Arrival and Welcome. Transfer to the Ship
On arrival at the airport your driver will be waiting for you to transfer you to the river port. Board the MS Mustai in St Petersburg and settle in. This evening, a welcome cocktail party has been laid on, a chance for you to meet those you will be travelling with over a glass of sparkling wine and one of Russia’s favourite treats – red caviar. Afterwards, a sumptuous dinner awaits in the main deck restaurant.
Guided Visit to Peterhof by Hydrofoil. City Tour. Reception at the Catherine Palace
Begin your St Petersburg sightseeing in earnest this morning with an excursion by high speed hydrofoil to the Peterhof. Built by Peter the Great, it was to be a rival to France’s Versailles. With its garden statuary, exquisite fountains and sumptuous interiors, you’ll see that he succeeded in his ambition. During your visit there’s the chance to visit Catherine Block, only open to guests from the MS Mustai Karim. Return to the ship for lunch before embarking on a city tour by bus. This will show you many of the canals and historic buildings that make this northerly city such a pleasure to explore. Tonight, you’ll get an insight into imperial Russia with an exclusive reception in the Catherine Palace. You’ll enter through the Golden Gate and view the breathtaking Amber Room with champagne and canapés.
Draw Bridges Tour. Exclusive Visit to the Hermitage. Yusupov Palace Guided Tour
This morning a sojourn along the river onboard MS Mustai Karim affords the opportunity to see St Petersburg’s drawbridges open. Even more impressive is the Hermitage, a former palace which houses over 3 million works of art. It’s usually packed with tourists, but as guests of the MS Mustai Karim you’ll enjoy an exclusive crowd-free visit. You’ll delight in seeing the famous Peacock Clock come to life: manufactured in the 18th century and acquired by Catherine the Great in 1781, it features three life-sized mechanical birds. You’ll have more time to wander the halls of the Hermitage to study works by the likes of Rubens, Rembrandt, Da Vinci and Rafael. After lunch, your guide will take you to Yusupov Palace, which cemented its place in the annals of history when controversial mystic Grigory Rasputin was murdered there in 1916 by assassins concerned about his influence over the Royal Family.
Free Time in the Village, Arts & Crafts Master Class
On the north shore of Lake Ladoga, Europe’s largest lake, you’ll come across a small village called Mandrogi. Originally a lumber and fishing centre, after World War Two its traditional buildings were restored. A stop here has been arranged; Mangrogi’s cobbled streets reveal a plethora of arts and crafts inside gingerbread houses adorned with elaborate fretwork. You’ll have the chance to try your hand at an included masterclass. Many visitors enjoy a visit to the Museum of Vodka (optional), which has 2800 different types of the spirit under its roof. A picnic lunch with shashlik (Russian kebab) will be arranged for you.
Visit to the Open-air Museum of Wooden Architecture. Music Concert
Downsizing the lake today – Onega is the second largest – we take you to charming Kizhi Island. It’s a UNESCO World Heritage Site and you’ll have the chance to get to know this unique historical, cultural and natural complex. At its heart is the magnificent Transfiguration Cathedral built without a single nail. Surrounding it are traditional wooden houses and an octagonal clock tower, also built from wood and dating from 1862. Experience a Russian banya this afternoon (a typical sauna) before enjoying an exclusive performance of music from the northern villages.
Visit to the Largest Monastery of the Russian North
Today the itinerary includes a stop at Goritsy, the place where Ivan the Terrible once planned to retire. The focus of our visit will be the UNESCO-listed Monastery of Resurrection, and in particular the Cathedral of Nativity of the Virgin, whose walls are covered with well-preserved frescoes painted by Dionisius in the Middle Ages. The monastery has had a chequered but fascinating history, particularly in modern times. In the 1920s, the monastery was transformed by the Bolsheviks into an agricultural cooperative, though nuns were allowed to work and pray here; a decade later, it was shut and most of the nuns were executed. Since the 1990s, a small community of nuns have lived in the convent.
City Tour around the Village. Music Concert
One of the most picturesque towns in provincial Russia is on the agenda today as we pull in to Plyos. Its landscapes have inspired painters and artists over the centuries. You’ll be treated to a tour, during which you’ll visit the museum of legendary Russian landscape painter Isaak Levitan. The grandson of a rabbi, Levitan was associated with the genre of “mood landscapes” and his evocative paintings vividly convey what the area would have been like in the late 19th century. Your guide will explain about Russian art and also the everyday life of the provincial aristocracy. A musical concert and some special surprises from a descendant of Mustai Karim will make this a memorable evening.
City Tour around Yaroslavl. Visit to the Enamel Art Museum
Yaroslavl was founded by Price Yaroslav the Wise in the 11th century and today, we’ll get acquainted with this jewel of the Golden Ring. You’ll tour its historic buildings, including the 13th century Spassky Monastery complex, a group 17th century cathedrals, an elegant rotunda and the remains of an ancient trading centre. After getting to know the city during this comprehensive sightseeing tour, we’ve scheduled a visit to the home of the ex-governor, where actors portraying his daughters will show you around the house and invite you for a cocktail in the ballroom to the accompaniment of live music. Two more treats lie in store: an enormous model of the Golden Ring in miniature and the only enamel art museum in Russia. Try your hand in creating enamel art yourself during the included workshop.
Visit to the Cathedral of the Resurrection and the Kremlin. Choir Performance
There are so many attractive towns in the Golden Ring it would be remiss of us to limit the sightseeing to just one of them, so today a visit to Uglich is in order. This ancient town is heaving with historic buildings – begin with the Kremlin of Uglich and the beautiful Church of St. Dmitry on the Spilled Blood, where Ivan the Terrible’s son lost his life in mysterious circumstances. The Kovcheg choir will perform for MS Mustai Karim guests. Afterwards, we’ll take you to the home of a local family where you can enjoy some traditional Russian hospitality.
Kremlin with Cathedrals. Red Square. Cold War Museum. Visit to the Observation Platform
Though there are enough sights in Moscow to entertain visitors for a month, there’s only one place to begin: Red Square. Begin in the Kremlin – inside its towering walls you’ll discover ancient cathedrals with glittering domes as well as the Tsar Cannon and Tsar Bell. The latter has neither been hung nor made a sound. Outside the walls Red Square is the bustling heart of the Russian capital. Its centrepiece is the instantly recognisable onion domes of St Basil’s Cathedral. Nearby, you can also visit GUM department store and the Lenin Mausoleum. It’s also worth paying a visit to the recently opened Zaryadie Park, planted with trees and shrubs that represent Russia’s distinct climate zones. There’s a spectacular floating bridge which provides the perfect background to those souvenir photos to show friends and family back home, as you can see Red Square and the Kremlin above the trees.
Later today we bring you the highs and lows of Moscow – quite literally! You’ll dine in the deepest bunker in Moscow, built in 1951 as a response to the imminent threat of a nuclear war with the United States. Known as Bunker-42, it was kitted out with everything needed to rebuild after a nuclear war: water, air purification systems, fuel and extensive supplies.
In contrast, the observation deck of Federation Tower is most definitely a 21st century attraction. From its viewing platform you’ll be able to soak in panoramic vistas of the city at night. Guests of the MS Mustai Karim will see the city as part of a private tour, free from the usual crowds.
Tour Dates & Prices
Homeward bound. Transfer to the Airport
Thank you for spending your holiday on board the MS Mustai Karim. After breakfast a transfer to the airport is arranged for you and we wish you a pleasant onward journey.