It’s one of the most historic waterways in the world, but river cruises on Russia’s Volga River are becoming a rare commodity. Geopolitical issues have seen the reduction of these voyages in recent years, though there are still cruise lines that continue to be committed to the region.
The vast majority of river cruises through Russia operate between Moscow to St. Petersburg,. Itineraries tend to be just shy of two weeks in duration, with no weeklong options. This makes these voyages ideal for adventurous travellers or “port collectors” who want to see something different and don’t mind committing the time and financial resources to do so.
Despite the recent controversy surrounding some of the decisions that Russia has made politically, the country remains one of the most fascinating destinations for river cruisers. River cruises frequently include visits to multiple UNESCO World Heritage sites, including the city of Yaroslavl, which is recognized for its historic town center and numerous 17th century churches.
Other historic sites abound. In Uglich, guests can visit the church of St. Dmitry on the Blood, which commemorates the murder of 10 year old Dmirty Ivanovich, youngest son of Ivan the Terrible, in 1591.
Most itineraries are also structured to provide guests with ample time in both St. Petersburg and Moscow without the need for costly pre-and-post hotel stays. Viking River Cruises’ Waterways of the Tsars itinerary, for example, includes four days in St. Petersburg and three in Moscow.
So who offers river cruises through Russia? At the moment, there are three major lines that all feature departures in the region: Scenic, Uniworld Boutique River Cruise Collection, and Viking River Cruises.
Of the three, it should come as no surprise that Viking offers more sailings along the Volga than any other river cruise line. The company got its start in Russia back in 1997, and is in the unique position to own its ships outright (other companies tend to charter their ships due to Russia’s myriad of rules and regulations).
It’s also interesting to note that some lines – like AmaWaterways used to offer river cruises through Russia, but stopped following Russia’s involvement with the Ukraine. AmaWaterways in particular had put a lot of time, energy and resources into upgrading its ship (AmaKatarina) just before the current crisis, and could certainly be ready to re-start Volga River cruises should the opportunity arise. For the 2017 season, though, AmaWaterways has no current plans to do so.
Who Offers River Cruises In Russia?
|LINE||OFFERS RIVER CRUISES IN RUSSIA?||SEASON||ITINERARIES||SHIP|
|CroisiEurope||Yes||May 6 - September 23, 2017||Various*||Rostropovich, Lev Tolstoi|
|Scenic||Yes||May 14 - September 3, 2017||15-day 'Jewels of Russia'||Scenic Tsar|
|Uniworld Boutique River Cruise Collection||Yes||May 19 - July 18, 2017||13-day "Imperial Waterways of Russia"||River Victoria|
|Viking River Cruises||Yes||May 5 - October 11, 2017||13-day "Waterways of the Tsars"||Viking Akun, Viking Helgi, Viking Ingvar, Viking Truvor|
|* AmaWaterways used to operate river cruises in Russia until the run was cancelled indefinitely for the 2015 season onward.||* Many of CroisiEurope's itineraries in Russia are geared towards a French-speaking audience.|
For the adventurous traveller, now could be the best time to go to Russia. Like river cruises on Egypt’s Nile River, demand is lower – and that means that ships don’t frequently sell out. River cruises through Russia are also an excellent opportunity to learn more about a country that is mentioned with casual, even dismissive passing in North America, but without any real understanding of the issues that average Russian citizens face. Like any kind of travel, it is an opportunity to learn and be educated as well as entertained.
Curious to know more about Russian river cruising? River Cruise Advisor contributor K.D. Leperi recently wrote about experiences on the Volga with Viking River Cruises. Click here to read the full story.