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Albert Fairchild

Age: 68

Occupation:Retired Diplomat

Number of Cruises: 1

Cruise Line: Viking River

Ship: Viking Kurov

Sailing Date: 2009-07-31

Itinerary: Russia

We thoroughly enjoyed Russia and all the places we visited. But the overall cruise experience on the Kirov, the level of service, food, and value for money were extremely disappointing. We would not recommend this cruise for anyone.

It was somewhere between mediocre and bad. All the fish served onboard had been frozen and had a mushy consistency. What few Russian dishes that were served were not very appetizing, unlike what one can obtain in better restaurants on shore. On a scale of 0 to 10, we would give it a 2.

Acceptable, but it was on the main deck right above the thruster engines which ran when the boat went through the canals. See the details in our review.

Moderately amusing, but not very edifying.

The excursions to Sergeiv Posad (the fortress/monastery complex near Moscow that used to be known as Zagorsk) and the visit to the Peterhof palace near St. Petersburg were excellent. Folkloric entertainment presented as excursions were amateurish.

The Viking River Cruise "Waterways of the Czars" (July 31 - August 12, 2009) was our first cruise experience, and will likely be our last. While we enjoyed Russia and its many attractions, we were very disappointed in most aspects of the cruise itself. Specifically:
• Overall value for money: Most people we met on the cruise paid several thousands of dollars less than we did, and for supposedly better cabins. This knowledge lessened our enjoyment considerably. We advise others to book as late as possible for Viking river cruises, if you must take one, since they discount heavily closer to the sailing date to fill up the boat.
• Food quality: Despite claims in Viking advertising, the food was of consistently poor quality, e.g., every fish dish I ate was tasteless, mushy, and obviously frozen not fresh. Other passengers with previous Viking experience agreed with us, but said that Viking cruises in Western Europe have much better food and service. Several other passengers also spoke with the “hotel manager” to note their unhappiness with food quality.
• Service: The dining room staff was mostly young Philippinos, who were all eager to please but clearly not sufficiently experienced, properly trained for efficient service, and too few for a fully booked boat. Dinner normally took well over two hours, and we and many others had to cut short dinner in order to attend other scheduled events on board.
• Our cabin: The cabin (227) was comfortable enough, except that it seemed to be directly above the engines used to stabilize the boat when going through locks. These engines were so noisy and vibrated so much that when lock passage occurred at night sleep was impossible. Viking should warn potential customers about this noise in main deck cabins, and advise them to bring ear-plugs to cope with the noise or select other cabins.
• Doctor: The Kirov’s Russian doctor, whose English skills were very limited, had a remarkably diffident manner when my wife banged her forehead on one of the Sky-Bar’s glass doors. The clinic had no proper ice-bag, so to reduce the large swelling he recommended using a plastic garbage bag or laundry bag. Given the average age of Kirov passengers, shouldn’t an ice-bag or two be among the clinic’s supplies? The doctor also failed even to stand up during her visit to his office, declining as unnecessary a suggestion that he examine her forehead.
Bottom line: We wrote to Viking about these problems, to which they responded with an offer of a $500 credit for a future Viking cruise. Our response to that was "nyet."

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