To Russia with love!
Watching the Winter Olympics has given me a real taste to see Russia in all its glory. There is no doubting the Russian’s ability to put on a show and the country is so rich in culture and history that it just begs to be explored.
However exploring Russia can be an expensive business. Flights alone are costly and I am a big believer that in order to get the best out of any destination, it is good to have a mixture of alone time and some guided assistance.
Having heard one or two horror stories from friends of mine that have been to Russia about meeting unexpected expenses, I know that careful budgeting is necessary and so my cautious side was very much at war with my desire to explore in freedom.
Package trips are not really my thing, even if the upside is that costs are up-front and clear. However whilst researching potential flights and hotel stays, I came across an option I hadn’t considered before, a Russian River Cruise.
Now I’ve got to admit, a cruise is usually my idea of hell. Being buffeted about on the open sea only occasionally punctuated by bits of coastline is not what I would call a relaxing or enjoyable experience. However, the idea of river cruise did appeal, after all even if a river is wide, the shore is never too far away!
A river cruise, I realised, could actually be quite a romantic way to take in the scenery and soak up the essence of a place. From Moscow to St Petersburg, tours around the heart of Russia and trips to explore Kiev, multiple options are available.
River cruises are also surprisingly affordable. A twelve day tour to Odessa cost little more than £1500 including flights, with Moscow to St Petersburg coming in at around only £100 pounds more.
Russia has an intricate network of rivers, canals and lakes and the tours connect rolling hills and countryside to bustling towns filled with enchanting churches and cathedrals.
On-board accommodation is ‘hotel’ standard and all cabins are en-suite. I am led to believe that the entertainment too is exceptionally good, however quiet bars and areas exist for those that prefer to keep themselves to themselves.
Should you wish to take in some of the local nightlife the crew are apparently only too happy to oblige and will either tell you about or take you to local restaurants, clubs and bars according to your preferences.
Whilst I am undoubtedly a fan of snow, winter temperatures in Russia fall way below my tolerance levels and so I have decided to book a tour in the summer months when I can see the countryside at its best, as well as take advantage of local festivals and markets which are more plentiful at this time of year.
Limited tours do operate in the autumn, however there is a stronger risk of the tour being cancelled if winter decides to put in an earlier than expected appearance, so summer wins again!