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Live from River Cruise's Rurik, Waterways of the Tsars


unpartymom
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First time Viking customer, and what an abysmal experience !

 

Arrived at Moscow airport and promised Viking rep no where in sight for awhile in the midst of the hectic terminal scene. Then, 10 of us were marched out to the parking lot only to stand around and wait for Godot (i.e. the Viking bus). We were told that the bus parks further away because of the expensive airport parking. Seriously ? When we're paying for an experience constantly advertised as offering superior customer service ?

 

Bottom line: it took us FOUR HOURS from arrival @ the airport to arrival at the boat. That's right: we flew from Frankfurt to Moscow more quickly.

 

Viking rep also said that Fridays have the worst traffic. OK, but had we started sooner, we'd still have gotten to the boat earlier. Maybe Viking needs to avoid Friday rush hour arrivals. Or, find a better way. We noticed an airport train: maybe Viking reps. could help customers to take the train to a better meet up point for the bus. And it would have been helpful for us tired, hungry clients to get some snacks along with bottled water too.

 

Viking, you need to fix this !

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That is the direct opposite with Vantage. The rep was waiting right outside the terminal with the bus. Even then, it took us 3 hours because the Moscow traffic was horrendous.

But, our hotel was in the center of town, walking distance to Red Square and the Kremlin.

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Im so sorry to hear about your experience. I hope now that you are on the ship and have been there one day, it is alot better for you. How was your first day on the ship and the half day tour? We leave tonight for Russia Viking Akun. We dont arrive until really late Sunday night. I wish you a fun filled memorable safe trip.

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Since finally arriving on board, our experience has been nothing but positive.

 

Very hard working young staff.

 

We were offered the option of a 5 mile "up close" Moscow City walk rather than driving around by motor coach. Two of six buses opted for this. We have also lucked out with great weather: low 60s in sunshine today; Moscow's parks golden; perfect touring weather. Tomorrow is also supposed to be fairly warm, but rainy. It's our free day and, after a great intro to the Moscow Metro today, we feel confident enough to head out on our own to join up with the Moscow Free Tour people.

 

Folk concert tonight (an included option) was terrific. Only optional tour we've signed up for so far through Viking is Moscow by Night, which gets consistently good reviews.

 

By the way, Vantage customer, I mentioned Vantage's approach (hotel stays in Moscow and St. Petersburg which put their guests at close proximity to the downtown highlights) to our tour director . He replied that Viking "tried that out with one of our ships last year and it didn't work out." I'd be interested in knowing the specifics.

 

Good luck with your travel as you ship out !

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Since finally arriving on board, our experience has been nothing but positive.

By the way, Vantage customer, I mentioned Vantage's approach (hotel stays in Moscow and St. Petersburg which put their guests at close proximity to the downtown highlights) to our tour director . He replied that Viking "tried that out with one of our ships last year and it didn't work out." I'd be interested in knowing the specifics.

 

Good luck with your travel as you ship out !

The reason it probably did not work out is because it is much cheaper to keep you on the ship and bus you around than to pay for first class hotels

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Here's the thing: life on the Rurik is great, and we opted for the least pricey cabin. Enough room for 2 and enjoy everyone coming together for lectures, language lessons, etc. (which can also be watched from your cabin TV BTW).

In Moscow, I suggest that Viking make the effort to walk those interested to the quite nearby Metro on the AM of Day 1, when nothing except the required "abandon ship" drill is scheduled. Once we were shown how to navigate the Metro, we were good to go independently.

Don't know about public transit access near the dock in St. Petersburg. Again, Viking should look to make this available to those up to it .

I'm still annoyed about the pathetic excuse for no bus, long delay following airport arrival on Friday. Parking too expensive ? Stop inundating everyone with numerous glossy Viking brochures, and use those savings to park for goodness sake.

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Here's the thing: life on the Rurik is great, and we opted for the least pricey cabin. Enough room for 2 and enjoy everyone coming together for lectures, language lessons, etc. (which can also be watched from your cabin TV BTW).

In Moscow, I suggest that Viking make the effort to walk those interested to the quite nearby Metro on the AM of Day 1, when nothing except the required "abandon ship" drill is scheduled. Once we were shown how to navigate the Metro, we were good to go independently.

Don't know about public transit access near the dock in St. Petersburg. Again, Viking should look to make this available to those up to it .

I'm still annoyed about the pathetic excuse for no bus, long delay following airport arrival on Friday. Parking too expensive ? Stop inundating everyone with numerous glossy Viking brochures, and use those savings to park for goodness sake.

 

Hate to tell you but st. Petersburg is worse than Moscow IMHO! I was with vantage as well and I agree with Talisker...it's cheaper to keep you on the boat...if you have optional to Peterhof TAKE IT!! Not to be missed. We did have same airport problem in Kiev when vantage tm was there but bus couldn't find place to park so we had to walk with our luggage to the bus. In fairness to Viking I don't think they have same control in Russia (or other former communist countries). For instance we were told all buses would have on board restroom for emergency use....they did but doors were locked and drivers refused to unlock them!

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Don't know about public transit access near the dock in St. Petersburg.

 

The Metro station is even closer to the landing than in Moscow. The street name is Prospekt Obuchovskoj Oberony (leave the port to the left side and walk up the big street) and the name of the station is Proletarskaya (green line).

 

steamboats

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Thank you for this tip re accessing the Metro.

 

Re visiting Peterhof: quite pricey option AND we were told that if fountains are already turned off, it's not such a big deal.

 

Very glad we came to Moscow. Some really unforgettable sights. But, we won't miss the traffic for sure.

 

Have to say that warnings at home about "unfriendly" Russians have proved to be mistaken so far: we have been helped with directions, given a seat on a crowded Metro car, e.g.

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We took the St Petersburg to Moscow on Rurik and loved it! Peterhof is magnificent, but we were there in early September and the fountains were on. I think they might be off now. If you like a walk through beautiful gardens and a look at the Baltic sea then go. Well worth it. Traffic in Moscow is rotten, but all tour companies experience it. I noticed the Vantage bus took three hrs to get to town center. I'm sure it is better to stay in a hotel, but you pay for it with the increased cost of that companies tours. If that is your preference, I would pay extra and you'll be in a Red Square area while in Moscow. St. Petersburg traffic is bad too, but IMO the boat is in a better location there. What a great trip. Keep us updated please!

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Could be too cold now. Most places turn off water once overnight temps drop below a certain level.....

 

We were there in late August-early September and the fountains were on full blast. It makes sense that they would be turned off for the winter and it could be that it has gotten too cold already. I know our trip was the next to last one of the season for Vantage. I will say that if the fountains are turned off for the winter, it's still beautiful, but basically just another opulent Russian palace!! It's the fountains that make it spectacular!

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This is one of those trips where we're practicing patience and flexibility.

Learned this afternoon from just arrived Captain that, due to low water levels, we can't get to Yaroslavl via boat. Instead, we'll dock in Uglich and be bussed into Yaroslavl. Same itinerary once we're there.

Viking is doing what it can about Mother Nature's whimsy: telling passengers that ship doc will give them motion sickness Rx for "poor Russian roads" if needed, and pay for public WC in Yaroslavl.

Have also planned an alternative extra tour in Uglich for anyone who feels they are just not up to the motorcoach trek (about 90 minutes each way, we're told).

 

I'm tempted to sign up for the banya experience in a few days, including flagellation with birch branches.

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This is one of those trips where we're practicing patience and flexibility.

Learned this afternoon from just arrived Captain that, due to low water levels, we can't get to Yaroslavl via boat. Instead, we'll dock in Uglich and be bussed into Yaroslavl. Same itinerary once we're there.

Viking is doing what it can about Mother Nature's whimsy: telling passengers that ship doc will give them motion sickness Rx for "poor Russian roads" if needed, and pay for public WC in Yaroslavl.

Have also planned an alternative extra tour in Uglich for anyone who feels they are just not up to the motorcoach trek (about 90 minutes each way, we're told).

 

I'm tempted to sign up for the banya experience in a few days, including flagellation with birch branches.

 

LOL....I hope that's not a real optional, but I have to admire your "deal with it" attitude.....you're going to have lots of wonderful and exciting experiences to come with that attitude. Trying to remember Yaroslavl....ok I just looked up my photos. Yaroslavl was very good. We visited Transfiguration Monastery and it was marvelous, we had a bell concert (don't buy the cd, it won't play in US) WW II monument and the Cathedral of the Assumption behind it, then walked through a lovely little park to the confluence of the Volga and Kotorosl Rivers with the floral bear that changes every year. Uglich is also very nice and right near the dock there were at least a hundred vendors set up selling all kinds of stuff (and most took US credit cards) got some great buys there, but Mandrogi was even better shopping. I agree with poster who followed you, sometimes it's nice to get on a bus and ride through the countryside and villages.

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We had the same experience with low water levels. Some people hated the bus. I loved the ride through the countryside to see how people live there. I found it interesting. 😀

 

And another poster with the perfect travel attitude!! Sometimes you just cannot control what happens on a trip and neither can your TM, you can do one of two things: moan and groan and demand a refund when you get home or grin and bear it and have an adventure to talk about when you get home! I prefer the latter and most of the seasoned posters on cc feel the same. It's the unexpected things that often make a trip special.

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I agree with Hydrokitty about going with the flow. If you do any traveling at all, you must be flexible and have a sense of humor.

A few years ago we were stuck in Deggendorf for 2 days due to high water. The CD's organized a bus trip to Straubing where I saw a wonderful stained glass piece by Durer, and to Regensburg where we had lunch in the oldest bratwurst restaurant in Europe!

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Yes, sounds like we all "get it" re "organized" travel being, at times, anything but....and hurrah for that ! I get AHI materials and I've never liked their repetitious use of "like minded travelers, like yourself"; I think it's their code for college-educated. But, on this board, I do appreciate the sense of an open-minded, learn-as-you-go community.

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Yes, sounds like we all "get it" re "organized" travel being, at times, anything but....and hurrah for that ! I get AHI materials and I've never liked their repetitious use of "like minded travelers, like yourself"; I think it's their code for college-educated. But, on this board, I do appreciate the sense of an open-minded, learn-as-you-go community.

 

I don't think it has anything to do with education....although most of the people we've met on river cruises are professional people of some sort....I think the people who adapt the most to unexpected travel surprises are people who are pretty laid back in general and/or have traveled enough to know that throwing that temper tantrum doesn't change a thing. I do agree that the phrase "like minded travelers, like yourself" is offensive in the sense that it makes assumptions about me that it has no business making. So, what did you decide about Uglich, Yaroslavl and Peterhof?

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Bus ride to Yaroslavl was OK: bumpy 90 minute ride but we got a good look at local homes (many small decorative wooden bungalows) and cows, as well as the industry of Yaroslavl (unemployment rate of 1.5 %...wow).

Time there was enjoyable with tour of Governor's Mansion, walk along the river embankment, and visit to St. Elijah with 17th C frescoes which are in amazing condition. Market was colorful though small and because we docked in Uglich early afternoon and arrived in Yaroslavl toward end of the afternoon, not all vendors seemed to be there. Viking served samples of local sausage and cheeses. Trip back to boat seemed much longer: driving in complete darkness without much to see along the way.

 

Despite chilly rain, we enjoyed touring the Kremlin/Church of Spilled Blood in Uglich this morning and then home visit with local resident Nadia. I found Uglich more scenic than Yaroslavl, and the half-day there passed quickly.

 

Much discussion on board yesterday about whether to sign up or not for the 79 Euro Peterhof option. Viking rep made it clear that fountains may or may not be turned on, and no refunds would be made. Guidebooks and web sites I consulted generally agree that, without the fountains, there are many better ways to spend one's time and money in St. Petersburg, so we passed, especially given that forecast for our three days in St. P is for low 40s (Fahrenheit) with rain.

 

I can't resist attending the Viking marketing pitch convening soon. What's wrong with this picture: those signing up early get discounts of $100 US or 100 British pounds...

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Bus ride to Yaroslavl was OK: bumpy 90 minute ride but we got a good look at local homes (many small decorative wooden bungalows) and cows, as well as the industry of Yaroslavl (unemployment rate of 1.5 %...wow).

Time there was enjoyable with tour of Governor's Mansion, walk along the river embankment, and visit to St. Elijah with 17th C frescoes which are in amazing condition. Market was colorful though small and because we docked in Uglich early afternoon and arrived in Yaroslavl toward end of the afternoon, not all vendors seemed to be there. Viking served samples of local sausage and cheeses. Trip back to boat seemed much longer: driving in complete darkness without much to see along the way.

 

Despite chilly rain, we enjoyed touring the Kremlin/Church of Spilled Blood in Uglich this morning and then home visit with local resident Nadia. I found Uglich more scenic than Yaroslavl, and the half-day there passed quickly.

 

Much discussion on board yesterday about whether to sign up or not for the 79 Euro Peterhof option. Viking rep made it clear that fountains may or may not be turned on, and no refunds would be made. Guidebooks and web sites I consulted generally agree that, without the fountains, there are many better ways to spend one's time and money in St. Petersburg, so we passed, especially given that forecast for our three days in St. P is for low 40s (Fahrenheit) with rain.

 

Too bad about Peterhof, but I think you made right choice. If temp in St. Pete was in the 40's, it would be at least 10 degrees colder at Peterhof and very windy...

 

I can't resist attending the Viking marketing pitch convening soon. What's wrong with this picture: those signing up early get discounts of $100 US or 100 British pounds...

 

Make sure your $100 is refundable if you get home and find dates no good or you've changed your mind. Does Viking give you a 5% of this trip credit to your next trip with them? That's usually good for 12 months and can be substantial depending on the cost of your trip.

 

Uglich was IMHO one of the prettiest places we visited. The sunset on the red cathedral right on the river bank was spectacular!!

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More patience and flexibility is called for with morning announcement that we are not able to dock @ Kizhi Island today due to stormy conditions. Many are surprised/disappointed; I am the latter, not the former: have read repeated comments that bad weather cancelled this part of the Waterways of the Tsars itinerary.

 

Besides missing out on Kizhi, I'm not wild about spending so much time cooped up on the Rurik. I'm thinking that if Viking runs into this weather-related issue often enough, it would be great if they had a Plan B option to get us on shore "somewhere."

 

I wish that they'd travel with some yoga mats and offer a session or two of such exercise, especially on these long sailing days.

 

Oh well, extra time to research and plan our time in St. P.

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I am so sorry you missed kizhi Island and decided not to go to Peterhof.

Below is our stories and pictures so you can at least see what they looked like.

http://stevekathytravels.com/sitebuildercontent/sitebuilderfiles/russia2013.pdf

We were there around the end of September.

 

Kizhi Island was really spectacular. We were the only ship docked that day, but when we into Lake Ladoga the rocking and rolling started big time. The doors to the sun deck were both locked and we had to keep our balcony doors closed as well. I'm sure we didn't go as far as we were supposed to into the Lake, but nobody cared!!

 

I know Viking has more ships than anybody else and is the biggest river cruise company of them all, but they do seem to have a disproportionate number of weather related cancellations and alterations.

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