This cruise was our first river cruise (following 7 "ocean" cruises) and we enjoyed it. Yes to the question will you go on another river cruise. We were told many times by fellow passengers that this cruise was not as luxurious, for lack of a better term, as their previous river cruise experiences in Europe. But the same people agreed with me that in Russia AmaWaterways' AmaKatarina offered the most luxurious, the most upscale option. I could see this with my own eyes as we traversed through some of the other ships that our ship was connected to in port, or as we passed other ships along the way. There were several passengers who had travelled on Russian river cruises before and confirmed this as well, that the AmaKatarina is the most deluxe choice today for a Russian river cruise. All of this is our opinion, nothing more, not proven rocket science for sure.
As for how the cruise went for us, I refer you to the review by Kellie Poodle as I agree wholeheartedly with all that More
she wrote. I'd add that the service on board was excellent, made more pleasant by the obvious desire to please on the part of all the staff members we were in contact with. The tours on shore were well planned, guides were first class, schedules were adhered to and what's even more important, all sites were interesting and worth visiting. Bring your own earphones as I found the ones provided to be very painful. Also bring one or two bars of soap as only one is provided...they forgot that we have two places to wash up, the sink AND the shower!
Our air conditioning in the cabin worked powerfully well; less effective was the a/c in the dining rooms...dress lightly. As Kellie suggests, bring a travel clock.
The onboard activities were fun and well-attended: Music and dance, blini making and tasting, Vodka tasting, Matrushka painting, learning Russian, excellent lectures on the history, culture and politics of the Russian Federation, and more.
The real reason I'm writing this review is to offer a piece of advice to anyone planning to book this cruise. Besides Go-ahead-and-book-it, my advice to you is to stay in Moscow three nights prior to embarkation and 3 or even 4 nights in St. Petersburg post disembarkation (or vice versa if you sail the other way). While the excursions on the cruise offer a lot of exposure, there is much more to do, see, view, hear, walk through, enjoy in these two major cities. You're going all the way there, sink in a bit longer and you won't regret it.
We booked 3 star local European style hotels booked online and were very satisfied. You can try more or less expensive ones as you see fit. We hired private guides in both cities. They arranged our transfers from airport to hotel to port and from port to hotel to airport. We worked out full-day itineraries with them; they arranged for all entry tickets, metro tickets, etc. We opted to use public transportation during the day so as to reduce our costs, i.e. bus and metro, but you can arrange to use the occasional taxis or have a car and driver for the day, entirely your option, depending on what you want to see and your fitness and energy level. With this additional time we visited more fine museums, cathedrals, saw a ballet in Moscow, saw an opera at the Miriinsky Theatre in St. Petersburg, took a canal trip, ate at Stolle many times in St. Petersburg and oh how we miss those savory "pies". In sum, we feel that we got closer to the people and the history of Russia in those extra days. We always felt safe with our guide, and she was able to advise us on where to walk safely in the evenings, which was most places incidentally. But taxis are plentiful in the evenings, no problem.
Moscow: The guide I used in Moscow is Elena and her website is: http://www.yourmoscowguide.com/ Her email address is:
moscowguide at rambler dot ru
Elena provided us with an excellent guide, Alexandra, for part of the time we were in Moscow.
St. Petersburg: The company I used in St. Petersburg is "I Travel SPb" (formerly Anastasia) and their website is: http://www.anastasiaworld.com/ Their email address is: info at anastasiaworld dot com
Our guide's name is Olga Nesterovskaya and by the time we left her it felt like we were leaving family behind. You must contact the company first and request Olga. All their guides are of similar experience and quality, I have been assured by Eugenia and Irina at the office.
If I can be of further assistance just email me at: oneputt at sympatico dot ca