May 29, 2023

Russian cruise companies are preparing for the new navigation season on the country’s rivers, which traditionally starts in late April – early May. This year, shipping companies will bring a record number of ships to the market, and the geography of cruises will expand to the east as much as possible. For example, routes along the Ob and Irtysh will appear. Profile analyzed the novelties of the Russian cruise market and the cost of such trips.

102 ships at the start

“The current cruise season is definitely a tourist season, because I don’t remember such a breadth of choice as now, in recent years,” says Andrey Mikhailovsky, head of the Infoflot cruise center. This year, cruise trips will be available on the maximum number of ships. According to experts, in the 2023 season, 102 ships will enter the country’s rivers.

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“About 15 motor ships new for the Russian tourist will enter this navigation,” Mikhailovsky notes. – Previously, they only worked with foreigners. Since the beginning of the pandemic, operators have been holding these ships, but now they are taking them on flights for Russians.”

For example, five such motor ships will be provided by Doninturflot, which has focused exclusively on foreigners for almost its entire 30-year history. But after the pandemic and a further reduction in the flow of tourists to Russia from other countries, the company refocused on the local market. This year, all ten of its ships will be available to Russians.

Mosturflot will also deploy its entire fleet this summer. “In 2022, we operated 11 motor ships, this year we are returning all 14 vessels to navigation,” says Svetlana Goncharova, development director of the company.

The Sozvezdie operator will have a novelty in the upcoming season – the motor ship City Lights, which was purchased from Doninturflot last year. As a result, all eight ships of the company will go on the water, plus one leased vessel – “Empire” – on Lake Baikal.

Five motor ships will be added by the largest Russian shipping company Vodokhod. This year, she will have 24 motor ships out of 26 in operation.

No cashback – no hype

The expansion of the offer could not but affect cruise prices, but tourists, according to market participants, still win.

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“Demand for cruises is now at the level of last year, and there are much more motor ships,” says Svetlana Goncharova. – Although there is a rise in prices, it is not strong. For example, at the stage of early booking, prices were the same as last year, now they are seven percent higher. But there are still early booking discounts on some offers.”

In 2023, there is no cashback promotion, the launch of which at this time last season provoked an increase in demand immediately by 20%. Therefore, there are still places on cruises even for the next dates and for the May holidays (the traditional high season in Russia). Whereas last year, by the beginning of May, there were no more free places for the next cruise dates on many popular routes.

“Another question is what is better for a tourist: cashback with a limited choice, when you need to have time to book before everything is sold out, or the absence of cashback, but at the same time there is a huge choice and there is no hype,” Andrey Mikhailovsky believes. According to him, due to the increase in the number of tourist offers and the lack of rush demand, prices for river travel have not risen as much as last year: “A maximum of 10-12%, and no further growth is forecast.”

The most actively sold out cruises for June and July. “But for May and the beginning of June, unlike last year, there are still places. Then the cashback helped to sweep away places for the May holidays, this year the situation has turned upside down, ”Mikhailovsky notes.

Prices for the most popular and most affordable river trips – weekend cruises – now start from 17.3 thousand rubles. from a person. For this money you can buy a three-day cruise on the ship “Rus Velikaya” on the route Moscow – Tver – Moscow at the end of April. A little more than 18 thousand costs a four-day trip at the same time on the ship “Native Rus” on the route Moscow – Uglich – Tver – Moscow.

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Cruises directly on the May holidays are more expensive. For example, a week-long trip from May 2 on the ship “Mikhail Tanich” along the route Moscow – Uglich – Myshkin – Kostroma – Kineshma – Yaroslavl – Kalyazin – Moscow is offered for 27 thousand rubles.

On average, prices for cruises for the May holidays from Moscow with visits to nearby cities – Tver, Yaroslavl, Kostroma, Myshkin, Uglich, Kalyazin, etc. – vary from 25 thousand to 55 thousand rubles. from a person. The price depends on the class of the ship and the duration of the trip. There are also more expensive options: for example, the cost of a six-day cruise Moscow – Uglich – Kostroma – Ples – Myshkin – Moscow on the premium-class motor ship Volga Dream from April 29 starts from 115 thousand rubles. from a person.

I’m going east

Cruises along the Volga departing from Moscow are traditionally the most popular. However, this year the geography and duration of travel will increase significantly. Russians are offered a wide variety of options – from weekend cruises to three-week trips.

For example, the two longest (25 days) cruises – from Moscow to Astrakhan and Rostov-on-Don – will be made by the N.A. Nekrasov” (since August 26) and “Alexandre Benois” (since September 5). The route provides for 27 stops in cities such as Yaroslavl, Kostroma, Nizhny Novgorod, Kazan, Saratov, Volgograd, Samara, Ulyanovsk, etc. Experienced passengers call this cruise “Pants” because the Don and Volga diverge from Volgograd like two trousers. To Rostov-on-Don, the ship follows one “trouser leg” – the Don, then returns back and goes along the second – to Astrakhan. The cost of travel starts from 209 thousand rubles. from a person.

Mom and sons go on a cruise.  Motor ship

Motor ship “Vasily Surikov”

Alexander Shchepin/Photobank Lori

The geography of river tourism offers is shifting east every year, experts point out. For example, this season Mosturflot will have cruises along the Middle and Lower Volga for the first time. “The motor ship “Vasily Surikov” will go. Last year he stayed for the winter in Volgograd. And this year, for the first time in the history of our company, he will make more than 30 cruises from Kazan. The duration is three, five, seven and 10 days,” said company representative Svetlana Goncharova. The cost of three-day cruises on the route Kazan – Nizhny Novgorod – Kazan or Kazan – Samara – Kazan in May starts from 14 thousand rubles. from a person. Longer trips (for example, Kazan – Nizhny Novgorod – Cheboksary – Sviyazhsk – Kazan) – from 22.1 thousand rubles.

In addition, in May and June, for the first time, the motor ships Sergey Yesenin and Rossiya will make one cruise to Orenburg. “Yesenin” will leave Ufa in May – the time is chosen specifically for the flowering of tulips in the Orenburg steppes, and “Russia” – from Samara in June, when the feather grass is in bloom.

Another interesting destination in 2023 is Bashkiria. If a couple of years ago Ufa received two ships per season, then last year there were already five, and this season 12 flights are planned there. “Now cruises to Bashkiria are offered, in my opinion, by all major operators. Even the Mustai Karim (the newest Russian four-deck motor ship named after the Bashkir poet – Profile) will call at Ufa in May, although usually only double-deck motor ships sailed along the Belaya River, ”said Andrei Mikhailovsky.

The interior of the ship

The interior of the ship “Mustai Karim”

Eric Romanenko/TASS

Siberia cruise

A significant novelty of the season will also be the return of cruises on the Ob and Irtysh. Throughout the summer, the Severnaya Skazka motor ship, the largest and most comfortable ship in the region, will run between Surgut and Tobolsk.

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Especially for this navigation, the owner of the ship, the Sozvezdie company, reconstructed some of the cabins and turned some of them into junior suite and comfort category cabins. There are 67 cabins on the ship in total. The first cruise will start from Surgut on May 23 and will last 11 days, during which passengers will visit Berezovo, Muzhi, Salekhard, Oktyabrskoye, Khanty-Mansiysk, Uvat and Tobolsk itself, from where the ship will set off on the same day back. Navigation will last until 31 August.

The motor ship “Empire”, which has been chartered by the “Sozvezdie” for several years in a row, will sail along Baikal. And the ship “Maxim Gorky” of the company “Vodohod” for the third season will continue to run along the Yenisei between Krasnoyarsk and Dudinka. “This year Siberia is breaking all records both in terms of demand and supply,” Mikhailovsky notes.

Open sea

Cruise navigation in April resumes not only on the rivers of Russia, but also on the seas. On April 29, sea cruises from Sochi to Turkey will start on the Astoria Grande liner. During the season, the ship will make 29 weekly tours with calls to Istanbul, Amasra, Orda and Trabzon. Navigation will last almost until the New Year, and prices start from 83 thousand rubles. from a person. For Russians, these cruises are convenient because they do not need to apply for visas in advance, they accept Mir cards for payment, and Russian-speaking personnel work on the liner.

Liner Astoria Grande in the Seaport of Sochi

Liner Astoria Grande in the port of Sochi

Artur Lebedev / RIA Novosti

There will also be a novelty – Astoria Grande will make two cruises to Egypt. The route will start in Sochi, from which the ship will proceed along the Black, Marmara, Aegean and Mediterranean Seas to Alexandria, where the liner will stay for two or three days. During the tour, the ship will also call at Istanbul, Izmir, Kusadasi and Amasra. The round trip will take two weeks. Cruises start on November 18 and December 2. The cost starts from 117.5 thousand rubles. per person in an inner cabin based on double occupancy. The price includes accommodation, meals and all entertainment on board. The road to Sochi and back, as well as shore excursions (if necessary) are paid separately.

In addition, in August, Mosturflot is expected to receive the newest river-sea class ship Peter the Great, and already this season it will sail the Caspian Sea calling at the ports of Russia, Kazakhstan, Iran, Azerbaijan and Turkmenistan . However, the company is still cautiously commenting on these plans: “First, we will get the ship, test it, and then make a decision on which routes it will go.”

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