The largest country in the world, Russia, is filled with diverse landscapes and cultures. Covering over 6.6 million square miles, where do you start exploring? Recently, I hopped aboard a 13-day river cruise with Viking Cruises and sailed from Moscow to St. Petersburg. Filled with one-of-a-kind excursions and gorgeous scenery, this is the perfect trip for first time travelers.
When planning a trip to Russia, I recommend starting in Moscow and ending in St. Petersburg. The capital of Russia, Moscow, is an industrial city with intricate buildings. It is also home to St. Basil’s Cathedral; with swirling onion domes and towering peaks, the church in Red Square is a work of architectural genius. St. Petersburg, on the other hand, resembles old Europe with gold accents and bright pastel colors. Here, you can step into the footsteps of royalty at Peterhof Palace. This series of golden palaces and gardens emits such grandeur, the experience is truly unforgettable. The contrast between the two cities makes for a wonderful start and end to your journey.
From the food to the people, the Russian culture was warm and hospitable. Dining abroad was incredible; the hardy people of Russia eat equally hearty meals of meat and potatoes to stay warm during the frigid winter months. Hopefully you like sour cream—they serve almost everything with it.
Language barriers were not an issue during the trip, as most Russians speak English. In fact, we had the opportunity to visit a local school in a small village, guided by an eighth grade student. She explained that in Russia, all students learn two additional languages starting in second grade.
Best of all, the people enhanced our eastern journey. Everyone we encountered was welcoming and kind. Two different locals told me to “go home and tell (my) friends and family that we are all just alike.”
If you’re interested in taking an extended trip to Russia, Viking Cruises is a great option. Our guides truly “guided” us through the experience, from picking us up at the airport to walking us to customs for our departure flight. These same guides remained with us for the entirety of the trip. It was comforting to know a familiar face at the Russian history seminars and daily excursions—it felt like having a friend in Russia. This comfortable, relaxed atmosphere even extended to the dress code. We could wear blue jeans and a nice shirt every day and never felt underdressed.
While there are several options of eastern travel, river cruising is truly unique. With a Viking river cruise, the transportation itself is an experience. You can gaze out of your balcony stateroom and take in beautiful scenery as you travel to the next city. Our journey was lined with landscapes, small villages and even locals out camping along the river.
Whether you’d like to soak in the rich history of Russia’s largest cities, or journey to other eastern regions, there are plenty of opportunities to see the world with Viking Cruises. And if you book with AAA, you’ll receive up to $200 in onboard spending credit as special member benefit. Click here to see a complete list of their 2020-2021 vacation options.
Candace Kalb is a district sales manager for AAA Ohio Auto Club.