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 ... 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.   Read Less
Sail Date: September 2011
Arrived one day early in SPB. Stayed at Alexander House, which I highly recommend. Amusing atmosphere, very nicely serviced, small restaurant with good food at a reasonable price. They also sent a car to get us at the airport which was ... Read More
Arrived one day early in SPB. Stayed at Alexander House, which I highly recommend. Amusing atmosphere, very nicely serviced, small restaurant with good food at a reasonable price. They also sent a car to get us at the airport which was inexpensive and fantastic! Staff speaks English, free WIFI, great breakfast and quiet location. Anna at the desk is wonderful.AMA KATARINA :Generally enjoyable. Room smaller than expected but immaculate and well kept and supplied by Daria. extra towels pillows toilet tissues were always full. Rooms aft of the lobby suffer vibrations, engine noise and fuel smells. Very nice bedding and comfy bed. Bathroom adequate. One night of rough seas. Rooms without opening balcony doors and windows suffered greatly with uncontrollable heating & air conditioning..we had a balcony (235) so were fine.The doctor on board does the massages and does not show much expertise in that field, although kind and accommodating.The food was mediocre. Soups and salads were great, assortment of cheeses and breads quickly vanished from side table. Pastry and desserts were less than acceptable. Breakfast porridge is a highlight. Seating in the big dining room is noisy, difficult and cramped. Special requests are mostly ignored. Unimaginative and dull menu....Russian rules and regs have nothing to do with limited varieties and too many fried entrees. Think root vegetables 3x a day.On board entertainment: limited.Public areas: Uncomfortable furnishings consider the age of the travelers and every chair,couch is low- slung and sits too hard. I don't know how to manage space hogs and allowing groups to dominate these rather limited areas. The music in the bar is too loud for a small space and prohibits any conversation.Tours and excursions: ExcellentMarina does a good job of handling issues and keeping things moving. We LOVED our on board guide, Inna, and were very sorry to hear she is leaving the ship. SPB guide, Elsa, was the best guide we have ever had anywhere. Tours and visits went smoothly (except for stragglers) and I feel we got an excellent overview of all places visited. Do the Yusupov Palace Tour, it is wonderful, and of course Pushkin and Peterhof. We loved visiting the Tsar's burial sites and much time was saved in transport by the use of hydrofoils for transport. Nevsky Prospect uninspiring, but I live in a big city where all this shopping is available every day. The shops at Pushin are fantastic and offer the best quality in amber jewelry that I found. Evening at the Ballet was less than expected. Go to the Marinsky on your own.The small stops along the way were pleasant and relaxing. Uglich and the home visit are not to be missed. Lots of fur items to be had. Souvenir shopping gets more expensive the closer you get to Moscow, but Uglich had some good quality items and a very nice market.Moscow:Unexpectedly, loved it. A beautiful, cosmopolitan city, panoramic views from Sparrow Hill. Red Square...."Swan Lake", St Basils....all unforgettable.GUM is a shopping mall with overpriced and glamorous shopping...wander thru the food court on the first floor. Smaller than Harrod's but just as much fun! On Arbat Street, do go to the "Pushkin" souvenir store (right next to Pushkin House...it's a "better " tourist trap!) I paid less than half of price on the tag.Remember ..prices are negotiable, especially if you are paying cash ( dollars, rubles and euros accepted almost everywhere)This is a city where money can buy you anything...but that's not always a good thing.Port transfers: Went smoothly and without incident. Duty-free shops at Domodevonot so good.Weather: Changes from minute to minute. Rains most days at least once. Take layers (silk undies, sweater, jacket) and good rain gear, sturdy umbrella that stows easily. Good, sturdy walking shoes.Overall, we had a very good time and feel we have seen what we wanted to see in Russia. For anyone wanting to see the two major cities and a little country life, this is the way to do it. Based on what we saw and heard, AMA KATARINA IS the best boat doing the Russian WATERWAYS, but know in advance that Russia is Russia and things will be different.Experience 4+Boat 4+ ( By Russian riverboat standards)Staff 4+ Read Less

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