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Passengers fuming over norwegian changing cruise route during trip: ‘they secretly changed the name’.
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A woman on board a Norwegian Cruise Line ship gave the company an icy review after they changed the route of the trip and didn’t tell passengers until after the cruise began, she claimed.
Helen Midler, who posted a video detailing the ordeal to TikTok, said that her cruise onboard the Norwegian Star was meant to go from South America to Antarctica, but that they changed the trip description to “round-trip of South America.”
The Post reached out to Midler for comment.
“Our ship is not going to Antarctica,” she said in a video that has garnered over 3 million views since being posted five days ago.
@ruinedvacation @Norwegian Cruise Line we need answers #cruise #cruisetok #help #southamerica #antarctica #vacation #cruiseship #fyp #fypシ ♬ original sound – ruinedvacation
“They secretly changed the name of this cruise yesterday on the app,” she continued in the video as she showed a screenshot of the trip’s new description.
She said she spoke to someone at the customer service desk who told her that the cruise’s head office in Miami made the decision before the cruise departed. She said customer service told her the change was due to “operational reasons.”
“They refused to explain what those operational reasons are. We know it’s not weather,” she exclaimed.
She said everyone on board the ship was “angry” and that a crowd of people showed up to complain to customer service but that the service desk refused to acknowledge them.
“They sent a security officer out to calm us down but we just refuse to be told, ‘Sorry we’re not going and we’re not gonna give you reasons.’”
She said that she and others feel as though they are being “cheated and scammed.“
She said that people on board the cruise “paid a lot of money” to go to Antarctica, not to cruise around South America. She told people not to take a Norwegian Cruise because she and others are being treated with “disdain.”
A spokesperson from Norwegian Cruise Lines provided The Post with the following statement: “We are committed to providing exceptional vacation experiences, both aboard our ships and by taking our guests to some of the most sought-out destinations around the world.”
“While we try to maintain original itineraries as much as possible, at times modifications are made to optimize the itinerary or to accommodate certain circumstances. To enhance the guest experience, the ship’s current itinerary was revised to allow more time for guests to explore Stanley, Falkland Islands. As such, the cruise by Paradise Bay, Antarctica was replaced with a cruise by Admiralty Bay, Antarctica,” their statement continued.
Admiralty Bay is 200 miles north of Paradise Bay near the mainland where the ship was originally trying to go.
“In addition, due to a recent regulatory requirement in the area, the ship is operating at a reduced speed, also impacting its original itinerary,” a rep from the cruise line told ABC.
Midler posted a series of video updates to her TikTok page. One day ago, she posted a video from Elephant Island, an Antarctic Island, that was on the original itinerary. She said the stop is being made more of a focal point on their trip than it was originally supposed to be because “we did not get to go to the Antarctica Mainland area which is what probably 2 and a half thousand people on this ship have paid to do.”
“We are all still devastated,” she added.
Some commenters below her video supported her outrage.
“I’m so sorry. That isn’t right at all. I would try your bank or credit card company for monetary adjustment. Absolutely different cruise you received,” one person said.
“I would be furious. Antartica is a dream of mine,” said another.
Other commenters said that these things happen and she should try to make the best of the situation.
@ruinedvacation Replying to @kylesneed update! Still no mainland antarctica and no more info from @Norwegian Cruise Line #cruise #cruisetok #help #southamerica #antarctica #ncl #vacation #cruiseship #fyp ♬ original sound – ruinedvacation
“Cruise lines litterally have the disclaimer that the itinerary can be changed. just enjoy what you get, the rest of the world is starving or being bombed and dying. perspective,” someone wrote.
“Cruise Lines have the right to change destinations for various reasons! Read what you signed!!! Be grateful they are looking out for you!” another added.
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The NCL Vibe Beach Club: All you need to know about this exclusive cruise ship space
If you've ever wanted your own serene place in the sun on a Norwegian Cruise Line sailing, you're in luck. Vibe Beach Club, NCL's exclusive sun deck, offers a peaceful oasis amid the daily hustle and bustle of ship life.
You'll pay for the privilege of lounging here, but your entry fee comes with a few decent perks, which I'll outline here. Find out all you need to know about this kids-free area, found only on a few vessels.
For more cruise news, reviews and tips, sign up for TPG's cruise newsletter .
What is the Norwegian Vibe Beach Club?
Vibe Beach Club, Norwegian's exclusive pay-to-enter adults-only sun deck, is a relaxing space for anyone 18 or older who enjoys working on their tan.
Layouts vary from ship to ship, but passengers who purchase passes will have access to amenities like a dedicated bar, sun loungers, padded clamshell-style daybeds (first come, first served), seating alcoves, chilled towels, food and beverage service, fresh fruit, and water spritzers. Although Vibe locations don't have pools, they do have hot tubs; ships in the line's Prima Class are outfitted with infinity-style tubs.
Vibe's top-deck alfresco location allows for fantastic ocean views — especially on ships where the area features a two-deck layout.
Space is limited, but because Vibe is outdoors, its popularity depends on the sailing region. If your ship is Alaska-bound, fewer people will be clamoring for the available spots. If you're booked on a Caribbean sailing, however, you'll want to reserve in advance or as soon as you board your ship if you don't want to miss out.
Hours vary by sailing. Food, drink and bar service are dependent on the weather.
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NCL Vibe Beach Club price
The cost of the NCL Vibe Beach Club varies from voyage to voyage, depending on cruise length. Passes for seven-day sailings start at $229 per person. Daypasses are not available.
Note that this price was accurate at the time of publication; it's subject to change without notice.
Related: Are cruises all-inclusive? What's actually included in your cruise fare
Is Vibe Beach Club worth it?
Paying hundreds of dollars for sunbathing space when lounge chairs are free elsewhere on the ship might not sound appealing to some cruisers. Is NCL Vibe Beach Club worth it?
The answer is completely subjective. If you're desperate for a quiet place without children where you can catch some rays and not have to fight for a deck chair or wait in line at the pool bar for a drink, it's probably worth the price for you.
However, if you're on a budget, someone who sunburns easily and prefers shaded outdoor spaces, traveling with children who aren't in the kids club or in need of easy access to a pool or food options, there are likely better places for you to spend your time on board.
Related: 7 extra-charge items on cruise ships that are worth the cost (and 7 that aren't)
Which NCL ships have Vibe Beach Club?
You'll find Vibe on eight ships in the Norwegian fleet:
- Norwegian Bliss
- Norwegian Breakaway
- Norwegian Encore
- Norwegian Escape
- Norwegian Getaway
- Norwegian Joy
- Norwegian Prima
- Norwegian Viva
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28 Most Common Questions About Norwegian Cruise Line: NCL FAQs
When booking a cruise, you’ll have lots of questions about Norwegian Cruise Line if you’re considering them. To help you out, I’ve pulled together answers to some of the most common questions asked. Click on the arrow to see the answers.
Absolutely! NCL has two programs for kids age 3 to 17, Splash Academy and Entourage , plus the newer ships have entertainment options like arcades, water slides, bungee, go karts, laser tag, zip line, or ropes course. Check with the ship you’ll be sailing on to see which options are available.
Norwegian’s cancellation policy focuses on the number of days you’re cancelling before the start of the cruise. Penalties kick in at the 120-day mark and increase as your sail date nears. Full information on their current policy can be found on their website .
Instead of formal nights, NCL has “Dress Up or Not” nights where it’s your choice. There will usually be one or two of these nights on a seven-night cruise. This is a good opportunity for family portraits or having your pic taken with the captain.
Norwegian Cruise Line is owned by Norwegian Cruise Line Holdings (NYSE: NCLH), which also owns Oceania Cruises and Regent Seven Seas Cruises.
At this writing, the Prima is the newest ship in the NCL fleet, to be joined by the Viva in the summer of 2023.
NCL is known for freestyle cruising, and was the first cruise line to eliminate set dining times, which allows guests to choose their own schedule.
Norwegian’s customer service number is 1 (866) 234-7350. Its hours of operation are Monday to Friday: 8 a.m. – Midnight ET, and Saturday to Sunday : 9 a.m. – 9 p.m. ET.
Not at this time, but you are welcome to wear a mask if you choose to.
The largest NCL ship by weight is the Encore, which is 169,116 Gross Register Tonnage and is 1,094 feet long in overall length.
Norwegian has payment plans through Uplift, which has so interest-free plans and others with interest. See NCL’s website for more info.
Like all cruise lines, NCL has its pros and cons. Here’s my take on the subject.
No, they don’t, but they do offer laundry service.
NCL has its Free at Sea program, which for certain sailings may offer (with limitations): free open bar, free specialty dining, free wi-fi, free third and fourth guests in a cabin, free excursions, and free airfare.
Norwegian Joy, Bliss, Encore, and Prima all have go karts.
Yes, Norwegian offers a 10% discount to service members and their spouses, as well as veterans.
In the United States, Norwegian sails out of Baltimore, Boston, Galveston, Honolulu, Los Angeles, Miami, New Orleans, New York City, Orlando and Beaches, San Diego, San Francisco, Seattle, Seward, and Tampa.
The Haven is available on the Bliss, Breakaway, Epic, Encore, Escape, Getaway, Gem, Jade, Jewel, Joy, Pearl, and Prima, and will be available on the Viva.
Only purified or distilled water for CPAP machines or making baby’s formula is allowed to be brought onboard Norwegian ships. Norwegian will provide distilled water for CPAP machines on request.
Yes, you can bring sealed bottles of wine onboard. At embarkation, they will be checked, and you will be charged a corkage fee of $15.00 USD for a 750-ml Bottle or $30.00 USD for a 1,500-ml magnum bottle. Box wines aren’t allowed onboard.
Yes, in fact, Norwegian was the first cruise line to build solo cabins, which they call studios. Norwegian has studio cabins on the Bliss, Breakaway, Encore, Escape, Getaway, Epic, Pride of America, and Prima.
Yes, Norwegian has two programs for kids aged 3 to 17, Splash Academy and Entourage . They will be safe and supervised, enjoying fun activities with kids their own age. (Note that Norwegian Spirit does not offer youth programs.)
Yes, but it’s relaxed compared to how you used to have to dress on a cruise. NCL suggests “cruise casual” for most situations, and “smart casual” for main dining rooms and specialty restaurants. Men will need long pants for smart casual situations. For more information, check out their website .
NCL occasionally offers free airfare for the second guest in a cabin on certain cruises with its Free at Sea program. See their website for current offers.
NCL allows up to two pieces of luggage per person brought onboard, weighing up to 50 pounds each. If you’re flying, you’ll also need to abide by your airline’s requirements.
No, unfortunately, they don’t.
Basically, you can’t bring aboard items considered weapons, irons, explosive substances, illegal drugs, dangerous items, etc. For a comprehensive list, see NCL’s website .
Yes, all NCL ships except Pride of America have a casino. Note that casinos are not allowed to operate when nearing or leaving a port, or in the vicinity of Hawaii. If you gamble on an NCL ship, be sure to join Casinos at Sea and get their player’s card.
And there you have it, answers to the most common questions about Norwegian Cruise Line. Hope these help! For any further questions, please visit NCL’s website .
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Deliciousness with a Side of Sea Breeze.
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CRUISE SHIP DINING
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Enjoy a four-course meal and a great bottle of wine. Or grab a burger hot off the grill. Dress up. Dress down. Sit with your friends or make new ones. Dine inside or Oceanside along The Waterfront. Only Norwegian offers the freedom and flexibility of Freestyle Dining, which means no fixed dining times or pre-assigned seating. So follow your mood, not a timetable .
Enjoy a Wide Variety of COMPLIMENTARY DINING
All of our ships offer beautifully crafted menus in up to three Main Dining Rooms, a Buffet and a variety of casual eateries. With our chef's original dishes made with the finest ingredients, your dining can be as fine or as fun as you want.
Main Dining Rooms
Choose from up to three main dining rooms serving a wide variety of delicious cuisine. Enjoy specially curated modern and classic dishes made with the freshest ingredients.
Our quintessential buffet is a crowd favourite for a reason. Available during breakfast, lunch and dinner, feel free to enjoy our meat carving station, made-to-order omelettes, pasta and more. Best part, it's complimentary.
24 Hour Eatery
Classic pub fare offered in a relaxed atmosphere. With popular dishes like the Reuben Sandwich and Fish n' Chips, this eatery has all your favourite comfort foods!
Indulge in Norwegian Exclusive SPECIALITY DINING
When you want a unique culinary experience, our speciality restaurants offer a variety of tastes for every palate. Now through The Norwegian Edge we are bringing an even higher standard of excellence to our dining with upgraded menus and new exciting venues. Whether you're indulging in succulent meats at Moderno Churrascaria, savouring French cuisine in Le Bistro, or enjoying fresh Mexican flavours at Los Lobos, you'll be sure to discover menus as fresh as the ingredients and cuisine that looks almost too good to eat.
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- Global Cuisine
Dig into some authentic Texas BBQ at Q Texas Smokehouse. All our smoked meats are infused with delicious flavours and come with all the traditional sides.
Our authentic Brazilian steakhouse is a must. Start with an impressive salad bar, but save room for skewers of slow-roasted meats carved tableside by our Pasadores.
A contemporary take on classic French cuisine. Surround yourself in chic décor and rich fare plates. Perfect for a romantic night out for the deux of you.
This delicious Asian-Latin fusion cuisine served tapas style is perfect for sharing. Food Republic is open for lunch on sea days and dinner nightly.
Dine on Italian classics prepared using the finest ingredients at La Cucina. Or explore a new wave of flavour with a fresh take on old-world fare at Onda by Scarpetta.
Gather around a shared table as a skillful chef perfectly prepares steak, chicken and seafood on a large steel grill at Teppanyaki. In the mood for sushi? Pull up a chair at any one of our sushi bars for some traditional Japanese fare, including Nama, our new contemporary sushi house offering upscale sushi and sashimi prepared by master chefs.
Bienvenido a Los Lobos, a premium Mexican restaurant celebrating traditional flavours with a modern twist. Chefs serve up new favourites like Carne Asada marinated in guajillo chiles and tequila or Tres Leches Cake with Coconut Cream.
Indulge in our newest seafood concept, Palomar, featuring flavourful Mediterranean inspired dishes and an exclusive eco-friendly wine list. Dive into an ocean of flavour with other incredible seafood options like Ocean Blue, Bayamo and The Raw Bar, serving some of the finest and freshest ingredients at sea with perfectly paired wine selections and cocktails.
Enjoy a taste of Spain's cuisine at this lively tapas bar. Sip on delicious sangria as you savour an array of small plates, like Manchego Cheese and Iberico Ham, or Cod Croquettes and Garlic Shrimp.
An American-style steakhouse where succulent choice cuts of Angus beef are incredibly flavourful and perfectly prepared. Make sure to order our famous Parmesan truffle fries.
Indulge your sweet tooth with decadent treats such as French macarons, chocolate bonbons and gourmet cupcakes at Coco's, Dolce Gelato, or The Bake Shop.
See What We Offer for FAMILY DINING
Freestyle Dining provides dining choices that satisfy even the pickiest eater in the family. Grab a burger hot off the grill or sit down for a four-course meal. Dress up. Dress down. You'll find more dining options than days of your cruise, and you're free to enjoy them all on your own timetable .
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Norwegian Cruise Lines Removes Venice From 2024 Itineraries
Norwegian Cruise Line is cutting Venice from its itineraries for the year ahead.
The news comes on the heels of Venice’s ban on large cruise ships in the Venetian Lagoon, which has forced ships to anchor further away from the historic city and rely on tenders to ferry passengers to the Port of Venice.
“While we have made every effort to maintain these calls to Venice, the tender operation and overall experience this provides our guests has fallen short of the standard we aim to deliver. As a result, we have modified Norwegian Pearl’s itinerary,” Norwegian Cruise Line stated in a letter that was provided to passengers and its travel partners, according to Cruise Hive.
In lieu of Venice, Norwegian will instead take travelers to Ravenna, Italy; Rijeka and Zadar in Croatia and Koper, Slovenia, based on availability.
Venice has been struggling with tourism-related challenges for years. The issue reached a near breaking point this past September when for the first time ever, the number of beds designated for tourist use on Venice ’s main island had exceeded the city’s actual year-round residents.
Local leaders have been busy drafting a variety of measures to address tourism's impact on the historic city including most recently a proposed limit that would cap tour group sizes at 25 or less and a ban the use of loudspeakers. The measure has not yet been adopted by Venice's City Council. If adopted, the new rule would take effect in June.
Earlier in January, Venice leaders also revealed the details of a new ticketing plan for day trippers seeking to enter the city. The new system is slated to begin April 25 and will be implemented on certain days during peak season, which runs from late April through July 14.
Back in 2021, meanwhile, the city's leaders announced that that cruise ships would no longer be allowed in central Venice. The rule applies to any ships that are not classified small boutique ships or river vessels, according to Cruise Hive.
Additionally, ships that are greater than 25,000 gross tons, longer than 180 meters, taller than 35 meter or that have sulfur emissions in excess of 0.1 percent are required to anchor elsewhere.
NCL has also canceled plans to visit Venice with its ship for 2025. Instead, ships will spend a day a sea until a new port is identified as a replacement, according to Travel Weekly.
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Norwegian Cruise Line Holdings to Hold Conference Call on Fourth Quarter and Full Year 2023 Financial Results
MIAMI, Feb. 15, 2024 (GLOBE NEWSWIRE) -- Norwegian Cruise Line Holdings Ltd. (NYSE: NCLH) (together with NCL Corporation Ltd., “Norwegian Cruise Line Holdings” or the “Company”) announced today it will report fourth quarter and full year 2023 financial results on Tuesday, February 27, 2024 at 7:30 a.m. Eastern Time with a conference call and webcast to discuss results at 10:00 a.m. Eastern Time.
The conference call will be webcast via the Company’s Investor Relations website, https://www.nclhltd.com/investors. A replay of the webcast will be available here on the Company’s website for 30 days following the call.
About Norwegian Cruise Line Holdings Ltd.
Norwegian Cruise Line Holdings Ltd. (NYSE: NCLH) is the leading global cruise company that operates Norwegian Cruise Line, Oceania Cruises and Regent Seven Seas Cruises. With a combined fleet of 32 ships and more than 66,000 berths, NCLH offers itineraries to approximately 700 destinations worldwide. NCLH has five additional ships scheduled for delivery across its three brands, adding nearly 15,500 berths. To learn more, visit www.nclhltd.com.
Investor Relations and Media Contacts Sarah Inmon (786) 812-3233 [email protected]
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Norwegian Cruise Line Is Cutting Venice From Its Itineraries — What to Know If the City Is on Your 2024 or 2025 Itinerary
Norwegian will modify its 2024 and 2025 itineraries, replacing it with other stops in Italy, Croatia, and Slovenia.
Bruce Hood/Getty Images
Norwegian Cruise Line is saying arrivederci to Venice, cutting the canal city from its cruise itineraries in 2024 and 2025.
The cruise line confirmed to Travel + Leisure it will no longer include stops in Venice as part of its plans years after the city declared its waterways a “national monument” and banned large cruise ships. Since then, Norwegian said it has been ferrying visitors to the famed city by tender, but it was no longer a viable option.
“Due to the restrictions on large cruise ships to sail into the Venice Lagoon and dock at the usual piers, large cruise ships calling to Venice are required to anchor outside of the lagoon and utilize tender boats to access the Port of Venice,” a Norwegian Cruise Line spokesperson told T+L. “While we have made every effort possible to maintain these calls to Venice, the tender operation and overall experience this provides our guests has fallen short of the standard we aim to deliver.”
Going forward, Norwegian will modify its 2024 itineraries that previously included Venice, replacing it with port visits to either Ravenna, Italy; Rijeka and Zadar, Croatia; or Koper, Slovenia. In 2025, the cruise line will replace stops in Venice with either a sea day or another port, depending on availability.
“We recognize that Venice is one of the world’s greatest destinations, cherished by both our guests and crew, and as such acknowledge the inconvenience and frustration this disruption may cause,” the spokesperson added. “We appreciate the understanding of our loyal guests and travel agent partners.”
Major cruise lines have utilized different options to get guests to Venice. MSC Cruises, for example, stops in Marghera, which sits just across the water from the city. Others, like Princess Cruises and Holland America Line, stop in Trieste, which sits on the border near Slovenia. Royal Caribbean and Celebrity Cruises both stop in Ravenna, about a 2 hour 30 minute drive from Venice.
Venice has been making efforts to limit over-tourism for years. The city, which has received multiple reprieves from being included on UNESCO’s list of world heritage sites in danger, also plans to implement a tourist fee for day visitors this spring and aims to limit the size of tour groups allowed this coming summer.
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GCT M/S Tikhi Don - St. Petersburg to Moscow
By usnavyguy , June 24, 2012 in River Cruising
This is a review of a St. Petersburg to Moscow river cruise from 5/31/2012 - 6/14/2012 with Grand Circle Travel. I'll divide the review into sections starting with the ship so folks can jump to those sections of interest & ignore what isn't pertinent to them. For an excellent discussion on pre-trip planning, visa issues, comments on various cruise lines, this link:
will give you all the details you need. I'll not repeat it here.
So, let's get to the specifics:
Ship : Tikhi Don is owned by Grand Circle Travel (GCT) and is one of two ships, the other being M/V Rossia they operate between Moscow & St. Petersburg. All the cabins are identical: 146 square feet with one window that opens, situated on 3 decks. The only difference is location on the ship. The cabins were clean as were the attached bathrooms. Storage space was adequate for two weeks. There is one 120V and one 220V electrical outlet in the cabin as well as a 115V electrical outlet in the bathroom. I purchased a 4 outlet power strip specifically for this trip to plug in rechargeable digital camera batteries as well as a cell phone. The ship has an elevator near the reception desk forward that services Decks 1, 2, and 3. There is a double stairway in the after end of the ship that runs from the Main Deck to Decks 2, 3, and 4. All other stairways are external and serve all 4 decks. We had about 206 passengers embarked and about 100 staff, so the ratio of staff to cruisers was pretty high. It seems that all river ships operating in Russia carry about 200 or so customers which make them quite a bit larger than the average European waterways river ship. Since they have far fewer bridges to deal with in terms of height, and water depths are somewhat deeper than European rivers, they can and do take advantage of that to leverage a larger number of customers. That doesn't make it bad; it just makes it different. Tikhi Don draws about 9 feet of water which I suspect is about average for a Russian river cruiser. The ship has two bars, one on the 3rd deck forward (Tsar Bar) and one on the 4th deck aft (Presidents Bar). The restaurant is located on the 2nd deck aft and is used for the breakfast buffet and the sit down daily lunches & dinners. One disadvantage to my way of thinking was the sit down lunch. When we've cruised on Viking, they offered a light buffet lunch in the bar/lounge and a sit down lunch in the restaurant. That gave one some options which weren't available with GCT. Again, not necessarily bad; just different. Each cabin is equipped with a flat panel LCD TV with various satellite channels available depending upon the location of the ship at the time. There also were 3 different movie channels showing a different movie each day. Since we didn’t watch TV, I can only surmise it must have worked okay as we did not hear any complaints. While each cabin has individual air conditioning controls, they didn’t appear to function very effectively and the cabin remained around 68-70 degrees Fahrenheit at all times. There is a separate heating unit mounted beneath the window on the outside bulkhead which proved very useful on some of the colder mornings we experienced during the cruise. The cruise covers 829 miles between St. Petersburg and Moscow, and consists of several lakes, rivers and canals including the transit of 16 locks.
Travelers: One significant difference I noted was the average age of the passengers was somewhat older than we had previously experienced with Viking in Europe. I would guess that average age was around mid-70s; some younger, and some a good bit older. We had several veterans of WW2 embarked and I can only hope I'm as spry as they were when I'm that age. They also are very loyal to GCT. Those folks who had previously traveled 3 or more times with GCT or their companion company, Overseas Adventure Travel were identified with a gold name badge. I'd estimate that at least 50% of the embarked travelers fell into this category. This was a very seasoned group of world travelers. Few on the trip were making their 1st river cruise and even fewer were traveling with GCT for the 1st time (we fell into that category). The tours generally involved quite a bit of walking and a not so slow pace, but most everyone managed to keep at it, and few opted out of the walking tours. I'll discuss those in more detail later in this post.
Ship Staff: The staff was quite young (mid to late 20s mostly), inexperienced, but always willing to help. Their command of English was generally very limited although I expect that will improve as the season wears on. Their English was way better than my Cyrillic so they get an A+ for effort. The cruise is managed by a Cruise Director who spoke idiomatic English. The ship's Captain was the most personable Captain I have ever sailed with on a cruise ship. He spoke good English, greeted all the travelers as they debarked for each tour, met each traveler at the gangplank when they returned, and along with the Cruise Director and Hospitality Manager stood on the pier and waved goodbye to every bus that departed. I'm used to the Captain putting in a brief appearance at the Welcome & Farewell Cocktail parties, then disappearing for rest of the cruise. This was a novel & most welcome change.
We were divided into 6 groups of about 32-35 people, assigned a Tour Director who worked exclusively with that group for the entire cruise. Very occasionally for an optional tour, the groups would be combined to keep the numbers about the same, but basically, you functioned within your assigned group. The Tour Directors all had majored in foreign languages at the University and had anywhere from two to as many as eight years with GCT. They all spoke idiomatic English and did a great job of keeping track of their charges. I liken managing U.S. tour groups to herding cats and these folks were always cheerful, ready to answer any question, and resolve any problem. The wait staff in the dining room had limited English, but knew enough to converse with the passengers with regard to the menu & was a hustling young group of Russians. They were extremely pleasant to deal with.
Food on Board: In general the meals were quite good. Breakfast was served buffet style and one always had the opportunity to order an omelet or eggs of any style. There also was a special breakfast order each day. They also included the European breakfast meats and other items common on European river cruise ships. Service was quick and efficient. Restaurant seating included tables for 2, 4, 6 or 10 passengers so there was a wide variety of seating. Lunches & dinners would be best described as Russian modified for American taste. As I remarked previously, all lunches were sit down, formal service with soup, entre (including a vegetarian selection). Salad bar and dessert. Dinners consisted of an appetizer, followed by a soup course, entre (again including a vegetarian choice), and dessert. At dinner, there was always available salmon or chicken breast with a baked potato and steamed vegetables for those who did not fancy the main course. Food was served hot when appropriate and cold when in order. Service was friendly and efficient. Even with 200 people sitting down to eat, there was no sense of “steam table” cooking. With the exception of two meals ashore, all meals were served onboard. In the event of an evening tour such as the Moscow circus or the St. Petersburg ballet, an early dinner was served to those attending the event, followed by a late night heavy snack following return onboard. While I did not eat very many lunches, my wife tried most of them and said the food was very good. We found the dinners to be tasty and a nice introduction to Russian cooking, including the famous Russian stroganoff which is not served over noodles as it is in the U.S., but over spaetzle or mashed potatoes which we were told is common in Russia. Early bird coffee was available from 6:00-7:00AM and also throughout the day at the coffee station on the main deck. Lunch was served at either noon or 1:00PM depending on the tour schedule, with dinner at 7:00PM.
Onboard Activities: There was never a shortage of things to do onboard, but all were voluntary so you could participate in as few or as many as you wished. They featured the usual port talks, introduction to the Russian language, lectures on Russian handicrafts, vodka tastings, blini parties, pelmeni (dumpling) cooking class, and hand painting of Russian Matryoshka (nesting) dolls. We also noted several spontaneous bridge, cribbage, and canasta card games in progress at various times.
There is a large, well stocked gift store on the ship, operated as a separate concession. My wife found the prices for souvenirs of all types were generally better than souvenir shops ashore. They accept major credit cards or roubles. You cannot charge items from the store to your shipboard account.
Tours: There were a limited number of optional (extra cost) tours available. In St. Petersburg, that included:
Rivers & Canals of St. Petersburg
St. Petersburg Ballet
In Petrozavodosk: Karelian Folk Show
Jewish Heritage of Moscow
You can view the details of these optional tours on the GCT website: http://www.gct.com
under the Russian river cruise itinerary.
All passengers are provided with a pair of head phones & a battery powered receiver to provide the ability to listen to the tour guide while still wandering about the particular venue. The system works perfectly and depending upon location & interference such as walls, floors, and the like is crystal clear up to 100 feet from the tour guide. I have used these systems on other tours and would never consider a tour/cruise that did not employ this technology.
We took the Rivers & Canals of St. Petersburg tour which entailed taking a canal boat up & down the various rivers & canals running through St. Petersburg. It lasted approximately 90 minutes with a well informed local guide who commented on what we were seeing. It was interesting and informative and gives you another whole perspective on St. Petersburg than from a city bus tour.
We also went on the Peterhof gardens tour which unfortunately, did not go as well. The morning tour for that day was Peter & Paul Fortress which was really not that interesting and turned out to be just another church tour. However, because of the distance from where the boat moored to the fortress, then into St. Petersburg for lunch, the morning and part of the afternoon was pretty well shot by the time we departed for Peterhof. Peterhof is a good 45 minute drive from St. Petersburg; so consequently, it was well after 2:00PM when we arrived at the gardens. I’d like to say the local guide tried to cram what could easily have been a 4 hour tour into something less than two hours. So, we consequently were trying to set land speed records for walking tours as she was determined to show us as many of the Peterhof fountains as possible, and there are more than a few. My wife is a bit slow of foot as she has limited walking capacity so she was hard pressed to keep up. I, on the other hand, wanted more time to take pictures of the fountains and didn’t appreciate being rushed from spot to spot. Fortunately, our tour director Alex was particularly solicitous of my wife and made sure we could cut some corners and get ahead of the tour where necessary. Unfortunately, the local tour guide was annoyed when told to slow down and became somewhat hostile. The tour ends at the Peterhof palace which has a very large number of very beautiful fountains, all in gold leaf and is a photographer’s dream. It easily could have been worth an hour or more of picture taking opportunities. While I do understand some folks just want to check the block of having seen it and move on, there are, I think, a larger number of us who don’t expect to see those things again and want to take full advantage of the picture taking opportunities.
St. Petersburg: We spent 4 days in St. Petersburg not counting the day of arrival. The 1st full day, we had a city bus tour which included a stop & tour of St. Isaac’s Cathedral, and an approximately two hour visit to the famed Hermitage Art Museum with an option to stay for an additional 90 minutes, On Day 2, we had Catherine’s Palace & Park Tour, an offsite lunch paid for by GCT followed by the optional Rivers & Canals Tour, Day 4 was the Peter & Paul Fortress, again followed by lunch (this time on your own) followed by the optional Peterhof Gardens tour. On Day 3 of the visit, there were optional tours available of Yusopov Palace and the St. Petersburg ballet (evening). The boat was moored about 1 hour from downtown, depending on traffic, as the city authorities do not allow the riverboats to moor downtown. This caused some angst among those taking their 1st river cruise as they assumed this was standard. Of course, it’s not, and in fact, almost all European river cruises including Paris moor almost in the heart of the city. However, for those with free time and a little bit of adventurism, the subway took you downtown in less than 40 minutes. There is a bus from the head of the pier which costs 30 roubles (in early June 2012, roubles were 32.5 to 1 USD). That dropped you at the nearest metro entrance where 25 roubles and 5 stops later, landed you in the heart of Nevsky Prospekt, St. Petersburg’s equivalent to Times Square in NY or Michigan Avenue in Chicago. The metro is clean, no graffiti in the stations or on the cars, efficiently run and very safe. To return to the ship, just reverse the process. Once downtown, there are many attractions within easy walking distance such as the statue of the Bronze Horseman, a tribute from Catherine the Great to Peter the Great and the Church of our Savior on the Spilled Blood on which site, Tsar Alexander II was murdered by an assassin on 1 March 1881.
This was our 2nd time in St. Petersburg as we were there on an ocean cruise of the Baltics in 2003 when the city celebrated its 300th anniversary. It is to my mind, much more European than Russian with the latest fashions on display, many, many outdoor restaurant cafes and a mostly young, apparently well off population (at least during a business day).
We had previously been to Catherine’s Palace and the Hermitage and enjoyed returning to both places. St. Isaac’s is very impressive, but unfortunately, it is crowded and pickpockets are afoot. Several men & at least 1 woman had wallets stolen in the crowds so for them, not so much fun. Peter and Paul Fortress from a historical perspective is important, but rather unimpressive.
We visited St. Petersburg during the period of the summer referred to as “White Nights” which are quite famous. Sunrise occurs about 4:30AM and sunset at 11:15PM. Since winters are long, cold, and sometimes very harsh, the many hours of sunlight are greatly appreciated and folks go out to stroll, especially on Nevsky Prospekt well into the evening hours enjoying the many parks and recreation areas throughout the city.
Svir Stroi: This is a small village of about 600 people located on the Svir River. They have the requisite souvenir shops, but the highlight of the stop was the visit to the home of a Russian villager. Our opportunity came to visit the wife of a local employee of the hydro electric plant. We visited her home and were served tea & pirozhki’s (Russian tea cakes). With the able help of our tour director, Tanya who translated, the lady explained her daily life in the village and the challenges ordinary people now face compared to the days of the Soviet Union. This is also where we first encountered the fierce Russian mosquitoes or as the tour directors called them, the KGB mosquitoes. They’re big, they bite and they fly around over the 3 months of summer. Mosquito repellent does, however, work when liberally applied.
Petrozavodsk: This port city on Lake Onega which is the second largest lake in Europe, only surpassed by Lake Ladoga, included a bus tour as well as a visit to the memorial to Russian’s Unknown Soldier from World War II, and a tour of the local market. It is the industrial, cultural, and scientific center of the Republic of Karelia. The visit also included an optional tour to a Karelian folk show which we opted not to attend.
Kizhi (Kee-shee) Island: This small island in the center of Lake Onega is home to the oldest known wooden church in Russia, the Church of Transfiguration which features 22 timbered onion shaped domes. The church was assembled without the use of a single metal nail and is currently undergoing extensive renovation. The stop also featured a “Fishing with the Ship’s Captain & Staff” for those who are ardent anglers. Fishing apparently wasn’t so successful as we did not have fish on the menu that evening!
Goritzy/Kirillo-Belozersky Monastery: Goritsky is just another tiny town, but the monastery was built in 1397 and had close connections with Ivan the Terrible. At one time, over 200 monks lived in the monastery, but with the Russian revolution and the harsh suppression of religion in Russia, it deteriorated significantly and now houses only 6 monks. Since the collapse of the Soviet Union, restoration efforts have begun and the museum features an impressive collection of Russian Orthodox icons.
Uglich: The last city we visited prior to Moscow is located on the Volga River. Cruising on the river as you come onto Uglich is very impressive. The Kremlin (or fortress) has no exterior walls so the many colored churches and domes make great picture opportunities. The very large Cathedral of Transfiguration looms over the town while the Church of St. Dmitry on the Blood with its rich red walls and blue onion domes offer a sharp contrast. Souvenir and shops selling all sorts of goods line the route from the ship’s berth to the main street of Uglich. We were told by the local guide that as many as 7 to 8 river cruise ships a day visit Uglich during the summer. They also were having a display of lacquer and paper Mache’ boxes for sale at very Western prices. Enameled watches are also a specialty of Uglich. We were treated to a short concert by a group of male classically trained singers who rendered several Russian songs a capella during our visit.
Moscow: We arrived in Moscow about 3 hours late because of heavy fog the previous evening while transiting the Moscow Canal. The river authorities do not allow movement in the canal during heavy fog, so we waited out the down time in one of the locks. The ship moored a good ways from downtown as the city authorities do not allow river cruise ships downtown, the same rule as St. Petersburg. Moscow is a city of 11.5 million people and traffic can be a nightmare. However, we were fortunate to arrive on a Monday before a national holiday (Day of Russia) on Tuesday and Moscovites are like people everywhere; they angle to take the day before a big holiday off. So, the traffic to downtown was pretty light and we made up some time on the city tour which started in the famous Red Square outside the Kremlin walls. The tour included a walk around Saint Basil’s Cathedral which is actually a museum, then on to the GUM department store which resembles a U.S. mall. We also walked past a “Historic Toilet” located in Gum’s that I believe was the 1st indoor lavatory in a Moscow department store. (Use of the WC was 84 roubles for those interested; I took a pass). We also went for a ride on the famed Moscow metro where many of the stations are elaborately decorated in frescoes, busts representing the struggle of the common man, and other adornments of the Russian revolution. As in St. Petersburg, the metro is clean (no graffiti in the stations or on the cars) and very safe.
The next day was the national holiday so our tours steered us quite far from Red Square (where demonstrations were purported to occur against the Presidential election recently completed) and out to Sparrow Hills which is a high priced area of the city. We also toured the New Maiden cemetery where various Russian notables such as Boris Yeltsin and Nikita Khrushchev are buried. The evening tour involved a visit to the Moscow circus which has been in continuous operation since 1980. A fun time of clowns, jugglers, trained poodles, bears, a lion taming act and culminated with a trapeze performance by 5 daring men & 1 woman.
The following day was a tour inside the Kremlin walls and to one of the 5 churches located inside the walls. I found it ironic that 5 churches would be allowed to exist following the revolution, but many things in Russia are strange, this only being one example. We also toured the Kremlin armory which contains the Tsar’s Crown Jewels, armor and armaments of the 16th- 18th century, many Tsarina coronation and wedding dresses as well as a very extensive display of Faberge eggs. The tour concluded with lunch at Moscow’s Hard Rock Café and time to tour Arbat Street which is a pedestrian only street in the heart of Moscow.
We had family obligations that required us to cut the last full day off the cruise and return home via direct flight from Moscow to Dulles International.
Final Observations: It was a very interesting and different river cruise for us. Because the distances are so vast, there is a lot more down time on this cruise than one in European waters, but Grand Circle can make it as busy or as relaxed as you like. The meals were comparable to those served on our other river cruises for quantity and quality. There are slightly more optional tours than with some other companies, but on the other hand, some of the included tours were excellent. St. Petersburg is a great city and one I’d be pleased to visit again; Moscow, not so much. Grand Circle is certainly worth your consideration as a cruise line as the prices are competitive with all other Russian river cruises. We did book our air through Grand Circle which I’m normally reluctant to do, but the routing was the same that I would have chosen had I done my own booking and the pricing was better than I could do on my own, especially considering what GCT would have charged for transfers to and from the ship. We did not purchase travel insurance through GCT as I found we could do better by shopping around over the Internet.
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Share on other sites, beverlyjack.
We did this trip in 2004, aboard the chartered Nicholay Chernychevski, before Grand Circle had put the Tikhi Don into service. This was an excellent review and brings back memories. Please post it under Travelers Reviews on http://www.gct.com on this trip.
Thank you for the informative review. I am taking this tour in mid August. I will print what you wrote so that I can refer to it as I do some of my planning.
How many people were in your "group" ? Did you take the pretrip to Helsinki and Tallinn?
We had about 32 people in our group. I don't know what, if any criteria, other than numbers were used to make up the groups. We did not take any pre or post trips with this cruise.
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