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Cruise of the Czars: The Russian Waterways


Itinerary at a glance Tour Highlights Your Russian tours include
11-night cruise from Moscow to St. Petersburg

  • Moscow (2 nights)
  • Uglich
  • Yaroslavl
  • Goritzi
  • Kizhi
  • Mandrogi
  • St. Petersburg (3 nights)
  • Red Square (Moscow)
  • St. Basil’s Cathedral (Moscow)
  • Kremlin (Moscow)
  • Czar’s Cannon (Moscow)
  • Armory Museum (Moscow)
  • Optional Moscow Metro Tour
  • Governor’s Palace (Yaroslavl)
  • Island of Kizhi
  • Peter and Paul’s Fortress (St. Petersburg)
  • Hermitage Museum (St. Petersburg)
  • Optional St. Isaac Cathedral (St. Petersburg)
  • Optional Palaces Excursion (St. Petersburg)
  • Round-trip airfare from New York (JFK) via Finnair
  • Airfare taxes, fees & fuel surcharges
  • 11 nights aboard the first class MS Sergei Yesenin cruise boat in a Cat. C Main Deck outside facing cabin with a large picture window
  • Port charges
  • 32 meals: 11 full buffet breakfasts (B), 10 lunches (L), 11 dinners (D)
  • Comprehensive sightseeing tours and shore excursions
  • English-speaking tour guides throughout

Click on the tabs below to learn more!

Day 1
Depart USA.
Your fascinating voyage on one of our Russian tours begins as you depart New York this evening on your overnight flight via Finnair.
Day 2
Arrive Moscow.
Today, arrive in Moscow, the historic capital of Russia situated between the banks of the Oka and Volga Rivers. You’ll be met at the airport and escorted to the pier where you board your riverboat with the balance of the day at leisure to rest and unpack. This evening, enjoy an orientation briefing followed by dinner on your first-class floating hotel. You will spend two nights docked in Moscow before setting sail. MS Sergei Yesenin (D)
Day 3
Moscow Sightseeing.
This morning join a guided walking tour of the Kremlin’s grounds where you’ll see the Czar’s Cannon, the 200 ton Czar’s Bell and the architecturally striking Cathedral. The highlight of the tour will be a guided visit to the renowned Armory Museum, the depository of Russian riches. Here you’ll view weapons, carriages, thrones, the famous Faberge eggs and other unique treasures. Tonight, your Cruise Director may assist in arranging tickets for an optional mesmerizing performance at the renowned Moscow Circus. (B,L,D)
Day 4
Moscow/Set Sail.
Today, enjoy an orientation tour to view the city’s major highlights: Red Square, St. Basil’s Cathedral with its colorful onion domes and the Kremlin, the seat of the Russian government. Leisure time for independent pursuits and last minute souvenir shopping. You may also wish to visit Moscow’s ornate Metro system and stroll along Arbat pedestrian street on an optional excursion. Enjoy a drink this evening on the sun deck as you set  sail on your wonderful Volga adventure in the late afternoon. (B,L,D)
Day 5
Over the next few days aboard one of our Russian river cruises, sail along the scenic Volga River. Today, dock in Uglich, Russia’s second oldest city and one of its most beloved. You’ll have an opportunity to visit the imposing Church of St. Demitrius of the Blood, the Palace of Tsarevich Dmitri and see the fine collection of Russian Orthodox architecture. Back on board, enjoy a wide variety of activities from lectures to games organized by your wonderful on board staff/crew. (B,L,D)
Day 6
Today’s port of call is Yaroslavl, founded in the 11th century. Its main attractions are in the area around the main square anchored by the impressive Governor’s Palace. A guided tour includes the ancient monastery and the Church of Elijah the Prophet, renowned for its precious frescoes. Back on board, you’ll enjoy a delightful folk performance. (B,L,D)
Day 7
Today, stop at the quaint riverside town of Goritzi, typical of the charming villages along the river. You’ll have an opportunity to disembark and explore on foot. A visit to an authentic peasant home is included. Later, you’ll be our guest for a caviar & Blini tasting featuring red caviar and blini pancakes with vodka. (B,L,D)

Day 8

Kizhi Island.
This afternoon, enjoy a magnificent walking tour on the fairy tale island of Kizhi, situated in the northern part of Lake Onega. Kizhi boasts a delightful open-air museum highlighting the picturesque architecture of the region. A guided walking tour will include the Church of Transfiguration, a truly outstanding masterpiece of wooden structure! (B,L,D)

Day 9
After breakfast, enjoy a walking tour of the charming town of Mandrogi, a replica of an authentic 19th century Russian village. Be sure to visit the Vodka Museum (celebrating over 2500 varieties of Russia’s national drink) and delight in an outdoor shashlik barbecue with live entertainment! Return to the boat to continue sailing this afternoon. This evening, enjoy a gala dinner hosted by your captain as you approach your final destination: breathtakingly gorgeous St. Petersburg. (B,L,D)
Day 10
Arrive St. Petersburg.
St. Petersburg, one of Europe’s most magnificent cities, is often called “Venice of the North”. While docking in St. Petersburg for the next three days, experience the architecture, natural beauty and rich culture of the city. St. Petersburg, the former capital of Czarist Russia, was founded by Peter the Great in 1703. On this morning’s guided tour drive along the famous Nevsky Prospect and view St. Isaac’s Cathedral as well as other city highlights. An inside tour of Peter and Paul Fortress will end the tour on a high note. (B,L,D)
Day 11
St. Petersburg/Hermitage Museum.
Today, an expert guide leads you on a tour of the priceless art collection presented at the famous Hermitage Museum, located at the Winter Palace. The Hermitage boasts over 3 million artifacts spread across 365 rooms, featuring an art collection dating from ancient Greece to modern times. You may be particularly interested in the originals by Leonardo da Vinci, Van Gogh, and Picasso. The balance of the day is at leisure. (B,L,D)
Day 12
St. Petersburg/Optional Palaces Excursion.
A day at leisure. We recommend a full day optional Palaces excursions that includes visits to two premier palaces. First visit Catherine’s Palace in Pushkin, the former residence of Russian Royalty. Here you’ll also visit the fabulous Amber Room and admire the numerous art pieces. Proceed to Peterhof Palace, the summer residence of the Czars. Here you’ll visit the magnificent gardens built to rival Versailles, renowned for their fountains powered by the force of gravity. This evening, gather with your fellow travelers for your final dinner aboard the ship as a group.  (B,L,D)
Day 13
St. Petersburg/New York.
After breakfast, disembark from the MS Sergei Yesenin and transfer to the airport for your return flight. Your memorable cruise through Russia ends as you arrive New York this afternoon. (B)

MS Sergei Yesenin

Originally built for the Russian elite in 1984, the first class MS Sergei Yesenin was refurbished in 2002 and then again in 2013. The Yesenin maintains a truly intimate and friendly environment with a maximum of only 96 passengers on the ship. With just two decks (both above water), all cabins are outward facing and feature large picture windows, two twin sized beds, tiled bathrooms with separate showers, flat screen TV’s, mini-safes, hair dryers, air conditioning, and plenty of storage space. The public areas, enhanced with beautiful woodwork, include a restaurant with panorama windows, a library/reading room, a concert hall on the sun deck, and a spacious evening lounge/bar. An experienced and friendly crew of 42 (excluding live entertainers) and excellent English-speaking cruise managers will ensure an intimate and memorable Russian cruise experience that you’ll never forget!


The ship’s restaurant serves buffet breakfast and provides several menu choices for lunch and dinner. And as you can see from the picture below, the restaurant has panorama windows.

Lower Restaurant

Public areas include a bar/lounge, a library/reading room, a sun-deck, and a concert hall. Join us on this cruise for a thoroughly enjoyable experience!

Bar 3


Standard Twin Cabin (Cat. A, Cat. B, & Cat. C) on MS Sergei Yesenin

All Standard Twin Cabins have the same interior layout and design. The Cat. A, Cat. B and Cat. C cabins are distinguished by their positions on the ship.

Yesenin_Standard Twin Cabin

Junior Suites on MS Sergei Yesenin

Junior Suites are twice the size of the Standard Twin Cabins!


Balcony Suites on MS Sergei Yesenin



Grand Suites on MS Sergei Yesenin

Grand Suites are three times the size of the Standard Twin Cabins!

Yesenin Suite Living Room

Deck Plan for MS Sergei Yesenin

Check out these videos of the MS Sergei Yesenin!

Optional Tours

To enhance and make your visit to the Russian waterways more complete and memorable, you cruise director will offer several optional tours and cultural/dining evening activities. Some tours may not be available due to holiday schedules, and there may be additional optional tours added for your enjoyment. Those tours are operated by the ship management and subject to change, price adjustment and substitution. Preferred payment for these optional tours is by cash (euros or U.S. dollars based on the prevailing exchange rates at the time of payment). You may also use your credit card (Visa and Mastercard only which must have a chip in the front and a 4 digit PIN number – similar to a debit card) to pay for the optional tours. However, higher rates as well as a service charge imposed by the ship may apply. Note that optional tours are non-refundable.

Visit to Moscow Circus (euro 75 per person)
Moscow Metro and Pedestrian Arbat Street (euro 42 per person)
St. Petersburg
Evening Cultural Performance (euro 95 per person)
St. Petersburg
St. Petersburg Palaces Tour (euro 95 per person)

Trip Preparation


Your flights from New York’s JFK Airport to Russia (via Helsinki) and back are on Finnair. Your flight is scheduled to depart JFK International Airport (JFK) at 5:30PM. You are expected to check-in for your flight at least 3 ½ hours before departure. Your return flight is scheduled to arrive back at JFK 4:00PM. Please make sure to allow sufficient time for clearing immigration and customs if you are planning a connecting flight. We recommend at least 3 ½ hours. Flight schedules are always subject to change.


Please note that Finnair Airlines does not assign seats in advance. Seat assignment can only be arranged upon check-in at the airport. You may call Finnair (800-950-5000) two weeks before the departure to provide them with your AAdvantage number. Please note that smarTours is not involved in either your seat assignment or in the crediting of miles. It is between you and the airline! Also note, mileage accrual eligibility is subject to change without prior notice.


You must be in possession of a passport valid for at least 6 months after the date of travel. American citizens require a visa to enter Russia. Non U.S. citizens should check with the respective consulates of the countries visited on this tour as to the most current visa requirements. Since obtaining a visa directly from the Russian consulate requires an invitation letter (which we will secure), we arranged for “CIBT” to facilitate the visa process for you. Please use the following link to download instructions and forms at If you have any questions regarding obtaining your visa, you may call CIBT at 1-800-406-1523. Also, please note that visa procedures may change at any time. You should check with CIBT online at, for the most up to date instructions and rates before submitting your paperwork. We suggest that you apply for your Russia visa 60 to 45 days before departure. Please note that if you wish to request an individual invitation letter (instead of the group invitation letter that we will provide) there will be an extra charge for doing so. Please remember that it is your responsibility to obtain the necessary travel documents before the trip.


Your airline tickets along with final instruction and some additional travel tips will be sent to you 10 – 7 days before the scheduled departure of your tour. Please advise us in writing should your address change.


Immunizations are NOT currently required; however, you may wish to consult your personal physician or local public health authorities as to their suggestions.


You may expect day time temperatures averaging in the 50’s in May, 60’s in June and September, 60’s and mostly 70’s in July through August. Nights will be cooler.


The currency used aboard the ship is the Ruble. You will have an opportunity to exchange US dollars to Rubles at the beginning of your trip. The ship does not have currency exchange facilities. Traveler’s checks are not accepted aboard the ship nor are they widely accepted in the smaller towns and villages along the route. For incidental expenses onboard (excluding optional tours which must be paid for in Euro or US dollars at the current exchange rate), you may use Visa or Mastercard but a small service fee will apply. During visits to major cities and on shore excursions, you will find that many of the small souvenir vendors may accept US dollars or Euros as payment.


Each passenger may bring one piece of checked-in luggage (suitcase) max. 44 pounds and one carry-on piece. Carry on must not exceed 18”x10”x8”. We recommend that you do not over-pack and that you take a variety of separates with climate and comfort in mind.

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Average rating:  
 8 reviews
by Greg Andrews on smarTours
One of a Kind

“This trip through the waterways of northwestern Russia was a truly unique and wonderful learning experience, combining the pleasures of cruising on a small ship (without the typical excesses) with exposure to the rich cultural heritage of the Slavic people. The friendly, hard-working crew of our vessel and the tasty, authentic (if different) cuisine offered on board more than compensated for the slightly cramped conditions of our cabin. The architecture and ornamentation of the dozen or so Russian Orthodox churches and museums we visited in and between the great cities on each end of the tour was simply breathtaking. Our guide, Svetlana, could not have been more gracious, attentive, and personable. Russian language, singing, and dance lessons were yet another plus on this unforgettable journey to an often misunderstood yet most beautiful and welcoming place.”

by Caryl Mikrut on smarTours

My daughter and I traveled in May to Russia for the Cruise of the Czars in May of 2017, and it was fantastic. The ship was very modern and well maintained and the staff and meals were above average. Our group was always the FIRST to arrive at our scheduled stops and thus avoided the huge crowds that came after us. All of the places that we visited were very interesting and things that you should see in Russia. For me, having traveled in Russia since the 1990's ,it was a great way for my daughter to see the NEW RUSSIA and yet see the smaller towns along the River. I would recommend this trip to anyone that wants to see something different.

by d. Burg on smarTours
Great Way to Visit Russia

Went with a group of seven women on the river cruise Moscow to St. Petersburg and we were extremely well satisfied over all . Trip was handled efficient, our tour leader Svetlana was superb, the staff was generally helpful and spoke English well -- and the sights were spectacular. Bookending the city visits with stops at five different sites enroute was great -- the city visits were intensive and the three-to-four-hour day trips were more relaxing and very interesting as well. The boat was comfortable, and standard rooms, though small, had plenty of storage; public rooms were inviting; and I loved details like ice water at meals and ice and water for rooms. The only thing that wasn't great was the food: breakfast was good (a buffet) but pastries and breads were uninspired; meat was in short supply; produce and vegetables were short on variety and quality(perhaps due to the sanctions), and selections for vegetarians and even more so for "low carb"or other restricted diets were problematic. The optional tours were well designed and with a single exception the guides were knowledgeable and helpful. Overall, a great deal for the money and an excellent experience.

by Bonnie Mack on smarTours
Another Blockbuster for smarTours!

In celebrating 50 consecutive years of international travel this year, I turned to smarTours for the 16th time, and wasn't disappointed with the "Cruise of the Czars." As with all the previous tours, this cruise was a great bargain. I love the small ships, where you have an opportunity to meet many other people, and spend time getting to know them. The smaller ships are very convenient to everything, and the attention and service was great on this one. The various ports were all quite different, and interesting, and it was nice getting to interact with the Russian people. My first trip to Russia was 39 years ago, so the changes in Moscow and St. Petersburg (Leningrad, when I was there) were amazing -- I felt as though I was back in the USA. The beautiful pastel-colored buildings of the 17th, 18th, and 19th centuries dominated these cities. The giant gray buildings of the USSR are almost non-existent; and the red banners that hung from them with the hammer and sickle and profile of Lenin are now gone. Everything was so clean and tidy -- no trash around, or homeless people sleeping in the streets. I've never seen so many trees, and Moscow is buried in them -- along with 112 parks filled with flowers, fountains, and children's playgrounds. Politics aside, no one should deny his or herself this great opportunity to explore a country so rich in history. This tour ranks up there with all the other smarTours I've taken around the world -- keep up the great work!

by Patsy Martinez on smarTours
Wonderful cruise!!

This cruise was excellent. The crew, activities, food, entertainment,tours, services, room, etc. everything marvelous. The cruise directors, Galia Saufulina was the most sweet and knowledgeble person, I admire her, she took care of everything. Also the Cruise manager, Elena Ershova was friendly and nice and took care of all our needs. The views, places visited and tours of the cruise were outstanding. I recommend this tour with these people any time. You as a company should promote more this tour. The russian people are wonderful!!

by PATSY MARTINEZ on smarTours
Wonderful experience

This cruise was fantastic: the people from the ship, the food, the ports selected, the tours made and the extra tours.The ship is comfortable, lots of amenities and excellent service from the staff. We had the opportunity to know the people from Russia in an more intimate level because they were friendly and were looking that we enjoyed the cruise. I will recommended this tour.

by Aldo drian Torres on smarTours
cruise of the czars

I want to thank you for evrething I was very happy with your service this is my second time traveling with this company and I hope to continue in the future. But I have one comment why you guys are not providing transportation when we travel from another state. I am felling more comfortable and happy if you order the taxi for us, I am not asking for free but you can included in your trip, You have to understand that for us somethimes is bettes to travel from the state that we live. I have in mind another tour next year to Morroco but I want the land only because is closer from where I live and save several hours in flying (PLEASE) try to provide us the taxi service not for
free. Thank you

by Cheri Davis on smarTours
Amazing Trip

Incredible trip! Such professional tour guides, very attentive, perfect English. The cabins on the boat are small, but that is a cultural thing, so be prepared. The boat was clean, the food delicious, and the staff wonderful. The itinerary hit all the best of the parts of Russia visited. One of our best world travel experiances!

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