This was our third trip with Viking and the second River cruise. Unfortunately this experience did not meet our expectations based on previous cruises.
First the Good:
The waitstaff in the Dining room was excellent. By the end of the cruise they knew who we were, more or less what we wanted and were overall attentive. One evening I lost an earring and just assumed that it was gone. When we came down for breakfast the waiter that we usually had came up and made some jokes (which he did frequently) about losing things and handed me the earring. I have no idea how he knew it was mine, but he did.
The food was actually better than I had anticipated that it would be. There were always three choices (meat, fish and vegetarian) and there were three items that were always available (chicken, steak and salmon). Each of our group had one of these options once but otherwise had items from the menu and all were very good.
The gal who cleaned the cabin did an excellent job and did so in a timely manner
The information talks on the history of Russia were informative and comprehensive.
The local guides (except in one case for us) were fabulous. Superb English and very knowledgeable. Most had been working with Viking for years and many had two degrees (one was a professor of Philosophy and chair of his department and did this guide activity in the summer to keep his English up and his mind sharp)
The cabin had plenty of storage and a very nice balcony (more on that later) Suitcases fit under the bed with no problem and there were plenty of hangers for everything that we had both brought. Plenty of towels and they were admirably fluffy.
The Not so good:
The bathroom was tiny and the shower was simply a tiny quarter circle with a curtain and therefore the floor often got wet from the shower. (good thing we had all those towels)
With that lovely balcony for most of the trip we could not use it as we were parked next to another boat and sitting on the balcony would have meant looking into someone else's room! St Petersburg was the Viking stockyard as there were always three or four boats abreast.
The Viking administration had several issues that they SHOULD have known and SHOULD have dealt with. We were traveling with another couple and had booked one of the optional excursions in Moscow. The day before we got to Moscow and Sasha from Russia was doing the Port talk we noted that he did not give a time for our excursion. The Kremlin tour had been changed because there was a national celebration that occurs every year and the Kremlin was closed the day that we had originally been scheduled to go. Therefore they simply canceled our tour because the day had changed for the Kremlin. When we talked to Sasha he told us that he did not even know that there were people who had paid for that tour (turns out that there were several other couples that we talked to who had also booked it). They claimed not to be able to reschedule that tour and HE indicated that HE could not refund our money that we had to talk to the administration when we got home. We later booked another excursion so as not to be just sitting around and then when we got our bill, they forgot to credit the original excursion to the new one, that took several conversations. As this even is an annual event, the Viking administration should have KNOWN when it was and should have booked our Kremlin excursion on a different day to begin with.
On one of our excursions, instead of taking us to a hotel or someplace for dinner (which we had on other Viking cruise excursions) they gave us a Ham and Cheese sandwhich to eat on the bus! Not very appetizing.
There were multiple other groups who "cut the line" at the Hermitage while we waited almost an hour to get in. If others could have cut the line tickets, certainly Viking could do that for their excursions as well!
There were several places that we went that Rubles were needed but Sasha from Russia had assured us that they were never needed that everywhere took either dollars, euros or credit cards!
One of the tour escorts did two of our excursions, his English left a LOT to be desired. I could only understand about every third word, and EVERY time someone asked him a question, he apparently did not understand and gave them an answer that was only circuitously related (for example someone asked where the American Embassy in Moscow was located and his answer was that the American Embassy in St Petersburg had been closed)
The final straw was the ride to the airport, we had an early flight so our bus was scheduled for 2:30 AM. we got up after like 3 1/2 hours of sleep and got out to the bus. There was a couple who apparently had overslept. Alexy (our tour escort for our bus) told us that he had called the room with no response. Eventually he actually went to the room and knocked on the door. The two people then were awakened and got up and dressed. We left 35 minutes late. The whole bus told him to have them go on the next bus, but he was determined to wait. Then he had the audacity to announce to the bus that in the 7 years that he had been doing this, this was the longest that he had ever had to wait! We did in fact make the plane but for several of the folks it was very close!
In general the excursions were very well done. I really liked them all with the exception of the one island monastery.
the cabin was fine EXCEPT for the fact that it was on a seam (they had extended the boat when refurbishing it) we had Cossacks dancing on our heads at night when we were moving , and sometime sawing as well. There was a pole in the room which was not a huge problem, but the Cossacks and sawing were!