Do onion-domed churches, icons, and imperial treasures — served with shots of vodka and dollops of caviar — sound appealing? Then cruise between Moscow and St. Petersburg, a route along the Svir and Volga rivers as well as interior canals and lakes. Voyages typically last 8 to 13 days, with some itineraries combining land extensions to adjacent countries. Most ships deployed in this region feel different from those on other European waterways, since the vessels were built in former Iron Curtain countries and are for the most part leased. The season runs from May to October, with a higher number of departures in the summer months.
What We Love
The Performing Arts: Whether you fancy folk dances, the Bolshoi Ballet (book two to three months ahead), opera, or symphonic music, there are plenty of options for art and culture lovers.
The Crafts: Sure, you'll see nesting matryoshka dolls, but also detailed lacquer boxes, amber jewelry, replica Fabergé eggs, fur chapka hats, and bright fringed shawls.
Best Known For
The Hermitage: One of the world's largest — and finest — museums has a boggling collection in six lavish buildings, spanning prehistoric to modern art.
Russian Orthodox Churches: You'll see endless onion domes, including multicolored St. Basil's in Moscow's Red Square, the 22-domed Church of the Transfiguration of Our Savior on Lake Onega, and Kirillov's Kirillo-Belozersky Monastery.
Shop for Cruises
St. Petersburg: Museums, including the Hermitage, Fabergé, Russian, Decorative Arts, and quirky Kunstkamera, are just the beginning. Then there are palaces — the Menshikov, Moika, and a day trip to UNESCO-designated Peterhof. And, of course, churches, such as Church of the Savior on Spilled Blood and St. Isaac's.
Moscow: See Red Square, with St. Basil's, Lenin's tomb, GUM department store, and the Kremlin. Inside Kremlin walls, visit Cathedral Square, with church museums, the Armory, Diamond Fund Museum, and Patriarch's Palace.
Kizhi: This island village hosts the UNESCO-designated Open Air Museum of Architecture, with historic wooden houses, churches, and mills.
Don't Say We Didn't Warn You
Visas Are Pricey and Complicated: Apply at least two months before your trip; for minimum hassle, hire a third-party visa agency.
Moscow and St. Petersburg Ports Are Far From the City Centers: Expect bus rides of an hour or so to get to the heart of the sites and attractions.
Gayle Keck is a San Francisco-based contributor to ShermansCruise who has also written for The Washington Post and Los Angeles Times.