Cruise News UK goes on tour with Orthodox Cruises as the ms Anton Chekhov sails from Saint Petersburg to Moscow. This is the second 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.
Having arrived on Friday evening, our ship is berthed in Saint Petersburg for three nights before starting the long trip to Moscow. Essentially we have a centrally located, all-inclusive hotel that includes both complimentary and paid for tour excursions. That same hotel will then transfer you down the River Neva, deep into the heart of Russia. It is the key advantage the cruise industry has over other tourism markets – and one which sector leaders enjoy deploying when outlining why cruise is such a value product. A cruise ship is a floating hotel which has infinitely more appeal than its land-based counterpart because it lacks a fixed destination. With river cruising the same is true. However, one of the key differences between ocean and river cruising is that often – although certainly not always – the latter is a better alternative for those who wish to explore one region in far greater detail as opposed to the more typical ‘a country a day’ oceangoing tours.
For Orthodox Cruises – and more specifically this Saint Petersburg to Moscow voyage – that translates to an itinerary which can afford to give you three days in both major cities as well as visits to regions which are off the beaten path. One of the line’s complimentary excursions is a guided tour of Saint Petersburg’s premier attraction: The Hermitage. Built in the 1700s as a palace for Empress Anna, the vast art collection stands equal to The Louvre in Paris, London’s National Portrait Gallery and Madrid’s Museo del Prado. It is said to house three million pieces in countless rooms; a herculean task for any art lover. In fact, if a patron did decide to try and take in all exhibits, it would be a seven-year commitment. Our tour isn’t quite as intensive – lasting two hours – but we managed to see works by a huge array of past masters. Everybody from Da Vinci, Michelangelo and Caravaggio to Van Gough, Picasso and Monet. It is an extraordinary string to Saint Petersburg’s bow and one which has become akin to a seal of approval for all major cities around the world.
After our tour of The Hermitage we return to the ship for lunch. Our vessel, the ms Anton Chekhov, is a 350-passenger river cruise liner. Intimate in size, its appeal stems from the close proximity of fellow guests. A sizeable proportion speak English but interestingly the market is also gaining ground within China, the US and other European countries like Holland and Spain, all of which have guests onboard. There is a strong emphasis on the destination being the priority here. The cabins are clean and spacious but are there to act as a base – and the packed itinerary is a testament to this. Again this is a key difference between ocean and river cruising and potential customers should be made fully aware of it: going on a river cruise is about exploration. This does not mean that they aren’t relaxing, but the ship is not the destination. This isn’t a 3,500-passenger mega vessel complete with six restaurants, a colossal theatre and entertainment roster; its emphasis stays strictly on the ports of call. A river cruise starting in Saint Petersburg is going to allow time to completely see the city. There are obvious disadvantages to this too – mainly for those who wish to pack as many different countries into an itinerary as possible – but again, this is not the idea. And, if the stats are to be believed, more and more people are beginning to grasp that too and river cruising is developing into one of the most lucrative areas of the entire industry.
Read Day Three of our Cruise Diary here