Russian River Cruises fleet
Review of Russian River Cruises
CruiseMapper's "Russian River Cruises" hub provides detailed information on ships, itineraries, tours and prices on cruises along rivers and lakes in Russia.
- In the "Fleet" section you will find an extensive list or Russian cruise ships. By following each ship link you will find the ship's review, deck plans, scheduled itineraries and cruise pricing information. Live ship tracking is also provided on a digital map. It shows the vessel's current location, cruising speed and course.
- In the "Itinerary" section you will find maps and day-by-day scheduled activities planned by the Europe's largest cruise companies, also operating in Russia via chartered riverboats.
Volga River Cruises in Russia
Volga river cruising in Russia places you in another time. The longest and largest river in Europe stretches from Ivan the Terrible to Catherine the Great. Today, live along the central artery of Russia looks like it always has - the villages, the churches, the people, just like an old painting you have seen in a gallery.
Volga flows through central Russia into Caspian Sea, and is often called the national river of Russia. 11 of the 20 largest cities of the country, including the capital Moscow, are in Volga's watershed. Some of the world's largest reservoirs can be found along the river, which has a symbolic meaning in Russian culture, referred to as Mother Volga (Volga Matushka) in Russian folklore and literature.
Explore the land of the Tsars while sailing down the historic Volga river, typically between Moscow and St. Petersburg, the traditional ports of embarkation and debarkation. Tour landmarks are the Red Square and Kremlin in Moscow, the Hermitage and Catherine Palace in St. Petersburg.
Once unthinkable as a cruise vacation destination, Russia is today more accessible than ever, with stops along its largest European lakes and rivers. For river travel lovers accustomed to European itineraries, the Russian experience will be quite different. Russia has an special feel of uniquely designed riverboats. Built to handle larger lakes (Lake Ladoga for example, is the largest European freshwater body of water), these vessels usually feature larger size and capacity (up to six decks), deeper draft, and most of them are refurbished instead of being newbuild.
The itineraries offered are activity-intensive in Moscow and St Petersburg, with long periods of cruising and less ashore time in the middle. Smaller "Golden Ring" cities (so named due to their historic significance) are full of icon-riddled monasteries and Orthodox churches. Most cruise lines hire local experts and fill the days of sailing along the river with lectures on country's history, cooking demonstrations and language lessons.
Most of the tours offered by the companies sailing along Volga are identical, so customers choosing between the different itineraries should look at how the river ships spend the time within Moscow and St. Petersburg. Some lines have their guests stay onboard, which can be as far as 1 hour out of both cities. Others put their clients up at hotels near the center of the city, with several meals at customer's expense.
Compared with other river routes, Russia features a short season, between early May and late October, with high season in June (known as White Nights because of the endless daylight), July and August. Even if the weather is chilly, there are some advantages to sailing early or late: you'll beat the crowds which can make a visit to the Hermitage a bear. Most Russian museums lack air-conditioning, and while the climate is generally temperate, in the summer Moscow often experiences high humidity heat waves.
Remember to think about your Russian visa at least 2 months before your voyage, to have enough time to fill out the paperwork, including a lengthy on-line application. And don't forget that Russian language uses Cyrillic alphabet. Even in the cities, you'll rarely find signs in English, so learning some letters and a few phrases will help you get around.
List of Russian river cruise companies
- Vodohod ("ВодоходЪ") was founded in 2004. This company is Russia’s largest river cruise line, and a subsidiary of "Volga Shipping Company". It has headquarters in both Moscow and St Petersburg. To its fleet were added all vessels of the company Volga Flot Tour, to a total of over 50 ships. The regions of operations are along the rivers Volga, Don, Kama, Moscow canals, Volga-Don canal, also on Volga-Baltic Waterway and the lakes Onega and Ladoga.
- Volga Shipping Company ("Волжское пароходство") was founded in 1843 as a steamship freight and passenger shipping company operating exclusively on River Volga. The company was restructored in 1994 and currently owns a fleet of over 300 ships (including Vodohod's fleet) with anual capacity of approx 6,7 million tonnes (cargo) and around 400,000 passengers.
- Mosturflot ("Московский туристический флот")
- Imperial River Cruises was founded in 1992 and operates on waterways in both Russia and Ukraine. The company has an exclusive partnership with "Orthodox Cruise Company", one of the Russia's largest operators. The line's fleet operates on the rivers Volga, Don, Neva, Svir, Dnieper, the lakes Onega and Ladoga. As the name suggest, its business targets mainly tourists booking in the USA, Canada, Australia. Also offered are theme river cruises (especially food and music themed). Ship's capacity is between 180 - 250 pax. English speaking tour guides are provided on all shore excursions. The daily onboard entertainment program offers live musical performances, folk shows, enrichment lectures.
New Russian cruise ships
In August 2016, at Lotus shipyard (Astrakhan, Russian) part of ASC (United Shipbuilding Company) the keel was laid for the 1st Russian passenger cruise ship in decades. Support for the new class of even vessel is coming from Russian Federation president Vladimir Putin, who expressed hope that this will be the first but not the last of a series of such ships.
The Marine Engineering Bureau office engineers developed the Concept PV300VD cruise ship, the first of which is to be completed within 3 years. The project belongs to Saint Petersburg team of Marine Engineering Bureau SPb, that has been working in Russia for 16 years. Its other branch is in Odessa. Such vessels were not generally built in the old Soviet Union.
The last built in the USSR, 2 river cruise ships, Soviet Union and Lenin, were built at Gorky plant in 1959-1960. Then, as with its ocean ships, the Soviet Union bought foreign-built river ships, until 1989-1990. However, these were not entirely foreign as they were created to Soviet order and developed for operation in Russian conditions. These vessels were built mainly in Austria, East Germany and Czechoslovakia. After 1990, Russian river boats were no longer built and the business was carried on for years utilising old tonnage. The same happened with the Russian passenger fleet as they were banned in North America after Russia's invasion in Afghanistan.
Today, shipping conditions in Russia are different. The new ships are planned to be “river-sea” ships. This class is needed in order to navigate large lakes. Russian river cruise ships are much more powerful than typical Danube and Rhine vessels. Dimensions for the new 310-passenger ships will be 463 x 55 feet. The PV300VD concept emerged in 2010-2015 by order of Russian Federal Marine Agency. Program's state customer and coordinator is the Minister of Industry and Trade, and completion is scheduled for 2019. The cost of a ship varies between 2.5 to 3.5 billion rubles and payback period is 5 to 20 years. 3 such ships are foreseen at the stage, though more could follow. Next photo shows the design of Vodohod's new river cruise ship project PV300VD.
Next photo combo shows the design of Mosturflot's new river cruise ship project PV300.
The routes foreseen for the new Russian ships are in season (May to October) between Moscow and Saint Petersburg, then taking travelers from Moscow to Samara and Rostov-on-Don, in the winter embarking in the Eastern Mediterranean and possibly Red Sea: for example, Rostov-on-Don-Yalta-Odessa-Istanbul-Alexandria. There are talks about navigation in Crimea, Sevastopol, and Sochi, on more interesting routes in the Caspian sea.
The newbuilds could carry about 500,000 passengers annually, of which about 100,000 foreign tourists. The number of foreigners declined by nearly a half in 2014 as western tour operators cut Russian programmes and westerners stayed away. According to the Ministry of Industry and trade, buyers of the new ship would be operators like Mosturflot (GK Sea and River shipping company), Vodohod and Orthodox. Given the high cost of the vessels, it is planned to lease them to operators. The main difference of this 4-deck ship is that it will be able to navigate not only rivers, but seas as well. The vessels will also be more luxurious than past ships and will include western amenities, such as French balconies and comfortable large suites.
Note: You can see the CruiseMapper's list of all river cruise ships and riverboats in the "itinerary" section of our River Cruises hub. All river passenger shipping line companies and their fleets are listed there.
Itinerary of Russian River Cruises
The Russian River Cruises' itinerary section provides information on itineraries and ports of call offered by the largest European river cruise companies - Viking, AmaWaterways, Uniworld, Scenic. Each of thse companies has partnership with a local company and operates as joint venture one or more ships sailing in Russia.
Volga River cruise ports highlights
- St Petersburg (Russia's second largest city - after Moscow) was built by tzar Peter the Great in 1703. It is located in the Neva River delta (Gulf of Finland's east coast). Saint Petersburg includes the territories of more than 130 islands interconnected by over 300 bridges. The city has an huge number of cultural and historical sights, architectural landmarks, museums, magnificent palaces (Russian Tsars' former residences), grand parks, wide avenues, bridges, numerous monuments. Among its most famous tourist attractions are the Hermitage museum (housing over 2 million pieces of art). Two days is never enough to see everything in this remarkable city. However, passengers will usually visit the Hermitage, admire the city's 19th-century architecture during a canal cruise tour, take in cultural performance, visit one of the Versailles-style palaces in St. Petersburg's countryside (Pushkin or Peterhof).
- Moscow (Russian Federation's capital and largest city) was founded in 1147 by Prince Yuri Dolgoruky. The city was destroyed several times - by the Mongolians, Napoleon, the Nazis. The heart of the city lies in the Red Square, which contains Lenin's Tomb, St Basil's Cathedral and GUM Department Store. Kremlin's red walls also border the square. Inside the fort is the Armoury (containing the Faberge eggs) and 9 onion-domed churches. Art-fans can seek out Pushkin Gallery or see a show at Bolshoi Theatre.
- Yaroslavl is one of the Golden Ring cities of Russia, and the largest city to visit during the middle of your Volga cruise. The town is famous with its gorgeous churches. It also offers several pedestrian-only streets full of shops and cafes, as well as lovely embankment used as a park.
- Uglich has a provincial setting. It was found in the 10th century and was a scene of some of the medieval Russian history's most remarkable events. Here were exiled the Ivan Terrible’s 7th wife and her son Tsarevich Dmitry. Soon after, Tsarevich was mysteriously murdered here. Soon after, a dedicated to this event church ("Church of St. Demitrius on the Blood") was erected. Within the Uglich Kremlin walls is the town's oldest building - "Prince’s Palace". Other attractions are the St. John’s Church and the Transfiguration Cathedral.
- Astrakhan was founded at the end of the 13th century and is located the Volga's left bank. Port’s activities extend 100 km downstream and over 300 km upstream along the river. The city is a major trading center and its main business is freight shipping (coal, timber, salt, food, industrial products). Astrakhan is not linked to the railroad network. Cargoes are transferred by floating cranes from river ships to seagoing vessels.
- Goritsy is a small village on River Sheksna, famous for its Resurrection Convent, At approx 4 ml (7 km) from Goritsy is Kirillov - a pilgrimage site with many historical and architectural monuments. Among those are the Kirillo-Belozerski monastery, Ferapont monastery (UNESCO site), 12 churches, 25 civil monuments.
- Kizhi Island (Lake Onega) is located approx 70 km (40 ml) to the northeast of Petrozavodsk. The island has two onion-domed churches. Also here is the 17th century built 22-domed church - constructed without using a single nail. Its "Church of the Transfiguration of our Savior" and "Church of the Intercession" were rebuilt several times and are preserved in their original 17th century design.
- Mandrogi (Mandroga) is a small village on Svir river recently created as a tourist attraction. It features small wooden log cabin houses. Its “town of masters” is a market for hand-made Russian artcraft, including paintings, painted wooden dolls, embroidery, pottery. Other attractions are the elk nursery and the quail farm, horse-riding tours, food tasting (pastry), vodka tasting (museum of Russian vodka).
- Kostroma is also one of the Golden Ring cities, and once was one of the Russia's 3 largest cities - after Moscow and Yaroslavl, It is located at the confluence of the rivers Volga and Kostroma. Among the attractions are the St Ipathy monastery, an open-air museum (traditional wooden architecture- izbas, mills, churches are gathered in one place).
- Kizhi is famous the whole world over. It has become the symbol of grandeur of unique Russian culture. Visiting the Kizhi Islands gives a great chance to appreciate the enchanting medieval atmosphere and get acquainted with the customs and free spirit of men living in a spacious area with a rigorous climate
- Kazan. The largest port in Volga basin, it transships cargoes transported by water alone or by water and rail. The port receives coal from Kuznetsk Basin for Kazan's heat and electric power plant, food and industrial products and ships out products of city's enterprises and Siberian timber. The port includes Tsentral’nyi, Kama and Volga cargo areas, as well as a number of landings, the biggest of which are Naberezhnye Chelny and Chistopol’. The basin of Tsentral’nyi Cargo Area and passenger area are protected by breakwater.
- Novgorod (Nizhniy Novgorod) is an ancient stronghold founded by Gran Prince Yuri as a frontier post, is now the 5th largest city of Russia as well as one of the main centers of river tourism in the country. In the 19th century, Nizhniy became the trade center of the whole state as it was the place of the biggest fair in Russian Empire. A proverb of that time says: "Moscow is the heart of Russia, St. Petersburg is its head, and Nizhniy Novgorod - its pocketbook". The city was renamed "Gorky" in Soviet times, in honour of the writer Maxim Gorky, born there. Until 1990, Nizhniy Novgorod was “closed” to foreigners as USSR protected its military secrets. Nizhniy Novgorod is included in the UNESCO list of 100 cities constituting world cultural and historical value.
- Samara - during the Soviet period the city was named Kuybyshev, in honor of the Soviet party figure Valerian Kuybyshev. The shortest ways from Central and Western Europe to Kazakhstan, Siberia and Central Asia run through Samara. The city has rich cultural heritage: Alexey Tolstoy spent his childhood and youth there. Maxim Gorky started his literary career in the city - he worked in "Samara newspaper". The Czech writer Yaroslav Gashek also worked in Samara, during the Civil war. Famous artists like Ilya Repin, Ivan Ayvazovsky, Vasily Surikov, lived in the city. During the Great Patriotic war, the Seventh symphony of Dmitry Shostakovich was performed in Samara for the first time.
- Tver - the White Trinity Church (1564) is the sole ancient monument of Tver as in 1763, there was a great fire after which the city was rebuilt in Neoclassical style. There are also a lot of buildings of Catherine the Great. Tver State University is highly rated in the region. In 1931, Tver received the name Kalinin, in honour to the Soviet leader Mikhail Kalinin. The city was occupied by the German army in 1941. Only 2 months later it became the first big city in Europe liberated from the occupation.
- Ulyanovsk is located on the right bank of Kuibyshev Reservoir. Port's activities extend 90 km downstream and 100 km upstream along Volga. The port unloads mineral construction materials, food and industrial products for the cities of Saransk and Uljanovsk, and ships out coal from Kuznetsk Basin, automobiles, foodstuffs. Its passenger area was rebuilt in 1969 and includes a large number of landings, the biggest being Melekess and Sengilei. The basin of the port of Ulyanovsk is protected by a breakwater.
- Saratov (founded in 1590) is the capital city of a huge province that as size equals the territoies of Albania, Belgium and Switzerland combined. In the late 19th century, Saratov became a center for industry and trade, Among the city's attractions are Moskovskaya street (Europe's longest straight street), one of Europe's longest bridges (2,8 km long), children’s theater, puppet theater, Russia’s oldest circus, musical conservatory, beaches, Art Galleries, Lipki Park, two large casinos.
- Volgograd (currently Stalingrad) was founded in 1589. This is a major port and shipping hub linking Donets Basin with Urals and Upper Volga Region. It ships grain, coal, food and industrial products upstream and receives mineral construction materials and timber. The port’s districts are situated within the cities of Volzhsk and Volgograd (Tsentral’nyi). Kamyshin is the biggest landing belonging to the port. Among Volgograd's attractions is the Mamayev Hill with numerous sculptures devoted to the WW2 victims and topped with the world’s largest freestanding statue “Mother Russia” (height 52 m / 171 ft). Adjacent is the "Museum of the Defense" (war artifacts, weapons, uniforms).
All ships listed here operate on Russian waterways. To this long list should be additionally added the following boats, which are currently listed in the fleets of their owner companies:
- AmaKatarina (company AmaWaterways)
- Scenic Tsar (company Scenic Cruises)
- River Victoria (company Uniworld)
- Viking Rurik, Viking Akun, Viking Helgi, Viking Ingvar, Viking Truvor (company Viking Cruises)
Viking River Cruises in Russia - Itinerary "Waterways of the Tsars"
Viking's itinerary is named "Waterways of the Tsars" (13-day cruise) inclusive of:
- all transfers and port charges
- riverview stateroom
- 10 guided tours (audio headsets provided)
- all onboard meals (including 12 breakfasts, 11 lunches, 12 dinners, Welcome Cocktail Reception, Gala Dinner)
- complimentary beverages (wine, beer and soft drinks with all dinners and lunches)
- complimentary Wi-Fi
- visiting four UNESCO World Heritage Sites
- enrichment events (onshore live music and dance performances), onboard Russian language lessons, history-themed lectures, Russian cooking workshop, Russian tea time).
- Viking's Russian cruise fares are between USD 5,100 - 5,600 PP. Prices are inclusive of international airfare from 30 USA airports.
- Airport transfers (meet & greet) are included only when flights are purchased through Viking Cruises.
Optional (additionally priced) extensions are:
- (pre-cruise) 2-night Moscow hotel package (Radisson Royal Hotel or similar), with included 2 breakfasts, Moscow Subway guided tour, Viking host services.
- (post-cruise) 3-night Helsinki hotel package (Radisson Blu Plaza or similar), with included 3 breakfasts, guided walking tour, Viking host services, train travel (St Petersburg to Helsinki), all hotel and ship transfers.
Itineraries are two: northbound (Moscow to St Petersburg) or the reverse southbound (St Petersburg to Moscow).
- (Day 1) Moscow arrival, airport to ship transfer, onboard dinner
- (Day 2) half-day Moscow tour (Bolshoi Theater, Red Square, St Basil’s Cathedral, GUM Department Store, Moscow Metro)
- (Day 3) freetime full-day Moscow touring, or an optional morning tour to Tretyakov Gallery Russian fine art museum). Other optional tours are in the afternoon (Cosmonaut Museum, Jewish Moscow) and in the evening (Moscow by Night).
- (Day 4) Moscow tour to Kremlin (Tsar’s Canon, Tsar’s Bell, 2 cathedrals), scenic Moscow Canal cruise (after lunch) as the ships departs the city.
- (Day 5) Uglich arrival (after lunch), disembarkation for guided walking tour (Kremlin of Uglich, Church of St Dmitry on the Blood, tea at a local family home), before dinner departure
- (Day 6) Yaroslavl arrival in the morning, guided tour (covered food market, handcrafted souvenirs shopping), free time, ship lunch, departure.
- (Day 7) Kuzino morning arrival, tour to Kirillo-Belozersky Monastery (guided walk- wooden chapels, Assumption Cathedral, museum), children’s school, ship lunch, afternoon departure.
- (Day 8) Kizhi Island (Lake Onega cruising) afternoon arrival, walking tour (Open Air Museum of Architecture- wooden houses, windmills, churches, Preobranzhenskaya Church), evening departure.
- (Day 9) Mandrogy (Svir River cruising) afternoon arrival (Vodka Museum, handmade Russian craft shopping, optional banya / Russian bath house visit, optional tour (matryoshka doll making workshop), Lake Ladoga cruising to Neva River.
- (Day 10) — St Petersburg (Neva River cruising), early morning arrival, onboard breakfast, guided tour (Winter Palace, Hermitage Museum), onboard dinner and evening live Russian ballet performance.
- (Day 11) St Petersburg tour to Pushkin district (Catherine Palace), ship lunch, city tour (St Isaac’s Cathedral, Peter and Paul Fortress, Nevsky Prospekt), optional evening folklor performance.
- (Day 12) freetime St Petersburg touring (optional morning tour to Peterhof Palace, optional afternoon kommunalka tour, optional St Petersburg canal cruise from), onboard lunch and dinner.
- (Day 13) St Petersburg - onboard breakfast, ship disembarkation, ship to airport transfer for the return flight.
Uniworld Cruises in Russia - itinerary "Imperial Waterways of Russia"
The 13-day long itinerary is named "Imperial Waterways of Russia" and operated by the ship River Victoria. Uniworld's Russian cruise fares range between USD 5,200 and 9,900 PP (depending on cabin category.
- Day 1 – Moscow (Sheremetyevo Airport arrival, ship transfer, embarkation)
- Day 2 – Moscow (city tour, metro tour, Arbat Street) - Bolshoi Theatre, Red Square, St Basil’s Cathedral, Russian lunch included, onboard Captain’s Welcome Reception, Gala Dinner
- Day 3 – Moscow (Kremlin, Armory Museum)
- Day 4 – Moscow (leisure day)
- Day 5 – Moscow Canal and Volga River cruising to Uglich (walking tour)
- Day 6 – Yaroslavl (Lake Rybinsk cruising) - city tour
- Day 7 – Goritsy (Lake Onega cruising) - monasteries, St Cyril of the White Lake Monastery, Children’s Arts and Crafts,
- Day 8 – Kizhi Island (Lake Onega cruising) - Open-air Museum of Wooden Architecture
- Day 9 – Svir River cruising to Mandrogi, Lake Ladoga cruising - Mandrogi walk tour (picnic lunch)
- Day 10 – St Petersburg (city tour, canal cruise, Church of the Savior on Spilled Blood, ballet performance at Alexandrinsky Theatre)
- Day 11 – St Petersburg (Catherine Palace, Pushkin Park)
- Day 12 – St Petersburg (Winter Palace - Hermitage Museum, Captain’s Farewell Reception, Gala Dinner)
- Day 13 – St Petersburg (disembarkation, transfer and return flight).
Scenic River Cruises in Russia - itinerary "The Imperial Wonders Of Russia"
The itinerary is operated by Scenic Tzar and named "Imperial Jewels of Russia". Its duration is 15-day, along Volga and Svir rivers. Scenic Cruises deals are inclusive of:
- Scenic Enrich - handcrafted, Scenic passenghers exclusive tour experiences (private shows, family meals prepared by local hosts)
- Scenic Sundowners - exclusive cocktail events
- all onboard meals (including complimentary wine, beer and soft drinks with lunches and dinners)
- onboard doctor
- onboard entertainment
- in-cabin room service
- Wi-Fi internet (Mac mini infotainment system via the cabin's TV)
- all gratuities
- Scenic's Russian cruise fares are USD 11,500 PP.
- Day-by-day itinerary info: Day 1 (Moscow), Day 2 (Moscow, Sundowners canal cruise), Day 3 (Moscow - Kremlin), Day 4 (Moscow - Cosmonaut meeting), Day 5 (Moscow - Tretyakov Gallery), Day 6 (Uglich), Day 7 (Yaroslavl - city tour), Day 8 (Goritsy - Kirillo-Belozersky Monastery), Day 9 (Kizhi Island - Church of Transfiguration), Day 10 (Mandrogi - Museum village), Day 11 (St Petersburg - Hermitage), Day 12 (St Petersburg - Peterhof Palace), Day 13 (St Petersburg - Private Ballet performance), Day 14 (St Petersburg - canal cruise), Day 15 (return flight).