Rubles & A River...Yes, We are in Russia

Oct 18th, 2012, 11:35 AM
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What an interesting report. I think you might have not been expecting much at the Little Hermitage Theater if you read my report since the performance we saw was fairly mediocre. I'lm glad you were able to see some special dancers.

I do think you saw a lot of interesting towns that might have been s challenge to see on your own, although perhaps with a private driver you could have done that. We were in SP for MANY nights and did not see any of those additional towns you mentioned.

Welcome back! Your and your Mom are great travel partners! Enjoy it while you can.
lincasanova is offline  
Oct 18th, 2012, 12:07 PM
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I haven't finished reading the report but I enjoyed your photo book.
adrienne is offline  
Oct 18th, 2012, 01:40 PM
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My husband and I visited Russia twice... once in '83 and again in 2001. Back then the weather seemed to be "normal". But a friend was in St. P and the Baltic in August just a few years ago and reported uncomfortably high temperatures. (In the past August was always mentioned as the best time to visit Scandinavia, etc.) I'm sorry you were another "victim." Loved your report.. brought back some fine memories.

(PS... I have a friend who was "bored" on one of those river cruises -
Gwendolynn is online now  
Oct 18th, 2012, 03:22 PM
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Why did you decide against a home visit? What did the other people on the cruise report about the home visits?
Kurosawa is offline  
Oct 18th, 2012, 03:31 PM
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Always look forward to your posts! Is Portugal up next?
Weekender is offline  
Oct 18th, 2012, 03:48 PM
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Good report. It seems like there was a lot of down time on the boat. Did it normally cruise during the day and was it tethered at night? If you returned to Russia would you do it on your own?
adrienne is offline  
Oct 18th, 2012, 05:08 PM
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This is so good...and I don't even want to do a cruise in Russia. Not high on my bucket list, though I might brave visiting the country on my own.

Thank you!
StCirq is online now  
Oct 18th, 2012, 05:47 PM
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Thanks for sharing your trip tales and your photobook. I enjoyed them immensely.

Are the books hard to do with shutterfly?
irishface is offline  
Oct 18th, 2012, 05:51 PM
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<< Are the books hard to do with shutterfly >>

Very easy! Shutterfly will make the book for you, if you want. All you have to do is upload the photos. Plus they're always sending emails for deeply discounted photo books so never pay full price for a photo book.
adrienne is offline  
Oct 18th, 2012, 06:24 PM
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lincasanova...thanks for the welcome are right, mom and I do enjoy traveling together and we plan to continue this for as long as we can!

Gwendolynn...I believe you hit the nail on the and I felt very bored on this trip.

Kurosawa...we decided not to do the home visit because in our opinion they felt contrived. Groups of 30 passengers where traipsed through various homes. Besides feeling contrived, I also felt like it was an intrusion, but that's just my feeling. Some of our traveling companions loved it, others not so much. Because there were several homes (they certainly couldn't take all 160 cruise passengers into one home) we heard varying stories from people who went to different homes. Some said the home owners were lively and gracious, others were not and most expected additional tips from the passengers visiting their homes, I think that also played a part in our decision. Believe me, mom and I do not mind tipping and we will tip very well, but when it's blatantly expected, it leaves a "bad taste in my mouth" (so to speak).

Weekend...always great to hear from you! Actually the next trip is to Rome (yes again) in 5 weeks! After that it will be Portugal in spring 2013.

St. Cirq...thanks for chiming in. I always enjoy your posts and I have followed much of your advice on France.

irishface...the Shutterfuly books are easy to make. This was my first with that website. Prior to July I had been using Kodak Gallery for my photo books, but they shut down that website and my photo account was migrated to Shutterfly. My first experience with them was postive. My one comment about them is that they have so many options for photo book formats from page layouts to all kinds of clipart it took me a while to complete the book!

Thanks to everyone for reading. I know this wasn't my usual food laden, "sunny disposition" trip report, but as I mentioned earlier, not every trip is going to be spectacular.

I would say that if I ever do go back to Russia, I would prefer to stay in St. Petersburg for a longer time and really explore the nooks and crannies of that city and I would not return to Moscow.

I was happy with the direction of the cruise and that we ended in St. Petersburg. It's coincidental that upon my return there were articles in both National Geographic Traveler magazine and the NY Times Travel section about St. Petersburg. I read both articles with much interest and had to say after reading them, if what was described in those articles was how I found St. Petersburg I would have a much different perspective.
LowCountryIslander is offline  
Nov 26th, 2012, 11:15 AM
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LowCountryIslander..... I enjoyed your report but felt bad that you got to see so little of my adopted home of St Petersburg. I think, based on your writing that if you had just come to St Petersburg on your own terms you would have been delighted with the experience. Maybe renting an apartment for 10-14 days as a base of operations and had some assistance from someone who tried to find out about your preferences and interests, and helped you design a visit that suited you and your mother, your experience would have been quite another sort of adventure.
You are not cruisers. Travelers and Cruisers are different in fundamental ways. The cruise for a cruiser IS the adventure, a social atmosphere of the ship, a ship that just happens to port in a number of different countries for a few hours each. It is a life style and major socializing feature of their lives. Many would never have booked a flight and arranged a hotel to some destination, the ship is their primary destination. Travelers often view cruises as something other than traveling and they are right. Most of the 600,000 cruise ship passengers who arrive every summer here never meet a single local who is not a paid representative of a hospitality industry worker. But then again many travelers don't either.
Moscow can be intimidating because it does not bend for tourists, it is a big, fast prosperous city that focuses on business, the deal, and status but does have some great museums and buildings if you have time to find them. It is not concentrated in a walk-able region of historic and cultural interest like St Petersburg is. St Petersburg is more human scale, you can see a significant landmark from almost anywhere in the city center so it is hard to get lost. If you do, many people speak English so asking for directions is not a problem.
The problem with your program was it was not YOUR program, in that you bought a one-product-fits-all tour that was the Readers Digest version of the destinations for people who do not want to delve more deeply or to meet locals and strike up random conversations where ever they go. The real fun of Russia, and yes, it is great the point that I feel crushingly bored every time I go back home for a visit to California....filled with bright well educated and cultured people(and some who are not), with interesting conversations possible at every turn. I particularly like socializing with the young people. Here in St Petersburg it is rare for anyone over 20 not to have a college degree, since there are 510 colleges, universities, academies, institutes or conservatories in the city limits. The young people are like a different species compared to their cohorts back in the US. They are optimistic, fun loving but serious and responsible, well mannered, sober(believe it or not...another myth explodes) and well aware of the world and a wide range of topics. It is a shame to come all the way to Russia and not spend a good portion of the time meeting and interacting with locals, that is where the Real Russia is and it is great fun.
I have designed programs and tours for thousands of cruise passengers over the last 9 years and can say that I never had one say that the experience was not the highlight of their travel/cruises. It is not that I am so good at it...maybe I am.. but due to the city being a match with just about anyone's interests and style of engaging it if the person putting it together bothers to learn about the visitor before creating the experience for them. With 254 museums, many of which are the best of their type in the world, more cultural activities with greater accessibility than anywhere it is not hard to match interests.
I hope you return but focus on one area and explore it with greater depth.
am_expat is offline  
Nov 26th, 2012, 01:26 PM
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am_expat, great post. Interesting intellectually stimulating conversation is so rare and so undervalued in the US among the youth.
Kurosawa is offline  
Nov 30th, 2012, 07:52 AM
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am_expat... have completely and might I add, eloquently, summed up exactly how I felt/thought of my experience. I won't say for certain a trip back to Russia is in my near future, but I also don't like to say "never", so maybe one day I will be back. From your comments and my feelings, I do think my time would be best sprent exploring much more of St. Petersburg.

Thanks for your thoughtful post.
LowCountryIslander is offline  
Jan 6th, 2013, 07:56 AM
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Hi Marcy, I hope you're still watching this thread and that you'll share with me some of your frustrations in securing a visa for Russia.

We are doing a Viking River Cruise of the Black Sea in May/June. Though I share your feelings about cruises in general I know that this is an area of the world where I would just never be able to plan an independent trip--not unlike our VRC trip to China--so I'm ok with what I find to be the negative aspects of cruising--but just for this particular destination.

Anyway, we intend to spend 4 or 5 days in Moscow with a friend who has been there before, but long ago, at the conclusion of our cruise so we will need to get visas. I've been putting off starting that process but know I will have to bite the bullet as soon as we get back from Switzerland January 21st. I've been dreading the whole thing (having screwed up our passport renewal process just last month) and my heart sank when I reread your report and found your comment about the awful visa process. Please share more details and any helpful hints you can. Appreciate it.
JulieVikmanis is offline  
Jan 6th, 2013, 09:55 AM
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Hi LowCountryIslander,

I just sat down and read your whole report – very well written, informative, and realistic. Loved your photos too. I feel as if I had taken the cruise with you – although it’s unlikely that I will do the same.

May you and Mum continue to travel and share your adventures on Fodors.

Julie, glad to hear about your plans to visit Russia. Always love your reports too…
latedaytraveler is offline  
Jan 6th, 2013, 10:53 AM
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JV, I'm not LCI, and it's been a few years since I got a Russian visa, but I recommend this site as a good starting point:

LCI - missed this report when it first went up, thanks for posting. Unlike you I preferred Moscow to St. Petersburg, but I'm not a fan of baroque and found Moscow more varied. I traveled solo across Russia, but my home stays and train tickets, along with a few guides, were arranged ahead of time through an agency.
thursdaysd is offline  
Jan 6th, 2013, 02:24 PM
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Hi Julie!

I'm sure your trip to Russia will be great. Instead of re-typing my Visa "saga" here, I'm providing a link to my blog entries from June 2012 which outlines what my Visa experience was like. Because of the way my blog is set-up you will need to scoll to the bottom of the June blog page and read the entries "up", to be in the correct chronological order (hope this makes sense). To read the Visa outcome you will have to click on the July 2012 archive on the right side of my blog and scroll to the entry about receiving the Visa.

latedaytraveler and thursdaysd...thanks for reading my report!
LowCountryIslander is offline  
Jan 6th, 2013, 02:40 PM
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Bookmarking, for when I get there.
phillyboy is offline  
Jan 7th, 2013, 03:02 AM
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Thanks Marcy.

And thanks thursdaysd. Have you been to Kiev? I'm trying to decide how to split 7 days between Kiev and Moscow at the end of our cruise. 3 Kiev and 4 Moscow or vice versa. Any guidance?
JulieVikmanis is offline  
Jan 7th, 2013, 06:07 AM
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Julie - I didn't get to Kiev yet, but I loved Lviv. However, if you have extra time you could use it to venture out of Moscow, I also loved Novgorod, which you can visit by train, or you could arrange a car and driver for one or more of the Golden Ring towns.

My TRs for those trips aren't on Fodors, but you can read them here: - Russia is 2004 and Ukraine 2006. Too long ago, I really need to go back!
thursdaysd is offline  

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