AMA Waterways claims that the ms AmaKaterina is the most luxurious ship ever built for Russian rivers. Uniworld proudly tells the world that the River Victoria is one of the best ships to sail the Volga River while Viking River Cruises states that the Viking Pakhomov is designed to offer visitors the very best Russia cruise experience.
The Best Russian River Cruise Experience?
All of them certainly feature far more amenities than their predecessors that cruised the Russian waterways in the past. You don’t need to worry about putting up with yacht-style showers on these renovated gems because all have a separate shower and some of the suites even have a bathtub.
I can’t honestly tell you which of the three offers the best cruising experience because I haven’t had the pleasure of cruising on any of them and neither has anyone else; the ms AmaKaterina, River Victoria and Viking Pakhomov are all still under construction. But I have studied all three and have asked questions when I couldn’t find the answers on the river cruise lines’ Web sites or brochures or in other published articles.
Size and Layout of the new Russian River Cruise Ships
All three of the refurbished river cruise ships that will cruise in Russia in 2011 will carry more passengers (over 200) than any of their company’s ships in Europe. The ms AmaKaterina has 91 staterooms and 15 suites; 61 of the staterooms and all of the suites have a “real” balcony (as opposed to a French balcony, which is basically a large glass door that opens to a railing rather than a platform) that can accommodate a table and two chairs. The River Victoria has 93 staterooms and 10 suites; 62 of the staterooms and all of the suites have a “real” balcony. The vast majority of river cruise ships in Europe do not have “real” balconies; at best, they offer a French balcony.
While the Viking Pakhomov doesn’t have any balcony staterooms, of its 104 staterooms and two suites, 98 of the staterooms and both of the suites offer windows that open. This is noteworthy because the 30 window staterooms on the ms AmaKaterina and the 31 window staterooms on the River Victoria do not open.
When I asked Uniworld about the configuration of its two 409 sq ft Presidential Suites and AMA Waterways about the configuration of its 420 sq ft Imperial Suite, I was told by both companies that they were still works-in-progress. I was primarily interested in whether any of them would have two separate rooms since that question is frequently asked by my “suite” clients.
It is interesting to note that while the River Victoria and Viking Pakhomov provide onboard Internet access, the ms AmaKaterina does not. While the msAmaKaterina and the Viking Pakhomov offer complimentary wine at dinner, as of January 2011, Uniworld is still discussing whether to offer it. I was told by Uniworld that it is an issue because Uniworld can’t guarantee that wines of the same high quality served aboard its European ships will be served on the River Victoria, which Uniworld doesn’t own.
All of the ships have a doctor onboard. Only the River Victoria has a fitness room; however, I don’t think the Viking Pakhomov needs it because it has three walk-around, open air promenade decks that would be great for a brisk stroll or run.
Crew to Guest Ratio
The crew-to-guest ratio generally doesn’t vary much among river cruise lines. However, in this case, the ms AmaKaterina has a crew-to-guest ratio of 1 to 2.8, while the River Victoria and the Viking Pakhomov have a crew-to-guest ratio of 1 to 1.8. These figures were published in the 2011 River Cruise Manual, a supplement to Travel Age West. Since none of the three ships are cruising yet, these are just numbers. However, there is a significant difference between 1 to 2.8 and 1 to 1.8; you would expect much better service levels on a ship with a 1 to 1.8 crew-to guest ratio than a ship with a 1 to 2.8 crew-to-guest ratio so time will tell if these numbers accurately reflect service levels aboard these ships.
While all of the ships offer a shore excursion at each port, only the ms AmaKaterina offers three variations of the same shore excursion: 1) A “Gentle Walkers” group for those who would like to explore at a more leisurely pace; 2) An “Active Walkers” group for those interested in covering more ground; and 3) A “Late Starter” group for those who prefer to sleep in.
The Russian itinerary of the three ships doesn’t vary much. They all cruise from Moscow to St. Petersburg or St. Petersburg to Moscow along the Volga River, the Volga-Baltic Waterway, the Svir River and the Neva River.
Free Russia River Cruise Report
In my report on Refurbished Cruise Ships in Russia – 2011, pricing ranged from $295.09 per person per day for a stateroom with a porthole (161 sq ft) on the 6/13/11 departure of the River Victoria to $516.82 per person per day for the Bolshoi suite (280 sq ft) on the 6/22/11 departure of the ms AmaKaterina. Please see my report on Refurbished Cruise Ships in Russia – 2011 for detailed information on pricing, staterooms and suites, and ship amenities.
If you were to take a river cruise in Russia, which ship would you choose: the ms AmaKaterina, River Victoria, or Viking Pakhomov?
This post written by Colleen Turner the CruiseSource resident River Cruise expert. Not only does she write very informative river cruise guides and articles, she also enjoys planning River Cruise vacations for her clients.