February 2008

Beyond Arizona
Small-Ship Cruising In Russia:
‘We’d Do It Again’

By Gloria Bryson Pyszka

A visit to Russia last July included cruising on the Volga River from Moscow to St. Petersburg. We enjoy the trip so much that we’d do it again — as much for the cultural experience as for the cruise itself.

The Volga River waterway connects Moscow and St. Petersburg, approximately 500 miles long. It includes over 10 locks, several lakes, and a l50-mile-long reservoir that expedite cruise and commercial vessels along the historical waterway. Our “home” for 10 days is Volga Dream, a newly rebuilt river ship.

Why do we choose Russia? We want to see that huge empire, often regarded by westerners both as mysterious as well as a vast territory whose rulers and wars have defined it throughout history.

Gloria Bryson Pyszka

VOLGA VOYAGE -- One of the many locks along the Volga River Waterway allows passage to cruise ships such as Volga Dream. The writer Gloria Pyszka and her husband Ron were thrilled by their visit last summer, which included cruising on the Volga from Moscow to St. Petersburg.

Answers To Our Questions

We have questions. Will we find fresh fruit in the markets? Late-model autos? Good hotels? Guards at every door or intersection? Well, the answers are yes, yes, yes, and no.

Getting ready to enter Russia takes some planning, such as obtaining visas by sending passports to the Russian consulate in Washington, DC. You must include “invitations” from your tour company, hotel or sponsor that guarantee your visit and locations.

This process is regarded even in Russia as bureaucracy, although the United States has stepped up its own passport/visa regulations as a result of 9/ll.

We arrive in Moscow three days in advance of the river departure, and enjoy visiting the famous landmarks throughout the city. Seeing Red Square for the first time cannot be described. Whereas our TV views in years past have been of hundreds of goose-stepping soldiers filling the Square, we now find ourselves among hordes of tourists moving at leisure.

Even on our own, we seldom have language problems, as English is frequently spoken. Our Marriott hotel more than meets our expectations in terms of location, service, and amenities.