We originally selected this cruise because it offered more time in the large cities (Moscow & St. Petersburg) than did several other cruise lines, and my husband needed a slightly larger bathroom because of a disability. Boy, were we ... Read More
We originally selected this cruise because it offered more time in the large cities (Moscow & St. Petersburg) than did several other cruise lines, and my husband needed a slightly larger bathroom because of a disability. Boy, were we glad that we went with Scenic! It was outstanding!! The itinerary was full of just the things that you want to see and experience in Russia--with lots of extras along the way.
First, let us tell all potential Russian cruisers that you will not be staying in the city center on any of the Russian cruises (as you may be used to on most European river cruises). There is a Russian law that the riverboats must stay in port areas that are outside the downtown areas. This can result in up to an hour bus ride when getting into the downtown areas. It is a toss up as to just being in a downtown location, not having to pack and unpack so much, and seeing all the wonderful things along the river. Although Russia is obviously SO much bigger than this cruise, you will feel like you have seen a good deal of it by the time you finish this trip. The river sites and packing and unpacking (and all things arranged) won for us. The buses were comfortable and the cruise folks used the time wisely to let us know so very much about their country. Also, you may want to come a few days earlier and leave a few days later to "see it all" (like the Bolshoi), as even with the extra days, it may not be enough.
The boat itself was really nice. Our cabin on the second level was roomy and always spotless, the food was really good to fantastic, the tour guides (both local and from the cruise line) were extremely knowledgable and honest with responses to questions, and the activities were very special along the way (both in port and along the river). Due to the distance from the boat during some tours, the lunch restaurants were upscale and provided a good experience. Service in the ship's restaurant and other areas was always with grace and a smile (which smiling to strangers, by the way, is not always cultural for Russians...and not smiling was seen as unwelcoming on other cruise lines by some Western colleagues who reported this on other cruise lines in the past). We thought that all service in all areas was superb on this ship.
We would definitely go again with this cruise line. In fact, Scenic is offering another cruise south from Moscow that will extend their season into October (when the northern route begins to freeze over) which we will take at some point.
Let me say some things about the tours and activities. Some are just what you want and expect (city tours, etc.), but DO NOT go to Moscow without seeing the circus and the folk show in Moscow--both are fantastic, especially the circus!! We can't say enough about both of them. If you can't see the Bolshoi in Moscow (which we do recommend as the finest on earth and as a "whole story"), Scenic's offering of ballet "highlights" in St. Petersburg with a reception in an old palace was also very great in terms of the artistic expertise. Simple but fun things along the way on the river really made this cruise unique...Russian language lessons, learning Russian songs and "a concert" to fellow travelers, vodka tasting, painting dolls, a participatory Russian play, etc., etc., made for a good time. Scenic is an Aussie company, and you can count on the Aussies (who made up the majority of the guests) to be lots of fun!
Finally, this cruise ran like a fine-turned machine. Every single thing fell into place perfectly. If they said that someone would be at your hotel to transfer you, they were there on the dot! They provided us with everything we could have wanted. It was not an all together cheap date, but we had an excellent cabin and felt that we got the cream of Russia. Finally, the cruise director and other two cruise guides were professional to the highest degree. They made a fantastic team (Svetlana in organization, Arty in keeping us laughing, and Valdim in knowledge). Scenic's extra care and attentiveness allowed my husband (who has a slight disability) to see and do every single thing. We truly felt like we left family when we left this ship at then end of our time. Book without hesitation!! Read Less