Stories and tales of the Romanovs and the decadence and opulence of the architecture have immortalised Russia in books and movies like Anna Karenina.

And now, it is immortalised as one of the fastest growing river cruise destinations.

The popularity of Russia’s rivers has increased exponentially especially over the last five years, and more especially among the Australian market.

Lines like Viking River Cruises, which have been sailing in the region for 20 years, said they have seen a year-on-year increase of Aussies booking Russia. And APT has said they have almost sold all their 2020 Russian itineraries.

“Absolutely, we’ve seen an increase in Australians booking the Russia river itinerary year on year, and longer term over the past five years,” said a spokesperson from Viking Cruises.

Aside from local Russian lines, Uniworld, Evergreen and APT also sail in Russia and like Viking, take visitors into the heart of the country on larger than average ships.

A usual Russian river cruise, which sails on the Volga from Moscow to St Petersburg includes calls at places like Goritsy and Kizhi, and the lines will offer guests day trips to Moscow’s Red Square as well as the beautiful gardens and art gallery of the Hermitage.

Last year, Uniworld revealed they would be increasing their capacity on the Volga, as part of its fleet expansion.

Viking, which is one of the larger operators in Russia, has four ships on the Volga, Neva and Svir rivers. Viking’s Russian fleet includes the Viking Akun, Viking Helgi, Viking Ingvar and Viking Truvor.

“One itinerary on the rivers of Russia, however, remains one of the most popular sailings amongst Australians. The 13-day Waterways of the Tsars itinerary sails between Moscow and St Petersburg between May and October,” the Viking spokesperson said.

APT has been operating in Russia since 2009 and a spokesperson from the line said that Russia in 2020 has almost sold out.

“Over the years, APT has seen a steady increase in the popularity of Russia as a holiday destination. River cruises offer a hassle-free, all-inclusive Russian holiday without the inconvenience of packing and unpacking, checking in and out of hotels, or travelling on congested highways.

“For 2020 we are operating three Russia river cruises which are almost sold out. In 2021 we also have three departures. It is interesting that our Russia cruises are very popular with solo travellers.”

About the Volga River:

The Volga is the longest river in Europe with a catchment area of 1,350,000 square kilometres and flows through central Russia into the Caspian Sea. It is widely regarded as the national river of Russia.

Due to its geographical situation the Volga played an important role in the movement of people between east and west (from Asia to Europe) as well as south and north. The river flows through forests.

Eleven of the twenty largest cities of Russia, including the capital, Moscow, are located in the Volga’s drainage basin.

The river has a symbolic meaning in Russian culture and is often referred to as Mother Volga.

When to go:

The best time to cruise is from during the warmer months between May and October, however June, July and August are the the busiest (and most expensive) months.

Which cruise lines operate on Russia’s Volga River:

Most of the well-known river cruise lines including Viking, Uniworld, Evergreen, APT and Scenic Tours offer Russia river cruises that navigate the Volga River.

Things to do in Russia:

Additionally, passengers will have the opportunity to visit smaller cities within Russia’s interior where they can shop, dine on authentic Russian dishes and see religiously significant sites.

What to pack:

There’s plenty of walking tracks on offer with shore excursions, so comfortable shoes are always a good idea. And the theatre is a must do – so don’t forget to pack some semi-formal attire. Plus,if you’re visiting during the summer when Russia experiences “midnight sun” or near 24-hour sunlight – and if you have a hard time sleeping without total darkness, you should pack a sleep mask .

The Viking deal: Waterways of the Tsars

Departs Moscow to St. Petersburg, with roughly one sailing each month in 2020.

Prices start from $7995 per person. An optional extra $2000 air credit is available if you book before March 31st 2020.

Click here for more.

Highlights of Viking:

With three days to spend in both Moscow and St Petersburg, Viking prides itself on a cruise that takes guests to the real Russia, journeying through the countryside and going deeper into the heart of the intriguing culture.

The Viking Way of exploration means travellers can immerse themselves in Russia through exceptional local contacts including local guides in every port, and the range of Working World, Local Life and Privileged Access excursions that only Viking guests can access. For example, go behind closed doors at the Hermitage in St Petersburg and see treasures usually hidden from the public, or enjoy a meal in the home of a local Uglich family, and hear their stories about life in Russia.

The Uniworld deal: Imperial waterways of Russia

Uniworld Boutique River Cruises departs from Moscow to St. Petersburg on a 12 day sailing on the River Victoria.

Prices start from $8903 per person.

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Highlights of Uniworld:

Uniworld takes you to the imperial cities, grand artistic treasures and spectacular architecture of Russia. From the glittering metropolises of St. Petersburg and Moscow to the timeless towns along the Golden Ring.

Visit Moscow’s monuments to both 15th-century tsars and 20th-century communist leaders, as well as the Kremlin complex, onion-domed St. Basilicas Cathedral and the extravagant Moscow metro system.

Sail along the Golden Ring to the cities of Uglich and Yaroslavl, which are known for their white-stone churches and gorgeous monasteries.

Visit Kizhi Island’s UNESCO-designated Transfiguration Church, a wooden structure built entirely without the use of nails.

In St. Petersburg, view the galleries and museums, famous canals and ancient architecture.

The Scenic Tours deals:

Scenic currently has three separate itineraries on offer within Russia.

1. The Jewels of Russia. This is a 15 day sailing from St. Petersburg to Moscow onboard the Scenic Tsar. Prices start from $10,545 per person, including flights and taxes.

2. Imperial Russia with St. Petersburg. This is an 18 day sailing from Stalingrad to St. Petersburg. Prices start from $11,490 per person, including flights and taxes.

3. Jewels of Russia with Berlin and the Baltic States. This is a 27 day sailing from Moscow to Berlin. Prices start from $18,190 per person and include flights and taxes.

Click here for more.

Highlights of Scenic Tours:

Experience Scenic’s Russian river cruises on board Scenic Tsar – a boutique luxury vessel uniquely designed to the Scenic fleet.

Sail from Moscow, along the wide banks of the Volga, to St. Petersburg with ever changing scenery.  Scenic itinerary highlights include the chance to shake hands with a cosmonaut, take in the ballet, tour the royal gardens of the palace of Catherine the Great, and visit the impressive towers of the Kremlin.