If you have any grasp of geography, you know that Moscow isn’t a destination that ocean-going cruise ships can reach (river cruisers can, however). And yet yesterday, on a Baltic cruise, 12 of us sailing on Silversea Cruises’ Silver Whisper, spent a full day exploring Red Square, the Kremlin and other Moscow attractions.
The shore excursion from St. Petersburg, where Whisper was docked, went for $999 per person, including the one-hour-plus flights to and from Moscow on a Boeing 737 (to) and Airbus 319 (from). Tour participants I spoke with said they felt the excursion was a good value. “When will I ever be an hour from Moscow again?” asked one.
The tour began at 7 a.m., when a private shuttle and guide transferred us to the St. Petersburg’s Pulkuvo Airport. After smoothing sailing through check-in and security clearance, we boarded the morning flight to Moscow, where a private van and a second (local) guide transferred us to the city center.
It was about 11 a.m. before we set foot in Red Square, where we spent about 45 minutes admiring the multicolored onion domes of St. Basil’s Cathedral and the Kremlin Towers. Originally a marketplace, Red Square developed as the city’s major showpiece.
Additionally, we were able to see Lenin’s Mausoleum and walk inside the GUM Department Store, before heading to the Pushkin Cafe for coffee and cookies. For those who required something more substantial, a boxed lunch was offered for us to eat along the way (lunch would have cut into valuable sightseeing time). Bottled water was also provided throughout the day.
After leaving the charming Pushkin Cafe, we headed to the Kremlin. A few rules before entering the Kremlin: no backpacks, no cameras with lens larger than 72mm, and when inside the Kremlin, no photography and, oh, stay on the carpets in the Grand Kremlin Palace.
The Kremlin, which is the official residence of the president of Russia, is a collection of palaces and cathedrals situated within the historic fortification (the Kremlin wall) in the heart of Moscow.
We spent about an hour in the lovely Grand Kremlin Palace, admiring the lavish reception halls, visited a cathedral and spent another hour in the Arsenal (Armory), where we admired a variety of well-perserved carriages, period costumes, crowns and the famous Fabergé eggs. Four others from our cruise who had spent the night in Moscow (an option also offered) joined us for the Kremlin tour.
We also visited Assumption Cathedral, once the private chapel of the tsars, to admire the beautiful frescoes and a striking iconostasis.
Afterward, we went for an early dinner at the Writer’s Club, housed in a stately mansion dating from the 1890s. The Writer’s Club has been the watering hole and meeting place of famous Russian (and Soviet) writers for more than 70 years.
No famous writers in sight during our visit, but we enjoyed the setting as well as the excellently prepared Stroganoff, accompanied by wine.
Shortly after 6 p.m., we boarded a private van to transfer back to the airport. Because of heavy traffic, it was after 7:30 before we arrived and checked in for the return flight.
By 11, we were back in St. Petersburg and on Silver Whisper, where a special dinner had been set up in the Panorama Lounge.
The Moscow & The Kremlin shore excursion was well-executed and is highly recommended for those who want to see Moscow on one of three days while docked in St. Petersburg.
Silver Whisper Tidbit
In May 2003, Silver Whisper was docked on the Neva River for three days as it hosted the largest gathering of world leaders since WWII, including British Prime Minister Tony Blair, French President Jacques Chirac and German Chancellor Gerhard Schröder, who were attending tricentennial celebrations in St. Petersburg.