Regent Holidays' Russia Travel Specialist, Christina Gibbons explores the M/S Volga Dream, giving you an insight into life aboard one of the most luxurious river cruise boats on the Volga River, journeying between Moscow and St Petersburg.
The elegant Volga Dream glides silently through the tranquil waters of the Moscow Canal, leaving a trail of ever-changing patterns on the calm surface and gently rocking the fishermen’s rafts. We pass crumbling river stations and lock gates, still bearing the hammer and sickle and topped with the brave new order statues of strident workers. This now-so-quiet canal was Stalin’s vision to link Moscow with the Volga, and so the Russians seas to the north and south. It's sobering to remember that this major feat of engineering cost the lives of 22,000 gulag prisoners.
The Volga Dream lives up to its reputation as the only floating five-star boutique hotel in Russia. Cabins have plush beds, large picture windows, wardrobes, mini bars, and fully-equipped shower rooms. The impressive Owner’s suite extends around the entire stern of the ship and the walkway outside can be chained off from the rest of the passengers to create a private deck area. Note, for a double bed, you need to opt for a deluxe stateroom or a suite.
On board you'll find a small gym with three pieces of apparatus, and the doctor doubles as a masseur. The Neva Bar occupies a section of the top deck, where a grand piano provides a tinkling soundtrack as you sink into the chairs after a day’s sightseeing, or tuck into a hearty meal. Other facilities include a wood-panelled library with leather arm chairs, a card table and well-stocked book shelves covering as many categories of books as a proper library. On the main deck is a galley where you can help yourself to hot or cold drinks and snacks or fruit at any time of the voyage.
Part of the pleasure of cruising are the ease of included meals - and the kitchen of the Volga Dream does not disappoint. A sumptuous buffet breakfast (including pink champagne with strawberries!) is a brilliant way to start the day and lunch follows also in buffet style, featuring a wide selection of hot and cold dishes. Dinner is the piece de resistance. Each course is a work of art, delicate dishes are beautifully presented. Certainly, each are worth uploading on to social media, as you'll see a few fellow travellers admiring their dinner with their iPhone cameras! The service is also superb, and you're incredibly well looked after. The staff are almost invisible but are always on hand to top up your glass, and clear away the plates.
It is almost difficult to tear yourself away from such luxury to embark on the excursions! I am sure travellers will not notice a drop in standard or comfort at all from the five-star hotels in Moscow or St. Petersburg upon boarding the ship.