Explore Russian waterways. Cruise destinations and popular ports of call.

The river cruise season in central and northern Russia begins in late April and ends in early October. The fleet of Russian river cruise ships in 2021 is amounted to around 100 active vessels, including five modern deluxe boats. These are motor ships “Mustai Karim”, “Maxim Gorky”, “Russia”, “Alexander Grin” and “Princess Viktoria”. The majority of the fleet consists of 3*-4* vessels built 40+ years ago and refurbished in 2010s. River cruise ships hold between 100 and 300 passengers and their size is limited by the rivers they sail along – the width of locks and the height of bridges.

Russia river cruises: routes and ports of call

Russian waterways offer hundreds of cruise options. Below you’ll find a brief description of routes, ports of call and attractions to see.

Moscow & St. Petersburg cruises

The idea of this cruise is to combine two greatest Russian cities with a scenic sailing trip. Whether you start in Moscow or St. Petersburg, you shall not miss the ancient town of Uglich, historic St. Cyril Monastery near Gorytsy and wooden churches of Kizhi. Some cruises also visit Yaroslavl, Mandrogi and Valaam. The waterways include the Moscow Canal, the Volga, Svir and Neva rivers, Rybinsk reservoir, lakes Beloe, Onega and Ladoga.

The Volga River cruises

The scenery will change from lush green forests to fields and steppe as you cruise down the Volga River from Moscow to Astrakhan. Many picturesque and historic cities, big and small, are located along this ancient trade route, including Yaroslavl, Kostroma, Nizhny Novgorod, Kazan, Samara and Volgograd. You will see kremlins and cathedrals, discover Stalingrad battlefields, meet people from different ethnic groups and taste local food.

The Yenisey River cruises

Along the Yenisey, you will discover taiga and tundra landscapes of Siberia and visit Krasnoyarsk, Dudinka, Eniseysk and other towns and villages. This Russia river cruise allows experiencing a mix of cultures by meeting indigenous peoples of the north, Old Believers and descendants of the Russian Cossacks.

Optional tours to the wild Putorana Plateau are offered, either by helicopter or by land and boat via the city of Norilsk.

If your budget does not allow for a deluxe Yenisey cruise on board the MS “Maxim Gorky”, opt for a much cheaper alternative by scheduled passenger boat.

The White Sea - Baltic Canal

Getting though the White Sea-Baltic Canal lock

Built in 1930s mostly by prisoners of Stalin’s Gulag, this canal connects Lake Onega and the White Sea. After entering the canal in Povenets village, the boat will pass 18 locks until it reaches the town of Belomorsk on the White Sea coast. During this trip, you can learn about the history of the canal’s construction, visit Gulag memorials and the Petroglyphs of the White Sea.

River vessels are not allowed to get through the last 19th lock and enter the sea, but there is an option to change for a sea boat and still visit the Solovetsky Islands.

Valaam & Kizhi cruises

A 2-night Valaam voyage is one of the most affordable ways to experience the waterways or Russia. Vessels leave St. Petersburg in the evening; spend a day moored at Valaam Island in Lake Ladoga and return to St. Petersburg next morning.

Longer 4-night options may also include visiting Kizhi Island, city of Petrozavodsk, Alexander Svirsky Monastery and Mandrogi tourist village.

The Northern Dvina River steamboat cruise

The Northern, or Severnaya Dvina River was a very important trade route for Russia and England in the 16th-17th centuries. Metals, weapons and wool from England arrived to Arkhangelsk to be reloaded on riverboats and shipped upstream along the Northern Dvina.

You can now explore the Dvina River on board of the steamboat Nikolay Gogol. Built in 1911, it is the only authentic steamboat remained in Russia. While on the cruise you will visit the 16th century Siya Monastery, Kholmogory and Lomonosovo villages, attend a bone carving master class and enjoy the river and taiga landscapes.