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31 St. Petersburg to Baltic Sea Cruise Reviews

Just returned from cruise through Scandanavia. This cruise only caters for people who are prepared to pay for their overpriced boutiques, restaurants and alcohol. Food, service and entertainment average at best. Groups of people left ... Read More
Just returned from cruise through Scandanavia. This cruise only caters for people who are prepared to pay for their overpriced boutiques, restaurants and alcohol. Food, service and entertainment average at best. Groups of people left mid show on more than 1 occasion Drink package mostly useless as they price their drinks outside the cap they allow on the packagre. Instead of you paying the difference they make you pay the cost of the whole drink despite having paid extra for the package Internet is obscenely expensive but you need it to work their app to manage your accounts. They charge credit card despite being paid and you are expected to wait for them to refund it. Shore excursions terrible quality not worth the cost. Limited staff, wait forever for service at bars Pester you to eat at their expensive private restaurants when you walk past, even waiting outside the dining room to hand you pamphlets despite having just eaten. Felt like you were in Asia with Hawkers. Main lounges have limited seating for 3500 passengers to enjoy onboard entertainment It is unfortunate that cruise experiences like this turn people away from ever cruising again MSC Maraviglia. Too big, impersonal, poor service and onboard experiences. Spend your money elsewhere Read Less
Sail Date September 2019
Choose this cruise as it was leaving on date that afforded some of best opportunity for good weather and ability to see marine wildlife and glacier activity. I am more of a casual traveler, not swimsuits but not formal. This was geared ... Read More
Choose this cruise as it was leaving on date that afforded some of best opportunity for good weather and ability to see marine wildlife and glacier activity. I am more of a casual traveler, not swimsuits but not formal. This was geared to the formal experience of dress and meals, relegated to the Buffett most nights. The entertainment at night was less than average when compared to other cruises. Not the large productions that I was used to. The hot tubs and pools were overrun by children who stayed in all day. They now try to hard sell items at dining and other venues which I had not encountered before. It was like a telemarketer. I am sensitive to smoking products so the smile from the open casino often made that part of the ship off limits. The outside smoking was on the back in a prime location which is an area I usually go to. Ironically it was located outside the workout room. The downside of traveling at this time was the 4-5 other cruise ships in the same ports. Completely overwhelms the services in small towns. It was like grand central station at rush hour. There medallion system did not work well and the apps that we attempted to download were problematic or did not work. Those that purchased the WiFi were very disappointed in its performance. I could not believe in this day and age they made u pay for it, and after hearing others, am glad we did not. Days at sea the on board food service is simply not equipped to handle the almost 4000 guests. Personally, we would skip the inside passage cruise and just fly to Alaska next time. Read Less
Sail Date July 2019
We are a young-ish couple who mainly do independent travel so this was only our second cruise but we loved it. I travel a lot but have never been to many of the countries we docked in so this was exciting and all were really interesting. I ... Read More
We are a young-ish couple who mainly do independent travel so this was only our second cruise but we loved it. I travel a lot but have never been to many of the countries we docked in so this was exciting and all were really interesting. I also work a lot so wanted a little bit of rest and comfort. This was definitely a comfortable, elegant ship, but I would say the itinerary is a little hectic, wish there were more sea days in between. I didn't do too many activities on sea days just opted to rest. But Balloon drop night and champagne waterfall night were very nice. The nightly band in the main ship Atrium with a Filipina singer, I think their name was Evolution, was VERY, very good and they worked really hard - played for hours all night long. Ship of almost 4000 though never felt crowded - skews on older side, I would guess a third Americans or Canadians, a third Europeans/Latin/Russian, and a third Asian (primarily Chinese and Japanese). Running down some other ship notes and some pros and cons: I thought the rest of the entertainment were really fun - esp the Broadway quality shows. Good selection of new movies on the TV. Also able to watch port/enrichment lectures and some of the audience participation shows from your cabin TV. The low key Outrigger bar with made-to-order fresh juices (extra cost) was great as was their bar staff and the patrons there. Fitness center was spacious, but I always got lost trying to find the right way to get there. Liked laundry on every floor and free zumba morning class. I wish they gave you a complete list and full information on ALL the dining options and what any costs were, but I feel like I had to ask and do all the research myself. Anyway, we mainly ate in the dining rooms - sometimes at assigned table, sometimes at "any time dining" table, and I found the food fantastic. We always tried to ask for a table by the window. Tried one specialty restaurant - Sabatini's - which exceeded expectations. Filling, delicious courses. A first class dining experience! We also tried the casual Alfredo's (included) for a made-to-order, fresh pizza one time - so good. We sampled the buffet a few times and they often had large variety and also lots of international dishes. My partner had specialty coffee at the 24 hour International Cafe every day. Room service was SO lovely! Wish they would expand more of the menu options. Usually at least once on the cruise they will have a fish and chips pub lunch (included) -that was good to change it up a bit - and a Crab Shack (extra cost, but we didn't try it) and an afternoon tea service with sandwiches and scones, etc (didn't try but looked nice). Cons: The new Ocean medallion technology was convenient (opening cabin door automatically, getting on/off ship) but the apps were a pain to log in and didn't work all the time. I also figure they are tracking our movements all the time with the medallion but what can you do. Would have done the spa but they stopped essentially offering day passes. Service in general was typical - some were really exceptional, some were just ok. Couldn't utilize much of the outdoor deck spaces/outdoor movies, etc because weather in Baltic really unpredictable and chilly. Would probably opt for June/July if I could do it over. But for me, the highlight was really getting to visit the various cities and I truly enjoyed them all - there was rain in the forecast constantly but in the end, it didn't really come to fruition, Tallinn was the only one that had some rain. Copenhagen it threatened to rain the whole time but it didn't, although that meant we didn't do a bike tour around but did the HOHO bus which worked out perfectly. Most people boarded and left the ship in Copenhagen, but we embarked/disembarked in St. Petersburg (we have visas) so we didn't really have a "welcome" per se and no real lines, but it was interesting to see a new, totally different crowd on the ship. You could also embark in Germany or Oslo I think. I didn't really end up using the cruise excursions - we booked an independent excursion in Warnemunde. Again, all ports were great. I would advise bringing/reading Rick Steve's guide book on these ports - it has maps too, etc. And always write down the name of the port you are docked in if you end up taking an uber, taxi or public transportation back - there can be several diff ports in some of the cities. Another good read on a trip like this - with a mix of humor, culture, and history - is The Almost Nearly Perfect People: Behind the Myth of the Scandinavian Utopia by Michael Booth. Highlights in each port: Tallinn (12pm free walking tour Old Town, Nevsky cathedral, viewpoints in Old Town, try Old Hansa almonds and freshly squeezed pomegranate juice from the carts, Telleskivi aka Creative City - esp F Hoone restaurant). Warnemunde (Friends of Dave tour with their fun and friendly guide, brewery lunch, seeing the charming towns in Rostock/Wismar, beer near sand castle in Warnemunde, and the breathtaking beauty of Schwerin castle garden - I felt like I was in a fairy tale - totally unexpected surprise for me). Oslo (port time there was short so we didn't have time for the viking museums - but Vigeland Sculpture Park a must, Opera house both outside and inside, stroll down Karl Johan gate, pic in front of Nobel Museum and fish lunch by the harbor before walking right to the ship. And the sail away - don't miss it! View from Regal Princess sailing in or out of Oslo and the tiny "fjords" - spectacular!). Copenhagen (Christianhavn is nice place to walk around and different than the "main" island, the Freetown Christiania is a VERY interesting community and a bit of a walk but for me was worth it to see - others may opt for Tivoli Gardens instead. Nyhavn a must of course and then catch Little Mermaid on way back to ship. Didn't have time but the glimpses of the gardens and some of the palaces looked really lovely.) Nynashamn (Stockholm is an hour away so maybe an excursion is worth looking into but we took the train - ship provided a shuttle to the station which is 5 mins away for about $5. Get a map and the day card - can be used for the train, the tram, the ferries, etc. This was one of my favorite ports - Gamla Stan a must. Vasa museum. Some like the Abba museum - although we didn't go. Lunch at Gondolen was interesting. Enjoy a fika break. Walk around City Hall - where the Nobel Prize banquet is held every year). Helsinki (easily walkable city, Market Square - beware the seagulls!, Cathedrals, try moose and reindeer, Lappi restaurant opens at 4pm very unique place, Rock Church a must, Loyly sauna is fairly close to ship - don't have to sauna but can still enjoy the views, wine, terrace and relax). St. Petersburg of course is amazing but since we spent several days there, would be too long to talk about here, and can't speak to the excursions. Anyway, as you can see I had a great time on this cruise and personally would recommend it to others Read Less
Sail Date May 2019
This is out ninth cruise with Princess. We always choose the destinations as the priority, the ship is secondary. That said, the Regal Princess is by far the nicest Princess ship that we have sailed on to date. Overall; huge ship, ... Read More
This is out ninth cruise with Princess. We always choose the destinations as the priority, the ship is secondary. That said, the Regal Princess is by far the nicest Princess ship that we have sailed on to date. Overall; huge ship, biggest yet for us, beautifully appointed, clean and fresh. Public areas were lovely. Maintained and cleaned to the highest standard. Cabins; we had a cabin on the very back of the ship (Riviera) overalooking the stern. Lovely cabin. Endless TV on demand if you wanted it. Large balcony...well worth the nominal extra cost. Cabin attendant was functional, pleaseant, but not over friendly. Food; we ate each night in the Allegro, second sitting. Superb food, great waiter on our table (some others were not so friendly...at breakfast for example, when we had different staff serving). One slow breakfast, otherwise fine. The food, and especially the desserts, was excellent. Horizon Court; don't believe the moaners....the food was excellent in the Horizon Court, more choice that you could imagine, including Vegan, Veggie, Curry, fish, meat....I could go on....all delicious, with the same choice of desserts. Very good choice for lunch, and it was very busy most evenings.... Staff; very friendly, courteous, Captain was very descriptive of all the ports and the ship itself, lots of information. Entertainment; apart from the comedian (there under false pretences - dreadful!) the rest of the entertainment was good. Very good musicians and vocals. Shows were not our thing, but that's just chioice....the theaters were packed, so obviously most enjoyed it. Ports of call; all good, some better than others. We were very lucky with the weather, which always helps. Particulary good (in our eyes) were Talinn, Warnermunde, St Petersburg and Stockholm...but that's a subjective choice and simply what we liked. Embarkation and disembarkation; faultless. Would we go again? Aleady booked for Australia, Tasmania and New Zealand on Princess next year. Older ship, but another adventure! Read Less
Sail Date July 2017
Prior to leaving the United States, we booked a private 2-day tour of St. Petersburg with TJ Travel and had a wonderful once-in-a-lifetime experience!! We had no problem quickly disembarking, our tour guide and driver awaiting our ... Read More
Prior to leaving the United States, we booked a private 2-day tour of St. Petersburg with TJ Travel and had a wonderful once-in-a-lifetime experience!! We had no problem quickly disembarking, our tour guide and driver awaiting our arrival. We were able to see what WE wanted to see and spend extra time in those places that we most highly valued. Our guide Natalya was absolutely amazing with the breadth and depth of her knowledge. We NEVER had to wait for admission at any of the crowded sites and we visited places that do not even allow large groups. I can't say enough good things about this experience--outstanding, fantastic, awe-inspiring, the BEST event of the entire trip! Five+ stars!! This was also our first cruise. We were impressed with the size of the cabins and how well designed they were to allow plenty of storage space. We were a little worried about the fact we had an inside cabin with no window, but it was never a problem. In fact, since we were sailing in July with about 20 hours of daylight on the Baltic, we were very happy we had normal hours of darkness at night. Moreover, the money we saved from NOT having a cabin with a window or balcony actually paid for six nights in a hotel, touring the countryside before we left on the cruise! Read Less
Sail Date July 2016
I love sailing and wanted to visit Hermitage and experience educational lecturers on board Food was good on 2-3 occasions better food on Oceania line although not a sailing ship Cabin was cozy but it greeted me with a dead flower-not ... Read More
I love sailing and wanted to visit Hermitage and experience educational lecturers on board Food was good on 2-3 occasions better food on Oceania line although not a sailing ship Cabin was cozy but it greeted me with a dead flower-not a good first impression and tissue on head floor-not good impression either Service aboard was good but not up to 5 stars Sails were up only 2 and half days-disappointing for those of us who were there to enjoy sailing square rigger Good rating overall but at 5 star prices, I expected 5 stars! Enjoyed speaking with ship doctor as I am also a physician. Oceania line does not allow passengers to touch utensils which is excellent infection control in a number of buffet settings. Although no diarrhea -many passengers came down with colds-yes respiratory but can be passed from nose to hands to silverware and onto next passanger Read Less
Sail Date July 2016
Greetings, fellow cruise lovers, I write a review like this one once in a blue moon, but this time, in view of the "terrible press" this ship has been having here, I felt that I had to. I understand that other cruisers have ... Read More
Greetings, fellow cruise lovers, I write a review like this one once in a blue moon, but this time, in view of the "terrible press" this ship has been having here, I felt that I had to. I understand that other cruisers have not much appreciated this ship lately (to put it mildly). My companion and I had a rather different experience. We boarded the ship in St. Petersburg which turned out to be a smart move as very few people have done so that day (most passengers boarded in Stockholm). To be more precise, when we came we were the only ones checking-in and the whole process, which included a passport control, took less than five minutes. We were warmly received by several crew members, and in no time found our premium balcony cabin. It was spotless-clean, and very well maintained, its equipment working perfectly. All and all, a very typical cabin for the category, no different from the various balcony cabins we've booked on all our previous cruises, taken with Celebrity, RCI and (once) with MSC. The only difference was that its balcony seemed to be a bit bigger than usual. The room's attendant was quick to service us when we needed something (which only happened twice). He kept the cabin clean and tidy throughout the cruise. Generally speaking, the service on the ship was very good without being pushy. Waiters and bartenders alike worked quickly and efficiently. Breakfast (continental being the only room service option) was delivered on time to our cabin every morning. The wines we ordered were always available (not always the case) and were delivered ahead of the food as they should be (again, not always the case). Every crew member we've talked with spoke English fluently. The ship was kept clean and orderly, and featured very nicely designed public rooms, that didn't feel crowded at any time. Finding your way was easy. Getting off the ship in ports and on board again was also quick. So was disembarking (we walked out with our luggage). I cannot rate the enrichment activities, entertainment, and fitness facilities since we didn't partake in, or have used, these. I did want to have a massage but gave it up after I had a look at the Samsara Spa price list... The ship's weak link was the dining room's and casual diner's food, which left a lot to be desired. It was not bad, but definitely mediocre. However we did enjoy very much our meal in the specialty Club restaurant. Its service was excellent as well and overall, for 28 EUR per person, it presented good value for quality. As far as our experience went, the same could be said about the ship in general, as the cruise's rate was very reasonable. The other cruisers seemed very content as well. Our fellow cruisers, mostly Italians, Spaniards and Russians, smiled, laughed, relaxed and had a good time – not signs of a bad, malfunctioning, ship. Read Less
Sail Date August 2015
12 night Celebrity Silhouette of Baltic ports (including 2 days in St. Petersburg) The ship is great and everyone was super friendly. We were Concierge class in Stateroom 1076 (midship balcony on 10th floor) and thoroughly enjoyed the ... Read More
12 night Celebrity Silhouette of Baltic ports (including 2 days in St. Petersburg) The ship is great and everyone was super friendly. We were Concierge class in Stateroom 1076 (midship balcony on 10th floor) and thoroughly enjoyed the experience. We have cruised many times on various lines including Celebrity. (I agree that they have been cost cutting. Years ago the cruise would have had actual Ports of Call talks to give us the history and background. Now they mainly have "shopping talks"). The itinerary makes up for the cuts in entertainment and history talks though. This itinerary is great for people who are active and want to see things every day. I would not call this a relaxing cruise (like a Caribbean) but rather a fascinating learning cruise due to the Ports of Call especially if it leaves from Stockholm rather than doing it in reverse from Amsterdam. Passengers on this cruise have 5 very busy, long days before a sea day. We actually loved it though but are fortunate to be active and fit. For passengers who have flexible dates and need a bit slower pace doing this cruise when it leaves from Amsterdam (rather than Stockholm) would be a better choice since there is a sea day on the second day. Also Copenhagen (which becomes the second port if leave from Amsterdam instead) is a bit more relaxed since St. Petersburg tours are typically 12-hour days but that port of call is why we booked this cruise. The only change Celebrity should make is to drop Fredericia, Denmark (nothing there) and adda 3rd day in St. Petersburg. WHAT I WISH I HAD KNOWN BEFORE THE CRUISE (or tips in general): 1) Our cruise left May 27. Subtract 10 degrees Fahrenheit from whatever the temperature says. Our weather indicated 60 -62 degrees. However, in reality, it felt like 50-52 degrees due to the chill near the water. Many passengers were smart and had down jackets or vests. I read to “layer up” so I brought my spring jacket (fine for 60 degrees in New England but not the Baltic) and a raincoat. I ended up buying a wool sweater AND a down jacket in Helsinki (Finland). I was SO thankful I had the down jacket in St. Petersburg and wore it through most of the cruise. 2) We did not have rain. However, it rained on and off the cruise before us which I read online so had packed a small light-weight umbrella. 3) Because of the itinerary and cold weather, I never wore a swimsuit (but would have packed one anyway in case). Think of this as an Alaska cruise when planning. A light weight fleece top that I brought was very useful for both in the cabin and occasionally around the ship. I normally pack only one pair of jeans (or wear them on board) and pack a nice skirt for touring and 2 dresses. HOWEVER, I lived in my 2 pairs of nice jeans and alternated them for touring every day. Those 2 pairs and a nice pair of black pants to dress up or down on the ship would have been all I would have needed. (A dressy sweater jacket or similar over the black pants is what many people were wearing for “formal” nights. It was not typical to see many very dressed up people as you might on a Caribbean cruise. They just looked nice without being over the top.) 4) Be sure to bring “cold medicine”. A bad cold went around the ship with many passengers getting it including me (and I rarely do). People could into their hands and then touch the serving spoons or if you go into the computer room. Cold medicine on the ship cost $17! 4) Because this is such a busy cruise, I would definitely recommend IF possible getting to Stockholm at least a day before the start of the cruise. 5) It was VERY helpful that I had a chip in my credit card AND had a card with no foreign transaction fees (which saves the 3% fee for every charge.) I generally use a Capital One card when overseas since they have no foreign transaction fees. However, I called my regular credit card company and they upgraded me to one for a very slight incremental cost. Without a chip in your card, many readers in Europe including train machines cannot handle those swipe credit cards. (I had to pay cash 2 years ago and got chip cards last year when available in the US. Banks will send it to you upon request now.) 6) Was happy I brought 4 clothespins for the drapes in the hotel in Stockholm (20 hours of sunlight) and on the ship. Worked great. 7) We wore hidden waist wallets (learned to do this years ago because of travelling in Italy) with our cash, credit cards and passports. We were surprised that a few people did not know to do this and were robbed in St. Petersburg, Berlin or Amsterdam. It can happen anywhere in Europe. It’s recommended that if men want a wallet to keep only the equivalent of 20-30 euros they can afford to lose and keep an elastic around it so more difficult for pickpockets. I have my zipped purse that I wear across my body with only about 20 -30 euros in it so not an issue if ever taken. 8) We learned the hard way several cruises ago to keep our iPhones in airport mode (even when in the safe so they don't pick up wireless signals and charge us). Even in airport mode, you can use your phone at free internet cafes to check emails. You can also send photos by email with free wifi (just not as texts). If you do buy an internet package on the ship, your iphone (still in airplane mode) or iPad (also in airplane mode) is MUCH quicker than using the computers on the ship. Stockholm We took the Arlanda Express train from Stockholm airport to Central station. It was very easy since it leaves from the station and cost $33.20 total for my husband and myself. [1 SEK was .12 US dollars] At Central Station, however, we had to take a cab to our hotel about 15 minutes away (fairly close but traffic) for $20. Hence the total cost was $53.20. We liked that the train was fast since traffic in Stockholm was heavy when we arrived. However, finding a taxi in advance would have cost less per another couple we met on the ship who arranged transportation beforehand. TIP re taxis: Look at the yellow price sticker clearly shown per law on the outside window of the cab. SEK 290-390 is average from the airport to Central Station. [1 SEK was .12 US dollars. Hence, 330 SEK = $40.23 so a bit more to the hotel from Central station and a bit more for the second passenger.] We found the Hotel Rival online and loved it. Absolutely wonderful hotel, beautiful location and great staff. Stockholm was great too. We did the HopOn, HopOff bus including the ferry. The busses did not come every 20 minutes as promised which was frustrating at times although we did take it to the port and enjoyed the ferry ride to the Vasa Museum. If you do the green HOHO bus, know that you can also use the red busses IF it says “city siteseeing” on the side. We did not know this and missed a few busses since the other red busses are a different company! Stockholm sights: Everyone in Stockholm was very friendly, helpful and spoke English. Vasa Museum has a guided tour in English. It houses a ship (compared to the Titanic) that sunk 45 minutes into its maiden voyage in 1628. It is the only preserved 17th century ship in the world and was salvaged in 1961 from the water. Gama Stan is the medieval city center (near our hotel). This was the original island. It has a town square called Stortorget. One can see the German church with its steeple jutting into the sky and was said to remind all of the power of the Germans in Europe. Sweden is made up of islands so they call it the archipelago. Most of the places we went to are connected by bridges. History Museum With the Reformation in 1527, the King made Sweden a Protestant state and services were now in the people’s language instead of Latin. Hence, every nationality now had its own church and the Swedes got the Cathedral. Sweden was originally Catholic but has been Lutheran for 5 centuries. Will see a prominent statute of St. George who overcame their archenemy, the Danes. Stockholm is said to be the birthplace of social security and dynamite. Gustavus Adolphus (Lion of the North) was said to have made Sweden one of Europe’s top powers and helped Protestants turn tides against Catholics in the 30 years war. Royal Palace contains museum (warfare and wedding dress of Queen Sophia). Walk past it. However Royals actually live out of town at Drottningholm Palace. (They call this palace Sweden’s Versailles). The gardens are open and one can tour the palace although we did not. Nobel Prize museum. Alfred Nobel invented more than 300 patents including dynamite. 1st ceremony was in 1901, videoclips and pictures. [Someone said if you turn over the heavy chairs you will see they are signed.] Helsinki We paid $12 for the ship’s easy commuter bus. Very convenient (although others used the HopOn, Hop Off bus.) When you exit the ship, you will see the ship’s bus but not the HOHO bus. It comes to/from port all day and is located minutes away, just on the other side of the terminal. (Get a discount if keep receipt from previous HOHO bus.) It was cold in Helsinki but nice to walk around and see the city. We went to the National Museum about 3 blocks from the drop off site. Very interesting to see but wish there was more history about Finland rather than primarily objects. (English explanations were provided). Great coffee shop on first floor of the huge Stockman’s Department store with free internet that is close to the drop off site in Helsinki. St. Petersburg BOOKING a St Petersburg tour: ALL tour companies will arrange for your visa when you provide your info & passport number. Payment was not expected until the tour! Only need to pay for a visa if going unescorted (not advised due to language barrier & logistics on a cruise). If going on a ship's tour, ship also arranges your visa. We researched Cruise Critic and Trip Advisor and found the best private tour companies to be Alla Tours, TJ Tours, SPB Tours and Denrus. Check Trip Advisor for Reviews! Most private tours do groups of 14-16. However for about the same price, you can negotiate a private tour with some companies (including Alla & others on Trip Advisor) with groups of 4-6 due to competitiveness & falling rubble situation. Be SURE to indicate you do not want to be in a group with anyone who needs a walker, cane or scooter (which happened to us!) if you are able bodied and want to see as much as possible. This is an issue especially on ship cruise tours too since often 28 people leading to frustration for some people. Slower moving tourists should be accommodated separately. Also, if someone is late, vans can be held up. Ask in advance how handled. Ship arrived at 7am & cleared by 7:10am. However, people started lining up at 6:30 am to get off. One couple came down around 6:55am & held our van up by 35 minutes waiting for them. Even the couple w scooter & cane got there 10 minutes before them. SPB had 100 groups. They pre-assign names w a guide & vans leave when all assigned to that van arrive. Companies should have vans for latecomers AND put people doing evening activities in the same van vs multiple phone calls coordinating it all day. Ditto for walking impaired who need some assistance or extra time. Saying it’s an active tour in their promotions is not enough. Be sure to ask ANY tour company re this before booking your tour if concerned. Incredible opulence everywhere. We did a private tour with SPB but other equally great tour companies include Alla Tours, TJ Travel and Denrus. All of these private tour companies arrange for your visa to Russia after you send them your passport number. We did not pay until the 2nd day of our tour and chose to pay cash for safety. Cruisecritic.com/boards is a fantastic site for hints re any cruise and people on your same cruise arrange private tours and look for others or you can post there. (It is necessary to register the first time you use this site.) Our tour operator was fine but we had to wait outside the Hermitage in the cold for 30 minutes. Also we had someone in our group of 14 who needed a motorized scooter so found ourselves waiting often. (This happens easily on any ship’s tour but it’s helpful to ask if a private tour.) Given the situation with the Russian ruble, a family of 4 whom we got to know had a private tour with Alla tours for less than we paid. We also passed on a private tour for less money thinking that SPB would be better. They’re the same and we wouldn’t have had to wait in the cold for so long. Companies get a preferential time to enter the Hermitage. They said we did but we had to wait. Other friends including a group with TJ Tours got right in. It depends on your guide also. Overall though, we were happier with ours than doing a huge group ship’s tour. Unlike other ports, when you exit the ship in Russia, you need your passport and your tour ticket along with reservation confirmation which works as your visa to Russia. (Being on a confirmed tour is a visa since they’ve made arrangements for you and are expecting you.) We were told the ship would dock at 7am. The lines starting forming to exit the ship at 6:30pm, and the ship opened the doors at 7:10am. If people showed up at 7 or even 5 of 7 to leave the ship, they would have held up the private tour. It only took us about 30 minutes to clear immigration but allow for an hour in case. Our bus passengers were all there by 8:15am except for 2 couples. A couple with a motorized scooter and cane said it took them longer to clear immigration and they arrived at 8:20. HOWEVER, one couple (perfectly able) arrived at 8:40 and then our guide had the driver go over to SPB administrator to talk about the last couple’s plans to visit the ballet that evening with SPB. Hence we did not leave until 8:47am which might account for why we had a long wait outside at the Hermitage. (There were also numerous phone calls throughout the day between our guide and an SPB administrator trying to coordinate the couple in our group’s evening ballet tour with people in another SPB group. Apparently it was complicated and these people were not put together since the people going except for the couple with us wanted their own private tour of St. Petersburg.) Sites seen: [Note: normally the Hermitage is on Day 2 but they switch days when Day 2 is a Monday because the Hermitage is closed on Mondays.] Overview of the city drive Hermitage Museum (approx. 1.5 hours inside) called the Winter palace built by Catherine the Great in 1764. (Can recognize it by its distinctive green coloring). VERY opulent. Cold 30 minute wait outside. Some people did not bring coats as advised since we were told there is a wait at clockroom to pick up coats later since coats typically not allowed inside museum. They froze. However, exceptions were being made and coats could be worn in the museum we found out when inside. The Hermitage is closed on Mondays so 2-day tours generally flip the itinerary if Day 2 is a Monday. The Hermitage (Winter Palace) is distinctive with its green & white coloring. DETAILS RE THE HERMITAGE: The Hermitage is an impressive Baroque-museum located on the bank of the Neva River (very cold waiting in line outside for 30 minutes or so) built in mid 1700s as main winter residence of Russian Tzars. Only 7% of collection (over 3 million art items) is displayed per our guide due to space. Catherine The Great & princes under her direction purchased much of the artworkstarting in 1763 & continued for 23 years. Because of collection the original Winter Palace was expanded and is now 5 buildings. Interesting to note on our tour (Apprx 90 minutes): Main staircase called The Jordan Staircase, (I read called that because the tzar descended it for Ceremony of a Blessing of Waters (Neva River) Orthodox celebration of Christ's baptism in Jordan River). Stair hall w 18th century depicting the Gods of Olympus. Peter's Room--Peter the a Great Memorial Hall built for Tzar a Nicholas 1 in 1833 & recreated after fire in 1837. Opulent w red velvet throne with painting of a Peter The Great over it & lots of gold. Gold is EVERYWHERE throughout the Hermitage & other palaces. UNBELIEVABLE! Malachite Room (malachite dark green pillars contrasting w crimson velvet of furniture & lots of gold ornaments). Malachite is like Russian mosaic since they do this artwork to make the stone look like one piece--dark green flecks of gold--reminds me of an opulent piece of granite! Peacock clock--automated clock w 3 mechanical birds--peacock, rooster& owl-- made of gold & gemstones in cage. Made in UK & given to Catherine the great by one of her lovers (Prince Potemkin) in 1781. Amazing Crystal chandeliers everywhere. I overheard someone say it gets animated every half hour but didn't see that. Leonardo da Vinci Room has 2 original masterpieces you can quickly view & move on. One is Madonna Litta bought in 1865 from Count Antonio Litta in Milan. Also saw gallery (huge hall) replica of Raphael loggias like The Vatican w depictions from the Bible. Briefly saw Knights room w armour. (The Winter Palace by Eva Stachniak is an interesting quick read novel that will provide background on Catherine the Great and the Winter Palace. Paperback can be purchased used online like new for a few dollars.) Also saw on Day 1: St Isaacs Cathedral, Church of the Spilled Blood, Fortress of Sts Peter & Paul. Yusapi Palace was amazing & not to be missed! More wealthy than royals. Family of Muslim descent originally. Bought a palace in Florence just so he could have thestaircase & move it to his Yusapi Palace & abandoned the Italian one. St. Isaac’s Cathedral. Recognizable by the huge gold dome on the top (similar to the US capitol dome but plated with pure gold) and the columns in front. Incredible, lifelike mosaics that look like oil paintings are throughout the interior. Originally oil paintings hung there but dampness and humidity were destroying the paintings. Largest Russian Orthodox cathedral in the city dedicated to the patron saint of Peter the Great. Built by Tsar Alexander I (and the 4th church standing in this place). Took 40 years to build from 1818-1858. During World War II the dome was painted over in gray to avoid detection. With the fall of communism worship has resumed in the left-hand side chapel although still considered a museum. Inside visit to Church on Spilled Blood. Will recognize it with the colorful blue and gold onion dome on top as well as gold domes and mosiacs. Russian-style church was built by son Alexander III (and other imperials) on the spot where his father Emperor Alexander II was assassinated in March 1881. (He was assassinated in 1881 by a group of revolutionaries, who threw a bomb at his royal carriage.) It is officially called the Resurrection of Christ Church). He was assassinated because they felt he would not sign a constitution. Ironically, he planned to sign it that very evening. The interior of the church is decorated with incredibly detailed mosaics, designed and created by prominent Russian artists. Lunch Great lunch with slices of meat pie and fruit pie with a beverage (water, soda, coffee or beer). Inside visit to Yusupov Palace (super wealthy family, even more so than the Royals). Large, long yellow building on the canal (Moika River). Grigory Rasputin was murdered here and there is an exhibit to show how it was done. The tsar’s son had hemophilia. Grigory Rasputin was a self-proclaimed holy man with supernatural powers whom the tsar hired to heal his son. He then heavily influenced the Tsar through his supposed powers while knowing nothing about war to the detriment of Russia. In 1916 a group of the city's noble elite, including one of the Grand Dukes and led by Prince Felix Yusupov, conspired to kill Rasputin in his palace by poisoning him. The poison didn’t work so eventually he had to shoot him. Rasputin was murdered at the Yusupov Palace on the night of December 16-17 1916. The recreated interiors of this palace are opulent and there is an interesting exhibit with the story of Rasputin. Prince Yusupov bought a palace in Italy because he wanted the staircase in his Yusupov Palace. He moved the staircase to this Palace (and basically abandoned the Italian palace). Gold & crystal everywhere. Photos of the last tzar’s family on one wall towards the end of the tour. Inside visit to Sts Peter and Paul’s fortress and cathedral (burial place of Russian Emperors). Gorgeous mosaics and interesting re the tsars. Day 2: City sightseeing tour on canal boat ride was WONDERFUL to see these huge palaces from the water. Highly recommend! (Some difficulty getting a passenger’s motorized scooter on board.) Peter the Great wanted St. Petersburg to be like Venice so he initially didn’t have bridges built. He gave every citizen a boat and directions for how to use it. There are bridges now but they only upon up at night to let ships through. It’s amazing looking at the gorgeous palaces along the river and as the canal boat passed under numerous stone bridges before returning. Hydrofoil ride to Peterhof (summer royal residence). [Note: The hydrofoil ride is not anything special but rather a faster way to get to Peterhof than by bus. Some private tours do not use the hydrofoil ride which would not have been a deal breaker for us.] Gardens were renovated in 2012. At 11am the huge fountains in the gardens of Peterhof start and the music plays with this start. It was amazing to see, and fortunately our guide got us there by 15 of 11am in time to see it! We like most people recorded it on our iPhones. This was a highlight of visiting Peterhof. We didn't go inside the palace since not as special inside as other palaces we'd see but grounds are spectacular. The gardens were MUCH nicer than Versailles (esp Versailles these days) and the wooded areas near the paths were beautiful. Nice lunch at a local café. (Beet soup with sour cream, chicken with salad and ice cream). Inside visit to the Catherine Palace (including the Amber Room). Summer residence of the Russian tsars. Built in 1717 by Catherine I of Russia. Her daughter, Empress Elizabeth, in 1752 had it demolished (felt outdated) and a new one much grander one was finished in 1756. There is gold everywhere you look. Catherine the Great came and had personal apartments of the Empress added to it. The palace was abandoned upon Catherine’s death in 1796 in favor of the Pavlovsk Palace. In 1817 Alexander I had the interiors of his grandmother’s residence refurbished. The Germans destroyed the palace in WW2 leaving only the shell behind. Most of the reconstruction was done by 2003 but work is still being done. Fundraising events are held in the Grand Hall including concert by Elton John in 2001 and a party in 2005 with guests including Bill Clinton, Tina Turner, Whitney Houston and Sting. NOTE: About a 20 minute wait even with our guide rushing in order to get a passenger’s motorized scooter up to the waiting group to tour the palace. The elevator was quite far away and she had to get through a huge mob of people also. The palace was worth the wait though since it was unbelievable splendor. We saw other passenger’s photos of a St. Petersburg subway stop decorated and with a chandelier. However, our group did not have the time to do that. ADDITIONALLY, please note: Another group [SPB had 100 groups] had a passenger robbed during their subway stop. He was at the end of his group of 16 taking a photo and 3 Russian guys pushed him against the subway and emptied his pockets including his wallet. (He had credit cards and $300 in his wallet and wasn’t wearing a hidden wallet). Fortunately, he was able to call and cancel his credit cards and looked at the loss of the money as the cost of a tour. He was upbeat and didn’t let him spoil his trip especially since he didn’t lose his passport. Tallinn, Estonia It has a walled, cobble-stoned old town with a fairy tale atmosphere. (It helped that there was a street celebration going on with interesting vendors everywhere.) There is an Estonian History museum dedicated to 20th century history. Long interesting history and also great views of the harbor from a lookout point near the wall in the old town. We did a great 3.5 hour tour with Andrew Meeker who owns EstAdventures Tours (Australian who studied in Tallinn and lives there). We’d told him we wanted to see the old Russian sites since we could walk around and see the Old Town ourselves. He was terrific and took us to a “burial site” where lots of old Russian statutes are broken and thrown behind a building. Think of Stalin and Lenin lying on the lawn and also some with their heads broken or off their necks. We also saw some other interesting sites before he brought us to the Old Town and gave us some directions and pointers about it. We had lunch by ourselves in the Old Town and did some sightseeing before we walked (about 15 minutes or so) back to the ship. It looks confusing upon returning since the Docks are labelled A-D. (We weren’t sure which one was our ship). However, we could enter the first dock A and keep walking towards the back for Dock D for Celebrity. Berlin, Germany (Warnemunde port) Besides St. Petersburg, the other reason we booked this cruise was because we wanted to see Berlin and its history firsthand. However, I was SO concerned re the 3-hour drive from the port since I dislike long car rides but it did not turn out to be an issue for us. We did a private tour with SPB (booked together with St. Petersburg) but those other tour companies also do Berlin. The bus was comfortable and I (along with everyone else) slept until the bus stopped 1 hour before our destination. I’d had 3 cups of coffee and am sensitive to caffeine so couldn’t believe I slept almost the entire way but the cruise is a very busy one. We were SO fortunate to have Arjia (Arja?) as our SPB Tour guide. She was absolutely FANTASTIC and could tell us about things first hand since her grandfather was in the Soviet Army. Both he and her mother were from East Berlin. (She graduated from Hamburg University with an MA in history and is passionate and articulate. Nothing is off limits.) She also gives private tours with Berlin locals. The Sachsenhausen Concentration Camp was so very moving especially with Arjia’s insights. Her grandfather was a **** soldier so she has the inside scoop but totally disagrees with racism and what was done in Berlin to people. There is a phrase on the concentration camp entrance gate “Work will Set You Free” in German. This was to offer new people hope so that they would not rebel and would think working hard would make a difference. (It didn’t). To outsiders this meant it was a prison and not a concentration camp and they strived to make it appear so. (Appears are very deceiving.) It was primarily used for political prisoners from 1936 until 1945. Among the prisoners, there was a "hierarchy": at the top, criminals (rapists, murderers), then Communists (red triangles), then homosexuals (pink triangles), Jehovah's Witnesses (purple triangles), and Jews (yellow triangles). Having two badges would be even worse. Walking around it appears serene except for the barracks. However, we saw a deep trench where they would line people up against planks and shoot them and then push their bodies aside to store—mostly POWs here. Towards the end of the war, over 13,000 Soviet POWs came here and over 10,000 were murdered there. No one would have known how many except on their way to execution Soviets dropped 10,000 dog tags that other prisoners found. There could have been many more killed. (It is estimated that 30,000 people died in this camp.) This was a male camp but approximately 2,000 female inmates might have lived here. In WW2 there were no men left in Germany to work. Companies started hiring (no pay) some of these prisoners for workers but they were in poor health because of the way they were treated and fed. This eventually was not successful. Her grandfather was brainwashed and felt justified as a **** because ****s believed that the Polish invaded Germany (and not vice versa). In Germany they always follow the rules. Hence, they would kill someone. Because autopsies are required, they would do a 2 minute autopsy before they would cremate a person who had been just murdered. Sachsenhausen was originally not intended as an extermination camp. This was conducted mainly in camps to the east. In 1942 large numbers of Jewish inmates were relocated to Auschwitz. However the construction of a gas chamber and ovens by camp-commandant Anton Kaindl in March 1943 gave them the ability to kill larger numbers of prisoners. The prisoners thought they were being sent to a medical facility within the camp so they would walk in willingly. The camp was also bordered by an electrified fence upon which some prisoners would throw themselves. In the Spring of 1945 with the Red Army approaching, 33,000 inmates were evacuated and forced to march Northeast. Most were physically exhausted and thousands did not survive this death march. Those who collapsed en route were shot. In April 1945 the camp’s remaining 3,000 inmates were liberated. On August 12, 1961 a barbed wire fence went up overnight between East and West Berlin. (On November 9, 1989 the Berlin wall finally came down. You can still see pieces of it covered with graffiti.) A man on our cruise said that his parents left East Berlin just before the wall went up. His father was outspoken, and they could see things tightening up. If a spouse/parent went to West Berlin for the day, the other spouse/child had to still be at home in East Berlin. Both spouses could not leave East Berlin at the same time. Guessing what was about to happen, each of his parents went to the two different police areas to leave East Berlin “for the day”. Since this was before computers and it was thus not coordinated, both parents fortunately made it out of East Berlin before the wall went up. In East Berlin before the wall came down everything was for show. Museum Island was to show off their cultural heritage even though people were hungry. Propaganda everywhere. An outsider with a passport could come into East Berlin through Checkpoint Charlie but couldn’t leave a specified area or they would be shot. Construction cranes were visible for appearance of prosperity but were not working or moving. There is a phrase, “The enemy of the enemy is my friend.” The Cold War saved the ****s because they were united with the U.S against the Russians. Overall it was a very fascinating day. Many of us were awake on the way back but the drive didn’t seem too bad especially with a kindle. It would have helped though if the bus had internet though which it did in St. Petersburg. Providing water on the bus would have also been helpful. Fredericia, Denmark Just a little town with shops to get off and stretch your legs or use internet. (Some people took a tour to a castle but it would have been exhausting and repetitive after everything we have seen.) It was nice to have some relaxing time on the ship though. Copenhagen, Denmark We had been to this city previously for a week so just did the Hop On, Hop Off bus from the port. It ran frequently. Some sights we saw now and previously were: Denmark’s National Museum The Little Mermaid (located fairly close to the ship)on Langelinje Pier. It is quite crowded around it in June. You can look across the water from it to the graduation hat rooflike building (futuristic) which is the Opera House. Gorgeous inside with sparkling crystals at night. Opened in 2005. Amalienborg Palace museum (Queen lives in Amalienborg Palace). Located about a 5 – 10 minute walk from the Little Mermaid. It consists of four identical buildings spread around the octagonal courtyard. Christiansborg palace-- houses the Danish Parliament, Supreme Court, and Ministry of State. It is also used by the Royal Family for various functions and events. This is where foreign ambassadors and heads of states are welcomed by the Prime Minister and the Queen. The Great Hall contains the Queen's tapestry series, which depict 1000 years of Danish history. Rosenborg Castle is in the center of Copenhagen. It was originally built as a royal pleasure retreat by King Christian IV, but today it is a museum, displaying 400 years of Royal history. Round Tower --17th Century Tower and Observatory. It now has a floating glass floor. Nyhavn is the boating area on the canal with bars and restaurants everywhere as well as the canal cruises. Kronborg Castle was made famous by Shakespeare's royal tragedy, 'Hamlet'. This is a drive out of the City but we did it two years ago. It is a striking Renaissance castle and monumental military fortress. The grand ballroom and the castle dungeons are impressive. Amsterdam, Netherlands It is about an 8 minute walk up the ramp from the ship to Central Station with luggage. (It is visible from the dock in the distance.) Be careful if you are staying in Amsterdam. We booked a highly recommended hotel online which was great but turned out to be in Amsterdam West which meant we had to take the train one stop from Central Station and then a tram. (Alternatively we could have taken 2 trams.) Although Amsterdam is noisy and busy, it would have been far more convenient to stay in the downtown area but we did not look closely enough at the location and went solely by reviews. What to see/do: Anne Frank house (IF you can book it AT LEAST 3 months in advance so you don’t spend 2 hours waiting in line). It was sold out almost 3 months in advance. If the Anne Frank House it sold out, you might be able to look online and book a tour that includes the no wait line for the Anne Frank house. Canal tour. Our Lord in the Attic (museum house previously called Museum Amstelkring) which shows what it was like in the 16th Century and has a secret catholic church into the attic. Originally built in 1663 when Catholics lost the right to worship in public. The lower floors of the building became a museum in 1888 and today contain refurbished rooms, as well as a collection of church silver, various religious artifacts and paintings. It can be a bit hard to find but note that it is #40 Oudezijds Voorburgwal. They are expanding the building to the house next door so there is construction plastic in front of it (but not the actual entrance). It is confusing since the Salvation Army tiny church is #14 about a block away and a large church is a block in the other direction. Amsterdam (History) Museum was great. The Amsterdam Museum has two entrances: Kalverstraat 92 and Sint Luciënsteeg 27. It can be a bit tricky to locate but around the block is the Tourist Information Center who directed us. The central library (not far from the Central train station past the Double Tree Hotel) has a public café with sweeping views of Amsterdam on the 7th floor. Located at Oosterdokskade 143. Take the elevator to the 6th floor and walk up the stairs. The self-service food is quite good and there are beverages including beer and wine as well as frozen yogurt. Another interesting restaurant across the street from the train station directly on the canal is Loetje Centraal, Stationsplein 10 where you can sit outside and watch the boats go by. On your canal tour you will notice the pink and white umbrellas on the outside eating patio where the canal boats turn around. More upscale (but no view of the water) is the Hotel Pulitzer. It is a beautiful hotel located on the Canal fairly close to the Anne Frank House. They have a Tea Room and Bar that is open to the public. If you like art, the Van Gogh Museum is great. The Rijksmuseum (National Museum) has an interesting collection of Dutch art including Rembrandt’s painting Night Watch. Rembrandt’s House was recommended but we did not go to see it. We didn’t go but Waterlooplein Flea market is a big outdoor bazaar that was recommended as a fun event to attend. (300 stands, much but not all junk). It is in Waterloo Square located behind the town hall located in the proximity of Rembrandt House. This square was created in 1880 on the place of 2 canals and has a long history as a bazaar starting in 1893 as a Jewish market. As always in Amsterdam and tourist places, be aware of pickpockets. Read Less
Sail Date May 2015
After a stress free flight from London Heathrow my wife and I enjoyed 12 days of luxury cruising between St Petersburg and Moscow. The ship was very well appointed and spotlessly clean. The on board staff were very friendly and very ... Read More
After a stress free flight from London Heathrow my wife and I enjoyed 12 days of luxury cruising between St Petersburg and Moscow. The ship was very well appointed and spotlessly clean. The on board staff were very friendly and very helpful especially as my wife was disabled, they were always there to assist. The food was excellent with a wide variety of choice. The Viking Daily was very informative giving details of what was happening the following day. Having 4 days in St Petersburg at the beginning of the cruise and 3 days in Moscow at the end gave us ample time to see the main attractions. The organised excursions were well planned and had excellent guides, nothing was rushed. We will have no hesitation in booking another Viking Cruise.   Read Less
Sail Date September 2014
My husband and I just returned from the 2 week cruise on Viking Ingvar. We sailed spent 3 days in St Petersburg, then sailed on the Volga River stopping in Mondrogy, Kitzi, Uglich and Yaroslavl then 3 days in Moscow. We had cabin 219 which ... Read More
My husband and I just returned from the 2 week cruise on Viking Ingvar. We sailed spent 3 days in St Petersburg, then sailed on the Volga River stopping in Mondrogy, Kitzi, Uglich and Yaroslavl then 3 days in Moscow. We had cabin 219 which is a regular cabin without a balcony - the size of the cabin & bathroom were ample for the 2 of us. We used the Panorama Lounge & the top outside deck when we wanted to be somewhere else besides our room. We loved this arrangement. Viking does an excellent job with choosing guides, tours, bus drivers, etc & making you feel part of the culture of Russia. We felt that Viking used local guides that were very familiar and knowledgeable on all the tours that we attended. Guests have headsets to be able to hear the commentary of the guides and this works great when you are in group tours. In St Petersburg we chose the optional tour of Peterhoff, St Petersburg by Water tours & Cossack Dance show which were wonderful. We attended all of the other tours offered by Viking on the regular itinerary which were all very worthwhile. In Moscow, we chose Moscow by Night and Kremlin Armory tour which were also wonderful. For our free day in Moscow, we hired a private local guide from Happy Moscow Tours (Ludmilla who one of the best private guides we have ever had) to take us on a full day private tour. We did not feel like we were able to see some of the more important sites in Moscow with Viking tours so we were thrilled to have the private guide on our free day. Ludmilla took us to Lenin's tomb to see his remains, gave us a detailed tour of St. Basil's cathedral, revealed some of the interesting history of the GUM Department Store, showed us a number of the more interesting & beautiful subway stations and guided us through the Statute Park (discarded soviet statutes in a beautiful park setting) as well as choosing a traditional Russian restaurant experience for our lunch. The first 3 days in St Petersburg are very busy & we were ready for the 5 days of cruising and relaxing that sailing on the Volga River afforded us. We were rested when we arrived in Moscow & ready to tour and experience Moscow & tackle the long trip back to the US. We traveled from August 9-22 and the weather was just about perfect - 60s-70s during the day. We had 2 days of misting weather while we were cruising in the north which were chilly but the rest was pretty perfect! The food, service, cleanliness of the ship, attention of the Viking staff were all top of the line & made this cruise so enjoyable and pleasant to be on. We would recommend this cruise/tour to anyone traveling to Russia. We don’t speak Russian or understand the Russian alphabet so traveling on the Viking cruise made for a very easy and pleasant experience. We will always remember our wonderful trip to Russia.   Read Less
Sail Date August 2014
Three friends and I booked a 12 night Viking cruise from St. Petersburg to Moscow. Viking advertises that their motor coaches have restrooms. Unfortunately, the restrooms were locked the entire length of our cruise. I spoke to the program ... Read More
Three friends and I booked a 12 night Viking cruise from St. Petersburg to Moscow. Viking advertises that their motor coaches have restrooms. Unfortunately, the restrooms were locked the entire length of our cruise. I spoke to the program director, about it the first day and she couldn't have cared less. I also reminded her of Viking's Service Guarantee, where a customer within the first 24 hours of the cruise, may register a complaint, the cruise line has 24 hours to rectify the situation. I also spoke to the hotel manager about the lack of bathroom availability and the Viking Service Guarantee. He told me that they had had problems with bathroom availability on the coaches and that I should write it on my survey. I waited the 24 hours to see how Viking would rectify the situation and they never did. No one on the Viking staff ever got back to me. With the exception of breakfast, the food on the ship was horrific at best. The chicken was dry and rubbery. They even messed up a BLT sandwich and I didn't think that was possible. The food was so bad that we ate three days in a row at McDonald's in Moscow and loved it. I asked a server for Diet Coke twice and she told me, "No." Nik, the maitre d' and the Filipino wait staff were good. The in room movie schedule didn't coincide with the actual time the movies began. How hard is it to get the schedule accurate? The lady working at the ship's store asked my sick friend if her need for cough drops was an emergency because she was off duty. The cabin size was nice. The air conditioning didn't work on two occasions, but was corrected. A night stand fell of the wall and it was also repaired. I asked for a top sheet on the bed and I was left a top sheet to make the bed myself on two occasions. Not what I would expect on a ship at this price point. The in room ice buckets should have had a plastic bag liner for sanitary reasons. Tea, coffee and hot cocoa were complimentary on deck 3, but you had to pay for it in the Panorama Bar and Sky Bar. Complimentary soft drinks should have been available. The days cruising along the river were boring. They should have recorded the tour guides lectures to be available in your cabin. DVD's and DVD players would have been nice in the cabin. When I wrote to Viking Cruises to complain, they sent us a $1000.00 voucher off a future cruise. None of us want to go on another Viking cruise even if they gave it to us. I have tried for six months to resolve this amicably with Viking to no avail. Viking is not assuming any responsibility for their horrible performance on this cruise. They expect the passengers to assume all liability, while they accept none. I have never seen a company with such poor to nonexistent customer service. I would encourage everyone to never sail with them.   Read Less
Sail Date June 2014
Having read the reviews, I went with low expectations for the ship. I was pleasantly surprised in many ways. First, the staff onboard were friendly and anxious to please and be helpful. The AMA guides were very, very good at their jobs - ... Read More
Having read the reviews, I went with low expectations for the ship. I was pleasantly surprised in many ways. First, the staff onboard were friendly and anxious to please and be helpful. The AMA guides were very, very good at their jobs - most knowledgeable and ready to answer questions as well as being masters at keeping up with tourists who tend to wander from the group. We were herded through the most crowded and challenging circumstances (for them) with much skill. No one ever got separated unless they chose to go off on their own. The dining rooms on board - and there are two, surprised me with the variety of food available at all meals. Some of the dishes cooked were better than others, but never did I feel underfed. I could have lived off the wonderful soups, the various salads offered and the fresh bread. Luckily I didn't have to do that, as there were many other dishes to choose from. Waiters and waitresses were young - many college students at summer jobs - and made up for their occasional lack of serving skills with many smiles, much attention to diners' needs and a great desire to please. I heard some passengers, who had cruised with AMA to other European ports and were disappointed with the style and luxury level of the ship, say that the cabins were like a Motel 6. I really can't argue with that, but the cabins were cleaned daily, the beds were comfortable and the water pressure in the showers was fantastic. Frankly, that suited the two of us. Luxury is nice, but in order to see a good bit of Russia and not have to pack and unpack, I found the cabin to be a good trade-off. All the cruise ships are Russian owned - the cruise companies can refurbish the interiors. There was no feeling of discomfort for us due to the political situation in the Ukraine. There had been a fair amount of cancellations on the ship, but everywhere we went was packed with tourists from all over the world. The tourist industry in Russia may be suffering this year, but it was surprising to me how many tourists were there (we all go to the same ports) on the river cruising and in the cities. We never felt unsafe in any way, except from being trampled by tourists in the Hermitage. We had a wonderful time. AMA Katerina is a good choice for this trip.   Read Less
Sail Date June 2014
I recently took a cruise on the Royal Princess. I chose the cruise because of the itinerary: it was the only cruise including Scandinavia and the Baltics that started and ended in St. Petersburg, enabling me to spend more than the usual ... Read More
I recently took a cruise on the Royal Princess. I chose the cruise because of the itinerary: it was the only cruise including Scandinavia and the Baltics that started and ended in St. Petersburg, enabling me to spend more than the usual cruise-offered one or two nights in St. Petersburg, and to go to Moscow as well. I had cruised with Princess once before, on the former Renaissance ship Pacific Princess in French Polynesia and the Marquesas. That ship had not yet been updated and the accommodations and food were marginal at best. I had cruised once on a larger ship: years ago on the Rhapsody of the Seas. More recently, I went on a two week Western Carribean cruise on the "medium-sized" Celebrity Eclipse, and it was quite enjoyable. The rest of my cruises have been on Oceania and Regent's 550-650 passenger ships, including a 2 1/2 month round trip cruise from Ft. Lauderdale to and around South America including Antarctica, the Falklands, and back to back cruises totaling 3 months starting in Istanbul and ending in Hong Kong. I have read the many comments on the Royal Princess' staterooms. I did not find any of them to be a problem except the shower curtain. In fact, I found the bathroom to be well laid out with the storage shelves conveniently NOT over the toilet (so items don't fall in). There was plenty of storage space in my balcony stateroom, and the deck chairs were not a problem. The bed was extremely comfortable. However, the towels were disappointingly thin and rough. The problems I had with this ship concern its design, structure and size. Apparently Princess thinks it needs to add gimmicks in order to distinguish itself from its competition. An example of this is the obviously expensive to construct Seawalk that juts out over the side of the ship and has a clear bottom so you can see the sea while walking on it. As has been noted by other passengers, I rarely saw anyone on the Seawalk during my cruise. It is certainly not something you want to walk on more than once. Yet, there is no walk way around the outside of the ship which passengers can be used for doing laps. None of the chairs around the pool are in the shade, instead, there are tables. The pool-less Sanctuary and Retreat are a total waste of money in a Baltic Cruise; it is too windy and cold to be out there. I never saw a single person using that area during my cruise; the sea days were rainy and cold. At least on Celebrity the adults-only area not only has a pool; it is enclosed from the elements. While there were no annoying alcohol-fueled games at the pool, there was constantly noise, including movies during the day. The evening movies were rarely attended as it was too cold and/or rainy, and that was also true of the attendance for the Bellagio-wannabe water and light shows, which are another waste of money. And, one viewing of that show is more than enough. The biggest structural problem with the ship is the much-ballyhooed multi-floor open atrium. The line must think that having entertainment blaring on the central court creates excitement and energy, but what it really does is drive people to find somewhere quiet, and that is hard to do. It is really a jolt to be sitting in one of the many atrium-side areas and then suddenly a musical or dance group is blaring loud music that reaches all floors. There also are no indoor areas where passengers can sit and watch out the front of the ship while the ship is sailing. There are some seats in a few of the restaurants and bars that area seated by windows so you can see outside, but in a speciality restaurant the view is blocked by lifeboats. Possibly in part because of the number of passengers, the food quality was very poor. I ate at almost every food venue on the ship. For example, in the main dining room, the pasta was cold, lumpy and tasteless. A lamb chop were so shriveled up and tough I had to saw it with my knife. At the so-called Seafood bar, the Spanish and Portuguese and sardines were served in a can, just as you would purchase them in a grocery store. And the fresh sashimi looked old and was not served with chopsticks. Meals in the speciality restaurants were also a disappointment. A major disappointment was in the port of Stockholm. In fact, the ship was too large to dock in Stockholm, so it docked an hour away in a town called Nynanham. A passenger's choices were to either 1) take a ship-organized tour of Stockholm; 2) take a taxi into Stockholm ($150 one way); 3) take a shuttle to the train station and the the train into Stockholm; or 4) take a ship-provided bus into and back from Stockholm. I chose to do the latter. It did not arrive into Stockholm until 11am and then left to return to the ship at 4:15. It was difficult to see much of Stockholm in that short a period of time. On a positive note, the staff and crew were uniformly helpful and professional. Read Less
Sail Date May 2014
My husband and I and three other couples recently sailed on the Viking Helgi from St. Petersburg to Moscow. Here is the good, the average, the bad and the ugly. The good: The food was consistently very good to excellent. The lectures by ... Read More
My husband and I and three other couples recently sailed on the Viking Helgi from St. Petersburg to Moscow. Here is the good, the average, the bad and the ugly. The good: The food was consistently very good to excellent. The lectures by the guides on the boat were also very good, as were the ports of call. We enjoyed both St. Petersburg and Moscow as well as all the stops along the Baltic-Volga Waterway. The weather was amazing, with the only rain coming on the very last afternoon. Everyone is in a better mode when there is good weather! The Wi-Fi was great everywhere we sailed. Our housekeeper was amazing. The room was always made up and ready when we out. We tipped her generously, although we never saw her! The average: Our guides gave great lectures on the ship, but they rarely led us off the ship. The local guides were very uneven. We were suppose to tip our Viking guides $10 per day per person, but at the end of the cruise, we only did this for days we were actually with her. Some days we never saw her or any other guide from the ship, only local guides. Somedays she just rode on the bus with us. Unlike our China trip, our Russian guides had no interest in the passengers. One of the three main guides got on the bus everyday and promptly fell asleep! Very unprofessional. The bad: The ship docks in both cities are far from the center and main tourist sites and since the traffic is horrendous you will spend a lot of time on buses traveling, even in the evenings. In St. Petersburg you cannot even walk to a metro station. In the ports along the river there is rarely time to go off on your own unless you skipped the guided tour. The exception was Mandrogi. Service in the dining room was very uneven and not friendly. The crew often acted liked the passengers were inconveniencing them. The cruise director was poor in that he did not have answers to many questions, and on several occasions he turned out to be wrong. I gave up asking him anything as his answer was usually "I don't know." Not "What is your cabin number and I'll check for you?" The A/V equipment on the ship rarely worked so the presentations were often done without a visual. They said (as they did about many things during the cruise.), that it was "the end of the season." The wine for lunch and dinner was okay, but it never changed for 12 days. We did a river cruise with a different cruise line in Holland and they changed the wines all the time. Viking has too many optional excursions. You spend a lot of time figuring out what you want to do. Viking should include more and charge more if necessary. There were numerous days when no excursions were included. Yes, we knew this going in, but didn't realize how difficult this would actually be. Again, comparing Viking's China trip, where the only optional were evening events. Also, there is no exercise room or walking track, so on the days along the river there is no place to walk on the ship. (I've noticed Viking did not put exercise rooms or bikes on any of there new "longships", which is a deal breaker for us in the future.) The remodeled cabins are still small and the walls paper thin. We were lucky because our neighbors were quiet, but our friends complained. We did hear the music every night from the lounge above our room, but it did not usually keep us awake. The ugly: When the Viking ships in Russia were renovated last year, they did not enlarge the lounge area (Sky Bar) and it could only hold about half of the passengers on board. Most of the talks and parties were there, but unless you came early there was no seating. Everyone on board complained about this. There was only one table for eight in the dining room, so one of our party had to be early to line up for dinner or we would not get it. If we did not get it, we had a waiter make a table for six into a table for eight. If Viking wants us to bring friends and/or a group they should have more larger tables. Also, we were told tables could not be reserved, which was an out right lie. One night my husband and I were the first ones in line. We went to a table we knew was "reserved" and sat down. We were immediately told to get up that someone was sitting there. We said we the first ones in the door! The server was embarrassed, but said we had to move. 30 minutes later the "usual group" came and claimed their "unreserved" table. It was apparent that you had to pay off the dining staff to get a specific table. It became very ugly at dinner. The singer on the ship was outright awful. Our group was thinking of paying her to not sing! In the end, we felt that while we throughly enjoyed Russia, we will look elsewhere for any further river cruising. The unprofessional staff on all levels, the layout of the ship, the lack of an exercise room and/or bikes, and numerous optional tours will not have us returning to Viking River Cruises or recommending it to friends. Read Less
Sail Date September 2013
I've just returned from the September 17-29 Viking Rurik Waterways of the Czars cruise. The ship was a pleasant surprise, considering some of the reviews I'd read here. It has been remodelled and is more attractive than its ... Read More
I've just returned from the September 17-29 Viking Rurik Waterways of the Czars cruise. The ship was a pleasant surprise, considering some of the reviews I'd read here. It has been remodelled and is more attractive than its sister ship, Viking Truvor, in the areas I saw. (We were tied up with Truvor on several occasions, and walked through.) Our BX cabin in the mid-range of the 300 range was quite well-appointed and comfortable, with excellent housekeeping by Rosa. The only downside is that the walls are thin, and on two or three nights, neighbors were obviously Skyping family in the literal middle of the night, and we felt we should say hello as well. I also heard from fellow passengers that some cabins on the 200 level are very noisy and prone to vibration, particularly EX classes. The dining room was arranged with a good choice of small and large tables, and one could be social or not as one desired without being constrained by the set-up. The food was much better than I expected from other reviews, and included a number of excellent Russian specialities. Our waitstaff was excellent and personable. Norman, in particular, was a joy with his youthful ebullience. The bars were small, and the Sky Bar could not accommodate all passengers for events such as meeting the staff. Lectures were given twice for half the clients at a time. Panorama Bar was lovely, but also small. Bar staff Charlene and Jefruna (?) were charming. Included excursions were very well organized and passengers were escorted in groups of about 30 by permanent staff and local guides. Staff member Alexey and local guide Dina did a miraculous job of not losing any of us on a Metro trip to the center of Moscow for a walking tour! Guide Sasha made the initial trip from airport to ship in Moscow bearable, but the traffic was incredible every day, and a lot of time is wasted getting to venues in Moscow because of this. I would recommend a pre-trip hotel extension, or one of the cruises that starts with a central hotel stay, though this is only done on sister ships that are probably not as nice as the Rurik. Lectures on history and politics by guides Alexey, Elena and Sasha were interesting, and available on internal TV if you wished to stay in the cabin rather than go to the Sky Bar. TV reception of BBV, CNN, Bloomberg, etc. was generally excellent, and wireless worked reasonably well, particularly early and late in the day (unfortunately so, in view of the Skyping!). We arranged for an evening at the ballet in St. Petersburg, and the taxi and restaurant reservations made by the management staff worked flawlessly. On the down side, we could not get to Kizhi due to rough weather on Lake Onega, and we also had to set a sea anchor for 12 hours on Ladoga due to rough weather. This delay was compensated for by taking the passengers into St. Petersburg by hydrofoils as soon as we got into the Neva, and giving us a brief but good tour of the Peter and Paul Cathedral and exterior of Spilled Blood while the Rurik got itself into port. The Peterhof excursion, usually optional and extra cost, was subsequently provided free of charge to all passengers. The major disappointment has to be the time spent in horrendous traffic in Moscow, with the rough weather a second. The unusual cold snap was the third, but Viking, of course, was not responsible for any of these. I would certainly advise doing the trip in the Moscow to St. Petersburg direction, to leave a better aftertaste, and to consider June or late August. All in all, though, a wonderful time.   Read Less
Sail Date September 2013
VIKING RIVER CRUISE WATERWAYS OF THE TSARS This was a holiday which included some unforgettable experiences; not only in St Petersburg and Moscow, but also in places like the delightful Yaroslav and Uglich which we visited en route. But ... Read More
VIKING RIVER CRUISE WATERWAYS OF THE TSARS This was a holiday which included some unforgettable experiences; not only in St Petersburg and Moscow, but also in places like the delightful Yaroslav and Uglich which we visited en route. But there were some disappointing elements too. Overall we thought the cruise provided relatively poor value for money. Although some of the cruising along the Volga, particularly on the approach to Moscow, was very enjoyable more of it, near to St Petersburg, was monotonous with little to see other than miles and miles of unchanging birch forest. The fare we paid would have allowed us instead to stay in very good St Petersburg and Moscow hotels and travel between the cities on the vary fast (4 hour) express train. The Ship (Viking Ingvar) Although being recently modernised with the additions of balconies this is still an old ship. Built in 1989 it shows its age, not least in the considerable vibration to be felt, even on the upper deck, in the rear of the boat. It's terribly bland with the public areas more closely resembling a decent cross channel ferry than a cruise liner. It's also very small and those who aren't happy reading or otherwise making their own entertainment will sometimes be bored, particularly when poor weather forces you in from the sun deck or balconies. There are two bars - one generally open during the day and the other during the evening. They're functional but dull. There's no gym and nowhere to walk (the decks having been given up to accommodate balconies). The rooms are fine, albeit small. There are no stewards and no room service although the housekeeping is of a very high standard. We would have found the journey altogether too claustrophobic without a balcony and it was significant that those in rooms only with windows struggled to find somewhere quiet and comfortable to sit during the day. It's important to be aware that the boat is a riverboat, certainly not equipped for poor weather. Unfortunately, crossing Lake Lugado (the biggest lake in Europe) at night we met a strong wind hitting the port side and waves of about two metres. The boat pitched from side to side in dramatic fashion and a number of people were ill and quite a lot of damage occurred in the kitchen. The Captain told us that such weather was not particularly exceptional and they cross the lake even when the waves hit three metres. Dining The food ranges from the very good to the mediocre. Breakfasts are generally excellent with eggs and omelettes cooked to order as well as a full range of bacon, sausage and so on along with continental alternatives. Lunches and dinners were variable. Salads were somewhat monotonous and the fish generally uninspiring. But the steak -available every day - was very good indeed. In comparative terms we would place the standard of food as significantly below, say, Cunard or Holland America and a little below Princess. There is no fixed seating which we regretted. It meant that waiters did not generally have the opportunity to get to know us, and us them. The service was generally very willing but inconsistent and it was sometimes necessary to be very assertive to get a waiter's attention. Obtaining anything out of the ordinary took some patience (initially, about fifty per cent of our requests for hot milk to be served with our coffee were unsuccessful). Other facilities The library was very poor indeed amounting to no more than a single bookcase of books almost all left by previous customers. In addition there was a selection of board games. The shop was worse, selling almost nothing other than the usual Russian souvenirs (stacking dolls and Amber jewellery) all extravagantly priced. Excursions These were mixed. Stops in Yaroslav and Uglich, both "Golden Ring" cities were particularly good and with the visit to a Russian home in Uglich, for breakfast, particularly fascinating. The island of Khizi with the Church of the Transfiguration - a World Heritage site - was also really worth seeing. But Mandrogy is no more than an entirely synthetic tourist market with innumerable stalls selling the same mass-produced trinkets, which they pretend to manufacture in various faux craft rooms. It's pretty insulting. And a visit to a school at another intermediate stop just seemed like laziness on Viking's part when the visit was on a Saturday in August and to a school more or less deserted other than for builders. Excursions in St Petersburg and Moscow were variable. We found many of our fellow passengers - particularly the Americans - to be very nervous travellers and so, for example, we spent quite a lot of time near Red Square waiting for fellow passengers to pay a visit to the bathroom. Some of them needed the guide to provide them with the necessary Roubles, being surprised that the attendants were not much interested in accepting US dollars for their admittance. But it's generally easy to detach yourself from the guides - essential at places like the Hermitage - and the transport to and from the various venues was very good with lots of coaches and lots of space. In Moscow, a folkloric concert - of which we expected very little - turned out to be outstandingly good with talented and skilled young people playing Russian instruments both individually and in orchestra. But the visit to the Ballet in St Petersburg - an expected highlight of the trip for my wife - was very disappointing. My own experience of ballet is extremely limited but even I could see that some of the performers were past their best and much of the dancing of the corps de ballet poorly synchronised. The only other customers at this performance (in a Theatre you will not find listed in any St Petersburg guide book) were other River Cruise and Ocean Cruise customers. There were no Russian spectators. Entertainment and Lectures There's a singer in the evening bar after nine and she was quite good although generally ignored by the handful of customers. On one evening there was a brief and enjoyable operatic performance by visiting singers and on another one of the cleaners gave an enjoyable if somewhat hesitant piano recital. Lectures - which used to be delivered on Viking Cruises by experts in their field - were delivered by the three resident tour guides. They were poor and characterised by some tendentious interpretation of recent Russian political history. Conclusion Overall, this represented poor value for money. Those who enjoy the relative luxury and facilities of a mid range cruise liner will find the accommodation and facilities on the Viking ships to be very basic and, in poor weather, claustrophobic. We will be most unlikely to use Viking again. Read Less
Sail Date August 2013
A week ago I returned from my first ever cruise, my first ever time in Russia. I felt that river cruising seemed like a safe bet from both the cruise point of view (no waves!) and the foreign-ness of a land whose language I couldn't ... Read More
A week ago I returned from my first ever cruise, my first ever time in Russia. I felt that river cruising seemed like a safe bet from both the cruise point of view (no waves!) and the foreign-ness of a land whose language I couldn't even guess at. And I was right. The Amakatarina is a Russian river boat (MV Mstislav Rostropovich) built (I think) in the 1980s and completely refurbished last year. We chose a cabin on the very top deck - the sun deck - and very much enjoyed the elevated view of the country through which we passed from our balcony, though in the first week of October I only actually sat out on it once, when a warm afternoon in St Petersburg had me out in a thin Tshirt for well over an hour. The cabin was roomier than I had anticipated, though we visited a slightly larger one on the deck below us. The window and glass door took up the whole of one wall, so when the sun shone the whole cabin was lit up - if you choose a starboard cabin for the St Petersburg-Moscow trip, you face south much of the time. The shower room was small but surprisingly user-friendly because of the large mirrored cabinet above the basin, which itself was quite large and could hold toiletries (supplied) on its sides. The shower curtain worked efficiently, and the hot water was piping hot and the pressure amazing. The beds were extremely comfortable - even though I initially thought the pillow somewhat robust - and the gentle vibration from the engines when we were sailing was soothing. (I never found out if it was more apparent on lower decks) One point to note is that there is only one internal and quite steep stair to the top deck, and the lift doesn't go as high as that, so if you find steep stairs a problem choose a lower deck). Before I went on the cruise, I read a good deal of negative comment about the food on this ship. When I was on it, there was one American chef and a Russian one, and I found everything I ate tasty and beautifully presented. They soon cottoned on to the fact that not all of us wanted a full 3-course lunch and excellent salads and lighter lunches were made available on a self-service basis in the upper dining room. I had asked for soya milk, and this was provided along with a small laminated card explaining in Russian and English the need to avoid cream and shellfish, which I could show to waiters if necessary. Breakfast was self-service and lavish; we could have had champagne and salmon every morning if we'd wanted. The trips ashore were a marvel of organisation and hugely interesting. We were well-served by knowledgeable local guides with an excellent command of English, and the young on-board guides (our fave was Julia) who made sure we were all where we ought to be were wonderful. I wanted the cruise never to end - part of me is still gliding down silent waterways in the dusk, with the golden forests slipping past in the light from our bridge. Read Less
Sail Date October 2012
The ship and staff were wonderful. Our cabin had a large window and the deck outside was roped for for staff only, so it was very private. The room was well appointed and though small did not seem crowded. Food was different every day ... Read More
The ship and staff were wonderful. Our cabin had a large window and the deck outside was roped for for staff only, so it was very private. The room was well appointed and though small did not seem crowded. Food was different every day and delicious (even the reindeer and borscht), staff was very friendly and seemed they would do anything for you including discussing with us their jobs, homes, family, etc. Enjoyed them very much. The scenery was beautiful and like nothing I expected. Though I don't know what I expected as this was my first Russia trip! We had multiple days in both St. Petersberg and Moscow and one-day excusions in quite a few small towns visiting magnificent churches and purchasing handicrafts of the Russian people. I brought home beautiful souvenirs that I will cherish. The gift shop at the Armory Museum at the Kremlin had gorgeous things, but unfortunately no one spoke English and our guides were not there to help. In between visiting the small towns, we sailed on beautiful rivers and huge lakes - so very peaceful and beautiful. Children along the way were always in the rivers/lakes playing and greeting us. Fun The weather was abominably hot and that made me miss a few things so we probably should have booked on another date. The airport in Moscow was simply awful. After checking in with our airline, it was chaos and there was no one who spoke English to help us find out where we were supposed to be. Our flight took off at a different gate that the airline indicated, we stood in a line for over 2 hours not knowing if we were in the correct line. I envisioned another week in Moscow - at the airport! Read Less
Sail Date July 2012
We are four people, one in their 50's, and three in their 60's, and everyone is very well traveled.We took the route from St. Petersburg to Moscow. On the positive side we met many very nice people, which is very important on ... Read More
We are four people, one in their 50's, and three in their 60's, and everyone is very well traveled.We took the route from St. Petersburg to Moscow. On the positive side we met many very nice people, which is very important on this cruise, as there is nothing to do for most of the time. The brochure talks about all their shore excursions. On one of the "shore days" we were off the ship at 8:00 a.m and back on the ship at 10:15 a.m. It would be another 29 hours until we got off the boat again- with nothing to do for all of that time.We would have loved to explore some of the beautiful stops, but the tours are very self-contained and of a very short duration.However, the one worth taking with the optional excursion to the banya. Our banya treatment lasted a few minutes longer than it should and we had to run, soaking wet, back to the boat.The only down side to going to the banya is that you cannot see anything else on this island, as there is no time allotted for to do both. There is absolutely no entertainment on the ship. They advertise a piano bar, which actually means one musician playing background music. After several memos to Viking we did have one night where he actually played lively songs with audience participation. The food was barely tolerable, and the choices worse. Breakfast was the best of the meals, only it was exactly the same day after day. Sometimes they did substitute whatever vegetable was left over from the night before. One day we sat down to lunch with another couple.Four of us ordered as our main dish. The waiter came back to say that they were out of soup, but they had two portions of chicken kiev left. One night at dinner we ordered spring rolls (which were the main course). Two tiny spring rolls appeared and when we asked for another portion the waiter told us they ran out. Many nights we had a baked potato and a wilted cesear salad. Lunch did have a salad bar, but it was the same every day (I never figured out what the two extra salads were- they were labeled "with fish" or "with pork") If you are hungry after dinner you are just out of luck. After much discussion with the ship's manager we did manage to have a very small plate of cookies put out at l0:00p.m., but you had to know to be in the bar at that time. The food was the absolute worst I have ever encountered on any ship, or any two star restaurant. The staff was completely indifferent to us- they did not, in any way, try to make our trip any better. As someone else wrote, they never looked up at you, welcomed you (or ever had food/drink to welcome you back) or stopped their conversations. I just read another review of this ship and they talked about the sister ship Helga and how nice it was. Our hotel manager told us his hands were tied and all directives come from Viking. Apparently that is not true. Viking does not charge two star prices, they should not provide two star voyages. Despite all of the above, we had a wonderful vacation. We met really nice people and saw places we had only read about. I can just imagine how much better it could have been on a different ship or a different line. The beauty of Russia is a trip worth taking, just not on the Viking Ingvar. Read Less
Sail Date July 2012
I think that the Viking Cruise Line should get an award for bringing two cultures together that, for so many years, were told to doubt and fear each other. I'm talking about the United States and Russia. I knew that our cruise was ... Read More
I think that the Viking Cruise Line should get an award for bringing two cultures together that, for so many years, were told to doubt and fear each other. I'm talking about the United States and Russia. I knew that our cruise was going to show us Russia; however, I totally underestimated how much Viking would help us understand each other. They started early with emails that gave us a preview of what to expect--what our ship looked like, our accommodations, what to wear. There were interesting bits about food and culture. Well, those were just the warm-ups. We were even welcomed on the boat if we showed up a bit early. On the first day, at check in, they wanted to know our travel plans to get to the airport when we left from Moscow. Everything was always covered so well. But that's just the minor stuff. Every morning we were awakened by our social director (I'm sure there's a more suitable title) hearing her wonderful voice, "Good morning, ladies and gentlemen; welcome to another day in beautiful St. Petersburg"--or wherever we were. We loved our tour guide, Olga. We thought, "Wow, we lucked out!" only to learn that everyone "lucked out"; everyone loved their tour guide. We knew that, too, as we got to know all of them as they presented Russian language lessons, Russian history lessons, and lessons on the politics of Russia. These presentations were so well thought-out, so fair in their perspective, so honest--everything that we could have wanted. The choices for tours was so encompassing--seeing "Swan Lake" in St. Petersburg, the Armory in Moscow, the amazing museum of Russian art in Moscow, the stop along the river in Kizhi, the Folklore Symphony in Moscow, the beautiful palaces---I could go on forever. Every day was a new discovery, a new sense of wonderment. No wonder we were close to tears when it was time to leave beautiful Russia. And, of course, it wasn't just the sights. What about the adorable school children who put on a play in English for us, the sweet, humble family that had us to their home for a mid-morning tea (and vodka!). I loved seeing their garden, their grandchild. What I felt with the Russian people, over and over again, was, "They are exactly like us. They want the same things for their children and from their leaders that we want." I recalled all those years when I had to do bomb drills at school because "the Russians were going to bomb us!" I'm so grateful to Viking for providing us with such an in-depth experience, to bring us together with other wonderful people who, at one time, we were taught were our enemies. For that alone, Viking deserves a Nobel Peace Prize. It's only through travel, one on one encounters, and deep cultural experience that we can experience the oneness to which we are heirs. Thank you, Viking. P.S. The food was great and healthy! Read Less
Sail Date June 2012
Arrived one day early in SPB. Stayed at Alexander House, which I highly recommend. Amusing atmosphere, very nicely serviced, small restaurant with good food at a reasonable price. They also sent a car to get us at the airport which was ... Read More
Arrived one day early in SPB. Stayed at Alexander House, which I highly recommend. Amusing atmosphere, very nicely serviced, small restaurant with good food at a reasonable price. They also sent a car to get us at the airport which was inexpensive and fantastic! Staff speaks English, free WIFI, great breakfast and quiet location. Anna at the desk is wonderful.AMA KATARINA :Generally enjoyable. Room smaller than expected but immaculate and well kept and supplied by Daria. extra towels pillows toilet tissues were always full. Rooms aft of the lobby suffer vibrations, engine noise and fuel smells. Very nice bedding and comfy bed. Bathroom adequate. One night of rough seas. Rooms without opening balcony doors and windows suffered greatly with uncontrollable heating & air conditioning..we had a balcony (235) so were fine.The doctor on board does the massages and does not show much expertise in that field, although kind and accommodating.The food was mediocre. Soups and salads were great, assortment of cheeses and breads quickly vanished from side table. Pastry and desserts were less than acceptable. Breakfast porridge is a highlight. Seating in the big dining room is noisy, difficult and cramped. Special requests are mostly ignored. Unimaginative and dull menu....Russian rules and regs have nothing to do with limited varieties and too many fried entrees. Think root vegetables 3x a day.On board entertainment: limited.Public areas: Uncomfortable furnishings consider the age of the travelers and every chair,couch is low- slung and sits too hard. I don't know how to manage space hogs and allowing groups to dominate these rather limited areas. The music in the bar is too loud for a small space and prohibits any conversation.Tours and excursions: ExcellentMarina does a good job of handling issues and keeping things moving. We LOVED our on board guide, Inna, and were very sorry to hear she is leaving the ship. SPB guide, Elsa, was the best guide we have ever had anywhere. Tours and visits went smoothly (except for stragglers) and I feel we got an excellent overview of all places visited. Do the Yusupov Palace Tour, it is wonderful, and of course Pushkin and Peterhof. We loved visiting the Tsar's burial sites and much time was saved in transport by the use of hydrofoils for transport. Nevsky Prospect uninspiring, but I live in a big city where all this shopping is available every day. The shops at Pushin are fantastic and offer the best quality in amber jewelry that I found. Evening at the Ballet was less than expected. Go to the Marinsky on your own.The small stops along the way were pleasant and relaxing. Uglich and the home visit are not to be missed. Lots of fur items to be had. Souvenir shopping gets more expensive the closer you get to Moscow, but Uglich had some good quality items and a very nice market.Moscow:Unexpectedly, loved it. A beautiful, cosmopolitan city, panoramic views from Sparrow Hill. Red Square...."Swan Lake", St Basils....all unforgettable.GUM is a shopping mall with overpriced and glamorous shopping...wander thru the food court on the first floor. Smaller than Harrod's but just as much fun! On Arbat Street, do go to the "Pushkin" souvenir store (right next to Pushkin House...it's a "better " tourist trap!) I paid less than half of price on the tag.Remember ..prices are negotiable, especially if you are paying cash ( dollars, rubles and euros accepted almost everywhere)This is a city where money can buy you anything...but that's not always a good thing.Port transfers: Went smoothly and without incident. Duty-free shops at Domodevonot so good.Weather: Changes from minute to minute. Rains most days at least once. Take layers (silk undies, sweater, jacket) and good rain gear, sturdy umbrella that stows easily. Good, sturdy walking shoes.Overall, we had a very good time and feel we have seen what we wanted to see in Russia. For anyone wanting to see the two major cities and a little country life, this is the way to do it. Based on what we saw and heard, AMA KATARINA IS the best boat doing the Russian WATERWAYS, but know in advance that Russia is Russia and things will be different.Experience 4+Boat 4+ ( By Russian riverboat standards)Staff 4+ Read Less
Sail Date September 2011
Arrived at the prescribed dock in Stockholm, ship was not there. Discovered it was at another dock in a different part of the port. Finally arrived at the correct location after $100 frantic cab drive and was informed that they could not ... Read More
Arrived at the prescribed dock in Stockholm, ship was not there. Discovered it was at another dock in a different part of the port. Finally arrived at the correct location after $100 frantic cab drive and was informed that they could not get into the dock we had been advised to use. Many other passengers with the same problem. I asked the service mgr to reimburse the$100 and he advised that he would take it up with upper mgmt. Five days later, I asked him what was going on and he replied that it was n the works. Several days later I inquired again and was told it was taken care of. Mind you during the entire process I initiated contact. Not once did the ship try to contact passengers who had the wrong dock issue and never was any offer to compensate anyone made. AT the end of the cruise when I discussed all my issues with the hotel mgr, I was informed that the ship had, in fact, a rep at the wrong dock to assist which is a total lie. I had to go into the terminal and get a terminal employee to research the problem. All the other passengers I spoke to confirmed that there was no rep there. All food other than in the champagne room was marginal at best. This is an Italian ship and they could not prepare al dente pasta. One day I watched a cook prepare lunch pasta with pesto from a JAR. Service in the lunch buffet is very badly done. Many waiters meeting people at the buffet area exit and then carrying the passengers' plates to the table. However, nearly impossible to get service at the table as all the waiters are busy carrying plates. Perfect example of form over function and lousy service. Included wines offered at the meals were only passable. Also, one evening we had dinner with another couple and when we ordered a second bottle, we were informed they we "out". Not correct. On further questioning, turns out the wine is locked up and the wine steward cannot get to it. We insisted and they delivered the bottle. Understanding how to handle a complaint is missing. Had an issue with delivery of breakfast , mentioned it to a supervisor(very nice young man) and within a few minutes the waiter came up to me and apologized. I have thick skin and it did not embarrass me but I know most others would be embarrassed. Supervisor does not understand how to use discretion. Salt shakers do not work until you complain and they adjust them. Goes on every meal, every room, every day. Happy hour hot hors d'oeuvres served on pool deck are left out without any source of heat and are cold within minutes. Yet they are being served 30 feet away from the pool kitchen, which is open. Silversea makes a big deal about their butler service. One afternoon while I was napping in my bed and Diane was using the bathroom, she heard a knock on the bathroom door, opened it assuming it was me, but it was really the butler. So there she was, topless facing the butler! Discovered that the ship was charging each passenger $1/day for a donation to the ship owner's foundation to fund cancer research, as his daughter died from cancer. If you chose not to contribute you had to opt out. I run into this more and more these days and I would have to say that either those using this tactic are brain dead and do not understand how embarrassed people can be when being put in a position of saying they do NOT want to contribute OR they choose to use this tactic knowing that most people will be reluctant to speak up. This incident alone would have been enough to convince me to never use Silversea again. Was in the hot tub one afternoon with two others who were basically strangers and when the topic of the cruise came up, both(repeat customers) told me it was going to be their last Silversea cruise and that they had spoken to others they knew who were not returning. There were a reasonable number of travel agents on board and they were receiving the royal treatment, including a full time Silversea's employee accompanying them. Everyone found this offensive because they were having all kinds of service problems. We used Denrus tours in St. Pete and they were terrific and half the price of the ships tours. All the passengers I spoke to told me they had decided to use the ship as they were frightened by the commentary regarding "problems"(visas, getting through passports,etc) with other tour companies. This is total bs and a terrible way to do business. Two people paying upwards of $12-15,000 exclusive of tours should not be getting gouged and lied to. The list goes on and on and I am not going to bore you with the details. However, one final problem. On the last day I discussed all my issues with the hotel manager who was very attentive and taking notes but I was dumbfounded when I declared I would not return that he never asked what he could do to change my mind. This guy was a hotel manager for many years???? Hard to believe but true. Read Less
Sail Date August 2011
A few years ago, as an advertising exec at a major corporation, I had lots of means but very little time for travel. Real quality vacations happened only every other year and never lasted longer than 10 days. My second career is teaching ... Read More
A few years ago, as an advertising exec at a major corporation, I had lots of means but very little time for travel. Real quality vacations happened only every other year and never lasted longer than 10 days. My second career is teaching school...time is abundant and the wife and I spend wintertime looking for bargains and, typically, two-week sojourns. We are concentrating this decade on Europe and have taken land tours to Rome, London, and Dublin, but our favorite trip was a river cruise with Viking three years ago from Paris to Normandy. We traveled on the Viking Seine that has since been sold from the fleet. We absolutely loved the convenience of seeing several French towns (like Giverny and Rouen) without having to pack and repack and spend days in busses, planes and hotel check-in queues. We learned to manage our cuisine at the rich buffets and multi-course dinners the way we managed the tours...we skipped desserts and the crowded bus to Versailles and took a private car early in the day. We left Viking's guided tour at Giverny, found a quiet cafe for lunch and hiked two hours back to the ship down a series of shady lanes. Our next travel target became Russia when Viking came up with an unbeatable fare for their "Waterways of the Czars", St. Petersburg to Moscow cruise (for about 25% of their published, full fare). We booked United miles on Lufthansa from Chicago to St. Petersburg through Frankfurt and grabbed a taxi to the ship. We learned when Viking books your airfare, you often experience more than one stop and very early, or very late, departure times. We returned from Moscow on Singapore Air through Houston on the best coach flight for service, leg room, and amenities, that we've ever experienced. Viking's guidebook tells you to not release your taxi from the airport to the ship until you make eye contact with the ship. This proved to be good advice since our driver almost dropped us a mile from our port. We might still be wandering Petersburg today! The Viking Pakhomov had just been refurbished last winter and had the look and feel of a brand new ship. We were on the lowest level (Main Deck #200) with a window that looked over a "Crew Only" outside deck. The Sony 32-inch flat screen could not compete with the 36-inch window and the Russian countryside and was never turned on (CNN and BBC were available). Our stateroom was more spacious than the Paris cruise, especially in the bath and shower. We never felt cramped and experienced very little noise with a small gift shop and library just in front of our door. We stocked our in-room frig with a couple bottles of Chilean wine and stored my digital camera in the safe. Wireless internet was advertised, but was often incredibly slow or not available for periods of time. We travel with an AT&T iPhone with an international roaming plan and had no problems calling home from the Pakhomov. The VIKING staff was terrific without exception. Christopher, the Program Director, when I told him I am a serious travel photographer, delivered to our stateroom a packet rich with information including detailed maps of each segment of the waterways, with descriptions and background information of the historic buildings, bridges, locks and dams we would pass on the variety of rivers, canals and beautiful lakes along the portion of our cruise between St. Pete and Moscow. It will make writing captions for all the photos I uploaded to my travel website much easier (www.mikerophoto.com). Andrey, the Restaurant Manager, would accommodate requests for double entrEe portions, a vegetarian off-menu request, combining two tables together to seat four couples (two, four and six seat tables were the norm) and gave a great lecture on the cultural traditions pertaining to his native land's fascination with vodka. A nice Spanish red or white wine was complimentary with dinner and you could place an order for beer, special wine or mixed drink at lunch or dinner and charge it to your room. Our final bill at the end of the cruise was less than half what we spent for the shorter Paris cruise where wine was not complimentary at dinner. The cuisine was incredible! Breakfast offered and buffet which featured fresh and dried fruits, yogurts, breads, lox, steel-cut oatmeal, a variety of juices, bacon and sausages, and waiters would take your order for a custom made omelet or other egg specialty. You needed to watch the daily schedule since times for breakfast varied a bit depending on the daily tour schedule. The wait staff that was recruited from Indonesia served coffee and teas dutifully. They are lively, friendly kids in their 20's with very good English skills who strive to memorize every passenger's first name. For lunch we would peruse the salad bar first, choosing from leafy greens, fruits, vegetables, breads and at the end of the bar, the Austrian Head Chef Gunter would explain the pasta dish featured that day. For me I was usually done right there...but after you are seated, the menu would list the two or three choices of entrees that were served and you could always make a special request...and, of course, dessert. Crew members told me the menu formerly consisted of mostly Russian dishes but passenger feedback suggested a more European menu with occasional Russian options was much more popular. On a day cruising the beautiful, expansive Lake Ladoga, a special Russian meal was served on the sundeck and gave passengers a chance to nibble on several local delights. Chef Gunter also offered a onboard cooking demonstration. Passengers observed the creation of pelmeni (ravioli-like dumplings), and had the chance to create their own and take home a recipe. We created a thinly rolled dough from flour, egg, water and salt and combined a filling consisting of meat, onions, garlic and herbs. We pinched the little dumplings into small "ear" shapes, cooked them in oil and served with our hand-made creations in sour cream. Yummm! Dinner always seemed to sneak up on the passengers ("It's already 7 o'clock?"). Five or six courses: salad; appetizer (yes, often caviar); soup; main entrEe choices (frequently with a nice fresh fish option); dessert choices (peach ice cream covered with fresh blueberry sauce or Black Russian chocolate cake); and a cheese plate. If, by some chance, nothing caught your eye, the daily back-ups were sirloin steak or grilled salmon. After day two we determined seven laps of the sundeck equaled one mile of trekking and my wife and I planned off-ship land hikes just about every day. St. Petersburg seemed to us like a surprising mix of terrific European-influenced architecture combined with quite a few disheveled structures. Adjacent to our river port we viewed a brand new 100-plus unit apartment complex right alongside a declining 10-story building sadly in need of tuck pointing and basic maintenance. The tours of the Hermitage Museum and Catherine's Palace (Pushkin Palace) were filled with hundreds of European treasures collected by the Czars (Picasso, da Vinci, Rembrandt, Michelangelo), but we were surprised to notice they were not protected by any kind of glass or climate and humidity controls. The city was uncharacteristically hot and humid in July 2011 (85?) and we were thankful that Viking had us in the queues early and back on our air-conditioned busses before lunch. Local guides augmented the Viking tour leaders at these stops. Tonya was excellent with historical background information and seemed to answer every passenger question in detail. We went on the included bus tour of the city but jumped off after an hour to focus on photos and a couple of nice cafes. Through connections in Chicago, we had arranged to meet a couple who had lived in the city their whole lives. We rendezvoused on Nevskiy Prospekt, the bustling avenue that serves as the focal point of the city. Each was a noted scientist, he with the Russian Space Program, and she as the head of a medical cybernetics laboratory. This dinner was a highlight of our journey and allowed us to skip the optional Viking-arranged home visit later on the trip. We skipped the optional "Cossack Show" performed in a building adjacent to the Viking dock. We make it a habit to always sign up for a local in-city, river/canal tours (Saigon, Hong Kong and Paris stand out) and Viking had one on their optional tour offerings. This was an ideal photo and sightseeing excursion with the local guide giving us an abundance of historical background and the locals waving and smiling on every bridge we glided under in the city called the "Venice of the North". Don't miss this 1 ½-hour tour (€37). We had our only real travel glitch of the tour when our bus air conditioner failed on the way to a ballet performance of Swan Lake (not quite the Bolshoi) at the Conservatory Theatre. The Viking tour team reacted nicely and delivered a replacement vehicle for the ride back to the Pakhomov. We recommend studying in advance on the shore excursions between Petersburg and Moscow and making careful choices. We found the river-to-canal-to-lake cruising to be very relaxing and enjoyable. The first shore excursion out of Petersburg was the least compelling in my opinion. Mandrogy is billed as a "model of an old Russian village". The overall look perhaps, but besides the dusty "Vodka Museum", it featured a series of souvenir offerings with a few genuine craftspeople sprinkled in making jewelry or other items. The ubiquitous souvenir stalls along the tour route seemed to generally offer the same things. We found a few who offered genuine crafts and found the gift shop on board the Pakhomov to offer nice quality at decent prices. We still enjoyed a nice long walk around the park-like perimeter of the village. When we docked at this type of riverside port, we generally pulled up alongside other river cruise ships and walked through their center lobbies to reach the dock. I overheard many Viking passengers favorably comparing Viking to Uniworld and local Russian line cruisers concerning dEcor and general cleanliness. The A/C on the Viking craft was never lacking and some of the others seemed a bit stuffy. Everyone aboard the Pakhomov seemed to enjoy the stop at Kizhi, an island in the center of Lake Onega, that features a series of wooden structures including the amazing 22 wooden-domed Transfiguration Church that was originally built in 1714. This locally guided walking tour offered several unique photography opportunities including a few glimpses of long-ago Russian village life. We docked the following day at the port of Kuzino and bussed a few minutes over to Kirillov and the Monastery of St. Cyril on the White Sea. Our guides described the history of the impressive buildings and we observed quite a bit of restoration work going on here displaying the importance that the Russian Federation seems to put on the preservation of their past and the economic benefits of the tourism industry. I also recommend a quick walk through the small village here to review and photograph Russian life outside the main cities and a bit away from tourist venues. The city of Yaroslavl' on the Volga River boasts a population of 600,000 and offers an interesting example of life in a medium-sized city. Several nice cathedrals including the impressive Church of Elijah the Prophet and terrific river views from scenic parks made this a fun excursion. Viking sent the head chef to town to prepare a tasting of a variety of local foods at a large, sun-bathed indoor market. Take your camera, leave the flash behind, and capture the merchants in gorgeous environmental portraits with their colorful arrays of fruits, fish, meats and cheeses. The city of Uglich with its lock and hydroelectric power station and quaint and colorful town (68,000 population) offers another interesting view of life in Russia. The key tourist site here on the grounds of their kremlin (this city's walled-in center) is another Church of the Transfiguration with its impressive green domes. I asked our guide for some local photo-opps and she directed me to an outdoor market packed with merchandise for the locals. It sits about four blocks from the Pakhomov's dock. We shoved off from Uglich and later passed through a lock and sailed from the Volga to the Moscow Canal that opened in 1937 and connected Moscow with the five Russian seas. Sitting in a deck chair and watching the banks, swimmers and fishermen was an incredibly relaxing experience. The next day we would approach Moscow and dock at the North River Terminal on the periphery of the largest city in Russia (about 12 million). Moscow was a pleasant surprise. It was huge and bustling, but the Pakhomov docked near the weekend so the famous traffic snarls were virtually nonexistent. The city was much more modern than we expected and there seemed to be a great deal of investment in the infrastructure, especially as compared to Petersburg. Work was underway throughout the city to refurbish the pedestrian sidewalks. There were crews laying attractive brickwork and removing cracked and worn out asphalt. The night of our arrival in the capital city, we attended the included classical folklore performance in a nice, air-conditioned auditorium. It was very enjoyable and I purchased the optional CD to remember the night. Even though we were tiring of the tour bus routine, we enjoyed the overview tour of Moscow city center with our local guide Tonya and were thrilled with Red Square and the Gum Department Store tours. The outdoor façade of Gum was covered in a fabric for renovation, but the interior was beautiful. Our Viking guide tipped us off to a quite section on the upper floor that afforded a nice view of the mall and its shoppers and a quiet cafe that offered affordable Carlsberg beer and an assortment of snacks. The following day we declined the optional tours and decided to venture back to the city center on the Metro. There is an iPhone GPS app that can help you decode the Cyrillic alphabet read the directional signs for this incredibly complex and efficient subway system. The stations are not only clean, but many are architectural wonders featuring marble and decorative frescos. Outside Red Square we found pedestrian malls, quiet rows of cafes and shops, and generally friendly people. On the trip back to the ship we boarded the wrong subway line and a helpful, 30-something gentleman rerouted us with excellent English. The trip back to the Pakhomov port was about 30 minutes on the train and a nice 15-minute stroll through a local shopping area and park. The optional "Moscow by Night" tour is a must for serious photographers (tripod recommended, €37 for the tour). The iconic St. Basil's Cathedral nighttime image alone made the night tour worthwhile. The final full day in Moscow featured the optional Armory excursion. Our Viking guide had us first in line at 9:30 at the Kremlin gate, and first to view the famous Faberge' eggs before the crowds got too heavy. After visiting the impressive Cathedral of the Assumption, our guide whisked us out to the plaza to get us in position to watch a military marching ceremony that included cavalry troops on horseback and about a hundred young, well-groomed infantry. I owe some nice "goose-stepping" soldier images to Tonya knowing exactly where to be for this exciting Saturday-only performance. Even though we booked our own airfare, and transfers were not included by Viking, Chris, the Program Director, left us a reminder note and booked a taxi for us for our departure to Domodedovo Airport. Be certain to leave enough time. The river port is on the opposite side of the city from this airport (double-check your reservations to insure to which airport you are traveling from). Overall, this was very close to a dream trip for us. We would not hesitate to book with Viking again. We have already recommended this journey to our friends and families. The average age of our fellow passengers was probably about 62. There were no kids or kid activities on board. They had a passenger play one night while cruising and just the right amount of other activities, including frequent slide show lectures that offered historical facts about Russia and its people. Some passengers attended the Russian language presentations, the food demonstration or the vodka lecture. An American investigative journalist from Travel Weekly arrived for the cruise and posted several stories to their website while on board. These included an article about riverboat safety (the Bulgaria tragedy happened weeks prior to this cruise). You can check out Michelle Baran's reviews on travelweekly.com. Feel free again to take a glimpse at my images at www.mikerophoto.com and click on one of the four Russian Galleries. Read Less
Sail Date July 2011
We recently returned from the Russian Waterways cruise on the Viking Pakhamov. This was the culmination of our special Golden wedding year, so we treated ourselves to this cruise. Our expectations were high based on our three previous ... Read More
We recently returned from the Russian Waterways cruise on the Viking Pakhamov. This was the culmination of our special Golden wedding year, so we treated ourselves to this cruise. Our expectations were high based on our three previous river cruises. These were delightful and relaxing. We did not envisage having to spend 3 hours plus on a coach, each time we had to go on a trip into St Petersburg and Moscow. Being forced to rise early every morning for breakfast, finished by 8.30, boarded by 9. On previous river trips, you were able to wander on and off at will, especially if you did not want to go on a trip. On this holiday, THIS WAS NOT AN OPTION, even when we landed at Uglich, where you could have done this, you still had to get up early for breakfast. For many older people, this was not a pleasurable or relaxing time. We missed one stop at Goritzy because of fog, although he could have stopped albeit an hour and half late, he didn`t. Ironically, he made the next stop one and a half hours early. Because of this Viking offered to give us a `free ` night trip to see the lights of Moscow. As we had already seen most of them on the first night on our way from the theatre which took one and three quarter hours to get back to the boat, we decided not to bother to spend another 4 hours in a coach, getting back after midnight and then up again early next morning. This had now become an ENDURANCE TEST not a holiday. I had always thought of Viking as a 4/5 star company, their prices certainly are. So why do they use 2star boats in Russia. Russia builds boats, why have Viking never commissioned new comfortable and quiet vessels? They might refurbish them from time to time, but the basic boats are still RUBBISH. They still have the same very noisy diesel generators and engines, making sleep very difficult, even with earplugs. They have a laughably called `sun deck`, positioned right next to the funnel. The noise and vibration level is intolerable, how you are supposed to `relax` here is a joke. Their video man actually videod a glass of water on a dinner table showing the vibrations in the water, everone laughed, unfortunalely, SLEEP DEPRIVATION FOR 13 NIGHTS IS NOT SOMETHING THAT CAN BE LAUGHED AT. The other problems are the air conditioning, `beds!!!` and the laughably called `bathroom`, or as Viking like to call them `yacht style bathrooms`. Firstly the aircon. It is ancient, very noisy and inefficient. There is no way that you can leave it on, even very low, at night. How the people coped during the heatwave in the summer I do not know. Totally useless. The `beds`. They were like bunks, hinged off the wall, so that if the person in the next cabin was a bit too heavy getting into bed, it would impact on your side of the wall. Great. Now the best bit, the toilet/wet bathroom. There was a hand held shower above the sink and a plastic curtain in front the toilet. When you used the shower, you then had a wet room. The toilet itself was the most disgusting I have ever come accross. Solid waste did not drop into water because of the stupid design, so you had to keep twisting round whilst on the loo to keep flushing. Even some of the deluxe cabins I saw had the same disgusting unit, having paid 50 to 100 per cent more than me for this privilege, I would have been incandescent. IT IS A TOTAL INSULT TO PUT PEOPLE INTO ACCOMMODATION OF THIS CALIBRE NO MATTER WHAT THEY PAY. I was told that this vessel was refurbished 7 years ago, making it 2003. It was more like 1903. When we booked this holiday, we told them that it was for our Golden Wedding. On arriving in our first awful cabin, there was not even a chololate on the pillow. We had to move cabins because the so called aircon in the first one did not work at all. Viking state that `The ship meets the High standards of Viking` This has to be a joke. This comment comes despite the appalling and disgusting `toilet` facilities in the so called bathroom. As for the beds, the mattresses on my garden furniture are more comfortable. I REPEAT----- DO NOT USE VIKING FOR THE RUSSIAN WATERWAYS---- They cannot reverse what has been done, and it has been a very upsetting and disappointing end to our special year. Read Less
Sail Date October 2010

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