Tripadvisor

Masterton, New Zealand
Level Contributor
54 reviews
15 attraction reviews
common_n_attraction_reviews_1bd8 18 helpful votes

We recently took a group of 17 New Zealanders on a cruise of the Volga River on the MS Lev Tolstoy, a typical river cruise boat. We found the trip to be far above our expectations - the trip was excellent. Our English speaking guide, a young lady, couldn't do enough for us, was very knowledgeable on all things Russian. All of the staff were friendly and helpful. The food was excellent, the off-shore visits interesting with good local guides and the shipboard entertainment and activities were plentiful.
The cabins were quite small but they did take our luggage out of the room and store it and we managed very well. The beds were comfortable and the air-con easy to adjust. Cabin windows were also able to be opened.
The tour started in St Petersburg and our group tour was well organised with large coaches picking us up from the wharf (no charge). We had a comprehensive city tour as well as a marvellous tour of the Hermitage. When we were off the boat for any full day we were taken to excellent restaurants for a 4-course lunch so that meant for the 10 days of the tour we never had to buy a meal. We were docked in St Petersburg for 3 nights giving plenty of time for the various tours, some of which were optional extras. The boat then travelled through the night along the river and by day we visited Peterhof, Mandrogi, Kizhi, Goritsy, Uglich, Yaroslavl. The local guides all spoke excellent English and were forthcoming regarding the "soviet times". All of these places were different and interesting but all had beautiful churches. Kizhi, particularly was quite an amazing island. Local markets were set up at the wharves in the above places and it was a bit disappointing to be rushed at this end of the day - our group would have like a bit more time to poke about the market stalls.
The food on board was excellent, too excellent if anything, with plenty of variety for breakfast and lovely salads, breads and hot dishes for lunch. Dinner was also very nice, four courses, ordered the previous day, together with a glass of wine, beer or fruit juice. The dining room staff were very quick to assess our preferences and really looked after us - their English was lacking a bit but the interaction only made for a few laughs.
The onboard entertainment was good, and there were Russian language lessons, dance lessons, painting of Russian dolls, exercise classes, a bridge tour, a treasure hunt and a pirates' dress-up evening. An enjoyable concert was held after the Captain's dinner with most of the passengers taking part. Being a group we had our own "drinks" sessions and there was no problem with us having our own drinks, in one of the larger cabins or out on the back deck.
We had 3 nights in Moscow at the end of the cruise and the tours here were also excellent. I loved Moscow, having had a pre-conceived idea about it being a grey city with its citizens being solemn and mournful - not a bit of it - Moscow was colourful and vibrant and the locals smiling and friendly. I particularly loved the visit to the Metro stations with their amazing, varying art.
I would recommend this cruise for sightseeing, good eating, good fun and variety and as a good all-round relaxing holiday.

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