Already we wanted to jump on the idea when we found the Volga brochure in the stateroom aboard room on the Alexander Pushkin ship. The experience of being able to ride the first Volga river boat that sailed with Americans alone was like that of a ping pong tournament between the US and China. Passing through the different rivers like the Volga and Don from Rostov and the Volga Don canal to Kazan are ships filled with soviets workers, families and even other socialist nations on holiday.
The 360 foot Alexander Pushkin, built three years ago near Vienna, is as serene and gracious as a beautiful white swan, all jewel box elegance, melding efficiency for up to 220 passengers. The comfortable bunks in the wide-window air-conditioned cabins fold into the wall, leaving enough room where we could, and did, have fine champagne parties. We sailed at dusk from Rostov on Don to begin a leisurely ten day, 1,135-mile voyage.
Getting to the Volga cruise took us to different places like a flight to Helsinki and then ferry to Tallinn, train to Riga, another flight to Odessa and Krasnodar the finally a bus to Rostov on Don. We flew to Moscow and Leningrad when the cruise was over. Volga cruising is not on the agenda of American travel agencies that run group tours of the Soviet Union, partly because the Soviet tourist agency, prefers that the entire ship is chartered. Still, the widening of around ten new vessels allows individual passengers to take the cruise given the boat is not full yet.
The amount it would cost is around $1,900 for the two or three cruises a New York-based company is trying to put together. Averaging $700 to $800 is the Volga cruises which also give you the opportunity to meet people and see the short sides. It is during the night time that the boat sails to another destination and the daytime is spent enjoying the places we visit.
Nine professors enjoying their tour with us also teach us a thing or two about their views on the policies of the Soviet. Frequently, it is the one-sided lectures and speeches that overtake the discussion we have. The plus to all this is that Russians are also with us. We become aware of the fact that these people take pleasure in the little things. What powers them the whole night are their beer, vodka, and brandy.
The water makes a nice sound while entering the cabins each morning. The widespread beauty of the river of Volga is no longer noticeable as many developers have come to take residence in the river. Many buildings and factories take positions in the areas near the river which takes its beauty away. This reconstructed Volgograd welcomes the chaotic city life.