While we were questioned by family and friends, and found out almost everyone else on the cruise as well, as to why did we want to go to Russia? Our family were concerned about our safety, especially after weeks of protests in Moscow. None of this daunted our desire to go, especially since we had already paid for the cruise. We wanted to see something we knew would be very different and were raised to treat Russia as an enemy country. We were really in for a pleasant surprise - we absolutely loved Russia. We learned so much about the country, the people, their history; how they suffered during WW II and also how they suffered under communism prior to the fall of the Soviet Union. That's why we went, and while this will probably be the once in a lifetime trip, we'd do it again given the opportunity.
We are first time river cruisers - really want to do another river cruise somewhere - most likely Europe.
We were so impressed with Viking - their planned tours were fantastic. The ship was exceptionally well maintained. Don't be daunted by the 1975 ship build date - Viking keeps is looking new at all times!! Our cabin (room 300) was very comfortable. The food was great; the staff absolutely top notch - I'd love to cruise with this crew again.
One concern I've read before going was that there is only 1 elevator on this ship and the stairs are quite steep. My wife and I are in the 60s and 70s, in good shape. We only used the stairs - had no problem going up and down. Used the elevator once to take our suitcases down to weigh them before departing - as part of foolish manly pride, I decided to take the first bag down the stairs - no problem going down; however, two Viking cleaning ladies immediately jumped in and grabbed my bag to carry it down - they then pointed to the elevator and said I could use that!!! Trying to go back up with the bag was more of a challenge - a young Viking sailor saw me and immediately lifted the bag over his head and carried it up for me - this is how the crew is all the time. I then elected to use the elevator for the second bag - much wiser. So, we had no complaint regarding using the stairs! People with mobility limitations would have difficulty on the stairs. It was a little more challenging after the vodka sampling activity one evening - I definitely recommend it. Our room was right outside the main dining area - we thought this might be an issue with noise - no issue whatsoever - since everyone is on the same schedule, people talking outside our room never bothered us. While we had a balcony, we hardly used it since we were so busy all the time; plus it could be a little cool sitting out there in the evening - once the sun went down - between 9 and 10 pm, up at 4:30, the temperatures went down - maybe into the 50s. However, we were lucky - we brought the sun - something rare in this part of the world. So our temperatures were mostly in the 70s during the day; one day it hit 80 in Moscow - while locals weren't happy with that, it still felt very comfortable. All excursions go on rain or shine - we had a few light showers and one heavier downpour in Yaroslavl - but the outside gift area was covered, so rain never bothered us. We travelled from St Petersburg to Moscow - we go through 17 locks - many are at night when sleeping; but very interesting to watch. We didn't realize there are 5 Viking ships going up and down this route all season - each one does 14 round trips per season (6 month period) - can't do it in the winter since lakes and rivers are frozen over. All ships looks exactly the same. When we got to St Petersburg all 5 were at the docks - each one leaving a different day. They'll dock 2 together, so you will have to walk through one to get to your ship. Some of you will do what some of us did - get on the first ship and go to your room - only to find your key doesn't work. Then you realize, you are on the wrong ship!!! There are differences in the ships - usually in the size of public rooms.
Starting in St Petersburg, all our tours were included with two exceptions. Went to Catherine Palace in Pushkin - unreal to see this. The crowds were quite large, but the Viking guides (some from the ship, others local) - are great. Lots of historic detail which they are very proud to provide regarding Russian history. Did the Panoramic St Petersburg tour - got a really good look at this beautiful city. Did the optional Cossack Folk Songs and Dances - don't miss this fantastic show - the show is in the parking lot of the port - in a large tent - kept perfectly comfortable inside. Then went to the Hermitage - this place I so incredibly large with so much to see and lots and lots of people. It's definitely worthwhile - but not possible to see everything. Did the optional St Petersburg from the water - highly recommend this wonderful tour of canals in St Petersburg. We stayed on the open deck for the entire trip - but you can go in to a covered area if it rains. I also attended the ballet - saw Swan Lake - it was beautifully done. Left St Petersbug and sailed to Mandrogy - very smooth waters all the way. This is a very interesting stop - no included tours, but you can walk through a small village. Went to a vodka museum - didn't realize the 300 ruble entry fee included sampling 3 or 4 vodka's of your choice. Some people did the Russian Banya - they all said it was worthwhile - I preferred not to try.
Then we sailed for Kizhi - a tiny island way up north on Lake Onega - the entire island is a historical museum of how life was in Russia 300 years ago. Very interesting - it was a very smooth ride on the lake. The cathedral was fantastic to see. Priests did a chant for us - fascinating to see and hear. The old house was unreal how they engineered it - warm places for children and women and an entire area inside for the cattle to stay for the very harsh winters. This was the coolest day we experienced; I think in the 50s and windy with very light rain - it felt so good when coming from Texas in August. Goritsky was the next stop - bus ride to Monastery for a beautiful included tour of Monastery. Then a bus ride from Monastery to meet ship in Kuzino (you could have stayed on ship to relax, but we wanted to see everything we could). Next stop was Yaroslavl - a city of 600K people - quite nice city. Did the Yaroslavl tour with Governors House - this was really worthwhile. Got to go into a beautiful church - leaned so much in there. Also visited a high school where each group was assigned a student to give us the tour - Our student's English was very good; then a 12 year old young lady performed a Russian dance for us - she was so good. Then in the Governor's house local young ladies escorted each group - there was so much artwork in there ; plus some live classical music, plus 1800's dances performed by 2 young ladies and 2 young men - they were superb. Then is was off to Uglich - the last town before Moscow. Got up to prepare for our 8:30 tour which was a visit to a Russian home - thought we were already docked at 6:30am; since ship wasn't moving. Opened curtain to see what it was like out - very dense fog. Cruise director told us we hit the fog when entering the Volga river and had to stop and anchor since they can't navigate the river in dense fog. Then we were told we would move once fog lifted and unfortunately would have to miss the stop at Uglich - very disappointing. Viking made it up by inviting everyone on the optional Moscow by night tour - for those who already paid, we got refunds. Last stop was Moscow - did the Kremlin included tour - again large crowds, but so worthwhile to see.. Then we did the optional tour of the Cosmonaut Museum - they really put on a tremendous display. They are vey proud of their accomplishments and the fact that they have worked well with USA in space activities. Moscow by night is highly recommended - a late night, but worth it. Last tour was the included Panoramic Moscow - riding the subway was quite the experience - the stations were absolutely beautiful. Finally, pack and head home. I was so impressed with how organized Viking is with handling luggage and getting us to the airport on time - this happened on both sides - getting to St Petersbugh - arrival and check in was the smoothest I've ever experience.
I think I've written enough - if you gather that we loved this cruise, you are right and that we were so impressed with Viking - I will definitely sail with them again.
The wait staff was phenominal - mostly Filipino or Russian - incredibly responsive to our needs and food was great.
Rooms are great - we chose the BX category over the AX since BX was slightly larger than the AX! Loved the room, so quiet at night. Have to use the darkening curtains since it's light until 9 to 10PM and sun up at 4 to 4:30. We were very comfortable in the room any time we were there. Our cabin lady was very thorough and prompt.
Fascinating place, but very crowded so difficult to see everything.
Only saw from outside - very beautiful church
Beautiful city to see - the bus is much easier than all of the walking that otherwise would be required.
Again, very crowded; but something definitely to be sem
Really loved this tour - highly recommend it.View All 152 Neva River Cruise Reviews
Beautiful theater in Hermitage; dancers and orchestra so good.
Don't miss this - the group was so talented. Vodka at intermission was a nice surprise.
beautiful active church; got there when mass was getting ready to begin - that didn't slow anyone down
See my large overall review for comments on this great tour.View All 38 City Tour Reviews