I’ve just returned from my first river cruise aboard Viking and have had an amazing time discovering Russia’s waterways!

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Before leaving home, I posted the itinerary and thought for this feature I’d cover some of the aspects of the cruise and my thoughts on being aboard the Viking Truvor longship for its 13-day journey.

It all begins at St. Petersburg airport after two flights from North America. Exiting the airport is pretty easy as entry visas are already in our passports. Fellow passengers begin to assemble in a group outside the baggage claim exit, recognizable by the Viking red stickers sent ahead of the cruise.

A bus is waiting nearby and Viking personnel load our suitcases onto trolleys and we don’t see them again until they’re brought to our stateroom doors following check in at the boat.

Viking Truvor/Veranda stateroom

I’m greeted by friendly staff holding wet toilettes and bottles of water. Moments later, I enter my veranda stateroom with queen bed, light wood storage cabinets, small fridge and shelving for drinks and ice bucket, a little working desk with smartly-designed flat drawer directly beneath for stowing tech, and enough outlets to charge everything.

Twin sets of lamps at the counter and headboard have soft yellow bulbs to create a cozy ambiance. Other lights around the room give as much additional lighting as necessary.

Viking Truvor/Veranda stateroom

The bathroom is compact but functional (with a lighted, two-sided makeup mirror) and the shower offers good water pressure for being on a ship. I’m amazed at the amount of towel racks in there, allowing for reuse (which the ship suggests in order to remain environmentally friendly).

A concern for most of us is staying connected during the trip. Viking has free wifi onboard but does warn that once we’re underway, coverage will become intermittent.

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[A visit to the Captain’s bridge deck]

True, once we leave St. Petersburg, things get spotty but I find it refreshing to unplug for a few days!

Viking Truvor-36 Veranda view Veranda with blanket

Living in the moment without coverage means a lot of great conversations as well as quiet moments simply wrapped up in a cozy blanket with a cup of tea on the veranda, admiring the scenic architecture, passing through the locks and reading up on Soviet politics via a borrowed book from the ship’s library (Boris Kagarlitsky’s compact Back in the USSR).

At the lock

This is a treasured opportunity and I take full advantage of our time on the water (other than taking pictures and short videos).

One of the best things about small-ship cruising is getting to know your neighbours.

Our lovely tour escorts Alexei, Alla and Misha
[Our lovely tour escorts Alexei, Alla and Misha]

As we set sail on the fourth day of our cruise, we toast fellow passengers, crew and captain, and depart St. Petersburg.

Aboard there’s daily port talks, introducing us to Russian history, ethnic diversity, geography, culture, food, itineraries and optional excursions. The information is detailed and informative, painting a good background to the world’s largest country as we sail though its waterways.

Did you know that 42% of Russians live along the Volga River?

The agenda is varied. As we leave Mandrogy, we’re invited to clink glasses of champagne with neighbours in our corridor. Lots of nice surprises and treats during our days touring and plenty of conversation to share at mealtimes.

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From my veranda, I enjoy the changing colours of the leaves and calm current, with small villages dotted in between. Autumn in Russia is normally cloudy and cool, so layered dressing is essential. A blanket and umbrella are stowed in the closet for convenience.

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[Getting up close and personal inside St. Petersburg’s Church of Our Saviour on Spilled Blood]

Many excursions during the cruise are included; there’s several add-on shore tours to choose from. You decide how full you’d like your days to be.

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Breakfast and lunch are offered buffet style in the restaurant (lighter fare for both can be found upstairs in the Panorama Bar). In addition to the lunch buffet is a menu with a few appetizers, entrees and desserts. One side of the menu lists the day’s specials, and on the other, dishes that are always available. Dinner works the same way.

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[One of many scrumptious desserts on the menu]

I found hearty breakfast offerings and regional specialities, with a plentiful salad and pasta bar at lunch. Dinner portions are lighter which makes sense as you’re pretty much relaxing and heading to bed.


As a seafood lover, the majority of my entrees contained local fish and I was never disappointed.

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[A specially prepared Russian lunch buffet en route to Moscow from Uglich]

I’m also happy to note that there’s plenty of fresh fruit at breakfast. Outside the restaurant is a coffee and tea bar with pastries in the morning and cookies in the afternoon and evening.

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The ship moves about through numerous locks and waterways day and evening. It’s pretty cool to watch the water level rise (about 40 feet in one case!) in order for our ship to continue along the water. The green light at the lock lets our captain Alexy Yasnov know the level is ready for us.

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What I also enjoy about a river cruise is the variety of waterways, from small rivers dotted with houses and churches to mighty lakes. When on some of the larger lakes, it feels as though we’re on the ocean, complete with whitecaps and gentle rocking motion.

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#MyVikingStory: Fave Russia Experiences

– Vodka tasting
– Matryoshka doll painting
– Russian lessons
– Playing tambourine on stage with Moskva Orchestra
– Viewing Moscow by night on a canal boat
– Russian pastries!
– Meeting some great folks from around the world

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[Vodka sampling night in the Panorama Bar]

From arrival at St. Petersburg Pulkovo to departure at Moscow Domodedovo, Viking staff look after everything. After two long flights from Vancouver, I only needed to put a red Viking sticker on my jacket and meet the team past baggage claim.

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After introductions, I didn’t have to worry about my suitcase until it arrived outside my stateroom door. There was plenty of time allotted for the drive to Moscow’s airport (without traffic, just under 1.5 hours). Again, luggage handlers loaded the bags onto trolleys and brought them straight to our check-in terminal; we only needed to lift the suitcase to place it onto the belt.

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A big round of thanks to all the staff onboard and marketing team at Viking Cruises for giving me (and hopefully our readers!) a trip to remember for many years to come.

I was a guest aboard the Waterways of the Tsars sailing. Opinions, as always, are my own.


  • Comment by Leslie R — October 19, 2017 @ 10:22 am

    looks like a fun trip!

  • Comment by Ariane Colenbrander — October 19, 2017 @ 12:07 pm

    Oh yeah, we did and saw so much, yet the cruise was a way to just wind down and watch it unfold. Highly recommended ?

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