The capital city of Russia since 1918, Moscow is home to more than 11 million people. Located along the Moskva River, the city is home to several important, historic sites like the Kremlin and the much-photographed St. Basil’s Cathedral. Moscow is a common turnaround port for many Russian river cruises.
Getting Here …
Most passengers will arrive in Moscow via Sheremetyevo International Airport, which handles over half of all international flights, including most North American arrivals. Flights originating in Europe and Asia are most likely to arrive at Domodedovo International Airport.
Both airports have extensive flights operated by Russia’s flag carrier, Aeroflot. Once considered a risky prospect by many Westerners, Aeroflot has shed its largely aging fleet of Russian-built Ilyshin and Tupolev aircraft in favor of more modern jets manufactured by Airbus and Boeing. The airline has made significant inroads in both onboard amenities and service since joining the SkyTeam alliance, and often rival many Western airlines.
North American travelers have access to the following direct flights into Moscow:
- Aeroflot: Los Angeles, New York JFK, Washington Dulles
- Delta: Atlanta, New York – JFK
- United: Washington Dulles (arrives at Domodedovo International)
The one thing most travelers agree on: Sheremetyevo is an incredibly beautiful airport that hasn’t quite managed to shed some of the more infuriatingly bureaucratic trappings of the former Soviet Union. Multiple queues closed assistance counters and indifferent passport control are all part of the fun here. But maintain your cool: This is Russia, and it’s simply how things get done here. It’s also worth noting that check-in for US-bound flights doesn’t open until three hours before scheduled departure times, which, of course, can create long queues during peak hours.
Your River Cruise Ship Docks …
In Moscow, river cruise ships typically tie up at Moscow’s North Pier, which is some distance from most major attractions. This shouldn’t pose a problem, as many river cruise lines arrange pre-and-post activities in Moscow and typically include transportation.
When in Moscow …
The heart of present-day Russia and the backbone of the former Soviet Union, Moscow is a city that shouldn’t be missed by any world traveler. A few ways to spend your time here:
- Saint Basil’s Cathedral – officially known as Cathedral of the Protection of Most Holy Theotokos on the Moat, Saint Basil’s Cathedral was built between 1551 and 1561 and is one of Russia’s most frequently photographed structures. Located next to nearby Red Square and the Kremlin, it is part of the UNESCO World Heritage site that covers much of this area. This incredible building was at one time slated for demolition to make way for Joseph Stalin’s expansion plans; fortunately, this never materialized.
- The Kremlin & Red Square – an absolute must-see. Vladimir Lenin’s tomb, the changing of the guard, and Cathedral Square are all part of this remarkable area.
- Victory Park – stands as a memorial to those who died during World War II. Sculptures, fountains and obelisks honoring the fallen are all located in Victory Park, one of the most impressive war monuments in Russia.
River Cruisers Should Know!
- The currency of Russia is the Russian Ruble (RR).
- Citizens of the United States and Canada, as well as other countries, are required to have a tourist Visa in order to enter Russia. Travelers to Russia must have their passports on them at all times.
- Crime can be an issue in Moscow, with the usual pickpockets targeting money and valuables near Metro and train stations.
- Traffic, particularly at rush hour, is congested and filled with cars, trucks and busses jostling for positions. Be alert when crossing busy streets.
- While it’s not necessary to know if you stick with your river cruise tour group, knowledge of even basic Russian can really help you out in a pinch. While many people in Russia do speak English, its use is not nearly as widespread as in other European countries.