We choose this river cruise as a 40th wedding present for ourselves, and anticipated it with excitement for months. We did not know what to expect, coming from the Midwest USA, and traveling to Russia, but it would be impossible for us to leave the experience more pleased! Travel from Chicago to Moscow was grueling, but we expected that. What we did not expect, to this level, was the exceptional attention to detail when we arrived at Moscow airport, and for the next 13 days. EVERYTHING, (yes, everything) was designed to give the traveler every opportunity for the best experience ever. From the handling of our luggage, our boarding experience, the large and wonderfully appointed cabin, the excellent food (every meal!!!), to attentive housekeeping, and wait staff, both kitchen and the lounges, were magnificent. A sidebar about our luggage: one piece was lost by British Airlines, arriving to our room 48 hours later. The Helgi front desk pestered the airport/airlines several times each day, nagging, I think, like a grandmother whose child lost her doll, to make sure that it was found and delivered before we left Moscow. In the meantime, we received toiletries, robes and clothes, and free 3 hour laundry service. I believe that it is through adversity that the excellent prevail, and the Helgi crew did just that.
Everyone had a smattering of the English language, with most speaking better than me. Absolutely no communication issues. The extra, unexpected events, like champagne in the hall to meet the captain and our new, temporary neighbors, to the daily briefings, cocktail hours was amazing. The exceptional service of Frank, the hotel/ship manager, Roland, the maître d'hôtel, Natred, our exceptional waitress whom we would have adopted in a heartbeat, to my new Siberian best friend Demetri, to Alvin, Jay, Tin, the excellent musicians, and others of whom I have forgotten their names but not their service, I tip my fedora. The vetting process of the Viking HR to find and retain such incredible staff (read: Family) must be outstanding, as they have employed the best of the best. While accommodations are important, it is the people who make the trip, and these folk certainly did this for us. We have traveled rather extensively over our many years, but this trip and experience climbs to the top of the list. Thank you, thank you!!
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