We wanted to see more of Russia than just Moscow and St. Petersburg, so we looked at the inland waterway between those cities. Most river cruise companies on this route stop at the same places but we chose Viking as it was the first foreign company to develop the route and operates its own boats, giving it greater control.
The cruise includes three days in both Moscow and St Petersburg. In both cities Viking docks some way (around 20 km - 12 miles) from the city centre, so if you want to explore those cities on your own be prepared to use the Metro. In Moscow this is easy as the dock is a 10 minute walk from the Metro Station but in St Petersburg you need to take a public bus to the Metro station. This is easier than it sounds as route 119 (every 5 minutes) starts close to the dock and terminates at the Metro station. Details (including map) available at Helgi reception. Tip – buy stored value cards (Troika and Podorozhnik) to save messing with small change
Viking offer a number of included and additional shore excursions. We took the Catherine Palace tour in St Petersburg (as this is difficult by public transport), the Moscow up close walking tour (as this starts with a good introduction to the Metro), the Kizhi walking tour and the Kirillo-Belozersky Monastery bus tour (as the dock is some way from the monastery.) Viking gave us our tickets for the St.Petersburg Ballet performance in advance and we met the group at the theatre. If you are interested in the visual arts buy tickets on line and visit The Hermitage, General Staff Building and the Pushkin on your own. The Hermitage is worth a day and the other two half a day each. The include tours spend less than four hours at the Hermitage and do not cover the other two (although the extra paid excursions do.)
The ports in between provide just the experience we were looking for. The visit to the Kirillov monastery was a high point of the trip and included a school visit hosted by a final year student (doing it as a summer vacation job). Having had school visits on tours to China in the early 1980s I was slightly cynical beforehand but this visit seemed genuine and was interesting.
If arriving by train from Helsinki, the fare we paid from the station to the Viking wharf was RUB 2,500
A two day combined ticket for the Hermitage and General Staff building costs $24 on line; A one day Pushkin ticket including special exhibitions was RUB 1000
Viking offer a one day excursion to Sergiev Posad near Moscow. We did this ourselves by suburban train from the Yaroslav Station (the ticket machines speak English and tell you the time of the next train. On the platform indicator look for trains to Сергиев Посад or Александровка
Try and learn the Cyrillic alphabet before you go. Viking provides excellent beginners classes on the boat - worth attending.
Food on board was pretty good. German chef. Menu had local as well as international dishes. Bread could have been better
The cabin was more spacious than I expected having travelled on Danube and Rhine riverboats which are longer but narrower because of the lock sizes. The shower was good but be careful of the hot water which is kept hotter than in other ships. The bed (configurable as a twin or king) was very comfortable and the balcony good for sitting outside
This is a good excursion to take. The palace and grounds are very beautiful. The palace was badly damaged in World War II and restoration is still continuing but there is plenty to seeView All 226 Catherine Palace Reviews
Viking kindly gave us our tickets beforehand so that we could meet them at the theatre. This was a full performance of Swan Lake.View All 99 Russian Ballet Show Reviews
An excellent introduction to the Moscow Metro and walking tour of central city sights. Helpful if you intend to do your own thing for the rest of the time in MoscowView All 38 City Tour Reviews