Accompanied by the cries of the gulls, the tone of the cruise is set from the very first lock. Linking the capital of Peter the Great to Moscow was a task of Herculean magnitude. We reflect awhile on the resilience of the Orthodox churches towered over by the Moscow Skyscrapers of Stalin before traversing the forests which have long provided Russia with the timber for her monasteries. The sobriety of the wooden buildings is in sharp contrast with the Rococo opulence of Saint Petersburg which provides a stopping place for us.
DAY 1 MOSCOW
Settle into cabins then attend a folklore welcome evening on board, with the traditional “Bread and Salt” ceremony. Dinner on board and overnight stop in Moscow.
DAY 2 MOSCOW
We have a panoramic tour of the city (exterior of buildings only) and the historic centre – “Kitay Gorod” with the famous Red square dominated by St Basil’s cathedral and the Kremlin on the banks of the river Moskva. We have lunch in town then we set off to visit the Novodevichy convent dating from the 16th century and proclaimed a UNESCO World Heritage Site. The beautiful domes and bell towers of its churches with frescos and five-tiered iconostasis are an integral part of the Moscow cityscape. We follow this with a visit to the Tretyakov gallery, home to the world’s most extensive collection of Russian art from the 11th century to the present day. Dinner and overnight stay on board. OPTIONAL EXCURSION: “Metro and Moscow by night” OR “Russian National Show”.
DAY 3 MOSCOW
Today we visit the Kremlin, the historic fortified complex in the heart of Moscow, complete with many civil and religious buildings enclosed within the Kremlin walls. We also visit inside the magnificent cathedral of the Assumption. OPTIONAL EXCURSION: “The Armoury Palace, museum of the Russian Imperial Court”(1) OR Free time in Moscow (possibility of transfer to Moscow - to book and pay on board).We return on board and start sailing. Lunch on board. Dinner and overnight stay on board.
DAY 4 UGLICH
We leave Moscow via an ingenious system of locks, built in the time of Stalin, which allows us to join the river Volga “Mother of all rivers”. We have lunch before we arrive in Uglich. Founded in the 10th century (first mention of the town was in 937), it has played an integral part in most of Russia’s great historic events. Most notably, it was in Uglich in 1591 when the Tsar Dimitri, son of Ivan the Terrible disappeared in mysterious and tragic circumstances. We visit the Kremlin with the church of St Dmitri-on-the-Blood and the cathedral of the Transfiguration. We attend a short concert of liturgical music. We return on board for dinner and overnight stay.
DAY 5 YAROSLAVL - ROSTOV
One of the highlights of the Russian Golden Ring of towns, Yaroslavl is an ancient Russian city, founded by Yaroslavl the Wise in 1010 and is located at the confluence of the Volga and the Kotorosl rivers. The frescos of its churches, the wonderful pieces of work produced by its jewellers, potters and weavers are truly beautiful. We visit the “Transfiguration of the Saviour” monastery (Spaso-Preobrazhensky monastery) and have a brief view of the outside of the church of Elijah the prophet, built in the mid-17th century and a true architectural masterpiece. We then visit the church of St Nicholas the miracle worker, protector of all merchants and travellers. Lunch, dinner and overnight stay on board. OPTIONAL EXCURSION: Rostov-the-Great. Founded in the 11th century on the shores of lake Nero, Rostov is one of the oldest of the Golden Ring towns. We have a panoramic tour and then visit the Kremlin and cathedral of the Dormition, which was erected in 1162 by Grand Prince Andrei Bogolyubsky.
DAY 6 GORITSY
As we cruise on the river Sheksna, here we have a port of call which allows us a real insight into the life of a typical Russian village. In Goristy, we visit a school, where the children and teachers happily explain their way of life. We end our time in Goritsy with a visit of a typical village house in order to have a better understanding of the villagers’ life. We rejoin our ship and take Russian Tea as we cruise on the White Lake. Guided tour of the Resurrection monastery, being restored. OPTIONAL guided tour of “Saint Cyril of white Lake” monastery. Founded in 14th century by St Cyril, this fortress name is a reference to the Bielozersk located on the White lake, near Kirillov, territory of the principality of Bielzersk. It was first a rampart of the city of Moscow and then it became a place of worship composed of a whole fortified, cultural and domestic work. This optional excursion replaces the visits on the original program at Goritsy.
DAY 7 KIZHI
We cruise on lake Onega and after lunch arrive in Kizhi, situated in the middle of the lake, in the region of Karelia, in Great North Russia. Kizhi is a small narrow island which stretches from north to south about 8km and is just 1.500m wide. The island is a true treasure trove of delightful wooden buildings from the 18th century. We visit the open-air museum, which is a UNESCO World Heritage Site, where both religious and secular buildings are grouped together, the 22-domed Transfiguration church and the smaller 10-domed church of the Intercession. Dinner and another night on board.
DAY 8 MANDROGA
Between lake Ladoga, the largest lake in Europe, and lake Onega, the river Svir flows gently through beautiful and rare scenery. From the decks of our ship, we have a glimpse into the daily lives of the villagers who live in this deep and authentic part of Russia as we cruise past. We have lunch on board and then we stop at Mandroga for a walk in the village constructed entirely for tourists to visit. Here we see traditional Russian craftsmen at work, as well as the wooden “Isbas” so typical of the region. Tonight is the captain’s dinner accompanied by a glass of vodka. We stay on board overnight. OPTIONAL EXCURSION: “Lunch of local specialities in Mandroga”.
DAY 9 SAINT PETERSBURG
We have a panoramic tour of the town. Saint Petersburg, Russia’s second city, is without doubt one of the most beautiful cities in the world. The palaces, squares, statues, broad avenues (or Prospekts), carefully restored for the 300th anniversary of the town, still look as if they have been just completed by their builders. Built on islands in the Neva delta, this marvellous city known as the cultural capital of Russia is a delightful place for art lovers. Here we can admire Nevsky Prospect, a vibrant bustling street teeming with life, Kazan and Saint Isaac’s cathedrals, Smolny convent and Vassilievsky island. We visit Saint Nicholas’ Naval cathedral, a remarkable illustration of religious baroque architecture with magnificent decorations. Depending on the schedules, we may even be able to attend part of an Orthodox service. We have lunch in town then visit St Peter and Paul’s fortress and its fine cathedral. Situated above the Neva, its golden spire dominates the river, opposite the Former Winter palace; the cathedral is where the tombs of the old Russian Tsars are located. Dinner and another night on board. OPTIONAL EXCURSION: “Cruise along the canals of Saint Petersburg”.
DAY 10 SAINT PETERSBURG
We visit the magnificent Ekaterininsky palace (or Catherine’s palace), built by Rastrelli in the 18th century and famous for its legendary Amber Room, inaugurated in 2003 after much painstaking work to piece together the amber panels that took more than 20 years. We have a walk in the lovely park and gardens, then lunch in town. This afternoon, we visit the famous Hermitage museum, the most important and the most famous museum in all of Russia. Situated in the Former Winter Palace of the Tsars, it owes its world renown to its rooms dedicated to the painters from the Italian, Flemish, Spanish, Dutch, German and French schools. There is a particularly fine collection of Rembrandts and other painters from the Dutch Golden Age of the 17th century and French Impressionist painters. Dinner and another night on board. OPTIONAL EXCURSION: “Concert in Sheremetev palace”.
DAY 11 SAINT PETERSBURG
Our excursion today is to Petrodvorets, former summer residence of Peter the Great and often said to be the “Russian Versailles”. We visit the great palace of Petrodvorets and walk in the park, with many fountains and golden statues. The terraces of the park are on the shores of the gulf of Finland. We have lunch on board then a free afternoon in Saint Petersburg for independent exploration. Dinner and another night on board. OPTIONAL EXCURSION: “Folk evening”.
DAY 12 SAINT PETERSBURG
After breakfast on board, disembarkation. End of our journey.