NEW YORK -- On a Russian river already flush with vessels marketed
in the U.S., Viking River Cruises will introduce another ship aimed
at American passengers.
The 239-passenger Pahkomov, which is nearly identical to the
other river ships plying the Volga River between Moscow and St.
Petersburg, will be promoted to U.S. agents this year by Viking, a
3-year-old Swiss river cruise company that recently opened an
office in Woodland Hills, Calif.
The firm also will market the 248-passenger Kirov to U.S.
passengers, formerly handled by Uniworld in Encino, Calif.
The number of U.S. passengers sailing the Volga plummeted by 30%
to 50% during the past two years, a trend not unfamiliar to
Viking's U.S. president Rudi Schreiner, formerly with Uniworld in
Encino, Calif., who said he expects an upturn.
"The political situation in Russia has stabilized and [president
Vladimir] Putin has placed a firm grip on the country, so I think
Americans are less worried about traveling there. There also has
been much less negative press recently than there was a few years
ago," he said.
Both the Kirov and the Pahkomov, which are owned by Viking, were
refurbished in 1999.
The Kirov has been consistently marketed in the U.S. as more
deluxe than other ships on the Volga because of what Viking calls
their Western management. Although most of the crew is Russian, the
cruise director, chef and hotel director are from the U.S. or
western European, and Viking exerts full control over the ship's
This differs from most other Volga river ships, which may have a
Western host on board but are influenced by Russian managers and
owners, as well.
In contrast to the strategy of previous charterers, who tried to
fill the Kirov exclusively with U.S. passengers, Schreiner said
both the Kirov and the Pahkomov will be sold to the
He said that would build on the success Viking has had with
passengers from Great Britain, whom he said have come to the Volga
in increasing numbers during the past few years.
Although the ships are similar and sail the same route, a
10-night sailing on the Kirov starts at $2,748 with air from New
York, $400 more than the Pakhomov cruise.
"We are going to feature services and inclusions [on the Kirov],
such as wine with dinner and a music and dance performance in
Moscow, that are not offered on the Pakhomov," said Schreiner.
Viking is still negotiating some of those add-ons, but Schreiner
said the Kirov would likely offer more prestigious guest lecturers
than the Pakhomov. The Kirov has seven deluxe cabins, which are the
size of two standard units, with hotel-style beds, as well as two
suites that are the size of three standard cabins. The Pahkomov has
six deluxe cabins and two suites.
The Volga itinerary between Moscow and St. Petersburg, which
ranges from 10 to 14 nights, stops at Uglich, Kostroma, Yaroslav,
Irma, Kizhi and Petrozavodsk.
The itinerary's blend of key historical sites in Russia's
best-known cities and visits to monasteries, cathedrals and artisan
centers in other ports make it ideal for first-time travelers to
the country, Schreiner said. He estimated that 50% of the
passengers on Volga river cruises are first-time visitors to
Meanwhile, Viking is offering cruises to the Ukraine and Siberia
that are sold internationally and attract a heavy share of German
and Swiss passengers.
The 184-passenger Anton Chekhov sails for two weeks on the
Yenisey River in Russian Siberia from Krasnoyarsk to the Arctic
"This is a cruise for people who have been everywhere and want
something different. The route does not offer the cultural
advantages of the Volga [itinerary]; it's more for people who just
want to experience Siberia," said Schreiner.
Passengers are generally more concerned with their surroundings
than their accommodations on this type of cruise, Schreiner
The Chekhov was built in 1978 in an Austrian shipyard, in
contrast to the ships that ply the Volga, which were nearly all
built in the former East Germany.
Last refurbished in 1993, the Chekhov has small cabins like
other ships that cruise in the region, with cozy lounges where the
focus is warmth and comfort, not luxury. The Siberian cruise is
priced from $2,398 with air from New York.
On Ukraine's Dnieper River, the 239-passenger General
Lavrinenkov makes a 14-night journey through the Crimean Peninsula
from Kiev to the Black Sea.
The ports of call are Zaporozhye, Novaja Kackovka, Odessa,
Sevastopol (with an excursion to Yalta), Cherson and
"Ukraine is not as popular as Russia," said Schreiner, "but
there are places on the Ukraine itinerary that fascinate people,
like Odessa, Yalta and Sevastopol."
Odessa is known as Ukraine's most beautiful city with its well
preserved monuments from centuries ago. The Crimean ports of Yalta
and Sevastopol were well kept even during the worst of times under
the Soviet regime because they were summer getaways for the Kremlin
The Russian and Ukrainian cruises depart from mid-May through
Viking River Cruises
Phone: (877) 668-4546 or (818) 227-1234
Fax: (818) 227-1237
E-mail: [email protected]