A detour on the majestic Svir River takes passengers to Mondraga, a reconstructed village, built to illustrate the traditions and lifestyle of Russia’s past through its architecture and craftsmen at work on site. And on the cruise’s final leg, passengers sail in the Valaam Archipelago and visit the Monastery of the Transfiguration of the Savior; the local choir performs a concert before the ship sails for St. Petersburg.
A grand prelude or finale to any Volga River cruise is a few days in gorgeous St. Petersburg, Russia’s second city. It’s blessed with a skyline of grand pre-revolutionary architecture—from the neo-gothic Chesme Church, with its sugar-coated spires and candy-cane domes, to the azure tiles and twin fluted minarets that adorn the St. Petersburg mosque. Another must-visit is St. Peter and Paul’s Fortress, with its magnificent cathedral, and the golden dome of St. Isaac’s Cathedral, the largest in Russia. Among other sightseeing treasures are Peterhof, an extravagant collection of palaces, fountains and landscaped gardens that were commissioned by Peter the Great to rival France’s Versailles, and of course there is the wonder of world museums, the Hermitage, located on the banks of the Neva River and housing one of the world’s great art collections. And no visit to St. Petersburg would be complete without attending a ballet or opera performance at the Mariinsky Theatre, perhaps adding a post-performance dinner a few steps away at Za Tsenoi, whose restaurant name means “backstage.”
General Tours offers cruise clients 4-day extensions in both St. Petersburg and Moscow at the start and/or finish of the cruise. The 4-night package using three-star hotels starts at $528 pp dbl, four-star from $576, and five-star from $816. Rates include accommodations, transfers, excursions, entrance fees, transportation and guide services, a lunch and an evening folklore show at Nikolaevsky Palace.