Our two main issues with this trip are that it was advertised as a luxury cruise ("luxurious", "fine dining", "cuisine") and at $24,000 for the four of us it was certainly our expectation. The other issue was that the boat and crew were not ready to sail.
Airport Arrival - We arrived at 16:30 at Moscow airport and stood (literally) for two hours before we were taken to our bus where we then stood for a long period of time in the heat. One lady fainted and was attended by other passengers. No effort was made to provide medical assistance by the three people from the boat that met us. Once the bus arrived the passengers had to load their own luggage. My husband and I stood with our luggage as well as my parents and we also offered to load the luggage of the older couple as the woman had fainted. There was no room left in in the garage of the bus and we stood there for a long time before finally carrying the suitcases up onto the bus. We received a minimal amount of help from the three young people from AMA Waterways at this point. Our driver drove through downtown Moscow rush hour traffic instead of taking the highway past the city. We were in stop and go traffic for two hours. We finally reached the boat between 8:45-9:15 PM.
Problems aboard the ship
Water was leaking in a number of the suites including ours, it also poured outside our suite. Water was collecting in the lower floor ballroom. At one point they had shopvacs going non-stop sucking up the water. Water also poured from the bar ceiling while we were enjoying our cocktails.
One morning the entire ship had no water for showers or toilets. Then another day the air conditioning did not work.
There were smells of diesel fumes generally in the aft section of the boat. Rooms near the diesels were noisy and vibrating so make sure you don't get a room near the rear of the boat. Even the dining rooms would be vibrating while underway.
Food was advertised as "Fine Dining" but it was more like "home cooking". There were a few selections but both restaurants had the same menus and there were no real difference between "themed" dinners and regular meals.
2 dining rooms were ridiculously overcrowded with little space between the tables. This could have been easily solved with two seatings but instead there was pushing and shoving so guests could get in and hold a table.
After a while we realized that people were paying extra to reserve tables in the smaller, quieter restaurant as they sat at the same table every meal. Bars were closed once dinner started so it was difficult to enjoy a cocktail before dinner. Once you sat down to dinner you were pushed to order right away and chastised if you wanted to sit and enjoy a cocktail. Bartenders were not experienced and did not know how to make even simple drinks (e.g., Vodka martini).
There were a large number of people ill (including one of our party) during the latter part of the trip and the empty seats in the dining room were quite noticeable near the end of the trip (or maybe they were just sick of the poor food).
Fitness room consisted of two very small rooms. One with a treadmill but the ceiling was so low anyone over 6 feet couldn't use it. The other small room has a couple of bikes. Outside there is a universal weight machine.
The sun deck was behind the two engine stacks. While you were on the deck, either underway or at dock, diesel fumes were a problem.
The ship's doctor was also the masseuse.
Tours Tours were generally poorly organized. One day we took a bus ride in Moscow to Red Square and then bus for a river cruise with cheap lunch. After lunch we got back on the bus to back to the Kremlin. Most of the day was spent in transit.
Funniest of all tours was the stop in Sivirstroy - "Enjoy some free time to stroll through this unspoiled Russian Village and browse for irresistible handmade trinkets".
Obviously there were kickbacks dictating where our boat stopped. This was the site of an old power plant and the town of the former workers. The newly renovated house with the Mercedes obviously rented the shops to local people who sold their wares - caps and other trash from China.
The tour of the authentic Russian homes with beautiful gardens was laughable. The homes were built for the power plant in the 30's, rotting and decaying. We had a BBQ there in an old shed with food from our boat. The only prosperity in this town was from selling Russian souvenirs made in China (e.g., Barak Obama and USA baseball team wooden dolls) to the tourists during summer.
Tour guides Occasionally our guides were good but most often they were reciting by rote about the year something was built and its dimensions.
None of the passengers on this trip that we spoke with were pleased with this trip. The general feeling was that we were deceived about the level of service and luxury that AMA Waterways advertised. Also, the general feeling of being on an economy cruise where we all learned quickly where to find; cutlery, napkins, toilet paper, water (water cooler at the end of the hallway), clean towels. Many of the passengers had a point of reference having been on other cruises and river cruises. If we had known before leaving Toronto that the level of service would be so low, then we would have made other arrangements as this trip was a waste of money and more importantly our time.
The lack of pictures provided for this boat should have been a clue to the deception by AMA Waterways. Few of the staff speak English beyond a few words. However, several went out of their way to make this trip pleasant and we would like to thank them. While the level of service by staff is sub-par, this could be easily overcome through training. The problems with this trip are not the fault of the staff but goes right to the top at AMA Waterways.
We made an unscheduled stop as a couple needed to get off. The joke that went around the ship was that they had complained about the service.