2017-12-29 / Travel

Memories of Ukraine Part 2: On a Russian Cruise Ship

By Warner M. Montgomery, Ph.D.

Following the break-up of the Soviet Union in 1989, the Russian cruise ship, the TSS Fedor Shalyapin, was bought by a Ukrainian company. Its condition deteriorated over the next few years and it was dry-docked in 1995, three years after our trip.Following the break-up of the Soviet Union in 1989, the Russian cruise ship, the TSS Fedor Shalyapin, was bought by a Ukrainian company. Its condition deteriorated over the next few years and it was dry-docked in 1995, three years after our trip.
I paid cash for the tickets at Bumarang shipping office and was forced to give our passports to the agent who growled, “Report to Karokoy dock at 4 o’clock with your bags.” We became travelers without identification, adventurers without shame, a bad situation to be in.

Linda kept reminding me of Midnight Express, the movie about an American who got locked up and forgotten in Turkey. I assured her we had hidden copies of our passports and could easily get out of Turkey without serving any prison time. Frankly, I wasn’t too sure.

The agent was nowhere to be found at 4 o’clock. I left Linda at the office while I searched for our ship, the TSS Fedor Shalyapin, on the docks. After what seemed like three miles of ships from everywhere but Russia, I found it, and it was already loading. The agent had just gone up the gangplank.


The activity on the reardeck of the TSS Fedor Shalyapin was a sight for sore American eyes. The activity on the reardeck of the TSS Fedor Shalyapin was a sight for sore American eyes. We jumped into line and were quickly pushed aside by tall, blond Russians, men and women, carrying garbage bags full of Turkish goods. Again and again for two hours we were pummeled and pushed back on the dock.

Finally, after a scruffy Turk who claimed to be a Russian Tatar pushed his way onboard, we looked around and discovered we were the only ones left.

We casually walked up the gangplank and entered an even more chaotic situation on the ship. People and bags were strewn all over the hallways. Linda stood to one side and threatened to cry.

I charged into the fray and was suddenly grabbed by a tall man in uniform who whispered, “You are Americans, right? My name is Alexandros. Follow me, I’ll take care of you.” We followed him upstairs, backpacks over our shoulders.


I remember the marvellous moment you appeared before me, like a transient vision, like pure beauty’s spirit. Konstantín Bátyushkov, Russian I remember the marvellous moment you appeared before me, like a transient vision, like pure beauty’s spirit. Konstantín Bátyushkov, Russian At the Captain’s Desk Alexandros whispered something to a tall, blond uniformed woman, who told us, “Stay here!” then disappeared down the stairs. About an hour later after the halls had cleared, the tall woman motioned for us to follow her.

In room 82C we were greeted by Larisa and Ella, two attractive middle-aged Russian women—our roommates for the cruise to Odessa.

Continued next week



That for all my sins and failings, For distrusting blessings, may I In a Russians’ blouse be laid out Under the icons to die. Sergei Esenin, Russian That for all my sins and failings, For distrusting blessings, may I In a Russians’ blouse be laid out Under the icons to die. Sergei Esenin, Russian

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