Impressions of the ship: It is brand new inside - refurbished from head to toe. The outside, however, is the same (oldish) ship that every other tour company uses. It seems that the Russians built one basic hull for this purpose, and there are many in service on the rivers. I didn't feel that any of the Viking or Grand Circle ships that we saw docked alongside ours were nicer in any way. One advantage of the Uniworld redo is that the outside decks were converted into large balconies on the top two levels by cutting the windows into a large sliding door. These are the only Russian river cruise ships with a balcony.
Except for the large balcony, the cabins are smallish, about 2 1/2 feet longer than the length of the bed. This is on a par with other river cruise ships, as the size of the ship is limited due to the width of the locks it must pass through. The cabins are spotlessly clean, very white, and decorated simply. There is a small desk and chair in the standard balcony More
cabins. The bedding is very high-end and comfortable.
Cabins contain a hair dryer, small safe, and 2 US 110v outlets, so there is no need to bring a converter unless you are using a high voltage curling iron, for example. All floors, except the Onega deck, are accessible by elevator. Otherwise, the stairs are steep.
The public areas of the ship are also spotless, clean, and comfortable. The staff is charming and helpful. On our cruise there were 162 guests and 100 staff!
Food was generally good. Breakfasts were a buffet that included European meat and cheese selections, cereals, breads and jams, at least three types of eggs, potatoes, sausage, bacon, and either French toast or pancakes. Lunch was also a buffet, including soup (usually excellent) sandwiches, salads, a choice of several hot dishes, and desert. Dinner consisted of appetizer, soup or salad, a choice of two main courses, desert and cheese, coffee or tea. Unlimited beer, soda or wine was included with dinner. Sometimes the main course was not on a par with the other meals (or with high-end big cruise ships); however, the service was absolutely first-rate!
The scenery between St. Petersburg and Moscow was spectacular - a surprise to me. We used the balcony most nights to view the passing villages (actually, in late June, there really wasn't any "night" to speak of).
Tours were generally good; however the tour guides use the ships headsets which didn't work very well. A combination of poor fidelity on the sets along with the Russian accents of the guides when speaking English made it often difficult to understand what they were saying. Hopefully, Uniworld will remedy this in the future. I thought one stop was a dud, but it was more of an excuse to offer souvenirs and have a picnic lunch. The others were wonderful.
If a "glitzy" cruise ship impresses you, go on a big cruise liner. Keep in mind, however, that there will be no access to the smaller cities and towns, and sightseeing would be rather limited. Otherwise, the ship and the tour were a wonderful experience, and I recommend it highly for those whose primary focus is sightseeing. Less