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16 AmaKatarina Cruise Reviews

This was our first river cruise and we chose AMAWATERWAYS AmaKatarina after discussions with our travel agent. We were very pleased with our holiday and would certainly travel with AMA again and we would absolutely recommend their Russian ... Read More
This was our first river cruise and we chose AMAWATERWAYS AmaKatarina after discussions with our travel agent. We were very pleased with our holiday and would certainly travel with AMA again and we would absolutely recommend their Russian Waterways Cruise. We understood that there had been quite a few cancellations on this particular cruise as people were concerned about the political situation in the Ukraine. At no time did we feel any such concern and we met tourists from all over the world. The AmaKatarina is an older ship, leased by AMAWATERWAYS from a Russian company. It is by no means luxurious but it is comfortable and certainly ‘home’ for this trip. WEATHER: We were fortunate and had good weather the entire cruise. It did look like rain a couple of days but we always travel with rain gear and travel umbrellas. The ship had umbrellas for any passenger that needed them. As this was September, cooler weather clothes were the norm. PORT TRANSFERS: We chose on this trip to book the AMA transfer. A representative met us at the St. Petersburg Airport (Pulkovo) and escorted us (and many other passengers) to 2 modern, clean buses. A guide accompanied each bus to the ship. Our luggage was loaded on the bus for us and also delivered to our shipboard stateroom very quickly. When we ended our cruise in Moscow (we were able to work with the ship’s Cruise Director to get the departure time that we wanted) an AMA guide accompanied us to the Sheremetyevo Airport. She was with us throughout the check-in procedure. Another couple took a taxi to this airport and they did, in this instance, have a cheaper fare. If the traffic had been bad it could have cost them more. This is a chance you take. The ride was 7-8 kilometres in length and took 35 minutes for us. CHECK-IN: Upon arrival at the start of our cruise we were directed to the Reception Desk and were very quickly processed. Our passports and Russian arrival cards were kept by the ship while we were docked in St. Petersburg. CABINS: Our room was on the second floor, starboard, and mid-ship. The cabins are compact. There is 1 closet for hanging clothes and some shelves for storage. There is a safe which had the capacity to hold 2 iPads, a camera, wallets, etc. There is a small fridge in the room. Although we did not spend a lot of time on our balcony we did enjoy having it, being able to enjoy the fresh air and sitting outside when we could. The bathroom shower stall is small but the water pressure and temperature were great. We were given bottles of water each evening and toilet paper/toiletries were replaced as needed, without having to request them. The first night we did request extra pillows and blankets and they were provided promptly. There is no alarm clock so bring a travel alarm clock with you if this is important to you. There was only 1 electrical power plug in our cabin so that made it difficult to charge the camera batteries, iPads, etc. Bringing a power bar would take care of this issue. MEALS: There are 2 dining rooms on board. At each entrance you were expected to use hand sanitizer. A great idea! There could have been more of this throughout the ship; but the passengers certainly needed to be more aware of basic hand hygiene to prevent disease contamination! Breakfasts were buffet style and there was plenty to choose from. Lunches were also buffet style and there were always options for vegetarians, meat and fish eaters. Soup, salad, cheeses, breads, crackers, fruits, desserts, tea, coffee (including brewed decaf) and water were always offered. Dinner was a sit down/served on the 2nd floor dining room while the 3rd floor restaurant remained buffet style. The food offered was the same. We liked to eat on the 3rd floor as we liked to choose what and how much we were eating. The staff members in both restaurants were all very friendly and tried very hard to please. They quickly learned the likes and dislikes of the passengers. The food was well cooked but basic, not gourmet--always plentiful and always options for everyone. My husband has a severe food allergy and the Restaurant Manager checked the food to be served daily (and when we ate off the ship on excursions) and made sure that we were aware of any potential food dangers. My husband was given a laminated card to be shown to wait staff that had the allergy written in English and in Russian. We were given excellent care and attention. Beer and Wine was provided at dinner. At lunch you had to pay for this and for soft drinks. STAFF: The staff were very friendly and tried very hard to please the guests. The Tour Guides were students or graduates of the linguistics program at University. All staff were employed by the Russian Cruise Ship Line with the exception of the Hotel Manager and the Cruise Manager who were employees of AMAWATERWAYS. Most staff had some English language, some more than others of course. We were always greeted with a smile. In summary, we were very pleased with the staff on this cruise. Every evening a newsletter, the Daily Cruiser was left in the cabins with details of the next day’s itinerary and any information that the passengers needed to have. EXCURSIONS: The tours were well organized and a ship tour guide was always with each group along with the local guides at most places we visited. Our favourite tour guide, Maxim was excellent and managed to keep track of wandering tourists – not an easy task! Personal audio devices and headsets were provided for each excursion so that it was very easy to hear the guide as you toured. In St. Petersburg we chose to take the free shuttle provided into the City rather than sign up for an optional tour. We enjoyed walking the Nevsky Prospect, (twice) visiting the Church of Our Saviour on the Spilled Blood and wandering on our own. There were organized walking groups for several styles of passengers—those who wanted to sleep in and join the group part way through the day, the gentle walkers, the regular walkers and the fast walkers. This certainly was advantageous for those with different tour needs. We always chose the fast group as we felt we did see more and also had free time to further explore. You chose the group the night before at the Reception Desk. Using hydrofoils in St. Petersburg meant more time at the tourist site, less time sitting in traffic. Moscow traffic is bumper to bumper, 24/7. This added to the time on the bus and took away from time we could have been sight-seeing. Another day in Moscow would have been appreciated. Because of fog on the river the ship could not travel and we arrived quite late into Moscow. Although we saw the Kremlin we were rushed and did not get to truly see and appreciate major landmark. The second day in Moscow was busy with too many activities. We left the ship at 9 a.m., returning at 11 p.m. Although we had a free hour in Red Square, there is so much to do there as we could not see St. Basil’s Cathedral, Lenin’s Tomb, etc. We ran out of time! We had chosen the extra tour to the Russian Circus in the evening (which I would not do again as this show was long, including a 45 minute intermission so that the children could go on stage and get pictures with the fountains and was a show of skaters, acrobats, a comedian). This is the only extra tour that we paid for. When we returned to the ship we were given dinner but, as everyone had to disembark the next day, starting in the early morning hours for some, this day was just too long. In retrospect we should have booked a couple of days in Moscow after the cruise ended. Those passengers that we have stayed in touch with and who did this all reported that they enjoyed their extra time and saw the same and different sights with lots of time to explore. SUMMARY: We truly enjoyed our first ever river cruise and we were happy to have done this with AMAWATERWAYS. We highly recommend their Russian Waterways River Cruise. We will certainly travel with AMAWATERWAYS again.   Read Less
Sail Date September 2014
Having read the reviews, I went with low expectations for the ship. I was pleasantly surprised in many ways. First, the staff onboard were friendly and anxious to please and be helpful. The AMA guides were very, very good at their jobs - ... Read More
Having read the reviews, I went with low expectations for the ship. I was pleasantly surprised in many ways. First, the staff onboard were friendly and anxious to please and be helpful. The AMA guides were very, very good at their jobs - most knowledgeable and ready to answer questions as well as being masters at keeping up with tourists who tend to wander from the group. We were herded through the most crowded and challenging circumstances (for them) with much skill. No one ever got separated unless they chose to go off on their own. The dining rooms on board - and there are two, surprised me with the variety of food available at all meals. Some of the dishes cooked were better than others, but never did I feel underfed. I could have lived off the wonderful soups, the various salads offered and the fresh bread. Luckily I didn't have to do that, as there were many other dishes to choose from. Waiters and waitresses were young - many college students at summer jobs - and made up for their occasional lack of serving skills with many smiles, much attention to diners' needs and a great desire to please. I heard some passengers, who had cruised with AMA to other European ports and were disappointed with the style and luxury level of the ship, say that the cabins were like a Motel 6. I really can't argue with that, but the cabins were cleaned daily, the beds were comfortable and the water pressure in the showers was fantastic. Frankly, that suited the two of us. Luxury is nice, but in order to see a good bit of Russia and not have to pack and unpack, I found the cabin to be a good trade-off. All the cruise ships are Russian owned - the cruise companies can refurbish the interiors. There was no feeling of discomfort for us due to the political situation in the Ukraine. There had been a fair amount of cancellations on the ship, but everywhere we went was packed with tourists from all over the world. The tourist industry in Russia may be suffering this year, but it was surprising to me how many tourists were there (we all go to the same ports) on the river cruising and in the cities. We never felt unsafe in any way, except from being trampled by tourists in the Hermitage. We had a wonderful time. AMA Katerina is a good choice for this trip.   Read Less
Sail Date June 2014
Despite not having my expectations over high about this venture, I was very pleasantly surprised. Ill try and break down the areas for review: The ship. I gather that only Russian owned ships are allowed on the water. This may or may not ... Read More
Despite not having my expectations over high about this venture, I was very pleasantly surprised. Ill try and break down the areas for review: The ship. I gather that only Russian owned ships are allowed on the water. This may or may not be true, but it would explain why AMA have leased and refurbished a vessel from a big Russian cruise company that was very much in evidence on the water on the one hand and why I didnt see another flag on any vessel other than the Federation tricolour on the other. AMA have brought the vessel up to the usual very high AMA standards. Well, almost. The cabins (aka staterooms) on the upper decks had nice new double glazing whilst the bottom deck cheaper cabins, er, didnt but I suspect (hope) that these will be done in the fullness of time. The company that leases the ship to AMA is also a big player in hydrofoils btw, which enabled AMA to make frequent use of hydrofoils to nip into and out of St.Petersburg  so much nicer than road traffic and it also affords some nice views. Wi-fi. I would advise getting a cabin close to either reception (check the ship layout) or to the Melody Bar area if you want to be able to use the wi-fi without having to go into the reception/bar area. They have installed 802.11n (much higher bandwidth than the 802.11g that most of us use at home) which is most welcome and I found wi-fi access was way better than the Danube vessel. Not perfect by any means, but useable with care. Airports. Flying into and out of Moscow necessitates a bus transfer to the ship terminal. Moscows traffic is perhaps the eighth wonder of the world for those who enjoy traffic. The ship terminal (with an amazing Soviet era edifice that is being done up) is in the northern part of Moscow and I would recommend aiming to use one of the Sheremetyevo terminals (15 miles away) instead of Domodedovo which is south of Moscow (43 miles away). On a good day Domodedovo is a 90 minute drive, but count on 2 hours and a lot more if the traffic stops for longer than usual. I flew from Dododemovo and found it friendly and easy to use, the security is quick and sensible compared to Heathrow (not my favourite airport at all). The choice of airline will largely depend on where you are flying in from. Flying from Heathrow to St.Petersburg was with Lufthansa, memorable only for huge queues at LHR, miserable drinks trolley, dreadful food and seats that were both too small and very hard. A plane change at Frankfurt provided me with what I think was the most expensive sausage and a beer Ive ever had. Swiss Airlines on the other hand was a delight and brought back distant memories of the late lamented Swissair. The cabin. Actually there is little difference in size between the lower deck cheapies (where I was) and the upper deck expensive ones which have a little veranda which you might use but frankly are of little use (imho) because most of the cruising is done at night and in the day time youre probably on a guided tour working up an appetite. The air-conditioning was intrusive but I got used to it. Again I suspect that AMA are aware that something needs to be done about a system that is clearly showing its age in these cabins. The food and wine. Excellent. In a word. I am not easily pleased when it comes to food, and I have not been disappointed by the food at all. I am also quite critical of wine too, and most were acceptable enough. I say most, because two of them  an red and white from Spain  was quite undrinkable so I opted for beer. The Russian champagne however was actually good, so tuck into that when you can! Staff. Without exception, I found them to be friendly and helpful. They really appreciate it if you make a little effort to speak a some Russian too. We were fortunate to have a series of lectures about Russian history and culture which were well attended and deservedly so. There is no guarantee that they are repeated on all cruises however. Many of us in the West have a slightly jaundiced view of Russia and the Russians, but actually those I met had a lovely sense of humour (even some in uniform) and they live in a wonderful country. The excursions. As ever with AMA, they have good local guides and very good local guides. As with the Danube trip, I found that Id had my fill of Russian Orthodox icons that play such a big part of church life quite quickly. Once youve seen half a dozen, youve seen them all. Im not really into icons. The churches with the cupolas are awe inspiring and probably the most amazing (for me anyway) was the completely wooden church with 22 cupolas on the island of Kizhi. All the trips were very interesting  from the Moscow Metro stations (London Undergound, eat your heart out!) to Red Square to the fabulous art in St.Petersburg. Summary. Do it. You wont regret it.   Read Less
Sail Date July 2013
A week ago I returned from my first ever cruise, my first ever time in Russia. I felt that river cruising seemed like a safe bet from both the cruise point of view (no waves!) and the foreign-ness of a land whose language I couldn't ... Read More
A week ago I returned from my first ever cruise, my first ever time in Russia. I felt that river cruising seemed like a safe bet from both the cruise point of view (no waves!) and the foreign-ness of a land whose language I couldn't even guess at. And I was right. The Amakatarina is a Russian river boat (MV Mstislav Rostropovich) built (I think) in the 1980s and completely refurbished last year. We chose a cabin on the very top deck - the sun deck - and very much enjoyed the elevated view of the country through which we passed from our balcony, though in the first week of October I only actually sat out on it once, when a warm afternoon in St Petersburg had me out in a thin Tshirt for well over an hour. The cabin was roomier than I had anticipated, though we visited a slightly larger one on the deck below us. The window and glass door took up the whole of one wall, so when the sun shone the whole cabin was lit up - if you choose a starboard cabin for the St Petersburg-Moscow trip, you face south much of the time. The shower room was small but surprisingly user-friendly because of the large mirrored cabinet above the basin, which itself was quite large and could hold toiletries (supplied) on its sides. The shower curtain worked efficiently, and the hot water was piping hot and the pressure amazing. The beds were extremely comfortable - even though I initially thought the pillow somewhat robust - and the gentle vibration from the engines when we were sailing was soothing. (I never found out if it was more apparent on lower decks) One point to note is that there is only one internal and quite steep stair to the top deck, and the lift doesn't go as high as that, so if you find steep stairs a problem choose a lower deck). Before I went on the cruise, I read a good deal of negative comment about the food on this ship. When I was on it, there was one American chef and a Russian one, and I found everything I ate tasty and beautifully presented. They soon cottoned on to the fact that not all of us wanted a full 3-course lunch and excellent salads and lighter lunches were made available on a self-service basis in the upper dining room. I had asked for soya milk, and this was provided along with a small laminated card explaining in Russian and English the need to avoid cream and shellfish, which I could show to waiters if necessary. Breakfast was self-service and lavish; we could have had champagne and salmon every morning if we'd wanted. The trips ashore were a marvel of organisation and hugely interesting. We were well-served by knowledgeable local guides with an excellent command of English, and the young on-board guides (our fave was Julia) who made sure we were all where we ought to be were wonderful. I wanted the cruise never to end - part of me is still gliding down silent waterways in the dusk, with the golden forests slipping past in the light from our bridge. Read Less
Sail Date October 2012
Did a 12 day cruise on this boat from St. Petersburg to Moscow and was not impressed with anything about this cruise(except for the sights of St. Petersburg and especially Moscow). If this is the finest river ship(as advertised) in Russia ... Read More
Did a 12 day cruise on this boat from St. Petersburg to Moscow and was not impressed with anything about this cruise(except for the sights of St. Petersburg and especially Moscow). If this is the finest river ship(as advertised) in Russia I'd hate to see the worst! Even though its had a $11 million makeover it was a 3 star boat at best. Very small rooms with teeny tiny bathrooms. Pink thin wall cladding nearly everywhere just riveted on(looked like a cheap houseboat) and not much style anywhere. Very tired and old looking. Room was missing amenities such as No Clock, No Bin other than the clumsy foot operated flip top one in the bathroom, could use a clotheline somewhere, and the beds are small. The girl cleaning our room at times did not replace things such as soap and bottles of water. I had to ring a few times to get them sent up. Not very good. One of the big gripes I had was with the service in the restaurants. For the price you pay for this cruise you'd expect the restaurant staff to be much more professional and better trained and at times some were just rude and not very friendly. And quite a few of them spoke limited english to the point that they needed to get a translator when you asked them anything. Not very good. Most of the drinks staff were a joke a lot of the time and to get any service at all was sometimes difficult. One night I had to ask three times just to get a glass of water and you would see the drinks girls sometimes serve one table 2 or 3 times and other tables hadn't been served at all. The food staff were not quite as bad but had no idea about proper service and was very lacking in class. I'd expect better service at a cheap diner. No one ever really seemed in a rush to do anything and the service was sometimes very slow. I will say the food was quite good except for the last nights dinner where they dropped the ball big time. Desserts were not their strong point although everything else at luch and dinner was quite good. Breakfast could do with some improvement. The selection of fruit was poor and inconsistent, and the fruit salad sometimes clearly from the day before. And if you only drink decaf coffee all you get is luke warm coffee from an urn. Definitely no cappucinos. There is a lot of time spent cruising (all you see are millions of silver berch) with not a lot of stops and to be honest I could have just seen St. Petersburg and Moscow and left the rest out. We stopped at one place called Svirstroy which was a ramshackle little town with a small market and just down the river was a very nice little town which was pointed out to us where two other big cruise ships docked and we just sailed past! Overall not impressed with this cruise and neither were many others that we talked to and compared to the river cruise through Germany I did the previous year which was great this Russia cruise I would give a wide berth. Read Less
Sail Date September 2012
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 ... Read More
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. Read Less
Sail Date July 2012
Arrived one day early in SPB. Stayed at Alexander House, which I highly recommend. Amusing atmosphere, very nicely serviced, small restaurant with good food at a reasonable price. They also sent a car to get us at the airport which was ... Read More
Arrived one day early in SPB. Stayed at Alexander House, which I highly recommend. Amusing atmosphere, very nicely serviced, small restaurant with good food at a reasonable price. They also sent a car to get us at the airport which was inexpensive and fantastic! Staff speaks English, free WIFI, great breakfast and quiet location. Anna at the desk is wonderful.AMA KATARINA :Generally enjoyable. Room smaller than expected but immaculate and well kept and supplied by Daria. extra towels pillows toilet tissues were always full. Rooms aft of the lobby suffer vibrations, engine noise and fuel smells. Very nice bedding and comfy bed. Bathroom adequate. One night of rough seas. Rooms without opening balcony doors and windows suffered greatly with uncontrollable heating & air conditioning..we had a balcony (235) so were fine.The doctor on board does the massages and does not show much expertise in that field, although kind and accommodating.The food was mediocre. Soups and salads were great, assortment of cheeses and breads quickly vanished from side table. Pastry and desserts were less than acceptable. Breakfast porridge is a highlight. Seating in the big dining room is noisy, difficult and cramped. Special requests are mostly ignored. Unimaginative and dull menu....Russian rules and regs have nothing to do with limited varieties and too many fried entrees. Think root vegetables 3x a day.On board entertainment: limited.Public areas: Uncomfortable furnishings consider the age of the travelers and every chair,couch is low- slung and sits too hard. I don't know how to manage space hogs and allowing groups to dominate these rather limited areas. The music in the bar is too loud for a small space and prohibits any conversation.Tours and excursions: ExcellentMarina does a good job of handling issues and keeping things moving. We LOVED our on board guide, Inna, and were very sorry to hear she is leaving the ship. SPB guide, Elsa, was the best guide we have ever had anywhere. Tours and visits went smoothly (except for stragglers) and I feel we got an excellent overview of all places visited. Do the Yusupov Palace Tour, it is wonderful, and of course Pushkin and Peterhof. We loved visiting the Tsar's burial sites and much time was saved in transport by the use of hydrofoils for transport. Nevsky Prospect uninspiring, but I live in a big city where all this shopping is available every day. The shops at Pushin are fantastic and offer the best quality in amber jewelry that I found. Evening at the Ballet was less than expected. Go to the Marinsky on your own.The small stops along the way were pleasant and relaxing. Uglich and the home visit are not to be missed. Lots of fur items to be had. Souvenir shopping gets more expensive the closer you get to Moscow, but Uglich had some good quality items and a very nice market.Moscow:Unexpectedly, loved it. A beautiful, cosmopolitan city, panoramic views from Sparrow Hill. Red Square...."Swan Lake", St Basils....all unforgettable.GUM is a shopping mall with overpriced and glamorous shopping...wander thru the food court on the first floor. Smaller than Harrod's but just as much fun! On Arbat Street, do go to the "Pushkin" souvenir store (right next to Pushkin House...it's a "better " tourist trap!) I paid less than half of price on the tag.Remember ..prices are negotiable, especially if you are paying cash ( dollars, rubles and euros accepted almost everywhere)This is a city where money can buy you anything...but that's not always a good thing.Port transfers: Went smoothly and without incident. Duty-free shops at Domodevonot so good.Weather: Changes from minute to minute. Rains most days at least once. Take layers (silk undies, sweater, jacket) and good rain gear, sturdy umbrella that stows easily. Good, sturdy walking shoes.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. Based on what we saw and heard, AMA KATARINA IS the best boat doing the Russian WATERWAYS, but know in advance that Russia is Russia and things will be different.Experience 4+Boat 4+ ( By Russian riverboat standards)Staff 4+ Read Less
Sail Date September 2011
I will start with a few snippets from the March 2010 AMA press release: "March 25, AMAWATERWAYS TO INTRODUCE MS AMAKATARINA IN RUSSIA The completely renovated ship will be the largest and most luxurious vessel sailing ... Read More
I will start with a few snippets from the March 2010 AMA press release: "March 25, AMAWATERWAYS TO INTRODUCE MS AMAKATARINA IN RUSSIA The completely renovated ship will be the largest and most luxurious vessel sailing the Volga-Baltic Waterways. The 212-passenger ship boasts 24,025 square feet of space dedicated to 106 cabins. Seventy-six of those cabins feature balconies. Passengers can choose from an impressive 10 cabin categories spanning four decks to meet their personal needs. Four different suite categories offer incredibly spacious accommodations ranging in size from 280 square feet to a luxurious 432 square feet... "From the time that we first launched our Russian Waterways program, it has proven to be one of our most popular and successful itineraries. Now, we are taking Russian Waterways to the next level of luxury and comfort with the AMAKATARINA. We are overseeing every detail of the ship's renovation. This will allow us to make sure the vessel is perfectly tailored to the high standards that AMAWATERWAYS passengers expect," said Rudi Schreiner, president of AMAWATERWAYS." ------------- Now we will talk about reality. This was our first river cruise and we were not encouraged by the reviews coming out of the earlier sailings. We lowered our expectations as suggested and tried to roll with the punches. We traveled two days early to Moscow and toured on our own to see some of the sights not covered on the AMA itinerary. We arrived at the boat around 4 PM and embarkation was easy, our cabins were ready and our luggage was delivered right away. Unfortunately, or maybe wisely, AMA published no photos of the ship or even design drawings until after the inaugural sailing so we were only going on their descriptions when we booked. This was a mistake. The cabins range from 110 sq. ft. to 432 sq. ft., the majority being 238 sq. ft. or less. Only the 15 "suites" are 270 sq. ft. and up as opposed to AMA's press release claims of 280 sq. ft. and up. We booked early so we could get one of the larger cabins, a Marinsky "suite", at 320 sq. ft. Accommodations could best be compared to those at a Motel 6. While our cabin was spacious the extra space was not utilized any differently than the narrower deluxe or superior cabins, it just had several extra ft. between the bed and the desk. One would expect booking a "suite" priced 63% higher than the standard cabin rate that you would have a nicer bathroom, extra storage and at least one comfortable chair. Not true. The bathrooms are tiny, consisting of a sink with no counter space, a medicine cabinet that opens the wrong way into the bathroom (taking up almost the entire space) and a small shower with a 1" step down into the shower with its plastic curtain, hence their description in their promotional material of having a "separate" shower. The hot and cold water taps are reversed and the handles turn the wrong way. The towels are pretty thin. They do not change them at night, just in the morning and the prevailing humidity and small bathroom space pretty much guarantee that they won't dry by evening. The hair dryer is one of those institutional ones attached with a hose, and not even in the bathroom, but mounted on the wall next to the bed. There is a desk on one wall and they could easily have added a desk drawer and a line of drawers underneath. There is only one outlet in the entire room. The only storage in the room consists of a wardrobe with hanging space and shelves, but no drawers. We found that all of our stuff fit in the wardrobe, but would recommend bringing additional hangers and putting your socks, underwear, etc. in packing cubes to store on the shelves. Our "sitting area" consisted of two desk chairs and a small table positioned blocking the balcony door. The bed was OK - we like firm mattresses - but there is only one pillow so it is difficult to read in bed. If AMA oversaw "every detail of the renovation" then the person in charge of making sure it was "tailored to the high standards that AMAWATERWAYS passengers expect" certainly missed the mark. Our first clue about what was to come food-wise came at the welcome snack that was laid out in the Symphony bar area. There was a platter of open face "sandwiches" with a piece of spam or cheese slowly drying out on a slice of white bread; no condiments. There were soggy animal crackers and some stale cookies, tea and coffee. We had a peek at the first night's dinner menu consisting of chicken broth or zucchini cream soup, chicken breast with lemon sauce or Russian baked vegetables in a pot, Russian ice cream with cherry sauce. Not exactly a gala "welcome aboard" dinner! In general throughout the cruise the food was overcooked and not very good, but edible. I uniformly ordered the vegetarian entry and cannot personally recommend ordering meat, chicken, fish etc. There were a few logistical problems, such as dinners for half the table arriving 20 minutes apart, but they only happened a couple of times. With each sailing I think the wait staff is improving with experience. The same wine is poured every night - a Russian Chardonnay that tasted more like Sauvignon Blanc and a Russian Merlot. The main dining room is very crowded and a problem in the morning at the breakfast buffet as people try to squeeze through tight spaces with their food. Every morning you could sign up to eat dinner in the smaller Symphony restaurant. Same menu, same food, just a smaller less crowded dining room. The young restaurant staff worked very hard and we thought that they were a bright spot, as were the young college students who accompany the tours, hand out headsets, make sure all are accounted for, etc. The onboard lecturer was interesting, had a great sense of humor and gave a good overview of Russian history along with life in current times. Housekeeping was so-so. Several nights we did not get our turn down with the daily two bottles of water and friends had to actually tip someone to take away the birthday cake that had been left sitting in their room for days. The reception staff was not very organized or knowledgeable. They often gave out inaccurate or contradicting information, or were unable to answer basic questions. Internet was iffy - off and on, mainly off. In addition, before the cruise some basic questions posed to AMA's home office resulted in inaccurate information. I was not left with an impression of a well-managed, professional tour company. On a positive note, the tours and guides everywhere were uniformly very good to excellent. The only thing I would have skipped was the shopping stop at Arabat St. in Moscow. We learned a tremendous amount about Russia. Moscow and St Petersburg are must-see cities and seeing smaller towns along the Volga was interesting as well. We did not have Marina as our cruise director, but a young man and woman, who tried hard but they weren't seasoned in their jobs - quite a few communication and other issues arose, but nothing major or a big deal for us personally. Schedules were changed several times. Overall I observed a lack of customer service orientation and proactive thinking from many of the staff that may be a cultural thing along with a training issue. Most people we talked with were not terribly happy and felt their expectations were not met. Given AMA's hype of a new luxury experience in Russia I doubt they will find many repeat clients from among those on our trip. Read Less
Sail Date August 2011
The embarkation was smooth, and the baggage was delivered promptly. The cabins, however, were not ready. The AC was not working, the toilet would not flush properly, they forgot to put in the refrigerator, and there was no life jacket. ... Read More
The embarkation was smooth, and the baggage was delivered promptly. The cabins, however, were not ready. The AC was not working, the toilet would not flush properly, they forgot to put in the refrigerator, and there was no life jacket. We set aside extra time for ourselves so that we would see some of the places in St Petersburg and Moscow which were not part of the published itinerary of the cruise ship. However, it turned out that the sight seeing itinerary of the ship was changed without prior intimation to us. So, we ended up seeing some of the places twice. Internet access on board was sporadic at best, and a lot of passengers were desperately trying to connect. The availability of TV channels was very limited. Entertainment on board the ship was nothing to write home about. There were not enough places for the passengers to hang out. The ship was apparently very old, and was squeaking continuously. The ship did not even have umbrellas for shore excursions. Passengers were expected to bring their umbrellas from all over the world. The chef was very insensitive to the food habits of the diverse backgrounds of the passengers. They were serving beef and pork without even informing the passengers. The attitude and enthusiasm of the young dining room staff and guides was the best part of he cruise. They were working almost 18 hours a day, with constant smiles on their faces. Certainly not value for money. Read Less
Sail Date July 2011
We had a lovely time and would happily sail with AMAWaterways again, but in this review I am going to be very specific re pros and cons. Route was great but we would have liked 1 more day in Moscow, which Viking does offer on its similar ... Read More
We had a lovely time and would happily sail with AMAWaterways again, but in this review I am going to be very specific re pros and cons. Route was great but we would have liked 1 more day in Moscow, which Viking does offer on its similar cruise. Cabin very comfortable; beds good, balcony spacious, nice flat-screen TV, turn-down service till last couple of days (not sure why it stopped). We loved sitting on our balcony but know that some people with balconies had 4 nights out of 12 sandwiched in against another ship because they line up in a row to dock; our cabin on the starboard side never did back up against another ship but I don't know if that's always true. Docking and hydrofoil in St Petersburg wonderful, as was lunch in the city. Wifi terrible and very frustrating. Food offered many opportunities to try different Russian dishes (which our friends on Tauck did not experience); do not expect the ice sculptures and food orgies you find on an ocean cruise, and try to eat like a European rather than expecting a juicy sirloin and you will be happy. It's very possible to eat healthily on this cruise -- soups, salads, lots of very good fish. The dining rooms offer tables of various sizes, which makes it easy to either sit with a large group or a medium group or even have dinner for two if you like. Transfers worked out beautifully. Entertainment was mostly simple but enhanced the cultural experience -- a very popular lecturer on history, a folk group, a talent show that included staff and guests. Excursions excellent -- fascinating and beautiful -- except for Yaroslavl, an island that offered shopping and assertive panhandlers. Cruise manager and associate manager very responsive to requests for transportation to specific sights and to the city center in St P for free time. One difference from our Viking cruise in China last year was the quality of the tour guides. With Viking in China we had our own extremely informed and articulate group leader throughout who was assisted at various ports by local guides. With Amakatarina each group had a young staffer, mostly student age, responsible for making sure no one got lost, but except for one of them these young ladies did not provide any information; instead, at each destination we had a different local guide. The quality of the local guides varied way too much. Some of the older ones (middle-aged) were outstandingly knowledgeable and on a par with our China group leader from last year. On AMAKatarina, several of the local guides were poorly informed and spoke very little English; they insisted on remaining "on script" and most of us found them tedious to follow. As a result there was a fair amount of jockeying for position in the groups with the better guides. AMAWaterways needs more uniformity in this very important aspect of the trip. Sometimes, as I've mentioned, when the ship is docked you get a chance to see the other cruise ships. Most of them smelled bad and had miniscule cabins resembling sleeping compartments in European trains. AMAKatarina is a massive step up from these. You can't compare it with an ocean liner but it is a very comfortable way to see varied parts of Russia. We really enjoyed our cruise, fell in love with Russia, and would recommend this trip to anybody. Read Less
Sail Date July 2011
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, ... Read More
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 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 Please put Info on Russia in the subject. Bon Voyage to Shoshona2 and to all. RiSSa Read Less
Sail Date July 2011
We were dissatisfied with the transfer procedure from Domodedoro Airport. On arrival we identified ourselves to the AMA representative and were directed to an area where we were asked to wait for further arrivals. There were few seats ... Read More
We were dissatisfied with the transfer procedure from Domodedoro Airport. On arrival we identified ourselves to the AMA representative and were directed to an area where we were asked to wait for further arrivals. There were few seats and no refreshments were offered. We were given to understand that the wait would be brief. After a wait of one and a half hours we were led outside where we anticipated the coach would be waiting to transfer us to the ship. We stood for another half hour in strong sunlight. There was no shade and one of the party fainted. When the coach arrived the driver remained seated and we had to load our luggage unaided. There was insufficient room in the baggage hold and several items were placed on seats and in the aisles This is hazardous should an emergency evacuation be necessary. The driver started before all the passengers were seated and I was struck on the head by a backpack as a gentleman lost his balance. We had already been travelling for many hours and had expected to reach the ship without delay. We checked in and had a late dinner. The ship has recently been refurbished and our cabin was clean and comfortable. We found that it took longer than expected to recharge cameras and mobile phones and the plugs came loose so check your camera/phone is fully charged before you unplug. The staff is friendly and helpful though service in the restaurants can be improved. The soups and salads were interesting, most of the main courses acceptable though occasionally rather dry. Desserts, nearly always accompanied by vanilla ice cream, and pastries were of a poorer standard. I have never seen breakfast bacon so hard and crisp!! There was plenty of wine, beer and soft drinks with dinner. For pre dinner drinks I recommend Bellinis! The restaurants are very cramped. There is waiter service for lunch and dinner but breakfast is buffet style and it was very difficult to move. The advance information and plans of the ship show a sauna. There isn't one. The two laptops, supposedly in the lounge, do not exist either, and solarium means sundeck. The onshore excursions were very interesting. The local guides were fluent and knowledgeable. The coach drivers offer no help in entering or leaving the coach. The ship docks a long way from central Moscow and St Petersburg and there is heavy traffic. In St Petersburg some of the transfers were by hydrofoil. We enjoyed the cruise. Read Less
Sail Date June 2011
Having enjoyed the AMA tulip time cruise, we booked the AMA Russian Waterways cruise. A mistake! AMA advertises "their" luxury re-built ship as the "most comfortable elegant vessel completely renovated and reconstructed from ... Read More
Having enjoyed the AMA tulip time cruise, we booked the AMA Russian Waterways cruise. A mistake! AMA advertises "their" luxury re-built ship as the "most comfortable elegant vessel completely renovated and reconstructed from bare steel". Not true. They lease a partially redone Russian ship with original noisy vibrating engines and inadequate air conditioning in the dining rooms and meeting room. The food was of such poor quality that many people got sick and/or developed swollen ankles from the salt laced soups. Fortunately, the doctor on board was very good. Pork chops would have made good tennis rackets and everything was tasteless and over cooked. As a result lots of people stopped eating for days. WIFI a joke, had to keep getting new authorization codes that didn't work. Television didn't work between ports. Toilet paper cheapest quality. Bed sheets not changed during entire cruise; dirty glasses left in the room. Beds hard as rock and no foam available to soften the bedding. Toiletries not worth stealing. Boat was always parked far from City centers requiring long bus rides during which we noticed other cruise ships parked much closer. Young Russian cruise staff was fine. Entertainment given the size of the ship was fine. Bottom line: AMA Russian Waterways cruise, which was a day less than other cruises yet more expensive, was not a luxury cruise as advertised so we will never take another due to the misrepresentation. More important, there isn't much to see between Moscow and St. Petersburg so a better bet would be just to fly into St. Petersburg which is worth a week by itself. The Hermitage was full (and hot) on weekends and early in the week. We went back mid afternoon mid-week...no lines no crowds (the cruise ships had left) but still hot...July hot in St. Petersburg and no a/c in historic buildings. Be prepared for price shock, eg. $8 to $16 for bottled water. Read Less
Sail Date June 2011
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 ... Read More
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. Dinners 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). Ship Amenities 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. Overall 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. Read Less
Sail Date June 2011
The first thing one must know about river travel in Russia is that the company you have booked with does not own the ship. All ships are owned by Russian companies. They are staffed by those companies with the exception of one or possibly ... Read More
The first thing one must know about river travel in Russia is that the company you have booked with does not own the ship. All ships are owned by Russian companies. They are staffed by those companies with the exception of one or possibly two employees of the line you booked with. The best term I can think of to make this clear is that your river cruise line has chartered a Russian ship. We traveled on Amawaterways "Amakatarina" This is not the name of the ship. The company who owns the ship is Vodohod and they have named the ship "Rostropovich". Remember, it's a charter. I am starting with the food as this seems to be the shocker to most cruisers, especially those who have previously only cruised on ocean liners or on the river boats owned by the operating companies in other countries. The culture of the ship will be Russian. The cuisine will be prepared and designed by Russians. Our ship did have a "chef consultant" who was employed by Amawaterways, but there was little he could do about the management of the kitchen. In accordance with Russian law, all food must be cooked to a certain temperature before it is permitted to be served. I do not believe that the fact that food continues to cook after leaving the heat source is factored in. Knowing in advance that the culinary culture is not what we Americans are used to should prepare you for the dining room. The soups were fantastic, especially the cream soups. Salads were interesting and tasty. Breads were very good. Desserts were creative and delicious. A lot of attention was given to plating the dishes in an aesthetic manner. The porridge (hot cereals) at breakfast were delicious and there is plenty of fresh produce, wonderful cheeses and fruit. All meat dishes will be of the "pot roast" family. Though I did have a good fish dinner, my table mates complained about theirs. Fish and chicken can also be very dry and over-cooked. There is nothing the company whom you booked with can do about this. It's not worth complaining as it is not likely to change. It is the Russian law and the culture of obeying every "jot and tittle" of the law still remains even after the fall of communism. Vegetables were well-prepared, though well cooked, and the pastas were great. The vanilla ice cream is absolutely grand! The dining room staff was cheerful willing to do just about anything to accommodate the guests and fluent in English. At dinner red and white wine, beer and sodas were free and free-flowing. Iced tea can be requested, but it has an herbal mixture, pleasant, but different. Be careful at the bar and with ordering cocktails. If the cocktail is on their drink menu, there's no problem, but they have no ability to deal with what is not on their menu. For instance, a vodka martini will be charged as two drinks; 700 Roubles for the vodka and 2,000 Roubles for the "martini" This is due to the fact that the brand of vermouth they use is "Martini" brand. They consider this a two liquor drink. Best bet is vodka on the rocks. The cabin was really large for a river boat. All the Vodohod ships are the same outside so we could see how this reconstruction differed from the others. The cabins are at least one and one-half, and, more than likely twice the size of the other ships. Where there would be just a single window on the others, the Rostropovitch (Amakatarina) had a window and a full glass door. Where the other ships had a promenade which passed the windows, the Rostropovich had dividers that created private balconies. The balconies are quite large. We guessed at about 6 or 7 feet wide and about 11 feet or more longer. We did not bring a tape measure, so this is just an eyeball measurement. There is a closet with hangers on one side and shelves on the other side. The safe takes up most of one shelf, but we found that we had adequate room for all of our things. There is a double shelf next to the entry door where one can store luggage. We got both suitcases onto the bottom shelf and used the top shelf to hold our packing cubes with underwear, socks and sleep clothes. I did take some extra wire hangers with me and a set of those plastic things that make one hanger space into a vertical space for several hangers (as seen on TV). The shelves held everything else. There is a large desk that has room beneath it for shoes. Lots of counter space there. There is a small cabinet under the desk that holds a mini fridge. It is empty and cold, unlike some of the "coolers" on ocean liners. There is a flat-screen TV with some cable channels. They did play movies with a Russian theme a couple of times, but we never found the time to watch them. The desk has the single electric outlet. I brought a converter and found that I needed the extender to get it to fit as the socket is deep. I also brought a multiple outlet electrical strip with a surge protector that allowed me to plug in more than one thing at a time. My husband uses a Bi-pap machine and I had been advised to bring my own extension cord. The ship provided a bottle of distilled water as had been requested. There was no charge for the water. There are two night stands, each with a drawer, a clear top (lights were pinned on the wall) and a cavity below the drawer for more storage. There is a chair which we kept on the wall of the bathroom as it was difficult to get around it when it was by the desk. The balcony was very large and had two comfortable wicker chairs and a little table. The bathroom is about normal size for a small ship. The shower is slightly lower than the floor so that the drain is in the shower and it makes it a "dry" bath as opposed to a "wet" bath like on other ships running the itinerary. One of us could use the sink while the other showered. The hot water was magnificent and the water pressure was awesome! We were told that we could brush our teeth with the water in the sink, but not to drink it. Plenty of bottled water was provided. The sink has some edge to it so you can keep your tooth brushes in the tumbler and the soap in the soap dish formed on the sink top. There is a very large medicine chest above the sink that holds quite a bit. I always travel with an over the door shoe holder and we used ours on this cruise as we do on ocean liners. They provided a bar of Palmolive soap and little bottles of shampoo and shower gel. The beds are separate, though pushed together. They have a nice duvet and we found the mattresses to be extremely comfortable and the pillows were to our liking, though some who prefer very soft pillows might not. The duvet was kind of folded in half and I felt like I was a hot dog in a bun when I climbed into bed. I supposed I could have opened it like my husband did, but I enjoyed being wrapped up. Air conditioning is controlled by the engine room. There is a thermostat on the wall but it is ineffective. We had extremely hot weather on our trip and I think the ship did the best they could to keep the cabins comfortable. We have traveled in Europe before and their idea of air conditioning is not our idea of air conditioning. We were always comfortable enough to sleep and we both slept very, very well. You will need to put your key card into the slot next to the door to work the electricity. This is very European. Also the key cards are very modern. Yo just hold them in front of the lock, no swiping or dipping. There is no clock. Bring a travel clock. There is a treadmill, a stepper and a Nautalis-type gym machine on the top deck. I took an exercise class, but it was a joke. The walking was quite enough. Dancing in the evening was a help, too. The music in the lounge was great! WiFi is a challenge. Though the signal from the routers was excellent, very very often the servers would drop you or "reset." I did report it on my comment sheet. I believe that the satellite system can only handle so many computers at a time and it just throttles down. There has to be a better way to manage it. I found that late at night was a good time to use it. I also made Amakatarina my "home" and often disconnected and reconnected from the network screen on my Windows 7 Starter netbook. The excursions were fabulous. Moscow has a terrible traffic problem and it can be frustrating to be siting on a bus in traffic but the guides managed to keep up interesting patter about the culture and the sites we were passing to make the most out of a bad, but uncontrollable, situation. One day we did some walking touring in the morning then got on the bus for a canal boat ride where were served a buffet lunch. The food was good, but the same over-cooking rules applied. I believe that Amawaterways arranges this canal boat tour for lunch so that the bus does not have to go back to the river port and fight the traffic. I don't believe any of the other lines do this. We did take a tour of the Metro in Moscow and it's astounding. The art is magnificent. In St. Petersburg, they used the hydrofoil several times which left from the same docking area where the ship was. We also had lunch at a beautiful restaurant in St. Petersburg on one of our tour days, again to not have to go back and forth on the bus. The guides were knowledgeable and cheerful. The ship company has a compliment of young people who accompany the guests on the buses or hydrofoils and walking tours at all times. They are attentive and they are very responsible. They all speak fluent English. My husband has some mobility issues and needs a slower walking pace. We were in the "gentle walkers" group and they truly did honor the concept. If a group was walking too fast, there was always the youngster from the ship who made sure everyone in the group was accounted for and brought up the rear. No one ever got lost or left behind. By the way, the "pink" group, which we were a part of was divided into a regular group and a gentle walking group so no one who did not want the slower pace was forced to live with it. If someone from the regular pink group was a bit tired, they were permitted to switch to the gentle group. This was handled extremely well. The only criticism I have about the sightseeing in general was that when we were sailing, there could have been a narration on the ship's PA telling us what we were seeing and where we were. My little book "Russia By River" was a great help and we passed it around. Otherwise, we wish we had more time to see St. Petersburg. There is so much to see and do there. I felt that I had enough free time as the tours took up most of the day and unlike a Danube, Rhine or other Western Europe cruise, when you do stop at a post where you walk off the ship, there isn't much to do. I was happy with the shopping opportunities. Marina is the Amawaterways cruise director. She is at the absolute top of her profession. She is cheerful, helpful and tries very hard to accommodate everyone's special needs. I have nothing but praise for the job she did. On board the ship the cultural presentations and activities were great. The ship travels with two musicians and a folk group. Among the things we did were a class in making blinis, painting a wooden doll, a vodka tasting class and a Russian tea class followed by an authentic Russian tea party with special china cups and little cakes. There was a three-part lecture series on the country's history and culture as well. We got to have a meal in a Russian home which was very interesting. I feel that the main reason for river cruising is to get up front and personal with the people and the culture and we most certainly did on this cruise. The art in The Hermitage is so fantastic that it reduced me to tears. To see so many, many Impressionists in one place is indescribable. We met many interesting people from all over the globe on our cruise and just about all of them were friendly. We collected lots of email addresses. I took over 4 GB of photos which have to be sorted, including some of the cabin and the ship. We had a fabulous time in Russia and I would recommend this cruise to anyone who does not 'live to eat' and can accept that part of the river cruising experience is absorbing the local culture. I'll try to answer individual questions via email at kelliepoodle@yahoo.com. Read Less
Sail Date June 2011
We were on the inaugural cruise of the Amakatarina (actually it's officially the Mickael Rostropovich - the Russian authorities have refused to register the boat as Amakatarina). The cruise had a number of significant problems which ... Read More
We were on the inaugural cruise of the Amakatarina (actually it's officially the Mickael Rostropovich - the Russian authorities have refused to register the boat as Amakatarina). The cruise had a number of significant problems which resulted in a major compensation package to all passengers. This package included a 50% refund of the cruise price and a free 7-day cruise. Here is a summary of the issues from our perspective.1. The refit of the boat was not completed on time. At the time the cruise commenced (10 May 2011) painters were still painting, engineers were still engineering, and much of the equipment had not been unpacked or installed. The outdoor furniture and gym equipment were still packed away. The outdoor deck was unavailable for passengers use until midway through the cruise. Safety signs were installed sometime during the cruise. On day one we had towels. On day two we also got toiletries. A few days later we got a bath mat and rubbish bin. The safe was not installed in the cabins but this was rectified after a few days. Sometime later workmen appeared and installed coat-hooks in the cabin. This list is just a summary to give a flavour of the issues - the boat was just not ready for its first passengers. For subsequent cruises these problems should now mostly be rectified.2. Some passengers experienced significant mechanical failure in their cabins. Some toilets didn't flush and the passengers had to be moved to other cabins. Some cabins didn't have hot water. One passenger reported that the toilet flushed hot water but the basin and shower only had cold. For all of us, and for the crew in the public areas, there was significant difficulty in controlling the temperature. Sometimes the air-con worked, sometimes it didn't. Sometimes the heating worked, sometimes it didn't. All through one night we shivered in a very cold cabin. A team of workmen accompanied the cruise and most of these problems seemed to have been resolved by the final day.3. The cruise was not as 'luxury' as some passengers expected. This boat is hyped as the most luxurious cruise ship ever to ply the Russian rivers, and in comparison to the other boats on the river it is a lot better, but nevertheless in many areas it fell significantly short of expectations. Many passengers felt that the food was not up to the standard expected when compared to European river cruises. For us, we didn't have a point of comparison and thought the food was ok without being memorable. A major disappointment was our cabin. Cruise marketeers tend to use a lot of hyperbole in describing their products, and hence a poky little cabin becomes a 'Stateroom' in the advertising brochures. Our cabin was marketed as a Marinsky Suite and priced accordingly. A 'suite' it was not. It turned out to be just a slightly wider version of the adjacent cabins, with the addition of two hard-backed chairs (far too uncomfortable to sit in for any length of time) and a small table. Also we had booked a 'double' and what we got was 2 single beds pushed together. Our balcony, another big selling point of this boat, had a high, solid outer side which meant there was no view when sitting. A note about balconies - when the boat is docked for three days at each end of the cruise it is double or triple moored with other boats. For passengers whose balcony was on the inside, moored against another boat, it became unusable due to the noise and fumes from the A/C plant on the adjacent boat. 4. The sightseeing itinerary was very interesting but tended to be conducted in waltz time - slow, slow, quick, quick, slow. Tours were slow getting going (they never started on time), and almost always stuck in slow traffic, sometimes for hours. Moscow traffic is bad news and we typically spent 1 to 2 hours getting to and from the boat to the city centre. St Petersburg is similar. On a good run it took half an hour into the city but when it went bad it was awful. One group took 3 hours to get back to the boat. So we were always running behind schedule which meant the tours sometimes got a bit rushed and truncated - quick, quick. And then back to the slow crawl back to the boat. Slow, slow, quick, quick, slow.5. Most of the crew appeared to be inexperienced and, initially, lacked confidence. As the cruise progressed they became more knowledgeable and confident in their roles. We actually found this to be a bonus as it made them more human and likeable - their lack of cruising experience was overcome with abundant enthusiasm.6. The airport pickup was a bit of a challenge. We were kept waiting for an hour right beside the boarded-up area where 35 people had been killed by a bomb the previous month. In summary, many of the problems that we encountered have now been fixed. Subsequent cruises on this boat should be a lot better. We were told that the food would be improved, but it didn't happen for us. Some problems are less easily fixed, like the Moscow traffic and the overall expectation of getting a consistently premium product for a premium price. Apart from the obvious issues of mechanical and operational lack of readiness, we thought that the cruise was mostly ok while not really earning a 'luxury' label. Read Less
Sail Date May 2011
AmaKatarina Ratings
Category Editor Member

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