Let me tell you about the cruise itself now that we are embarking.
We have been constantly warned not to expect much compared to the big ocean liners. We don't. This is our first cruise, so no problems there.
The ship holds about 270 passengers. It has five decks. The standard rate is for the second deck and we decided to go up one deck. We are on the third deck on the starboard side, about in the middle. All cabins have windows, and ours opens.
We have two bunks, some cupboards and a big closet. The beds are surprisingly comfortable. I was concerned about the shower because it consists of a shower head over the sink. You pull the shower curtain around to cover the door and block the toilet, then you let 'er rip. But it works great. I wouldn't want to live like this but for the circumstances it's efficient and gets the job done.
We have 57 people from the U.S. (a couple from Canada) in our group. We have our own dining room at meal times and we've been on the buses together. It feels like this is our own private little cruise. We are getting to know our fellow travelers, because you know me, I'm chatting up everyone. Our dinner companions are a couple also from Northern California.
Across the hall are a group of Italians, from Pisa and Roma. We met them when we had to do the life jacket drill. We had to stand in the hallway and I brought the box of See's Candies to offer around. See's Candies=Instant Friends. Everyone loves us, of course.
The food is ok. Breakfast is buffet style, typical cereal, eggs, toast, fruit, coffee, etc. We choose entrees for lunch and dinner. Nothing to write home about but decent. A lot of dill and parsley.
The restaurants and bars are very nicely appointed. We can sit in the windows enjoying a drink and the view. Our travel company provides a beverage and we drink red Russian wine.
The staff is young Russians, probably college students. The cruise lines reps assigned to the groups speak the groups' languages. Most of the rest of the staff does not. It's amazing to me how impatient and unreasonable some passengers can be. I want to shout at these morons, WE are in THEIR country, for pete's sake. Although not in those words, something more my profanity-laced tirade style.
I didn't know I was going to like cruising on the rivers as much as I do. I stood outside watching the forest go by for hours the first night and morning. We go through locks between some of the rivers to get to canals. It's amazing how fast they work.
We are cruising through the two largest freshwater lakes in Europe plus a couple more, and several rivers including the Neva and the Volga. We actually crossed the biggest lake, Ladroga, last night. It can be choppy but I think I only felt some rocking when we turned into the river after crossing. The rivers have been very smooth.
I could not find a Russian bird guide and the WiFi mostly doesn't work. I hope I can remember what the birds look like so I can look them up later. So far I've seen a hooded crow, thousands of terns and gulls, a small eagle, sparrows and some songbirds I don't recognize.
We stop every day at a different town. The last port is Moscow where we will spend a couple of days before flying home.
So far so good. Of course, the best part is spending time with Delores and Cathy. That's always the best part of our adventures, being with family and friends.
Note to Kelly and Shereef: I'm probably the youngest passenger here. Maybe 10th youngest. I'm not sure what you would have thought of it.