We are a retired married couple who has been on about 6 cruises, both river and ocean. We have traveled extensively.
Precruise information: This was our first cruise with Uniworld: we had heard nothing but raves about Uniworld, but the experience was very disappointing.
Pre-trip information was inaccurate as given by their polite phone staff.
Not only does the cruise line not exchange currency on board like other cruises we have taken, but it is Impossible to use debit card in Russia. They gave us no advice on the best way to handle money in Russia.
They told us we couldn't tip on the boat in U.S. money only Rubles, but when we got there we were told U.S. money would have been OK.
They told us the cruise line didn't arrange private tours or make any arrangements for us, but they cheerfully did so.
Uniworld's Russian boats are staffed by Russians and the USA office has no idea what happens on board so as to give future travelers More
accurate information. Drivers representing Uniworld who met us at airport didn't speak any English.
Ship info/Stateroom: This was our first cruise with Uniworld. The boat was ok, but we should have believed their disclaimer that their Russian cruise versus all their other Uniworld cruises was not up to their usual standards. The boat holds about 250 people and everything is clean and adequate. There is no around the boat promenade for walking. Most of the time when the boat is docked, it is next to one or two other boats (so that our balcony room had the view of another boat most of the time). Our Stateroom was small, but adequate
Cruise itinerary: Started in Moscow and ended in St. Petersburg (+ other small villages along the way). Docking spots for boat in Moscow and St. Petersburg (3 nights each) were noisy and far from the cities. Cruising route was not very scenic and went through some uninteresting lakes. One stop en route was just a "recreated" village for tourist purposes only, not a genuine village. Other stops were so so.
Activities/Shore Excursions: The shore excursions are mostly included, plus some optional ones. They used mostly excellent local guides with headsets provided so that we could hear everything. The tourism is Russia is so intense that everywhere we went there were many, many tour groups, so that these headsets saved the day There was an excellent instructor on board (College Professor) who told us all about Russia in about 6 lectures (very light and informative). Also, there were presentations on Vodka, Caviar, and Bellinis (Russian pancakes).
Service: Excellent staff. Friendly, cheerful and helpful. Top rating.
Travel to port of Embarkation: We had Uniworld schedule our air and we arrived way too late on boat departure day. By the time we got to the boat it was 11 pm and there was very intensive touring for the first 3 days which was challenging because of the long travel day and jet lag. Anyone reading this should plan to get there a day before boarding the boat.
Dining: We liked the food, although, we don't know why, some fellow passengers were not happy with the food. They had lots of Russian specialties. There was always a large buffet at breakfast and lunch. The only negative was the way too leisurely dinners, lasting up to two hours. The dining room staff was very friendly, especially the head of the department. The hours changed to accommodate touring schedules, which was very helpful.
Children: no children on this cruise.
Disembarkation: very organized. We had them order a taxi for us to go to a hotel, but the taxi came 45 minutes late. Uniworld gave the taxi driver our exact hotel name and he took us to the wrong hotel and we had to pay extra to go to the right one. We do not believe this is the cruise line's fault, but beware before you go into any taxi that the driver knows exactly where you are going and what you are going to pay.
Summary: Generally, we were disappointed with our Russia experience, more so because of the inaccurate information we were given by the Uniworld Staff. A few more disclaimers would have gone a long way to give us more realistic expectations. Did not live up to the primo experiences we have had all over the world. We rated this trip as one of our least favorite. Less