Our cruise was a relatively inexpensive one through Gate 1. We knew we wouldn't be getting the full luxury cruise ship experience. Having said that, there were both good and not so very good things about this trip. Most could have been eliminated with a little better planning and organization.
Our tour leader for Gate 1 was a delightful Russian, Victoria, who was a pleasure to work with. My complaints are certainly not with the staff of the ship or of Gate 1. They were all hard working, quick to help solve a problem and friendly.
The ship is large, holding 200 people, depending on who you ask. The cabins appeared to be very similar, regardless of which deck one chose. We were on the 2nd deck, the same as the info desk and the exit doors for land excursions. Our cabin was very clean, maintained well but small. We had one smaller than twin bed with a padded panel which made it serve as a sofa with the panel making the back. The other bed was a strange contraption which was shorter than the first bed, had shelves over it which gave it a closed in feeling and which was too short for me (I'm 5' 9") They were both comfortable and after the first night, we slept well. My bed was impossible to be comfortable on during the day since it had those shelves so you couldn't sit back. The mattress also didn't reach all the way to the wall so I couldn't prop up and read since the pillows disappeared in the void. The cabin had a refrigerator which seemed rather unnecessary. The bathroom was unique but a good use of space. The sink area had a pull around curtain which blocked off the toilet part (I guess to keep the door dry and also to give you the shelf over the toilet to store whatever you didn't want to get wet.) It was large enough, had a showerhead which could be mounted on the wall or handheld. Plenty of hot water and not bad water pressure. The food was ok. I'm not a big gravy and sauce fan and everything was covered with those. The veggies were sometimes pickled and usually included broccoli, cauliflower and zucchini. Salads were good as was the soup. Desserts were so-so. The 1st two nights, one can sit wherever but on the
third night you are expected to have found folks to sit with and stay there for ease of being served. We were given a menu a day in advance and picked meals for the next day. The problem with that system is that we, and two other couples that we talked to, had chosen a table, had eaten with those folks for two days and then on the third day, someone else came up and said they wanted to sit there and the ones either already seated or about to be seated, were told to leave. It left us scrambling to find empty seats at tables so we felt like outcasts. It put a damper on the trip.
The groups on the boat were divided into color groups and one group ate upstairs in another restaurant/bar. They also rode separate buses (each color group had its own buses) so we never got to see these folks except in the bar which had wifi. I understood there were others from VA on our trip but we never met them. Speaking of wifi, it is almost nonexistent. In Moscow it was at its best but that was still not good. Those with phones could use their data plans and get online but we took an ipad and only had facetime which was terrible to use there.
All in all, the ship was fine with us and we would recommend it to others looking for a bargain trip.
The itinerary was fine from St. Petersburg to Moscow and gave us a taste of life there. The ship seemed to be pretty much filled with Gate 1 folks so I don't know if the few others who were not with that group had tour guides or shore excursions. There was one seating for lunch and dinner and they only occupied 6 tables.