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kudzu Jun 28th, 2008 08:10 PM

Viking St. Petersburg to Moscow
I've enjoyed reading trip reports on Grand Circle river cruises but would like to hear from anyone who could compare them to Viking. I'm going on Viking in early August and it's a little frustrating that, like most companies, they don't send out detailed information until just a few weeks before departure.

Thanks for details anyone can provide!


djkbooks Jun 28th, 2008 08:31 PM

We traveled with Viking a few years ago Moscow to St. Petersburg. By now, you should have the itinerary.

I was frustrated as well, especially when a list of optional tours was not included with the literature when it finally arrived. I phoned and e-mailed. No one seemed to understand why I was anxious to have this information ahead of time. They said optionals would depend on the days of the week of our visit, what was/wasn't open, etc. But, I was considering hiring a private guide, all depending. They finally promised to contact the Cruise Director on the ship and provide a list of optionals. Still, I received no information ahead of day of departure.

Included, however, was a fairly comprehensive booklet with plenty of other information, along with maps of the ports in Moscow and St. Petersburg, nearby transportation, and how to get into each city on our own.

Because we had one half day and one full day free time in St. Petersburg, I did hire a private guide recommended here on this forum and I'm very glad to have done that.

There were several optional tours for Moscow. And, there were many optional tours for St. Petersburg, which were not announced until a day or two before we reached St. Petersburg. It seemed they really did do their best to schedule as many as possible, but the difficulty was not being able to firm up group appointments until just ahead of their dates.

Anyway, things may not be quite the same for you as our trip a few years ago. But, I'd be happy to answer any specific questions.

Will you be staying on the ship the entire trip?

kudzu Jun 28th, 2008 09:03 PM

Thanks for your fast reply! I'm actually flying into St. P. three days in advance since I'm using frequent flyer miles and couldn't get there on the day of sailing. Figured if I'm going one day ahead, might as well give myself a little more time to adjust and wander around on my own. I've booked the Nevsky Aster Hotel. All the rest of the time I'll be on the riverboat.

I would think that a company that does this tour over and over again each season for many years now would know what optional tours they would offer! It doesn't seem to be that hard to figure out what day of the week the tour will be at a certain place.... I'd like to know especially since I don't want to duplicate places in my free time or else be able to choose to do something on my own if the option seems too expensive. I also would like to know the prices so I can be sure to budget for them. Not to mention I'd like to be able to do some advance reading about places I'd be visiting!

I've also been trying to find out where the boat will dock. I've seen threads here that it docks at one of two different places. I'm trying to use the Internet while I can to plan my way to get there but Viking says they "don't know" exactly where it will dock yet. All this is hard to believe....

I'll wait for the mail Monday and if there's nothing there I'll get on the phone. Did your materials come directly to you or to your travel agent (if you used one)?

Tnanks again, K

djkbooks Jun 28th, 2008 09:30 PM

I totally understand your frustration. When you see the number of tour vessels at the dock, you will understand. Due to all the "traffic", spots/docks are assigned and changed all the time. We were reminded each time we left the ship that it might be in a different place when we returned and how to recognize it. Typically, they are in rows, so you sometimes have to walk through one or more others to get to yours (better than a several mile walk).

My recommendation would be to have a look at the Eyewitness Guide for Saint Petersburg and decide which places you'd like to visit.

A licensed tour guide is invaluable and very economical. We hired Olga and could not have been more pleased. She is totally flexible, incredibly knowledgeable and speaks perfect English. And, she could not be more charming. She is very responsive to e-mails and full of recommendations and suggestions.

It was far more economical to tour with Olga than take the optionals provided by Viking. And, we had her all to ourselves! (Believe me, you will tire of being in a large group over the course of your trip...).

Olga met us at the ship both days. One day, we rode the complimentary shuttle provided by Viking into the city. The other, we all took the metro. From our dock, you could take the metro or the light rail. The light rail would have been more scenic, but we were fascinated with the metro. If necessary, or for distant destinations not convenient on public transportation, Olga will rent a vehicle and drive you.

I'm sure Viking would like to provide as much information as possible. And, ultimately there were five optionals offered in St. Petersburg (Canal Cruise, Russian Museum, Yussupov Palace, Puskin, Folklore Show). All were 24 or 29 "Units" in 2003. Then, a "unit" was US Dollars, but it may be Euros now, and prices may have gone up.

We ended up not taking any optionals. For one thing, it would not have been efficient, as they return you to the ship every day for the included lunch and dinner. We wish we had not returned to the ship the day of our free afternoon for lunch, but rather met Olga in St. Petersburg, as that would have given us a few extra hours in the city.

So, we did everything we wanted to do with Olga. She has licenses for all the various venues (so skips the entrance lines) and provides outstanding commentary in English.

We had her take us on a Canal Cruise (not to be missed). She knew the best cruise. With Viking, we would have been with "our group" and had strawberries and Champagne, but we didn't care about that.

We booked directly with Viking, so our materials were sent to us directly.

Feel free to e-mail me [email protected]

Highly, highly, recommend the book "Russia by River".

Also, be sure to pack any pharmaceuticals you think you may need. They do have a few basic in the ship's gift shop, and there is the odd pharmacy or convenience store, but none may have what you need or recognize. A woman came down with a nasty cold on our ship and I was the only one with a good supply of decongestant, cough medicine, Tylenol, etc.

tower Jun 28th, 2008 09:46 PM

Viking advertises an on-board doctor for all of their Russian river trips...has this changed, according to DJKTrips above...

stu T.

kudzu Jun 28th, 2008 10:02 PM

Thanks for your e-mail address. I'll get in touch directly soon.

For others who are reading our conversation here, I'd second your recommendation of "Russia By River." Maybe it was a previous post of yours, but I learned about it somewhere on this forum and ordered it. It's much better than I expected, and I'm sure will be a great resource on the rivers. The only problem was that the Web site automatically added in the most expensive shipping cost and there was a hassle dealing with that issue but finally it was removed from my credit card. Overall I'm happy with the book.

Thanks for your helpfulness!

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