Cruise News UK goes on tour with Orthodox Cruises as the ms Anton Chekhov sails from Saint Petersburg to Moscow. This is the final instalment in a series of articles aimed at describing, firsthand, a cruise on one of the most rapidly developing niches within the industry and how best to tailor this product to potential clients. Here we will explain why many of the industry’s leading figures are becoming increasingly excited by the prospect – and commercial viability – of river cruising.
Today is our final full day in Moscow, or Russia for that matter. The entire trip has been a complete surprise. Cruise News UK can safely say that our expectations of a cruise in Russia have not only been met – they’ve been far, far exceeded. The product which companies like Orthodox Cruises have at their disposal is one which the industry as a whole should be looking out for. For, one, it’s exactly the offering which so many consumers we talk to on a day-to-day basis are looking to experience; and for another, if agents don’t develop an expertise in Russian river cruising fast, then their rivals will do. The entire river cruising sector is developing at an awesome rate. And, while Russia is an emerging market – make no mistake – it is one which has a solid range of very developed regions. And the key to river cruising is that it is very destination focused. If as an agent, you have a client who is an experienced cruiser and wants to develop more of an understanding of one particular country, then put Russia forward. For those who want a deeper penetration into one market rather than the usual country intensive itineraries, then again, this is the key product for them. It is a resource which does not have the same saturated, beaten feel which much of the industry has had to struggle against. It is something we at Cruise News have been pushing for the last few weeks because we are firmly convinced that it is where the future of the industry lies.
So, to our last day.
As part of our final day in Russia we are being treated to a private guided tour of the Kremlin, Tretyakov Gallery, Red Square and Arbat Street. It is an offering which Orthodox can provide if booked in advance and is a good way to dictate the pace of a tour – and an easier way to get around, as opposed to attempting to navigate a coach through the Moscow roads!
Our first stop is the Kremlin – the heart of Moscow, and the original site of the city. Now mainly a museum, its importance is dictated by its position – every historic site in Moscow surrounds it, Saint Basil’s Cathedral and Red Square to the east, Moskva River to the south and Alexander Garden to the west. The Kremlin itself houses a number of cathedrals, churches, government buildings, the official residence of the president of Russia, as well as the armoury where a number of the state’s significant treasures are held. You could spend an entire week in the Kremlin and not see it all so a morning hardly does it justice but our tour guide manages to get as much detail as possible into those short hours and we are whisked from the Cathedral of the Dormition to the Cathedral of the Annunciation and attempt to keep up. The buildings are on a grand scale, made for the use of Russian royalty and are remarkably well preserved when considering the treatment they’d have undergone over the last century – many of which were used as Museums after the revolution.
From the Kremlin we are taken to the Tretyakov Gallery, which hosts one of the most extensive collections of Russian art in the world. Again, it a fascinating insight into the history of Russia – from the early periods where European masters where brought in to teach Russian pupils – right up until the turn of the twentieth century. The real shame is that the modern art is housed in a different building, a collection that includes much of the socialist realism material which we would have been very interested in seeing. Nevertheless it is a matter of time-management and some items have to be missed. If anything, it creates more of a reason to visit again!
Our guide then takes us down to Red Square where we see the almighty St. Basil’s cathedral with its beautifully decorated domes, overlooking Lenin’s Mausoleum. It is typical of so many of the Europe’s major cities in that it is an attraction which has so much history that when you step out into it, it’s hard to fathom all that has happened within that small space. History surrounds you – and much of it you already know – and it is an incredible feeling. The only negative aspect of the whole day is that you wish it could be done over more than one day! The entire itinerary would fill a week’s holiday for the average person yet this tour has the daunting task of fitting it all into one session. And tiring it is too. Yet as we make our way home we are shattered but content. We’ve done it. This has been one of the best experiences we’ve ever taken part in. And why? Because of the high level of service, experience and the amount to which the entire thing has changed our expectations. Russia has been incredible.
We head back to our ship for the final time. Tomorrow we will be taken to Orthodox Cruises headquarters to meet our hosts in person and explain our thoughts. You can read our On The Deck interview with Orthodox in next week’s Cruise News.
We hope you’ve enjoyed this blog series. If you’ve missed any, here is the link to our first post, which links all the way through.