Chose this cruise since I've never been to Russia and Viking had the most recently refurbished ship. Furthermore, they seem to be dominating in the river and cruise liners with new ships added every year.
Boy was I disappointed with the entire cruise. Our program director, Irina, was too young and inexperienced for the post. As per usual, during your briefing on the upcoming day they gloss over the attractions you will see on land and whilst sailing. This was a round trip type of cruise so the entire staff would work the route continuously for six months. I would expect they have the estimate as to when we will see certain sights down pat. Like the sinking belfry tower and the lady Volga statue. She was off the mark by over an hour for the former and 2 hours+ for the latter.
Organization for the shore excursions were poorly executed. We were told to sit on any bus then try and stick to the same bus for the remaining tour. However when we reached ashore, the buses went to different locations so you couldn't pick "any" bus and again time wasted on trying to find another bus to get on. This was not a single incident.
Previous experience on river cruises would segregate the shore excursions into different walking intensities to cater to the less mobile travelers. There was no such thing on Vikng except for the city tour in Moscow and St Petersburg. I felt sorry for the couple in our group who was on crutches and almost tripped several times during the Red Square/Kremlin tour.
This lack of consideration was further reinforced during the ballet performance. The theatre was booked exclusively for Viking. We were each given a ticket, however, they know the layout of the theatre and should not make one of the passengers who clearly has impaired eyesight to climb to the top of the theatre and walk another unnecessary flight of stairs. When it came to the end of the performance, the poor passenger was in grave danger of being trampled on whilst everyone was trying to exit.
Our stop to Kizhi was cancelled due to inclement weather but the program director failed to provide other activities on that day so we were cooped up with nothing to do.
Food was also very ordinary and considering the passenger to staff ratio you would expect everything would be that little bit more attentive. The farewell dinner was the worst! Prawn was not fresh, beef was overcooked and dinner took longer than usual.
On the exterior, they used top brands cutlery like villeroy & boch and Jura coffee machines. However, if you use inferior quality coffee beans the coffee would still taste like dishwater.
There was one more annoying experience where my card to my cabin kept failing to work. This happened like 5 times! I've been on cruises and river cruises before and yes, it could happen like once during the entire trip not on a daily basis. It got so frustrating and the receptionist was argumentative and made these reissuing cards even more unpleasant!
Apart from the nice l'occitane amenity, I do not have anything good to say about Viking. It was an expensive trip and money aside, the company lacked professionalism, ethics and organization skills that I would NEVER recommend them to even my worst enemy.
Initially I was interested in trying the Viking cruise liner, however, I have abandoned that idea completely and going with scenic on my next 3 trips.