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This Month's Hot Deals

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

Evelyn Hannon

There is Russian blood in me. There absolutely has to be; all of my grandparents are of Russian descent. Yet, the two times I've travelled to Russia to connect with my heritage I've been sadly disappointed. Yes, I did make sure to hire recommended guides to show me around and they did instruct me well on Russia's glorious landmarks. Yet, in terms of the Russians, the ones I met were dour and completely unfriendly. As a result I felt completely disconnected from the people, their history and their culture. On both occasions I left completely disheartened with absolutely no desire to go back.

Then Grand Circle Travel invited me to join them on a 15- day river cruise going from St. Petersburg to Moscow. There is an old saying that says, 'third time's a charm' meaning that things will finally work out on the third try. I was tempted by the invitation...

Why was I willing to try again?

I had heard a lot of positive chatter about Grand Circle and Grand Circle Cruise Line. The company was founded in 1958; their mandate is to offer international adventurous travel to the 50+ American market. Grand Circle is no stranger to the winners' podium with very many awards under its belt.

Conde Nast Traveler Reader's Choice Award

However, the prize that really caught my attention was not one given out by the travel industry. Rather it was the Conde Nast Readers Choice Award to Grand Circle Cruise Line that clinched it for me. That award represented a great many satisfied customers ready to step forward to support their favorite small cruise line with their votes. After my trip I hoped I would leave feeling the same way.

Pre-trip preparation is key...

Travelling to Russia is complicated. Grand Circle understands this and if you require their help they can take care of everything for you. Air fare, visas, health insurance - they've handled the ins and outs many, many times and happily pass their expertise along to you.

Grand Circle Cruise personalize handbook

I so appreciated their Travel Handbook that was sent to me prior to leaving. It actually is a mini Russian guidebook touching on everything from electrical outlets to the geography of Russia, what to pack for the journey as well as regional Russian climate information. I learned how to say hello (Pri-vEt!), Thank you (Spa-sEE-ba!) and I don't need it (Nee-nA-da) even before I left home.

Once I arrived in the St. Petersburg Airport, there was a Grand Circle team member to greet me, help me with my luggage and point me to the kiosk where I could take care of money exchange. It was extremely reassuring to have a Russian speaker who could help out when I didn't yet understand procedures. And from that point on the staff was always available, there to guide me through two fun-filled weeks of cruising, sightseeing, and what I was most grateful for - a meaningful introduction to the people, history, and culture of Russia.






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