In an 8-day classic cruise journey from St Petersburg to Moscow, there’s an enriching and moving cultural experience abroad with the largest and most prestigious Russian vessel – Vodohod’s Mustai Karim. I found myself excited as I boarded the ship, ready to immerse myself in this 8-day adventure across the country’s most classic touristic sites between the two capitals, with an amazing itinerary and luxurious accommodation that suit every possible need you can have while on vacation accompanied by incredible and unique views of Russia. It offers an amazing local cuisine, and themed bars, rich entertainment program, as well as a wine library, panoramic gym, and premium spa.
My adventure started in St Petersburg, the cultural capital of Russia and one of the most beautiful and breathtaking cities in Europe. I decided to book some city tour additionally to my cruise. I had an opportunity to see Peterhof, the legendary summer residence of the Russian Tsars that is even more impressive than Versailles with its cascades of fountains and the palace drowning in endless greenery!
My second half of the day I spent on a cozy excursion boat admiring the countless canals and rivers of St Petersburg. The city is often called the Northern Venice, and no wonder why – it has even more canals and bridges than the Italian city. Definitely, a must to experience when in Russia! However, the most memorable experience was witnessing the famous breeding of bridges at night from Mustai Karim. This world-known wonder is definitely best enjoyed from such a big vessel when St Petersburg looks exactly like a cute doll city with its sophisticated palaces, monuments, and cozy night streets.
To continue the cultural immersion on the second day, I had a tour to the Peter and Paul Fortress, the heart of the city, from where it all started. I saw the center of St Petersburg, the beautiful marble embankments of the Neva River, and also got acquainted with the historical and modern city life – which may I tell you, were both breathtakingly beautiful! Of course, no visit to St Petersburg can be counted without visiting the Hermitage – the biggest museum in the world with its priceless collections of art, jewelry, archeological treasures, and many more. Here you can easily spend the whole day! I recommend to visit the Egyptian hall and the Impressionists hall.
After a busy day, I decided to relax and spent the evening getting to know fellow travelers and discovering the amazing vessel while we started to sail. I had an exquisite dinner with a splendid view of St Petersburg on the main deck accompanied by a cocktail, and followed by a relaxing massage in the spa area to get ready for the next adventure. How amazing is that?
I felt excited about another opportunity of discovering new historical landmarks of Russia’s North-West. I started the day by having a coffee on my balcony after a yoga session with the most breathtaking Ladoga Lake view. Our first stop was Valaam, the largest island of the Valaam archipelago located in the northern part of lake Ladoga. In our personalized guided tour, I got to see unique holy sights and learn about the famous Valaam monastery and its 400 years history; it is a magnificent architectural masterpiece with an amazing historical background and mystery legends. I had an opportunity to try local bakery and dairy produced in the Monasterio from its own farm – highly recommended to try! With unique shades of blue on the outer ceiling and a vast variation of green, and trees around me, I felt fascinated by the place and the calmness I encountered around myself. I took a minute to stare at the landscape and appreciate its unique nature and powerful vibes. Once we got back to the ship, I ended my day having the most exquisite dinner along with a fun entertainment program.
On the fourth day of my cruise adventure, I couldn’t wait to see Mandrogui village and its peaceful and picturesque landscapes. As we landed, it all seemed like a fairytale landscape. With all that cute dollhouses around and rich nature, it all felt like a dream. We got to visit the traditional Russian village which was constructed with typical wooden houses and has numerous craft exhibitions and shops. Mandrogui is a reconstructed village, inhabited by the most talented craftsmen from all over Russia on the bank of the Svir River, to illustrate the traditions and lifestyle of Russia’s past. Walking through the village, I appreciated the talent of the skillful craftsmen introduced in the architecture. Luckily, I had an opportunity to see some craftsmen making matryoshkas (which are Russian nesting dolls), sewing, and carving wood – their skills were truly incredible. I got a couple of matryoshkas and a samovar (traditional Russian teapot) as souvenirs! After visiting the village, and getting to know the unique craftsmen, I had an open-air barbeque for lunch and got to savor the famous Russian shashlik and a few other traditional dishes while listening to a super talented live-music local band. After, I visited the biggest Vodka museum in the world, which boasts an impressive collection of 2651 varieties of the national drink from regular to very rare bottles, and had some tasting too. As the end of my day approached, I visited the wine library to taste some unique grades from the South of Russia.
I felt really excited to start the fifth day of the Classic Cruise, as we had the picturesque Kizhi in the program. The weather was fabulous so I did some morning exercises on the main deck followed by a traditional Russian breakfast with cottage cheese and blinis with sour cream & jam.
Kizhi is known as the main masterpiece and jewel of the wooden architecture of Russia and is included in the UNESCO Cultural Heritage Fund. It is located right after crossing the second largest lake in Europe – Onega. As approach the island you can see the main architectural complex of Kizhi drowning in the first lights of sunrise – it looks like real silver jewelry! This is one of the most beautiful places I’ve ever seen for sure.
We had a private walking tour, and I got to admire the unique cultural, historical and natural complex as well as the beauty of the transfiguration of the main cathedral which was built without a single nail, according to the legend. During the tour, I got to enjoy an amazing concert the “Music of Northern Village”, which was a truly beautiful experience. Once we got back, I decided to visit one of the entertainment programs followed by a local fish lunch. I had the rest of the day for myself and didn’t feel bored at all as Mustai Karim has lots of activities to offer – from local craftsmanship classes to private ballroom dance lessons. Another great bonus is their onboard radio where all day long they are sharing exciting news on their entertainment program and local sights with their history and interesting facts. After this cruise for sure you’ll know Russian culture and history better than any of your friends!
On the next day, we visited Goritsy – a heritage village situated in the Vologda region. As a history lover, I can say that I felt very excited to immerse myself in this experience, as the village is famous for its monasteries and especially Ferapontov monastery that is famous for its frescoes. I decided to keep a healthy lifestyle for the rest of the trip as the food was too delicious that I started to gain some weight, but luckily Mustai Karim had plenty of healthy and tasty options on board – starting from freshly squeezed juices and finishing with paleo and keto gourmet options with a local twist. My forever favorites are always Vinegret or Cabadge salads, and Beetroot or Fish soups – always healthy and tasty.
Goritsy is a tiny riverside community with a unique medieval atmosphere. This place withholds a storied past having the Ferapontov famous monastery which is included in the UNESCO World Heritage and its mural paintings with over 500 years of history as well as it being the former residence of some Russian tzars and aristocrats. We did a walking tour of the monastery complex as well as the object of remarkable interest in it, which is the Cathedral of Nativity of the Virgin, which walls are full of invaluable and unique frescoes of Dionisius, the outstanding medieval painter. This place had an absolutely sublime beauty with the most picturesque ceiling I had ever seen, which is also considered among the greatest examples of Russian medieval art. As sunset approaches, we proceed to some local shopping and return back to the cruise. I highly recommend buying local Vologda butter and lace – this region is very famous for its local lace craftsman all over the world.
On my seventh day, I felt already sad, because it was almost the last day aboard, but couldn’t help but feel curious about what I can learn in Uglich, a historic town in Yaroslavl Oblast, which stands on the Volga River. When we landed, I felt amazed by the vivid and colored architecture and friendly locals. We visited a few local historical sights and the Church of St. Dmitry, among others, which is as famous as the Kremlin. This church’s curious history is tied to Ivan the Terrible’s son who passed away under mysterious circumstances and after some time was declared a great martyr. We also had a lucky chance to listen to the Kovcheg Choir, a local gem famous for its masterful performance of Russian folklore.
My last day on board, I spent with my fellow travelers who I met onboard participating in numerous activities and games organized by the cruise team. I felt grateful and full of memorable moments while approaching our final destination in the evening. The glorious capital of Russia embraces the diversity of a multicultural country and highlights all Russian traditions. Moscow city tour is not included in the 8-days cruise program, but I highly recommend staying here at least for 2 nights to visit the famous Red square and some of the world’s known museums and monuments.
It’s said that a mind stretched by new experiences can never go back to its old dimensions, and along the 8-day adventure aboard the Classic cruise of Vodohod, I was lucky to experience several historical places as well as educate myself about some Russian history and culture to expand my vision. I can surely say that my mind was stretched beyond.
The service was impeccable, as well as the views along the way I got to encounter. I came across artisans, architectural gems, incredible art, and culture, priceless views and entertainment, as well as local exquisite cuisine aboard Mustai Karim. This trip gave me a new perspective on Russia, and how wide, rich, and full of history it is. I believe we travel not to move around, but to feel moved within ourselves, and after this experience, I can say I definitely felt inspired to move forward and get to know more amazing sights of Russia. To be continued…
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