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Is anyone else concerned about their trip to Russia

We have a Viking cruise from Moscow to St Petersburg scheduled for June. We have been watching the deteriorating relations between the US and Russia. If Viking cancels the trip we lose our airline reservations and we planned a week in France before going to Moscow. We may still have time to cancel our Viking trip and get new plane reservations. I am sure it will cost us dearly at this point to cancel. Is anyone else concerned that there could be a last minute cancellation of visas etc? If so have you made any contingency plans?

Posted by
9110 posts

Sanctions tend to retaliate and escalate once they get going.

I think the Viking headquarters is in Switzerland and I also believe that's where their ships are registered. But, they do have a corporate presence in New York and cater to English-speaking clients.

Flip a coin. Not mine.

Personally, I'd still go to Russia, but I wouldn't have a lot of advance money tied up in the venture.

Posted by
3 posts

I, too, have a Viking trip to Russia in July. I called Viking about our concerns and was told the same safety issue arose a couple years ago regarding an Egypt river cruise. I was told Viking had to cancel and tried to work with their clients by either rescheduling a different trip or, in some cases, issuing a refund. I did not ask about flight reimbursement but would hope the airlines will do the same. At this time, we are not canceling our planned cruise in the hope that either relations with Russia ease or Viking, itself, cancels our trip. Another issue is losing our Visa application fee or having our application rejected. Have you applied for your visa yet and, if so, did the a Russian government issue it? On the bright side, the value of the ruble is taking a dive, but I hesitate buying any at this point. It's very frustrating, and I do plan on contacting Viking again as our trip draws closer. If you call them, I would appreciate any feedback. Good luck.

Posted by
5457 posts

We are not scheduled for a Russia trip this year. But we did do Moscow-St. Pete with Viking in the past. It is EXTREMELY unlikely that Viking is going to cancel your trip. They are not an American company, and they have a lot of experience operating in Russia. They know what they are doing. I trust you have your visas already? Then relax.

Viking and all other cruise cos. strongly recommend trip insurance. We buy it because my mother is 88, as well. We also buy from a third party in case of provider bankruptcy. But Viking is a very healthy company. They might even have some "pull" with the airlines.

Slightly related: Just don't be like the family we saw in the Copenhagen Transit Lounge on our switch to Aeroflot (Viking air arrangements.) The two proud parents had their 8 year-old and ten year-old in matching long-sleeved shirts made as American Flags. There's justifiable patriotism, and then there is stupidity. When I started traveling in 1986, I was told not to wear tee shirts with English words on them. It's just sensible advice.

Posted by
1 posts

I have a trip planned with Royal Caribbean cruise line. We are there for three days. I have faith that the cruise line will cancel if needed.
Thank you for the heads up about English words on clothing!

Posted by
5457 posts

jillag, it's absolutely routine for multi-destination ocean cruises to change ports without cancelling the voyage or refunding anything. Sometimes it's just a matter of weather. That's right in your cruise contract. Of course, people look forward to St. Petersburg with great anticipation. Even a lovely, scenic Scandinavian substitute port or two will be a disappointment for those who wanted to see The Hermitage Museum, but there is no chance your entire cruise will be cancelled. What I wouldn't like, is an extra day at sea!
The Viking [River Cruises] trip is 100% within Russia. But as I said, it's unlikely to be cancelled.

Posted by
389 posts

Even if Russia were to invade eastern Ukraine and economic sanctions ratcheted up (currently unlikely), I don't see Russia barring all U.S. citizens from entering Russia (the E.U. would also roll out big sanctions, and they sure as h*** ain't barring all Europeans from entering the country). And the Moscow-St. Petersburg route is very far from the potential hotspot.

U.S. economic sanctions against Iran are very severe, but Americans are still free to travel on group tours in that country.

Posted by
338 posts

What about the use of Visa and Mastercard branded ATM/debit cards and credit cards? I understand that as part of US sanctions against Russia, customers of specific targeted Russian banks are no longer able to use their debit cards for purchases and are unable to use it at ATMs not belonging to their banks. Will this impact visitors' ability to use their cards?

Posted by
5457 posts

Mary, unless you had to disclose your foreign holdings in the income tax return you just submitted, you're not a "customer" of the few banks selected for sanctions. Moscow and St. P are huge cities with many other banks you could use the ATM machines of, in the event that American-bank-issued credit or debit (i.e. ATM) cards don't work at the affected Russian banks. I suspect they would work at those banks, but I tend to seek out banks I know, like the French and German banks-especially if Bank of America gives me a fee break at one brand in a few major countries.
Since we were originally talking about river-cruise travelers, I'll recall that we didn't use our credit cards anywhere except the check-out day on the Viking ship - an annoyingly long process, BTW.

Posted by
14 posts

Thanks everyone
We have applied and paid for our visas, but haven't gotten them yet. I booked my airline flights and cruise with Viking. They told me if the trip is cancelled, then they will not let me keep the airline tickets. I am guessing they buy a block of seats for their use and don't want folks using their airline seats and not the cruise. I do have travel insurance, but am worried about not having a flight for my before cruise plans. I really don't want to buy another pair of airline tickets as a fallback only to have the cruise go on as scheduled. BTW I save the American Flag T-shirts for the Fourth of July!

Posted by
5457 posts

John, that is a really interesting reply, but it's veiled. You are holding back information that would be useful in advising you (if you want advice.) Does "won't let us keep our tickets" mean that you will get the money back immediately, or does it mean that they will let you have any flight-for-cruise-Russia air arrangements you use, for the next year or two, instead? That suggests to me that you bought Viking's insurance, but you didn't say. But if you bought the appropriate amount of third-party travel insurance (sometimes you have to prove you insured the full possible cost of the trip if a pre-existing medical condition is involved, but that doesn't seem to apply here) then you have little to worry about.
I see what you mean about your other (pre-cruise) plans, but why not read the travel insurance policy? If you paid deposits elsewhere than Viking, you might well be covered. But if it's Viking's policy, it may only cover Viking's responsiblities. Once there is a serious warning by Viking that they might cancel, I would call Travelex or whoever it is, and ask them if they wish to force you to accept reimbursement for the lost deposits, or if they will cover the overage for last-minute airfare purchase. It could go either way.
Did you pay Viking Air Office a "diversion fee" for air travel that did not directly meet the cruise departure? That might give you special rights, depending on what the Viking contract says.
Returning to what I first wrote, Viking is not going to cancel this cruise!

Posted by
2 posts

We are scheduled to visit (not with a tour) in May. We are taking the train from Helsinki. Our visas are now in hand. However we are also having reservations about our trip. The Canadian Consulate in St. Petersburg is now closed so we do not have anywhere to go if we have a problem. When the mastercard and visa issues arose there were concerns about atms....we may end up not going this time round a reconfiguring the trip just to be safe.
Good luck. We have been reading various forums this week and we are definitely not alone with our concerns.

Posted by
516 posts

OH my we are suppose to be going to Russia this June. Passports have been sent in.

Is the US embassy in Moscow or St. Petersburg open or closed?

Posted by
516 posts

I just got off the phone with the US Embassy for Russia and they are open. Have not received any information about closing. Russia is still giving visas out daily. Some issues with certain diplomats but so far no problem with tourists.

Posted by
13530 posts

Instead of "will we be able to go to Russia" I would be asking my self, "should I be going to Russia".

Posted by
1068 posts

I doubt if you will have many problems with your upcoming trip. Like most people in other countries the "average" Russian doesn't want to do anything bad to you. I had a great time in St. Petersburg and Moscow last June. I was in Greece when they were rioting there...no problems. My friends went to Turkey when they were protesting there....no problems. Of course, things can happen anywhere..... you can be mugged going to your local supermarket.... but I think you will enjoy your trip.

Posted by
988 posts

I am flying into Moscow on May 13th. I have a twelve day tour planned. with a reputable Russian tour company. But of course I have concerns. I would be a fool if I didn't have ANY concerns.

It doesn't matter that nothing happened in Greece or Turkey a year or two ago.
Stuff happens !!!!!
But I am going ahead with my plans because I have been planning this trip for three years and I really want to go there. But if tanks are rolling into Moscow on 5/12, I will be changing that plane ticket from Vienna to Moscow for a train ticket to Prague.

Do what feels right for you but always have a Plan B.

Posted by
4637 posts

What tanks would be rolling into Moscow? If there would be any tanks rolling anywhere it would not be Moscow, it would be Kiev.

Posted by
516 posts

Got my passport back with visa yesterday. Will be in St. Petersburg for white nights in June. Any problems we are going to cancel, but until there is an announcement the US embassy is closing in Russia were going.

Posted by
1068 posts

To those going to Russia....have a great trip!

Posted by
6 posts

I live in Moscow and the west is completely overblowing the situation. While you're here, you won't even notice anything going on. There won't be any serious sanctions. The global economy is too connected. Come see this beautiful country and you'll be surprised at how amazing the people and experiences are. It's nothing like biased and ridiculous news agencies like CNN report. I have lived here for two years and can't imagine living anywhere else due to the hospitality of the people and the electricity of living in the world's most exciting city. Then again, I'm from Ohio so it doesn't take much to get me excited :)

Posted by
27 posts

AndyT, Thanks for your post. We will be in Moscow for a few days in mid-July. We are naturally concerned but also aware that things get blown out of proportion by the press.

Posted by
2 posts

Thanks for your excellent observations, AndyT. We arrive in St. Petersburg mid-June, then embark on a river cruise with our final destination Moscow. Can't wait to experience the Russian culture and rich history!

Posted by
1 posts

Just read Christopher Elliott's Travel Troubleshooter article in 7-20-14 Philadelphia Inquirer regarding Ukraine/Viking reservations. Couple cancelled June trip because of unfavorable conditions. Viking states in it's small print regarding circumstances beyond it's control, riot, war, government unrest, blah, blah. Viking elected to keep 15% of trip cost which amounted to keep the couples $1,739. Mr. Elliott interceded for this couple and Viking agreed to refund the remaining 15%. So, it might be worth a try to contact Mr. Elliott.

Posted by
22 posts

This is probably late of an answer for the original post but for anyone else with similar concers: we just flew into Moscow with no issues. I was worried about both the deteriorating relations and the Malaysian flight
...but that didnt seem to deter anyone. Flight was full, no extra questions, no problems on the border, nothing different from the Italian leg of our trip.

Posted by
516 posts

We were in Moscow and St. Petersburg a month ago. Felt perfectly safe and had a great time. Political climate seems to be heating up. Wondering how much longer Russia is going to give US visas.

Posted by
27 posts

Felt safe in Moscow last week after the plane was show down and the subway crash. Just use common sense if you see a crowd. Hard to tell what will be happening though.

Posted by
1 posts

We plan to fly from Copenhagen to St. Petersburg Sept. 18th - 20th. We have the invitations from our hotel but still need to apply for our Visa's. I'm a tad reluctant to spend the money with everything that 's going on so can someone tell me how long it took them to obtain their Visa's through one of the third party companies? We're considering the one that Rick Steves recommends which is PassportVisaExpress.com @ http://www.passportvisasexpress.com/site/index/ Has anyone used it?

Posted by
1 posts

We have a viking cruise scheuled for Sept. St.Petersburg to Moscow. So much has changed and and worsening in Russia, Europe and the Mid East every day, which is making us anxious. Any thoughts from anyone?

To the person who asked about Visa from a third party, we went through GenVisa(recommended by Viking)....had no problem and received them within 4 weeks.

Posted by
22 posts

Following up on my earlier post...we just got back from our trip to Russia w/o any major concerns. This is after the plane being shot down and American sanctions. We have US passports. We did flights to/from Moscow and within Russia.

No problems on the border either way. Every flight was full and (surprisingly) on time. Didn't notice any harsh feeling or dislike from the locals. We used American credit cards, exchanged dollars, took money out of a Russian bank - no issues.

The only mention of current events was a lady at the bank, who asked us if Americans really don't like Russians now...she was worried about the portrayal of Russian people in US/Western media.

Posted by
5784 posts

http://travel.state.gov/content/passports/english/alertswarnings/russia-travel-alert-events-in-ukraine.html
Russian Federation Travel Alert
LAST UPDATED: JULY 22, 2014
The Department of State alerts U.S. citizens in Russia to the ongoing tensions along the border with Ukraine and the potential for increased clashes between pro-Russian groups and Ukrainian forces. This supersedes the Travel Alert dated June 12 to provide updated information on the security situation along Russia’s border with Ukraine and will expire on October 21, 2014.

Posted by
99 posts

We plan to sign up for a RS tour (Best of Tallin, Helsinki and St P) that will end in St P July, 2015. In addition, we've already booked a river cruise from St P to Moscow after the RS tour.

I know from past history that the US media overnlows and dramatizes these things. If the US Dept of State issues an outright advisory against travel, we will cancel. Otherwise we will proceed. I am taking out a travel insurance policy with a "Cancel for any reason" provision. Otherwise I am not too concerned.