Cruises are fast becoming the most popular way to visit the stunning city of St. Petersburg, and with the trip often taking in the rest of the Baltic's highlights as well as covering your visa requirements — as long as you take the cruise line's organised excursions — you can see why.
As a destination steeped and history and filled with charm, it's an obvious port of call when heading on a cruise to the region, but once you are there what are the real must see aspects of the city? With St. Petersburg being such a special destination I have enlisted the help of some of the team who have had the pleasure of visiting the city, to bring you their top tips and experiences.
Heather, from the sales team, has enjoyed a couple of visits to the city, and here's what she had to say on the matter:
St Petersburg is an experience NOT to miss! Whether exploring on your own or taking advantage of an excursion there is so much culture to take in and many iconic places to visit.
Both times I've visited St. Petersburg I've been lucky enough to have clear blue skies, so visiting the Savior on the Blood Church (or the Church of spilt blood as I knew it) with its bright colourful roof domes — which reminds me of dolly mixture — was a fantastic opportunity. It's not just a hot spot for tourists to visit, it was also surrounded by couples who had just got married having their official photographs taken outside, so girls... a great place to get ideas for wedding dresses! Also there are some great market stalls nearby, where it is a necessity to buy a Russian Doll or five — depending if you count the ones inside.
You also can't go to Russia without seeing the Hermitage Museum in the Winter Palace. I personally didn't go inside, I was too busy making the most of the sun on a river cruise, seeing the sights with the luxury of sitting down listening to the guide explaining the country's history. This I highly recommend.
I visited while working on board P&O Cruises' Aurora and again while working onboard Artemis as a photographer. We were there for two days both times. Many people took advantage of an evening trip to visit the ballet, a once in a lifetime opportunity for some.
Simone Clark, Iglucruise's Managing Director is a well-travelled cruiser, visited the Baltic onboard Celebrity Constellation a couple of summers ago. Here are her thoughts of the culturally rich city.
I travelled on Celebrity Constellation on a Baltic Capitals Cruise, which included two days and one night in St Petersburg in the middle.
Some people on our cruise had pre-booked a private guide for a few days as a small group, but we opted to book excursions with the cruise line. You can't just get off the ship and wander round on your own unless you’ve pre arranged your own visa, so booking excursions is essential to make the most of the city.
I booked a City Tour, which was combined with a visit to The Catherine Palace, which is huge with its beautiful rooms packed full of gold. We also took in the astounding art collection at the world famous Hermitage Gallery. I also booked a half day tour to Peterhof — another palace, famous for its beautiful gardens, full of waterfalls and fountains.
The Catherine Palace
Famous things to buy as souvenirs are copies of Faberge eggs, icons and baboushka dolls (Russian dolls) — however, they can be extremely expensive and we found similar products for sale on board the ship after leaving St Petersburg for a fraction of the price.
St. Petersburg is filled with history, from its days as St. Petersburg under the rule of the Tsars, to Leningrad during the reign of the Soviet Union, before once again being known as St. Petersburg. As mentioned by Simone, the safest way to see the city is with the cruise line's pre-arranged tours, as this way you are covered by the ship's blanket visa. Unfortunately, if you wish to discover the city for yourself you will need to arrange your own visa with the Russian consulate before you join the cruise.
St. Petersburg is a charming city and a fantastic place to visit, and the tips mentioned above are only a tip of the iceberg. My hit list would have to include Catherine's Palace, a visit to the Russian Imperial Ballet and of course, some souvenir shopping. What would you get up to if cruising to St. Petersburg? Let us know on the Iglu Cruise Facebook page or at @iglucruise.
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