Q – We are about to pull the trigger on a cruise called “Waterways of the Czars” with Viking River. We note that you do not rate them very high. The ships in Russia look even older including the one I am considering, the Viking Rurik. The itinerary fascinates us but we are pretty much novices at this and wonder if you would suggest we reconsider?

A – No. Let your desire to see these fascinating villages and great cities in Russia guide you. We would suggest no less than a category BX Veranda. That will assure minimum comfort. The Rurik veranda cabins were redesigned in 2012. We share your enthusiasm for a St, Petersburg-Moscow “sandwich” sailing with Kizhi Island, Kuzino, Yaroslavi and Uglich in between. Do not worry about our rating of Viking River. They are not the top line in Europe but they are ione of the tio five lines in Europe. They are the world’s largest river boat company and they are well funded and growing. They actually own their own boats in Russia – a real plus since it gives them total control over product design. The Chairman of Viking has a daughter named Karine Hagen who plays several important roles in the company. She lived in St. Petersburg for several years and she has a keen interest in the success of Viking’s operations in Russia.

Go with an open-mind and an expectation of four-star comfort. The return on your investment will be significant. By the way, Russia cruises tend to sell out before their Europe-based counterparts.