by Margot Unger
From the golden domes of the Catherine Palace in Tsarskoye Selo (Pushkin) to the onion domes on the Church of the Transfiguration on Kizhi Island and to the magnificent domes of Saint Basil’s Cathedral (The Cathedral of Vasily the Blessed) in Moscow, there are many wonders to be found during the Viking River Cruises Waterways of the Tsars River Cruise.
My husband and I went on this wonderful two-week trip, which started in St. Petersburg, where we saw the Hermitage Museum, the Catherine Palace and many other sites that were in the included tours. Viking also has optional tours that you can purchase. There is so much to see and do that you don’t have time for all of it!
Viking has its own tour guides for when you are in the major cities, but when you are in the smaller towns on the river, they have local guides who all speak English – most of whom are school teachers. We visited Mondrogy, where we got to watch artists work and we could buy their hand crafts; we toured Kizhi Island, which is 310 miles from the Arctic Circle. The Church of the Transfiguration was built with wooden nails, but during the reconstruction, metal nails are being used when they need to. In Yaroslavl, we toured a secondary school and also a governor’s mansion and again learned a lot about the history of the area. And, of course all along the way, we toured many monasteries and cathedrals – many of them have been restored since WWII. In Uglich, we were treated to a home-hosted visit with a local family and then it was off to Moscow, where we toured the city by bus, water and foot. We were able to tour a subway system that was beyond belief, Red Square and the Kremlin. Viking River Cruises provided us with wonderful meals throughout the trip.
On a boat that held 204 passengers, we had only 196 and we had a crew of 112, so we had very personal service. On days when we were cruising on the rivers, we had Russian history lessons and also Russian language lessons. They have so many included tours in their cruise package and then there are the additional tour packages that you can purchase. The food was wonderful. Included with the meals at lunch and dinner was the house wine and beer, which was of very good quality. You could also choose to purchase a spirits package. This trip, Waterways of the Tsars, was a “bucket list” trip for me and I am so glad I went. I can’t say enough about how well we were treated by Viking, and I would certainly book another river cruise with them again. Peggye Eck of ROX Travel was a big help to us when planning the trip.