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Church of the saviour on spilled blood st petersberg
updated 10/24/2007 12:14:19 PM ET 2007-10-24T16:14:19

The Real Deal: Roundtrip airfare, 10 nights' ship accommodations, and sightseeing tours from $1,999 per person—plus taxes and fees of about $370.

When: Depart on Sept. 16, 2008; add $100 for May 29, Sept. 6; $200 for Aug. 27; $300 for June 8, Aug. 17; $400 June 18, July 8, 18, 28, Aug. 8, 2008.

Gateways: New York City.

The fine print: Ten breakfasts, nine lunches, and ten dinners, airline fuel surcharges, sightseeing tours, and services of an English-speaking tour guide are included. Airport taxes and port charges are an additional $370. Lowest Prices are per person based on double occupancy. Single-occupancy cabins are only available on the middle and upper decks; supplements, including the upgrade fee, are $599 (middle deck) and $699 (upper deck). Visas, which cost $100, are required as is proof of a Russia-based sponsor (typically a tour operator or a hotel) and they can be obtained through a local consulate. Read these guidelines before you book any Real Deal.

Book by: Dec. 21, 2007.

Contact: SmarTours, 800/337-7773, smartours.com.

Why it's a deal: In comparison, the lowest round-trip fares (New York City -St. Petersburg, Moscow-New York City) we found on Kayak start from $833 in mid September 2008 (Finnair). For an additional $1,166, or about $116 a night, SmarTours covers ten nights' accommodations aboard a cruise liner, most meals, and guided tours. Consider, too, that you save $400 per person off of the regular package price. Travelers with a preference for guided tours are especially well suited to this cruise package since, unlike many, it includes an extensive lineup of tours and activities in the price.

Trip details: The Cruise of the Czars package includes airfare from New York City on a Finnair carrier, arriving in St. Petersburg and departing from Moscow. The staff will meet you at the airport in St. Petersburg and escort you to the pier to board the MS Kronstadt, your home for the next ten nights.

The ship, originally built in 1979, underwent reconstruction in 1989 and was refurbished again in 2005. It has a dining room, souvenir shop, a pub, a piano bar, and an entertainment lounge. The lowest package price includes a stay in a lower deck cabin. If you prefer windows to portholes and don't mind paying a bit more, you can upgrades to main deck ($199), middle ($249) and upper deck cabins ($299), which feature big picture windows that face outward. All cabins have a private toilet and shower and come with a fridge, air controls, closet space and a radio.

For the next two days, the ship remains docked in St. Petersburg, giving you the chance to explore the former capital of Czarist Russia, founded in 1703 and built from scratch on Peter the Great's orders. Your stay in the city includes two guided tours: a morning drive along the Nevsky Prospect past Peter and Paul Fortress and St. Isaac Cathedral, and an afternoon visit to the Hermitage Museum in the Winter Palace. (For a preview, read our story Dream Trips: The Hermitage, Art World Royalty.)

You'll also have a free day to explore the city on your own. Or you can opt for a tour of two palaces just outside St. Petersburg—the Peterhof Palace, built to rival Versailles, and the Pavlovsk Palace.

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From St. Petersburg you'll set sail along the Volga, stopping at various riverside villages on your way to Mondraga, home of a vodka museum. After a tour, you'll be treated to a shashlik traditional barbecue, followed by an evening performance by a violin ensemble. Slideshow: A Czar's City

Next on the itinerary Lake Onega's picturesque Island of Kizhi, where you'll visit an open-air museum devoted to the region's architecture and tour the Church of Transfiguration, an impressive wooden structure. This evening's entertainment includes a folklore concert aboard he ship.

During the next three days, you'll sail to the town of Goritzi, followed by the 11th century Yaroslavl, where you'll tour the ancient monastery and view the frescoes at the Church of Elijah. Then you'll dock in Uglich to spend a day in the country's second oldest city.

Your final destination is sprawling, fast-paced Moscow, where you'll stay for two nights before boarding your flight back to New York. Highlights include a tour of the Red Square, the colorful St. Basil's Cathedral, and the Kremlin, Moscow's seat of political and spiritual power. While in Moscow, try to catch a performance of the famous Moscow Circus; your cruise director can help you reserve tickets.

For more tips on what to do in the area, visit Russia's official tourism Web site. You can find the latest exchange rate and the local time at BudgetTravel.com.

As general rule, the best time to visit Russia is May-September, when the temperatures are in the 70s-90s range. Before you go, check the weather forecast.

Copyright © 2012 Newsweek Budget Travel, Inc.

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