First Person

MTKhoshruplin by Christ the Savior Cathedral
Roman Khoshruplin, 48, river cruise captain for Stolichnaya Sudokhodnaya Co.

This kind of work? We have to start from the very bottom. The beginning is all dirt and muck and filth. You have to be a deckhand and work hard for many years before becoming a captain.

"I have been working on boats for 32 years now. I left school around the time I was 15 years old, and then I enrolled in nautical school. There are many nautical schools in Russia. I went to the one in Moscow for four years.

"Then over eight years I went through many stages: First, I was an apprentice, then a sailor, then a motor mechanic, then an assistant to a captain. Finally, I became a captain myself.

"We get lots of different tourists -- English, German, Chinese -- this is the very center of the city, after all.

"I can't describe a regular work day. Our schedule changes all the time, and we get assigned different itineraries and routes. You don't know where you're going from one day to the next.

"Today I'm doing the city-center tour, which starts from Estrada Theater. The trip takes one hour, and our company's boats rotate so that one leaves from this dock every 20 minutes.

"On this itinerary, we show our passengers some of Moscow's major landmarks, including the Kremlin and Christ the Savior Cathedral. A favorite route? They are all the same to me. I don't prefer any one to another. I just see these trips as part of my profession by now, since I've done it for so many years. It doesn't matter which route it is, I know all of them so well that I can navigate them without thinking about it.

"There's no general rule for salaries for ship crew. Some make more, some make less, and it's seasonal. A captain like me might have a salary of about $2,000 per month in the summer -- like right now, we have a lot of tourists. Of course, in the winter when it's cold and the river freezes, we make a lot less.