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April 26, 2010
From Russia, with love: Grand Circle Program Directors
From the pastoral beauty of remote Kizhi Island and the warmth and friendliness of the Russian people to the attentive staff, clean and spacious cabins, and mouth-watering meals served aboard our private river ships, the Traveler Reviews posted on our website detail the many—and varied—highlights of our Russia Revealed River Cruise.
Reading through them recently, I was struck by a common theme: Almost all of the authors voice their praise for their Program Directors. “Violetta [Balakireva] was superb in every way,” raves Janet from Lilburn, GA. “Her informative talks … were extremely interesting; we especially enjoyed hearing about her family's experiences during the siege of Leningrad.”
Russell from Tempe, AZ, expresses similar sentiment. “Alexey [Didkovsky] was exceptional. He personalized the trip by sharing his family’s experiences under previous Russian governments, [which was] interesting and poignant,” he shares. “He was insightful and had a great sense of humor.”
And Alexey isn’t the only Program Director praised for his insight. “Misha Smetnick [is] an absolute pro who … gave us more insight and appreciation of his country than any history book,” says Jane from Shingle Springs, CA. “He was bursting with energy and excitement every hour of the day, always leaving us with a desire to see and learn more … I could happily return to do this trip all over again!”
As you might imagine, reading comments like these makes my heart swell with pride, as I truly believe that our Program Directors—in Russia and around the world—are the best in the business. And what makes them exceptional isn’t so much their knowledge and skill as their intense love for their countries … and their genuine desire to share the history and culture of their homelands with visitors like us.
Have you encountered a Program Director like Violetta, Alexey, or Misha during your own travels with Grand Circle? If so, I’d love to hear more about how she or he helped make your experience memorable. You can share your thoughts with other travelers by posting your comments below, or can email me directly at firstname.lastname@example.org.
I’d also like to hear about your travels with Grand Circle along The Great Rivers of Europe, in France, and in the South Pacific—the destinations we’ll be featuring in the coming weeks. Send your stories (and pictures!) to me at email@example.com.