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From St. Petersburg to Moscow - Discovering My Russian Roots
Journeywoman's Best Cultural Experience of 2013

Accommodation aboard our Russian River cruise ship ...

The M/S Rossia is a fairly small ship built especially for river cruising. It accommodates about 200 passengers; facilities are modern but not lavish. The cabins are small but certainly very adequate.

Russian river cruise ship

A lovely plus is that each cabin has a large picture window view on to the water and the passing landscape. There are two bar-cum-lounge areas where passengers congregate for briefings, conversations and cocktail hours. The dining room provides open seating for all three meals. There is a small library lounge and a few computers where passengers can check their email if and when service is available. A well-stocked gift shop with authentic Russian products offered at fair prices was always open both for browsing and for shopping.

Dining aboard the ship...

The dining room aboard the M/S Rossia was a study in absolute lovely hospitality. Two staff members (often including the manager of the dining room) were at the door greeting passengers (often by name) as they came into the room. Seating accommodated tables of two for privacy all the way up to gregarious groups of 14. Simply take your pick depending on your mood.

Dinner time on the ship

Wine was served at every evening meal. Items on the menu ranged from American hamburgers or club sandwiches to continental cuisine like Pasta with Four Cheeses. The headlining Russian cuisine offered specialties like cabbage rolls, Beef Goulash, smoked salmon, pickled herring or Chicken Kiev. And true to that part of the world the daily soups on the menu were hearty and so well prepared. If you didn't like any of the options, you never went hungry. There was always a serving of sliced Baltic salmon or poached chicken with baked potato served with a smile. Grand Circle was also very aware of dietary restrictions so that passengers that were diabetic or required gluten free choices were always considered.

Beautiful dessert

And, oh, how the conversation flowed. Often the staff cleared tables around us as we lingered over dessert and continued to chat about the amazing things we saw that day or about our families back home.

How activities were organized ...

For those who have ever attended summer camp where campers are divided into sections, you'll fully appreciate the system aboard the M/S Rossia. When we boarded the ship we were each assigned a color - red, blue, green, etc. Those colors became our section for the voyage and each section was assigned a program director who remained at our disposal from the first meeting we attended till she or he said good-bye to us at the airport.

Russian English Teacher

That meant that while everybody on the ship visited, for example, the Hermitage, we boarded the bus that flew our color and we followed the guide who held up our color flag. My staff person was Yulia, a Russian English teacher who was superb in every way. However, in chatting with other passengers, they felt exactly the same way about their leaders. There wasn't any one staff member that I heard complaints about. The most important aspect about this system was that passengers were not simply a lone number in a huge group. If you had a complaint there was someone to handle it for you. If you needed help in taking the subway at a destination, there was someone to explain how. If you didn't board your bus for an excursion, there was someone to check up on you. This was especially reassuring for the solo travelers on board.


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