As the name suggests, Scenic Tsar cruises Russia's rivers, with 15-day itineraries from St. Petersburg to Moscow or vice versa. Every trip includes multiple nights in both of the cities as well as a five-night cruise, visiting plenty of small cities in between the major metropolises.
The vessel itself underwent a thorough reconstruction in 2012 to fit requirements for luxury line Scenic, and feels like a whole new build. (The basic framework is all that remains from before the renovation.) It is one of the smaller ships used by the line, though, carrying just 112 guests and the crew of 71 means lots of individual attention.
What We Love
It's All-Inclusive: Once you've paid your cruise fare, there’s virtually nothing left to worry about. Roundtrip airfare, transfers, shore excursions, and onboard expenses such as Wi-Fi and gratuities are all covered. Beer and wine are also included with meals.
Local Experience on Board: During the cruise, you can paint Matryoshka wooden dolls, make blinis, learn Russian phrases, and even have a couple of vodkas tastings.
Best Known For
Seamless Shore Excursions: Traveling around Russia has gotten easier in recent years, but the logistics can be difficult and English is not widely spoken outside the major cities. Scenic's bus transport and walking tours are well-organized and the shoreside time maximized.
Special Experiences: A private ballet performance in St. Petersburg was the cultural highlight, but the lunch in the artist village of Mandrogi, with entertainment and local dishes (and, of course, vodka), was one of the best moments of the trip.
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Who It's Best For
Couples or Adults Traveling Together: These cruises attract groups looking to see Russia after the Iron Curtain all together. Solo travelers might feel left out in the cold.
Don't Say We Didn't Warn You
The Cruising Season Is Short: Scenic Tsar's cruises take place from mid-May to mid-September, and the earlier and later cruises will be chilly. The mid-summer cruises bring long days of sunshine, but more crowds at the main attractions on land.
There Will Be Traffic: The ship is your home base in Moscow and St. Petersburg, which means daily bus rides from the port to all of the major sites — and traffic jams.