to the smaller towns were well planned and very pleasant. We tried to do "everything" and would do everything again if we had the chance. As always, Viking was attentive to every detail. Wilhelm Steinbrunner, the Hotel Manager, could not have been more helpful. All in all, great cruise that gives one a very different view of Russia! Read Less
1 Helpful Vote
Sail Date: September 2010
Our twelve day cruise aboard the Viking Kirov was enjoyable. Traveling with friends, we made many memories to share. Our flight to St. Petersburg from Southern California arrived at 10:30 PM, long after our fellow cruisers had retired ... Read More
Our twelve day cruise aboard the Viking Kirov was enjoyable. Traveling with friends, we made many memories to share. Our flight to St. Petersburg from Southern California arrived at 10:30 PM, long after our fellow cruisers had retired for the nite. The first morning, we were up and on the road, off to The Hermitage. Exhausting day with time change, etc. Would suggest that first day in St. Pete be a bus tour of the city to get bearings and general orientation, then The Hermitage second day. We were sooo fortunate to have Victoria as our guide. She was sensational!Well spoken, well-informed, never repeated herself. Even read us Pushkin's short stories while coach was trapped in traffic on the way to Moscow. She is a true gem -- and sensational asset to Viking. Loved the lectures and classes. Learned a lot. Leaving early in AMs was described by up the passageway passengers as "oh, my, another forced march." Would appreciate breakfast service until 9:30 a.m.(for those who choose to stay aboard) -- and more food items on breakfast coffee station (juice, fruit, yogurt, pastries) for self-service. The dining room soups were especially delicious. Felt very rushed and set aside on final nite in Moscow. Passengers attending the (optional) Bolshoi excursion dined early and were sent off to the theater in Moscow. We who remained felt rushed and pressured to dine quickly -- this on our last nite aboard, which we hoped to enjoy leisurely.Food was excellent, service attentive and pleasant.Yes, we'd go on another Viking!! Read Less
Sail Date: May 2010
To give some background to our trip - I was born in Odessa Ukraine, and have been contemplating for some time to introduce my wife to the city and the country of which she heard so much. The Odessa-Kiev cruise on Viking Lomonosov provided ... Read More
To give some background to our trip - I was born in Odessa Ukraine, and have been contemplating for some time to introduce my wife to the city and the country of which she heard so much. The Odessa-Kiev cruise on Viking Lomonosov provided a possibility to do so with an added bonus of "highlighting" Crimea as well. The ship is very simple -â€" library, 2 bars (one forward and one aft), 2 restaurants (while we were assigned to Kiev restaurant the seating is open for all meals which gives you a chance to mingle with fellow passengers) and a sun deck -â€" otherwise just a hallways with cabins on both sides (4 decks total). Our cabin (229) was 90 sq.ft -â€" the TINIEST we've ever seen J but we were able to get everything out of suitcases and store them away with no problem so it was quite cozy and comfy (besides its not like we spent TOO much time in it) Actually it turned out to be a good location since all the cabins have a large window but all are overlooking a given deck so one has to be mindful of the situation least some fellow cruisers will catch you de-flagrante J The Main deck is "Crew" deck -â€" so we hardly had anyone moving past our window and we were literally steps away from the Front Desk and the disembarking doors (proves a good thing when the crowds begin to gather to go ashore) BY FAR -â€" it is the most passive cruise EVER! There is no "activities" on board for those mornings\afternoons that you are cruising -â€" I reckon the idea is for you to sit on the deck and soak up the scenery...but then you kinda ease in into this "lazy" lifestyle...and if need be -â€" there are books and games in library, they were showing movies on TV (mostly tapes not live but that's OK) and there were appropriate lectures on Ukraine History in general and ports-of-call when appropriate. Food was AWESOME (surprisingly I did not gain an ounce case you KNOW I was eating like a pig (or make it 2 pigs) J). They are also liberal with that wine that comes as a part of the package -â€" once its starts flowing you can ask for refills and they will give it to you no questions asked. The drinks at the bar are good (the best LIIT I've ever tasted) and they use top shelf brands (drink of the day was about 55 UAH). Draft beer (Slavutitch -â€" Ukrainian Beer) is very good and actually is cheaper than Coke (28 UAH vs 30 UAH for the same size glass) Speaking of Coke -â€" all soft drinks are charged even during the meals. At the same - water and iced tea are available with meals, 4 juices are there for breakfast and there is a coffee machine on Middle Deck that works 24/7 (and like I said -â€" wine is flowing during the dinner) so we were not hurting for soda. They also give you a 1 liter bottle of water in the cabin (if need be -â€" replenished every day). And there is no limit on stuff you can buy while in port and bring back into cabin (there is a small fridge). You KNOW some folks were dragging booze in on daily basis J If you want to serve it at the dinner though -â€" its 80 UAH cork fee charge. The stuff is very friendly and helpful but their English is limited -â€" if you "overstep the boundaries" by asking some unfamiliar question -â€" they will give you a blank look and say Yes (with the same friendly smile.... But that's about it) The weather while in Odessa and Crimea was just perfect! Couple of showers but kinda "passing by" or we hit everything at the right time (rained while we were in transit or inside the building) so that was not an issue aside carting the jackets with us some days and the temps were in upper 70s to upper 80s The 1st days into the river it did change to cooler (upper 50s -â€" mid 60s) but bearable. Unfortunately 1 day was a complete wash out - we were lucky that we just finished watching the Cossack Horse Show when the skies literally opened up and we were shooed-in back onto buses thus cutting short the rest of the visit (kinda was a bummer since this was on Khortitsa Island where Ukrainian (Zaporozhye) Cossacks started from as I was looking forward to view some of the fortifications and such) and the next 2 were kinda gloomy as well (it would periodically drizzle on and off -â€" just enough to be a slight nuisance here-and-there). But by the time we got to Kiev it was all nice and sunny again The "included" tours...well... they just cemented my reason of trying to stay away from organized tours (but then it is exactly the reason why I DO stay away from them). You are assigned the bus in the beginning of the cruise so the same driver and guide will be with you for duration. There were 28 people on our bus (it does not seem like the cruise was sold-out) and most of the folks are in their 70s so... time to get on get off... and pretty much running through museums and other exhibits -â€" not much you can do just go with the flow. (Be prepared to hear & see a lot of WWII (or as they call it The Great Patriotic War) stuff esp. since they are celebrating 65 years of VE Day this year) That said I was only too happy that I hired a private guide for all 4 days in Crimea. He was a great guy, had his own A\Cd little car (which did come handy in some places that the bus would not even DREAM to go through), very knowledgeable, enthusiastic and ... just everything you want to ask for in a guide! To make a long story short -â€" we hit EVERY place that Viking advertized as "optional" tours (even when one had to choose between "tour 1" or "tour 2") and THEN SOME! He got us into places that are closed to tourist crowds and pretty much I got everything I wished for (the only thing that was on my list that I didn't get to do was to take a cable car to the top of Ai-Petri (St Peter's) Mountain but that's only because Viking told me that the ship would be leaving Yalta at 2:00 pm and it actually did at 1:00 pm -â€" which lost us that hour and is not in any way Sergey's (the guide's) fault). All in all I paid him $510.00 $50.00 of which was a tip and was also paying whatever the entry fees to places were. So maybe the whole experience ran me $600-650 (tops) but again it was well worth it for me because of what we saw & did vs what the rest of the crowd did (or, obviously -â€" didn't). If you are interested -â€" contact him at sergo22yalta at gmail.com (again his name is Sergey). You most certainly can tell him that I recommended J To highlight one examle of what I just told you -â€" I have photos of me sitting in Stalin's cabinet behind his desk and Sergey and I in Molotov's quarters - both are taken at Yusupov's Palace which was where Russian Delegation was HQ'd during Yalta Conference (US Delegation was at Livadia (White) Palace (included in Itinerary) and Brits were at Vorontzov's (Alupka) Palace -â€" optional tour). The place originally belonged to Prince Felix Yusupov's parents and the big claim to fame here is that Price Felix is the one who murdered Rasputin In any case -â€" nothing that any other fellow cruiser even dreamt of remotely seeing.... There is not much to see & do in Dnepropetrovsk and Kremenchug -â€" they are just "1/2-dead monuments" to Soviet industry and I honestly have no idea as to why they are on the itinerary (I'd much more to skip one or both of them and spent that time in Kiev) but I'm not the one who makes the itinerary. No matter what -â€" the time in Kiev is simply NOT ENOUGH so make the best of what you'll see on organized tours! The ship arrives in Kiev shortly after lunch and you practically immediately carted off onto the tours of St. Sophia Cathedral and the Kiev_Pecherskaya Monastery of the Caves (once more - NOT ENOUGH TIME AT ALL!!!!) Upon the reurn - you have a choice -â€" either free time (shopping etc) or take a Jewish Kiev tour (to Babi Yar and the Main Synagogue). The tour is not advertized in Viking brochures and is 330 UAH pp; lasts approximately 2 hours and is a somber experience if you are familiar with the Babi Yar (done with a very knowledgeable English speaking local guide) I spent about $300.00 in tips all around (ship personnel and local guides) and ran up perhaps a $150.00 bill on board which included the above tour and some souvenirs. -â€" again PITTANCE since it was all in Hrivnas I also have to mention that they take away your passports for the duration of the cruise (no reason to make any scenes or protests as that wont help any) they give you some tail of a whale about customs but it's a lie -â€" probably a left-over appendix from "good old" Soviet times. In any case -â€" they give you a card (one per person) with your name, cabin # and bus # instead and it serves as your ID and also a "whereabouts" tool inasmuch as that you have to give them your cabin key for these cards every time you go ashore and thus exchange back upon return -â€" so they can see if anyone is "still out". They are not computerized at all in that sense -â€" all on board stuff is still done via signing individual purchase receipts. Once your bill is settled (last "cruising" morning on the way to Kiev) -â€" you get the passports back. At the last day I simply decided not to go through the hustle of haggling with either cab drivers or hackers about the fare to Borispol Airport and just let the Front Desk order me one of their "affiliate" cabs. The taxi was there 10 mins before the scheduled time - nice, clean & comfortable car. The trip took about 40 mins and the fare was 300.00 UAH (+ 30 UAH tip). Thus - as far as my "transfers" go I think I beat the Viking price hands down.... So in conclusion -â€" there are some setbacks but on the overall -â€" a very worthy experience. 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

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