11 St. Petersburg Group and Theme Cruise Reviews

We had dreamed of visiting Russia and decided to go with another pair of friends . We found The Volga Dream Program: 3 days in St. Petersburg, 6 days on board and 3 days in Moscow. Everything was perfect: the five-stars hotels, Grand ... Read More
We had dreamed of visiting Russia and decided to go with another pair of friends . We found The Volga Dream Program: 3 days in St. Petersburg, 6 days on board and 3 days in Moscow. Everything was perfect: the five-stars hotels, Grand Hotel Europe in St.Petersburg and The Ararat in Moscow, both are excellent and located in the best place of the each city. The boat was very good, the itinerary was varied. We visited small towns like Svirstroy where we were at old lady, who told us about Russian lifestyle and traditions and the unforgettable time we passed at the primary school and beautiful cities like Yaroslavl and Uglich. Time on board was very well planned: Russian and cooking lessons but the Prof. Ludmila Selezneva´s lectures were outstanding. I realized about my ignorance about the different topics of the Russian History, Art and Politics. I learned a lot thanks to Prof. Selezneva. The service was impeccable, our cabin was always clean and tidy on time and at the dining-room we've had the best waitress in the world: Luzmila. Congratulations to the Cruise Director Catherine Panfilova. Special mention deserve all the local guides; well prepared, high English Level and very helpful ladies. I recommend Volga Dream experience widely!! Read Less
Sail Date June 2019
There aren't a whole lot of ways to "go see" Russia. Viking River Cruises seemed like an ideal way to see some of this big country. We flew into St. Petersburg a few days early through Viking & were met at the airport ... Read More
There aren't a whole lot of ways to "go see" Russia. Viking River Cruises seemed like an ideal way to see some of this big country. We flew into St. Petersburg a few days early through Viking & were met at the airport and whisked away to our very nice hotel right downtown across the street from St. Isaac's Cathedral. We spent some time exploring the city on our own, then went on a Viking sponsored walking tour as well. Finally we checked out of our hotel and Viking collected our luggage and bussed us (and other Viking Passengers) out to where the Ship was moored. We spent a couple more days in St. Petersburg exploring more of the city and surrounding countryside. We did Viking Bus tours, Walking Tours, and even a boat tour seeing all of the major sites in and around the city. Our Guides were all very knowledgeable and professional and had unique access to a number of the sites. The ship has appx. 200 passengers on board. Our cabin was spacious enough so we could easily unpack all of our clothes and not worry about re-packing and moving as if staying in a hotel. Our room had all the amenities of a modern hotel. The ship was very clean and the staff super friendly. Most all meals were on board the Ship and were bountiful and tasty with a wide variety of food choices, including Russian and regional dishes. Both Ala Carte and Buffet dining options are available. The cost of all your meals and drinks with dinner are included in the cruise price. There is no assigned seating for meals, so we dined with many different interesting people. Other activities while on board include informational lectures about Russia, both historically & current times, and Russian Language lessons. Viking offers several onboard fun activities like Vodka Tasting too. There is plenty to do while on board: there is a small gift shop, a small library, of course a bar/lounge with musical entertainment, an open air deck topside with a covered area, and a second lounge area at the stern. The crew and staff work hard so you feel like a pampered guest, and they succeed. The ship stops every day to visit interesting places along the way with shore excursions. We stopped at two open air museums (Kizhi & Mandrogy) with buildings that had been brought in from various parts of Russia, these were often staffed with period correct craftspeople who could answer questions, as well as sell hand crafted items. We also stopped at a small city (Uglich) where we went on a walking tour and visited a local Russian couple in their home to talk of their life in Russia. And we visited a larger city (Yaroslavl) for a walking tour, a visit to the food & craft market and visits to other sites. We visited many religious sites (Russian Orthodox), Churches, Cathedrals and Monastaries. I was surprised by the amount of religious art, treasure and influence that has survived in Russia. There are also ample shopping opportunities along the way & your guides will let you know where you can get the bes deals. Finally it was on to Moscow for the finish of our trip. We spent several days in Moscow, again seeing all of the major sites through walking tours, bus tours, and a boat tour. The only downside in both St. Petersberg & Moscow is the ship docks are outside the cities a ways, so you will be in for daily bus rides of an hour to an hour and a half to get from the ship to the city centers. Overall on this trip I feel like we saw the best parts (and a wide variety) of Russia. Both St. Petersburg and Moscow are large cosmopolitian cities with lots of attractions to visit. The Russian people were friendly and open and honest with us. The open air museums give a sense of what life in the countryside was like, and it helped to visit smaller towns and cities to see what daily life in Russia is like. We went to many museums and palaces and religious sites. The guides of Viking are terrific and knowledgeable as are the site specific guides they use. This was a very enjoyable and easy trip and I would do it again. Read Less
Sail Date September 2018
We travelled as a group from Hawaii. There were 24 people in our group. A few were not from Hawaii, but they all had Hawaii '"connections". Our group leader was Deanne Horie. The staff of the Ingvar was outstanding. ... Read More
We travelled as a group from Hawaii. There were 24 people in our group. A few were not from Hawaii, but they all had Hawaii '"connections". Our group leader was Deanne Horie. The staff of the Ingvar was outstanding. "Sasha from Russia" was so informative but also very entertaining. Also, the dining room crew took care of our group like family. They saved off a couple of tables for us so that we could enjoy our meals together. This made the trip more enjoyable for us. I enjoyed rehashing the day's activities with friends over a nice dinner. This was my first experience in going through locks. I had read about locks and how they work, but had never actually gone through one. It was quite an experience for me. Glad I was able to experience it while I'm still able to travel. I was surprised to learn that most of the Russian people actually hate communism more than Americans do. We know about communism intellectually, but they had to actually live through it. Our visit to a Russian family in their own home was an unforgettable experience for me. That visit to the local school was also quite impressive. Our guide was an eighth grade student. I was blown away with how smart and confident she was. Their school system allows students to decide on how they want to spend their remaining three school years. They can prepare for university, or they can start learning a trade. Most kids in the US wouldn't have a clue after the eighth grade on what they want to do with the rest of their lives. I wonder how this is working out for the Russian kids? Read Less
Sail Date October 2017
I chose thiis cruise because I have always wanted to see St. Petersburg because of the history of the Romanov dynasty. I was not disappointed. Embarking and disembarking was smooth and efficiently handled. We were greeted promptly at ... Read More
I chose thiis cruise because I have always wanted to see St. Petersburg because of the history of the Romanov dynasty. I was not disappointed. Embarking and disembarking was smooth and efficiently handled. We were greeted promptly at the airport and traveled by bus to the ship where we were greeted with a typical Russian beverage and shown promptly to our cabin, The Helgi,a large but homey ship, had several cozy areas where one could sit by a window on the landings of each staircase. In addition, there were 2 gathering areas (each with a bar and tables): a nice cozy cafe where one could grab a quick continental breakfast in the fore of the ship and a larger area in the aft where the talks and nightly entertainment were held. The duo piano player and female singer were a highlight of the evening and played a variety of music that we could dance to. The staff were exceptionally attentive to our needs for the entire cruise.The restaurant staff were friendly and catered to our needs.One of the nice surprises was a luncheon party on the large outdoor deck where the crew served typical Russian food and drinks including beer and vodka. The Hermitage Museum, the winter palace of the Romanovs, was an included tour not to be missed as was the Peterhof Palace, Moscow also exceeded my expectations. Don't miss the night tour of the city. It was amazing. Read Less
Sail Date July 2017
I wanted to see Russia while I still can. It was amazing, a lot different than we thought it would be. Everything was very clean and safe. Except for a weather problem due to the date that we cruised(ice on the lake), everything proceeded ... Read More
I wanted to see Russia while I still can. It was amazing, a lot different than we thought it would be. Everything was very clean and safe. Except for a weather problem due to the date that we cruised(ice on the lake), everything proceeded without a hitch. The tour guides that accompanied us the ship were very knowledgeable and as were the local guides. The disparity between urban and rural is amazing. The tour of a locals residence is a must. The ship's crew was excellent and very attentive to our requests. The food was great with a lot of regional choices. Our cabin had a veranda which was bigger than our European cruise. We did not sit outside because of the temperature. There was adequate space in our cabin for our belongings and the housekeeping staff kept it very clean. Our cruise actually started in St. Petersburg after a train ride from Helsinki. We would definitely recommend this cruise if you are interested in experiencing Russia. Read Less
Sail Date May 2017
it was a wonderful experience and i would recommend the Vodohod cruise line to any one. the beds are narrow. i was travelling as a solo - so one bed for sleeping and one for putting stuff on. the referigerator in the room worked ( I did ... Read More
it was a wonderful experience and i would recommend the Vodohod cruise line to any one. the beds are narrow. i was travelling as a solo - so one bed for sleeping and one for putting stuff on. the referigerator in the room worked ( I did not use it). the meals are generous. you do have to order a couple of days in advance and you are expected to sit at the same table and place during the trip. the crew are russian with limited english , german french etc so they know place the ordered meal in number place on the table. six to most tables. four courses for lunch and dinner, Big range for buffet breakfast, from cold meats cheeses to hot dishes, cereals, sweet cakes. The tables are with marked signs ie english speaking or french speaking or the name of the tour company. on my trip there were tour group from Austria, italy and Iceland as well as the above mentioned ones. you will need all your own lotions and potions, shampoos ( one cake of soap provided). rooms cleaned daily, towels in line with green policy, sheets replaced every 3/4 days. suggestion take a thermos / insulated cup and your tea bags if you like a cup of tea. dining room is only open at meal times, there is a hot water tap on one floor - but unlike more expensive Viking no biscuits or cafe machine. no cups - thats why you need your own insulated mug. wifi seems to work well early in the morning only at the one place place on the ship. If you come from australia i would say its shaped. guides speak excellent english french german etc and are allocated to each group of passengers, they are also called upon to sort out the issues when people dont understand the instruction to sit in the same place for each meal. bar / drinks they are not out to make a fortune from selling alcohol. unlike Viking there are no flags red carpets crew to find you on land and guide you to the boat - you have to find it yourself. just a matter of reading the name. the russian name is in big letters and the english above the door. make an effort to recognise or write the russian name - then it will be easy to find the boat. warm musical welcome on board. great places to see as you cruise along - lots of information. there is walking on the daily trips - so come fit, no lift on the ship there are steps to climb. Read Less
Sail Date August 2016
The staff on the boat was excellent and very courteous. Olga, the hotel manager was very helpful and attentive. The course director Olga was nice and tried hard to accommodate everybody. The maître d’ was especially nice and came to me ... Read More
The staff on the boat was excellent and very courteous. Olga, the hotel manager was very helpful and attentive. The course director Olga was nice and tried hard to accommodate everybody. The maître d’ was especially nice and came to me for every meal pointing out what food I should not touch because of garlic. I really appreciated this. The food without exception was outstanding and the accommodations very comfortable, given the limited space on a boat. Unfortunately I have to go on a diet now because all this great food settled around my waist! The programs also were interesting and Ludmilla was a highlight for us. Her lectures were excellent (we are aware that the Russians did not care for her Gorbachev talk!). We learned a lot more about Russia, its people and politics, which was very helpful. We had no idea that Stalin destroyed so many churches during his time in power. Also her lectures on realistic Russian art were excellent. She is very enthusiastic and also very good at mixing with guests. We had her on our table several times and enjoyed her company. I am certain other English-speaking people on the tour enjoyed her as well. We loved to sit on the deck and watch the scenery. Some of the locks were very impressive and we were astonished how overall smooth the ride on the boat was. All the excursions to shore were interesting and instructive. We enjoyed going on our own through the village of Mandrogi and buying a few souvenirs for our friends. We loved Kizhi with its old wooden houses and the wonderful Transfiguration church. I was expecting to see snakes but luckily none showed up. The small village of Goritsy was not really worth visiting but the Kirillo-Belozersky Monastery was. On this warm day, a lot of Russian people were enjoying themselves bathing in the lake next to the monastery. The church treasures impressed us. We enjoyed visiting Yaroslavil with its various churches and the visit to the governor’s house. We found the visit to a private home informative. We assumed this was staged for us but interesting nevertheless. We always like to see how people live in other countries and this was such an opportunity for us. All in all it was a great experience and I would come back any time. Read Less
Sail Date July 2016
My favorite part of river cruising is viewing the life on the river, both human and nature. The cruise from St. Petersburg to Moscow was interesting but the wildlife was nearly nonexistent, mostly supplanted by the human life that this ... Read More
My favorite part of river cruising is viewing the life on the river, both human and nature. The cruise from St. Petersburg to Moscow was interesting but the wildlife was nearly nonexistent, mostly supplanted by the human life that this ancient waterway supported. It was great to see the small villages and dachas lining the banks with people enjoying the water, fishing, gardening and boating. Commerce on the water was mostly barges loaded with forest products, gravel and tugs. The stops were interesting, especially if you enjoy seeing old churches and tourist attractions. Some stops, where we had more time, were more interesting as we could explore on our own and visit shops and markets. St. Petersburg was fantastic as we visited great museums and saw a city that was brimming with life. The ship was docked too far from the city and there was no way to explore by foot, so that was a bummer. Moscow was a cosmopolitan city that was clean, friendly and bustling. The dock was near a subway stop so getting into the city on Moscow's great subway system was easy. We spent some free time meeting an old friend for lunch and it was easy to get around the center of Moscow, twice we hesitated as we struggled to decipher the street signs against our map, but both times Muscovites were quick to help with their great English. The Russian guides on the ship were great and the programs, meals and entertainment were good. My only comparison is a cruise we took on Oceania lines where I would have rated their onboard amenities as being better. The one standout for me was the warmth of the crew and the great attention we received for every request. Read Less
Sail Date July 2016
I love sailing and wanted to visit Hermitage and experience educational lecturers on board Food was good on 2-3 occasions better food on Oceania line although not a sailing ship Cabin was cozy but it greeted me with a dead flower-not ... Read More
I love sailing and wanted to visit Hermitage and experience educational lecturers on board Food was good on 2-3 occasions better food on Oceania line although not a sailing ship Cabin was cozy but it greeted me with a dead flower-not a good first impression and tissue on head floor-not good impression either Service aboard was good but not up to 5 stars Sails were up only 2 and half days-disappointing for those of us who were there to enjoy sailing square rigger Good rating overall but at 5 star prices, I expected 5 stars! Enjoyed speaking with ship doctor as I am also a physician. Oceania line does not allow passengers to touch utensils which is excellent infection control in a number of buffet settings. Although no diarrhea -many passengers came down with colds-yes respiratory but can be passed from nose to hands to silverware and onto next passanger Read Less
Sail Date July 2016
My husband and I took a Russian river cruise on the MS Zosima Shashkov from St. Petersburg to Moscow through Gate1 Travel in May 2016 and wanted to share our experiences with other travelers interested in taking a cruise on this particular ... Read More
My husband and I took a Russian river cruise on the MS Zosima Shashkov from St. Petersburg to Moscow through Gate1 Travel in May 2016 and wanted to share our experiences with other travelers interested in taking a cruise on this particular ship. The MS Zosima Shashkov is owned and operated by a Russian river cruise company called “Vodohov”. It is an older ship, certainly not opulent, but very clean, follows International safety standards, and serves its purpose well. Gate1 American customers will need to obtain a Russian Visa for your passport and part of the application for the Visa and a “Visa Support Letter (VSL)”. Gate1 will provide a VSL to you 90 days before the cruise begins but it is actually issued by Vodohov. Gate1 Travel reserves a block of cabins on the ship and has their cruise managers onboard separately from the Vodohov cruise managers. Gate1 customers were the majority of the guests on board and were mostly Americans with a handful of Canadians. The other Vodohov guests were Italian, French, Swedish and Australian customers for other European travel agencies. Gate1 assigns their customers to one of 4 different color groups (blue, green, red or yellow) with a young Russian excursion tour guide for each group and their own tables in the dining room. The green and red groups were assigned to one Gate1 cruise manager, and the blue and yellow groups were assigned to another Gate1 cruise manager. Tanya, an English speaking professor at a Russian university, was our Gate1 cruise manager and she was excellent at prepping our half of the Gate1 customers for upcoming excursions, protocol and disembarkation procedures. I rarely saw the other Gate1 cruise manager and have no feedback to give about him. The other non-Gate1 customers also have their own tour guides, dining room tables and bus excursion groups separately. Yet the Gate1 and Vodohov customers had no problem interacting with each other in the various combined activities such as an onboard treasure hunt, talent show and nightly evening dancing. The ship had a wonderful Russian Folklore Music trio (accordion player, balalaika lute player and singer) onboard who played for us quite often, Russian language classes, Russian song classes and Russian themed movie times. As soon as we boarded the ship we were given one old-fashioned room key for the two of us, and a credit card for each of us to use as an onboard ship account for charging drinks at the bar, extra drinks in the dining room, and excursions to. Russian food was served and we found it to be quite good, especially the chicken dishes. Breakfast was a buffet of hot foods (egg-based dishes, oatmeal/porridge, sausages) and cold foods (cereals, meat and cheese slices, breads, dried and fresh fruits) with free coffee, tea and juice. We could sit at any Gate1 table in the dining room. Lunch was a 4-course meal of salad, soup, entree and dessert with a free bottle of water to drink. Dinner was a 3-course meal of salad, entree and dessert, with a choice of one free glass of wine, beer, soft drink or bottle of water. Entree choices were fish, vegetarian or other meat (chicken/beef/pork). We could purchase more drinks at lunch or dinner. Tap water in Russia is not potable for Americans so bottled water is a must. Beer, wine, soft drinks and ice on the ship are also safe to drink, but do not drink the water from the cabin’s bathroom faucet. The bathroom water is only good for washing or brushing your teeth. Bring an anti-diarrhea medicine like Pepto-bismal in case you accidentally ingest tainted water somewhere along the trip. Gate1 customers are given a choice of tables in the dining room the first two nights, then were expected to sit at the same table at lunch and dinner for the rest of the tour. We had to fill out a form of our desired lunch and dinner selections the day beforehand and the day’s dinner drinks order each morning. This was so the young Vodohov crew who spoke very little English could wait on us effectively. The cabin is narrow with twin sized beds on each side near the window and a large clothes wardrobe near the cabin door. One of the beds has shelves above it and lifts up so you can store two medium sized suitcases under it. The other bed has a small shelf with two life jackets in it so you can only store two small suitcases in it. The window opens up by pulling it down. Each floor has a wrap-around public deck circling it so there are no cabins with their own balcony. We spent very little time in the cabin (sleeping, showering, getting dressed) and got used to its size by the second day of the cruise. The Vodohov housekeeping crew cleaned the cabin every morning, left a chocolate for each of us, and changed the bath towel and sheets every two days or so. There is one socket in the cabin’s bathroom for electric razors only and two sockets above the small refrigerator in the cabin. There is also a dorm-sized refrigerator in the room that takes up one socket, so be sure to bring a typical European power convertor with one or more 2 prong adaptors like you would use for Germany plus a long extension cord to use for charging your American based mobile phone, curling iron, white noise machine, clock (there is no clock in the room), etc. The clothes wardrobe is roomy with a full sized mirror mounted on the wall next to it, but there is no safe in the room to lock up your valuables so bring suitcase padlocks to keep any valuables secure in your luggage. The ship will keep everybody’s passports locked up for most of the cruise except the last couple of nights. We found the bathroom small and unusual but very functional. It has only a sink on one side and toilet on the other. Taking a shower involves standing at the sink, pulling the shower curtain around you to protect the toilet and door from getting wet, turning on the sink hot/cold faucets, then pulling out a knob at the base of the sink faucet to force the water to come through a long, flexible hose with shower head mounted by a bracket above the sink. You can either leave the shower head mounted above and move it sideways over your head to use like a typical shower, or you can take the shower head off its bracket and use it to rinse off a part of your your body at any angle. Shampoo, conditioner, lotion, mouthwash, shower cap, sewing kit or shoe polish are not provided so you will need to bring your own. You will be provided with two bars of basic generic soap that last the whole cruise, but if you like using perfumed or moisturizing soap you will need to bring your own. The front desk sells shampoo, razors, etc. and has a few hair dryers to loan out but you will need to bring your own curling or straightening iron. We and other people on the cruise that we talked to were quite impressed with the quality and knowledge of the local guides for both the free excursions and the optional excursions that we took. My husband and I would have liked to have a little more free time on each excursion because the lines at the women’s bathrooms typically ate away at much of our free time. All of the excursions were good but our favorite was the optional Kremlin Armory tour. Gate1 customers are expected to tip both the driver and the local guide for each excursion in American dollars, euros or rubles. In the last 3 days of the cruise, Gate1 customers are expected to tip the Vodohov dining and housekeeping crew in rubles by inserting the money into a wooden box outside of the dining room or at the reception desk. And on the last night or final morning of the cruise, Gate1 customers are expected to tip the Gate1 cruise managers in rubles in person. You can ask for envelopes at the front desk to put your tips in if you so desire. Note that tips cannot be charged to your onboard ship account. There is no wi-fi signal in the cabins or anywhere on the ship else except one of the bars. It was slow during the day due to volume but much faster at night. My mobile phone showed two or more bars for much of the cruise so I used it for limited data access. Be sure to contact your provider to find out how to obtain and set up the least expensive voice and data roaming package on your phone. My husband and I were hoping for an affordable cruise with a heavy Russian influence and this Gate1 tour experience far exceeded our expectations. If you are expecting a luxurious Russian cruise with large rooms and private balconies, or if you need a ship with handicapped accessibility, you would be better off finding a different cruise more suited to your taste. But for everyone else, I highly recommend this cruise! Read Less
Sail Date May 2016
I really enjoyed the whole trip and all the places we visited and would recommend it to people. The crew members were amazing and fun. I would have given it 5 stars, but for three things. i think there should b some type of group ... Read More
I really enjoyed the whole trip and all the places we visited and would recommend it to people. The crew members were amazing and fun. I would have given it 5 stars, but for three things. i think there should b some type of group exercise offered since the is no gym on board. Also on the tours I would like to see different levels of walking, maybe a quicker pace for those who like that type of thing. Lastly have the bar at the front of the boat stay open later., maybe til 10. Other than those three things it was a wonderful experience and I am very glad we chose that trip Read Less
Sail Date September 2015

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