Often misunderstood, ‘perestroika’ has allowed Russia to open to the West and showcase its intricate, unique and extraordinarily rich culture. This, the largest country in the world, has given us vodka, Tolstoy, cosmonauts, and one of the world’s most complex languages.
Diverse landscapes of icy tundra, dense forests and snow-capped mountains are peppered with ancient fortresses, palaces, churches and wooden villages. Tea and piroshky are always on offer as the sights from St. Petersburg to Moscow unfold along its waterways including the Neva River, Lake Ladoga and the Volga River.
Russia and the Ukraine are a contrast of the extraordinary - ballerinas, circus performers, Cossacks, iconic Fabergé eggs, Ukraine’s Monastery of the Caves and Moscow’s remarkable St Basil’s Cathedral; and of controversy - the 16th century town used by Ivan the Terrible as a base for his attacks against the Tatars; reminders of the nuclear disaster in Chernobyl; the fall of the Romanovs; and remnants of the Soviet era at Kirov Square, Gagarin Square, and Lenin Square.
The architecture is often like nothing ever seen, from the Church of Transfiguration, with its 22 timbered onion domes on Kizhi Island to medieval Goritsy’s Kirillo-Belozersky Monastery, built in 1397; and Moscow’s Red Square, Tverskaya Street, the KGB building and the Kremlin, seat of the former Soviet Union’s intrigue.
St. Isaac’s Cathedral is identified by its huge gilded dome, exquisite mosaics and icons; the Hermitage is the former Winter Palace to the Tsars and houses one of the world’s greatest art collections, and Catherine’s Palace is famous for its grandiose white and gold façade and elaborate gardens.
A journey through Russia is an unforgettable account of recent history, filled with incredible people and previously hidden treasures, all waiting to be uncovered.
What validity do I need on my passport?
All passengers are required to possess a passport valid for 6 months beyond the conclusion of their trip.
Should I bring copies of my passport and visas?
Yes. As your passport will be kept on board the ship throughout the cruise portion for transit formality reasons, we recommend you bring a photocopy of your passport/visas with you to carry on you at all times when on shore.
What visas do I require?
It is the sole responsibility of each passenger to have the necessary visas and to comply with entry, health or other requirements of the countries visited.
Please note: If your nationality (passport) differs from the country in which you reside, please take the time to check especially carefully with your local consulates concerning visa and passport requirements for your travels. Holidays can be disrupted or have to be altered altogether if the correct documents cannot be supplied at airports or borders, so check very carefully that you have the required papers.
Can Scenic Tours arrange my passport and visas?
No, Scenic Tours and/or their employees and their agents are not responsible for passport, visa requirements, entry, health or other requirements of the countries visited or for any loss sustained by you for failing to comply with laws, regulations, orders and/or requirements of countries visited, and will not be liable for any costs or cancellation penalties or inconvenience where travellers do not have a travel authorisation, and are not permitted to travel.
Can Scenic Tours organise my travel insurance?
No, this is the responsibility of the passenger; however your travel agent can do this on your behalf. We strongly advise you to take out travel insurance to cover any unforeseen circumstances, which may arise as defined in the respective proposal forms. It is a good idea to take your travel insurance documents with you.
How much luggage can I bring?
The luggage allowance whilst on tour is one suitcase with a maximum size of 76 x 53 x 28 cms (30 x 21 x 11’’) and weight of 20 kilograms. You may also carry a small backpack or the Scenic Tours issued overnight bag on board the coach for the duration of the tour. Additional bags beyond the luggage allowance may incur additional charges and are to be settled directly to the hotel or as required. It is advised that you check airline luggage requirements directly with your most significant airline carrier.
Is porterage included?
Handling and porterage of your luggage (as per the luggage allowance above) is included in your tour. Additional bags beyond the allowance may be charged or it may be the responsibility of the passenger to forward the baggage to another destination. Luggage handling is not included during any independent or non-escorted touring. In this situation, luggage handling and porterage will need to be organised directly with the hotel porters.
Should I attach the Scenic Tours luggage label provided prior to departure?
No, please wait until you have claimed your luggage at your destination airport. This will ensure airline companies will not tear off this tag, as it is required to easily identify your luggage for transfer services and hotels.
Will my luggage be secure?
We strongly advise that you do not pack anything of value in your check-in luggage and that you check-in ONLY your own suitcases. Do not carry items packed by other people. Never accept packages or articles from anyone unknown to you to carry on board the aircraft. As a sensible precaution against luggage tampering, including theft, lock your luggage.
What happens if my luggage goes missing?
It is highly unlikely for your luggage to be mislaid, however we suggest if travelling as a couple to pack each suitcase with back up clothes and toiletries for each person. We also suggest writing your personal and tour details on a label INSIDE each suitcase (including name, address, telephone number, departure and return flight details). Write only your name and destination address on outside labels.
Please note: For those passengers flying British Airways to Europe via London Heathrow Terminal 5, we suggest that to lessen the chance of your luggage being lost in transit, and connection time permitting, you check-in your luggage to London only. Collect your luggage in London and then re-check it to your final destination.
What clothing should I pack?
What else do I need to pack?
The following list may be useful when packing for your trip:
Should I provide Scenic Tours with my health and fitness details prior to travelling?
We will supply a Health and Fitness form in your travel wallet. These forms are designed to provide us with instant information if an emergency should arise. These forms will be returned unopened at the completion of the tour. It is not compulsory to fill out these forms but is strongly recommended.
Can I take prescription medication into Europe?
Yes and its advisable to pack an ample supply of any medicine you are taking, copies of prescriptions and the telephone/fax number of your doctor. Because of strict drug laws in some countries, drugs you take on doctor’s orders should be carried in their original container showing the prescription label. Always keep your medication in your hand luggage.
Are there any health risks that I should be aware of?
Viral gastroenteritis is a very common virus that can be found almost anywhere, but its opportunity to spread is greater in contained environments. Symptoms include nausea, vomiting and diarrhoea. It may also include fever, stomach issues and headache. The symptoms usually start 12 to 48 hours after viral infection and can last from 1 to 10 days. Most people who become sick with viral gastroenteritis recover quickly with no further problems. However if the illness is more severe, further medical care may be required to treat dehydration. The most effective protection from personal contamination is ensuring strict attention to personal hygiene and in particular, frequent and thorough hand washing with soap and water and refraining from hand-to-mouth contact.
Colds and other viruses can spread quickly in an enclosed area such as a ship. Continue to practice common-sense hygiene and respiratory courtesy. Wash your hands often and cover your coughs and sneezes. It is recommended that passengers carry an anti-bacterial hand sanitiser, which does not require rinsing with water. Use a sanitiser frequently i.e. after shore excursions, prior to meals and throughout the day. If you have any questions regarding your health or safety while on tour, please do not hesitate to ask your Tour Director.
Motion sickness can be a problem for some people when cruising, flying or travelling on coaches and trains and it is a good idea to take precautionary measures. Drugs for treating motion sickness can be purchased at most pharmacies in Australia, however a side effect can by drowsiness. Alternatives such as ginger tablets and acupressure wristbands are also available and work well for some people.
What vaccinations do I require?
Recommended vaccinations and other health protection measures vary and are subject to change. You must consult your doctor on current vaccinations needed for your destination.
What sort of fitness level do I require to travel in Europe?
It is not possible for large coaches to be used for some city sightseeing therefore many towns and cities will be visited by way of walking tours and accordingly, a reasonable level of fitness is required. Much of Europe is based on a myriad of old buildings and there are split-levels, steps and uneven surfaces everywhere. High-heeled shoes are not suitable for cobblestone streets and steep inclines in medieval towns and cities. It is essential to have comfortable, rubber-soled walking shoes. Due to the amount of walking on your cruise shore excursions, which typically run for up to 3 hours, a reasonable level of fitness is required.
Can I travel in a wheelchair?
Guests who require a wheelchair will need to be able to get on and off the ships and coaches themselves, due to space restrictions on board.
What sort of first aid and medical items should I bring with me?
It may be useful to bring a supply of basic items with you. A first aid kit may include band-aids, antiseptic, aspirin, cough medicine, throat lozenges, cold and flu medication, diarrhoea medication, mild laxative, eye ointments/drops for minor infections, a general antibiotic and any special medications you may need personally. Please remember to bring a letter from your doctor or a copy of the prescription for any medication that you are carrying with you.
Will my special requirements be met throughout the tour?
Your special requirements have been passed onto all suppliers. Special requirements refer to airline seating, special dietary and medical needs. These requirements are on a request basis only and cannot be guaranteed by Scenic Tours. We strongly advise that you reconfirm your meal requests with the Scenic Tour Director upon joining your tour.
Who will be escorting the tour?
Your holiday is a special time and our Tour Directors and Cruise Directors make all the difference. From your very first day their warm greetings and professionalism signal the start of a wonderful rapport. Whilst on your cruise you will be taken care of by a Cruise Director. Our Directors have your best interests at heart and will take care of all arrangements for you. Please note that that your city extension or land Tour Director will not join you on the cruise.
Are there likely to be changes to my itinerary?
On certain occasions, for operational or local reasons, it may be necessary to change your hotel accommodation or a brochured attraction in a particular location. If this does occur, you will be notified of such changes as soon as possible.
Where will I be seated on board the coach?
To ensure all passengers have the opportunity to enjoy front and window seats, a daily seat rotation system is employed on our coaches. It works on a scatter system where you are rotated around the coach by numbers, which allows you to get to know other members of the group.
Is there anything specific I should be aware of on the cruise ship through Russia and travelling in the Ukraine?
On board Language: The on board language is English. Your Cruise Manager and all key staff and tour guides speak English and all shipboard announcements and lectures are in English. More junior shipboard crewmembers will speak and understand English, but may not be completely fluent.
Tap Water: We recommend you avoid drinking the ship's tap water, one 1.5 L bottle of water per cabin is provided complimentary daily. The ice machine produces ice from purified water. For all port stops, it is best to drink bottled water.
Not Included Items: Specialty coffee/teas, soft drinks, alcoholic and other beverages, laundry, phone calls and other items of a personal nature are not included in your cruise cost.
Cuisine & Dining Room Service: You’ll enjoy fine cuisine and excellent views in your ship’s dining room, featuring a warm decor, large windows, and white-linen and china table settings. Our professional chefs will create unique menus for you that feature regional specialties. Also fine wines, beer, and Russian and Ukrainian vodkas are available for purchase. Passengers may also bring a bottle of their own favourite wine to dinner to enjoy at their table. Should you care to avail yourself of this service, there will be a corkage fee of approximately $5.00 per bottle, charged to your passenger account. Please note that if you bring your own alcohol aboard, it can only be consumed in the dining room as described above, or in your cabin. Consumption of alcohol purchased outside the ship is not permitted in the lounge or public areas.
Open-table, single seating for all meals: Each meal is open seating and reservations of any kind are not accepted. Dinner has only one designated time for its open seating, announced each day aboard ship.
Dining times: Dining times for all meals may vary depending on the day’s sightseeing and sailing schedule, but in general, meal times are as follows: Breakfast: 07.00-09.00, Lunch: 12.00-13.30, Dinner: 19.00-21.00.
Dress code: The dining-room dress code is casual, though most travellers dress nicely for the Captain’s Welcome Reception and Farewell Dinner.
Medical Services: Our fleet adheres to stringent European safety standards. In addition to an emergency call button in all cabins, the ship also features fully staffed reception desks, 24 hours a day. A physician is on board to provide professional first aid and medical advice in case you need these services.
Electricity: The electric current in Russia is 220V with European-style outlets. Aboard the ship, the cabins are equipped with both 110V and 220V, European-style outlets. If you bring any small appliances, you might need a standard European plug adapter (and a transformer in the 220V plugs) in order to operate them in your cabin. Since transformers tend to burn out, we suggest you take only dual voltage appliances that work on both 110 and 220/240 voltage. Transformer/adapter kits can usually be found at your local hardware store. Another option is to use battery-charged appliances—then you don’t need a plug adapter or transformer, just an ample supply of batteries.
Hairdryers: Hairdryers are in each cabin.
On board Shop: On board your ship you will find a small souvenir shop which sells only certified authentic local products. (Please note that the shop does not sell personal items such as toothbrushes or other toiletries.)
Laundry: Laundry service is available for a fee. Please note that neither self-service laundry facilities nor dry cleaning services are available.
Televisions: Staterooms have televisions featuring channels with some U.S. or English programming.
Newspapers: English language newspapers are extremely limited in the rural areas of Russia through which you travel. You are likely to find them only in St. Petersburg and Moscow.
Elevator/Chairlift: The ship has one elevator, however, the elevator only provides access from the main deck to the boat deck. It does not go to the Sun deck. The ship is not equipped with wheelchair access.
Embarkation/Disembarkation: On the day you board your ship, your cabin will be available at around 14.00. On the day of disembarkation, your cabin will no longer be available after breakfast. You may sit in the ship’s lounge or on the Sun Deck until disembarkation.
Hair Salon: There is a hair salon/hairdresser available. Appointments can be made through the ship's reception desk.
Lounge/Bar: There are two bars on board, open from 10.00-Midnight. The bars offer soft drinks, beer, wine, and liquors for sale. Prices are in Russian rubles and payment is accepted only in Russian rubles. U.S. dollars and Euros are not accepted. Bills can be charged to the room account.
Recreational Facilities: These include a sun deck with lounge, library, and lounge with bar and dance floor.
Please Note: Schedules and activities are subject to change depending upon river water levels, port accessibility and weather conditions. We appreciate your understanding if changes to the listed itinerary need to be made. Costs for optional tours are approximate; actual costs will be quoted on board. Due to mechanical problems with the fountains at Peterhof Palace and the scheduled times of our tours, the fountains may not be working during your visit.
Can you accommodate special dietary requirements?
Yes. If you have not already advised your travel agent at the time of booking please let your Tour Director know at the start of the tour any special needs or dietary requirements so they can be best accommodated. Remember your favourite food items will not always be available.
What type of food can I expect?
Be mindful that meals on tour will often reflect the local cuisine and delicacies, which may be different to what you are normally accustomed to. Your dining experiences are certain to enhance your tour and introduce you to the local region and culture.
What else should I be aware of?
Europeans generally dine slightly later than might be your custom and they tend to be less sensitive to issues regarding smoking.
How do I judge how safe it is to travel in these countries?
You must make your own inquiries regarding safety warnings and government warnings in relation to the destinations you are travelling to. Scenic Tours can accept no responsibility for the actions of terrorism etc in certain locations.
Are pickpockets prevalent?
Crowded tourist sites all over the world are at pickpocket risk so you should always be on alert. Keep your money hidden preferably in an inside pocket or money belt. Make two photocopies of valuables such as your passport, tickets, visas and travellers cheques. Keep one copy with you in a separate place to the original and leave another copy with someone at home.
What else should I be aware of?
While travelling don't carry too much cash and remember that expensive watches, jewellery and cameras may be tempting targets for thieves.
What side of the road do cars drive?
Be aware that motorists drive on the right on the continent of Europe, so take care when crossing roads. Please also pay particular attention to bicycle lanes, which are often on the sidewalk. In The Netherlands a red pavement usually designates them. Exercise utmost care when crossing them as trams also often cross or share bicycle and pedestrian paths.
What else should I be aware of?
Air-conditioning is not yet as popular in Europe as back home and you may not find it everywhere. In some places due to environmental concerns it is strictly regulated.
European festive days, especially religious holidays, are quite numerous. On these occasions, particularly in May/June, you may find services in general slightly reduced.
Are there any unforseen costs I should be aware of?
Sometimes there is a small charge for public toilets, food and drinks usually cost more and the service may be a little more leisurely than you might expect.
Are there any restrictions on photography?
It may not be possible to use your camera or video camera at some sites of interest, or there may be a fee; please ask your Tour Director for further details. Not everyone might appreciate being on your souvenir home video or holiday photo, so please respect the privacy of local people and cruise directors/local guides by asking permission before filming or taking a photograph, especially in holy places.
St Isaac’s Cathedral
The dome of this cathedral dominates the skyline of St Petersburg. Climb up the 300 steps to the observation walkway at the base of the cathedral’s dome and enjoy the breathtaking views over the city. This largest cathedral in the city is dedicated to St Isaac of Dalmatia.
Peterhof - Scenic FreeChoice
The Peterhof Palace is approximately 20km from St Petersburg. This UNESCO world heritage site contains a natural feature which dominates the grounds – a 16m high cliff which lies hundreds of meters from the shore. Peterhof contains a series of palaces, gardens and fountains which have been carefully and creatively designed.
Choose ONE activity (included):
Peter and Paul Fortress, St Petersburg
This is the burial place of all of the Russian Emperors and Empresses. On top of the cathedral’s gilded spire stands a magnificent golden angel holding a cross, which is one of the most prominent symbols of St Petersburg.
The Hermitage Museum, St Petersburg
The collection of the State Hermitage Museum includes more than 3 million works of art and artefacts of the world culture. You’ll see Egyptian antiquities, classical antiquities, prehistoric art, Italian and Spanish fine art, Russian art and Italian Renaissance. The main architectural ensemble of the Hermitage is situated in the centre of St Petersburg and consists of the Winter Palace, the former state residence of the Russian emperors, the buildings of the Small, Old and New Hermitages, the Hermitage Theatre and the Auxiliary House.
Catherine’s Palace, St Petersburg
This palace is named after Catherine I, the wife of Peter the Great, who ruled Russia for 2 years after her husband’s death. The palace is nearly 1km in circumference and elaborately decorated both on the inside and outside. Over 100kg of gold was used to decorate the exteriors.
Yusupov Palace, St Petersburg
On a quiet stretch of the Moika River stands a long yellow building, which was once the residence of the wealthy and respected Yusupov family and which saw one of the most dramatic episodes in Russian history – the murder of Grigory Rasputin. He was murdered in the palace in 1916 and his death proved to be an almost greater mystery than his life had been.
St. Petersburg Scenic Enrich - included
Kizhi Island is an island on Lake Onega where you will find an ensemble of wooden churches, chapels and houses. It is one of the most popular tourist destinations in Russia and is a UNESCO world heritage site. The jewel of the island is the 22-domed Transfiguration Church, which is about 37m tall making it one of the tallest log structures in the world.
Uglich is part of the “Golden Ring”. This refers to a number of ancient towns surrounding Moscow. On your walking tour of the town you will catch a glimpse of what Russia was like 800 years ago. View some of Russia’s oldest churches and famous monasteries.
Scenic FreeChoice - included
Choose ONE activity:
Scenic Enrich - included
Visit the Memorial Museum of Cosmonautics. Here you will have the opportunity to meet with a real cosmonaut and learn about the history of space exploration. This museum has become one of Russia’s more enduring symbols of the nation’s quest beyond Earth. Cleverly hidden in the evergreen woods northeast of Moscow, you will be able to see full-size mock-ups of all major spacecraft developed in the former USSR including the Mir Space Station.
Moscow Highlight Attractions
Red Square is a city square in Moscow, often considered the central square of the city and indeed all of Russia. Built as a marketplace, the square has been the site of both coronations and official ceremonies.
The name “Red Square” derives neither from the colour of the bricks around it nor from the link between the colour red and communism. It came about because the Russian word “krasnaya” can mean either “red” or “beautiful”. The word beautiful was used to describe nearby St. Basil's Cathedral and was then transferred to include the adjoining square.
The Kremlin is otherwise known as the Russian Parliament, the complex comprises of four palaces and four cathedrals and is the official residence of the President of Russia.
Scenic Tsar will be the first small ship in the Scenic Tours fleet. With a maximum of 112 guests, our passengers will enjoy an intimate experience on this boutique vessel.
93 per cent of its staterooms and suites have their own private balconies and all cabins will be furnished with stylish en-suite bathrooms, satellite TV, in-room safe and mini bar with water replenished daily. The Scenic Tsar offers the ultimate in Russia River Cruising accommodation with four luxurious Royal Suites.
Other amenities on-board are the choice of two bars, a large lounge and entertainment area capable of seating all guests, as well as a wellness area for Beauty and Massage, gym and sauna and of course an on-board doctor for your health and safety.
SAME ALL INCLUSIVE EXPERIENCE
With Scenic Tours, everything is included except your personal spending. The all-inclusive prices include all sightseeing tours and events, gratuities, meals and complimentary beer, local wines and soft drinks served with dinner. A Scenic Tours Cruise Director is on board each sailing, along with expert English speaking Program Directors.
PRIVATE BALCONY SUITES
93% of all cabins on the Scenic Tsar have private, full-size outdoor balconies. Furnished with a table and chairs, this is your own private haven. Relax here with a morning coffee or enjoy an evening glass of wine after a busy day and watch the countryside slip by.
Scenic Tsar offers a deluxe single seating dining room, where you can opt for a private table for two or choose to join your friends at a larger table. You will enjoy breakfast with its extensive menu selections, and lunch with its choice of buffet or à la carte options. Dinner is always a treat on a Scenic Tours cruise and on-board the Scenic Tsar is no exception. Tempt your palate with Russian specialities and international cuisine, accompanied by complimentary wine, beer and soft drinks at dinner. As you would expect on Scenic Tours, all meals are included.
All Scenic Tours are fully escorted by experienced European Tour Directors, employed directly by Scenic Tours. There will also be three Program Directors on-board to provide commentary and answer any questions you might have.
On board the Scenic Tsar you will be assured of the highest levels of service. The experienced staff, fluent in both Russian and English, are on hand at any time of the day or night. There is also a doctor on board.
Unlike our Europe-based ships, there is NO butler service on-board the Scenic Tsar.