Nearly 20 years ago, Viking River Cruises was established with four Russian river cruise vessels and a company name to honor the Vikings that first traveled by longship to explore Russia’s waterways. Since then, the company has grown to become the world’s leading river cruise line, offering passengers the opportunity to intimately experience destinations across Europe, Asia, and Egypt like no other style of travel. As Viking River Cruises prepares to celebrate its 15th anniversary next year, the company today announced major enhancements to its Russian offering and a new microsite designed to inspire travelers to experience “the real Russia.”
Russian Ship Renovations
The renovated Viking Rurik (previously Viking Peterhof) is named after Rurik, the Viking warrior who founded and ruled the area known as Rus – now Russia. Its renovated sister ships –Viking Helgi, Viking Ingvar, and Viking Truvor – are named for Rurik’s descendants, the original Russian explorers.
In addition to redefining the interior space to create significantly larger staterooms, Viking Rurik’s full bow-to-stern refurbishment is highlighted by full, private verandas added to all staterooms on the Upper and Middle decks, which house four Suites, two Junior Suites, and 60 Veranda Staterooms. The two-room Suites – every 405 square feet – will have separate sleeping and sitting areas, two Sony 26-inch flat-panel televisions, a walk-in closet and a full bathroom with two sinks and a separate bathtub and shower. Other in-room amenities for all staterooms include hotel-style beds, a safe and refrigerator plus premium bath products.
Just like its sister ships, Viking Rurik’s public areas such as the restaurant, lounge, library, and bar will also be renovated to feature Viking’s signature Scandinavian decor. Other upgraded ship areas include a shaded sun deck and a walk-around open-air promenade deck.
All four of Viking’s Russian ships sail the Waterways of the Czars itinerary, traveling from Moscow to St. Petersburg, or the reverse. The 13-day itinerary features multiple days in each city to tour highlights such as Moscow’s Red Square and St. Basil’s Cathedral plus St. Petersburg’s Hermitage Museum and Catherine’s Palace. Ports of call along the rivers include Kizhi Island, home to an open-air museum of architecture and a UNESCO World Heritage Site, and the Golden Ring cities of Uglich and Yaroslavl.
Viking is introducing a variety of new excursions and services to the Waterways of the Czarsitinerary. Along with deep roots in Russia come strong connections with its leading artistic and academic institutions. Leveraging these relationships, on select departures, Viking has introduced special performances by musicians from St. Petersburg’s venerable Mariinsky Theatre, as well as a Smithsonian Institution lecture series that explores a variety of topics on Russian history, myths, and legends. A similarly exclusive program will provide a behind-the-scenes look at the vast art vaults of the Hermitage Museum. Other new cultural highlights include meeting Red Army veterans at Moscow’s Military Museum, visiting a school where young Russians learn restoration techniques to preserve the country’s architectural heritage and home-hosted visits in riverside towns such as Uglich or St. Petersburg’s Kommunalkas(communal apartments). New onboard programs and services include Viking’s Concierge Services and Viking’s signature on-deck “A Taste Of…” event, highlighting an authentic selection of Russian cuisines, such as Siberian pelmeni (ravioli), traditional borscht and blini.
The new Glories of the Hermitage program, which showcases the Hermitage Museum as a destination unto itself, provides art lovers with special access and private tours by Hermitage scholars. Viking guests also have a privileged opportunity to discover many of the museum’s greatest works, including those displayed at the off-site, state-of-the-art Storage Facility, which is not open to the public.
Viking’s microsite, www.TheRealRussia.com, online visitors can experience an insider’s tour of Russia, just as Viking passengers do. The site features a series of inspiring video webisodes, hosted by Karine Hagen, daughter of Torstein. Karine has spent more than two decades studying and living in Russia, and in the webisodes, she takes the viewer behind closed doors at the ballet, into the rural home of babushka Nadya and her family, and literally underground at the Hermitage, to explore her favorite Russia, “the real Russia.”