Soviet-style Russian cruises are back

Cruise vessel Astoria Grande (ex AIDAcara – IMO 9112789) has become the first of what could be a series of Russian cruise ships catering for the Russian domestic sector.

Cruise vessels that focused solely on the Russian demographic were well-known and popular before the disappearance of the USSR. After that, most of the vessels were sold. The Astoria Grande is to sail from the port of Sochi in the Black Sea and will feature port calls in Turkish ports.

The vessel was acquired by Russian investors in 2021, refurbished, and prepared for launch. There has been a collaboration with Miray Cruises of Turkey to launch the new cruise programme. Sixteen week-long cruises are planned between now and October 2022. All the ports of call are in Turkey, including stops in Istanbul, Cesme, Sinop, Trabzon, and the island of Bozcaada. Passengers can choose from two similar itineraries or combine the two for a two-week-long journey.

The vessel will only sail in the southern and the eastern parts of the Black Sea, given the current military conflict with Ukraine.

This vessel was briefly owned by a Norwegian shipping line and then acquired by P&O cruises, later bought by Carnival. Carnival sold the vessel as part of an accelerated modernization programme in 2021.

1996-built, Panama-flagged, 38,557 gt Astoria Grande is owned by Aquilon Shipping Co LLC care of Tschudi Ship Management AS of Tallinn, Estonia. It is managed by Camelot Maritime Ship & Mgmt of Istanbul, Turkey. As of July 20th it was in the Aegean Sea en route from Sochi, Russia, to Canakkale, Turkey.