Rooms: Adequate for two people. Did not upgrade to a room with a balcony, but found that it was not needed. Rooms were immaculate and well kept and supplied. Towels, pillows and toilet tissues were always full. Very nice bedding and comfy bed. Bathroom adequate and similar in size to other cruise lines. Room had one operable window so we were able to get fresh air. Overall the boat was extremely clean. The crew shampooed all of the exterior spaces and washed down all of the railings daily.
Doctor: The doctor on board did not speak English, but the on-board guides were always available to translate. Injuries and illnesses were treated immediately and with professionalism.
Meals: We found that the food exceeded our expectations. Salad/Starter, Soup, entree, and desert were served for both lunch and dinner. The food was a combination of international and Russian cuisine. There were two soup and three entree options available at each meal. Entree selection generally included a meat (pork, beef, lamb or chicken) and a fish. Although other reviewers found that there was excessive fried foods, we found that there were few fried entrees and that the food was flavorful and the servings were adequate in size. Soups and salads were great and an assortment of cheeses and breads were available. Desert selection was always a cake or pie or ice cream. Vegetarian offerings were available at every meal. The breakfast buffet was hot and always included Russian favorites such as bliny's. Seating in the big dining room can be noisy and cramped. Large groups need to be aware of their impact on other travelers.
On board entertainment: Entertainment was centered on a Russian folk group and a piano player in the lounge. We found that we were so busy with shore excursions and seminars offered on board about Russian culture that we did not miss entertainment offered on other cruises.
Public areas: Although the public areas were small we found them to be adequate for our needs, although large groups can monopolize the areas. Outside seating on the front and rear of the boat was available for all travelers who did not have balconies.
Tours and excursions: The on shore tours were excellent. The local guides were the best we have found anywhere. They all proud of their country and always put everything in a very positive perspective. We found that the ship's guides were always available and when incidents occurred they knew what to do and acted immediately. The ships guides also watched over the groups and made sure that everyone kept together and no one got lost or left behind. Tours and visits went smoothly and I feel we got an excellent overview of all places visited and a better understanding of the Russian people and their history. The small stops along the way were pleasant and relaxing.
Moscow: Standing in Red Square and watching children run around was a moving experience. The Kremlin tour and the Kremlin Armory were awesome.
Uglich: Quaint but overly commercialized.
Yaraslavl: Unique presentation of the Tsar's of Russia and the relationship between the Tsar and the Russian Orthodox Church.
Goritsy: Monastery tour was outstanding. Gained a better understanding of the relationship of the church to the Russian people.
Kizhi: Not to be missed. UNESCO site. Wooden architecture.
Svistroy: Visit with local Russian Family was fabulous and eye opening.
St. Petersburg: Hermitage, Peter and Paul Fortress, Peterhof Gardens, Catherine's Palace are all not to be missed. Travelers were given extra time in all locations for extra viewing. In all cases tour entered the facility before it was opened to the general public so that the crowds were modest.
Port transfers: Went smoothly and without incident.
Weather: Changes from minute to minute. Rains most days at least once. Rain gear or a sturdy umbrella is a must. Casual clothes and good, sturdy walking shoes are a must. Tour groups are organized for types of travelers, both fast and slow groups are available.
Overall, we had a very good time and feel we have seen what we wanted to see in Russia. For anyone wanting to see the two major cities and a little country life, this is the way to do it.