Russians don’t know what river cruises are

River cruises for foreigners: what is it, how much does it cost and how to get there?

Silence on board, a long dinner, a minimum of young people – some foreigners so travel on the rivers of Russia. How much such cruises cost, how they are perceived by foreign tourists and why there are almost no Russians on these liners – in our material.

In 2018, more than 86 thousand foreign tourists went on cruises on Russian rivers, and this season, tour operators are seeing an increase in the foreign tourist flow by an average of 10-15%.

In total number of cruises foreigners make about one third of all cruise tourists, but still they don’t exceed 1% of all intourists in Russia. However cruise industry experts are sure that this share will grow.

THE AUDIENCE DOES NOT OVERLAP. BUT IT’S NOT ABOUT THE PRICE.

In cruises with foreign tourists there are practically no our compatriots. Moreover many vessels are sold only on foreign markets and depending on the demand of the season they may not work for domestic tourists at all. Even if such sales are opened the choice of cabins will not be great and the trip with a foreign group will cost for a Russian citizen 20-25% more, because it is almost always on vessels of higher, “luxury” categories.

Because the geography of river cruises is quite wide and the price is influenced by the stateroom type it is hard to figure out some “approximate” cost of the cruise for foreigners. Nevertheless experts agree that a week trip on the route Moscow – Saint-Petersburg with full package for a foreigner will amount in average 1500-2000 euros per a person. Naturally, the price for Russians on such a ship will not be less.

But according to the opinion of the cruise companies, the point is not the price. The main reason that Russian and foreign audiences do not mix is that they perceive vacations in a completely different way.

WHAT IS A CRUISE “FOR FOREIGNERS”

“Russian cruises are always active and noisy, with lots of children, teenagers and where whole families often go,” says Svetlana Goncharova, deputy director of tourism at the cruise company Mosturflot.

“There are always plenty of activities for Russians on board – sports, dancing, master classes, a game room, there’s even a men’s club, in a word, life is boiling. Foreigners who come to Russia’s rivers are mostly leisurely older couples who prefer a completely different vacation,” she explains.

“A typical foreign tourist on a river cruise liner is a wealthy pensioner, ready for a new visual experience, but who prefers a quiet, comfortable vacation,” emphasizes Ekaterina Limonova, director of inbound tourism at Vodohod–™. So river cruise in Russia for foreign guests means silence on the board, little information on the radio (as foreigners prefer to listen to the sounds of the river). From “animation” there are elegant musical performances, for example, evenings of Russian romance, lectures on folklore, traditions and art, master-classes on matreshka doll painting etc.

Even the service in the restaurant is different: foreigners take a long time to eat, so the service there is slower, while Russians are always in a hurry and eat very quickly.

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By the way, the menu also differs – the French, for example, in accordance with their eating habits, serve soups for dinner, not at lunch time. And of course, all foreigners are necessarily offered dishes of traditional Russian cuisine – pelmeni, borscht, etc.

Can a Russian citizen get on such a cruise? Yes, if there are vacant cabins and readiness to lay out a considerable sum.

“Though the company does not organize combined cruises on purpose it will always find something to offer for Russian tourists who prefer calm rest of high level comfort together with foreign clients” – say at “Vodokhod”.

NO INDEPENDENT TOURISTS AMONG FOREIGNERS

According to the Federal State Budgetary Institution “Moscow Channel” 95% of all foreign passengers on the Russian river routes are citizens of Germany, France, Italy and Spain. There are also many tourists from Belgium, the USA, Australia and Great Britain.

Recently there is a growth of tourists from Asia, especially from China – by 20-25% annually. In addition to this representatives of Vietnam, Malta, Brazil, Canada and of course the Scandinavian countries have already visited Russian rivers on cruises. Most of them need visa, so all tour operators provide appropriate visa support and language support.

“There are two formats of work,” explains Andrei Mikhailovsky, general director of the Cruise Center “Infoflot.” “The first involves a foreign company taking blocks of seats or chartering a motor ship completely, and the second is when the Russian cruise company itself directly sells cruises to foreign tourists,” he explains. In any case in order to register the visa the cruise companies prepare the necessary documents and send confirmation of the cruise booking to their partners or direct tourists.

As experts say among foreigners independent cruise tourists are very rare, though tour operators place all the information on English versions of their websites and even provide the ability to pay online.

“There are extremely few independent tourists for one reason – they know nothing about us,” says Ms. Goncharova, stressing that the cruise business needs quality promotion abroad.

LANGUAGES OF RIVER CRUISE

All foreign cruise groups are formed according to the language principle, and each of them is assigned a guide, who speaks the tourists’ native language. He accompanies them during the whole tour, starting with the meeting at the airport.

“For foreigners the key factor in choosing a cruise operator is providing a language environment, both on board the ship and during the entire tour,” Ms. Limonova emphasizes.

According to cruise tour operators, hiring a guide with any, even the most “exotic” language has not been a problem for a long time. Besides obligatory English, German, French, Spanish and Italian, the domestic cruises already provided translators from Vietnamese and even Farsi.

Knowledge of languages is a prerequisite for the team members in a foreign cruise. Tour operators often invite students of senior linguistic high schools, who in this way pass summer practice. They work at the reception, in the information centers and sometimes in the restaurant. By the way, these are not necessarily Moscow students – “Mosturflot”, for example, cooperates in these matters with Pyatigorsk State University.

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MAIN ROUTES OF FOREIGNERS ON RIVERS

The most popular itinerary for foreign cruises is still Moscow – St. Petersburg, which lasts on average 7 days and includes long stops and sightseeing tours in the cities. According to tour operators it is the most “promoted” and recognized Russian itinerary abroad.

Nevertheless, foreigners know and like Volga – make river voyages to Astrakhan, visit cities of Great Golden Ring, and some already decide for more exotic trips. For example in “Mosturflot” not for the first year they receive a group of tourists from Denmark (almost 20 people) who for the first time went to Astrakhan, this year took a cruise to Perm, and next year booked Solovki.

“As a rule, cruise tourists from abroad are “cosmopolitans” who travel several times a year and each time they choose a new destination for their vacation,” emphasizes Mr. Mikhailovsky.

That is why foreign cruise passengers on Russian rivers have a rather low return rate. “For foreign guests, cruises in Russia are not a ‘type of vacation’ as for Russians, but one of many ways to get to know the world, just another trip,” concludes Svetlana Goncharova of Mosturflot.

DO CRUISES FOR RUSSIANS LOSE OUT ON SERVICE?

All Russian cruise tour operators emphasize that they have incomparably more routes and services on board for Russian tourists than for foreign guests.

“Russian tourists enjoy a wide network of routes of different directions and duration, for all tastes and pockets, detailed tours and themed flights” – emphasize in “Vodokhod”.

In addition, Russian tourists often are more demanding to the service on board – it is for them that creative master classes are annually upgraded, special children’s menu is prepared, “Clean dishes” competitions with prizes to help parents feed young children, make exhibition of reproductions of paintings on the ships and invite professional art historians, historians, philosophers and even cosmonauts for the intellectual meetings.

In addition, tour operators now often focus on the younger generation of Russians, thus preparing their loyal customers for the future. There are children’s rooms and clubs for them, and there is separate animation.

“Our voyages are liked by teenagers, for whom we organize a lot of entertainment on board, they want to go on it again, so they often become the main initiators of the next cruise. So the return rate of Russian family tourists, in contrast to foreign tourists, is now very high, “- summarizes Ms. Goncharova.

Olga Pegasova, a correspondent of “ATOR Herald”

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On Russian and foreign audiences of domestic river cruises: features and preferences

Silence on board, a long dinner, a minimum of young people – some foreigners travel on Russian rivers this way. How much do such cruises cost, how are they perceived by foreign tourists and why there are almost no Russians on these liners.

About Russian and foreign audiences of Russian river cruises: peculiarities and preferences

In 2018, more than 86 thousand foreign tourists went on cruises on Russian rivers, and this season tour operators are seeing an increase in the foreign tourist flow by an average of 10-15%.

In total number of cruises foreigners make about one third of all cruise tourists, but still they don’t exceed 1% of all intourists in Russia. However cruise industry experts are sure that this share will grow.

Russian and foreign audiences of river cruises do not overlap because they perceive the vacation in quite a different way.

Cruises with foreign tourists practically never include our compatriots. Moreover many vessels are sold only on foreign markets and depending on the demand of the season they may avoid domestic tourists altogether. Even if such sales are opened the choice of cabins will not be great, and the trip with a foreign group will cost 20-25% more for a Russian citizen on average, because it almost always takes place on vessels of higher, “luxury” categories.

Because the geography of river cruises is quite wide and the price is influenced by the type of cabin it is hard to get an “approximate” cost of the cruise for foreigners. Nevertheless experts agree that a week trip on the route Moscow – St.-Petersburg with full package for a foreigner will make on the average 1500-2000 euro per person. Naturally, the price for Russians on such a ship will be less.

But according to the opinion of the cruise companies, the point is not the price. The main reason that Russian and foreign audiences do not mix is that they perceive vacations in a completely different way.

A cruise company will always find something to offer Russian tourists who prefer a measured vacation of a high level of comfort together with foreign clients.

“Russian cruises are always active and noisy, with lots of children, teenagers and where whole families often go,” says Svetlana Goncharova, deputy director of tourism at the cruise company Mosturflot.

“There are always plenty of activities for Russians on board – sports, dancing, master classes, a game room, there’s even a men’s club, in a word, life is boiling. Foreigners who come to Russia’s rivers are mostly unhurried older couples who prefer a completely different vacation,” she explains.

“A typical foreign tourist on a river cruise liner is a wealthy pensioner, ready for a new visual experience, but who prefers a quiet, comfortable vacation,” emphasizes Ekaterina Limonova, director of inbound tourism at Vodohod company. So river cruise in Russia for foreign guests means silence on the board, little information on the radio (as foreigners prefer to listen to the sounds of the river). From “animation” there are elegant musical performances, for example, evenings of Russian romance, lectures on folklore, traditions and art, master classes on matryoshka doll painting, etc.

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Even the service in the restaurant is different: foreigners take a long time to eat, so the service there is slower, while Russians are always in a hurry and eat very quickly.

By the way, the menu also differs – the French, for example, in accordance with their eating habits, serve soups for dinner, not at lunch time. And of course, all foreigners are necessarily offered dishes of traditional Russian cuisine – pelmeni, borscht, etc.

Can a Russian citizen get on such a cruise? Yes, if there are available cabins.

“Although the company does not practice combined cruises on purpose, it will always find something to offer Russian tourists who prefer a measured vacation of high comfort level together with foreign clients”, – say in “Vodohod”.

Cruise business needs quality promotion abroad because foreigners know little about us

According to the Federal State Budgetary Institution “Moscow Channel” 95% of all foreign passengers on the Russian river routes are citizens of Germany, France, Italy and Spain. There are also many tourists from Belgium, the USA, Australia and Great Britain.

Geography of river cruises is quite wide.

Recently there is a growth of tourists from Asia, especially from China – by 20-25% annually. In addition to this representatives of Vietnam, Malta, Brazil, Canada and of course the Scandinavian countries have already visited Russian rivers on cruises. Most of them need visa, so all tour operators provide appropriate visa support and language support.

“There are 2 formats of work,” explains Andrei Mikhailovsky, general director of the Cruise Center “Infoflot.” “The first assumes that a foreign company takes blocks of seats or fully charters the ship, and the second – when the Russian cruise company itself directly sells cruises to foreign tourists,” he explains. In any case for visa processing cruise companies prepare the appropriate documents and send confirmation of booking a cruise to their partners or direct tourists.

As experts say among foreigners independent cruise tourists are very rare, though tour operators place all the information on English versions of their websites and even provide the ability to pay online.

“There are very few independent tourists for one reason – they don’t know much about us,” says Ms. Goncharova, stressing that the cruise business needs quality promotion abroad.

Tour operators often invite advanced students of linguistic universities as guides on domestic cruises

All foreign cruise groups are formed according to the language principle, and each of them is assigned a guide, who speaks the tourists’ native language. He accompanies them during the whole tour, starting with the meeting at the airport.

“For foreigners the key factor in choosing a cruise operator is providing a language environment, both on board the ship and during the entire tour,” Ms. Limonova emphasizes.

According to the words of cruise tour operators, engaging a guide with any, even the most “exotic” language is no longer a problem. Besides obligatory English, German, French, Spanish and Italian, the domestic cruises already provided translators from Vietnamese and even Farsi.

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Knowledge of languages is a prerequisite for the team members in a foreign cruise. Tour operators often invite students of senior linguistic high schools, who in this way pass summer practice. They work at the reception, in the information centers and sometimes in the restaurant. By the way these can also be Moscow students – for example “Mosturflot” cooperates in these matters with Pyatigorsk State University.

For foreign guests cruises in Russia – it is one of many ways to get acquainted with the world, just another trip

The most popular itinerary for foreign cruises is still Moscow – St. Petersburg, which lasts on average 7 days and includes long stops and sightseeing tours in the cities. According to tour operators it is the most “promoted” and recognized Russian itinerary abroad.

Moreover, foreigners know and love the Volga – they make river voyages to Astrakhan, visit the cities of the Great Golden Ring, and some already decide on more exotic journeys. In “Mosturflot”, for example, for the past year, a group of tourists from Denmark (almost 20 people), which for the first time went to Astrakhan, in 2019 took a cruise to Perm, and in 2020 booked Solovki.

Typical foreign tourist on river cruise liner is a wealthy pensioner

“As a rule, cruise tourists from abroad are “cosmopolitans” who travel several times a year and each time they choose a new destination for their vacation,” emphasizes Mr. Mikhailovsky.

That is why foreign cruise passengers on Russian rivers have a rather low return rate. “For foreign guests, cruises in Russia are not a ‘type of vacation’ as for Russians, but one of many ways to get to know the world, just another trip,” concludes Svetlana Goncharova of Mosturflot.

The return rate of Russian family tourists, in contrast to foreign tourists, is now very high, although Russian tourists are often more demanding to service on board

All Russian cruise tour operators emphasize that they have incomparably more routes and services on board for Russian tourists than for foreign guests.

“Russian tourists enjoy a wide network of routes of different directions and duration, for all tastes and purse, detailed excursion program and thematic voyages”, – emphasize in “Vodokhod”.

In addition, Russian tourists are often more demanding to service on board. For them every year they update creative master-classes, prepare special children’s menu, hold “Clean dishes” contest with prizes to help parents feed little children, make exhibitions of reproductions of paintings on the ships and invite professional art historians, philosophers and even cosmonauts for intellectual meetings.

In addition, tour operators now often focus on the younger generation of Russians, thus preparing their loyal customers for the future. There are children’s rooms and clubs for them, and there is separate animation.

“Our voyages are liked by teenagers, for whom we organize a lot of entertainment on board, they want to go on it again, so they often become the main initiators of the next cruise. So the return rate of Russian family tourists, in contrast to foreign tourists, is now very high, “- summarizes Ms. Goncharova.

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