Russia is the largest in the world and one can be sure that there are plenty places to visit in such a vast territory. Here we will introduce you with the most interesting places and routes in the European part of Russia
Day 1 - St. Petersburg - Arrival
After your overnight flight from home*, our journey begins when you arrive in St. Petersburg’s Pulkovo Airport and meet your Tom Harper Destination Ambassador — one of our seasoned, savvy insiders who accompany each group and who are as fluent in English as they are passionate about sharing their knowledge of their native Russia.
Relax and enjoy the transfer to your hotel, the Novotel St. Petersburg Centre. This comfortable 4-star hotel boasts an excellent location, just one block from Nevsky Prospect, the lively heart of the city, full of restaurants, cafes, and shops. During our stay, be sure to get out and mingle — chances are you’ll meet with a fascinating mix of travelers from around the world as well as locals who are always happy to welcome Americans to their beautiful city.
At a welcome briefing with your Destination Ambassador, you’ll learn more about St. Petersburg and your upcoming journey and get your first Heads Up — a brief but thorough overview of the following day’s itinerary.
We’ve included dinner this evening so you can recharge and perhaps enjoy an evening stroll out to explore the neighborhood — share a nightcap with the locals or simply drink in the beauty of this most elegant of capitals, Peter the Great’s “Window on the West,” built to showcase the wealth and majesty of Russia.
Day 2 - St. Petersburg - City Tour &Peterhof Palace
See it all on a comfortable coach ride this morning. We’ll stop at the highlights, from NevskyProspekt to the St. Peter & Paul Fortress and more: • St. Basil's Island, home of the Old St. Petersburg Stock Exchange featuring the statue of Neptune and the Rostrum Columns • Palace Square and the Winter Palace, site of the Bloody Sunday of 1905 and the infamous October Revolution of 1917 • St. Isaac's Cathedral dedicated in 1818 to Saint Isaac of Dalmatia • Cathedral of Savior on the Spilled Blood, built by order of Alexander III on the site where Tzar Alexander II was murdered.
After lunch in a local restaurant, we head to Peterhof, Peter the Great’s “Versailles of Russia.” Spend the afternoon exploring the palaces and exquisite gardens, statues, and fountains — we guarantee this is one gilt trip you will never regret! Take in as much as you can — at the end of the day, we’ll drive you back for dinner at the hotel and an evening at leisure.
After your long day touring the key sights of St. Petersburg, relax this evening at dinner in the Novotel followed by a free evening to stroll NevskyProspekt or relax in the hotel bar.
Day 3 - St. Petersburg - The Hermiatge, Bolshevik's & Ballet
“Bolshoi” means “big,” and no museum on Earth is more bolshoi than this: The State Hermitage, founded in 1764 by Catherine the Great, is home to more than 3 million works of art, including the largest collection of paintings in the world. From prehistoric art and Egyptian & Classical antiquities to great works of Russian and European masters, there are treasures here that could take you a lifetime to uncover — what epic moment will you take away during this morning’s visit?
After lunch in the city center, we will take a look at St. Petersburg’s more modern history, as Leningrad. Our Back to the USSR tour takes us to the place it all began, the infamous Kirov plant. It was here, in February of 1917, that worker strikes set in motion the chain of events which would lead to the February Revolution. We’ll see monuments to Kirov and Lenin in Kirov Square explore Sergei Kirov’s legacy with a visit to a workers’ quarters, school, and the Sergei Kirov Museum. An early leader of the Bolshevik party, Kirov rose to become mayor of St. Petersburg — and, later, it is believed, a victim of Stalin’s ruthless purges. Talk about epic irony.
Returning to the hotel, enjoy another Heads Up briefing before dinner. This evening, prepare for a night on the town to enjoy a performance of one of St. Petersburg’s cultural jewels, the famed Russian Ballet at the Alexandrinsky or the Hermitage Theater (depending on departure date).
Day 4 - St. Petersburg - Pushkin, Palaces & Parks
While our luggage is being transferred to the river cruise ship, we’ll head off this morning to explore the Pushkin area of St. Petersburg, named in honor of the Romantic writer Alexander Sergeyevich Pushkin, beloved as the greatest Russian poet and the founder of modern Russian literature.
Originally constructed for Catherine 1 of Russia in 1717, the Catherine Palace was rebuilt in its current Rococo style by her daughter, Empress Elizabeth, in 1756. Elizabeth was the last royal to reside in the palace and it suffered near destruction during World War II by the Germans; today it has been largely restored to reflect its earlier grandeur, with gilded carvings, gold-covered chandeliers, and the awe-inspiring Amber Room, with its amber panels backed with intricately patterned gold leaf and mirrors — you’ll see why it’s been called the “Eighth Wonder of the World!”
Stroll through the surrounding Catherine Park to view the Grotto, Grand Pond, and the Hermitage Grove before journeying by coach to Pavlovsk and the Palace of Pavel (Paul) the First. Designed by Scottish-born Charles Cameron in 1782, the exterior of this imperial palace seems quite plain, but the deceptively bland facade gives way to a far more lavish interior — and there’s no denying the grandeur of the surrounding gardens: Pavlovsk Park is one of the largest landscaped gardens in the world!
We’ll enjoy a traditional Russian lunch in Pavlovsk Park at a local restaurant built in the rustic log-house style before taking a short coach ride to the MS Alexander Pushkin. You’ll have some time to check in and get settled before a presentation of the ship crew & staff during our Welcome Aboard cocktail party, followed by a Heads Up of the next day’s highlights and dinner in the restaurant. As we sail the Neva River for Mandrogi this evening, be sure to join your companions in the lounge for some Russian-style entertainment or on the sundeck to survey the landscape from this prime vantage point.
Day 5 - Mandrogi - Shish Kabobs &Matryoshka Dolls
In addition to breakfast, exercises, and a ship’s drill, don’t miss this morning’s ‘Presentation of Russian National Crafts.’ Here’s where you’ll learn more about the types of souvenirs you can expect to find on our visits and get the insider’s advice on where to get the best deals.
Our first stop is the village of VerkhnieMandrogi (“Upper Mandrogi”) on the Svir River, where we’ll enjoy an outdoor shashlik lunch – a traditional, Russian-style shish kebab.
Founded in the 18th century, Mandrogi was completely destroyed during World War II, but was rebuilt in 1996 to celebrate the traditions and crafts of Old Russia. In addition to featuring several masterpieces of wooden architecture, the village is a mecca for souvenir shopping and boasts the Vodka Museum, housing hundreds of variations of the favorite Russian drink. If you have time, enjoy an afternoon stroll through the village or along the banks of the river before we return Pushkin to continue our journey.
Back on board, it’s time for a language lesson and a Heads Up for our next day’s visit to Kizhi. Tonight enjoy a traditional Ukrainian dinner followed entertainment in the restaurant.
Day 6 - Kizhi - Amazing Grace
What is most amazing about Kizhi? The sheer size and beauty of the 22 domes of the Church of the Transfiguration? Or the fact that it was built without the use of a single nail?
As early as the 16th century, the Island of Kizhi was declared a pogost, or parish center, by the Russian Orthodox Church. Today, this UNESCO World Heritage Site also features the Chapels of Archangel Mikhail, the Assumption of Virgin Mary, and the Divine Savior, as well as the Church of the Resurrection of Lazarus, moved here from the Murom Monastery, on the lake’s eastern shore. Dating back to the 14th century, it is the oldest building in the collection of wooden architectural masterpieces and is believed, by the Russians, to have healing powers. Do you believe?
After exploring Kizhi, we’ll sail out of Lake Onega and south towards Goritsy. Enjoy lunch and a day full of activities for you Culture Vultures, including a tour of the ship’s Bridge with the Captain, a concert of classical music by the ship’s pianist, a Matryoshka doll-painting class, and a traditional Russian afternoon tea service. This evening enjoy a unique highlight of cruising on the Alexander Pushkin – a pirate-themed dinner and show. We guarantee you’ve never seen anything like it!
Day 7 - Goritsy Your Way
Today you have a chance to break away from the main tour to go Your Way with a smaller group of fellow enthusiasts. It’s your choice: head to the famous local monastery to view the architecture and icons of Russia’s storied past, or stay in town to see the highlights and enjoy a few encounters with the locals.
The Kirillo-Belozerskiy (or St. Cyril) Monastery was founded in 1397 by Reverend Kirill who, finding a peaceful location on the White Lake, established it as resting place to be closer to God. Since that time the monastery has been used as a place of refuge by many and even as a place of healing for Ivan the Terrible, who asked the monks to pray that he would be forgiven his bloody past. Your guided tour of this fortress, one of the largest and best-preserved medieval abbeys in Russia, includes the Assumption Cathedral and the museum of icons.
Alternatively, you can explore Goritsy on a walking tour of the village includes a visit to a local school, where you can see how rural education in Russia compares to the West, as well as a local home, where you’ll get a chance to meet and converse with residents who are just as interested in learning about us as we are curious about their daily lives. You’ll also visit the Resurrection Nunnery, built in 1554 by Princess Efrosiniya, the wife of one of the sons of Ivan the Terrible.
We all come back together at the Alexander Pushkin, Departing for Yaroslavl, learn some traditional Russian songs as we sample different types of vodka, then gather for a Heads Up on tomorrow’s port of call. Later this evening, enjoy a Russian folk concert and dancing in the lounge.
Day 8 - Yaroslavl Your Way
Join the Culture Vultures this morning at discussion of Russian history with our onboard lecturer and a lesson to add a few more words to your Russian repertoire. Later, we’ll disembark to explore Yaroslavl, another UNESCO World Heritage Site, set at the confluence of the Volga and Kotorosl Rivers.
See the 1,000-year old city of Yaroslavl Your Way with a choice of tours today: both options take you by comfortable coach to for a visit to Nicholas the Wonderworker Church, a stop at the Church of Elijah the Prophet, and a visit to a local Yaroslavl food market. In addition, each of the two groups will see a unique featured attraction: one group will visit the magnificent Savior-Transfiguration Monastery, the oldest structure in Yaroslavl, dating back to 1216, and the other group will visit the Yaroslavl Art Museum, set like a jewel in the 18th century former Governor’s mansion and sculpture garden. Choose wisely – but we assure you both options are beyond compare!
Return to the Alexander Pushkin in time for our Head's Up, dinner and evening entertainment.
Day 9 - Uglich Your Way
The quaint riverfront town of Uglich, first documented in 1148, has witnessed an often turbulent history. A favorite spot of Ivan the Terrible, his son Dmitry was murdered here in 1591 — the famous red church St. Dmitry on the Blood was built to honour his memory.
On a walking tour, enjoy the chance to shop with local vendors and savour the peaceful atmosphere. Then go Your Way and choose from either of two fascinating excursions focusing on Uglich’s past. Visit the Church of St. Dmitry on the Blood, on the tentative list for being included in the list of UNESCO World Heritage Sites. A work of art in itself, this blue-domed, red-walled Orthodox cathedral is home to a wealth of original frescos and unique artefacts. Alternately, you can visit a former hydro-electric station, built by Gulag prisoners in the 1940’s, and today a museum of Soviet era industry.
After lunch we set sail for Moscow. Russian language and dance classes and a Heads Up on Moscow are followed by dinner and night time entertainment as we sail the Volga toward our final destination.
Day 10 - Moscow - Roundtable & Around the Town
Enjoy a morning at leisure as we sail past the towns and villages perched along the Volga River. Join our exclusive Tom Harper Roundtable, where you can join your Destination Ambassador, on board lecturers, and guides to share your epic Russian experiences.
Immediately after lunch you should hear the engines quiet as the Pushkin docks in Moscow. Disembark and board a comfortable coach for an afternoon city tour of Moscow, the huge and modern counterpoint to stately, classical St. Petersburg. Travel along the main artery, Leningradskaya Street, and down Tverskaya Street, also known as Gorky Street, a major city thoroughfare since the 12th century. See the Novodevichy Convent and the infamous KGB Building and route to Red Square and the world-famous GUM Department Store. Enjoy some time walking around Red Square before we conclude our tour with a visit to the Cathedral of Christ the Saviour, the tallest Orthodox Christian church in the world.
We’ll return to the ship this evening for dinner and a final night of shipboard entertainment.
Day 11 - Moscow Your Way & the Kremlin
Bid the MS Alexander Pushkin and her crew goodbye today. While our luggage is transferred to our Moscow hotel, we’ll set off to visit the most famous site in Moscow: the Kremlin. Our tour includes the Palace of Congresses, Senate Square with the Arsenal and Senate buildings, the Residence of the President of the Russian Federation, the Tsar Bell &Tsar Cannon, and Cathedral Square, where we will see the Assumption Cathedral, Archangel Cathedral and the Annunciation Cathedral, including a full tour of one of the cathedrals.
Lunch on a riverboat on the Moskva River is followed by an opportunity to experience Moscow Your Way: return to the Novodevichy Convent & Cemetery or visit the Tretyakov Gallery. The Novodevichy, or New Maiden Convent, is a beautiful cloister of the Russian Orthodox faith that was founded in 1524 by Grand Prince Vasili III. Originally a military fortress on the banks of the Moskva River, the convent has been transformed numerous times in Russian history, and its cemetery is the final resting place of many famous Russians, including Boris Yeltsin and Nikita Khrushchev. The Tretyakov Gallery is the foremost repository for fine Russian art in the world and includes masterpieces created over the past thousand years. Founded in 1892 with the personal collection of Russian merchant Pavel Tretyakov, the Gallery has since become a world-renowned museum housing 170,000 statues and works of art.
After a Heads Up briefing and dinner, we’ll set off on a Moscow by Night Tour, offering an unforgettable view of the city and its landmarks.
Day 12 - Moscow - A Pilgrimage & a Palace of Treasures
This morning we visit the former royal estate of Kolomenskoye. Overlooking the steep banks of the Moskva River, this treasure trove of Russian architecture includes one UNESCO World Heritage site, the breathtaking Ascension church, famed for its soaring “White Column,” as well as a fully recreated wooden palace and a collection of old wooden buildings and artifacts from around the USSR.
After lunch we return to the Kremlin to tour its greatest attraction: the Armory Chamber. In addition to ancient state and church regalia, the Armory houses the world’s largest collection of gold and silver art and relics by Russian artists as well as carriages, ceremonial weapons, and other items of historic significance.
A final Heads Up about tomorrow’s check-out and departure offers a final opportunity to ask questions and share memories of Authentic Russia. Dinner in the hotel will be followed by a Folk Kostroma Show performed by the Russian Ballet - a perfect ending to an epic experience.
Day 13 - Moscow - Departure
Say goodbye to Russia and your new-found friends after an early morning breakfast and departure for the International Airport and our flights back home — unless you’ve decided, wisely, to Linger Longer in the Golden Ring…