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Author: grammyflo

Joined: 3/15/2010
Posts: 177
GCT Trips Taken: 13
OAT Trips Taken: 0
Traveler Since: 2002

December 29, 2011

Interested in this trip. Which one is better. Moscow to St Pete; or St Pete to Moscow. No extension trips considered.  also, JULY OR AUGUST?  Thanks for any help. Really at sea about this one.  Those ships take 216 passengers. We have never had this many on a GCT trip before.

thanks for any help, really!!

Author: avalarue

Joined: 3/10/2010
Posts: 70
GCT Trips Taken: 8
OAT Trips Taken: 0
Traveler Since: 2008

December 29, 2011

We took the Moscow to St. Petersburg trip. St. Petersburg is definitely the highlight of the trip, so if you want to end on a high note, go in that direction. I would say either July or August would be good. We went in late September when it was rainy and cold.

Although there is a large number of guests on the ship, you are placed in a small group of 35 to 40 with whom you go out for tours and such. The dining room is large enough that all passengers eat at the same time. We usually went to the same table or general area for our meals.

Enjoy your trip.

Author: pauline

Joined: 3/9/2010
Posts: 977
GCT Trips Taken: 11
OAT Trips Taken: 0
Countries Visited:

England, Scotland, Ireland, France, Belgium, Holland, Germany, Italy, Sweden, Norway, Denmark, Finland, Malta, Israel, Australia, New Zealand, China, Mexico, Colombia, Costa Rica, Guatemala, Canada, Russia, Ukraine

Traveler Since: 1999

December 29, 2011

I also traveled from Moscow to St. Petersburg in August of 2010.  I don't think it makes much difference.  Both cities are very exciting.

On the Rossia, the dining room has a closed off area in the middle that I think must be the kitchen or access to the kitchen.  Anyway, that keeps the dining room from being a large open expanse of tables and chairs.  I believe the other ship is the same.  I usually chose a seat between the closed area and the windows that made it seem smaller.  And the wait staff got to know us very quickly.

The weather had been extremely hot before we got there, but it changed two days before and became seasonable.  Which is on the cool side.  On Kizhi Island, it is quite windy no matter when you go.

I loved the entire trip and had a wonderful time.  And you will too.

Author: gaynell

Joined: 8/12/2010
Posts: 162
GCT Trips Taken: 4
OAT Trips Taken: 8
Traveler Since: 2005

January 02, 2012

We generally travel with OAT, where there are 10-25 people in each tour group. But we loved this Grand Circle Russia Revealed itinerary, so we took a chance on this trip in 2011 and enjoyed our August trip very much. I admit to being frustrated at times by the longer waits imposed by the larger groups, but I would do it again in a heartbeat. There were about 200 passengers on the ship, divided into six groups of about 30-35 each. Each had its own program director and its own bus. The use of the audio headphones really enhanced our visit.

I had been advised that taking the trip from St. Petersburg to Moscow was best because the flow of Russian history was more understandable while traveling in that direction. But on the dates we needed to travel, only the St. Petersburg to Moscow trip was available, and we found that was a great direction to travel, too. We loved ending in St. Petersburg, definitely a high point. I'm pretty sure you can't go wrong whichever way you are sailing!  If you are arranging your own air, try to get some extra days in St. Petersburg if possible.

The itinerary of this trip has a wonderful balance between urban and rural. The staff does a great job of dealing with the difficult Russian bureaucracy.  Many sites must be visited on a strict schedule, and you are competing with thousands of other tourists from all over the world. They were very adept at making arrangements that were convenient, and they adapted the schedule as needed when either the bureaucracy or the weather threw roadblocks in their way. Once we were stuck in a fog bank for several hours, and they managed to completely and efficiently revise the whole excursion plan!

This trip is very different from Grand Circle's other European River trips. Because all the signs are in the Cryllic alphabet, it is harder to go off on your own, and the schedule is so full that there are not many opportunities for that anyway. The Russian bureaucracy makes it necessary for the schedule to be a little more regimented, so more things are done as a group. It is not the orientation-tour-of the-city in the morning, free afternoon on your own plan that the other river trips have. As long as you expect that, it is not a problem. They really manage to pack a lot into each day's schedule while you are in Moscow and St. Petersburg.

We really enjoyed the time on the river and in the lakes, and seeing the more rural side of Russian life was a relaxing treat. Standing in Red Square was one of those "Are we really here?!" moments for us, for we were part of that generation who practiced hiding under their school desks because "The Russians might attack us."  St. Petersburg was so beautiful and special, and we loved every minute of the wonderful art museums, palaces and gardens we saw. If you decide to take this trip, I can't imagine that you would ever regret it. We really came home with a new understanding of the society and history of the country.

Author: elna

Joined: 3/24/2010
Posts: 57
GCT Trips Taken: 6
OAT Trips Taken: 0
Countries Visited:

France, Germany, Italy, Switzerland, Russia, Austalia, Finland, Estonia, England, Scotland, Wales, Pakistan, Singapore,

Traveler Since: 2009

January 11, 2012

We did the St. Petersburg to Moscow trip in Sept 2010, on the TIki Don. We loved it.....have recommended it to all. Grand Circle does a terrific job of taking care of us in countries with language differences and providing good tour directors..  We used to travel independently, but have truly enjoyed the GCT 'care'.  

We also did the pre-trip with Helsinki and Tallinn-- we loved Tallinn, and that prepared us for the little Russian villages. Trust the tour directors when they tell you to wait for souvenir purchases in Uglich.........best bargains, although you can't resist the ash wood carvings in Kizhi.

Which ever way you travel--- you'll be glad that you went.

Author: grammyflo

Joined: 3/15/2010
Posts: 177
GCT Trips Taken: 13
OAT Trips Taken: 0
Traveler Since: 2002

January 13, 2012

Just about decided on July/August.  Are the ships and tour buses air conditioned?  Thanks for all your help and advice.  Can use as much as we can get!!

Also are the air flights one, two or three stops?

Author: nanaandpapa

Joined: 3/30/2011
Posts: 525
GCT Trips Taken: 12
OAT Trips Taken: 4
Countries Visited:

Aruba, Austria, Australia, Bermuda, Belgium, Botswana, Canada, China, Croatia, Czech Republic, Denmark, Dominican Rep., Egypt, England, Fiji, Finland, France, Germany, Greece, Hong Kong, Hungary, Iceland, India, Ireland, Israel, Italy, Japan, Jordan, Luxembourg, Mexico, Namibia, Nepal, Netherlands, New Zealand, Norway, Portugal, Puerto Rico, Russia, South Africa, Spain, St. Marten (fr), St. Martin (nd), Sweden, Switzerland, Thailand, Turkey, Ukraine, USA, Vatican, Zimbabwe

Traveler Since: 2002

January 14, 2012

We took this trip in September of 2004, before Grand Circle had there own ships. We were on a charter of the Nikolai Cheneychevski, which was operated by Volgaflot. This was a sister ship of the Tikhi Don and the Rossia, which Grand Circle bought and refitted to their standards over the next two years. This ship was air conditioned, and I'm sure GCT did not downgrade the ships. Being September, we did not need A/C much, but the windows did, and from the pictures on this site, still do open, and we we preferred that to the sound of A/C.

The busses were all quite modern and I'm sure air conditioned.

As to the flights, it depends on your depature city. If you are flying from New York, you can get to Moscow non-stop, with one stop to or from St. Petersburg. Use a flight search engine such as matrix.itasoftware.com, to see what your options are before talking to GCT. We went from Boston on Lufthansa and had a plane change in Frankfurt in each direction.

Enjoy the trip. It was amazing to be standing in the middle of Red Square. If you have any other questions, we would be glad to answer them.

Author: pegheeter1

Joined: 6/28/2010
Posts: 22
GCT Trips Taken: 11
OAT Trips Taken: 2
Traveler Since: 2001

January 14, 2012

 

 

We took the Russia trip in My 2010, traveling on the Tikki Don, from St. Petersburg to Moscow.  A few thoughts to add to the above posts - 

Many people seem to think the St. Petersburg is so much lovelier than Moscow.  Certainly it is a lovely and fascinating city, but we were blown away by how attractive Moscow was.  Please do take the Moscow by Night tour - Red Square lit up is truly memorable!

Our local guide who took us through the Hermitage in St. Petersburg recommended a book which I also will recommend.  Wish I'd known about it before we went, but it's still good.  "The Madonnas of Leningrad" - easily available in the library - tells what living through the seige of Leningrad must have been like. Also - do check out the website for the Hermitage - it's one of the best museum sites I've every seen.

Another thought - our trip had to miss Kiszhi island - we were too early in the season and the lake was frozen so that ships couldn't pass through.  Our wonderful guides bent over backwards and then some to add extras to make up for this.

Happy travels - 

Author: grammyflo

Joined: 3/15/2010
Posts: 177
GCT Trips Taken: 13
OAT Trips Taken: 0
Traveler Since: 2002

January 20, 2012

Thanks to all who replied to my anxious message.  We have booked the Russia Revealed with GCT as a birthday present to ourselves.  Our birthdays are 5 days apart (different years :D) but I think it will be a great celebration.

If you think of any other advice for our trip, I would so appreciate it. We are travelling the end of July. From the info on the weather at this time, I am 'assuming' their summer is cooler than ours and hoping it wont be tooooooo hot.

We are so looking forward to this different adventure and  our 11th trip with GCT.

Author: grammyflo

Joined: 3/15/2010
Posts: 177
GCT Trips Taken: 13
OAT Trips Taken: 0
Traveler Since: 2002

January 24, 2012

Egads! Yet another question.  In the itenerary it states the ship does not exchange U.S.$ into Russian $ as it does on most of the river cruises we have taken. There are no exchange services aboard the ship.

How can we avoid cashing too little for our daily requirements? Thanks.

 

Author: nanaandpapa

Joined: 3/30/2011
Posts: 525
GCT Trips Taken: 12
OAT Trips Taken: 4
Countries Visited:

Aruba, Austria, Australia, Bermuda, Belgium, Botswana, Canada, China, Croatia, Czech Republic, Denmark, Dominican Rep., Egypt, England, Fiji, Finland, France, Germany, Greece, Hong Kong, Hungary, Iceland, India, Ireland, Israel, Italy, Japan, Jordan, Luxembourg, Mexico, Namibia, Nepal, Netherlands, New Zealand, Norway, Portugal, Puerto Rico, Russia, South Africa, Spain, St. Marten (fr), St. Martin (nd), Sweden, Switzerland, Thailand, Turkey, Ukraine, USA, Vatican, Zimbabwe

Traveler Since: 2002

January 24, 2012

In 2004, we found that there were plenty of ATMs available in all of the cities. This should have gotten even better. All of the machines asked what language you wanted to transact it. We assume that, you could change money in the banks, but we did not do it. If you take too much russian currency, you can use it for the PDs tip, along with US currency.

Author: pauline

Joined: 3/9/2010
Posts: 977
GCT Trips Taken: 11
OAT Trips Taken: 0
Countries Visited:

England, Scotland, Ireland, France, Belgium, Holland, Germany, Italy, Sweden, Norway, Denmark, Finland, Malta, Israel, Australia, New Zealand, China, Mexico, Colombia, Costa Rica, Guatemala, Canada, Russia, Ukraine

Traveler Since: 1999

January 24, 2012

Yes.  I was there in 2010, and there were plenty of ATMs.  On the streets, in restaurants, in the airport terminals.  When you first arrive, your PD will help you use one in the airport terminal.  You won't need too much cash.  Don't forget that everything you purchase on the ship is charged to your cabin.  And anything you purchase in the gift shop on the ship is charged to your credit card.  That's a separate operation, unlike the display cases near the reception desk.  Those items are charged to your cabin.  I only used cash (aside from tips, of course) when I purchased small items like refrigerator magnets.

Author: hootie

Joined: 3/7/2010
Posts: 136
GCT Trips Taken: 8
OAT Trips Taken: 0
Countries Visited:

China, Austria, Germany, Hungary, Slovakia, Poland, Serbia, Croatia, Romania, Transylvania, Bulgaria, Chech Republic, Slavakia, Bratislava, Egypt, Israel, Cyprus, Crete, Greece, Turkey, Istanbul, Italy, England, Ireland, Scotland, Wales, Sweden, Norway, Denmark, Estonia, Russia, Tahiti & French Polynesia/Society Islands, Hawaiian Islands, Bermuda, Alaska, Costa Rica, Mexico, United States, Panama Canal, Caribbean (extensively), Canada/Nova Scotia, Canary Islands, Gibralter, Spain, Portugal, Morocco, Vatican City, France, Holland, Belgium, Tasmania, Australia, New Zealand, Ukraine, Russia.

Traveler Since: 2001

January 24, 2012

grammyflo...

My name is hootie...and I'm a shop-a-holic.  I have a fear of not having enough cash when I'm traveling.  It has happened to me.  In China & elsewhere.  It has always turned OK but I don't like the feeling.  Low funds feed the fear!!!

We traveled Moscow to St.P with a pre-stay in Kiev in Sept/Oct. 2011.  You are in for a real treat...especially if you are lucky enough to have IGOR as your PD.  Even if you don't, you will always see his friendly smile as he interacts with everyone.  He is a wealth of information & his knowledge of facts will astound you.  Tell him "Judy the shopper" says Hi.  He is well aware of my shopping habits.  I wish we could have him as our PD on every trip!

ATM's are plentiful...until you need one.  Tuck some rubles away for emergency.  I had over $600 U.S. dollars worth of rubles on the day the boat was leaving for the first port.  That day, we went on a tour that included a visit to a Jewish synagogue. (I'm not Jewish but I collect religious items from every trip.)  I found a beautiful hand carved item & a prayer that goes inside that is usually placed near a front door & touched for good luck.  I have a few others from Israel & elsewhere and for the life of me, I can't remember the proper name for it.  (I apologize if I have offended anyone.  I would look the name up but I'm afraid I would lose this post as it is the second time I have tried to post it already.)  I know someone will read this thread & correct me in it's proper use & name.  I also purchased a Torah.  I was surprised when the cashier told me that they only accept cash...NO CREDIT CARDS.  This was a very small shop.  My purchases were close to $500 in U.S. currency.  There were no price tags on items & the handcarved item was close to $200 itself, the prayer was extra & expensive too.  Of course, I still purchased them...I loved them!  I was in semi-panic mode because this was the last stop before going to the boat & departure.  I knew I would need more rubles for the next day.  We had a different PD for this day trip & when I told him I needed to find an ATM, he kind of had an attitude.  He said I should have gotten money at the first place we stopped that day.  I told him I didn't think I would need more money because the trip didn't say anything about shopping nor was I aware that the only place you could buy from was cash only.  He said IF there was time, I could go to the grocery near where we were docked.  I forgot to mention that the next days stop would have NO ATMS and of course I forget the name of that stop!  Other passengers told me there was an ATM outside a small building right where the boat was docked & it might have money left.  We never knew about one being so close.  I was lucky, it still had cash, and I was onboard 5 minutes before the boat left.  Too close for comfort.     I freely admit, I'm an impulse shopper...if I like it...I want it.  I updated fellow travelers on my days purchases...some wanted to go shopping with me. There is so much to buy in Russia.

This is just a very long way of saying...if you are a shopper like me...and few people think that's possible...tuck some $$ away or get a little extra.

hootie

Author: debi

Joined: 1/25/2012
Posts: 18
GCT Trips Taken: 1
OAT Trips Taken: 4
Countries Visited:

I have been to Africa Tanzania Safari, I video taped it and watch it over and over and its just like being there. I went to Costa Rica and my video camera captures all the sights and sounds you can;t get with a picture. I loved it. I have been to Greece and England. Hawaii, Nevis, St Thomas, St Maarteen, Heart of India

Traveler Since: 2008

January 24, 2012

I am glad to hear all the wonderful feed back on the Russia trip.This is my first Grand circle trip. I do share a room with someone I met on an earlier trip. I am going in June 23rd 2012 with the pre trip to St Petersburg. I am so looking forward to it. Is there anyone else that has booked this trip in June? Would love to hear from you. I love the shopping idea, I love to shop at all my trips, looking for that special and different something to bring home.(in one piece)  :-)

Author: pauline

Joined: 3/9/2010
Posts: 977
GCT Trips Taken: 11
OAT Trips Taken: 0
Countries Visited:

England, Scotland, Ireland, France, Belgium, Holland, Germany, Italy, Sweden, Norway, Denmark, Finland, Malta, Israel, Australia, New Zealand, China, Mexico, Colombia, Costa Rica, Guatemala, Canada, Russia, Ukraine

Traveler Since: 1999

January 24, 2012

Hootie

What you purchased was a Mezuzah, and what is inside is the 10 Commandments and another prayer (can't remember which).  When I was there, they had just started substituting the Jewish sites in Moscow for the Star City tour.  In fact, the latter was still on the printed list of optional tours that we were given on arrival.

I do remember paying cash for a scarf that I bought on one of the last stops.  The place where were taken for afternoon tea at someone's house.  It was very windy, and there were stalls to purchase things.  She wanted cash and asked if I had dollars.  I checked and, sure enough, there was a $5 bill.  Which she was delighted to take.

Other than that, I did pay cash for a few things I bought in Kiev on that street with all the stalls.  I got an egg, a real one, and a lacquer box, and oven mitts!  I have very small hands, and one thing I always look for everywhere are oven mitts that are not too big.  I've purchased them in Kiev and Prague and Auckland, and several other places.

Pauline

Author: hootie

Joined: 3/7/2010
Posts: 136
GCT Trips Taken: 8
OAT Trips Taken: 0
Countries Visited:

China, Austria, Germany, Hungary, Slovakia, Poland, Serbia, Croatia, Romania, Transylvania, Bulgaria, Chech Republic, Slavakia, Bratislava, Egypt, Israel, Cyprus, Crete, Greece, Turkey, Istanbul, Italy, England, Ireland, Scotland, Wales, Sweden, Norway, Denmark, Estonia, Russia, Tahiti & French Polynesia/Society Islands, Hawaiian Islands, Bermuda, Alaska, Costa Rica, Mexico, United States, Panama Canal, Caribbean (extensively), Canada/Nova Scotia, Canary Islands, Gibralter, Spain, Portugal, Morocco, Vatican City, France, Holland, Belgium, Tasmania, Australia, New Zealand, Ukraine, Russia.

Traveler Since: 2001

January 25, 2012

Russia...

Thank you Pauline for the correct information.  I believe you also answered some of my many questions on Russia before we left in Sept. 2011.  I collect "pysanky" eggs (hand decorated real eggs & also wooden) & you or someone told me about the street/descent leading to St. Sophia(?) that is full of vendors in Kiev.  We had the most fun bartering with the vendors there.  We went back on our own two days later & one of the vendors saw me and came running across the street to greet & hug me.  I found the real eggs in Ukraine & bought at least 20.  I came home with approx. 46 eggs gathered from Kiev & Russia.  My husband said I'm a hoarder until I mentioned the WWII gas mask that he just had to have!

I read the threads daily & then start answering without all the information in front of me...using just my memory...which isn't the greatest.  I know I've been to places, just not the order, & hope the bits & pieces I contribute are useful to others.

I loved the Russia trip.  You were also correct in that the gift shop on the river boat (ours was Tiki Don) has an excellent selection of gifts.  And that their prices were comparable or better than on land. Good quality too.  I bought 2 scarves onboard & other items of course!  Ours was the next to last sailing & still had alot to choose from.  Make sure to tell the shop girls you are "inner circle" to receive you discount (5%?).  I bought items on every excursion.  You have to really check the quality.  The PD's suggest waiting until you get to Uglich to buy...they do have good prices...but I can't wait...if I see something or the perfect item for someone, I get it.  I found beautiful, inexpensive, handcarved birch hair brushes & combs on Kitzi Island.  You see ALOT of the same items everywhere but if you look, you can find something unusual as a gift or memento of your trip.  I like unusal. 

By the way, I found an ATM in one of the churches in St. Petersburg.  I also saw lots of cats everywhere...well cared for cats...that pleased me.  Two different times in churches.

Author: pauline

Joined: 3/9/2010
Posts: 977
GCT Trips Taken: 11
OAT Trips Taken: 0
Countries Visited:

England, Scotland, Ireland, France, Belgium, Holland, Germany, Italy, Sweden, Norway, Denmark, Finland, Malta, Israel, Australia, New Zealand, China, Mexico, Colombia, Costa Rica, Guatemala, Canada, Russia, Ukraine

Traveler Since: 1999

January 26, 2012

Hootie, I am so glad that you found my information useful.

It was in Uglich that I purchased one of the very pretty painted china watches.  It needed a little work when I got it home, but now it runs beautifully.  And I get a lot of compliments when I wear it.  It's nothing like any other watch you see.  I also used an ATM on the street there, with great trepidation.  I was on my own except for some local people who were quite helpful when they thought I was floundering.

And in Svir Stroi, I'm pretty sure, I bought that scarf I mentioned and also two little boxes made of birch for my little box collection.  The woman told me the scarf was silk, and it feels like silk, but the label has been removed.  I can see just the little bit of white where it was.  Nevertheless, it's lovely and just happens to go with an outfit I purchased this past fall.

I no longer have room to display a lot, so I have to limit my purchases to small items.  Otherwise, I'd probably be right up there with you.  It's so easy to get carried away when you see things you'd never find anywhere else.

Author: shooting4625

Joined: 5/21/2010
Posts: 30
GCT Trips Taken: 6
OAT Trips Taken: 0
Traveler Since: 2008

January 27, 2012

Grannyflo.....go St Pete to Moscow, natural progression of the history which is vast, you also end up on the last day meeting the war vets, not a dry eye in the house........hope you get Tatiana Stolyarova as your program director. Kremlin armory is mind blowing, as is the Hermitage.................and gold gold gold everywhere............!!!!!!!!!!!!!

Have fun I would go back in a heart beat

  Colin

Author: trumpet

Joined: 6/13/2010
Posts: 3
GCT Trips Taken: 3
OAT Trips Taken: 1
Traveler Since: 2010

February 26, 2012

Souvenirs were mentioned.  What about the stacking dolls?  Are they very expensive?  What is price range?  Love to shop also.  That scarf a previous writer mentioned probably was from China and silk.

 

Author: pauline

Joined: 3/9/2010
Posts: 977
GCT Trips Taken: 11
OAT Trips Taken: 0
Countries Visited:

England, Scotland, Ireland, France, Belgium, Holland, Germany, Italy, Sweden, Norway, Denmark, Finland, Malta, Israel, Australia, New Zealand, China, Mexico, Colombia, Costa Rica, Guatemala, Canada, Russia, Ukraine

Traveler Since: 1999

February 26, 2012

The dolls are everywhere.  Traditional mother dolls, movie stars, political figures, everything!  And all different sizes.  But buy them in the gift shop on the ship.  They are much better quality and the prices are comparable.

If you're interested, there is a competition on the ship.  At least, there was when I was there two years ago.  You get an unpainted doll and then paint it in whatever patterns and colors you want.  And then they get voted on by everyone as to the most attractive.

Everything in the ship's gift shop is priced competitively with the gift shops in the cities, and the quality is superior.  The only places where things are less expensive are the market stalls.  Avoid buying anything made of amber except in the reputable shops.  I have a beautiful bracelet I purchased on the ship that I really love.  It was the only one they had like that, because I never saw them bring out another one.

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