6 Helpful Votes
Sail Date: May 2017
This cruise provided an excellent opportunity to see and experience new and different places from our previous adventures and being our 7th Viking cruise (river and ocean combined), we were confident that it would be done well. Our ... Read More
This cruise provided an excellent opportunity to see and experience new and different places from our previous adventures and being our 7th Viking cruise (river and ocean combined), we were confident that it would be done well. Our expectations were met and exceeded in many ways. We have cruised with others on the oceans and Viking continues to provide an outstanding experience. This is not to say that everything was perfect but Viking clearly strives to meet an "outstanding" standard throughout. We began the adventure with the pre-cruise extension in Helsinki, primarily to take the opportunity to ride the train from Helsinki to St Petersburg. We did a similar train trip from Oslo to Bergen on another Viking cruise and I would have to say that the trip to St Petersburg was not nearly as picturesque as the one in Norway. Having said that, the stay in Helsinki was well worth the time and money. Helsinki is a beautiful city with lots to do and something for everyone. We used the Hop on-Hop off bus to gain an appreciation for the city and then returned to several places to spend additional time. Places not to be missed are the Helsinki Cathedral, the Uspenski Cathedral, the University Library (next to the Helsinki Cathedral), and the Temppeliaukio Church (more commonly known as the Church of the Rock). A boat ride in the harbor and on the canals is also a great way to see the city (note: we bought tickets for the bus and boat at the same time for a small savings in the total cost). Each of the places provides a unique look into something different and elements of history. Like so many cities, a few days were not enough to really get to see even all the highlights but we really enjoyed the time before we began the trip in Russia. One evening, we ate at the Vltava Restaurant (Czech cuisine) and found it to be quite good. It is located across the street from the train station and since our hotel was close by, it was also very convenient. The bottom floor was a bar and we went to the third floor for our meal. The train trip was fast and efficient (if somewhat devoid of beautiful scenery) and we were check by both Finnish and Russian security personnel. No issues and all the process took place while riding the train. Once in St Petersburg, we boarded the Viking Helgi but stayed docked for several days before actually getting underway on the rivers. All of that was expected as the Helgi provided our "hotel" in St Petersburg while we had the opportunity to visit the city's attractions, which are many. We did the tours at Catherine's Palace, the Hermitage, St Petersburg from the Water, and the St Petersburg Ballet, which was performed at the theater in the Hermitage where Catherine would intertain guests. The performance, Swan Lake, was beautifully done and made even more special because of the venue where it was performed. Not a criticism but just a comment to be prepared for crowds at the Hermitage. We were able to get inside quickly but found it quite crowded going through the exhibitions. Our guide kept us moving so we could make the best use of the time we had available. They did provide some "free time" at the end of the tour to enable people to visit the numerous gift shops available in the building. Note that you will not be able to take backpacks or jackets while on the tour in the museum. They do provide coat rooms where you can check your coat and backpack but if you don't need them at that moment, best to leave them on the bus or on the ship. This happens several times during the different tours and you just have to just to the circumstances at each location. I would like to mention that throughout our cruise, Viking had three Russian guides that stayed with us the entire trip. Not only did they lead some of the tours, they provided ship-board lectures on the history of Russia. When they needed additional guides, they used local personnel to meet the requirements. The three guides we had were outstanding. We were fortunate to have Julia as our guide on several occasions and she was always very knowledgable and open about the information. She answered all questions with candor and was very willing to "tell it like it is." I attended the lectures by the other two guides and they were equally as knowledgable and open in their discussions. As we cruised the rivers, canals, reservoirs and lakes, we took advantage of the included tours and found them to be very interesting. Of special note was the visit to the Governor's House in Yaroslavl where the local guides were in period costume and spoke as if they were describing the house as their own. Very well done. Our time in Moscow was filled with very interesting tours including the optional tour of the Sergiev Posad, Russia's Greatest Monastery. The only caution I would provide for Moscow is that the traffic is horrible and that adds to the time required to get from the ship to any other place of interest. You can, of course, go out on your own and use the subway but we stayed with the tours as we thought it would be the best way to see as much as possible. Clearly the highlights from Moscow were visiting Red Square, the Kremlin, the optional tour of Moscow by Night, and the optional tour of the monastery already mentioned. The Viking ships in Russia are not the same as the longships used in Europe. They are older but have been redone by Viking. Understandably, I prefer the longships but they are not available in Russia. The rooms are adequate (we had a veranda) but the drawer space is quite limited. Certainly not a "deal breaker" but just anticipate less storage space than what you would see on the longships. The crew was outstanding. There was a medical emergency one night and that caused a slight delay in our transit but we were informed of the situation and kept informed. The restaurant was good but a bit limited in choices. Food was also available in the Panorama Bar and provided an alternative when you we're looking for just a light meal. Oveall, Viking continues to provide good value in their cruises. The tours are outstanding and the optional ones very worthy of your consideration. The included Moscow City Tour ends with a concert of traditional Russian music and certainly provides one of the real highlights of the cruise. This cruise provides a real opportunity to see some of the reality of Russia from the large cities to small villages and it will most likely change at least some of your opinions of what Russia is today. Read Less
Sail Date: May 2017
We sailed on the Helgi from St. Peterburg to Moscow in the late Spring. I initially wanted just to visit the Hermitage in St. Petersburg, but was happy that the rest of the trip was completely delightful. The river cruise was relaxing ... Read More
We sailed on the Helgi from St. Peterburg to Moscow in the late Spring. I initially wanted just to visit the Hermitage in St. Petersburg, but was happy that the rest of the trip was completely delightful. The river cruise was relaxing and filled with unexpected stops in small and charming towns along the waterway to Moscow. I especially enjoyed the Banya experience. The Moscow portion of the trip was revelatory. Moscow was not the drab, dreary city that I had imagined. It was beautiful, clean, and filled with history. I was completely amazed by the number of Russian Orthodox churches that we visited from small chapels to large domed cathedrals. I was so pleased that many of the churches are active places of worship available to the people. As for the cruise itself, I enjoyed the itimacy of the river boat which was expertly managed by the chef, the hotel manager, the concierge and the staff. A good time was by my husband and me! Read Less
13 Helpful Votes
Sail Date: May 2017
We choose this river cruise as a 40th wedding present for ourselves, and anticipated it with excitement for months. We did not know what to expect, coming from the Midwest USA, and traveling to Russia, but it would be impossible for us to ... Read More
We choose this river cruise as a 40th wedding present for ourselves, and anticipated it with excitement for months. We did not know what to expect, coming from the Midwest USA, and traveling to Russia, but it would be impossible for us to leave the experience more pleased! Travel from Chicago to Moscow was grueling, but we expected that. What we did not expect, to this level, was the exceptional attention to detail when we arrived at Moscow airport, and for the next 13 days. EVERYTHING, (yes, everything) was designed to give the traveler every opportunity for the best experience ever. From the handling of our luggage, our boarding experience, the large and wonderfully appointed cabin, the excellent food (every meal!!!), to attentive housekeeping, and wait staff, both kitchen and the lounges, were magnificent. A sidebar about our luggage: one piece was lost by British Airlines, arriving to our room 48 hours later. The Helgi front desk pestered the airport/airlines several times each day, nagging, I think, like a grandmother whose child lost her doll, to make sure that it was found and delivered before we left Moscow. In the meantime, we received toiletries, robes and clothes, and free 3 hour laundry service. I believe that it is through adversity that the excellent prevail, and the Helgi crew did just that. Everyone had a smattering of the English language, with most speaking better than me. Absolutely no communication issues. The extra, unexpected events, like champagne in the hall to meet the captain and our new, temporary neighbors, to the daily briefings, cocktail hours was amazing. The exceptional service of Frank, the hotel/ship manager, Roland, the maître d'hôtel, Natred, our exceptional waitress whom we would have adopted in a heartbeat, to my new Siberian best friend Demetri, to Alvin, Jay, Tin, the excellent musicians, and others of whom I have forgotten their names but not their service, I tip my fedora. The vetting process of the Viking HR to find and retain such incredible staff (read: Family) must be outstanding, as they have employed the best of the best. While accommodations are important, it is the people who make the trip, and these folk certainly did this for us. We have traveled rather extensively over our many years, but this trip and experience climbs to the top of the list. Thank you, thank you!! Read Less
5 Helpful Votes
Sail Date: May 2017
We did hear so many good things about Viking that we simply had to book a cruise and Russia was our first choice of destination. Everything about the cruise was fantastic.We Spent 3 days in St. Petersbourg, and then sailed the waterways ... Read More
We did hear so many good things about Viking that we simply had to book a cruise and Russia was our first choice of destination. Everything about the cruise was fantastic.We Spent 3 days in St. Petersbourg, and then sailed the waterways of Russia to Moscow. One of the best onboard activates and experience was an outstanding Vodka tasting. We learnt so much about food and culture too. The Chef did an excellent job, he was always present and introduced us to the real Russian cuisine including a live cooking demonstration and a local market visit. Our onboard guides been fabulous . Moscow was brilliant the red square, and the Kremlin, been just some of the highlights. All aspects been far above our expirations. We had fantastic food, great service and everything else was very well organized. This was defiantly not our last cruise with Viking. We looking forward to explore more water ways in comfort.. Read Less
1 Helpful Vote
Sail Date: May 2017
It was a wonderful exposure to the county of Russia, the history, and the current climate. Having three tour people on the ship full time, really helped. And everything went off like clock work. We were fortunate enough to have one stop ... Read More
It was a wonderful exposure to the county of Russia, the history, and the current climate. Having three tour people on the ship full time, really helped. And everything went off like clock work. We were fortunate enough to have one stop canceled because the ice was too thick, so we followed an ice breaker through the ice. Never expected that and it was quite an experience. Once the Russia security made us line up and wait forever to get OFF the boat, even being there several days. Getting on the boat is one thing, but none of us could understand why we had to wait. And all they had was one "portal" for everyone get off and on to go through. A little thing, but having coffee always available, with cookies!, was really nice. I was very impressed with the way it was all organized. I didnt feel we would be left in Russia, except on the underground Read Less
2 Helpful Votes
Sail Date: May 2017
We had a wonderful experience on the Viking Helgi just recently from Sankt Petersburg to Moscow. It was was our 3rd Viking cruise and we have been spoiled so far in France and on the Danube, no sure what to expect we made our way to via ... Read More
We had a wonderful experience on the Viking Helgi just recently from Sankt Petersburg to Moscow. It was was our 3rd Viking cruise and we have been spoiled so far in France and on the Danube, no sure what to expect we made our way to via Helsinki. The Cities been stunning and the tours are really great, nevertheless what really made our trip was the crew onboard. Smiling, friendly and attentive and by far more authentic than any other Viking Cruise. Well it is not always perfect and one can see that they are not up to the standard of the European crew but they are honest and sincere. The weather was still cold and grey in Sankt Petersburg and so we could not make it to the famous Kizi Island but what we got instead was even better. The Captain had to order an ice breaker which we followed through the lakes. Amazing experience. The crew also made a ice breaker party on deck serving drinks with the ice of the lakes. Just funtastic. Well the ship itself is not compareable with any other Viking ship but we informed ourself before hand so there was no surprise. Those are real ships and once they move you feel and hear it. Like the good old days. Well it was for sure not our last Viking cruise and we would like to thank again the Team around Hotel Manager Frank who really made this trip special. Also a big thank you to the Chef and Captain. Read Less
8 Helpful Votes
Sail Date: September 2014
This was my first cruise experience and it was a blast. Hats off to Viking Cruises for the very efficient handling of everything: from the flight bookings, to airport transfers, embarkation and disembarkation to and from the ship, the ... Read More
This was my first cruise experience and it was a blast. Hats off to Viking Cruises for the very efficient handling of everything: from the flight bookings, to airport transfers, embarkation and disembarkation to and from the ship, the tours, the accommodations. The staff was just great, from the kitchen, restaurant, housekeeping, entertainment to the tour guides. I have spread the word to family and friends that if they want a great cruise experience, they should try Viking first. There is nothing like a river cruise vs. an ocean cruise. It just makes a difference having a few hundred people to thousands of people traveling with you. I cannot say enough of the guides who were very knowledgeable and just a fountain of information. Read Less
Sail Date: September 2014

This was my second Viking River Cruise, and it was just as well-run as the first. The staff was amazing - I can't say enough about them, from the cleaning people to the restaurant staff to the guides to the cruise director. Perfect. I ... Read More

This was my second Viking River Cruise, and it was just as well-run as the first. The staff was amazing - I can't say enough about them, from the cleaning people to the restaurant staff to the guides to the cruise director. Perfect. I do wish the ship had a fitness center, and I find the food on the ships perfectly fine but unexciting. I realize you've got all kinds of constituencies to please so it's probably the best it can be, but I'm from New Orleans where we like every meal to be thrilling! That said, I have no complaints about the food; I just find it somewhat bland and boring.

My only other suggestion would be to include more, even if it bumps up the price, in the offshore activities. For example, I'd have liked to have had the option to spend more time at the Armoury, and found what we did see in our brief visit there to be something that should have been included for everyone. I'm so glad I went and hate to think how many people missed out on it because it was an add-on.

Oh, and I do have one more suggestion - the music in the Skybar was way too loud and intrusive and repetitive! It would be great if it changed more often and I think would have felt less obtrusive if it had been quieter, and/or all classical. Much of it was pretty lounge-lizard/cheesey! All this said, I had a wonderful time and think Viking really knows how to run things. I'll do another cruise for sure!

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5 Helpful Votes
Sail Date: September 2014

Make sure your passport is good for at least six (6) months after dates of travel. This is required by Russia for Visa as well as Viking. Visa for Russia is a pain and needs to be taken care of well in advance. It is meticulous and ... Read More

Make sure your passport is good for at least six (6) months after dates of travel. This is required by Russia for Visa as well as Viking. Visa for Russia is a pain and needs to be taken care of well in advance. It is meticulous and EXACT. Use a service unless you are an expert and do it well in advance. You cannot change dates once you get the Visa.

This was our first River Cruise with any line. Viking knows how to do a river cruise and do it very well. Passport Control in St, Petersburg took over 2 hours, Customs was a walk through. Viking met us at the exit from Customs in St. Petersburg and everything was great from there until we were flying out in Moscow. Luggage was taken by the crew from the airport to the ship and delivered to our cabin, in Moscow we did have to drag our suitcases from the bus to check in, but... Flights arranged by Viking were very tight for us and we missed our last flight on return home by less than 5 minutes. On return home you wind up going through TSA Screening leaving Moscow, leaving Zurich, and leaving the airport in the USA. Between Customs and TSA, you may miss your flight in the USA of you have an hour or less.

OKAY, the cruise itself! Fantastic is too gentle a word. We have traveled extensively on Ocean Cruises on HAL (3 star), NCL, Carnival, and Princess. None of the ocean cruises treat you as good as this. The cabins are much smaller in each class than on an ocean liner, but still large enough to be comfortable and larger than some of the interior cabins on some Ocean Liners. Bathrooms are the same as any Ocean Liner - Control central - you can reach everything while sitting on the commode - yet 2 sinks, not one. Shower only in most of the cabins. Balcony, not just a French Balcony on this ship.

Meals: Our chef was from Germany and made very memorable meals. Breakfast and lunch were Buffet, but you could also order special items from the waiters. Dinner was sit down and menu items, always special meals every night and changing every night. If you did not like the special offerings, there were standard items which included Salmon, steak, salads, etc. Salmon was fresh, not frozen, or seemed to be. Steak was cooked to perfection. Wine, Beer, and Soft Drinks (unlimited) were available at lunch and dinner- and I do mean unlimited and you were encouraged to have as much as you wanted of any or all of them.

The days in St. Petersburg were wonderful, only optional tour we took was the "Storage" of the Hermitage and well worth it. We also attended the Cossack Show, where Vodka flowed freely during intermission and they tried to sell us souvenirs at 4 to 10 times the price of the other shopping areas. But the show was great fun. All other tours were included and really good to take. Viking did it right here.

As we went down the river we stopped at different ports and had tours in each. The ships tours were well worth doing and we did not bother with optional tours at all until we got to Moscow. the regular tours kept us busy and informed. Each little town had it's own charm and just like Ocean Cruises, we could have spent a lot more time in each town. I am not going to spend a lot of time oin the towns because the Viking site does a good job.

Moscow. Once again most of our tours were the standard ships tours during our three days. Let me say something about our "three days" in Moscow. The third day is actually departure day and most flights leave in the early morning so there is no third day. We actually left the ship at 0200 - yes 2:00 am for our 6:00am flight. The reason for this is because the airport is an 1.5 hours away and Moscow Traffic is atrocious - traffic ams almost 24/7 is the norm. In fact our plane left over an hour late because our Swiss Flight Crew was late due to traffic.

Tours of the Kremlin, Kremlin Armory (optional and worth it) and other ships tours were so good, do them all if you can. One of the best was also the tour of the Metro, WOW!. Shopping at GUM. Let me know if you find the DOWN escalator, please.

By the time you return home you will be ready for your net river cruise. We are and Viking is the first one we will be looking at for our next.

YOU DO NOT NEED SUITS OR JACKETS - I had a sweater and that was more than enough.

 

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2 Helpful Votes
Sail Date: August 2014

Just returned from the trip that started in Moscow on August 24. About a week before leaving I finally read the reviews of this trip posted on this site and found them to be very mixed. Along with the political situation, some of the ... Read More

Just returned from the trip that started in Moscow on August 24. About a week before leaving I finally read the reviews of this trip posted on this site and found them to be very mixed. Along with the political situation, some of the reviews added to my doubts about whether this was the right trip to take. I have never posted a trip review before but wanted to address the concerns I read about, some of which I found to be accurate and others not of consequence. Some of them really depend on your expectations. Reading the reviews did help to properly set my expectations.

Getting around

Yes, the boat is docked quite a bit away from the center of both Moscow and St. Petersburg. In Moscow my husband studied the metro system (which is a sight in itself to tour!) and when we wanted to go somewhere during free time, we used the metro which was a 10-15 minute walk from the ship. It made me nervous at first but turned out to be quite safe and a pleasant way to get around.

In St. Petersburg we never used the metro. Because of the timing of excursions and free time, on 2 out of the 3 days we chose to not return to the ship with the tour group but to stay in St. Petersburg after the Hermitage so we could visit the Faberge Museum and on the final day we took the hydrofoil from Peterhof back to St. Petersburg for more touring on our own. (Viking plans excursions so that you always return to the ship for lunch even if there are morning and afternoon tours. This does waste time.)

The ship

We have been on one other river cruise, not Viking, and that ship was newer and nicer. These ships were built in Russia and are rather old. Even with refurbishing they look a little run down in some of the common areas. But that was okay with me. Having read the reviews, my expectations were set. Our cabin was mid-ship, perfectly clean and beautiful, no special noise (yes you can hear some noise from adjacent cabins but the people travelling on this type of cruise are not really party people so no problem there). Twice a day the staff replaced towels, cleaned, everything sparkling. I cannot complain about the ship. Some said the bar areas were small and one was used for lectures and could not fit al the people. That is true, but they always gave 2 sets of the same lecture dividing the population so not a problem. Just once there was a welcome type of reception and the room was overflowing. The other river cruise I was on had a bigger bar/common area. But the Helgi had a number of smaller seating areas that were really a nice concept. You could go there and read, or sit with a small group of people. I liked these areas although they could use some sprucing up.

Food

Some people complained it was awful. I thought it was quite good. Someone complained that the wait staff were not properly trained. Maybe that was at the beginning of the season - don't remember the review. I found them to be quite good with a few exceptions here and there where it seemed my table was forgotten! Mostly though they were right there when you needed them, very pleasant and accommodating.

Tours and tour guides

Very good. The 3 tour guides were a wealth of information on all aspects of Russian life. They gave multiple lectures on Russian history. There was a final round table at which they answered questions. It was interesting to hear their opinions of Russian life.

Some reviews said they could have done without the stops and tours between Moscow and St. Petersburg. This depends on what you are looking for. They do give a slightly different view of Russia but some were really just fill ins. There is a trade off between taking this river cruise and doing a land tour of Russia. On the river cruise you sacrifice more time touring areas that might be of more interest to you vs having some more relaxing time while the boat cruises (and this is the time when they had the lectures which I found very valuable). It really depends on what you are looking for. I looked at the itineraries for some land tours and other than St. Petersburg and Moscow which are always multiple day stops, they then visit other areas (Latvia, Estonia, etc) generally for one day at a time. So you are always packing up. Again, it is personal preference.

Overall I am glad we did this trip. I learned a lot, saw some incredible sites, have lots of pictures, ate too much, enjoyed a mix of group and free time. This was my first Viking cruise and I think they did a very good job. Would I have preferred a land tour of this area? Will never know!

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