By Marina Aagaard, MFT
Baltic Cruise Day 6: Excursion Day Saint Petersburg
In the DAILY cruise ship program it says “St. Petersburg is one of the most beautiful cities in the world. It is often referred to as the ‘Venice of the North’ or ‘Paris of the East’, but its beauty is really a brand all on its own (…) with a vibrant cultural life that is second to none.
So: Gone in 60 seconds (to buy tour ticket)!
07:00 Arrival St. Petersburg
18:30 All on board
19:00 Departure St. Petersburg.
Option 1: Buy cruise ship ½-1 day tour excursion: Price range EUR 39.90 – 155.90.
Option 2: Step off the ship (if you are very well prepared).
The cruise ship tour prices are quite hefty, however, they include a ‘landing card’ allowing you to enter Russia for the day and tickets to the museums (and lunch in some cases). So picking a tour could be a wise choice.
Important: In order to enter St. Petersburg on your own, you must have 1) a passport, valid for at least another 6 months, 2) a visa (apply for this well in advance), 3) a good sense of time and direction – and head back very early (many cruisers have had difficulties in regard to timely transport back to the ship), 4) a good guide-book and map or some knowledge of the russian language and 5) conservative clothing if you wish to visit sites of religious importance.
Visiting Russia for the first time, I chose the excursion and got lucky: It truly was ‘the best of St. Petersburg’; an awesome day in the company of the guide Marina (my namesake), an extra-extra-knowledgeable and entertaining guide.
Saint Petersburg (in russian Санкт-Петербу́рг or everyday name Питер, “Piter”), is a city and federal subject of Russia. It is situated by the Neva river in the north-west of Russia. Population is approx. 5 mio. inhabitants.
The city oozes of history, even if it is a young city compared to European standards; founded on 27th of May 1703 and named Saint Petersburg after its founder Peter the Great. It was renamed a couple of times, before going back to the original name; Petrograd (Петроград, 1914–1924) and Leningrad (Ленинград, 1924–1991). One famous inhabitant is the former Russian president and present prime minister Vladimir Putin.
Highlights of the day were the Summer Palace (in Pushkin), the Winter Palace and Hermitage Museum and Saint Isaac’s Cathedral (Saint Petersburg). Snapshots below.
Even though I have visited many interesting sights, I do not think I have ever seen anything as colorful, gilded and otherwise lavishly decorated as these places …
In summary, even if the tour missed one of the only 75 sunny days per year (44 days according to guide), the day was mind-boggling; history highs and lows, from architectural bling to bulletholes in churches … and no matter where you looked, up, down, right, left, everything that glittered was gold (almost).
Exception: The Amber Room, Summer Palace, a room made of amber in every colour. The room was looted during WW II and then restored at an estimated cost of approx. 140 million USD. The room may not be photographed, so you have to see it to believe it.
Daily program, if one chose not to accept the St. Petersburg mission, offered stretching, aerobics, yoga (sample classes are free, but regular yoga classes cost 10 EUR), Tiburon dance, country dance, lots of games and demonstrations. Those arriving back late could still make to participate in merengue and ‘spanish dance’ as well as bingo, karaoke and, of course, Russian Disco night.
‘Totally sightseeing’ day meant very little time for on board activities today, that’s okay.
A World of Wonders.