Friday, September 14, 2012

Southern Volga Cruises

One of the more pleasant ways to travel around Russia and the former Soviet Union is on river cruises. However, most of the cruises easily available to foreigners concentrate on a single area between St. Petersburg and Moscow, travelling along the upper Volga, part of the Golden Ring and Lake Ladoga. I suspect this must be a lovely trip, but if you want to venture farther afield a U.K.-based company called Just Go Russia ( also offers reasonably-priced cruises on the part of the mighty Volga between Moscow and Rostov on Don.
These are longer trips, lasting 19 or 20 days with prices starting as low as 1595 pounds, or about $2560 U.S. or about $125 per day. The single supplement on these cruises is also relatively low, at 495 pounds or about $790. These rates are moderate given that they cover all meals, many sightseeing tours and some on-board entertainment of the milder type--language lessons and dancing, lectures, etc.
Stops along the route include Volgagrad, known during World War II as Stalingrad, site of the battle that is regarded as a turning point in that war; Astrakan, a famed trading city and also the name given to a type of fur; Kazan, capital of the autonomous republic of Tatarstan and home to the historic enemies of the Russians; Yaroslavl and Uglich, ancient Russian cities that form part of the Golden Ring around Moscow.
The port on this voyage that intrigues me the most is Ulyanovsk, named for V.I. Ulyanov aka Lenin. From what I have read this town formerly known as Simbirsk is fairly sleepy now that Lenin worship is no longer the unofficial religion of Russia. However, it would be very interesting to see the home where Lenin grew up in a family of obscure minor aristocrats and formed his ideas, character and ascetic habits of life.
The Just Go Russia site also provides the more usual tours in this part of the world, such as Moscow and Petersburg, the Trans-Siberian train, cruises on the Dnieper River and  the Black Sea. But so far this is the only site I have found in English with cruises on the lower part of the Volga. I'm hoping I can make one of them next summer.


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