Friday, September 15, 2017


MS Zosima Shashkov
The Russian cruise line, Vodohod, owns this ship and 52 others. Zosima Shaskov is a 3 star ship, some are 5 star. I chose to cruise with a Russian line, crewed by Russians, so I could see what it was like. I don't need a huge suite, a butler, and haute cuisine. This line had fares 2/3rds less than the Viking line and others like it, and a very reasonable solo supplement (SS). Viking' SS is 100%, making it ridiculously expensive for a single, and they don't offer single cabins. These ships look like ships and are not like the longships that ply the rivers such as the Rhine. I booked with Express to Russia and joined the ship in Moscow. 

The cruise port is about 40-60 minutes drive away from the city centre d/t dreadful traffic jams. The nearest Metro station is a 20 minute walk away and difficult to find across two big parks. Signs did not help those who walked.

My single cabin is small, but more than adequate, and is kept spotlessly clean by Tatiana, my steward. I have a pull-up leaf that gives me a comfortable desk to work at next to my bunk, a small fridge, AC/heat, a big window, and an effective but unusual shower in my private bathroom. I have plenty of storage space too. The cabin is on the top deck below the sun deck and lifeboats, so I have a high-up view. I'm right in the bow next door to one of three bars. 

The wireless router is nextdoor to me and I get Wi-Fi in my cabin. Most don't. The other benefit is being so far from the ship's engine. We sail at night and I cannot hear it at all; nor can I hear anything when we lock through the huge locks. Now we are out of Moscow and in remote areas, I have to use my SkyRoam hotspot to boost the signal or go on 3G. I'm glad I invested in it.  

The ship has 228 passengers: a few Canucks, many Americans and Chinese, and a handful of French and Italians. All are well travelled. The downside has been that all, but me and four others who are independent travellers, are here with tour companies. It meant we were forgotten by the organizers of the cruise and failed to receive the daily program, had not been assigned the city tours and buses. We were not included in the cocktail party, which I crashed, or get drinks with meals!!  I quickly sorted that out with the cruise/tour director and was welcomed and adopted by Red One. That's my group for local tours and the coach. All became better fairly quickly after that.

Breakfasts were a zoo to begin with as 228 hungry people descended on a buffet at the same time. The size of the dining room meant they couldn't have two identical buffets. I learned to go late to breakfast after the rush. Lunch and dinner seating is assigned and served by staff.

Food is plentiful with Russian dishes. The fish is indeterminate and not very nice. Vegetarian dishes are better. Lunch is four courses and dinner, three. We have choices for each course. Mealtimes vary depending on the day's activities.

Sailing from Moscow at sunset

I have found the ship's reception staff do not always understand English sufficiently well to help passengers adequately, but the tour leaders' English is excellent. The Cyrillic alphabet means I can't read any signs or other info. The ship has translations, but Russian street signs and the Metro do not. This is not the country to visit independently. Several passengers arrived in Moscow a few days before the cruise and struggled on their own to explore the city, use transit, and shop. (Warsaw was easy in comparison, partly because they use the Latin alphabet and most speak English.)

Now I have got into the ship's routine and know my way about, I'm enjoying my time very much. At the beginning, with everyone here with tour companies, it was difficult to find people willing to talk to me as I was a stranger to them and most had come with relatives and friends. I've had to work hard to get to know them and some still are not accessible. The tour leaders, who don't have to watch out for me, have taken me under their wing and I'm grateful.

© Photos by Pharos 2017
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