Michelle Baran
Michelle Baran

When Scenic Cruises launched its 112-passenger ship, the Scenic Tsar, last month, it marked yet another extensive refurbishment for a ship on Russia’s Volga River.

InsightThe reason is that there are plenty of existing, sturdy hulls in Russia, and building a river cruise ship from the ground up is just not economically feasible for river cruise lines because of the short sailing seasons in Russia (on account of the country’s long, harsh winters), according to Rudi Schreiner, president of Ama Waterways, which last year launched its own refurbed ship in Russia.

Scenic Tsar loungeInstead, companies such as Ama, Uniworld Boutique River Cruise Collection, Viking River Cruises and now Scenic have resuscitated older vessels and brought them much closer to Western standards with updated interiors, hotel-style beds and contemporary common areas.

Scenic Cruises said that the Scenic Tsar was in fact classified as a “new build” by the Russian Maritime Authority; in other words, at least 80% of the ship is new.

Last year, Uniworld Boutique River Cruise Collection started sailing the completely refurbished 206-passenger River Victoria on the Volga, and Ama Waterways launched the renovated 212-passenger Amakatarina.

Viking River Cruises has been working through a four-year project to systematically renovate its four Russia ships: the Viking Rurik, Viking Helgi, Viking Ingvar and Viking Truvor.

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