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1 Helpful Vote
Sail Date: April 2014

We took the Viking Tulips and Windmills cruise this spring and enjoyed it tremendously. We had a veranda suite with a small living room, and enjoyed it very much, although we spent so much time in the very pleasant public gathering ... Read More

We took the Viking Tulips and Windmills cruise this spring and enjoyed it tremendously. We had a veranda suite with a small living room, and enjoyed it very much, although we spent so much time in the very pleasant public gathering rooms that we really didn't have to have the suite. We might save money next time and just get a regular room.

The Delling is a brand new ship and very well designed. The service of all the staff was really quite extraordinary--the best we've ever experienced. One particularly helpful person was a young man named Galen, but all went above and beyond. The food was very good--at times excellent--but always good. The main point of our going on this trip was to see the tulips at Keukehof , and on the day we visited there, we were blessed with a bright sunny day with the tulips at their best--truly a magnificent garden which we'll never forget. On a cruise, I think you may not see as much of a country as one would if you were traveling by yourself, but we greatly enjoyed sitting in the lounge with a drink in our hand and seeing the picture post card landscape roll by. We'd definitely recommend this Viking tour.

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2 Helpful Votes
Sail Date: March 2014

We had a long flight to Amsterdam, we were met in the airport by a clearly marked tour guide, which was a greatly appreciated help with customs and baggage. The transport to the ship was on a clean, climate controlled bus right to the ... Read More

We had a long flight to Amsterdam, we were met in the airport by a clearly marked tour guide, which was a greatly appreciated help with customs and baggage. The transport to the ship was on a clean, climate controlled bus right to the pier. The people of the ship greeted us warmly and immediately it was clear this was a well planned, well trained crew, that were doing everything they could to make our cruise a great one. We were shown to our cabin that was spotless and very well appointed, with a balcony, a cafe table and two chairs that we came to love sitting in to watch the beautiful sunsets as well as the cities along the river.

The dining was great with a varied selection of entrees and wine served with the meal, included with the cruise price. The housekeeping staff was very professional and never interfered with our privacy. The tours in the various cities and towns from the ship were planned and even rated as to the amount of stamina required to complete. One highlight of the trip was an exclusive visit to a local family in their home which allowed us to learn a great deal about the lifestyle and life in their own words. It was a delight to have this opportunity that was completely out of the ordinary for a cruise.

The cruise could not have been any better planned or carried out. The places visited were interesting, the food was superb, the crew, polite, knowledgable , and dedicated to making every aspect of our cruise memorable, and they exceeded all expectations. The entertainment on board was great and again allowed us to get to know a little more about the local culture. Overall, this was the best cruise we hav been on, hands down! Thank you Viking, we will be back!

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4 Helpful Votes
Sail Date: September 2013

My husband and I and three other couples recently sailed on the Viking Helgi from St. Petersburg to Moscow. Here is the good, the average, the bad and the ugly.

The good: The food was consistently very good to excellent. The ... Read More

My husband and I and three other couples recently sailed on the Viking Helgi from St. Petersburg to Moscow. Here is the good, the average, the bad and the ugly.

The good: The food was consistently very good to excellent. The lectures by the guides on the boat were also very good, as were the ports of call. We enjoyed both St. Petersburg and Moscow as well as all the stops along the Baltic-Volga Waterway. The weather was amazing, with the only rain coming on the very last afternoon. Everyone is in a better mode when there is good weather! The Wi-Fi was great everywhere we sailed. Our housekeeper was amazing. The room was always made up and ready when we out. We tipped her generously, although we never saw her!

The average: Our guides gave great lectures on the ship, but they rarely led us off the ship. The local guides were very uneven. We were suppose to tip our Viking guides $10 per day per person, but at the end of the cruise, we only did this for days we were actually with her. Some days we never saw her or any other guide from the ship, only local guides. Somedays she just rode on the bus with us. Unlike our China trip, our Russian guides had no interest in the passengers. One of the three main guides got on the bus everyday and promptly fell asleep! Very unprofessional.

The bad: The ship docks in both cities are far from the center and main tourist sites and since the traffic is horrendous you will spend a lot of time on buses traveling, even in the evenings. In St. Petersburg you cannot even walk to a metro station. In the ports along the river there is rarely time to go off on your own unless you skipped the guided tour. The exception was Mandrogi. Service in the dining room was very uneven and not friendly. The crew often acted liked the passengers were inconveniencing them. The cruise director was poor in that he did not have answers to many questions, and on several occasions he turned out to be wrong. I gave up asking him anything as his answer was usually "I don't know." Not "What is your cabin number and I'll check for you?" The A/V equipment on the ship rarely worked so the presentations were often done without a visual. They said (as they did about many things during the cruise.), that it was "the end of the season." The wine for lunch and dinner was okay, but it never changed for 12 days. We did a river cruise with a different cruise line in Holland and they changed the wines all the time. Viking has too many optional excursions. You spend a lot of time figuring out what you want to do. Viking should include more and charge more if necessary. There were numerous days when no excursions were included. Yes, we knew this going in, but didn't realize how difficult this would actually be. Again, comparing Viking's China trip, where the only optional were evening events. Also, there is no exercise room or walking track, so on the days along the river there is no place to walk on the ship. (I've noticed Viking did not put exercise rooms or bikes on any of there new "longships", which is a deal breaker for us in the future.) The remodeled cabins are still small and the walls paper thin. We were lucky because our neighbors were quiet, but our friends complained. We did hear the music every night from the lounge above our room, but it did not usually keep us awake.

The ugly: When the Viking ships in Russia were renovated last year, they did not enlarge the lounge area (Sky Bar) and it could only hold about half of the passengers on board. Most of the talks and parties were there, but unless you came early there was no seating. Everyone on board complained about this.

There was only one table for eight in the dining room, so one of our party had to be early to line up for dinner or we would not get it. If we did not get it, we had a waiter make a table for six into a table for eight. If Viking wants us to bring friends and/or a group they should have more larger tables. Also, we were told tables could not be reserved, which was an out right lie. One night my husband and I were the first ones in line. We went to a table we knew was "reserved" and sat down. We were immediately told to get up that someone was sitting there. We said we the first ones in the door! The server was embarrassed, but said we had to move. 30 minutes later the "usual group" came and claimed their "unreserved" table. It was apparent that you had to pay off the dining staff to get a specific table. It became very ugly at dinner. The singer on the ship was outright awful. Our group was thinking of paying her to not sing!

In the end, we felt that while we throughly enjoyed Russia, we will look elsewhere for any further river cruising. The unprofessional staff on all levels, the layout of the ship, the lack of an exercise room and/or bikes, and numerous optional tours will not have us returning to Viking River Cruises or recommending it to friends.

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1 Helpful Vote
Sail Date: September 2013

I've just returned from the September 17-29 Viking Rurik Waterways of the Czars cruise. The ship was a pleasant surprise, considering some of the reviews I'd read here. It has been remodelled and is more attractive than its sister ship, ... Read More

I've just returned from the September 17-29 Viking Rurik Waterways of the Czars cruise. The ship was a pleasant surprise, considering some of the reviews I'd read here. It has been remodelled and is more attractive than its sister ship, Viking Truvor, in the areas I saw. (We were tied up with Truvor on several occasions, and walked through.) Our BX cabin in the mid-range of the 300 range was quite well-appointed and comfortable, with excellent housekeeping by Rosa. The only downside is that the walls are thin, and on two or three nights, neighbors were obviously Skyping family in the literal middle of the night, and we felt we should say hello as well. I also heard from fellow passengers that some cabins on the 200 level are very noisy and prone to vibration, particularly EX classes.

The dining room was arranged with a good choice of small and large tables, and one could be social or not as one desired without being constrained by the set-up. The food was much better than I expected from other reviews, and included a number of excellent Russian specialities. Our waitstaff was excellent and personable. Norman, in particular, was a joy with his youthful ebullience. The bars were small, and the Sky Bar could not accommodate all passengers for events such as meeting the staff. Lectures were given twice for half the clients at a time. Panorama Bar was lovely, but also small. Bar staff Charlene and Jefruna (?) were charming.

Included excursions were very well organized and passengers were escorted in groups of about 30 by permanent staff and local guides. Staff member Alexey and local guide Dina did a miraculous job of not losing any of us on a Metro trip to the center of Moscow for a walking tour! Guide Sasha made the initial trip from airport to ship in Moscow bearable, but the traffic was incredible every day, and a lot of time is wasted getting to venues in Moscow because of this. I would recommend a pre-trip hotel extension, or one of the cruises that starts with a central hotel stay, though this is only done on sister ships that are probably not as nice as the Rurik.

Lectures on history and politics by guides Alexey, Elena and Sasha were interesting, and available on internal TV if you wished to stay in the cabin rather than go to the Sky Bar. TV reception of BBV, CNN, Bloomberg, etc. was generally excellent, and wireless worked reasonably well, particularly early and late in the day (unfortunately so, in view of the Skyping!).

We arranged for an evening at the ballet in St. Petersburg, and the taxi and restaurant reservations made by the management staff worked flawlessly.

On the down side, we could not get to Kizhi due to rough weather on Lake Onega, and we also had to set a sea anchor for 12 hours on Ladoga due to rough weather. This delay was compensated for by taking the passengers into St. Petersburg by hydrofoils as soon as we got into the Neva, and giving us a brief but good tour of the Peter and Paul Cathedral and exterior of Spilled Blood while the Rurik got itself into port. The Peterhof excursion, usually optional and extra cost, was subsequently provided free of charge to all passengers.

The major disappointment has to be the time spent in horrendous traffic in Moscow, with the rough weather a second. The unusual cold snap was the third, but Viking, of course, was not responsible for any of these. I would certainly advise doing the trip in the Moscow to St. Petersburg direction, to leave a better aftertaste, and to consider June or late August. All in all, though, a wonderful time.

 

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Sail Date: September 2013

We enjoyed the Russian river cruise on the Rurik in September 2013 from Moscow to St. Petersburg. We were impressed with cruise director Kris and hotel director Caroline and how well they ran the cruise, particularly when nasty weather ... Read More

We enjoyed the Russian river cruise on the Rurik in September 2013 from Moscow to St. Petersburg. We were impressed with cruise director Kris and hotel director Caroline and how well they ran the cruise, particularly when nasty weather threw in some real challenges. They were more than up to the task and we hardly missed a beat, despite arriving in St. Petersburg more than 12 hours late. Major kudos to them and their staffs! Viking’s bottom line on that trip took a real hit, I’m sure.

Cabin: Very nice: Our cabin was nicely appointed and the veranda was lovely, though rarely used due to time of year. The L’Occitane bath products were impressive. Lubow, our cabin attendant, made sure it was always clean and straightened up. The television was good and having the safe was a big plus, as was having bottled water replenished whenever it was running low in the cabin. Need more hangers? Call the front desk and someone brings you the number you request. Everyone was responsive to requests and inquiries.

Staff: Superlative. The Filipino wait staff was superb. We found Chester, Jefrena, Gabriel, and Cherilyn in Panorama and Sky Bar incredibly personable. We arrived at 9:30 p.m. the first day and they still knew our names the second day. Rommel, Norman, Rosie, Djober, and others were really good wait persons in the Neva Restaurant and made the dining experience fun. Viking would be lost without the Filipino staff. They have a work ethic that is beyond impressive.

Speaking of dining, let’s give a hand to Julian and Sofia, in charge of the dining room. Oh, and they put on a pretty mean Vodka Tasting, too! And by ‘mean,’ I mean hilarious. Definitely one of the premium onboard events worth the money and I don’t usually do shots of anything!

The food was good, and we appreciated and enjoyed the Russian specialties that were regularly featured. We found the food a bit bland, though. We wouldn’t expect the chef to make it to our tastes, but the addition of some condiments other than salt and pepper would have helped.

Meals offered another bonus: Meeting fellow passengers. We chatted with quite a few over the course of the first week and then settled into a table with four other passengers for about the last week. We forged nice friendships and hope to see them again one day.

Silver Spirits Package Not Recommended. My husband is not a wine lover, but he is a beer snob. I showed him the list of possible premium beers to be offered onboard such as a hefe weissen and several British and Belgian ales , so he insisted we pay for the Silver Spirits package. I am not a big drinker, but if one person in a cabin gets it, the other must be charged for it, as well. Imagine his surprise and massive disappointment when the ONLY beer served the entire 12 days was Baltica 7, a Russian lager. That was about $300 pretty much wasted on the Silver Spirits package. And Baltica was served at dinner and lunch. That is something to note: house wine and beer are served with dinner and lunch without charge. Silver Spirits is, apparently, for those who drink hard liquor . . . and a lot of it or who want to choose bottles of wine from the separate wine list. I managed to drink two bottles of wine off the list during the 12-day cruise because we had paid for the package, but it was not necessary.

Lectures and Tours: Applause. The tour escorts, Sasha, Alexi , and Eleyna were extremely knowledgeable and their lectures, which we watched from our cabin, were informative, interesting and entertaining. Alexi and his rolled Rs always made me smile. Sasha has a wicked, dark and dry sense of humor that we loved. And local guides provided entertaining and enlightening insight into their hometowns. The home visit at Uglich was definitely a highlight of the trip.

Cabin Noise: GRRRR. Please! Do Something! We were on Level 4 in a Veranda cabin toward the back of the boat directly above the Neva Restaurant. The noise and vibration were, at times, teeth-grindingly annoying, particularly when trying to sleep. One night I got up about midnight, turned on my phone to video, which also has audio, and recorded the noise. I’ve seen other comments about the vibration and noise and want to emphasize something needs to be done about it.

Moscow Drivers: Great. Traffic: Awful. Moscow traffic is a nightmare. Sorry. I have to complain even though Viking is not at fault for the traffic. It is beyond anything I have seen anywhere else in the world. I will say, however, the drivers are the most considerate I’ve ever seen in a large city. Horns are not honking and cars and buses are allowed to change lanes and merge without being cutoff. But, every time we left the boat for a tour, it was at least an hour ride to get wherever we were going and at least an hour back. Not enjoyable.

Also, please, please, please, tell the tour escorts to tell the guests they meet at the Moscow airport BEFORE they board the bus that the trip will take 2-to-4 hours so that they can make a bathroom stop beforehand. We were met outside baggage claim (after our flight and waiting an hour+ for luggage that did not arrive and then dealing with filing complicated lost luggage claims) and told to "stay right here; I’ll be right back.” The 2-hour bus ride we were warned of AFTER boarding was actually 3 ½. Miserable does not begin to describe the ride.

I second (or third) the suggestion to take the Moscow-St. Petersburg cruise. Moscow is interesting and there are great things to see but, other than the gold onion domes, most of it struck me as being all the same gray color. We were very happy to begin sailing toward what can only be described in comparison as a Spring flower: St. Petersburg. Fantastic city. Truly breath-taking.

 

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Sail Date: August 2013

VIKING RIVER CRUISE

WATERWAYS OF THE TSARS

This was a holiday which included some unforgettable experiences; not only in St Petersburg and Moscow, but also in places like the delightful Yaroslav and Uglich which we ... 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.

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4 Helpful Votes
Sail Date: July 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 ... 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!

 

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1 Helpful Vote
Sail Date: July 2013
We just returned from a wonderful trip on the Helgi! We recommend starting in Moscow, because the days of touring seem to be longer and later in Moscow and could be tiring at the end of the cruise. Also, if you have any leeway, see if you ... Read More
We just returned from a wonderful trip on the Helgi! We recommend starting in Moscow, because the days of touring seem to be longer and later in Moscow and could be tiring at the end of the cruise. Also, if you have any leeway, see if you can select an itinerary that has you in Moscow and St. Petersburg over the weekend, when traffic delays are not as common or lengthy. Our AX cabin on the upper deck was very clean and comfortable. All cabins on the middle and upper decks now feature private balconies, with new chairs, a small table and plenty of room. The Panorama Bar was just down the hallway and was very convenient for a quiet, continental breakfast in the morning or a quick beverage when returning from a shore excursion. Wi-Fi connections were good throughout the ship, including our cabin and balcony. We found the food to be excellently prepared with a wide variety of selections throughout the cruise. Table wine and beer are available to everyone at lunch and dinner. Also, wines from a separate wine list are available for an additional cost. (Definitely consider the Silver Spirits package. For one set price, it provides soft drinks, juices, sparkling water, special coffees/teas, beer, wine, sparkling wine, cocktails etc. throughout the day, not just at lunch and dinner, including most selections from the optional wine list and drink menu. Remember, there is a lot of time spent on the ship when you are cruising between the two big cities. It's very pleasant to enjoy a beverage while listening to the Viking escorts present their very informative and entertaining briefings.) We thought the staff members were very friendly and helpful. We were routinely greeted in the hallways by everyone from the cabin stewards to the head chef. As another critic wrote, Viking is fortunate to have so many management and staff members who clearly enjoy their jobs. Unfortunately, the oft-mentioned Konstantin was not the Program Director on this cruise. Our PD seemed to be pretty new to the business and had little to offer that was not in the daily Viking News or on the prepared Power Point screens. We were very pleased that Viking now offers alternative tours to the standard motor coach tour of Moscow and St. Petersburg. These alternative tours involve significantly more walking and include most of the sights included in the standard tour. (For instance, the alternative tour in St. Petersburg does not include the Peter and Paul Fortress, which was a deal-breaker for some people.) These tours use the subways to get you into the city (potentially avoiding long traffic delays) and return you to the ship by motor coach. We really enjoyed these additional opportunities for exercise. (We're in the 55-60 age range and relatively active.) A note on two optional tours. We were able to book the tours to the Moscow Kremlin Armoury and the Peterhof in St. Petersburg directly with Viking when we made our original cruise booking. The Armoury is the only place on this trip that you will have the opportunity to see the famed Imperial Faberge Easter Eggs. Tickets are very limited for the Armoury and some people were disappointed that they were unable to acquire tickets when they attempted to sign-up on the ship. So, if you're interested, you should definitely try to book this tour ahead of departure. Concerning the Peterhof tour, although it is optional, I can't imagine missing it. The palace, gardens and fountains are just amazing. This was our second cruise with Viking—our first was the Imperial Jewels of China in 2011. In both cases, we were impressed with Viking's attention to detail and quality. Thank you for another trip of a lifetime! Read Less
1 Helpful Vote
Sail Date: October 2012
The ship, or should I say boat, itself is disappointing. The cabin is tiny and the beds really uncomfortable. Worst of all, the cabin has odd angles jutting out, which is a health and safty hazard as we fell over a few times. The boat ... Read More
The ship, or should I say boat, itself is disappointing. The cabin is tiny and the beds really uncomfortable. Worst of all, the cabin has odd angles jutting out, which is a health and safty hazard as we fell over a few times. The boat also make horrible noises in the night which disrupted sleep. When I complained, they said that there is nothing they could do! There was only one chair in the cabin so one of us had to sit outside in the "library" if we wanted to relax, that is, provided there are seats available, as others are also "driven" there due to the lack of space in the cabin. There are no amenities to speak of. Because of a storm, we could not sail to the island of Khizi and had to spend the whole day sailing. We nearly died of boredom - there was nothing to do and nowhere to go. What was most disconcerting were the tours offered - regular, alternative and optional. Regular are the tours included in the price, alternative tours are also included in the price but runs in conjunction with the regular ones so you couldn't do both. And optional tours are the ones that cost an arm and a leg to join! If you wanted to do things on your own, you will not get a lot of help. An example: We wanted to visit the Treasury in the Hermitage but that was an optional extra while the Hermitage was included. So we decided to get to the Hermitage early to get our own tickets to the Treasury and then meet the rest of our group for the regular tour. We informed the tour director, Konstantine, of our intentions and requested that he tell our guide to look out for us. Not only did he not do that, he also gave us the wrong meeting point! Whether it was an oversight or sheer malevolence, we shall never know. It was through sheer luck that we found the rest of our group. But it made for a very unpleasant and stressful start to the day. Because of all the different tours going on, people often got confused and we were not able to form a rapport with any tour guide as we were shunted from one bus to another. It would have been better if they either make all the tours included or not at all and have that reflected in the price of the cruise. The meals on board were unimpressive. Breakfast was the same for all 13 days. I don't know why the waiters keep offering us a menu! I love fish but after the first night, I couldn't eat those on offer. I don't know if it was the cook or maybe I just don't like Russian cuisine. The waiters are friendly but I could not say the same for the rest of the staff. In all that time, I could not elicit a smile or a greeting from the cleaning staff! It could be because we are not white. Now I haven't got a chip on my shoulder, but there was definitely a racial bias going on. I have been on other cruises and have always felt welcomed as an honoured guest. Not on the Viking Helgi! The whole trip was not value for money and I will not be sailing with them again. 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 this cruise, ... 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
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