We just booked May 18 2003 St. Petersburg to Moscow aboard the Kirov.
We too were Rennaissanse refugees. We found ourselves on a Windstar cruise this spring and were spoiled by the even smaller size ship (148 max passengers, 110 on our trip). The Kirov is larger than the Windstar, but we can deal.
A few years ago we took a cruise from Budapest to Passau, Germany along the Danube. It was on a small Rumanian Cruise line with ships even smaller than the Kirov, but similar in layout and form. All the passengers were German except for us. Cabins were quaint but clean and comfortable. Food was decent and service ws excellent. We had a blast. Based on our experience there, we expect we will like this line, with slightly larger ships (more than one restaraunt and lounge). It appears that the target clientelle is English speaking tourists, which could be good or bad .
What Intrigues us a lot is the itinerary. In the early eighties, during the Cold War, I had the opportunity to lead some college student tours through Eastern Europe and the old USSR, including Moscow and then Leningrad (St. Petersberg). They are magnificent cities alive with culture and rich history. I'm curious to see what the change is like, nevermind the western trappings (KFC, McDonalds, etc). I expect the countryside along the river to be largely unspolied and rich in local culture and history .
Also great is the price. We are booking one of the owner's suites and paying the same with air fare on Viking River as we did on a regular cabin on Windstar *without* air fare.
OK, so the Volga is no the Panama Canal, but it';s a vacation.