A Russian river cruise gives you the chance to discover more about this fascinating country, with plenty of opportunities to meet local people and find out more about its fascinating past. Sail between Moscow and St Petersburg on the Volga, the Svir and the Moscow Canal, taking in the country’s rural, timeless interior as the ships cross vast lakes and pass through uninhabited plains, skirting medieval villages and passing the onion domes of ancient churches dotting the horizon.
Jewels of Russia
Boutique ship Scenic Tsar takes 112 guests and, launched in 2013, is the first new ship on Russia’s waterways for more than 25 years. Scenic’s Jewels of Russia cruise includes four days each in Moscow (with visits to St Basil’s Basilica and the Kremlin) and St Petersburg. Scenic’s included Enrich excursions take in Moscow’s Museum of Cosmonautics with the chance to meet a cosmonaut, and a private ballet concert at the majestic Palace of Prince Vladimir in St Petersburg.
Getting there: Scenic (0808 102 0100/scenic.co.uk) has a 15-day all-inclusive Jewels of Russia cruise on 12 June and 10 July from £5,390pp, based on two sharing, including excursions and flights.
Waterways of the Tsars
Three Viking River Cruises ships sail the Volga, all smart and stylish with plenty of balcony rooms. There are three days at either end of its Russian itineraries to enjoy St Petersburg and Moscow properly. Like other cruises there are calls at Uglich and Yaroslavl, Golden Ring cities that preserve Moscow’s history, but there’s also a visit to the Kuzino, a traditional village near the 14th-century Kirillo-Belozersky Monastery, which was once the largest monastery in Northern Russia.
Getting there: Viking River Cruises (0800 319 66 60/vikingrivercruises.co.uk) has a 13-day Waterways of the Tsars cruise regularly from May to October on Viking Longships Akun, Ingvar and Truvor, from £2,595pp (two sharing) including wine with dinner, excursions and flights.
The Imperial Waterways
Enjoy several days moored in both Moscow and St Petersburg with Uniworld, enjoying included city and walking tours that take in everything from Moscow’s ornate Metro system to St Petersburg’s Winter Palace. You leave the River Volga for a detour on Lake Onega to visit Kizhi Island with its collection of wooden churches, including the huge Transfiguration Church, built without a single nail. Uniworld’s River Victoria has all outside cabins, many with balconies, and a restaurant serving classic and local cuisine.
Getting there: Uniworld in conjunction with Titan (0800 988 5823/titantravel.co.uk) has a 14-day Imperial Waterways of Russia cruise from £4,299pp (two sharing) with regular departures from May on River Victoria, including wine with meals and Home Departure Service pick-up and drop-off.
KNOW BEFORE YOU GO…
If you’re on a Russian river cruise you must have a visa in order to take the holiday. A single entry tourist visa lasting 30 days is available through a number of agencies including the Russian National Tourist Office (RNTO), costing £150-£200 depending on the agency and service level. The RNTO, 70 Piccadilly, London, W1J 8HP (020 7495 7570/uk.russianvisa.net), has a list of these on its website, and most cruise companies offer a service at time of booking. However, regulations instigated in late 2014 mean that everyone has to report to official centres in London or Edinburgh for fingerprinting.
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