Cruise News UK goes on tour with Orthodox Cruises as the ms Anton Chekhov sails from Saint Petersburg to Moscow. This is the fourth in a series of articles aimed at describing, firsthand, a cruise on one of the most rapidly developing niches within the industry and how best to tailor this product to potential clients. Here we will explain why many of the industry’s leading figures are becoming increasingly excited by the prospect – and commercial viability – of river cruising.
After three days in Saint Petersburg we are faced with the prospect of five days ‘at sea’, sailing the 1,700km south to Moscow. Our route will take in Mandrogi, Kizhi, Goritsy and Uglich. When we talk about exploring the country in greater detail than an ocean cruise allows, this is it.
Mandrogi is our first destination. Sitting 295km away from Saint Petersburg it was founded around 1,000 years ago as a tribal settlement – the same village where Peter The Great stayed when he was working at a nearby shipyard. It remained thus, for many years until its destruction during World War Two. In 1996 it was resurrected by Russian entrepreneur Sergey Gutzeit who turned it into the tourist attraction it is today; comprising copies of the original buildings like workhouses, a post office and hotel; as well as a vodka museum and small zoo. It’s an interesting insight into how Russian architecture has developed over the centuries, with many of the buildings replicas of those which were destroyed during the war. There is also a nature trail illustrating the fairytales of eminent Russian poet Alexander Pushkin.
For lunch – and in keeping with the traditional theme – we enjoy a typical Russian shashlik picnic and are serenaded by local musicians. While the entire experience is slightly prosthetic – being only 16 years old – it is nonetheless enjoyed by the entire group. However, interestingly, it does represent an issue which can be described on a wider scale.
The story of Mandrogi and its history has similar resonance to the history of hundreds of sites around the world. They are created for the purposes of tourists but their importance should not be underestimated. Tourism is the lifeblood of many countries – and the recreation of sites like Mandrogi develops areas outside of the main cities. It’s a typical issue that is of obvious concern to almost every national tourist board in the world: how to spread the monopoly being held by the major cities. There is no right or wrong way to approach the issue but for vast countries like Russia – which obviously has more to offer besides Saint Petersburg and Moscow – it is an interesting initiative and an offering which is being aimed specifically at river cruises. For a country, which could – in many respects – still be described as a fledgling state, it is key for business leaders like Gutzeit to work alongside governments, tour operators and cruise lines to establish a united offering. Mandrogi has undoubted appeal to people who want a taste of a varnished version of authenticism, but more can be done. Within a wider context, developments and strategies need to be discussed and implemented that will forge lasting relationships, leave guests with a great experience (and one they can tell their friends about) and establish a programme which will see the economic potential realised for the Russian cruise industry.
Our next destination is the likely to offer exactly that – the UNESCO World Heritage Site, Kizhi.
Read Day Five of our Cruise Diary here