By Sharon Dockins, 2-time traveler & Vacation Ambassador, Laredo, Texas
My sister Sandy and I have always been close. We are the only children in our family, so we spent a lot of time together when we were younger. We’ve lived in Florida for most of our lives, but when we retired about three years ago, we decided to pack up and move to Mexico. And since then, we haven’t looked back.
Sandy and I have so much in common—including our love for traveling the world. We usually travel with a group of our friends that live in Florida. I used to be a travel agent, so I’m used to organizing trips for us. Now that Sandy and I are living in Mexico, it makes it harder to do these custom vacations. That’s why it was so great to find Grand Circle. It was time to start letting someone else do the planning for us.
Russia is a destination that’s always been on my “bucket list.” So, when our group began discussing our next vacation, and I was asked where I’d like to travel, I didn’t hesitate in expressing my desire to see Russia with Grand Circle. I was intrigued to visit the Hermitage and Peterhof, but I had no idea that the country would open my eyes to so many lovely discoveries.
The fountains in front of Peterhof Palace in St. Petersburg.
I don’t know exactly what I expected from Russia, but my journey to this new destination was like nothing I’d ever seen before. I’d never been on a river ship, and I soon learned that everything about our ship, the M/S Rossia, was great. Captain Boris was visible and available to us whenever we needed him. He sat and ate with us, and was always there with a smile. Our group had a very early morning departure, and as we exited the ship, there stood Captain Boris, dressed in his blues and waving goodbye. I couldn’t believe it!
Captain Boris (pictured with Sandy) explains some of the ship’s mechanics.
But one of the most eye-opening aspects of our Russia Revealed: Moscow to St. Petersburg River Cruise was finding that none of the stereotypes we were guilty of thinking about Russia and its people beforehand were true: They’re not rude or angry people. The Russians we had the opportunity to interact with had great senses of humor, and were open and friendly. And we were surprised to find that so many spoke English!
What I appreciated the most—and was pleasantly surprised to learn—was how open the locals were to speak about their everyday lives and the political situation in their country. Our Program Director was so candid and truthful about anything we asked of her. And during our included and optional tours, our local guides were incredibly open and shared such personal information about their lives with us. Even the merchants were extremely friendly and taught us some helpful Russian words. When we attempted to use our new vocabulary with other merchants, how the Russians would beam! They were so happy to see us trying to use their language in their country.
From left: Sharon’s Program Director, Irina Pogrebnaya, and the mother and daughter who hosted Sharon’s Home-Hosted Visit in Svirstroy, Russia.
Sandy and I had such a wonderful time in Russia. Since we’ve spent most of our lives near each other, we know the other well. We’re also very lucky that we don’t have habits that drive the other crazy. Our tastes are the same and we agree on almost every decision we need to make. The only differences we have on our vacations are the way we interpret our experiences along the way. But I’ve realized that’s what makes these trips so special: Although we have different interpretations of the same moments, we’re able to share these experiences with one another. It’s like seeing the same thing in a completely different way. It’s magical.
Explore the historic gems—and mingle with the friendly locals—on our Russia Revealed: Moscow to St. Petersburg River Cruise.