The cruise was excellent. We very much
appreciate your having arranged it, particularly since
various agents in Sydney, who both claim to specialise in
travel to Russia, wouldn’t make an effort beyond flogging
what’s in their brochures. You must also convey our
appreciation to your man in Moscow. These class ships are
quite adequately appointed. The itinerary was much as the
cruises on the MV Bauman and MV Kraisin, on which Passport
Travel had allocations, but included Vallaam Island in Lake
Ladoga, which was a highlight – the cathedral there had been
re-opened only 3 weeks before our visit, after restoration,
and is awe-inspiring.
The Crokes and ourselves, and an American threesome (who had
also found the cruise by surfing the net) were the only
Anglo passengers. For the daily excursions ashore, we 7 and
our English-speaking Russian guide were a small group,
always the first away, and able to pursue a flexible agenda.
For example, whilst the other passengers, in groups of 40 or
so, languished in the long queue to get into The Hermitage,
St Petersburg, our local guide organised that her small
group enter straight away.
Most of the other passengers were German, though many spoke
English. There were a few Russian passengers – these ships
had been commissioned to take Russians on holiday during the
Soviet era. The crew was Russian. Also on board was Howard
Shernoff, an American resident of Tallinn, and previously of
St Petersburg, researching the next edition of his book,
“Russia by River”, which is a km by km guide of Moscow – St
Petersburg river travel, and very knowledgeable and pleasant
company. He had taken this cruise because it included
Vallaam. The ethnic mix made the travel enjoyably different
to being on a ship full of Anglos. Passport Travel might
recommend cruises that include Vallaam,
Rivers were the main long distant (fast)
transport highways of old Russia. As roads and motorised technology developed
they were still a preferred means of travel by many.
Due to larger populations the Western
Russian rivers were busier. As Russia expanded its Empire the Siberian rivers
also became transport water highways. When Vitus Bering set out from St
Petersburg (under a commission from Catherine the Great) to explore beyond the
Eastern region of Russia and find the continent of America it took him three
years just to get to Kamchatka! He used several rivers to move his large
entourage and tons of supplies and equipment.
These rivers, still to this day, carry
large commercial cargoes, the same as their Western European compatriots on the
Rhine, Elbe and Danube to name but three rivers.