Make sure your passport is good for at least six (6) months after dates of travel. This is required by Russia for Visa as well as Viking. Visa for Russia is a pain and needs to be taken care of well in advance. It is meticulous and EXACT. Use a service unless you are an expert and do it well in advance. You cannot change dates once you get the Visa.
This was our first River Cruise with any line. Viking knows how to do a river cruise and do it very well. Passport Control in St, Petersburg took over 2 hours, Customs was a walk through. Viking met us at the exit from Customs in St. Petersburg and everything was great from there until we were flying out in Moscow. Luggage was taken by the crew from the airport to the ship and delivered to our cabin, in Moscow we did have to drag our suitcases from the bus to check in, but... Flights arranged by Viking were very tight for us and we missed our last flight on return home by less than 5 minutes. On return home you wind up going through TSA Screening leaving Moscow, leaving Zurich, and leaving the airport in the USA. Between Customs and TSA, you may miss your flight in the USA of you have an hour or less.
OKAY, the cruise itself! Fantastic is too gentle a word. We have traveled extensively on Ocean Cruises on HAL (3 star), NCL, Carnival, and Princess. None of the ocean cruises treat you as good as this. The cabins are much smaller in each class than on an ocean liner, but still large enough to be comfortable and larger than some of the interior cabins on some Ocean Liners. Bathrooms are the same as any Ocean Liner - Control central - you can reach everything while sitting on the commode - yet 2 sinks, not one. Shower only in most of the cabins. Balcony, not just a French Balcony on this ship.
Meals: Our chef was from Germany and made very memorable meals. Breakfast and lunch were Buffet, but you could also order special items from the waiters. Dinner was sit down and menu items, always special meals every night and changing every night. If you did not like the special offerings, there were standard items which included Salmon, steak, salads, etc. Salmon was fresh, not frozen, or seemed to be. Steak was cooked to perfection. Wine, Beer, and Soft Drinks (unlimited) were available at lunch and dinner- and I do mean unlimited and you were encouraged to have as much as you wanted of any or all of them.
The days in St. Petersburg were wonderful, only optional tour we took was the "Storage" of the Hermitage and well worth it. We also attended the Cossack Show, where Vodka flowed freely during intermission and they tried to sell us souvenirs at 4 to 10 times the price of the other shopping areas. But the show was great fun. All other tours were included and really good to take. Viking did it right here.
As we went down the river we stopped at different ports and had tours in each. The ships tours were well worth doing and we did not bother with optional tours at all until we got to Moscow. the regular tours kept us busy and informed. Each little town had it's own charm and just like Ocean Cruises, we could have spent a lot more time in each town. I am not going to spend a lot of time oin the towns because the Viking site does a good job.
Moscow. Once again most of our tours were the standard ships tours during our three days. Let me say something about our "three days" in Moscow. The third day is actually departure day and most flights leave in the early morning so there is no third day. We actually left the ship at 0200 - yes 2:00 am for our 6:00am flight. The reason for this is because the airport is an 1.5 hours away and Moscow Traffic is atrocious - traffic ams almost 24/7 is the norm. In fact our plane left over an hour late because our Swiss Flight Crew was late due to traffic.
Tours of the Kremlin, Kremlin Armory (optional and worth it) and other ships tours were so good, do them all if you can. One of the best was also the tour of the Metro, WOW!. Shopping at GUM. Let me know if you find the DOWN escalator, please.
By the time you return home you will be ready for your net river cruise. We are and Viking is the first one we will be looking at for our next.
YOU DO NOT NEED SUITS OR JACKETS - I had a sweater and that was more than enough.
Cabin 209 - Small and not very large at all. bed was very comfortable and we slept very well under the featherbed. Soft of had to get used to no top sheet - just a featherbed. Enough room under the beds to store our luggage. Window did pull down and we needed to pull it down at times to cool the cabin. Closet space was very narrow - our clothes were sort of to wide to hang well and shelves were taken up with life vests. THERE IS ONLY ONE 110v ELECTRICAL OUTLET - bring adapters! lots of 20v outlets.