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Cruise Introduction

September 18, 2005

An opportunity came about for us to travel to Russia.   We had long considered a cruise that would take us from Denmark through the Baltic Sea with a couple of days in Saint Petersburg before return to our starting point.   This opportunity was to take a smaller boat from Saint Petersburg to Moscow that was operated by Viking River Cruises.   This, of course, would reveal much more of Russia.

This web site is similar to my earlier web sites.   There will be several pages of thumbnail photos and writing, not too much writing.   Clicking on the thumbnail will cause you to be taken to an enlarged photo of the thumbnail.   Once at the enlarged photos, you can move around by clicking the “Back”, “Home This Section” or “Next”.   Also, this web site is photographic intensive.   That generally means that there are files over 100 Kb that may cause those using a dial up connection to wonder why so painfully slow.   Instructions and disclaimers written, we shall move on.


We departed our home in Ohio on September 17, 2005, and arrived at Saint Petersburg the next day.   It was a long trip that consisted of three flights.   We spent the longest time very early in the morning in the airport at Frankfurt waiting a plane connection for the final leg of the trip.

Generally there is little to see while in flight.   Sometimes there are some nice clouds, a beautiful sunset or some interesting land features.   What I want to show with these first three photos is the flatness of the land and as we circle over Saint Petersburg, the large buildings are apartment buildings.   Perhaps it is because of the cold winters, maybe it is economics, but apartment buildings get a lot of use in Russia.   The last photograph of the below is the Saint Petersburg International Airport.   A rather small airport and very austere inside.   The Viking River Cruise people were there to meet those arriving on this plane, about a bus load.   The English speaking guide was Leianne, an attractive young Russian woman that had an amusing way of speaking — but much better than any attempt that I could make speaking Russian.

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A word about the guides.   All the guides work for Viking River Cruises during the summer tourist season with other jobs during the off season.   We passengers were divided up into six groups and were assigned one of six buses.   There were six guides and each guide had a bus.   They stayed with us for the entire 10 days and with the same group or bus.   So, we had the same guide from day one.   This gave an opportunity to learn more of the guide and the country from her perspective.   It happened that our assigned guide took the departing group of people who were going to the airport at the same time, one of several trips that began as early as 4 a.m.   Our particular guide, Natasha, did not appear very old but had a 16 year old boy.   During the non-tourist season, she taught English in St. Petersburg which was her home.   I came to the conclusion, that being hired as a guide to a bunch of foreign tourist was really pretty good money, particularly compared to the average Russian wage or salary.   Our guide handled about 40 people for ten 10 days.   The recommended tip to the guides was 2 USD per person per day.   For us, 2 times 2 times 10 equals 40 USD, we gave her 50 USD or 25 USD each.   Say that everyone does the same thing, 25 times 40 is 1,000 USD.   Three 10 day cruises per month for a season of 5 months, the guide earns 15,000 USD!   In Russia, this is a lot, a very lot, of money.   And, it is cash so probably less than half is reported to the government for tax purposes.   Of course, there are Russian who make much more money.   Russia is third in the world for number of billionaires.   But there are the rich and the poor in Russia; middle class has not really emerged as yet.

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