I sailed on the Zosima Shashkov with Gate 1 from May 18-28, 2019 on a 10-night river cruise from St. Petersburg to Moscow. The word, Zosima, means “full of life” and this cruise was just that. A river cruise was a bucket list trip ... Read More
I sailed on the Zosima Shashkov with Gate 1 from May 18-28, 2019 on a 10-night river cruise from St. Petersburg to Moscow. The word, Zosima, means “full of life” and this cruise was just that. A river cruise was a bucket list trip for me and Gate 1 delivered again. After 8 trips, I have confidence in their product and had no hesitation in booking this trip despite the complex Russian visa process.
I will echo the comments of those who praise the ship. She is immaculate. My roommate and I often strolled Deck 3 early in the morning. Without fail, a ‘sailor’ (the term used) was swabbing and cleaning the deck every morning. I didn’t see how any paint could be left on the railings or deck floor with his diligent work. Our cabin was also kept spotless thanks to our cabin attendant. Each passenger is issued one small/hand towel, one large/bath towel and one bar of soap. The small towel is exchanged every day; the large towel and bed sheets are changed every three days. I always bring my own toiletries including hand soap. There are no tissue boxes in the cabin.
While basic, the cabin is comfortable and functional. The beds are narrow and tall people may have a little trouble stretching out but I had no discomfort in sleeping, although I bring my own pillow. One side of the bed has a bolster-type cushion; the other bed has several shelves and cabinets above it. The cabin has one electrical outlet; we brought a charging base with multiple outlets (available from Brookstone) and USB ports to charge our devices. All we needed was a 2-prong converter to plug into the outlet and we were set. We also brought our own small travel hairdryer (Amazon) rather than having to depend on borrowing one from Reception. There is a decent-sized refrigerator and ‘radio’ in the cabin designed to transmit internal communications such as announcements, route information and wakeup calls.
Bathroom: The bathroom design has some wondering about Gate 1’s terminology: “a unique combination.” To use the shower, you pull the curtain around the bathroom on a track until it stops at the sink. The toilet, shelf, clothing hooks and toilet paper are protected from water. The water temperature is regulated from the hot and cold faucets on the sink. When the desired temperature is reached, pull the knob to activate the shower head which also can be removed from the bracket to rinse off. The water drains into the floor; you stand on a blue mat (housekeeping cleans it daily). Bring shower shoes. The water pressure and temperature were excellent; however, sometimes the water became hotter when someone elsewhere had the water on. Push the knob down to flush the toilet; pull up on the knob to stop the water once the bowl is cleared.
Cabin Storage: I was concerned about luggage storage in such a small space since I usually travel with a large pullman. I needn’t have worried since there was room for it to stand upright next to the closet. Instead, I managed perfectly with a carry on and roller board which fit inside my half of the closet (with 4 provided hangers) and out of the way.
Each person is issued a room key with a typical lock: no magnetic keys. When leaving the ship, you must stop at Reception and exchange your room key for a laminated ‘boarding card’ which identifies you. This is the method used to monitor who is on and off the ship. The key is returned when you re board and the boarding card is put into your room slot.
Each person is given a ship ‘credit card’ used to purchase drinks, gifts, optional tours and services. The exceptions are pictures and the cruise video which must be paid in cash. On the last day, your personal credit card is used to settle the onboard account. (No AMEX) Speaking of cash. There is conflicting information on social media about gratuities. Gate 1 travel documents say gratuities can be paid in USD, rubles and Euros. This is true. I prepared my own envelopes prior to departure. Our tour manager, Katya, confirmed on Day One that gratuities can be paid in USD with absolutely no problem. Two days prior to the end of the cruise, gratuity boxes were placed at both Reception and at the dining room entrance for the crew. It is expected that you personally give your gratuity to your tour manager. However, we tipped extra to our waitress, Vodohod on-board guide, and housekeeper. We also were surprised to be able to pay for souvenirs with USD in many of the larger ports. Smaller bills ($5s and $1s are appreciated). Depending on using USD, I made only one ATM withdrawal of 5,000 rubles and came home with one 50-ruble note (less than $1.00). I made a small chart with dollars-rubles conversion which helped with shopping. $1USD = 65 rubles.
Onboard: Our cabin was perfectly situated on Deck 3-“Main Deck Outside Cabin with Window.” We were close to the “Small Bar” where we had coffee (biscuits available) early in the morning after walking the deck. At the other end of the hallway was the stairway to the Panorama Bar on Deck 4, the MOST coveted area of the ship where WiFi was only available. It is a great gathering place for drinks, surfing and conversation. Speaking of WiFi: We had a strong signal for the two days we were in St. Petersburg. As we entered the hinterland, however, there was no signal. We are all spoiled and depend on WiFi as a given. Considering we were in northern Russia, I was grateful for the service when we had it. I would estimate we were without a signal for 3-4 days. When we reached Moscow (our last 2 days) the signal was excellent and I caught up with posting my photos. I called my husband using WhatsApp each day we had a signal. He could have been in the next room. There is a nice gift shop with local, authentic gifts. I did not purchase anything but it was always busy.
Activities: Some of the enrichment and fun things to do: metroyshka doll (nesting dolls) painting; Russian tea ceremony; Russian dance and folk song classes; roundtable discussions with the tour managers about culture, life, customs, etc; vodka tasting; Russian language class; talent show showcasing learned dances and folk songs; nightly evening dancing; 3-part video on the Russian czars; Pirate’s dinner; Captain’s dinner; port talks and orientation; video on Putin; wonderful entertainment by “Kalinka:” the onboard pianist/Vladimir, folk singer/Zoya and outstanding balalaika player/Vladimir. Vladimir, the pianist’s repertoire, was simply incredible. He entertained often in the Panorama Bar. He also played the bayan (accordion). In prior reviews or information, we read there was a treadmill. While at one time there may have been one, there is no treadmill now.
Dining: Breakfast was the only buffet meal; all others were plated and served. For the first two days, you could sit wherever you wanted. Then, you sat at the same table for the duration of the cruise. There is a reason for this: each day at lunch, the menu for the next day’s lunch and dinner was given. You pre-order each course: salad, soup (lunch only), entrée and dessert. There were 6 to a table on the 3rd floor dining room. Breakfast was typically European: different egg dishes; cereal; oatmeal, yogurt; cucumbers and tomatoes; cheeses, breads, breakfast meats; belini (Russian pancakes); fruit cocktail; pastries; juices; coffee and tea. I thought the food for lunch and dinner was very good and plentiful but I am not a picky eater. My roommate is vegetarian (not vegan) and her entrees were primarily pasta. More variety would be welcomed.
Water: While we brushed our teeth with ship water, it was recommended that we not drink it. Two bottles of water per cabin were provided each day in addition to one bottle of water per person at both lunch and dinner. A bottle of water also was provided most touring days on the bus. This is a discrepancy in the Gate 1 travel documents which state water must be purchased: it does NOT. We left about 8 full bottles of water in our cabin.
Optional Tours: Prior to departure, we purchased two optional tours: the Kremlin Armory Tour and the Pushkin Palace and Park and Peterhof Lower Park. Some of the optionals described in the pre-printed tour information were unavailable, specifically the ballet and the Novodevichy Convent. However, once on board, more options were available: Moscow by Night+Metro+Panorama 360 observational platform; boat ride; folk show; St. Petersburg by Night.
Tour Managers/Local Guides: We had two Gate 1 groups that traveled together; red and yellow. Both tour managers, Katya and Kateyrina were outstanding. Both spoke exceptional English, were experienced and knowledgeable and went above and beyond to be available and helpful. We had a local and/or step-on guide at each port. Each was knowledgeable, interesting and spoke excellent English.
I felt very safe everywhere we went. The trip was a delightful combination of big city and ancient towns. I learned so much about the history and culture of the biggest country in the world. ‘Full of life’ truly describes my experience. Read Less