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1 Helpful Vote
Sail Date: December 2014

My husband & I just got home from our Viking Christmas Rhine Cruise. We're experienced travelers in our 60s who used to do most of our European travel by train, limit our itinerary to 3 cities at most & stay at least 2 nights in ... Read More

My husband & I just got home from our Viking Christmas Rhine Cruise. We're experienced travelers in our 60s who used to do most of our European travel by train, limit our itinerary to 3 cities at most & stay at least 2 nights in each city to minimize packing & unpacking. However now that we're older my husband wants to take more cruises because the tour companies handle luggage & airport transfers for us. This was our 1st Viking cruise. (A yr & a half ago we took a Tauck French Art cruise. The price for our Viking cruise was much less than the Tauck cruise.) Overall our Viking cruise was enjoyable & went smoothly, but there were a few things that could have been improved.

We took a 3 day Brugges, Belgium extention, which began when we landed in Brussels. Unfortunately no one was at the airport when we arrived to take us to Brugges. We waited 45 mins. & the driver eventually showed up, said he was in a traffic jam due to rain & apologized. When we arrived at our hotel, the Duke's Palace (a real Medieval palace in the center of Brugges) at 11 am. they said our room wouldn't be ready until 3 pm. They had a rigid policy & refused to let us go on a waiting list if a room became available. We were exhausted from our flight, but we knew of a nearby reastaurant, Lizzies that serves excellent waffles, so we had lunch. Then we returned to the hotel lobby around 12 noon & met up with 3 other couples from our tour. We got acquainted & then commiserated about having to wait so long for our rooms. Eventually all 4 couples fell asleep in the hotel lobby on the sofas & armchairs. In all other respects the hotel was very nice including their bar & restaurant.

Finally at around 2:45 pm 4 rms became available all at once. The hotel clerk tried to give us a room opposite an elevator, but the desk manager eventually found us a new room. It was nice with copies of old Flemish portraits & had a hi-tech bathroom with a huge shower. So we fell asleep, caught up with our jet lag then had dinner nearby later. The 2nd day an excellent guide took us on a walking tour of Brugges & the following was a free day. The last day we were loaded on a bus with an amusing guide who told us all about Belguim & Holland.

We arrived in Amsterdam at the Bragi around 5 pm, so we didn't get to do any Amsterdam sightseeing, but we were tired, so it didn't matter. The weather was unseasonably warm, in the 40s & down around the 30s for the rest of the cruise, except when we were in the Black Forest on Christmas Day when there was a pretty snowfall. The passengers were a mixture of people on their 1st European trip & travel veterans. The majority were in their 60s, but there were a few college-aged, some as old as their 80s & a few disabled people traveling with family members. (Viking does a excellent job of accomodating for the elderly & disabled.) I would guess that most passengers were middle & upper-middle class with a good number of teachers, college professors, ex-military & civil servants.

Since the theme of the cruise was Christmas Markets we visted cities with markets & took walking tours of Cologne, Heidelburg, Strasbourg & an optional tour to Colmar. Along the way we saw castles on the Rhine. Viking offered optional tour groups for slower walkers & photograhers. There were other tours & attractions as well, but jet lag & short, dark days made me feel lazy & require an afternoon nap, so I took a pass on some of the scheduled afternoon events. At night there was a fantastic pianist, Emil who could play just about any request. On Christmas Eve there was a sing-a-long of Christmas music & some people got up & danced.

All our meals were provided on the boat, which was convenient, helped save money & the time required to figure out where to eat while ashore. At breakfast they served a buffet with all sorts of sausage, cheese, fruit, potatos, breads, veggies etc. plus omlettes & French Toast. At lunch there was a choice of soup, cooked dishes & a fantastic salad bar. There was also a casual dining restaurant in the bar with soup, sandwiches & a less extensive salad bar. At lunch & dinner there was always nice dessert choices. There was a free coffee bar with cocoa, espresso & afternoon cookies. Dinner was a multi-course, more formal event. Many fellow passengers raved about the refreshments at the Christmas Markets, such as Gluwein but I was more focused on chocolate & marzipan. Most passengers we spoke with agreed that the food was somewhat bland, became repetitive by the end of the cruise & was often not hot enough. The wine was good, but they kept serving the same red & white with each dinner. Some variety would have been nice.

I think the Christmas tour is more of what I would describe as a "beginners" tour--more low-stress for people who are timid about mixing in with real Europeans, but it was great for people who like to sit on the boat & watch the scenery. Life on the boat is like living in a North American bubble & I felt cut off from real Europeans, except for the Viking staff. I love art & had to break away from the tour & go on my own at one point, so perhaps this wasn't the best cruise for me. I think I'd do better on a specialist art tour, but If you just want some jolly Christmas fun & a chance to make some new friends it was great.

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3 Helpful Votes
Sail Date: October 2014

It was fantastic on so many levels. It was more than I ever expected. The crew was so professional and personable. Loved the meals and the wine to go with.

Loved the tour guides on the ship. They were very well informed on the ... Read More

It was fantastic on so many levels. It was more than I ever expected. The crew was so professional and personable. Loved the meals and the wine to go with.

Loved the tour guides on the ship. They were very well informed on the history of the country as well as being fun and personable. Same with the Russians hired to do the tours.

Loved the smaller amount of people that the Rurik ship could accommodate.

I really do not think any other Viking cruise could top this one. Hopefully, I am wrong about this.

Room was perfect. Always kept very clean.

 

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2 Helpful Votes
Sail Date: October 2014

I really enjoyed the cruise because;

It was small

The food , service and ambiance was great

The meals were excellent and I appreciated the the many choices and the portions were just right for me.

The ... Read More

I really enjoyed the cruise because;

It was small

The food , service and ambiance was great

The meals were excellent and I appreciated the the many choices and the portions were just right for me.

The lectures were informative

The tours were good, however, it depended on the expertise and interest of the guides leading the tour. I would have liked to have had some input in what I wanted to see especially in the Hermitage and Armory.

The rooms were very comfortable and I appreciated being able to watch lecures on the room TV.

 

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Sail Date: September 2014

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 ... 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.

 

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2 Helpful Votes
Sail Date: August 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 ... 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.

 

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2 Helpful Votes
Sail Date: August 2014

Just returned from the trip that started in Moscow on August 24. About a week before leaving I finally read the reviews of this trip posted on this site and found them to be very mixed. Along with the political situation, some of the ... Read More

Just returned from the trip that started in Moscow on August 24. About a week before leaving I finally read the reviews of this trip posted on this site and found them to be very mixed. Along with the political situation, some of the reviews added to my doubts about whether this was the right trip to take. I have never posted a trip review before but wanted to address the concerns I read about, some of which I found to be accurate and others not of consequence. Some of them really depend on your expectations. Reading the reviews did help to properly set my expectations.

Getting around

Yes, the boat is docked quite a bit away from the center of both Moscow and St. Petersburg. In Moscow my husband studied the metro system (which is a sight in itself to tour!) and when we wanted to go somewhere during free time, we used the metro which was a 10-15 minute walk from the ship. It made me nervous at first but turned out to be quite safe and a pleasant way to get around.

In St. Petersburg we never used the metro. Because of the timing of excursions and free time, on 2 out of the 3 days we chose to not return to the ship with the tour group but to stay in St. Petersburg after the Hermitage so we could visit the Faberge Museum and on the final day we took the hydrofoil from Peterhof back to St. Petersburg for more touring on our own. (Viking plans excursions so that you always return to the ship for lunch even if there are morning and afternoon tours. This does waste time.)

The ship

We have been on one other river cruise, not Viking, and that ship was newer and nicer. These ships were built in Russia and are rather old. Even with refurbishing they look a little run down in some of the common areas. But that was okay with me. Having read the reviews, my expectations were set. Our cabin was mid-ship, perfectly clean and beautiful, no special noise (yes you can hear some noise from adjacent cabins but the people travelling on this type of cruise are not really party people so no problem there). Twice a day the staff replaced towels, cleaned, everything sparkling. I cannot complain about the ship. Some said the bar areas were small and one was used for lectures and could not fit al the people. That is true, but they always gave 2 sets of the same lecture dividing the population so not a problem. Just once there was a welcome type of reception and the room was overflowing. The other river cruise I was on had a bigger bar/common area. But the Helgi had a number of smaller seating areas that were really a nice concept. You could go there and read, or sit with a small group of people. I liked these areas although they could use some sprucing up.

Food

Some people complained it was awful. I thought it was quite good. Someone complained that the wait staff were not properly trained. Maybe that was at the beginning of the season - don't remember the review. I found them to be quite good with a few exceptions here and there where it seemed my table was forgotten! Mostly though they were right there when you needed them, very pleasant and accommodating.

Tours and tour guides

Very good. The 3 tour guides were a wealth of information on all aspects of Russian life. They gave multiple lectures on Russian history. There was a final round table at which they answered questions. It was interesting to hear their opinions of Russian life.

Some reviews said they could have done without the stops and tours between Moscow and St. Petersburg. This depends on what you are looking for. They do give a slightly different view of Russia but some were really just fill ins. There is a trade off between taking this river cruise and doing a land tour of Russia. On the river cruise you sacrifice more time touring areas that might be of more interest to you vs having some more relaxing time while the boat cruises (and this is the time when they had the lectures which I found very valuable). It really depends on what you are looking for. I looked at the itineraries for some land tours and other than St. Petersburg and Moscow which are always multiple day stops, they then visit other areas (Latvia, Estonia, etc) generally for one day at a time. So you are always packing up. Again, it is personal preference.

Overall I am glad we did this trip. I learned a lot, saw some incredible sites, have lots of pictures, ate too much, enjoyed a mix of group and free time. This was my first Viking cruise and I think they did a very good job. Would I have preferred a land tour of this area? Will never know!

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2 Helpful Votes
Sail Date: July 2014

Warren and I thoroughly enjoyed our trip from Moscow to St. Petersburg, Russia in July 2014. So much so, in fact, that we put together a booklet containing historical facts, our insights, and pictures of the sites we visited for our ... Read More

Warren and I thoroughly enjoyed our trip from Moscow to St. Petersburg, Russia in July 2014. So much so, in fact, that we put together a booklet containing historical facts, our insights, and pictures of the sites we visited for our friends and relatives. We have heard back from many of them about how they would like to take a cruise with Viking too.

We were helped every step of the way, from obtaining our visas to arranging for our airline tickets. We were met by our tour guides at the airport after we had arrived in Moscow, and were assisted by them when it came time to leave. The tours were educational as well as well planned. We not only learned about the history of the places we visited, but gained an appreciation of the culture of the Russian people.

The accommodations exceeded our expectations.. The staff were friendly, the rooms were clean and the beds were very comfortable. The food, however, was good enough for royalty!!! Our tour guides not only knew their stuff, they had a sense of humor. That makes touring a real pleasure. We loved our trip so much, we are already planning our next one.

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4 Helpful Votes
Sail Date: June 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 ... 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.

 

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1 Helpful Vote
Sail Date: June 2014

Wow, where to begin. We would have never travelled to Russia on our own. After seeing how Viking handled our two week "Grand European" tour in 2013 from Budapest to Amsterdam during the "500" year flood, we knew that we would always be ... Read More

Wow, where to begin. We would have never travelled to Russia on our own. After seeing how Viking handled our two week "Grand European" tour in 2013 from Budapest to Amsterdam during the "500" year flood, we knew that we would always be safe and stress free with Viking. We were right. It was a marvelous trip to a country we would have never put on our wish list if Viking was not hosting it. They continue to amaze us. The staff, the service, the food, the cleanliness and the tours are all 5 star. They offer us interesting places to visit not only stress free but with a feeling of security. In addition, their teams are friendly, helpful and full of fun and enjoy their work. Great service is the norm. As I said before, "Viking rules the rivers". Gord Haddock, Saskatchewan, Canada

PS We are already booked on Vikings first ocean going ship the Star on their maiden voyage. I already know that we are going to have a wonderful trip. It's Viking........that's all we need to know.

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4 Helpful Votes
Sail Date: May 2014

My husband and I wanted an immersive experience of Russia, and we decided that a river cruise would be the best way for us to experience it. We have sailed with Regent and Crystal previously (3 ocean cruises in total) and this was our ... Read More

My husband and I wanted an immersive experience of Russia, and we decided that a river cruise would be the best way for us to experience it. We have sailed with Regent and Crystal previously (3 ocean cruises in total) and this was our first time on a river cruise.

From our first interactions with Viking sales representatives at the London cruise show in March 2014, we were confident we had chosen a good cruise line.

The traffic in Moscow and St. Petersburg was terrible, but we used the time to listen to the tour guide, gaze out the window and watch the world go by, people watch, and occasionally we would read books that we had borrowed from the Viking library. This is a key consideration for some people, and we knew about this in advance, so I think it helped to have our expectations set.

A key difference between this cruise and our previous ocean cruises was that there were three Russian tour guides who were on board with us the whole time, and all three of them were highly regarded. They were assisted at some ports by additional local guides, but most of our tours were hosted by one of these three guides (who was exceptional). Our three host tour guides also delivered outstanding lectures, as well as fielding questions at a round table Q&A, to finish off the lecture series. The overall standard of the lectures and excursions was much higher than they have been on the ocean cruises, which can be more hit and miss, and we felt that we learned a lot more and had a better experience overall due to this consistency and the very high standards that Viking has for their staff.

We were not expecting the food to be exceptional, but it surpassed our expectations. We were pleased that there were a lot of Russian menu items to choose from, as well as more standard fare. We had a German head chef whom the Russian tour guides said had varied the recipes, so if you are looking for 100% authentic Russian food all of the time, be aware that you may have variations, but in our view, this was a good thing. Beef Stroganoff served with spaetzel (small dumplings) was simply perfection.

The crew were very friendly and the management were very professional. Entertainment was more "local", with Viking taking us to music and dance performances, and even bringing two local performers onto the boat for the farewell evening show. This was a refreshing change for us, as we have not particularly enjoyed the larger ship production shows on our previous cruises.

A few things to mention that might be helpful for first time Viking cruisers:

We managed to walk through all of the other Viking Russian cruise vessels, and they all looked the same to us, except for the Akun, which had more/brighter lighting in the corridors.

The stairs on the boat are very steep. Be very careful, and watch your step at all times. One of our fellow passengers slipped on staircase upon embarking, and sprained her wrist. She had to wear her arm in a sling for the entire cruise.

Bottled water was provided free of charge. This saved me a small fortune, as I drink a lot of water!

The walls between staterooms are thinner than on a larger cruise vessel, so be prepared to hear your neighbours. Our neighbours were very polite and did not speak loudly in their rooms, and we tried to be equally respectful.

As there are no exercise facilities on board some of the river boats (including the Helgi), you'll need to find other ways to get your exercise. Fortunately, the boat was docked in safe areas (including the outskirts of Moscow and St. Petersburg) and it was possible to walk/jog/run in each of the dock areas if desired.

On embarkation day, we initially sat in the front of the restaurant for our first meal, then we decided we weren't happy sitting there and we moved to the back of the restaurant. The key difference is the amount of natural light. Some people preferred the more "clubby" ambience in the front, and others preferred the windows and light available in the back. This is an important choice to make, because you will be encouraged (but not required) to sit in the same section of the restaurant for all of your meals. This helps the wait staff to learn your names and your preferences, and it also enables you to sit with the same people more easily, or to move around and sit with other people at meal times.

I am only focusing on the positives, because the cruise was overwhelmingly a positive experience for us and we look forward to our next river cruise with Viking.

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