What a wonderful river cruise in Russia. We started in Moscow, where we lived on the boat for 3 days and did local tours, then cruised for 5 days, with stops each day, then spent 3 days in St. Petersburg with local tours. What a fabulous experience. Room was comfortable, windows open widely to take in fresh air, the beds were a bit hard, WiFi very basic but worked fine for email, TV with news stations in many languages and movies. The ship has two bars, a sun deck, seating on all deck levels outside and inside, a very nice restaurant, 24-hour coffee/tea/hot cocoa bar. But we were so busy, little of it mattered.The first day in Moscow we took a city tour where we were assigned our regular tour guide, and met a local Moscow guide. Wandered Red Square, rode the subway, and got oriented to the city. The boat is docked quite a ways out of town, and we spent a fair amount of time stuck in traffic. But never fear, Maria, our fearless leader, entertained us with Russian language lessons, poetry, history snippets, and always entertaining chatter. Subsequent days took us to the Kremlin (fabulous) and various optional tours. Most of the cruising stops were wonderful. We visited Uglich, a small town; Yaroslavl, a medium sized city; monastery at Kuzino; wonderful wooden historical structures at Kizhi; craftsmen at Mandrogy. It was a good variety of activities to break up the sailing days. And I can't say enough about St. Petersburg. Palaces, art, and canals - an unbeatable combination. Truly an embarrassment of riches. Very difficult to take it all in.Food was generally very good, soups were excellent. Fellow travelers were all delightful and very experienced travelers. Lots of wonderful long mealtime conversations. We spent much of our free time up on the sun deck or seated on the outer deck reading and watching the scenery. Sun didn't set until about 11 p.m., so we had lots of time to look!We had wonderful history lectures, and the guides were very honest and sometimes emotional about their lives in the transition to democracy. A very real, enriching, exhausting experience. We never thought we'd visit Russia. Thanks to Maria and all the Kirov staff for the best trip ever.
Cabin was fine. Large pillar, which seemed to be typical in midship. Bed was a bit hard, but everything else was perfect.
First day was a tour of the Hermitage, which was the main reason we took this trip. There is so much there, it is very hard to absorb everything. Now that we've had a guided tour, it would be nice to go back sometime and wander. That night we had a performance of Swan Lake ballet at the Hermitage Theater. Beautiful, and the whole day made me think of the film Russian Ark, all filmed at the Hermitage.
The second day was a tour of Catherine's summer palace in Pushkin. Hard to describe - total sensory overload. It made us understand why the Russian people felt it necessary to discard the Tsars. A bus tour of the city put everything in perspective, with lots of views of the shopping, palaces, canals, etc.
The last day was spent at Peterhof on the Baltic Sea, Peter the Great's summer palace. Also sumptuous with golden fountains and the reassembled Amber Room. Both of the summer palaces had been burned by the Nazis as they left defeated from the siege of Leningrad, so they have had meticulous reconstruction.
I definitely would like to go back. St. Petersburg is just stunning.