Lines hope weak ruble helps reignite Russia river traffic

By Michelle Baran

Moscow river cruise
A cruise ship sails past the Kremlin on the Moscow River. Photo Credit: Shutterstock
With the dollar gaining momentum and the ruble losing ground, river cruise lines still sailing Russia’s Volga River are hoping the favorable exchange rate might help to re-stimulate bookings for Russia, which have taken a big hit since last year’s rise in tensions between Russia and Ukraine.

In November, AmaWaterways decided it would not operate its 212-passenger AmaKatarina on Russia’s Volga River in 2015. Viking Cruises is only operating three of its five vessels in Russia this year — the Viking Helgi, Viking Truvor and Viking Ingvar. And Uniworld Boutique River Cruise Collection is only offering four of its originally scheduled 12 departures in Russia in 2015 on its 202-passenger River Victoria.

But Samo Toplak, CEO of Value World Tours, which sells river cruise throughout the world including in Russia, notes for those that want to go, Russia offers incredible value right now.

“A drop in both the cost of fuel and the ruble by over 50% in the last six months makes Russia the best deal out there to visit,” said Toplak.

Viking said that it too is hoping that an encouraging pricing environment in Russia will increase demand.

“Favorable exchange rates against the ruble, combined with lower prices, will make Russia an exceptional value for North American travelers in 2015, so we are definitely encouraging guests to consider it as a destination this year,” said Viking’s SVP of Marketing Richard Marnell.

Marnell noted that Viking has seen a good response to its current Russia promotions and is optimistic for the remainder of the year.

AmaWaterways suspends Russia river cruises for 2015

By Michelle Baran
AmaWaterways will not operate its 212-passenger Amakatarina on Russia’s Volga River for 2015.

“Russia has been a strong product for AmaWaterways,” said President Rudi Schreiner. “However, due to what has been taking place in Russia and Ukraine, the AmaWaterways senior leadership team has given careful thought to how to best handle, in order to ensure the best possible experiences for our guests. At this time, we have decided not to operate cruises aboard the AmaKatarina in 2015.”

In 2011, AmaWaterways launched the Amakatarina, a ship that was originally built in the 1980s but was redesigned and rebuilt from the hull. It was converted to accommodate 212 passengers, down from 400.

Ama contributed capital to the refurbishment, and signed a five-year lease with the ship’s owner, Russian company Vodohod, with the option to renew.

The decision to suspend Russia river cruises comes just as the results of elections held in two eastern Ukraine states on Monday put support behind rebel separatist leaders, an outcome supported by Russia and denounced by Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko and Western countries, news media reported.

Russia annexed the Crimean Peninsula from Ukraine in March.

River cruise and tour operators have reported softness in Russia bookings throughout much of 2014.

Russia Eyes Construction of Cruise Terminal in Pionersky

Russia Eyes Construction of Cruise Terminal in Pionersky

Within the framework of the international economic forum Sochi-2014, Russia’s FSUE Rosmorport and cruise company MSC Cruises  signed an Agreement of Intent in Sochi on September 19, 2014 to build an international sea terminal for servicing cruise and freight/passenger ships in Pionersky (Kaliningrad Region), FSUE Rosmorport said in a release.

The document was signed by Rosmorport Director General Andrei Tarasenko, Kaliningrad Region Governor Nikolai Tsukanov and President of MSC Cruises and Grandi Navi Veloci Roberto Martinoli.

The Agreement lays ground for cooperation in designing, construction and operation of the terminal the construction of which should start in 2015.

The terminal, which is expected to cost USD 240 million to build,  is expected to aid to the improvement of tourist offer in the region.

The terminal would benefit from a unique geographical position in the Baltic Sea and, is thus, believed to attract many tourists.