We were eager to visit Russia and the river cruise seemed to be the simplest method of doing so.
We had to request the Letter of Invitation from Viking, because they did not send it automatically. About 10 days after the emailed request, we received the documents by email, written entirely in Russian and immediately applied for the Visas. We paid ILS an additional fee to transfer the information from the letter to the application. I hand delivered my Visa application, while my companion sent hers by express mail, which was returned to her the day prior to her departure.
The Viking ships are docked about an hour's drive from Moscow center and traffic is very heavy. We spent much time on the bus, trapped in gridlock. Visits to attractions were shortened or skipped entirely, due to the time required to travel to them. Information about the following day's tours was provided in the evening, so it was difficult to make alternative arrangements at the last minute if we were not interested in those available. On one day, there were morning, afternoon, and evening tours, which meant a minimum of 6 hours on the bus, travelling between the boat and the city. Another day, we were provided with a snack when we left in early morning and returned to the boat at 9 pm for dinner; there was not sufficient time in one place during the day to enable us to eat in a restaurant.
Food on the boat was extremely salty. I eat a low salt, low fat diet and apart from fresh fruit and salad without dressing, there was nothing that fit within my diet restrictions. Lunch always included a salad bar and pasta. A few sandwiches, etc. were available from a menu. Appetizers and salads could be ordered at dinner. The items on the menu which were said to be available at every dinner were not. The main course included a piece of meat, chicken or fish and mashed potatoes, or sometimes rice, always loaded with salt. For example, a piece of chicken Florentine proved to be chicken stuffed with more salt than spinach, butter and garlic, breaded and deep-fried, with mashed potatoes. A fast food restaurant would offer healthier selections. Room Service was not available. Between about 12 pm and 6 am, there was no food available to passengers.
Mosquitoes were very prevalent during the cruise to St. Petersburg. We could not use our balcony, or even open the window because there were no screens. The boat vibrated considerably while underway, preventing sleep.
Unfortunately, there is not much space to sit outside of the room. A few chairs are located at the top of the stairs on each floor. A small library with 2 computers and a printer contains a few chairs. The café at the bow of the ship has tables set with dishes for breakfast or lunch, which means that people who sit in this room place books, purses, laptops, etc. on top of the place settings which other people will later use when dining.
While docked, the Viking ships are rafted, side by side. We didn't use our balcony at these times, because the railing on the next ship's balcony was touching ours. We kept our draperies closed, for privacy and because there was nothing to see but the interior of our neighbor's cabin.
Daily briefings, entertainment, etc. were held in the bar on the sun deck, which only accommodated about half of the passengers on board. For the last few days, the briefings were repeated twice, to provide the opportunity for more guests to attend.
The single beds were 30 inches wide and my companion awoke frequently with a fear of falling out of bed. The room is very small, with little storage, but our suitcases fit under the beds. There is one small chair and a small stool in addition. The washroom is quite small, particularly the shower stall. There was ample hot water. There is a fridge in the room. This is a small room, but the only one which offers a view in front of the ship. The sun deck has an indoor bar and outdoor seating area at the stern. These are both too small to accommodate all of the guests.