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Bake apple

Seriously thinking of Russia River Cruise but.....

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We are looking at a Russia River Cruise for June 2020.  Not too many of the main river cruise players are offering it and the reviews are not that numerous. We love the idea of three days in Moscow and three in St. Peterburg but not too sure about the six day cruise along the Volga. While both Moscow and St. Petersburg check all the boxes, some reviews are a bit harsh saying the river cruise portion is boring and there are only a few hours in each little town, others rave about them and others are a so-so review.  Perhaps a river cruise isn't the right way to visit those two amazing cities?? We have enjoyed three river cruises and while we enjoyed the ship, fellow travellers, food etc, it really is about seeing new places and things so itinerary driven .  We are still in the research stage but as always really appreciate the views of CC memebers. Safe travels everyone!

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Posted (edited)

I love Moscow and St. Petersburg. Was bored on the ports between the two. For me it was a waste of time (as I am still working). I wish I would have spent more time in Moscow or St. Petersburg as opposed to take the river cruise.

 

Several lines have dropped out.

Edited by Coral

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21 minutes ago, The Other Tom said:

Maybe you saw this thread?

 

Hadn't spotted it so thanks for the link!

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3 hours ago, Coral said:

I love Moscow and St. Petersburg. Was bored on the ports between the two. For me it was a waste of time (as I am still working). I wish I would have spent more time in Moscow or St. Petersburg as opposed to take the river cruise.

 

Several lines have dropped out.

I am one of the people who enjoyed the time on the river.  A few hours in each of the stops is long enough - and we enjoy the river cruise experience so did not feel it was a waste of time. 

 

Fran

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My least favorite river cruise. Find a land tour that visits the 2 big cities. I am with Coral --- I could easily skip all the ports between Moscow and St. Petersburg.

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Thanks for the candid comments as they have given us pause as we consider this vacation.  We are also considering the Budapest to Bucharest trip; been to Budapest a couple of times and loved it but never ventured further east so far.

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We've only done two river cruises (both Uniworld): Bucharest to Budapest and Rhine/Moselle. I liked the Danube cruise better although there was nothing bad about the Rhine cruise. I loved Romania, spent a few days there pre-cruise (in Bucharest and Transylvania). And the former Iron curtain countries were so interesting, not as crowded with tourists. All of the tours were fascinating. Recent and older history, archaeology, agriculture, for example. It was quite the shock when we cruised into Budapest: all the ships, the crowds, but ended up liking Budapest a lot.

 

We have reminders of this cruise all over the house: Bulgarian lace tablecloths, Romanian woven mats, Bulgarian art, and the "I ❤️ Romania" magnet on the fridge. There were so many opportunities to meet local artisans in their towns and purchase their products. Very different from the Rhine/Moselle cruise.

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9 hours ago, franski said:

I am one of the people who enjoyed the time on the river.  A few hours in each of the stops is long enough - and we enjoy the river cruise experience so did not feel it was a waste of time. 

I’m definitely with Fran on this. Moscow and Saint Petersburg are quite interesting cities with great attractions, and worthy of more time than any river cruise is going to give them, but nothing prevents you from extending in both cities. Those cities hare horrendous traffic, but their metros can get you to almost any city location (I don’t speak Russian but had no problem handling the Metros on my own). But I feel only by getting out of the large cities into the countryside, seeing the flooded villages from Stalin’s 5 year plans, etc do you truly get a feel for the country. I have run (at different times) into two different couples from England who had been to the US 5-6 times and therefore felt qualified to speak about the US; nothing totally off base, but not terribly knowledgeable. After talking for awhile it turned out that one couple had been to Las Vegas (and nowhere else in the US) 5 times; the other couple commented  on how clean the US was after having been to Disneyland 2 times and Disney World 4 times. Had they seen the US? Certainly not IMO. But different people have different objectives in their travels, and selecting what YOU want to see is paramount. 

 

Since the Lower Danube has been mentioned, that river cruise has some similarities to the Russian cruise: lots of miles populated with relatively poor farms with no major attractions, towns 25 years from Communism and still in recovery; helpful in understanding the past and present in East Europe, but few Instagram moments. 

 

I have done a number of rivers in Communist/ former Communist countries (Volga, Lower Danube, Elbe, Dniepr, Yangtze, Mekong) and am happy to have done so, but they are considerably different than doing “Castles on the Rhine”. Fortunately we have choices. 

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Traveler Thom, having done the cruise on the Danube from Bucharest to Budapest, I agree with everything you said.  Seeing the old gray Soviet-era apt. bldgs. that people are still living in, the boarded up factories that that used to produce Soviet consumer goods, bullet holes in bldgs. in Croatia, land mine signs in Serbia, etc., is a very sobering experience.  It's not London or Paris, and as you said, those countries are still recovering and trying to catch up after 50 yrs. of Soviet domination.  

 

Roz

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Let me just explain where my background is and why and I advise against it.

 

I have a major in Political Science and History and studied quite a bit about Russian Politics/History to have a minor in Slavic Studies. I also spoke the language back then. I can read some now.

 

I also visited the Soviet Union in the 80's under communism. So I saw Moscow and Leningrad "before the glitz". So I am definitely one that did not go in with my eyes closed by any means. The conditions were far worse on my earlier trip and I actually had much better tours then. 

 

I thought the time was poorly spent in Moscow and St. Petersburg (mostly due to traffic and not staying in hotels downtown) and thought the tours barely touched the surface due to the river companies poor planning. As far as the towns between, I didn't think it was worth it to get off the ship for 2-3 hours and see 1 church and get back on the ship and then sail 20 hours until the next town.

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3 hours ago, Coral said:

Let me just explain where my background is and why and I advise against it.

 

I have a major in Political Science and History and studied quite a bit about Russian Politics/History to have a minor in Slavic Studies. I also spoke the language back then. I can read some now.

 

I also visited the Soviet Union in the 80's under communism. So I saw Moscow and Leningrad "before the glitz". So I am definitely one that did not go in with my eyes closed by any means. The conditions were far worse on my earlier trip and I actually had much better tours then. 

 

I thought the time was poorly spent in Moscow and St. Petersburg (mostly due to traffic and not staying in hotels downtown) and thought the tours barely touched the surface due to the river companies poor planning. As far as the towns between, I didn't think it was worth it to get off the ship for 2-3 hours and see 1 church and get back on the ship and then sail 20 hours until the next town.

Again, I think it really depends on what you are looking for.  And - to some extent - the company you sail with.   

 

We travelled with Uniworld - and felt that the time was well planned in both Moscow & SP.   Yes, the stops along the river are fairly short - but we had a professor on board who gave lectures about Russian history in the afternoons.  We were quite happy to have some quiet time in the afternoons to watch the world go by as we sailed the river.  I was still working when we did this tour - and do not feel any of it was a waste of time.  Although your river cruise was not to your liking,  I think that others may feel differently.  And, seems a bit bold (IMHO) to "advise against it"...

 

Bake Apple -  this is one cruise that definitely has people "choosing sides" (if you will) - and only you know what you are looking for in Russia.  Not everyone is comfortable travelling on their own in a country where they don't speak the language.  And, a river cruise is a good way to get a taste (not an immersion) into the country, and its' history/culture etc.   Russia is more than SP and/or Moscow - but, the big cities may really be what you are looking for.  If you decide to go, be prepared for traffic in both SP & Moscow (not sure where you are in Ontario....  but, it is no different than the 401 corridor in rush hour....) - and realize that is life if you live there. 

 

Enjoy your planning - what ever you decide!!

 

Fran

 

 

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7 hours ago, Bake apple said:

Thanks for the candid comments as they have given us pause as we consider this vacation.  We are also considering the Budapest to Bucharest trip; been to Budapest a couple of times and loved it but never ventured further east so far.

We have done this trip - starting in Bucharest.  It is very different than sailing the Rhine, the Seine or further up the Danube - but well worth it IMHO.  In fact, we are going back again next year - although we are going with Avalon this time - and spend a couple of days in Transylvania before getting on the boat in Fetesti.

 

Most Eastern European cruises board in Giurgiu and you spend 7 nights on the boat.  By boarding in Fetesti, we actually will get to Km 0 on the Danube - and see the Black Sea.  We spend 9 nights on board before ending in Budapest (which is one of our favourite cities in Europe....).   At the end, we are planning on taking the train to Krakow for a few days (we have not been to Poland before). 

 

If you are unsure if you want to do Russia, this is certainly something to consider.  This is not as scenic a trip as others you may have taken - but lots of history.  We chose (and are choosing) to start in Bucharest - as this way you cruise from Romania to areas that have recovered a bit more - and you can see the recovery as you go along. 

 

Fran

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If you are interested in seeing Russia. I would hook up with a tour group and stay in downtown Moscow and St. Petersburg. Russia really is amazing to see. The river boats dock far away and traffic is also. Much better to stay downtown. Some friends did this and saw quite a bit more than I saw on my river cruise. I spent most of mine in traffic.

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Really really interesting comments and observations and they have created some good and lively discussions in our household indeed. Thank you all! We know we need to more clearly define, for ourselves, our 'must see' destinations. We have river cruised before but deciding  to cruise South of France, the Rhine and the Danube were almost no brainers in comparison to deciding between Russia and Romania, Bulgaria etc.

 

Fortunately, as one CCer stated, we have choices and how lucky we are that we do. So, back to do a little more research but I am anxious to make that decision and start to look forward to the trip.  Still not sure which line to cruise with but my DH is a dab hand with a spread sheet so I will leave that bit of fun to him.  

 

Again, many thanks for the great input, it's why I keep coming back to CC and all the travel experience offered.  Safe travel all.

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If you are interested in the "former Soviet bloc" Danube, take a look at the itinerary of Grand Circle - gct.com  It's a longer cruise than many companies and it goes all the way to the Black Sea docking in Costanta, for a day before heading to Bucharest. 

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10 hours ago, Casey12 said:

If you are interested in seeing Russia. I would hook up with a tour group and stay in downtown Moscow and St. Petersburg. Russia really is amazing to see...

Russia is by far the largest and probably the most diverse country in the world. A land tour staying in Moscow and STP is great for seeing those two cities and their museums and monuments but you will have seen only a very, very tiny portion of Russia. Napoleon thought that by capturing Moscow he had conquered Russia; he was disastrously wrong. If you truly want to see Russia (and not everyone does) you cannot do that by confining yourself to two metropolitan cities. 

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Posted (edited)

I'm on the fence with this one - on the one hand, all the comments about traffic and less-than-central hotel location are true, on the other one can easily adjust their tour accordingly - take the metro and public transportation  and arrange for extensions and accommodation on their own.

 

I think river cruise companies are well aware of the limitations of their single most popular Russian route and do whatever they can to ensure their guests have a good time en route - all of the enrichment activities offered on board are good to stellar. Their main selling point is a familiar and convenient tourist bubble, plus "taking care" of all the logistical details in a largely unfamiliar and "foreign"  country. 

That said, I think the key problem here is their weasely marketing - Moscow to SPB waterway, with a significant portion of it constructed in 1930's,  is no more a "Waterway of the Tsars" than it is a "Volga cruise".

 

Perhaps as an option you might want to consider a land tour of the three big cities (Moscow, SPB, and Kazan) and a short "weekend cruise" on the real Volga from Kazan? Or a cruise to Kizhi from SPB? Gives you the best of both worlds.

Edited by napoxoguk
My apologies for peppering the whole post with parentheses

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We did the Russian River cruise with Vantage World Travel, which provided five star hotels in Moscow and St.Pete.  We loved the river cruise portion, especially Kitzi Island in the north.

We met more Russian people on the river cruise than in the big cities.

Vantage doesn't offer this cruise anymore, but there are several that do, I think Viking for sure.

Here is my review:

 

Russia, Kiev and Baltics

http://boards.cruisecritic.com/showthread.php?t=1478384

 

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22 hours ago, Bake apple said:

We are also considering the Budapest to Bucharest trip

 

Hi @Bake apple

 

I did this trip with Viking in June this year; it visits 5 countries (Hungary, Croatia, Serbia, Bulgaria and Romania). My report on the trip is on the Roll Call page here https://boards.cruisecritic.com/topic/2536236-all-viking-2019-passage-to-eastern-

europe/page/22/    and you may find it worth while to read the entire thread as there are several other reports on the trip throughout.  

 

The choice of which direction to cruise, Bud to Buc (which I did) or Buc to Bud may be influenced by a report from a poster on the Buc>Bud cruise who was wakened with the rest of the passengers to attend a passport check at a border at 3am. Bud>Buc this took place in the afternoon on board.

 

Anyway, whatever trip you book next will leave open the opportunity of booking the other trip in future 🙂

 

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Do any of the cruise companies put passengers up in hotels in downtown St. Petersburg and Moscow?

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On 8/13/2019 at 7:45 PM, Floridiana said:

Do cruise companies put passengers up in hotels in downtown St. Petersburg and Moscow?

They do.

Viking, for instance, usually has a pool of several hotels, including Radisson Royal (Ukraina hotel) in Moscow, which is not as central as some other hotels, but the building itself is a real treat - it's one of Stalin-era skyscrapers.

I forget which hotel they default to in SPB, but whenever there are availability issues (as may from time to time happen when the city hosts a big international event, like World Cup, UEFA games, annual economic forum, Navy Day, etc) they offer Solo Sokos, which is a second-tier hotel and not something I would consider good value.

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1 hour ago, napoxoguk said:

They do.

Viking, for instance, usually has a pool of several hotels, including Radisson Royal (Ukraina hotel) in Moscow, which is not as central as some other hotels, but the building itself is a real treat - it's one of Stalin-era skyscrapers.

I forget which hotel they default to in SPB, but whenever there are availability issues (as may from time to time happen when the city hosts a big international event, like World Cup, UEFA games, annual economic forum, Navy Day, etc) they offer Solo Sokos, which is a second-tier hotel and not something I would consider good value.

I don't think that this (which I interpret and pre- or post-cruise hotels) was what @Floridiana meant. At some point I am sure that I read of cruise companies that on arrival (or departure) from Moscow and St. Petersburg put people in hotels instead of busing them back and forth to the cruise ship. This meant that only the actual cruise portion was on the ship. I haven't heard of anyone recently that does this.

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Posted (edited)

I don't think there are any companies that use hotels anymore. Many companies have pulled out due to lack of business.

Edited by Coral

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4 minutes ago, Coral said:

I don't think there are any companies that use hotels anymore.

I would assume ANY major Russian company offering cruises to foreign tourists (vodokhod, mosturflot, infoflot) would have no problem selling you "just the cruise", which one could modify with pre- or post-cruise extensions as they see fit.

 

As to pulling out due to "lack of business" - I do not have any insider knowledge of the industry, but I would assume all of the "boutiquey" lines found out they could not effectively compete with Viking and the Russian lines - their business model was based on renting out refurbished Russian ships and crews from Russian companies and adding little to no value, while charging an arm and a leg. Hardly sustainable in the long run...

Viking, on the other hand, seems to be doing just fine...

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