Tag Archives: cruise

Why You Need to Visit Russia in Winter

When I first told friends and family about my upcoming trip to Russia in December, I was met with skepticism. The most common remarks ranged from “But WHY?”,  to “Can’t you just wait until it gets warmer?”. In fact, even while I was already there, Russians kept encouraging me to “come back in Summer”.IMG_2313

Despite the naysayers, I am so glad that I went when I did. Seeing Moscow at its most “authentic” was truly an unforgettable experience. Yes it’s cold and it gets dark early, but this is how Russians spend at least 6 months out of every year. I developed a much better understanding of the attitudes and mindsets that make Russians so notoriously tough. Further, there were hardly any tourists around, which meant that we had the opportunity to enjoy major attractions to ourselves with little to no lines. There’s just something really cool about being one of only a few visitors walking around the Kremlin…it feels so exclusive!

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Here are some additional benefits of visiting Russia during Wintertime:

1. Christmas/New Years’ Markets and Festive Decorations- If you visit Russia over the holidays, be sure to check out the Christmas markets. They sell candies, matryoshka dolls, baked goods, and other Christmas-y gifts and souvenirs.

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Other interesting sights at the Christmas markets include ponies, reindeer, and Ded Moroz (Grandfather Frost). Every market has different features, making each one fun to discover. Near Cafe Pushkin in Moscow, for example, we enjoyed walking around an outdoor art gallery.

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There are also plenty of ice sculptures. Some of my favorites included an ice maze and ice slides. Ice displays are a time-honored tradition all over Russia, and exist in both large cities and way out in Siberia.

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Stores and businesses are also outfitted for the holiday season. GUM shopping centre in Moscow, for example, has quite the display, with Christmas stalls throughout.

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2. Sparkling Night Lights- Moscow is a beautiful city at night. While these lights can be seen year-round, longer hours of darkness during Winter means there are more opportunities to literally see the city in a different light.

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In fact, one of the best ways to see Moscow at night is on the River Moskva. Luckily, all of the major sites lie along the river and are easy to spot. The Radisson hotel runs dinner cruises all-year long, and even has ice-breaking capabilities for when the river is frozen over.

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 3. The Snow makes for great pictures- If anything, Winter in Russia often results in heavy snowfall. We were lucky enough to get snow on the first day we arrived in Moscow. The sights were very picturesque, and exactly like I’ve always imagined it would be. It just added that extra magical touch to everything we saw.

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As you can see, Russia is absolutely gorgeous during this time of year. So don’t let the weather deter you. Trust me, you’ll be thankful for the experience and will walk away with a new appreciation of this beautiful country and its people!

© Destination Duo, 2014-2015

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Cruises

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Cruises have gotten a bad rap over the past few years. Between passengers getting sick, falling overboard, and ships sinking and getting disabled, it seems like there’s always something in the news. But the truth is that cruises can be a great vacation option. It’s all-inclusive, requires a little less planning, and allows you to visit several destinations in a short amount of time. The greatest trade-off is that you get much less time to explore those places. A typical port stop is less than 12 hours, although it may be more than that depending on the itinerary.

When determining whether or not a cruise may be right for you, here are some factors to consider:

1. Are you looking for something “all-inclusive”? The cost of a cruise typically includes your room, entertainment, and meals on board. There can be an advantage in this, including easier budgeting, less planning, and let’s not forget all-you-can-eat buffets. Additional expenses could include excursions, shopping, alcoholic beverages, spa services, and gambling.

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2. Are you traveling alone? As a couple? With several people? Cruises can be a great option for couples who are planning a romantic getaway. Everything on board is at your disposal and you won’t need to worry about stressing over the details that come with planning traditional vacation. If you’re traveling with other people, whether it’s your family or a group of friends, cruises provide activities and events for all ages and personality types. Unfortunately, cruises don’t really cater to solo travelers. While they’re welcome, cruises charge for double occupancy, which means that they have to pay as if they are traveling with a companion. At that point, you might as well just bring along a friend!

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3. What do you want out of a vacation? If you want to relax, hang out on the beach, or enjoy excursions, a cruise might be a good option. If you are hoping to immerse yourself in culture, food, or history, a cruise would be less ideal. I find that it’s difficult to get a true understanding of the local culture while on a cruise; partly because most port cities cater to tourists, but also because of the brief time that’s spent at each destination. For example, Rome is a popular port of call on Mediterranean cruises. It’s impossible to even begin to scratch the surface of the Eternal City within a few hours!

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Overall, cruising is a unique and exciting experience. I’d definitely recommend going on one if you have the chance. And don’t worry about getting seasickness! Cruise ships are much larger and therefore more stable than the smaller boats we are all used to. But just in case, they do sell medicine on board!