Print

Day by Day Itinerary

On this journey through the heart of Russia, you’ll enjoy 14 nights aboard the award-winning M/S Rossia, owned and operated by Grand Circle. You’ll unpack just once and settle in for an unforgettable exploration of the great Volga River, enjoying all breakfasts, most lunches, and all dinners (with complimentary wine) onboard. Discover the country's revitalized capital of Moscow (including its storied subway system), the architectural wonders of Kizhi Island, the historic majesty of St. Petersburg, and more. You'll also interact with Russia's welcoming citizens during a special Home-Hosted Visit in Svir Stroi and a moving meeting with Russian World War II veterans. You can also enhance your Russia River Cruise with our optional extensions to Transylvania, Romania—new for 2014—and the Baltic Capitals: Helsinki, Finland & Tallinn, Estonia.

Moscow St. Petersburg Reverse Direction Expand All
  • hidden

    Depart the U.S. today on your flight to Moscow.

  • hidden

    Explore Moscow's Red Square and view St Basil Cathedral

    Arrive in Moscow on Day 2, where you'll be greeted at the airport by a Grand Circle representative and transferred to your ship to meet your Program Director, who will be by your side for the remainder of the trip.

    You have the balance of the day to relax after your overseas flight. Tonight, you’ll enjoy dinner onboard, and meet fellow travelers who will join the group after their optional pre-trip extension to  Transylvania, Romania.

  • hidden

    Set out this morning to explore Russia’s modern capital on an included tour. Your discoveries begin in the heart of the city, Krasnaya Ploshchad, known in English as Red Square.

    Explore Moscow during the Russia river cruise

    In the 16th century, krasny meant "beautiful," but its meaning changed over centuries to mean "red." Red Square does not refer to communism but rather to the beauty of the city square. In the 16th century, the square became a place for state ceremonies, where they have been held ever since. During your tour, you'll get a true flavor of life in Moscow, as you join the bustle under the streets during a ride on Moscow's Metro, considered one of the best subway systems in the world.

    A Metro ride takes you to the Arbat, a popular pedestrian district with boutiques and galleries, where you'll enjoy free time and lunch on your own. Return to your ship around mid-afternoon, and enjoy some time at leisure.

    Celebrate your first taste of Russia and get acquainted with your traveling companions over an onboard dinner tonight.

  • hidden

    • Meals included:
    • Accommodations:
    Encounter Russian World War II veterans and listen to their experiences

    On this morning’s included excursion, you’ll see the expansive view of Moscow from the vantage point of Sparrow Hills, formerly called the Lenin Hills. These hills overlook the city from a steep bank on the south side of the Moskva River and give you a view of the famed Moscow State University, one of the scientific centers of Russia. You will pass by the gleaming Cathedral of Christ the Savior, a distinctive structure that is an integral part of the Moscow skyline, as it is visible from so many points in the city center. Reconstructed in the 1990s, it is the largest church in Russia. You also visit Novodevichy (New Maiden) Cemetery, where Russian luminaries such as writers Anton Chekhov and Nikolai Gogol and former president Boris Yeltsin are buried.

    After lunch onboard, you’ll meet with Russian World War II veterans, who will gladly tell you about their war experiences and answer your questions.

    This evening, enjoy an included dinner onboard and an excursion to the Moscow Circus. This artful performance has enjoyed international acclaim for many years. The Circus showcases trained animals and daring acrobatic feats. You’ll also see the art of juggling, along with the humor and merriment that are unique to a circus atmosphere.

  • hidden

    • Meals included:
    • Accommodations:

    After breakfast, you’ll tour the Kremlin, probably the most recognized icon of the mystery and intrigue of the former Soviet Union. It is actually a walled city built as a fortification and ringed all around by 15th-century towers. As you’ll see, the Kremlin is the very heart of Moscow, with the city’s streets radiating outward in circles and the Kremlin standing as the focal point of the inner ring.

    View the Kremlin while touring Moscow

    Construction of the Kremlin began in the twelfth century on the small Borovitsky Hill (translated as Pine Grove Hill, reflecting the stands of evergreens that used to line it) along the north bank of the Moscow River. Almost every ruler of consequence since then has directed construction in the Kremlin, so it is a wonderful collection of widely varying architectural styles. The citadel is surrounded by a mile of red brick walls 65 feet high and up to 20 feet thick. Along these are battlements and gated entryways interspersed with 20 towers, the tallest standing 264 feet high. Most visitors enter the ancient Kremlin grounds through Kutafya Tower. In addition to housing the seat of government, there are numerous museums and six cathedrals (one of which we visit) within the walls. The Kremlin not only represented the political power of the country from tsars to Soviet prime ministers, but in earlier centuries it was also the religious heart of the Russian Orthodox Church.

    Our exploration of the Kremlin includes a tour of the State Armory, the oldest museum in Russia. Some of the Armory collection housed here dates to the 16th century and was originally stored in a stone chamber. In the 1840s, this Russo-Byzantine building was designed to protect the Kremlin’s collection of valuable weaponry, jewels, and ceremonial robes and articles.

    The museum’s collection has grown, and you will be able to see historic armor (Russian and foreign), royal thrones covered with thin plates of gold and studded with diamonds, imperial carriages, coronation robes, and the wedding dress of Catherine I. Some of the world-famous Faberge eggs, created by Carl Faberge, the jeweler to the tsars of Russia, are on display, as well as ornate twelfth-century decorations of Russian gold and silver, Russian weaponry in jewel-studded cases, battle-axes, sabers, and lavish equestrian harnesses and saddles. Here are the vestments of the tsars—priceless silks, velvets, and brocades, encrusted with jewels and pearls.

    Enjoy a late lunch at a local restaurant before we return to the ship.

    The evening is free, with dinner onboard.

    Or, join us after dinner for an optional excursion to a thrilling show by Kostroma, a professional dance ensemble. They will perform stylized folk dances of Russians, Ukrainians, and other nationalities that inhabit the Russian Federation. This colorful show features 50 dancers on stage and 17 costume changes. The ensemble has toured the world with this show to great acclaim. Please note: May-early June and late September-October departures offer an optional tour featuring the Zlatoust Singers rather than the optional National Russian Show.

  • hidden

    • Meals included:
    • Accommodations:

    The morning and early afternoon are free for you to discover historic sites independently, revisit favorite haunts, and browse local galleries and shops.

    Explore Memorial Synagogue in Moscow

    Perhaps you'll elect to join one of today's optional tours.

    In your first optional tour, you’ll spend the morning tracing the history of Jewish life in Moscow. During visits to the Memorial Synagogue—which includes the Holocaust and Jewish Heritage Museums—as well as the Grand Choral Synagogue, you’ll learn about the historic challenges faced by Russian Jews, from the era they were banned from the city, through Tsarist oppression, the Holocaust, and the Stalin era.

    Or, tour the Tretyakov Gallery in Zamoskvorechye, one of the oldest districts in Moscow, just a stone’s throw from the Kremlin. As the National Museum of Russian Fine Art, the Tretyakov Gallery features a collection of more than 130,000 paintings, sculptures, and graphics from Russian artists dating from the eleventh to the 20th centuries. You’ll view paintings by Repin, Levitsky, and more.

    Enjoy lunch onboard today.

    Be sure to be back onboard as we set sail for Uglich. En route this evening, we’ll enjoy a Captain’s Welcome Cocktail and Welcome Dinner.

  • hidden

    • Meals included:
    • Accommodations:

    This morning, you'll cruise along the river Russians affectionately call the Matushka ("Dear Little Mother") Volga. It's a contradictory name, for this is the greatest river in Europe, twisting, meandering, and flowing from the Valday Hills to the Caspian Sea for almost 2,500 miles, draining an area of a million square miles, and linking five oceans and seas to Moscow through its canals.

    View local street performers in Uglich

    Every day, you'll learn about the upcoming port of call during a "port talk." Today's port talk focuses on Uglich. Then, enjoy a Discovery Series discussion of Russian handcrafts, and learn about the skills and creations of Russian artisans, and then gather for lunch.

    Arrive and dock in Uglich and go ashore for a walking tour of this historic town. Here you have entered the region around Moscow called the Golden Ring, an arc of cities where magnificent pieces of Russia's past have been preserved.

    Uglich, with its many medieval buildings, is an impressive site when seen from the Volga or when walking its ancient streets. The town dates from the tenth century and was used by Ivan IV (the legendary Ivan the Terrible) in the 16th century as a base for his attacks against the Tatars.

    The Uglich fortress, or Kremlin as it is called, is on the bank of the Volga River and includes impressive churches. The town's long history is reflected in these ancient buildings within the Kremlin. One of the most massive structures is the Cathedral of Transfiguration, built from 1700 to 1713.

    The striking Church of St. Dmitry on the Blood, with its red walls and blue domes that appear as you sail into Uglich, dates from around 1690. It was built and named to honor the spot where Prince Dmitri, the youngest son of Ivan IV, died in the late 16th century. An aura of mystery still surrounds the exact circumstances of his death—you can decide for yourself whether he was murdered when you hear the story.

    The center of the town also features architectural landmarks, as well as offering a glimpse of the unique charm of this Russian province. The streets are wide and offer views of churches with distinctive domes and belfries.

    It's all aboard this evening, as you return to the ship for a Discovery Series lesson on the essentials of the Russian language, followed by some insights into Russian history during an onboard discussion with your Program Directors. Then savor a relaxing dinner of Russian specialties.

  • hidden

    • Meals included:
    • Accommodations:

    This morning, enjoy an exclusive Discovery Series event, a discussion with your Program Directors on modern Russian history, from communism to today, as you cruise to Goritsy.

    See Russian matrioshka dolls during an onboard discussion

    After lunch, set out on an included tour of Goritsy’s Kirillo-Belozersky monastery, built in 1397 by St. Kirill, who left a life of luxury to become closer to God. Interestingly, by the 16th century, the monastery was the second-richest landowner in Russia and had close connections to ruler Ivan the Terrible. You’ll tour the vast walled area of the monastery, featuring two priories and eleven churches, most of them dating to the 16th century. The monastery walls, 732 meters long and seven meters thick, were constructed between 1654 and 1680 to hold off Lithuanian invaders. They incorporate parts of the earlier citadel, which helped to withstand the Polish siege of 1612. Its walls feature numerous towers, each built to a unique design. You’ll also view the monastery’s impressive collection of Russian Orthodox icons, stylized paintings of Christian religious figures.

    Later this afternoon, as we sail for Kizhi Island, you can learn how matryoshka—Russia’s famous nesting dolls—are painted and perhaps try your hand at it yourself. Then join a Discovery Series presentation on the beverage that has been integral to the Russian culture for over 600 years: vodka. Distilled even before it was named vodka (from the Russian word voda, or water), vodka was once believed to be a miracle-working medicine. Learn the remarkable history of vodka—including Russia’s own Prohibition era—and sample some for yourself.

  • hidden

    • Meals included:
    • Accommodations:

    This morning, you’ll enjoy a port talk on today’s destination, Kizhi Island. Plus, depending on the sailing schedule, the Captain may invite you for a visit to the ship’s bridge. Then join an exclusive Discovery Series cooking class on pelmeni, a dumpling similar to Polish pierogi. The meat- or vegetable-filled pelmeni were originally popular with hunters looking for easy-to-prepare, nourishing food to take with them on long hunting trips in the winter. Today, the dumplings are a Russian national dish. Cook and sample your tasty creations. You'll also have the opportunity to learn some secrets of Russian cake decorating.

    Explore Kizhi Island situated in Lake Onega

    After lunch, enjoy some time at leisure, then join an onboard Discovery Series blini party, and learn the art of creating blinis, a small Russian pancake that is served with sour cream. You’ll learn its history and have a chance to make your own. We celebrate this regional dish by consuming our homemade blinis during the party.

    Late this afternoon, your ship docks at Kizhi Island in the middle of Lake Onega, one of the most ancient inhabited sites in Russia. It was an early pagan center, and now hosts an open-air architectural museum and reserve.

    You’ll visit the museum, opened to visitors in 1966 and offering an array of architectural monuments. More than 80 wooden monuments represent folk wooden architecture, ancient Russian pictorial art, and cultural items of the region’s various ethnic groups. The museum’s precious collection includes many wooden churches and chapels brought from other parts of the Russian north.

    Here you view the Church of the Transfiguration, with its 22 timbered onion domes. A donation from Grand Circle Foundation to the World Monuments Fund helped to maintain and protect this treasure. You then have some free time to do a little exploring of Kizhi Island on your own.

    Return to the ship this evening to savor a dinner onboard.

  • hidden

    • Meals included:
    • Accommodations:
    Explore the port city of Petrozavodsk

    Continue your discoveries today with a tour of the port city of Petrozavodsk, the industrial, cultural, and scientific center of the Republic of Karelia. Here you’ll see the monument to Peter I, considered to be the founder of Petrozavodsk, whose order was responsible for the first Russian cannon factory. Learn more about the Soviet period by touring Kirov Square, Gagarin Square, and Lenin Square, and stop at the World War II memorial of the eternal flame in the latter. You’ll also enjoy an included visit to the Karelia Cultural Center, which includes unique, hands-on opportunities to experience the region’s rich cultural heritage, including handcrafts such as birch woodworking, and embroidery. You’ll also enjoy a short class to enjoy regional folk dancing with local children.

    Return to the ship in time to relax over lunch. Later, you may choose to join us for an optional Karelian Folk Show, at which we’ll enjoy the national music and costume of the Karelia Republic—the northern region of Russia, known for its pristine lakes, thick forests, and frigid climate. Listen to traditional songs with verses in the Russian, Finnish, and Karelian languages.

    Or, enjoy time at leisure to either continue your explorations in Petrozavodsk or relax on the ship. Your ship sets sail again and continues cruising the Svir River overnight, headed for Lake Ladoga.

    Later, we'll reunite for dinner onboard. Then, enjoy a presentation on traditional Russian fairy tales.

  • hidden

    • Meals included:
    • Accommodations:

    As we sail alongside the fringed riverbanks of the Svir River this morning, you’ll understand why the region abounds with so much wooden architecture. You’ll arrive in Svir Stroi, a remote village on the Svir River, 280 miles south of St. Petersburg, halfway between Lake Ladoga and Lake Onega. The town is known for the children’s orphanage located here.

    Explore Svirstroi and chat with the locals

    You might inquire about it during your special Discovery Series visit to the home of a local family. Along with a warm welcome and stimulating conversation, you’ll enjoy authentic Russian tea and another specialty of the region: piroshki. From the Russian for “peer feast,” piroshki are pastries with such fillings as cabbage, chicken, fish, fruit, beef, or mashed potatoes.

    Enjoy your last full afternoon of cruising as your ship courses toward our last port-of-call, St. Petersburg. Along the way, you can learn everything you've always wanted to know about the USSR and Russia during a candid discussion with your Program Directors.

    In the evening, join your travel companions and the Captain of your river cruise ship at the Captain’s Reception to celebrate your voyage. Afterwards, share your discoveries along the river over the Captain’s Farewell Reception and Dinner.

  • hidden

    • Meals included:
    • Accommodations:
    View Resurrection Cathedral while touring St Petersburg

    St. Petersburg, founded as the new capital of the Russian Empire more than 300 years ago, was the vision and creation of Tsar Peter I, who named it after his patron saint, Peter. This beautiful showcase of a city, covering 150 square miles, is a synthesis of both European and Russian styles, with elements of both East and West. Pushkin called this city “Peter the Great’s Window to the West.” Known today as the Venice of the North, St. Petersburg has more than 40 picturesque islands, more than 60 canals, and hundreds of lovely bridges, and it is considered one of the most beautiful cities in the world.

    This morning, you’ll visit the chief monument to Peter I's reign, the Peter and Paul Fortress. On May 27, 1703 (considered the city’s birthdate), Peter I laid the foundations of the fortress on an island in the Neva River to protect the city and Russia’s access to the sea from the Swedish armies during the Northern Wars. Within the fortress is St. Peter and Paul Cathedral, whose lovely spire is topped by a golden angel holding a cross. This figure is the symbol of the city. Peter I and all the Russian emperors and empresses are buried here, and the Cathedral made headlines when the remains of the last Romanov family (Nicholas, Alexandra, and their children) were laid to rest here.

    After an included lunch at a local restaurant, you can choose to set out on an optional excursion to the magnificent summer residence of the Russian royalty at Peterhof. In 1714, Peter I asked for a “Versailles by the Sea.” The site evolved into a grand palace atop the hill, surrounded by a park, as well as several other smaller palaces. We visit Catherine’s Wing, one of the small palaces, and have a chance to view the many fountains on the grounds. You’ll see the palace’s remarkable Grand Cascade. This is an extraordinary fountain ensemble made up of three waterfalls, nearly 150 fountains shooting more than 2,000 jets of water, and a myriad of statues and sculptures. Its waterworks, after more than 250 years, continue to operate over 13 miles without pumps, relying on a system of gravity. Please note: The Peterhof fountains are not in operation on certain April and October departures.

    Enjoy dinner onboard this evening.

  • hidden

    • Meals included:
    • Accommodations:

    After breakfast, enjoy a panoramic tour of St. Petersburg. St. Isaac’s Cathedral is a highlight. This is the largest church in the city, built originally to be the main church of the Russian Empire. The dome of the cathedral, which dominates the city’s skyline, is gilded with more than 200 pounds of gold, and the interior is elaborately decorated with exquisite mosaics, icons, malachite, and lapis lazuli. This grand church can seat 14,000 worshippers. Although the church was closed after the 1917 Revolution, it reopened as a museum in 1931, and services for worshippers were again introduced in 1990.

    As part of our tour, you’ll also view the Admiralty, former shipyards, and the present Naval Academy on the banks of the Neva River, showcasing the might of the Russian navy. Other highlights include Palace Square (showcasing the beautifully Baroque Winter Palace, General Staff Building, and Alexander Column), St. Petersburg University, and the Bronze Horseman, a striking monument to Peter I.

    Explore the Hermitage museum in St Petersburg

    This afternoon, after a light lunch in a local restaurant, you continue exploring St. Petersburg, with an included visit to the Hermitage. Formerly the Winter Palace and home of the tsars, today this is one of the most splendid museums in the world. Built by the Empress Elizabeth, daughter of Peter I, the palace became part of the Hermitage Museum, originated in 1764 when Catherine the Great began her private art collection. Today, more than 1,000 rooms house nearly three million exhibits and displays representing some of the world’s greatest art.

    The staggering collection of art and paintings ranges from ancient Egypt to early 20th-century Europe, and is set in a complex of buildings magnificently and lavishly adorned with gold leaf, malachite, jasper, agate, and marble. Marvel at masterpieces by da Vinci, Michelangelo, Raphael, Rembrandt, a full range of French Impressionists, Van Gogh, Rodin, and many more of the world’s great artists. After your visit to the Hermitage, return to your ship in the afternoon.

    Tonight, enjoy dinner onboard your ship.

  • hidden

    • Meals included:
    • Accommodations:
    Discover new friendships at a St Petersburg cafe

    You have the morning at leisure to explore as you wish—browse some shops, visit monuments, and learn more about Russia's rich culture, or sip coffee at a cafe and watch the life of St. Petersburg all around you.

    Or, join us on an optional tour of the splendid Yusupov Palace, once owned by one of the wealthiest families in Russia. The 19th-century palace stands on the embankment of the Moyka River, beyond the "Bridge of Kisses." Built by Vallin de la Mothe in 1760, the palace's claim to fame is as the place where Prince Yusupov murdered Grigory Rasputin, the most controversial figure in Russian history, in 1916. Here you'll see where it all took place, as you browse rooms that have been restored to evoke the eerie atmosphere of the night of the murder. Another palace highlight is its magnificent private theater, one of the most beautiful of its kind in all of Europe.

    Explore on your own this afternoon—perhaps using the most popular means of local transport: the subway. You may want to visit the Church of Our Savior on Spilled Blood. This important landmark was created as a memorial on the exact site where a terrorist named Grinevitsky, from the revolutionary organization People's Will, mortally wounded Tsar Alexander II, despite his reforms, on March 1, 1881, by tossing a bomb at his feet. The church was modeled after St. Basil's in Moscow's Red Square. It took 24 years to build and 27 years to restore. It has a mind-boggling 75,320 square feet of mosaics. Or consider returning to the Hermitage where there is always more to see.

    Tonight, enjoy the sights of the city at your own pace, as well as an included dinner onboard the ship.

    Or, join us for an optional Evening at the Russian Ballet in a centrally located theater. At the time you purchase this optional program, your Program Director will advise you of the ballet performance that you will be attending this evening.

  • hidden

    • Meals included:
    • Accommodations:

    Early this morning, come with us on a visit to one of the great Tsarist palaces, a royal retreat just 15 miles outside St. Petersburg. Named for Peter the I's wife Catherine I, the palace was enlarged and redecorated by his daughter Elizabeth as one of the most striking examples of Russian Baroque architecture.

    The original palace was heavily damaged during the Second World War, and the restored building that stands today is said to be the finest replica in the world. Its grandiose facade stretches 978 feet and glitters in all its former glory, with elegant white columns and ornate gold moldings set against a background of brilliant blue sky.

    See Catherine's Palace in St Petersburg

    The gem of the palace is the famous Amber Room, opened to the public after the restoration in 2003 during the 300th anniversary of St. Petersburg. The room is a unique example of decorative art.

    You'll also enjoy a short tour of the elaborate gardens that surround the palace, which were originally laid out as a private park for the royal family.

    After an included lunch, during months when school is in session, you visit the St. Petersburg Music Boarding School, a facility partly supported by grants from the charitable Grand Circle Foundation. The Russian children will meet you with their smiles, and they'll be curious and open to conversation with you, eager to show their knowledge of English.

    Be sure to bring a pencil and paper to tonight's dinner, so you can write down the email addresses of your fellow travelers.

  • hidden

    • Meals included:

    After breakfast, you are transferred to the airport for your flight home. Or begin your optional post-trip extension in the Baltic Capitals.

St. Petersburg Moscow Reverse Direction Expand All
  • hidden

    Depart the U.S. today on your flight to St. Petersburg, Russia.

  • hidden

    Arrive in St. Petersburg on Day 2, where you'll be greeted at the airport by a Grand Circle representative and transferred to your ship. There, you'll meet your Program Director, who will be by your side for the remainder of the trip. Or, if you began your explorations early with our pre-trip extension to the Baltic Capitals, you will join the main group today.

    You have the balance of the day to relax after your overseas flight. Tonight, you’ll enjoy dinner onboard.

  • hidden

    • Meals included:
    • Accommodations:

    After breakfast, enjoy a panoramic tour of St. Petersburg. A highlight is St. Isaac’s Cathedral. This is the largest church in the city, built originally to be the main church of the Russian Empire. The dome of the cathedral, which dominates the city’s skyline, is gilded with more than 200 pounds of gold, and the interior is elaborately decorated with exquisite mosaics, icons, malachite, and lapis lazuli. This grand church can seat 14,000 worshippers. Although the church was closed after the 1917 Revolution, it reopened as a museum in 1931, and services for worshippers were again introduced in 1990.

    As part of our tour, you’ll also view the Admiralty, former shipyards, and the present Naval Academy on the banks of the Neva River, showcasing the might of the Russian navy. Other highlights include Palace Square—showcasing the beautifully Baroque Winter Palace, General Staff Building, and Alexander Column; St. Petersburg University; and the Bronze Horseman, a striking monument to Peter I.

    Explore the Hermitage museum in St Petersburg

    This afternoon, after a light lunch in a local restaurant, you continue exploring St. Petersburg, with an included visit to the Hermitage. Formerly the Winter Palace and home of the tsars, today this is one of the most splendid museums in the world. Built by the Empress Elizabeth, daughter of Peter I, the palace became part of the Hermitage Museum, originating in 1764 when Catherine I began her private art collection. Today, more than 1,000 rooms house nearly three million exhibits and displays representing some of the world’s greatest art.

    The staggering collection of art and paintings ranges from ancient Egypt to early 20th-century Europe and is set in a complex of buildings magnificently and lavishly adorned with gold leaf, malachite, jasper, agate, and marble. Marvel at masterpieces by da Vinci, Michelangelo, Raphael, Rembrandt, a full range of French Impressionists, Van Gogh, Rodin, and many more of the world’s great artists. After your visit to the Hermitage, return to your ship in the afternoon.

    Celebrate your first taste of Russia and get acquainted with your traveling companions over a Captain’s Welcome Drink and Dinner tonight.

  • hidden

    St. Petersburg, founded as the new capital of the Russian Empire more than 300 years ago, was the vision and creation of Tsar Peter I, who named it after his patron saint, Peter. This beautiful showcase of a city, covering 150 square miles, is a synthesis of both European and Russian styles, with elements of both East and West. Pushkin called this city “Peter the Great’s Window to the West.” St. Petersburg has more than 40 picturesque islands, more than 60 canals, and hundreds of lovely bridges, and is considered one of the most beautiful cities in the world.

    View Resurrection Cathedral while touring St Petersburg

    This morning, you’ll visit the chief monument to Peter the I’s reign, the Peter and Paul Fortress. On May 27, 1703 (considered the city’s birthdate), Peter I laid the foundations of the fortress on an island in the Neva River to protect the city and Russia’s access to the sea from the Swedish armies during the Northern Wars. Within the fortress is St. Peter and Paul Cathedral, whose lovely spire is topped by a golden angel holding a cross. This figure is the symbol of the city. Peter I and all the Russian emperors and empresses are buried here, and the Cathedral made headlines when the remains of the last Romanov family (Nicholas, Alexandra, and their children) were laid to rest here.

    You’ll have some free time on Nevsky Prospect, St. Petersburg’s main avenue, including time to get lunch on your own. Then your afternoon is at leisure. You can explore the city on your own from Nevsky Prospect, the center of business, trade activities, cultural life, shopping, entertainment, and nightlife. The Nevsky is at its most beautiful where the Kazan Cathedral on one side faces the Dom Knigi bookstore on the other. In addition to being home to many churches of different denominations, there are many other attractions: the largest department store in the city, Gostiny Dvor; the National Library of Russia; the monument to Catherine the I; Anichkov Bridge with its beautiful statues; and much more.

    Or, join our optional excursion to the magnificent summer residence of the Russian royalty at Peterhof. In 1714, Peter I asked for a “Versailles by the Sea.” The site evolved into a grand palace atop the hill surrounded by a park, as well as several other smaller palaces. We visit Catherine’s Wing, one of the small palaces, and have a chance to view the many fountains on the grounds. You’ll see the palace’s remarkable Grand Cascade. This is an extraordinary fountain ensemble made up of three waterfalls, nearly 150 fountains shooting more than 2,000 jets of water, and a myriad of statues and sculptures. Its waterworks, after more than 250 years, continue to operate over 13 miles without pumps, relying on a system of gravity.

    Enjoy dinner onboard this evening. Please note: The Peterhof fountains are not in operation on certain April and October departures.

  • hidden

    • Meals included:
    • Accommodations:

    Early this morning, come with us on a visit to one of the great Tsarist palaces, a royal retreat just 15 miles outside St. Petersburg. Named for Peter I’s wife Catherine I, the palace was enlarged and redecorated by his daughter Elizabeth as one of the most striking examples of Russian Baroque architecture.

    See Catherine's Palace in St Petersburg

    The original palace was heavily damaged during the Second World War, and the restored building that stands today is said to be the finest replica in the world. Its grandiose facade stretches 978 feet and glitters in all its former glory, with elegant white columns and ornate gold moldings set against a background of brilliant blue sky.

    The gem of the palace is the famous Amber Room, opened to the public after the restoration in 2003 during the 300th anniversary of St. Petersburg. The room is a unique example of decorative art.

    You’ll also enjoy a short tour of the elaborate gardens that surround the palace, which were originally laid out as a private park for the royal family.

    Explore on your own this afternoon—perhaps using the most popular means of local transport: the subway. You may want to visit the Church of Our Savior on Spilled Blood. This important landmark was created as a memorial on the exact site where a terrorist named Grinevitsky, from the revolutionary organization People’s Will, mortally wounded Tsar Alexander II, despite his reforms, on March 1, 1881, by tossing a bomb at his feet. The church was modeled after St. Basil’s in Moscow’s Red Square. It took 24 years to build and 27 years to restore. It has a mind-boggling 75,320 square feet of mosaics. Or consider returning to the Hermitage where there is always more to see.

    Tonight, enjoy the sights of the city at your own pace, as well as an included dinner onboard the ship.

    Later, join us for an optional Evening at the Russian Ballet in a centrally located theater. At the time you purchase this optional program, your Program Director will advise you of the ballet performance that you will be attending this evening.

  • hidden

    • Meals included:
    • Accommodations:

    You have the morning at leisure to explore as you wish—browse some shops, visit monuments, and learn more about Russia’s rich culture, or sip coffee at a cafe and watch the life of St. Petersburg all around you.

    Encounter the children at St Petersburg Music School

    Or, join us on an optional tour of the splendid Yusupov Palace, once owned by one of the wealthiest families in Russia. The 19th-century palace stands on the embankment of the Moyka River, beyond the “Bridge of Kisses.” Built by Vallin de la Mothe in 1760, the palace’s claim to fame is as the place where Prince Yusupov murdered Grigory Rasputin, the most controversial figure in Russian history, in 1916. Here you’ll see where it all took place, as you browse rooms that have been restored to evoke the eerie atmosphere of the night of the murder. Another palace highlight is its magnificent private theater, one of the most beautiful of its kind in all of Europe.

    After an included lunch, during months when school is in session, you visit the St. Petersburg Music Boarding School, a facility partly supported by grants from the charitable Grand Circle Foundation. The Russian children will meet you with their smiles, and they’ll be curious and open to conversation with you, eager to show their knowledge of English.

    The evening is free, with dinner onboard.

  • hidden

    • Meals included:
    • Accommodations:
    Explore Svirstroi and chat with the locals

    Join us after breakfast for an exclusive Discovery Series discussion on Russian handcrafts, and learn about the skills and creations of Russian artisans.

    Later, enjoy a Discovery Series lesson in the Russian language.

    Every day, you’ll learn about the upcoming port-of-call during a “port talk.” Today’s port talk focuses on Svir Stroi—a remote village on the Svir River, 280 miles south of St. Petersburg, halfway between Lake Ladoga and Lake Onega. The town is known for the children’s orphanage located here.

    Your Russian language lesson will come in handy later this afternoon during your special Discovery Series visit to the home of a local family. Along with a warm welcome and stimulating conversation, you’ll enjoy authentic Russian tea and another specialty of the region: piroshki. From the Russian for “peer feast,” piroshki are pastries with such fillings as cabbage, chicken, fish, fruit, beef, or mashed potatoes.

    Return to the ship to savor dinner onboard.

  • hidden

    • Meals included:
    • Accommodations:
    Explore the port city of Petrozavodsk

    This morning, enjoy an exclusive Discovery Series event, a discussion with your Program Directors on modern Russian history, from communism to today, as you cruise to Goritsy.

    After lunch, set out on an included tour of Goritsy’s Kirillo-Belozersky monastery, built in 1397 by St. Kirill, who left a life of luxury to become closer to God. Interestingly, by the 16th century, the monastery was the second-richest landowner in Russia and had close connections to ruler Ivan the Terrible. You’ll tour the vast walled area of the monastery, featuring two priories and eleven churches, most of them dating to the 16th century. The monastery walls, 732 meters long and seven meters thick, were constructed between 1654 and 1680 to hold off Lithuanian invaders. They incorporate parts of the earlier citadel, which helped to withstand the Polish siege of 1612. Its walls feature numerous towers, each built to a unique design. You’ll also view the monastery’s impressive collection of Russian Orthodox icons, stylized paintings of Christian religious figures.

    Later this afternoon, as we sail for Kizhi Island, you can learn how matryoshka—Russia’s famous nesting dolls—are painted and perhaps try your hand at it yourself. Then join a Discovery Series presentation on the beverage that has been integral to the Russian culture for over 600 years: vodka. Distilled even before it was named vodka (from the Russian word voda, or water), vodka was once believed to be a miracle-working medicine. Learn the remarkable history of vodka—including Russia’s own Prohibition era—and sample some for yourself.

  • hidden

    • Meals included:
    • Accommodations:
    Explore Kizhi Island situated in Lake Onega

    This morning, you’ll your ship docks at Kizhi Island in the middle of Lake Onega, one of the most ancient inhabited sites in Russia. It was an early pagan center, and now hosts an open-air architectural museum and reserve.

    You’ll visit the museum, opened to visitors in 1966 and offering an array of architectural monuments. More than 80 wooden monuments represent folk wooden architecture, ancient Russian pictorial art, and cultural items of the region’s various ethnic groups. The museum’s precious collection includes many wooden churches and chapels brought from other parts of the Russian north.

    Here you view the Church of the Transfiguration, with its 22 timbered onion domes. A donation from Grand Circle Foundation to the World Monuments Fund helped to maintain and protect this treasure. You then have some free time to do a little exploring of Kizhi Island on your own.

    This afternoon, you'll enjoy lunch onboard, then join an exclusive Discovery Series cooking class on pelmeni, a dumpling similar to Polish pierogi. The meat- or vegetable-filled pelmeni were originally popular with hunters looking for easy-to-prepare, nourishing food to take with them on long hunting trips in the winter. Today, the dumplings are a Russian national dish. Cook and sample your tasty creations. You'll also have the opportunity to learn some secrets of Russian cake decorating.

    This evening, you’ll have a chance to get some insights into Russian history during an onboard discussion with your Program Directors before dinner.

  • hidden

    • Meals included:
    • Accommodations:
    Discover how to make Blinis during a ship cooking class

    After breakfast this morning, join an onboard Discovery Series blini party, and learn the art of creating blinis, small Russian pancakes that are served with sour cream. You’ll learn its history and have a chance to make your own. We will celebrate this regional dish by consuming our creations during the party. Then learn about life in post-Soviet Russia during an informative discussion with your Program Director.

    Later, join an included tour of Goritsy’s Kirillo-Belozersky monastery, built in 1397 by St. Kirill, who left a life of luxury to become closer to God. Interestingly, by the 16th century, the monastery was the second-richest landowner in Russia and had close connections to ruler Ivan the Terrible. You’ll tour the vast walled area of the monastery, featuring two priories and eleven churches, most of them dating to the 16th century. The monastery walls, 732 meters long and seven meters thick, were constructed in 1654-80 to hold off Lithuanian invaders. They incorporate parts of the earlier citadel, which helped to withstand the Polish siege in 1612. Its walls feature numerous towers, each built to a particular design. You’ll also view the monastery’s impressive collection of Russian Orthodox icons, stylized paintings of Christian religious figures.

    Before dinner onboard, enjoy a Discovery Series presentation on the beverage that has been integral to the Russian culture for more than 600 years: vodka. Distilled even before it was named vodka (from the Russian word voda, or water), vodka was once believed to be a miracle-working medicine. Learn the remarkable history of vodka—including Russia’s own Prohibition era—and sample some for yourself.

  • hidden

    • Meals included:
    • Accommodations:

    This morning, disembark for an included tour of Uglich, an impressive site when seen from the Volga or when walking its ancient streets. The town dates from the tenth century and was used by Ivan IV (the legendary Ivan the Terrible) in the 16th century as a base for his attacks against the Tatars.

    View local street performers in Uglich

    The Uglich fortress, or Kremlin, as it is called, is on the bank of the Volga River and includes impressive churches. The town’s long history is reflected in these ancient buildings within the Kremlin. One of the most massive structures is the Cathedral of the Transfiguration, built from 1700 to 1713.

    The striking Church of St. Dmitry on the Blood, with its red walls and blue domes that appear as you sail into Uglich, dates from around 1690. It was built and named to honor the spot where Prince Dmitri, the youngest son of Ivan IV, died in the late 16th century. An aura of mystery still surrounds the exact circumstances of his death—you can decide for yourself whether he was murdered when you hear the story.

    The center of the town also features architectural landmarks, as well as offering a glimpse of the unique charm of this Russian province. The streets are wide and offer views of churches with distinctive domes and belfries.

    Then, return to the ship for your last full afternoon of cruising. Along the way, you can learn how matryoshka—Russia’s famous nesting dolls—are painted and perhaps try your hand at it yourself during an onboard crafts demonstration.

    In the evening, join your travel companions and the Captain of your river cruise ship at the Captain’s Reception to celebrate your voyage. Afterwards, share your discoveries along the river over the Captain’s Farewell Dinner.

  • hidden

    • Meals included:
    • Accommodations:
    View Moscow's Red Square while touring Russia

    As we approach Moscow, relax and enjoy the passing scenery. While you cruise, join a candid discussion with your Program Director revealing everything you want to know about life in Russia.

    After lunch, set out to explore Russia’s modern capital on an included tour. Your discoveries begin in the heart of the city, Krasnaya Ploshchad, known in English as “Red Square.” In the 16th century, krasny meant “beautiful,” but its meaning changed over centuries to mean “red.” Red Square does not refer to communism but rather to the beauty of the city square. In the 16th century, the square became a place for state ceremonies, where they have been held ever since.

    Along the way, you’ll get a true flavor of life in Moscow, as you join the bustle under the streets during a ride on Moscow’s Metro, considered one of the best subway systems in the world. Return to your ship late this afternoon, and enjoy some time at leisure before dinner onboard.

  • hidden

    • Meals included:
    • Accommodations:

    After breakfast, you’ll tour the Kremlin, probably the most recognized icon of the mystery and intrigue of the former Soviet Union. It is actually a walled city built as a fortification and ringed all around by 15th-century towers. As you’ll see, the Kremlin is the very heart of Moscow, with the city’s streets radiating outward in circles and the Kremlin standing as the focal point of the inner ring.

    View the Kremlin while touring Moscow

    Construction of the Kremlin began in the twelfth century on the small Borovitsky Hill (translated as "Pine Grove Hill," reflecting the stands of evergreens that used to line it) along the north bank of the Moscow River. Almost every ruler of consequence since then has directed construction in the Kremlin, so it is a wonderful collection of widely varying architectural styles. The citadel is surrounded by a mile of red brick walls 65 feet high and up to 20 feet thick. Along these are battlements and gated entryways interspersed with 20 towers, the tallest standing 264 feet high. Most visitors enter the ancient Kremlin grounds through Kutafya Tower. In addition to housing the seat of government, there are numerous museums and six cathedrals (one of which we visit) within the walls. The Kremlin not only represented the political power of the country from tsars to Soviet prime ministers, but in earlier centuries it was also the religious heart of the Russian Orthodox Church.

    Our exploration of the Kremlin includes a tour of the State Armory, the oldest museum in Russia. Some of the Armory collection housed here dates to the 16th century and was originally stored in a stone chamber. In the 1840s, this Russo-Byzantine building was designed to protect the Kremlin’s collection of valuable weaponry, jewels, and ceremonial robes and articles.

    The museum’s collection has grown, and you will be able to see historic armor (Russian and foreign), royal thrones covered with thin plates of gold and studded with diamonds, imperial carriages, coronation robes, and the wedding dress of Catherine I. Some of the world-famous Faberge eggs, created by Carl Faberge, the jeweler to the tsars of Russia, are on display, as well as ornate twelfth-century decorations of Russian gold and silver, Russian weaponry in jewel-studded cases, battle axes, sabers, and lavish equestrian harnesses and saddles. Here are the vestments of the tsars—priceless silks, velvets, and brocades, encrusted with jewels and pearls.

    Enjoy a late lunch at a local restaurant before we return to the ship.

    The evening is free, with dinner onboard.

    Or, join us after dinner for an optional excursion to a thrilling show by Kostroma, a professional dance ensemble. They will perform stylized folk dances of Russians, Ukrainians, and other nationalities that inhabit the Russian Federation. This colorful show features 50 dancers on stage and 17 costume changes. The ensemble has toured the world with this show to great acclaim. Please note: May-early June and late September-October departures offer an optional tour featuring the Zlatoust Singers rather than the optional National Russian Show.

  • hidden

    • Meals included:
    • Accommodations:
    Explore Memorial Synagogue in Moscow

    The morning and early afternoon are free for you to discover historic sites independently, revisit favorite haunts, and browse local galleries and shops.

    Perhaps you'll elect to join one of today's optional tours. In your first optional tour, you’ll spend the morning tracing the history of Jewish life in Moscow. During visits to the Memorial Synagogue—which includes the Holocaust and Jewish Heritage Museums—as well as the Grand Choral Synagogue, you’ll learn about the historic challenges faced by Russian Jews, from the era they were banned from the city, through Tsarist oppression, the Holocaust, and the Stalin era.

    Or, tour the Tretyakov Gallery in Zamoskvorechye, one of the oldest districts in Moscow, just a stone’s throw from the Kremlin. As the National Museum of Russian Fine Art, the Tretyakov Gallery features a collection of more than 130,000 paintings, sculptures, and graphics from Russian artists dating from the eleventh to the 20th centuries. You’ll view paintings by Repin, Levitsky, and more.

    Enjoy lunch onboard today.

    This evening, you'll take an included excursion to the Moscow Circus. This artful performance has enjoyed international acclaim for many years. The Circus showcases trained animals and daring acrobatic feats. You’ll also see the art of juggling, along with the humor and merriment that are unique to a circus atmosphere. Dinner tonight is onboard. Please note: This morning, your ship is docked inside the city, a 15-minute walk to the Metro station, which is a direct line to the city’s center. The ride to the city center takes approximately 25-30 minutes.

  • hidden

    • Meals included:
    • Accommodations:
    Encounter Russian World War II veterans and hear about their experiences

    On this morning’s included excursion, you’ll see the expansive view of Moscow from the vantage point of Sparrow Hills, formerly called the Lenin Hills. These hills overlook the city from a steep bank on the south side of the Moskva River and give you a view of the famed Moscow State University, one of the scientific centers of Russia. You will pass by the gleaming Cathedral of Christ the Savior, a distinctive structure that is an integral part of the Moscow skyline, as it is visible from so many points in the city center. Reconstructed in the 1990s, it is the largest church in Russia. You also visit Novodevichy (New Maiden) Cemetery, where Russian luminaries such as writers Anton Chekhov and Nikolai Gogol, and former president Boris Yeltsin are buried.

    After lunch onboard, you’ll meet with Russian World War II veterans, who will gladly tell you about their war experiences and answer your questions.

    Be sure to bring a pencil and paper to tonight’s dinner, so you can collect the e-mail addresses of your fellow travelers.

  • hidden

    • Meals included:

    After breakfast, transfer to the airport for your flight home. Or begin your optional post-trip extension in Transylvania, Romania.

Extensions

Traveler Reviews

There's no better way to learn what a trip is like than from the firsthand experiences of your fellow travelers, and our Traveler Reviews are the real deal—unbiased and unedited—giving you an honest appraisal of the experiences that await you on this trip.

Have you been on this trip? Share Your Thoughts, Sign In

Please note: If you have taken this trip, please log into your My Account & return to this page. You will be prompted to post your review. Reviews are limited to 10,000 characters. Due to our moderation process, please allow up to 72 hours for your review to appear.

Striving for Excellence

Read about our goals >

Our #1 commitment is delivering the best travel experience at the best value, so we take feedback from our travelers seriously as we strive to improve what we do. And one of the best ways for us to measure how travelers have rated our trips—including their experiences and the value we offer—is from our post-trip surveys, sent in by travelers.

Ratings based on percentage of travelers who rated these features "Excellent".

Ship Excellence
85%
Program Director Excellence
94%
Overall Trip Excellence
86%
loading reviews

Weather & Regional

Before you travel, we encourage you to learn about the region of the world you'll discover on this trip. From weather and currency information to details on population, geography, and local history, you'll find a comprehensive introduction to your destinations below.

Visit our “What to Know” page to find information about the level of activity to expect, vaccination information resources, and visa requirements specific to this vacation.

What to Know

For more detailed information about this trip, download our Travel Handbook below. This document covers a wide range of information on specific areas of your trip, from passport, visa, and medical requirements; to the currencies of the countries you’ll visit and the types of electrical outlets you’ll encounter. This handbook is written expressly for this itinerary. For your convenience, we've highlighted our travelers' most common areas of interest on this page.

Download the Travel Handbook

What to Expect

  • Please note that traffic can be heavy in Moscow and in St. Petersburg, resulting in long transfer times.
  • Throughout the River Cruise season, weather conditions affect river depths, and water levels may require adjustments to your itinerary.
  • The M/S Rossia  is not equipped with wheelchair access.
  • This program features a fair amount of walking over uneven surfaces. For full enjoyment of this trip, you should be in relatively good health. If you have difficulty walking or are wheelchair-bound, please consult our Travel Counselors for guidance.
  • We reserve the right for our Program Directors to modify participation, or in some circumstances, send travelers home if their limitations are impacting the group's experience.

Travel Documents

Passport

Your passport should meet these requirements for this itinerary

  • It should be valid for at least 6 months after your scheduled return to the U.S.
  • It should have the recommended number of blank pages (refer to the handbook for details).
  • The blank pages must be labeled “Visas” at the top. Pages labeled “Amendments and Endorsements” are not acceptable.

Visas

U.S. citizens will need a visa (or visas) for this trip. In addition, there may be other entry requirements that also need to be met. For your convenience, we’ve included a quick reference list, organized by country:

  • Russia: Visa required.
  • Estonia: Visa not required.
  • Finland: Visa not required
  • Romania: Visa not required

Travelers who are booked on this vacation will be sent a complete Visa Packet— with instructions, applications, and a list of visa fees—approximately 100 days prior to their departure. (Because many countries limit the validity of their visa from the date it is issued, or have a specific time window for when you can apply, we do not recommend applying too early.)

If you are not a U.S. citizen, do not travel with a U.S. passport, or will be traveling independently before/after this trip, then your entry requirements may be different. Please check with the appropriate embassy or a visa servicing company. To contact our recommended visa servicing company, PVS International, call toll-free at 1-800-556-9990.

Vaccinations Information

For a detailed and up-to-date list of vaccinations that are recommended for this trip, please visit the CDC’s “Traveler’s Health” website. You can also refer to the handbook for details.

Before Your Trip

Before you leave on your vacation, there are at least four health-related things you should do. Please check the handbook for specifics, but for now, here’s the short list:

Step 1: Check with the CDC for their recommendations for the countries you’ll be visiting.
Step 2: Have a medical checkup with your doctor.
Step 3: Pick up any necessary medications, both prescription and over-the-counter.
Step 4: Have a dental and/or eye checkup. (Recommended, but less important than steps 1-3.)

What to Bring

In an effort to help you bring less, we have included checklists within the handbook, which have been compiled from suggestions by Program Directors and former travelers. The lists are only jumping-off points—they offer recommendations based on experience, but not requirements. You might also want to refer to the climate charts in the handbook or online weather forecasts before you pack. Refer to the handbook for details.

Insider Tips

Accommodations

Main Trip

  • M/S Rossia

    The M/S Rossia was ranked #37 in Condé Nast Traveler's "Top 40 River Cruise Ships in the World" 2014 Reader's Poll.

    This ship accommodates just 216 travelers and features all outside cabins, Western decor, and a friendly Russian staff. You’ll enjoy English-only shipboard announcements; a dining area with regional and international cuisine; two bars and a library onboard; and panoramic views from the lounge and Sun Deck. Your cabin features a picture window, twin beds, refrigerator, flat-screen TV with movies, and a private, European-style bath with shower.

SEE THE ENTIRE GRAND CIRCLE FLEET

Extensions

  • New Montana Hotel

    Sinaia, Romania | Rating: Superior Tourist Class

    Enjoy modern comfort and attractive mountain architecture at the centrally located, Superior Tourist-Class New Montana Hotel. Amenities include a restaurant, bar, indoor pool, game room, hair salon, and currency exchange. Your room features a balcony/terrace, cable/satellite TV, telephone, minibar, and private bath with shower.

  • Ramada Plaza Bucharest

    Bucharest, Romania | Rating: First Class

    Located just north of the city center, this First-Class hotel’s amenities include a restaurant, bar, and sauna. Air-conditioned rooms feature a telephone, satellite TV, safe, minibar, and private bath with hair dryer.

  • Hotel Euroopa

    Tallinn, Estonia | Rating: First Class

    Constructed in 2007, the First-Class Hotel Euroopa features a health club, business center, and indoor pool—and is centrally located near Tallinn's historic Old Town. Each of its 185 air-conditioned rooms includes satellite TV, a telephone, refrigerator, minibar, and a private bath.

  • Scandic Grand Marina

    Helsinki, Finland | Rating: First Class

    Conveniently located along the harbor in central Helsinki, the 462-room First-Class Scandic Grand Marina features a restaurant, pub, health club, and sauna. Individual air-conditioned rooms include cable flat-screen TV, telephone, wireless Internet access, safe, minibar, and private bath with hair dryer.

Flight Information

Flight Options to Personalize Your Trip

You can choose to stay longer before or after your trip on your own, or combine two vacations to maximize your value.

  • Extend your vacation and lower your per day cost with our optional pre- and post-trip excursions
  • Choose our standard air routing, or work with us to select the airline and routing you prefer
  • Make your own international flight arrangements directly with the airline, applying frequent flyer miles if available
  • International airport transfers to and from your ship or hotel, including meet and greet service, are available for purchase
  • Stay overnight in a connecting city before or after your trip
  • Request to arrive a few days early to get a fresh start on your vacation
  • Choose to "break away" before or after your trip, spending additional days or weeks on your own
  • Combine your choice of Grand Circle Cruise Line vacations to maximize your value
  • Upgrade to business or premium class

The air options listed above will involve an additional fee of $100 per person for confirmed requests (as well as incremental airfare costs based on your specific choice).

Approximate travel times

Photos From Our Travelers

On location in Russia

Here’s how Grand Circle travelers have captured moments of discovery, beauty, friendship, and fun on previous departures of our Russia Revealed: Moscow to St. Petersburg vacation. We hope these will evoke special travel memories and inspire you to submit your own favorite Grand Circle Travel trip photos.

  Moscow, Russia  

Peter Hallett, 4-time traveler from South Hamilton, Massachusetts, captured the rich confection of color and shape that dominates one end of Red Square in Moscow. St. Basil’s Cathedral, completed in 1560, is actually a composite of eight chapels built around a central, ninth, chapel.

Thumbnail 1 Thumbnail 2 Thumbnail 3 Thumbnail 4 Thumbnail 5

How to submit your photos:

Please submit individual photos in jpeg format to: GCTtravelerphotos@gct.com.

Please be sure to include the name of your OAT adventure, along with the travel dates. Tell us where you took the photo and, if you’d like, tell us why. And don’t forget to include your name and contact information.

Please note: By submitting a photo, you (i) represent and warrant that the photo is your original work created solely by yourself and does not infringe the intellectual property rights of any party; (ii) grant to Grand Circle LLC and its affiliates a worldwide, royalty-free, perpetual, transferable, irrevocable, non-exclusive and fully sublicensable right and license to use, in any and all related media whether now known or hereafter devised, in perpetuity, anywhere in the world, with the right to make any and all commercial or other uses thereof, including without limitation, reproducing, editing, modifying, adapting, publishing, displaying publicly, creating derivative works from, incorporating into other works or modifying the photo and (iii) hereby release and discharge Grand Circle LLC and its affiliates, officers and employees from and against any and all claims, liabilities, costs, damages and expenses of any kind arising out of or relating to the use by Grand Circle LLC of any photo submitted.

The Magic of Belye Nochi—Saint Petersburg’s White Nights

Because of its northerly location, St. Petersburg experiences a curious phenomenon known in Russian as Belye Nochi, or "White Nights". From late May to early July, the sun never descends low enough for the sky to grow completely dark.

Early summer is the perfect time to visit this imperial capital, when the atmosphere on the streets is lively, friendly, and bustling with people at all hours.

Thanks to the city’s revitalized economy, festivities in recent years have been enhanced: Imagine a latticework of canals, illuminated by soft evening light reflecting the ornate architecture of more than 20 palaces and golden-domed churches.

Commemorating the summer solstice, residents of St. Petersburg celebrate this great weather, stunning sunsets, and extended daylight with concerts and sporting events in Palace Square, as well as special dance and musical performances.

Why not join them in 2014?

To experience White Nights, request these 2014 departure dates:

May 22, May 29, June 5, June 12, June 19

t23458-1

Partner since: 2005
Total donated: $131,443

Supporting a World Classroom: Russia

By funding improvements at local schools, the Foundation's World Classroom Initiative is focused on supporting society's most precious resources: its children. In Russia, you'll visit the St. Petersburg Music Boarding School, where our donations have helped further the aspirations of these young musicians by purchasing uniforms, musical instruments, recording equipment, music software, and more.

"Believe me, you have not heard child musicians until you visit the music school in St. Petersburg—absolutely inspiring!"

Jane Lehr, 26-time traveler
Shingle Springs, California

St. Petersburg Music Boarding School

Partner since: 2005 • Total donated: $66,247

Russian GCF site music school

St. Petersburg Music Boarding School is the only institution of its kind in all of northwest Russia. Here, 100 teachers provide 250 students ages seven to 17 with an academic education through secondary-school level, accompanied by the highest level of music education. Half of the students board at the school, and room and board are free to students who are from poor or troubled families, from orphanages, or whose homes are a great distance away.

Thanks to Grand Circle travelers and Grand Circle Foundation, the school now has the recording equipment necessary for students to produce their own CDs—allowing them to document their accomplishments and share them with the world. Other donations have gone towards purchasing musical instruments, a sound system for the school's concert hall, and an array of music software.

It was the head of Grand Circle's St. Petersburg office who first introduced Grand Circle Foundation to the St. Petersburg Music Boarding School. When she first set foot in the school, it was in disrepair and in immediate need of improvements to both the its structure and its educational materials. Since the Foundation's involvement, the facilities have been dramatically improved.

Over the course of our relationship with the boarding school, we have also had the pleasure of witnessing personal triumphs. Percussionist Pavel Chizhik has dazzled Grand Circle travelers for years, growing before their eyes from an awkward little kid to a confident young man. His dedicated work at the St. Petersburg Music Boarding School has lead to a prestigious scholarship at one of Russia's most esteemed conservatories.

School in session:

January through early December, with summer holidays from the middle of June through the beginning of September

Gifts to bring if you're visiting:

  • Souvenirs from home (postcards, etc.)
  • Pens and pencils
  • Books for children just beginning to learn English
Alan and Harriet Lewis founded Grand Circle Foundation in 1992 as a means of giving back to the world we travel. Because they donate an annually determined amount of revenue from our trips, we consider each one of our travelers as a partner in the Foundation’s work around the world. To date, the Foundation has pledged or donated more than $97 million in support of 300 different organizations—including 60 villages and nearly 100 schools that lie in the paths of our journeys.

Read More

The Kremlin: Heart of Moscow & Hotbed of History

How Moscow's Iconic Locale is Integral to the Nation's Identity

Six cathedrals are housed here today—each adorned with icons and frescoes inside and gilded onion domes outside.

Moscow’s great Kremlin is the most recognized icon of the mystery and intrigue of the former Soviet Union—but it’s more than just a symbol of what used to be. The Kremlin, situated on Borovitsky Hill along the north bank of the Moscow River, serves as the very heart of Moscow, with the city’s streets radiating outward in circles around the complex.

The official residence of the President of the Russian Federation, Moscow’s Kremlin is the greatest of all Russian kremlins, or walled citadels, and has evolved greatly over time. Historians suggest that the site of the Kremlin was inhabited dating back to 500 BC. The first fortification was built here by the Duke of Kiev in 1147.

From this point forward, the Kremlin grew in both size and power, and the structure’s wood was replaced by stronger stone. In 1326, the Russian Orthodox Church transferred to the citadel, making its seat at the Cathedral of the Assumption—the oldest and most noteworthy of the Kremlin’s cathedrals. Within the structure’s limestone walls and beneath its golden cupolas, many significant events took place, including the crowning of Russian emperors and the consecration of bishops.

Six cathedrals are housed here today—each adorned with icons and frescoes inside and gilded onion domes outside. Among them are the Cathedral of the Annunciation, once the church of the Grand Dukes and tsars; and the Cathedral of the Archangel, built by Ivan the Great as a final resting place for Russian Royalty. In addition, numerous museums are found within the Kremlin, including the State Armory, the oldest museum in Russia.

Arguably more famous are the Kremlin’s magnificent red-brick walls. Erected by the end of the 15th century, the walls are 65 feet high, nearly 20 feet thick, and stretch around the citadel for more than a mile. Gated entries are interspersed amidst the walls, as are 20 mighty towers—the tallest standing 264 feet high. Since medieval times, the Kremlin’s great towers have proudly protected the heart of Moscow.