Accent on Travel founder Annette Stellhorn traveled on an 11-night Russian river cruise from St. Petersburg to Moscow with Uniworld Boutique River Cruise Collection. Here’s her report from the experience – and why she heartily recommends Uniworld for luxury travelers.
Uniworld River Cruises bills their 12-day, 11-night St. Petersburg to Moscow route as the “Imperial Waterways of Russia” and it is rich with the elegance of Russia’s royal past.
It was a five-star experience. This was our first time on the route and I thoroughly enjoyed the comfort and ease of this type of travel through western Russia.
Each day in port we enjoyed the included cultural and scenic touring with local guides – one or two two-hour tours daily as well as free time in the major ports of St Petersburg and Moscow, as well as onboard enrichment programs including music, language, art, and food.
With Uniworld, you have both traveler independence, whatever assistance you need to learn how to get around, or fully escorted experiences every time you get off the ship.
It was easy, fun, safe, enriching, educational – as thorough of an experience as you want – or as relaxing.
The ship accommodations offer suites, spacious balconies, and large picture windows to accommodate all the amazing views you get along the river.
All staterooms offer the same luxurious bedding standard for Uniworld with European beds that are bundled next to each other for King-size comfort or split apart for solo travelers sharing a room. Each stateroom had a personal digital safe, refrigerator, hairdryer, two sets of robes & slippers along with high quality sheets, towels, and wash clothes. Filtered water bottles were refilled daily.
The bathrooms are marble/tile and fully stocked with luxurious bath soaps, lotions, shampoos.
In addition, the service – as we’ve come to expect from Uniworld – was exceptional, from all the onboard staff on through the guides hired by the cruise line for our tours.
The cruise managers on board with this larger-than-normal river cruise ship – had gone above and beyond to educate the travelers in a fun way on Russian culture - from elbow style vodka tastings and children’s counting games to current political issues - it was a fully interactive fun filled journey. They also had a Russian language class and shared a ‘language sheet to go’, currency exchange sheet (currently 63 Rubles to $1 USD), and any of the wonderful chef’s recipes that we wanted.
Our clients have had an amazing time and are completely delighted at how wonderful everything is.
The food was a mix of Russian and American cuisine, but over international in character, leaning towards modern, “cosmopolitan Russian” rather than “old Russian” style.
It was absolutely fantastic, with the chef and his team introducing us to new twists on old Russian flavors – borscht (beet) soup, cabbage soup, pierogis, beef stroganoff, and chicken kiev.
And of course, we had to visit the vodka museum. When in Russia, do as the Russians do!
One of the highlights of the trip was the ease of travel at each of our ports of call.
We thoroughly enjoyed the clean, spacious, and well air-conditioned coaches on the guided tours, enjoyed the ‘do as the locals do’ tours that took us into the beautiful public metros in Moscow, and the very affordable taxis in both St Pete’s and Moscow. The hydrofoil was an experience since they fill as they dock rather than use a reservation time.
Many of us attended a spectacular showing of the Ballet of Swan Lake in St Petersburg– which had the second optional ending with a Happy Ending which everyone loved. The Ballet was the highlight of the trip for several of the guests – the theatre, the two 15-20 minute intermissions, the quality of the orchestra and the performers. The theatre itself was worth the ticket entrance fee but with Uniworld, it is included. The Moscow evening tour took us to the Folkloric show which was a fast-paced 2 hours (one 15 minute intermission) of 25+ dancers included acrobatics, ballet, and a dance for many of the regional Russian communities filled the time quickly.
All of the travelers were surprised to see Starbucks, McDonald's, KFC, Pandora, and name-brand US clothes stores as well as hundreds of children and adults with American Name Brand T-shirts on. Those who had visited Russia in the 90’s and early 2000’s were impressed with how thriving the Russian cities were versus previous visits. There was a sense of prosperity and happiness that was not there previously.
All of the Uniworld tours were fantastic but we especially appreciated Uniworld’s “Masterpiece Collection,” which are the added 2nd and 3rd tours in a day and focus on a specific theme or location (for instance the Fabergé Museum and the Cosmanaut’s Museum). The included tours were thorough but we appreciated these ones that could focus on a deep dive into a specific interest.
Our particular favorites are the “Do as the Locals Do” tour where our guides take us into the local grocery stores, bakeries, metro stations, and communities so we understand about their daily lives.
That’s a snapshot of the day by day living on the Uniworld Russian River Cruise that you don’t necessarily get on other cruise ships.
We met guests onboard who missed the first two days of their journey due to poorly arranged flight schedules which could not handle any “delays.”
They were then surprised our clients had seamless, single connection flights, had assistance with private touring and experiences like golf, private tours or transfers, and had additional “shipboard credits” where they could shop with extra spending money – which is part of the contract we have with Uniworld River Cruises for all of our guests.
In addition, no one advised those travelers that travel insurance would refund them their “out of pocket costs” or help them with new flights which are part of our standard communications.
Just a few of the many reasons to book with travel with one of Accent on Travel’s luxury travel advisors. We know how to get the absolute best for our clients.