Monday 04 September 2017
After our British Airways flight from Heathrow to St Petersburg,
we were met at the airport by the Viking representatives and
driven to our ship - the Viking Ingvar - moored on the River
Neva on the outskirts of the city.
Once unpacked and settled into our cabin, we made our way to the
Sky Bar for a Welcome Briefing - after which we had our first
dinner aboard before retiring.
The following is just a selection from the 2,000+ photos wot I
Tuesday 05 September
Following breakfast, it was onto our allocated coach at 8am for
our shore excursion to Tsarskoye Selo (Tsars Village) to visit
Catherine Palace at Puskin. Along with hundreds of other
tourists, we donned plastic overshoes and were shepherded
through dozens of rooms showing the magnificent splendour of
Tsarist Russia, taking photos as we went - except for the famous
Amber Room, where photography was forbidden.
Exiting the palce we wandered through the well-tended grounds
listening to our guide explain the sights as we made our way
back to the coach park.
Back on the coach for the trip back into the city and on board
for lunch. The afternoon was taken up with another shore
excursion - St Petersburg City Tour - by coach with the
occasional stop and walk.
After returning to the Ingvar for dinner - it was time for yet
another excursion at 9pm - a Cossack Folklore Show - in a large
heated marquee on the coach park alongside our moorings - so not
far to walk.
During the show I was 'invited' (dragged) onto the stage by a
nice young Russian lady to take part in the show - I did my best
to join in.
Unfortunately(?) no photographic record of the event exists.
Wednesday 06 September 2017
A late start today - so after a leisurely breakfast, we attended
the Safety Instructions briefing - where we donned our life
vests and assembled as instructed.
At 10:15 we boarded the coach for our shore excursion to the Hermitage
- where we queued patiently with the thousands of
other visitors before passing through security.
Once inside, we toured the rooms aided by our Viking guide
Valeria, who explained some of the exhibits through the crush of
We were at the Hermitage for around 5 hours - not near enough to
do it full justice, but the visit was long enough for me
(phillistine that I am!).
Back on board by 18:30, we had an early dinner and were treated
to a short choral concert by members the Mariinsky Theater
before being driven to the Komissarzhevskaya
to see a ballet performance of Swan Lake - a very
Arriving back at the ship at 23:00 the chef had laid on a bowl
of delicious Goulash soup and late night snack in the
07 September 2017
An early start today - for our 08:30 departure by coach to the
Peterhoff Palace and Park - designed by Peter the Great.
Called the 'Russian Versaille' it was built to impress visiting
dignitaries - but due to the miserable weather and the
disorganised crush to deposit or collect bags, we were less
The organisation at the palace was appalling - the same tight
passageway being used for both entry and exit for the hundreds
of visitors led to frayed tempers and lots of pushing and
shoving - with one queue trying to get out as another tried to
To top it all - photography was not allowed inside the palace!!!
After visiting the interior, it was time to go outside - so
after spending ages in one queue to collect my jacket, I gave up
on the second queue and left the Viking umbrella behind!!
Once outside we braved the drizzle (I purchased a thin
disposable plasic mac) and wandered down the canal to the small
harbour - before returning to the coach at the allotted time.
Not the best visit on the tour - although Viking were not to
Back on board for lunch - the second excursion of the day
departed at 14:30 into the city for a visit to the Church of the
Spilled blood - before boarding our boat for a tour of St
Petersburg on the waterways.
Due to the heavy traffic we got back on board at 18:30 - just in
time for the Viking Ingvar to cast off at 19:00 and depart St
Petersburg up the River Neva for our cruise proper.
We attended a 'Toast to our guests' by Captain Igor Stepanov and
Hotel Manager Antonio Corona in the Sky Bar - before having a
'Special Welcome Dinner' laid on by Chef Joachim and Maître d'
Daniel in the restaurant.
A late easy morning as we sailed along the river Svir - between
Lake Ladoga and Lake Onega
We arrived at Verkhnie Mandrogi (Upper Falls) - an open air
museum of traditional, living Russian villages.
Going ashore at 12:30, Kay headed off to the souvenire shops,
while I killed an hour wandering around taking photos - before
heading back on board to collect my swimming trunks for our
13:15 appointment to take in the 'Banya Experience' - a
traditional Russian sauna involving heated steam, a thrashing
with birch leaves and a dousing in ice cold water.
After gathering in the sauna room, fit, lean Dmitri got us
sweating before beating the four of us in turn with the birch
leaves - in between pouring a bucket of ice cold water over our
We then went outside to a jetty - where we were invited to leap
into the ice cold waters of the River Svir - the two
youngest dived in but two of us elected to have ice cold water
poured over us instead - after which we retired into the small
hut for hot black tea and jam.
After cooling down and getting our breaths back, it was inside
the steam room for a second session!!!
The experience was cleansing, therapeutic and unforgettable (at
least that's what it says in the brochure!) - seriously though,
I'm glad I did it..
We had to be back on board by 15:45, so, with another hour to
kill, I wandered around taking more photos of this fascinating
Casting off at 16:00, we were invited to a 'Sail Away' cocktail
on the sundeck and at 17:45 we took part in a 'Meet the
Neighbours' event - where we all gathered in the corridor
outside our cabins meeting and chatting to our fellow travellers
- all made more enjoyable with a glass of champagne.
09 September 2017
An early breakfast before the Viking Ingvar arrived at the
island of Kizhi on Lake Onega at 07:30.
Ready by 08:15, we went ashore and, in separate guided groups,
we set off on our 2 hour walking tour of this UNESCO World
Back on board by 10:15 - ready to cast off at 10:30 - we were
invited to a 'Sail Away Party' on the sun deck with Champagne
and caviar served by Hotel Manager Antonino - who was deftly
removing the Champagne corks with a sword!!
At 11:15 there was a short Russian language lesson hosted by
Program Director Sasha in the Sky Bar - and after lunch I
went on the 'Wheelhouse Tour' to see how it all worked.
The afternoon was spent cruising across the huge Lake Onega -
with a presentation by Tour Escort Andrei on the Romanov Dynasty
for those who wanted a bit of culture.
Leaving Lake Onega by the river Sheksna, we had dinner at 19:00
and, at 21:00 went to a fun 'Liars Club' event in the Sky Bar
put on by Russian Program Director Sasha, Austrian Chef Joachim
and German Maître d' Daniel.
They each gave a definition of the same obscure word and we had
to decide who was telling the truth - it was a great laugh and
the three of them were very funny - especially Daniel.
Lots of noise on board the ship woke us up at dawn - as the
anchor was dropped. Rumour had it that we had run aground - but
it turned out that we had to stop sailing due to the thick fog.
Nothing was moving on the waterway and by the time the fog
cleared and we finally got under way, we were running over two
hourse late - so the Cruise Director quickly re-jigged the day's
programme and printed a revised list of daily events - which was
delivered to our cabins.
After breakfast there was a presentation of 'Russian History
1917 - 1985' by Andrei and, after lunch, a second Russian
Language lesson from Sasha in the Sky Bar.
Re-scheduled to 15:00 was a demonstration by Chef Joachim on how
to make pelmini - a kind of Russian dumpling. Choosing two
members of the audience to help, the Chef kept us in stitches as
he instructed his helpers on what to do - all the while plying
them with Vodka - with flour going everywhere and everyone
What he didn't reveal until the end was that his 'vodka' was
We arrived at Goritzy at 17:00 (originally scheduled for 12:00)
and went on a shore excursion to Kirillo-Belozersky Monastery -
during which the Viking Ingvar moved to Kuzino - where we
boarded at 18:45 having been transported by coach.
The Ingvar cast off from Kuzino at 19:00 for Yaroslavl and we
had a Russian Dinner in the restaurant at 19:30.
We declined to attend the 'Vodka Tasting' taking place in the
Panorama Bar at 21:00.
Another lazy morning - with a presenation by Valeria on 'Mikhail
Gorbachov and Perestroika' at 10:00 - which we failed to attend.
Passing though the locks on the edge of the Rybinsk Reservoir,
we sailed past the city of Rybinsk before arriving at our
destination - Yaroslavl by 15:00.
At 15:15, we boarded the coaches for our 'Yaroslavl City Tour
and Governors House', decanting from the bus to walk around the
sights before going to the local market to taste a few
We also took the opportunity to visit the local bank to use the
indoor ATM - although it only dispensed a 5,000 rouble note due
to operator error!!
The Russian lady teller just shrugged when I tried to exchange
it for smaller denomination currency - the Russians don't do
After the sights and the market we were taken to a concert hall
to listen to some chamber music and classical dancing by two
gorgeous young ladies and their escorts.
Members of our group were selected to join them - and, you
guessed it, I was invited up by one of the young ladies. Now,
I'm OK with the Twist and Mashed Potatoe - but I can't waltz to
save my life - but I did my best and didn't trample on her toes
with my size nines once!
Back on board by 18:45, the Viking Ingvar sailed at 19:00.
start this morning with an 08:00 arrival
at Uglich in pouring rain and the rumble
of thunder - not looking promising!
Kay was feeling unwell and decided to
stay on board in our cabin - while I
went on the walking tour - and by 08:15
the weather was improving with blue
We visited the Kremlin (simply a walled
fortress) and were then taken in small
groups by coach to visit a typical
Our hostess was Tamara who made us very
welcome with meats, salad and cold
potatoes - plus the obligatory vodka and
a cup of hot tea served by Nikolia her
We were encouraged to introduce
ourselves and ask questions - via our
interpreter - and it turns out that
Tamara preferred living in the Soviet
Back on board by 11:45, we cast off at
12:00 and went up onto the Sun Deck for
'A Taste of Russia' - a buffet lunch
featuring typical Russian food - and
13 September 2017
After breakfast we attended a round table discussion in
the Sky Bar at
with all three
about life in
It started off
OK - but got a
as the tour
At 11:00 we
went to the
Sky Bar again
to listen to
events - plus
a briefing on
in a few days
we moored at
Terminal' - a
Of interest to
me was the
display. I had
it on previous
Moscow - but
At 13:30 we
went on our
a trip on the
metro and got
out two stops
later at Mayakovskaya
Back onto the
Metro we got
off two stops
later at Ploshchad
Revolyutsii - with its bronze statues depicting figures from the
the metro at Teatralnaya
attack Krasnaya Ploshchad (Red
tried to make
us wait for
those taking a
- but there
was a long
queue for the
ladies - so we
waste any time
waiting - and
made off on
our own to
meet at a
We took in all
the sights -
store - all
we braved the
tourists as we
the guard at
the Tomb of
time, we then
coach for the
accosted by a
she paid to
have her photo
taken with one
of his doves -
coach, we were
driven to a
didn't take my
camera - but
this is a YouTube clip).
at the Ingvar
at 21:30, we
had a late
dinner in the
breakfas at 07:00, it was onto the waiting coach at 08:30 for
the long drive to Sergiev Posad - one of the largest monasteries in Russia.
The place was packed with tourists as we had a guided tour
of the churces of Trinity Lavra and had lunch in the monk's
We were back on board by 16:30 - although one of coaches was
an hour late, having got stuck in traffic.
After dinner at 19:00, it was onto the coaches again at
21:00 for a 'Moscow by Night' tour - including a visit to
Red Square and a trip by boat past the Kremlin.
We didn't get back intil past midnight - but it was very
The last full
day of our
past the tight
taking in the
sights of the
our coach for
the drive back
to the ship.
Once back on
ready for the
On our last morning, the packed suitcases had to be outside our
cabin - with a colour-coded label - by 08:00 ready to be
We had to kill a few hours after breakfast before boarding our
coach at 11:00 - having identified our cases to be loaded - for
the long drive to Moscow's Domodedovo airport.
After boarding the British Airways Boeing 777 ready for
departure at 16:05, we had to endure a delay of 3.5 hours whilst
the engineers tried to fix a baggage door that would not close.
The cabin crew were great and the passengers mostly good
humoured - a few grumbles from those who were missing connecting
flights - and we finally departed Russia at 19:20.
Another great cruise in good company to a fascinating country -