THE ROAD TO MOSCOW 2020
River Cruise Itinerary
June 10: Day
June 11: Day
June 12: Day
June 13: Day
cruising Moscow Canal
June 14: Day
June 15: Day
June 16: Day
June 17: Day
June 18: Day
Lake Ladoga, Neva River
June 19: Day
June 20: Day
June 21: Day
June 22: Day
From Russia With Love
A Note from
People ask me
how a river cruise
is different from an ocean cruise. Having been on five
previous river cruises, the most obvious
difference to me is the
view from your room. A balcony view on an ocean cruise is like a screen
saver. You see the same ocean all day long. Not so on
cruise. There is always something new to see out your
window... mountains, castles, vineyards, forests, rolling
countryside, farms, villages.
A river cruise is like taking a long
cross-country trip in an RV, except
that we use a river as our highway. Rivers are much
better than highways. No traffic, no billboards, no
noise. Very pleasant, very relaxing.
There are those
who worry about getting seasick. Not a problem on a river
cruise. The inland rivers are smooth as glass.
Worried about your ship sinking? Don't bother.
If there's a fire or some problem, jump in the water and
dog-paddle to shore ten feet away.
In some places the river is shallow enough that you can even
walk to safety.
To me, the major
difference is the objective. An ocean cruise
tries to thrill you, entertain you, give you a wide choice
of things to do. There are shows at night, music
events, gambling, dancing, game rooms, exercise rooms, rock
walls, trivia contests.
A riverboat does
not have room for all that, so the emphasis changes. A
river cruise concentrates more on education. What is
it like to live in the land you are visiting? What are
the politics and the history? For example, at some
point on the Russia Cruise, you will have the chance to
visit a family who will recall what it was like to live in
Communist Russia. The visit might make you squirm, but
it will also be informative.
An ocean cruise
is like a buffet. You see a little of this and a
little of that. A land trip, say a trip to Italy, is
nice, but you live out of a suitcase and have a different
hotel room every night. A river cruise is the best of both
worlds. You can totally immerse yourself in a certain
area of the world via a floating hotel.
Dinnertime on a
river cruise is a
definite highlight. The meals are exquisite, the
complimentary wine is plentiful, and the dinner conversation
tends to be full of laughter and merriment.
Afterwards, head upstairs to the lounge and have yourself a
Vodka or a Martini with your pals. People ask if
there is dancing and the answer is yes. They have a
modest dance floor in the lounge and a musician to take
juncture, April 2019, Marla has registered 34 passengers for
our 13-day river cruise to Russia in mid-June 2020.
Never before have we received such strong preliminary
interest in a trip so far off in the distance.
Considering Marla set an attendance record for this river cruise
simply through word of mouth, I asked myself why this trip
is so popular. I came to the conclusion that
River cruises can be addictive. It is phenomenal the
number of repeat customers Marla has. After our 2018
Dracula on the Danube River Cruise to Romania, 67% of our
guests signed up for the upcoming Russia trip even though it was two
Russia just happens to be next
in line to cross off our list. There will be plenty of
highlights at both ends of the trip... St. Basil's
Cathedral, Boshoi Ballet, the Kremlin, Red Square,
Hermitage, and Peterhof Palace. But don't
underestimate the river portion of the trip along the Volga.
You will love the
view of the Russian countryside from the vantage point of
your Viking riverboat. You get to sit back, put your
feet up and imagine what is really like to live in this
Maybe it is as simple as the
lure of vodka, caviar, nested dolls, balalaika music and
Russian folk dancing. But I thinks it goes a little deeper than that.
Our group has
hit a special time in life when we have the time, the
resources, the health and the incentive to see as much of the world as
possible. A river cruise is one of the most pleasant ways
imaginable to do just that. It is not a stretch to say
a river cruise is a rocking chair vacation. I can
personally attest to the joys of sitting in a rocker
watching the world go by.
If you like what
I have said, I wrote another essay on the same topic after our first river
cruise to France in 2014. Here is the link:
Watching the World Go By
As for me, I
hope you will join Marla and me for a great trip! Don't forget
that Viking is running an April promotion. If you sign
up by the end of the month, your air fare will be free.
Contact Marla for more information,
Russian Waterways at a Glance
Our trip spends
most of its time along the legendary Volga River.
Known as 'Mother Volga' in the homeland, there is an
unmistakable reverence for this amazing river. It is
by far the longest river in Europe.
Danube where the Viking ship remains on one river for the
entire trip, our Russian river route is much more
complicated Forced to transfer from one waterway to
another, hopefully our captain is paying attention. If
we take a wrong turn on the Volga, we will end up in the
Caspian Sea. Next stop Iranian jail being tried as
American spies. Fortunately this is highly unlikely
since the captain will have about 1,000 miles to catch his
Our aquatic path
has a name... the Volga-Baltic Waterway. It
starts in Saint Petersburg and ends in Moscow, or in our
case the other way around. As an avid proponent of
naval power, it was the lifelong dream of Peter the Great to
have a port on the western edge of Russia. The moment
he laid eyes on the soggy marshland where the Neva River
meets the Gulf of Finland, Peter found his spot. Only
one problem... Sweden owned this territory. No
problem. Peter started a four year war to grab the
Gulf of Finland.
After the war
was won, Peter said, "Let's build a city!" Immediately
the engineers protested. "Sir, it is sheer folly to
build on mud and quicksand. There is no way this
swampland will support any kind of structure whatsoever!!
Any work we do will be washed away by the Neva floods."
smiled. "Gentlemen, we are a poor country, that is
true. However there are two things which Mother Russia
possesses in abundance... dirt and slaves. Put the
serfs to work filling in the swamp."
undeterred because he knew what he was talking about.
During his European Tour five years earlier, he had fallen
in love with Amsterdam. Amsterdam was built in a river
delta area similar to the mouth of the Neva. The Dutch
had brilliant engineers who knew just how to reclaim land
from the sea. With 60 miles of canals, 90 islands, and
1,500 bridges, this Dutch city was now famous throughout
Europe for its exquisite canal system.
Thanks to his
unforgettable experience, Peter fashioned his new city in
the image of Amsterdam. He named it 'Saint
Petersburg'. After his city was completed,
Peter then created the Ladoga Canals in Lake Ladoga.
Finally Russia had a secure means of river transport from
the Baltic Sea into the Russian hinterland.
Unfortunately, the waterway stopped there.
Russians were not done yet. In addition to slaves and
dirt, Peter should have added that Russia also had lots of
water. Just beyond Lake Ladoga was Lake Onega.
Just past Lake Onega, there were more lakes galore within
tantalizing reach of one another. Like a connect-a-dot
puzzle, these giant lakes were begging to be linked
All that was
needed was a canal here or a river-widening there.
Over the next couple centuries, there were a few projects,
but nothing on a grand scale. Leave it to the paranoia
of Joseph Stalin to solve the problem. Suddenly there
were countless political prisoners. What to do with
In the Thirties,
200,000 gulag prisoners under the direction of Soviet secret
police created the Moscow Canal linking the Moskva
River to the Volga River. Now for the first time,
Moscow had river access to five different seas: the White
Sea, Baltic Sea, Caspian Sea, Sea of Azov, and the Black
Sea. Moscow became known as the "Port of the Five
Pleased with the
results, the Soviets said why stop here? At a great
cost of human life, they put the political prisoners to work
digging more canals. Soon enough, Lake Ladoga was
connected to Lake Onega, Lake Beloye, the Rybinsk Reservoir
and the Volga River. Behold, the Golden Ring of
Russia was completed. A system of rivers, lakes,
and artificial waterways formed a giant loop allowing
riverboats to access an unlimited number of cities.
At the time, it
is highly unlikely that Stalin or any of the later Communist
leaders ever envisioned tourism. However, with the
thawing of East-West relations in recent years, the
VolgaBaltic Waterway has gained additional importance as a
unique tourist route for boats sailing along the Golden Ring
of Russia. Mother Russia has finally put out the
Day 1 - Moscow
Day One is
basically a day to recover after the trip from Houston.
Once you arrive in Moscow, you will be
to your ship which will serve as your
hotel during the four-day stay in the city.
Since most people are tired after the long flight, there is
nothing scheduled. You will
have free time to relax before dinner.
Day 2 - Moscow
You are welcome to walk around, but
things won't get going till the afternoon.
Relax, kick back in
have a leisurely breakfast and enjoy an early lunch.
The afternoon features a half-day tour of Moscow.
See the famed Bolshoi
Theater and stop at Red Square for a view of the brightly
colored St. Basil's Cathedral and a visit to the famous GUM
Department Store. You also get the chance to experience the
city's Metro. Stay in the city center for an evening
performance of traditional Russian folkloric music.
Day 3 - Moscow
Today you have a full day to
further explore Moscow's many buildings, parks and
monuments. Or you may choose
an optional experience: Take a morning tour to Tretyakov
Gallery, the world's foremost museum of Russian fine art.
This afternoon you may visit
the Cosmonaut Museum with displays that trace the history of
space exploration or take a Jewish Moscow tour, illustrating
the history and spirit of the Jewish people who settled in
the city. Dine on board for
dinner, then relax or take an optional Moscow by Night tour.
4 - Moscow
we travel to the city's famous red brick enclosure
known as the Kremlin. We will have
a chance to go behind its walls to see historic gems
like Tsar's Canon and Tsar's Bell, and tour inside two
afternoon, sit back and enjoy
a scenic cruise along the Moscow Canal as we depart the city
to begin our trip on the Volga River.
5 - Uglich
We cruise the Volga throughout the morning. After
lunch, you will disembark for a walking tour through the
provincial village of Uglich.
one of the Golden Ring cities that preserve the memory of
Russia's historical events. See the former Kremlin of
Uglich and visit the Church of St. Dmitry on the Blood,
built on the site where Ivan the Terrible's son Dmitry was
We will visit
local family at their home for tea and friendly
conversation. Be sure to practice your Russian in
advance (just kidding).
6 - Yaroslavl
We arrive this
morning in Yaroslavl. This will be our second Golden
Ring city. Tour this ancient town rich in monuments
and visit the covered food market, where you may shop for
handcrafted souvenirs. Nested dolls are sure to catch
your eye. During your free time, you may visit the
Church of St. Elijah the Prophet, featuring detailed
frescoes and icons. Return to your ship for lunch and
7 - Kuzino
dock in the morning at Kuzino, our third Golden Ring Russian
Today you will
the renowned Kirillo-Belozersky Monastery, founded by Saint
Cyril in 1397. We will take a guided walk through the
monastery's historic grounds, seeing several small wooden
chapels, the Assumption Cathedral and a museum.
You will also
have the opportunity to visit a children's school in Kuzino
or the local Merchant House. Return to your ship for
lunch and an afternoon departure.
We will spend
the remainder of the day on a leisurely cruise along the
Volga-Baltic Waterway. This is a system of rivers and
canals that links the Volga River with the Baltic Sea.
The length is 229 miles and comprises seven locks.
8 - Kizhi
The morning sees
our ship sail
through the tranquil waters of Lake
Onega, Europe's second largest lake. In the afternoon
we will arrive at the island village of Kizhi. From
here we will set out on a walking tour through the Open Air
Museum of Architecture, a UNESCO World Heritage Site.
Our visit will
take us to
a collection of wooden houses, windmills
and churches. Our tour will be highlighted by the
3-tiered Preobranzhenskaya (Transfiguration) Church.
This fairy-tale structure was built in 1714 without a single
in the evening and cruise through the night.
9 - Mandrogy
This will be a
relaxing day as our ship cruises Russia's intricate
waterways. We will traverse three different bodies of
water. Our first route takes us along the scenic Svir
River. We will travel the 139-mile "Blue Route"
heading southwest from Lake Onega.
We stop in
Mandrogy and take some time to explore this museum village.
Visit the Vodka Museum or shop for handmade Russian craft
items. If you wish, take an optional visit to a 'banya',
a traditional Russian bath house. Or, if you prefer to
stay on board, watch and participate in the art of 'matryoshka'
Later we continue
along the Svir, then cross Lake Ladoga, Europe's largest
lake, on our way to the Neva River. All three of our
meals will be served aboard your ship. ..
Day 10 -
It has been a
long journey, but today we complete the final leg of journey
down the waterways of Western Russia. We will sail on
the Neva River into St. Petersburg early this morning. After
a leisurely breakfast, our first adventure will be a visit
to the Winter Palace.
For you art
lovers, this will be quite a treat because you will have a
chance to tour the legendary Hermitage Museum. You
will be amazed at this marvelous collection of art,
antiquities, jewelry and sculpture.
some energy. After we return
on board for an early dinner, our evening will be
highlighted by a performance of traditional Russian ballet.
11 - St. Petersburg
excursion goes to the Pushkin area. Here you will
visit Catherine Palace, the elegant rococo 18th-century
summer residence of the Russian tsars.
No, this is not
named for Catherine the Great, but rather
Catherine I, the
widow of Peter the Great. Tour the various halls, including
the storied Amber and Agate Rooms, and see the ornate decor
to your ship for lunch. After lunch, it is time for a
city tour. We will see noted sights including St.
Isaac's Cathedral, Peter & Paul Fortress and Nevsky Prospekt.
Dine on board,
then relax. If you wish, you can attend an optional
evening folkloric performance. Or perhaps even venture
into St. Petersburg on your to see what you might discover.
12 - St. Petersburg
You have the day
free to see the sights that interest you. Visit one of
the many palaces, churches or museums. Be sure to
consider taking the the optional morning tour to Peterhof
Palace, a spectacular estate with landscaped gardens and
afternoon, you may choose to join an optional kommunalka
visit to get a glimpse of these communal living spaces.
suggestion is to
take an optional tour of St. Petersburg from the water.
Lunch and dinner
are served on board.
Day 13 - St. Petersburg
They say all
good things must come to an end, but not with Viking
If you wish, you
may extend your voyage with 2 additional nights in St.
Petersburg. This will give you more time to explore
this magnificent city.
is to journey to nearby Finland to enjoy 3 nights in
However, if you
must return home, after breakfast you will disembark and
proceed to the St. Petersburg airport for your return
you so much for sharing these past two weeks with us.
There is an excellent 2-minute video on the Viking
website that gives a nice overview of this trip. I
recommend you take a look.
Viking Russia Video
Marla's Notes: Viking's
Waterway of the Tsars-13 day trip June 10th -June 22nd,
2020, includes FREE AIR from Houston. (This current
Air Promo extends to 4/30/19.
I expect the Free Air Promo will continue, but I cannot
All of this is
included in the price.
complimentary shore excursion in every port of call
Visits to UNESCO Sites
Enrichment lectures & Destination Performances
Beer, wine & soft drinks with onboard lunch & dinner
24-hour specialty coffees, teas & bottled water
Port taxes & fees included in rate
Ground transfers with Viking Air purchase
VERANDA AX UPPER DECK (225 SQ. FT.) $7274 P.P.
VERANDA BX MIDDLE DECK (230 SQ. FT.) $7174 P.P.
RIVERVIEW CX MAIN DECK (160 SQ. FT.) $6174 P.P.
RIVERVIEW DX MAIN DECK (140 SQ. FT.) $5874 P.P.