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Smartours Russia Cruise MS Konstantin Korotkov

KarenandScott
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Smartours Russia Cruise MS Konstantin Korotkov

If you would like to have that "authentic" feeling of being in a Gulag this is the tour for you. My husband and I and two of our friends purchased upgraded cabins on the MS Konstantin Korotkov. The cabin consisted of two cots bolted into the walls so there was no possibility of any romance on the ship especially since there was a one inch mattress on top of the wood. The bathrooms were private but had glorified chamber pots which was about the grossest thing I have ever encountered in any travels around the world. To add insult to injury the shower was a hand held deal above the sink which was right in front of the gross-out chamber-pot. What was the upgrade for? A higher level -- big deal. The room was the most horrific room I have ever seen. Oh yes they only change the linens once on your cruise and you get a new bath towel every OTHER day.

Nothing to do on the ship for days. No tv, wi-fi, net or films: just a bad Russian band on board at night that was something out of SNL.

I mean they were so bad it took us several stanzas to figure out what they were playing,

The tour guides were loud, abrasive and horded the crowds in and out in abominable tours which were as boring as they were ridiculous. The tour guides versions of Russian history was obviously reconstructed nonsense brought to you by St. Putin the Buff. We resorted to putting ear plugs in our ears to make the noise level tolerable.

The food was disgusting, we were ill from it ... but, resisted going to the bathroom because of the chamber-pot's ... We could not wait to get away from the noise, discomfort, and silly guides. We decided on our last day to ditch the group and walk around St Petersburg on our own and had a marvelous time and a marvelous meal at Rossi's in the Hotel Europa.

In short if you like seeing far too many churches, like horrible food, bad conditions onboard and a bathroom that you will have nightmares about for years to come. If you like staring at walls or playing dumb games from summer camp (a talent contest for cruise guests ---ick ...) or watching history channel films, or listening to someone drone on about their anecdotal experience growing up in the USSR while going on tour buses through endless traffic not seeing all the sights ... but stopping at far too many tourist traps ...

What can I say but we are going to need a vacation to recover from this "experience."

St Petersburg Russia
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for St. Petersburg
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1. Re: Smartours Russia Cruise MS Konstantin Korotkov

Somehow I get the impression that is exaggerated.

Why did you assume that guides were using creative history, guides are licensed after taking exams for each venue and I can guarantee you that they have the support of historical records. Did you just dislike learning that your biases were wrong? Just how much factual information do you have about that period or their subjects of conversation?

Can you point to something specific they were wrong about? Considering almost nothing about the Soviet period was known in the US by the general population or even authors of books on the subject I would find it remarkable that you could identify factual errors in guides narration.

KarenandScott
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2. Re: Smartours Russia Cruise MS Konstantin Korotkov

Ancedotal narrative is individual and is not historical evidence. Anyone can speak to particular personal experience but you cannot generalize from the particuliar unless there is a larger pattern to draw from ... Further, since freedom of the press etc is currently curtailed in Russia during Putin tour guides I suspect must present an "official version." Examples: We were questioned on five artists from Russia. One of the people on the bus said "Marc Chagall." Later on when giving her personal story we were told Jews and Moslems did not contribute at all the culture of Russia.

I can cite other examples which fly in the face of historical evidence (if you would like). I am not given to hyperbole.

St. Andrews, UK...
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3. Re: Smartours Russia Cruise MS Konstantin Korotkov

This has nothing to do with Putin, his party and Russian government. What you experienced is just the idiocy of the company and the particular guide. I bet I can have something like that happen here in Scotland, with guides telling me something about how English have never done anything for Scotland and so on.

KarenandScott
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4. Re: Smartours Russia Cruise MS Konstantin Korotkov

I did not mean for this to be an indictment of Putin ... rather I was trying to describe an official version of history culture and life which was an version of life in Russia glaringly different than what was staring us in the face. nytimes.com/2007/05/24/opinion/24iht-edrussi… something we were well aware of because of the amnesty international report amnesty.org/en/library/info/EUR46/008/2008 ...

I meant for this to be a critique of the tour, the boat, the guides etc ... I do not like misinformation of disinformation. Nor, did I mean this to be an ideological critique. But since I am being blasted I will say that I clearly saw a predatory form of capitalism without mercy (and of course democracy is a political system and capitalism is an economic one and the two ought not be conflated). I saw xenophobia and nationalism (and this is not to say I would not see that in the UK or US or anywhere else). Example: Blaming crime on one ethnic group and not on poverty in relation to wealth. And saying even though there is less crime in Moscow or St Petersburg than other cities of the same size sometimes there are pickpockets and those pickpockets are all of one ethnic group.

The misinformation and disinformation spread on this tour was not just by one guide but by several in different cities lead us to conclude there was an official sort of narrative being framed, and documentation from human rights watch et al backs up what I am trying to describe.

My critique is of the boat, the conditions, the absurdity of the conditions and a recommendation NOT to take this tour since it was awful. As I said we are planning another holiday/vacation to help us "get over" this one.

Did I say not to go to Moscow or St Petersburg? No. They are magnificent cities that ought to be seen. But, if we did ever go back there we would fly into one city and not do the cruise which was horrible.

Rather I would hope that people focus on the conditions of the ship, the food, the bathrooms, the cabins, and the cattle-car nature of the tours with stops that bordered on the ridiculous for example the "town" of Mondraga which was designed for tourism along the river with its Museum of Vodka, shops, and reconstructed buildings that were a Disneyfication of Russia: an idealized re-creation ...

Delaware
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5. Re: Smartours Russia Cruise MS Konstantin Korotkov

karenandscott --

Was this your first experience with smartours? I get their email ads and the deals do seem too good to be true. But I've read some glowing reviews of other tours of theirs where people had no complaints at all.

Just wondering if this particular tour is a loser or if the company in general should be avoided.

Edited: 18 June 2010, 17:04
KarenandScott
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7 posts
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6. Re: Smartours Russia Cruise MS Konstantin Korotkov

I do not know since this was our first tour with them. I heard from other people who were on the tour with us that they had no problems with the company before and that on other tours the hotels etc were decent.

Had we known about the conditions on this tour we would have opted for another sort of tour but they did not inform us of the conditions until after we had paid for the trip. My husband and the friend that had accompanied us both were not very pleased with the customer service of the company. They called (individually on separate occasions) with questions before the trip and they felt a bit "put off" by the representative on the phone who made them both seem like they were creating a nuisance and that their questions were rather unfounded. We did not recieve any documentation until about a week before our departure which felt a bit odd to me ...

I cannot say if the company ought to be avoided or not, since it was our first tour with them and I daresay after this experience it will be our last!

Delaware
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7. Re: Smartours Russia Cruise MS Konstantin Korotkov

I had read things about their phone reps being pretty bad. Sounds like it's the luck of the draw whether they sub-contract with a good or crappy local operator on any given tour.

My mom has booked a Galapagos/Peru trip with them - I hope her ship experience is not like yours. A bad hotel is one thing but being trapped on a floating dump sounds much worse. Your description of it as a Gulag was a hoot.

Washington DC
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8. Re: Smartours Russia Cruise MS Konstantin Korotkov

This will be my third Smartour in the last year and a half (Vietnam/Cambodia, Thailand, and now Russia). For all of the tours we have had a great time and the price has always been an excellent value. On many of the tours, we have met people that have done 4+ Smartours. So the complaints you see here do not sound legitimate and quite biased. If you are looking for a tour with top notch hotels then go for Abercrombie & Kent for which this sort of tour would be $8,000+ a person.

KarenandScott
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9. Re: Smartours Russia Cruise MS Konstantin Korotkov

Every human being alive comes into the world with bias (one of the goals of science is to be objective but it is a goal), bias is part of the human condition. I do not deny I have bias. But, not against a particular tour company ... As I told LeslieJ I do not know about other Smartours adventures since this was the first tour we have been on with Smartours and I still feel strongly that it will be our last ... I would rather spend more and enjoy my vacation rather than persevere. You do get what you pay for --- BUT

I did not think we were going to have top notch hotels ... rather I thought the conditions would not be abysmal. Yes, my husband and I usually stay in nice hotels or go on decent cruise ships. But we were not expecting what we found there ...

If I could post photos here I would but there is not a space in this forum for me to do so. When you return from Russia let me know about the bathroom again which is a small very small fiberglass thing-y with a sink that has a shower spray on top to the left hand side and a glorified chamber pot. If you could see the picture that I wanted to upload my husband is standing with his camera on the mirror and his other hand on the other side of the restroom.

If I had known there were other sorts of tours I would not have taken this one. I planned this one with friends (as I have stated) and it was to be together with them and with my husband (and I am sorry but I do WANT to have some time for ROMANCE in other words I want to make love to my husband which the conditions on board this ship -- well a wooden cot nailed into a wall separated by a small table nailed into the wall is NOT my idea of a good time ...

My friend btw was reading Crime and Punishment on the trip and he sent me an email to describe our experience from page 432

"Do you know, Rodion Romanovich, the force of the word "suffering" among some of these people? It's not a question of suffering for someone's benefit, but simply "you must suffer." If they suffer at the hands of the authorities, so much the better... We all know what happens to to a prisoner who assaults an officer with a weapon. So "he took his suffering." We all know of veterans of wars during which there was no clean water in which to bathe or drink, or comfortable lodgings in which to escape the horrors of those outside who would serve them tasteless food. So they "take their suffering." But they find friendship and loyalty in their few colleagues who suffer with them. And so they are able to laugh and persevere."

And when you do go make sure not to drink the water ... seriously do not drink the water the Volga is very polluted ...

Meanwhile we just returned from our short recovery vacation (I did write I needed a vacation from the vacation) at the wonderful Capella Pedregal http://www.capellapedregal.com/ ... And have only wonderful things to say about the service and the rooms ...

louisville, KY
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10. Re: Smartours Russia Cruise MS Konstantin Korotkov

I was very interested to read your review as we are considering the russia river boat trip.

we loved our peru/galapagos trip with Smartours last year! Everything was great, so we hoped this would also be a good value and a terrific experience.

I agree about the office staff. i called yesterday regarding the bed being together (i know they are not from another tour listing) and the smartours lady told me "yes, they can be together." I know she gave me wrong information.

However, this boat is supposed to be upgraded for 2011 - did your room have new carpet, paint, etc.?

thanks