My Russia Holiday Cruise - 2001

I've never been on a river boat cruise before, so I was quite excited about cruising from Moscow to St. Petersburg! Our ship, made in Germany, was the "Peter the Great". River cruise ships are much smaller than the big ocean liners and I liked that. This ship carried just over 230 people. We still had two seatings for meals but you didn't feel lost for days on the ship. I had a private cabin on the fourth level - quite small but quite adequate. Every cabin had its own fridge, window, and heating control unit. Most of the Russian crew spoke English, some better than others, but we managed very well on the whole. I'd recommend the Peter the Great to anyone.

The map to the left is a digitized camcorder picture of a t-shirt so it's a tad rough. However, the map gives a good overview of our route in Russia. I'll list off the places we stopped at and then get into a bit of detail about each.

My Group

To get from Moscow to St Petersburg, we spent 7 days cruising through locks, canals, rivers, and lakes - two of them being the largest lakes in Europe. It was very pretty the whole way. When I say "we", I'm referring to the Thunder Bay group that I joined in Toronto. They were wonderful people and great fun. I'd love to go on a trip with them again. There were 28 of us in the group - I'm now an honorary "Thunder Bay-ite".


In Moscow,the heart of Russia, we toured the downtown area and viewed:
  • Red Square
  • St. Basil's Cathedral
  • the Kremlin
  • the Armory (treasure chest of tsarist jewels, crowns, thrones, carriages, ...),
  • cathedrals, nunneries,
  • and a host of beautiful 19th century buildings.
We attended the Bolshoi Ballet, Russian Folk concerts, and the Moscow Circus.

Click on the picture to the right to view my Moscow pages.

The River/Canal/Lake Trip

Although there were a couple of days where we didn't have any major stops, we were kept busy and entertained the entire trip. There was a costume party, a Neptune's Festival play, a Russian Samovar tea and pastry party, and a Russian vodka - caviar - blini party. The water system itself was quite entertaining, with many locks and canals to be gone through. And of course, one had to be checking out the ship's store for new treasures! There were also lessons in Russian language and culture as well as documentary videos and movies such as Fiddler on the Roof and Dr. Zhivago.


This pretty little town on the Volga river was the first stop on our cruise. We had a tour and then shopped to our heart's content at the open-air tables lining the walk-way back to the ship.


This was a larger town and said to be the home of the Romanov dynasty because it is here that Michael Romanov agreed to be tsar. We saw the Ipatiev Monastery where Michael was living at the time. Like many of the historical buildings in Russia, the Monastery is undergoing restoration. A group of ballroom dancers came to our ship in the evening to entertain us.


Much prettier and livlier that Kostroma, Yaroslavl is in fact much older, being founded in the year 1010. There was a beautiful wooded park on the hill overlooking the conjunction of two rivers. There are many beautiful old cathedrals in this city. We attended a very lively and entertaining folk music concert in Yaroslavl.


Unfortunately, the day we were at Irma was one of the coldest days on our trip. It wasn't much above freezing many days on our water cruise, but it was particularly cool and windy in Irma. Pity, because it would have been nice to stroll through the village at the top of the hill. Instead of a leisurely stroll, we engaged in a forced march past the craft stalls. At least that's what I felt I was doing. However I did pick up a pretty little amber ring and a lovely wood carving of an old Russian man gathering mushrooms. Apparently on nice days (when the tourists aren't so grim and cold!!) the villagers have been known to invite people into their homes for tea and/or vodka. Some of our group did this and said it was delightful to see inside the houses and look at the pictures on the wall of their family.


There is a village (just 50 people) on the island of Kizhi, but the main attraction for us was the outdoor architectural museum with the famous 22-domed Emmancipation Church. This church is an example of northern Russian architecture. It was built without a saw or nails, just an axe. The story goes that when the builder completed it he threw the axe in the lake, saying that "Never before and never again will there be such a building".

In addition to the church, there were examples of big Russian houses (they used to hold several generations of one family), saunas, chapels, and a windmill. In spite of the cold, it was a pretty walk and lovely to hear the bell ringing demostration in the little chapel. No buses, and no traffic, it was very peaceful.


Architecturally, I can't really say a lot about Petrozavodsk, although it did have quite an attractive "Liberation Park" that was built along the river after WW II. It is a sister city to many cities around the world. The main attraction for me however, was the marvelous Kantele Folk Music Dancers and Musicians. They were fantastic - I can't praise them enough! Dancers, singers, musicians - everyone was top-rate.


Last stop on our wonderful boat trip, was an outdoor event. There was to be a bar-b-que with shish-k-bobs and salads followed by a volleyball tournament of the crew versus the passengers. Unfortunately the weather still sucked big-time so this didn't come off as well as one would have hoped. I must say that the weather was abnormally cold for May there. However that wasn't much consolation.

Still, we made the best of it and poked around the new buildings that were being constructed there. It was going to be a restored village - kind of an architectural museum. I found a pretty little tea shop that served tea in a glass from a Samovar along with fresh berry pastries.

One of my table mates won the fishing contest so he shared his champagne at dinner with us all. So in spite of the cold, wet weather, we had a good time.

We were getting quite far north in our travels and days were getting extremely long - about 17 hours of daylight. The picture to the left was taken at 3:00 a.m. one night - and don't ask what I was doing up at that time of night!

We were farther north than Helsinki at one point in our trip.

St. Petersburg

Our stay in St. Petersburg was definitely a major highlight in our whole trip!!
The city and its palaces are every bit as spectacular as I could have ever imagined.

Click on this bridge picture to view my St. Petersburg pages:

Reunion Party

A couple of weeks after our return to Canada, we all met at Thunder Bay for a grand reunion party.
Click here for reunion pictures.