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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.  

Russian Waterways River Cruise, September 2014

AmaKatarina Cruise Review by djmcruise

Trip Details
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.
 
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Cabin Review

Cabin
Our cabin 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.
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