Consistent with our recent practice of writing about a river cruise and then explaining how to book one, we are here to explain how to book a Russian river cruise, which, as the first clause of this sentence suggests, comes on the heels of our overview of Russian river cruises. (We should note that by “Russian river cruises,” we mean cruises on rivers in Russia, not cruises on the Russian river in Northern California.) We feel compelled to write these follow-up articles because we are describing cruises that fall outside what might be loosely called “mainstream cruising” – that is, the cruise vacations operated by major cruise lines that take place on enormous ships that sail around the ocean – and since they fall outside the boundaries of traditional cruising, they call aloud for explanation. We have explained what Russian river cruises are, and so now we must explain how to book one. Is there anything special about booking a Russian river cruise? Is a difficult to book a Russian river cruise?
As we have said many times before, lots of river cruises seem to largely escape the attention of the major cruise deal sites. These sites are best suited for people looking to take a cruise offered by a major cruise line to a popular destination. This is not to say that these sites don’t offer more obscure or exotic cruises – they definitely do – but these types of cruises are not at all their focus. (And why should they be? There is presumably more money to be made by focusing on the cruises that draw the largest volume of vacationers.) That said, you shouldn’t necessarily write the deal sites off entirely. Some river cruises are better represented than others, and in fact you can find some Russian river cruises on them. For instance, you can find several listings for Russian river cruises on Travelocity, but they are all the exact same cruise – the “Waterways of the Tsars,” offered by Viking River Cruises – and there isn’t much of a price difference between booking through Travelocity and Viking River Cruises. There are also a few cruises in the area of Russia listed on Cruise.com, but we couldn’t find any Russian river cruises, which is of course what we are after.
So, without recourse to the major cruise deal sites, what are you to do? Basically, you have to explore a few different sources instead of relying on one site or company. Viking River Cruises, referenced earlier, has a couple of Russian river cruises to offer (actually, one is Russian and the other is Ukrainian), and AmaWaterways is currently offering a Russian river cruise as well. These are both large river cruise companies that operate cruises all over the world, and as such they are in some ways analogous to the behemoths of the cruises industry (like Carnival and Royal Caribbean), but only in the area of river cruises. There are also river cruise aggregation sites, like Europe River Cruises, that list Russian river cruises, but given these sites’ narrower focus, they are quite a bit different from the huge deal sites mentioned above. Finally, there are companies that offer only Russian river cruises, and these are good ship operators to consult if you have a very specific cruise in mind. For instance, if you wanted to sail down the Volga River, you would probably want to contact a company like Volga Dream, as they only operate on the Volga River, and we didn’t see any other cruise companies that offered a cruise like theirs.
To conclude, booking a Russian river cruise is a little more fragmented of a process than booking a standard cruise vacation. You can’t just get on a cruise deal site, compare all the offers, and then select the option best for you. You have to seek out different companies – some large, some small – and search around a bit. However, it would be a mistake to call this process tedious. In the pre-Internet days, it might have been, but now you should be able to key in on exactly what you need with a few searches, at least if you have followed our advice above.