This was our second Viking River Cruise and while we preferred the cabin aboard the Helgi to the new Viking longship Aegir from Budapest to Bucharest that we took in September 2013, the service was worse. It seemed the wait staff was mostly inexperienced so perhaps the poor service was not their fault but that of Viking itself for poor training. One night I ordered turkey and was served fish, which actually turned out to be better than what I originally ordered. Another night I requested ketchup and received barbeque sauce. Most of the dining room staff were either Russian or Filipino. They were very friendly and tried to do things correctly but just seemed inexperienced and poorly trained.
In addition to preferring the Helgi cabins, we also liked the dining room set up: Instead of one large room with low ceilings and a table for 6 the smallest size on Viking Aegir, Viking Helgi had two separate rooms, table for two and tables for four so that you were not forced to socialize and the noise level was much less so you could actually carry on a conversation. On Aegir, this was almost impossible. Plus, on Aegir, they never served anyone until all tables were full, meaning sometimes you did not receive any food until 7:45. On Helgi you could order as soon as you sat down at 7:00 and courses were served promptly.
The quality of food left something to be desired. In one way this was positive since there is little chance to exercise on board (no gym) so I actually lost weight on both cruises. The best food was the lunch salad bar which was help-yourself and was quite good, if repetitive, with the same food served each day. Entrees were less appetizing.
Free internet service both at the two computers provided and in your cabin is a Viking plus. The Russian River cruise from St. Petersburg to Moscow was better than the Danube cruise in Eastern Europe in that we did not have long bus rides to towns and villages but docked right in the town generally. Our included tour of the Hermitage museum in St. Petersburg was excellent and very informative.
Our cabin had two poles coming out of a box-like structure which was near the bed. I could put small items on it and never ran into it but those booking these ships should be aware than many of the cabins on all decks had one or more poles not pictured in the brochures--nor does anyone tell you there will be one in your cabin.
I still prefer the space on ocean cruises and the variety of activities available to river cruises. Giving the poor service (cabin service wasn't great either) and food on board Viking river cruises, I doubt I will take another river cruise--certainly not with them.
We actually like the layout of this cabin better than those on the new Viking longships--it seemed more spacious despite the two poles coming out of a box-like structure near the bed. I was able to use this for placing books and other small items and it was not really in the way. Many of the cabins on Helgi have one or two of these poles which were a surprise as they are not shown in the brochure, nor are you told you will have one. We had a small balcony which was adequate. There was ample storage for the 12-day cruise. The bath is nothing special but adequate.