Waterways of the Tsars - Chapter 1: The Ship and The Stroganoff

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MoscowWhilst I'm normally happy to breeze into most of Europe with just my notes from personal research, I somehow felt uncomfortable doing this on my first, much desired, visit to Russia.  Perhaps it's irrational thoughts driven by watching too many Cold War movies but I wanted my introduction to the jewels of this vast country to be with a company that had a track record there and a reputation for excellence.  Sprinkle in a little luxury, as it was part of our 30th wedding anniversary celebrations, and Viking seemed to fit the bill.

Booking was easy, the very helpful Martin did an excellent job of walking us through the options of dates, ships and cabin types. The flight aspect was a little uncomfortable, having to commit to the booking, then leaving Viking to get you the best flight they could, even if this wasn't direct.  I think this could be better from a premium provider.  As it turned out Viking secured us direct flights with British Airways so this wasn't an issue.  The recommended Prima Visa were also impressive in securing the, somewhat expensive, Visa with the minimum fuss.  I was particularly impressed with the very helpful telephone assistance when I had queries.

The RurikNavigation of Domodedovo airport was simple enough and the kind lady at immigration directed a few of us to use the quiet Diplomatic Channel to get us through passport and visa checking as quickly as possible.  The Viking rep was waiting to greet us and we wheeled our cases out to catch the luxury coach to the Rurik, which would be our home for the next 12 days.  Most passengers wheeled their own cases but Viking had sent a crew member to help one couple with their cases.  So if you need help you should arrange it as part of your booking.  The organised chaos at the airport led to heavy traffic and a ring road at a standstill, but that worked in our favour and our driver took us right through the centre of Moscow for our first glimpse of some iconic landmarks. 

DX StateroomIt took about 90 mins to get to the River Port at Khimki North West of Moscow, where an efficient check in and prompt delivery of our bags, allowed us to do a speedy unpack before heading into dinner.  We had booked Deluxe (DX) stateroom 212 which was ideal for our needs (we didn't plan spending much time in our room), as it had all the necessary facilities e.g. safe, fridge, hair dryer and a picture window looking out over the river.

Dinner, served in the Neva restaurant, is smart casual and open dining.  Beef Stroganoff was the recommended dish and the tender beef and German noodles was unusual but very tasty, This turned out to be the first of many meals we were to enjoy onboard, including a very thoughtful cake and champagne to mark our Anniversary.  At that point I issued a potential clothes shrinkage warning, as wine at dinner is also included in the package.

Neva RestaurantIt was time to head to the Sky Bar where our Program Director Christopher Swennen gave a very informative and interesting orientation of the ship, together with information about the included and optional excursions available whilst we were in Moscow.  It was great to hear him consider those passengers with mobility issues, giving details on which excursions or attractions may involve steps (the Armoury has 73) or even that some may find the Metro a little claustrophobic and thus can stay on the bus and skip this part.  This was a great help in choosing suitable excursions and indeed Chris’ briefings and daily updates proved to be an entertaining and invaluable source of information throughout the cruise.

That was the conclusion to a very long day and time to flop onto our comfortable looking bed.  Our double bed came with single duvets which led to much disappointment when the clutch and roll manoeuvre, practiced over the last 30 years, still left Linda snug and toasty in her own quilt.  Well where's the fun in that!  Rested and refreshed it’s time to explore Moscow.

Silver Travel Advisor recommends Viking River and Ocean Cruises

•  Read Waterways of the Tsars - Chapter 2: Moscow and Monty Python
•  Read Waterways of the Tsars - Chapter 3: Uglich and Yaroslavl
•  Read Waterways of the Tsars - Chapter 4: Mother Volga and The Cool Table
•  Read Waterways of the Tsars - Chapter 5: Jurassic Park and the Squirrel

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Other Members' Thoughts - 21 Comment(s)

  • coolonespa
    almost 2 years ago
    Possibly off cruising somewhere exotic Gill. Thank you for your kind comments and that old adage.....so true :-)
  • Cruzeroqueen1
    almost 2 years ago
    Think I missed this the first time round @coolonespa but found it as interesting and informative as all your reviews. By the way, you know that old adage? "One good turn.........gets most of the duvet!"
  • baconbap
    about 4 years ago
    would love to go on a river cruise
  • Itchy-Feet
    over 4 years ago
    Very useful review. Thank you
  • coolonespa
    over 4 years ago
    That's one option, although the flights we had were with BA and weren't really an issue.
  • keljimstock
    over 4 years ago
    Sounds like a great trip. What about combining this with a Baltic Cruise from a home port and cutting out all of that ghastly air travel?
  • Smoke-Salmon
    over 4 years ago
    would love a river cruise! Good luck everyone.
  • canoe
    over 4 years ago
    River cruises sound like an ideal way of going on tour
  • coolonespa
    over 4 years ago
    Thank you for your comments, I've added a few more photos from the Metro on this thread on the Forum http://www.silvertraveladvisor.com/forums/travel-places/3110-destination-focus-moscow-to-st-petersberg?page=4#post_52337
  • travelfan
    over 4 years ago
    Thanks Steve, I've been wondering about the right river cruise company to go with and you have made up my mind to go with Viking. There's nothing better than a recommendation from a frequent traveller to help with choices.
  • Marpau
    over 4 years ago
    Thank you for a very informative review this means so much when considering our next holiday
  • chris206
    over 4 years ago
    Thank you. We have been thinking about doing a river cruise and this has helped with our considerations : )
  • GranAnn42
    over 4 years ago
    I've never been to Moscow, would be wonderful to visit. To be able to tell my grandchildren of the places I'd seen and the wonderful service I'd received.
  • June-B
    over 4 years ago
    Brings back very fond memories of my first visit to Moscow, immediately post Peristroika. The 'westernisation' that took place in the 2 years between my first and second visit was unbelievable. That has continued and now it is a very modern vibrant city, although it may have lost some of its former charm. Don't forgo the metro or you will miss a treat as the architecture in a large number of the stations is truly beautiful.
  • coolonespa
    over 5 years ago
    Thanks Kaybe. In part 3 (to be published very soon) I cover a visit to a local family outside the principle cities but they weren't poor enough to resort to selling their underwear.
  • KaybeFly
    over 5 years ago
    Hiya, must have been early '90s absolutely useless on remembering years. I just remember large ladies trying to sell their huge underclothes for money, people were poor, poor, poor. Happy travelling.
  • coolonespa
    over 5 years ago
    Thanks Kay, without doubt yours would have been a very different adventure. What year (roughly) would that have been?
  • KaybeFly
    over 5 years ago
    Good chapter Steve thanks. My trip to Moscow was in the grey dim past with goose stepping soldiers, nothing on the shelves of tin shacks acting as shops etc. I took 20 people who were visually impaired to visit the Floks Eye Hospital in Moscow. It was run by a Dr Fyodorov who was having some miraculour results with laser and magentic treatment and working on macular degeneration. An extraordinary man who sent trains and coaches into the hinterland kitted out as surgeries with a full team of eye specialists. I am sure that the Moscow you have seen is colorful and modern with a lot of wealth on show. Look forward to your next chapters. Kay
  • coolonespa
    over 5 years ago
    Thanks Gill, feedback like that makes writing it worthwhile.
  • Cruzeroqueen1
    over 5 years ago
    Enjoyed all that, Steve!
  • ESW
    over 5 years ago
    This brings back memories of Domodedovo airport. On our first trip to Russia, three jumbos were unloading passengers to an already long queue waiting to go through passport control, which had shut down for lunch. It was absolute chaos and progression seemed to depend on how sharp your elbows were. It took us over two hours to clear. We got to the main reception area to find no sign of our guide. She had decided she had missed us and was busy phoning her boss to ask what to do. In another part of the airport we were trying to phone out named contact in Russia to find out what had happened. After a stressful 30 minutes were were both reunited. I'm not sure who was the most relieved. We could have done with your Diplomatic Channel…. Driving out of Moscow was a nightmare too.

    After that, the rest of the holiday was great.