Valya Egorshin/Getty Images
- Russia’s cruise industry enjoyed “serious growth” in 2022, a lawmaker told news agency TASS.
- Many Russians went on a cruise for the first time because they couldn’t travel overseas.
- Many new cruise passengers have “higher requirements” for service levels, an Infoflot director said.
Russians might have found it much harder to travel abroad due to Western sanctions and restrictions in the wake of the Ukraine invasion – but that hasn’t stopped some from going on vacation.
Cruise ships have enjoyed an influx of passengers, with cruise operators reporting an increase of between 30% and 40% last year, lawmaker Alexei Volotskov told Kremlin-controlled news agency TASS.
Antonina Kiseleva of cruise company Infoflot told Insider that demand for its cruises was “really high” last year, with ships consistently at 95% capacity.
Konstantin Puchkov, of online travel marketplace Cruise House, told Insider that river cruises had been particularly popular: “There are already practically no places on some routes for the upcoming summer season.”
Before 2020, foreign tourists accounted for about 40% of passenger traffic, per Forbes Russia. That figure has fallen to almost zero in the wake of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, per Kommersant, but domestic tourists appear to be plugging the gaps.
The added burdens of international travel mean that Russia’s domestic cruises are now attracting wealthier customers than before — including those who’ve previously vacationed overseas.
Infoflot director Andrei Mikhailovsky told the newspaper Vedomosti that such customers have “higher requirements” for the level of accommodation and service — and are often only interested in the newest ships.
Cruises are also becoming more popular for the few travelers who are able to travel overseas, Puchkov said. Sanctions often make it impossible for Russians abroad to use credit cards issued by domestic banks, so some are opting for all-inclusive packages to eliminate some of the hassle.
Russians’ vacation options narrowed considerably after Vladimir Putin ordered his invasion of Ukraine in late February 2022.
Visiting European countries became far more difficult after the European Union banned all flights to and from Russia on February 27, while some of Russia’s closest neighbors banned Russian tourists entirely in September.
Tourists can still technically enter Europe through third countries, such as Turkey, but that makes journeys more expensive and time-consuming.
Long-haul destinations such as Thailand remain popular among wealthy Russians, but it is too expensive for ordinary people.