14 Viking River Viking Ingvar Baltic Sea Cruise Reviews

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
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
I went on this trip with a travel friend of mine, we spent over a year planning this vacation. We wanted to take our time, since we just retired and had no kids with us, we expected to take everything in. With that, we have a lot to say, ... Read More
I went on this trip with a travel friend of mine, we spent over a year planning this vacation. We wanted to take our time, since we just retired and had no kids with us, we expected to take everything in. With that, we have a lot to say, unfortunately its mostly negative. First impression upon embarkment: Negative and cold Reason: No music on board, never, no plants for decoration other than 3 small orchids in the dining room, the walls were paneled from the 1970's, no decorations or painting on the walls, one common bathroom outside of the rooms which was located on the 3rd floor (there are 4 floors, 3 for vacationers), so if you are in a rush to make it to the bathroom--good luck! The Bedrooms: cramped in size, each room has a support pole in the middle of the room which is next to your bed so watch your feet because there is metal at the bottom of those poles and you will get hurt. The sheets had some very questionable stains of wish I don't want to imagine what they were! You could not open your window/port hole in the room, no place to put your suit case other than under your bed, just expect a small room that doesn't have a view you can truly enjoy. The Food: The food was subpar, breakfast was the best meal of the day. They took the same recipes and ingredients and changed them up a bit but basically you were eating the same versions of one meal. You don't feel like you had a lot to look forward to when it came time to eat, nothing to leave an impression on your palette! The Servers: all Filipinos' on the ship were very nice however even they would complain about Viking and how poorly they were treated as employees. The Crew: They were German crew that were cold to the vacationers, they made an announcement over their PA system which was heard throughout the ship expressing how we need to tip them!! Unbelievable and very unprofessional! That would be like going to a restaurant and your server is telling you how to tip him or her! This is a cruise, why are we being treated like pigs going to a slaughter house!? Also, we were refused to be allowed to go to the Armory, the crew allowed some to go but not everyone which is not fair and not right. The Tour Guides: Wow, talk about rude people! We were less than 10 minutes late getting back onto the bus from visiting sites and we were scolded in front of everyone. We were told we were late, everyone is hungry, they called the Captain on the ship, also that they've been waiting for you and pretty much forced to apologize to everyone for being such terrible untimely people. Seriously, we were less than 10 minutes late and were treated so poorly, as if we were children who did a bad thing not adults, seniors at that. Activities: There was a couple, who sang and played a piano; non of the guests danced because it wasn't exciting. The singer attempted to sing a Whitney Houston song and it was so bad, so off key the boat could have gone done like the Titanic; in other words she sucked and she should keep her day job. Other than that, there was nothing else to do unless you wanted to learn the Russian alphabet. Overall Impression: We were rushed from place to place, if you got to the bus minutes late, you were in big trouble. There was so much time spent being bored, the exciting thing to do was go to the gift shop which is pathetic when you are on a cruise! What matters to me most is that when you take the time to go on vacation, wanting leisurely time to do nice things, why are we being rushed? Its one thing to get back on a boat if it has so many fun activities to take advantage of but we were so bored on the boat and resent the cruise line for taking us away from enjoying the port since that was more of a highlight to us. Just think to yourself, as I do after the fact, all the time and effort you put into working overtime at your job, the sacrifices you make, the time you spent planning to create the perfect vacation; all to be wasted and give you such a bad taste in your mouth. All I can think is, I did my best in searching, to my regret, I should have researched more and I would have gone else where. I hope that to each person who reads this review, they will think twice on booking with Viking, go elsewhere and do your research!   Read Less
Sail Date July 2013
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
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
The purpose of this review is to explain why, after our recent cruise in Russia, my husband and I will avoid Viking River Cruises in the future, and why we will advise others to avoid Viking, too. We are experienced travelers, and we ... Read More
The purpose of this review is to explain why, after our recent cruise in Russia, my husband and I will avoid Viking River Cruises in the future, and why we will advise others to avoid Viking, too. We are experienced travelers, and we understand that no trip is going to happen exactly as planned. We do, however, expect that as conditions change we will be kept informed. The number of variations between what was sold and what was delivered, coupled with the failure to keep us informed of significant changes in the itinerary (detailed below), were significant enough that the term "bait and switch" kept coming to mind. A certain amount of trust between the travel vendor and the traveler is necessary for a good travel experience. After this Russian cruise, we do not believe we can trust Viking River Cruises. In addition, in spite of three attempts to contact Viking about these issues (twice via e-mail and once by letter), no one at Viking has responded. This leaves me feeling that, once they have your money, they lose interest in you. First: The condition of the ship was not as described in Viking brochures. When I made the booking with Viking in November 2009, I was advised by the Viking agent that the Pakhomov was an "excellent choice because it has just been renovated," something which figured heavily in my decision to book this cruise. In fact, per Stephan Busch, Hotel Manager, the Pakhomov had been scheduled for renovation in late 2009, but this renovation was not done. Mr. Busch told me on June 13, 2010, that he and others had made Viking Cruise Lines aware of the discrepancies between the ship as it was and the ship as it was described in Viking literature, but that "nothing had been done." In my view, therefore, we were sold something that did not exist. Second: Viking withheld information from us. In November 2009, I also booked the Helsinki extension, mainly for the "scenic ride though the rolling landscape," described in the Viking literature. Two or three days before that extension was to start we were informed that there would be no trains running between St. Petersburg and Helsinki on the day the extension began, and that we would be flying from St. Petersburg to Helsinki. Since our primary reason for booking the extension was to see more of the countryside, we would have preferred to fly home instead of going to Helsinki, but by the time we were informed only very costly alternatives were available. However, our air tickets for St. Petersburg to Helsinki were purchased by Viking BEFORE WE LEFT THE U.S. TO BEGIN OUR TRIP. In addition we were finally told, again just before the Helsinki extension began, that we would be in Finland during a National holiday, and almost all museums and restaurants in Helsinki would be closed. No optional tours were offered to take advantage of the holiday: we were simply left with a lot of free time in a virtually empty city. We were told in Helsinki that this Holiday had been celebrated for over 50 years - so Viking should have been well aware of it, but they didn't share that information. Third, there were numerous small things that, individually, would not have been of much concern but added up to irritation: • The "Itinerary & Departure Information" brochure states on page 6 that "Porters will...take your luggage to the transfer buses. Instead, one of the Viking guides pointed to luggage carts saying that we would have "a ways to walk before we got to our bus." When the bus finally came, one of the Pakhomov sailors loaded our luggage into the bus as we brought it to him. When we were in the bus, the Viking guide reminded us to tip the sailor. • The brochure states on page 25 that dinner is "generally" at 7:00 p.m. In fact, dinner was at 7 p.m. only once. Dinner was at 7:30 seven times, 9:30 once, 8:00 once, 7:20 once and 5:00 once. • The brochures states on page 26 that smoking is not permitted indoors on the ship. This apparently does not apply to the crew area. Heavy cigarette odors almost always emanated from the crew's quarters. Happily, this often served to cover-up the smell of raw sewage that wafted through the ship on a regular basis. • Again on page 26, the brochure indicates that staterooms aboard the Viking Pakhomov have safes and telephones. They don't. • From page 27, "staterooms aboard...Viking Pakhomov have televisions featuring channels with some U.S. or English programming." There was a television in the room, but most of the time - even in port - there was "no signal" and nothing on the television except the channel advertising Viking cruises. • Per page 28 of the brochure, "when possible, we will notify you of changes to your itinerary prior to departure; when not possible, your Program Director will advise you of changes. See discussion above about the Helsinki land extension. • The on-line description of the Category A Deluxe stateroom (the kind of room we booked) says that each has, "hotel-style beds (can be separated); large picture windows that open; private bathroom with enclosed shower; air conditioning; space under bed for storing suitcases; roomy wardrobe with wooden hangers; converter in the bathroom outlet." In fact, most hotels would be ashamed of the beds, which were small and furnished with thin mattresses. There is a large picture window, but we were advised never to leave it open because of the mosquitoes. There is a private bathroom in the stateroom, but the only thing that "encloses" the shower is a plastic shower curtain; thus it is nearly impossible to take a shower without getting the rest of the bathroom wet, too. There is an air conditioning unit in the room, but the desired temperature can only be approximated. There is space under the bed for storing small suitcases, but the "roomy wardrobe" isn't very roomy, and we had to sign for extra hangers if we wanted more than the few supplied with the room. There is no converter in the bathroom outlet; in fact, there is no outlet in the bathroom at all. And one more thing: there are only two public rest rooms on the boat. That was not an issue until the last day when all of us were required to leave our rooms early in the day, but many of us were not taken to the airport until late afternoon. I do wish to emphasize that the crew of the Pakhomov were friendly, helpful, and well-organized. I do believe that is very unfair to the crew to expect them to deal with a number of customers who have promised something by "the head office" which the crew cannot deliver. Read Less
Sail Date June 2010
Although Viking states that the Pakhomov has been remodeled, it's hard to find evidence of any renovation on this 20-year old vessel. The standard cabins have very small beds that are uncomfortable even for a normal sized person. The ... Read More
Although Viking states that the Pakhomov has been remodeled, it's hard to find evidence of any renovation on this 20-year old vessel. The standard cabins have very small beds that are uncomfortable even for a normal sized person. The cabins have a "yacht style" bathroom with a shower incorporated into a very small space containing a lavatory (usually cracked) and toilet AKA-a Wet bath. Storage is minimal with but a single small drawer per passenger and insufficient space to store empty luggage. Standard cabins have no TV and even the few deluxe suites that have a TV have no TV service except in Moscow or St. Petersburg. News aboard was handled via a "daily newspaper" with as much space devoted to sports scores as was devoted to news. These four-page papers were produced in Brit, American, and Aussie editions. Housekeeping service was good. Food service and quality was average to good although the breakfast buffet was underwhelming. The shipboard staff was usually able to handle routine requests without difficulty. Anything more than a routine request was generally met with a blank stare and a nebulous quasi-promise to "look into the matter". Shipboard cleanliness is good, but there are few amenities aboard these Russian river cruise vessels. The six guides travel aboard and are augmented with local guides in each port. Our guide was very difficult to understand and consistently spoke in a low monotone so that it was hard to differentiate the important information from the general patter. She also seemed to have somewhat of an "attitude" problem with some of the passengers in our tour group. Choose your guide wisely because the guide you choose on the first day's tour will be your guide for the duration. Having taken and been very impressed with the Viking China Cultural cruise previously, we were big Viking fans coming to this cruise. Now - we would be hesitant to recommend this cruise to anyone other than a person with a strong interest in cathedrals and religious icons. The museums, palaces, ballet, and symphony were interesting, but many of them charge an additional fee to take photos or videos. There are also 6-8 optional excursions to fill in "free time" in Moscow and St. Petersburg. These optional tours are expensive and they offer poor value for their cost. Viking seems intent on wringing every nickel out of each passenger on this Russian river cruise. All in all, we found this cruise to offer inadequate value and this opinion was shared by a majority of the other passengers we spoke with. Bottom line - even with a 2-for-1 deal, nearly free air transportation, and complimentary dinner wine, you will likely not get a "warm, fuzzy feel from this Viking river cruise. Read Less
Sail Date June 2010
We debated long and hard whether or not to spend the money on this trip. We believed all VRC advertised and decided that it would be the trip of a lifetime. It WAS...the worst trip of our lifetime. We were on the Pakhomov. We are WELL ... Read More
We debated long and hard whether or not to spend the money on this trip. We believed all VRC advertised and decided that it would be the trip of a lifetime. It WAS...the worst trip of our lifetime. We were on the Pakhomov. We are WELL heeled world travellers and had SOOO many problems with Viking. They claimed they "didn't know about the closings for Russian Independence Day"???????? They are in Russia, how could they not know that. We had a Cat A Deluxe cabin. Lots of problems with heat and air regulation-no A/C as advertised, windows that wouldn't open,almost no TV reception and internet spotty at best. Our deluxe cabin advertised as comparable to the finest hotel room was shabby, old and not at all what was promised. The bed was AWFUL!!! Some had plumbing problems the whole cruise. And everyone had issues with the cleanliness...not how it looked, but that is was not at all sanitized-several of us watched carefully because we were concerned. Many of us watched and never saw anyone wiping down the handrails. OK, maybe it was done at night, but should have been done continuously. The stairs on the ship are very risky to navigate, especially for anyone with mobility issues. The room maid wiped everyone's in room glassware out daily with a dry cloth (the same one)...we checked it out. At least 2/3 of the passengers on the ship were very ill with a virus (us, too, but not as much as some). Some were even hospitalized. The common areas were toatally inadequate for the number of people on the ship. Sometimes they asked that only one person from a cabin come to briefings. WHAT!!! The included ballet performance was specifically aimed at tourists and performed by an amateur troup. We were very pushed to buy souvenirs and several times "taken" to where we were encouraged to buy. These trips were included tours. Worst of all were the included tours. They were literally "tourist herds". I am not exagerrating. For the money we paid I really expected much much more. I have done tours for less money and been in small groups of 20 or less. Too many optionals...more should have been included for the price. Sure we could have gone off on our own...some did...but we paid so much for the cruise that it seemed it would have been adding insult to injury. VRC states with them there is no standing in line or sitting on busses. Total lie!!! Every time we tried to politely express our concerns to someone on the staff, we were told "Sorry, there is nothing we can do". On the plus side-we had wonderful servers at dinner-who spoke almost no English. The food was adequate...nothing to rave over at all but nice presentations. VCR promised 5 couse gourmet meals. We had exactly 2 and in my opinion they were NOT gourmet. We were assigned a dining room so did not get to mingle with everyone at meals as touted. But...best- we made some wonderful new friends and have all agreed that we will travel together again...just not on Viking. We all agreed on that. VRC deletes all negative posts on Facebook so all you read are the positives. Oh...and Helsinki. $900 apiece for 3 nights in a mundane hotel room, a 2 hour walking tour and a 6 hour uncomfortable train trip to St. Petersburg. Everything in Helsinki was mega-expensive, so be prepared to drop a wad if you go. FYI...I have been travelling worldwide for 30 years-2 or more trips per year-my travel partner also. We are not just griping. It was a VERY disappointing trip. Read Less
Sail Date May 2010
This review will not cover the stops on the trip as those can easily be reviewed on Vikings web site and the company's descriptions are an accurate depiction of the place you will see. In fact, I think it is safe to say that all ... Read More
This review will not cover the stops on the trip as those can easily be reviewed on Vikings web site and the company's descriptions are an accurate depiction of the place you will see. In fact, I think it is safe to say that all information on their web site is honest and forthright. The scheduling of our trip with Viking could not have been smoother. Our documents were accurate, arrived as scheduled, and the flights and transfers went without a hitch. We were very surprised to see our transfer guide still there waiting for us after our delayed flight and long customs entry. We fully expected to have to find the ship on our own in Moscow- but no - she and the van were still there! We knew it was going to be a good trip after that kind of service. What I will tell you is that the staff was friendly, helpful, knowledgeable, and available at all times. They were very organized and did what they said they were going to do. The food was good, presented well, and served by staff who were pleasant and anxious to serve well and learn more about their guests. We were also anxious to learn about them and so it was always a time to look forward to for us. Our daily shore excursions were wonderful and better than the Viking descriptions of course. And the opportunity to follow-up with questions at the daily lectures on Russian history was great. You will not be impressed with the ship if you have taken their other upgraded ships and you are touring in 2010 but it is comfortable, clean and will be upgraded for 2011. We found that it was exactly as they described it so no surprises there. In summary, a great trip that we highly recommend. Read Less
Sail Date May 2010
My review: Charlotte and I just returned Sunday night from a 12 day visit to Russia through Viking River Cruises. We flew from Atlanta to Paris and connected with Air France to Moscow. Boarded a large Viking Russian river cruiser, MS ... Read More
My review: Charlotte and I just returned Sunday night from a 12 day visit to Russia through Viking River Cruises. We flew from Atlanta to Paris and connected with Air France to Moscow. Boarded a large Viking Russian river cruiser, MS Pakhomov and spent three nights on board as a hotel in Moscow. Spent our anniversary in Red square. We got to see Putin and the Russian Orthodox Patriarch as they came out of a Kremlin church. The churches are magnificent - covered with icons. People are very friendly. Traffic in Moscow was worst than Atlanta, LA, etc. City of 25 million who are now buying autos on roads built in the 30's. The Moscow subway carries 9 million people daily and the stations are like art museums with marble statues, paintings, frescos - and they are spotless! People were very nice. Saw the Moscow circus, KGB headquarters, Kremlin, St. Basil, palaces, palaces, palaces. The biggest surprise - the young women - they are gorgeous. Then cruised up the Volga River visiting, the small towns of Uglich, Yaroslavl, and Kostroma, and Kizhi were we saw the wooden church built with out nails on 1 mile between 4 mile island. On the way I made my Russian singing debut, singing "Some Enchanting Evening" during passenger night. Cruised up the Neva River and then the Svir into St. Petersburg. Saw Peter and Catherine's castles. the Hermitage the gold, amber, and Wedgwood on the walls, ceilings, staircases is incredible. Went to the Marinsky Opera house where we saw "Samson and Delila" and to the St. Petersburg theater and saw "Swan Lake". We had lunch with a very modest Russian family in their small flat on the 4th (walk up). Grandma was a big women. Her daughter a beautiful blue eyed blond who dances in the Bolshi ballet, and her 18 year old daughter who is studying ballet. It was a wonderful meal and a memorable experience. This and many other optional tours were arrange by our travel agent and dear friend Shirley Binder. She gave us a completer turn-key package on several trips. You will be pleased with her service - her e-mail is shibin@aol.com St. Petersburg is the Venice of the north with canals throughout the city. Gets to -40 F in the winter. More that 30%of the land in Moscow and St. Petersburg is devoted to parks. Many statues of Lenin... Stalin nowhere to be seen. Of the 200 passengers on board and we have traveled with 34 of them before on other Viking Cruises, so it was like a big family reunion. More churches in Russia (and they are active) than Italy. I purchased the new Sony DCRDVD camcorder that writes directly on DVD. The pictures and color are fantastic. Have 9 1/2 hours of video plus over 450 digital stills. The crew and staff on board could not have been nicer. Would be our number 1 recommendation to anyone traveling to Europe for the first time or considering going back again. Richard and Charlotte Loehn Read Less
Sail Date June 2004
Viking Ingvar Ratings
Category Editor Member
Rates 3.0 3.4

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