The Volga Dream trip was wonderful.
Bonnie and I decided it was the most educational trip we've ever taken. One example of that was attending our resident professor's fabulous lectures on board the boat. We learned much about Russian life, past and present from her talks. This included answers to our questions about current attitudes, politically and socially, of the Russian populace, toward our country, its people and our political situation. I think I gained an understanding of the effects of propaganda, both ours and Russians, on the people of both countries. I already knew this but it is good to have reaffirmed that people all over the world over, basically want the same things out of life. I think we also became aware of the very difficult times Russians have endured after the fall of the Soviet Union, something of which most Americans are not aware of.
Everything aboard the Volga Dream was wonderful, from the accommodations to the kindness and cordiality of the crew and the hotel staff. We loved our cruise director and all the others. I took the Russian language class (learning not nearly enough through no one's fault but my own.)
The shore excursions were great, especially the opportunity to hear a sampling of the terrific men's' choirs. I have long been a fan of the Red Army Choir and these were a smaller version of those excellent voices.
We did not get to go to Kizhi Island because of 2-meter waves but our stop at Svirstory, not scheduled on this trip, allowed us to visit the home of a woman who had been around at the time of the great battles of WW2 and the siege of Lenningrad. There we saw the moving war memorial and the location of one of the great battles of the front line of the Eastern Front.
The meals were great, really top notch, and we met many nice people who were fellow travelers. I am a writer and I even got a good story out of the trip which I am including in my new book.
Both hotels were excellent. I especially enjoyed having access to the fitness facilities. The locations were right in the heart of most things one would want to see in Moscow and St Petersburg. We especially enjoyed Moscow and would go back again. There is much, of course that we did not have time to see in one visit to that great city. I loved Red Square and the Kremlin, a place that as a child of the 50's and 60's struck fear into the hearts of most Americans, just as I suspect Washington DC did to many Russians.
On the unfortunate side, I was pick pocketed in St Petersburg but I will chalk that up to a learning experience for future travel. Also, the initial experience in St Petersburg was the overcrowded visit to the Hermitage. I know that most people want to go there but it was the most unpleasant museum experience I have ever had, due to the incredible amounts of tour groups. One could really not see anything. I'm sure, that if we had not been exhausted from that initial Hermitage experience, we would have gone to the Impressionist exhibits in another and much less crowded wing. (I heard later from others who went there that it was more enjoyable.)
The second day in St Petersburg we skipped the tour to Peterhof and took a taxi to the war memorial and the Chesma church. The war memorial or "Victory Monument" was a moving experience that I would highly recommend. We ran out of time and energy to visit Dostoyevsky's home.
Thanks again for this terrific trip of a lifetime.