Russia River Cruise

Old Jun 18th, 2009, 07:52 PM
  #1  
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Russia River Cruise

We have a chance to do a 12 day ( 6-17 Sept./16-27 Sept 09) St. Petersburg to Moscow river cruise with Smartours for $2400 ea. but must reserve by 10 July. The cost includes airfare from NY. I am not familiar with Smartours and am also concerned that with only 21/2 days allocated to St. Petersburg and 2 days in Moscow we may not really have enough time to see all that we want in those two wonderful cities. I also wonder if the weather during that time might be a little too cool ( 57-43 degrees according to what I can find out). Another alternative would be to wait until next year June/July, pay a little more and take a longer cruise. I also looked into Grand Circle Tours who do a longer trip for about $900 more. Hope this isn't too confusing and maybe trying to do a last minute trip is not the best thing to do.....any suggestions, recommendations as to tour companies, itineraries etc. would be greatly appreciated. Thanks, Bob
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Old Jun 18th, 2009, 07:56 PM
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I took the Grand Circle tour from St. P to Moscow and enjoyed it very much. I also extended my stays before and after the tour which I would recommend. I bought my own airfare. It was the same time of year and the weather was cool on some of the lakes but pleasant otherwise, just bring a jacket.
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Old Jun 18th, 2009, 08:24 PM
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I was looking at Viking River Cruises the other day and they have 3 different river tours in Russia and the August cruise was half price. I can't find the link tonight showing pricing but it was about $2,500 or $2,700. I did find something on their site about 2 for 1 offers so it might be worth a phone call to them. 800.304.9616. I do remember reading some trip reports on this board about Viking Russia cruises.
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Old Jun 18th, 2009, 09:13 PM
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There are two ways people tend to do Russia. I did a 2 week land tour that included just St. Petersburg and Moscow. Others prefer the more relaxing option of the Volga Cruise. When I made my decision I wanted more time in Moscow and St. Petersburg, so that was the key for me. I think you will have a great time whichever option you use. From reading all the posts, please remember that food on the Volga Cruise is nothing like food on the Caribbean cruise lines (same goes for land tours in Russia because Russian food is not like, say, French or Italian food). If you are adventurous, you should have fun whichever option you choose.

The Hermitage by itself can take an entire day in St. Petersburg. Even with a week in St. Petersburg, there were still things I wanted to see and didn't. My priorities would be The Hermitage and the grounds and fountains of Peterhoff if you have limited time.
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Old Jun 19th, 2009, 10:35 AM
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I'm not familiar with SmartTours. We did Moscow to St. Petersburg with Viking a few years ago.

The two full days in Moscow (with included tours of the Armory, Kremlin, Red Square, etc.) were plenty for us.

If I had it to do over again, I'd have booked extra days in St. Petersburg. With a licensed private tour guide (and they are very reasonably), you can get around more easily, get into the venues quickly, and have wonderful tours in English, along with excellent recommendations for lodging, dining, shopping.

You can check average temps on accuweather.com, etc., for September. The later in September, the cooler (and it's always chillier on the waterways while cruising).

Our private tour guide in St. Petersburg told us September is the most beautiful time to visit.

However, we went in June, and really enjoyed being in Russia during the "White Nights" season. Curiously, the weather was in the high 50's most of our trip (except for one day of low 70's), though everywhere we went everyone was talking about the heat wave the same dates the year before.

If you don't go this year, do sign up on the Viking and other websites, as those 2-for-1 or air fare included deals are offered all the time (lately, anyway).

That is, indeed, a bargain price (especially with air fare included) - one you might not see again.

If it were me, I'd think seriously about going this year - as you may not see prices that low next year - and plan to arrive in St. Petersburg a few days ahead of the tour, then book a hotel independently and hire a private guide for part or all of those days.
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Old Nov 12th, 2009, 02:39 PM
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Sea Urchin: If you didn't take GCT air, how did you arrange transfer to and from airport and the boat? GCT has offered no help on the names of cab companies, the cost, and the time.
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Old Nov 12th, 2009, 02:41 PM
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Sea Urchin: If you didn't take GCT air, how did you arrange transfer to and from airport and the boat? GCT has offered no help on the names of cab companies, the cost, and the time.
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Old Nov 12th, 2009, 03:08 PM
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Savia; You should read my 'post' on Vantage vs Grand Circle Travel. Seems like GCT was in dire need of cash. Brother responded, but the 'brothers' have no love for each other, now. Hard to know what is happening after reading the article. Richard
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Old Nov 12th, 2009, 03:45 PM
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We went on the GCT cruise from Moscow to St. Petersburg on the last trip of the season - Oct. and we had a great time. There was a day or two when we cruised a lot and it kinda got "old". But altogether we had a great time and I really thought Moscow was great! What a thrill to be on Red Square! St. Petersburg was beautiful but it was almost too much like other European cities. (I realize few will agree with me about this.) St. Pete was more tourist friendly. Oh,the weather was not that bad but I prefer cold weather to crowds.
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Old Nov 12th, 2009, 05:28 PM
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I have not been on either tour. My cousin has been on 4 Grand Circle Tours and liked each one. She liked Grand Circle Tours very much.
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Old Nov 12th, 2009, 10:18 PM
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There were taxis at the airport and we negotiated a price to our hotel in St Petersburg. Later we hired a taxi to the port from the hotel. Same going to the airport in Moscow.

Looking back we were rather foolish as we didn't check to see if the taxi from the airport to the hotel was licensed and just jumped in. The driver was a young military man who spoke perfect English. We even hired him to give us some day tours later in the week. I never even thought until months later that we never checked his cab license. I corresponded with him for a few years after that.
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Old Mar 11th, 2010, 07:26 PM
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Uniworld doesn't cruise Russia. The cheapest and best is Vantage. They are always sold out before the others. Viking and AMA are overpriced. Russian Ships are NOT luxurious so why pay a luxurious price? Grand Circle is for the over 50 crowd and take you to factory after factory so their underpaid guides can make some money. If you check the blogs there are lots of complaints about GCT. Try Value World Tours and Gate 1 for the best prices....you don't have a lot of options for cruising in Russia...as the government controls who can cruise their rivers. Hope that solves all the questions.
A travel agent.
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Old Mar 11th, 2010, 11:38 PM
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GCT didn't take us from factory to factory, unless they started this after we traveled. We had very nice day tours to interesting settings. Yes, the average age may be around fifty, some younger and some older so it averages out.
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Old Apr 9th, 2010, 10:16 AM
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My parents did a Vantage trip to Russia (Moscow to St. Petersburg river cruise) and loved it. I actually was trying to find information about it on the Vantage website and they didn't list any at all, but maybe that's because they are sold out. We're starting to ponder a river cruise in Russia for my retirement trip next year so this is all helpful.
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