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28th June, 2019

St Petersburg

Earlier on Friday morning than most sane people would awaken, we slowed our speed to 5 knots in order to test both of our engines would run astern, switch on our bow thruster, and embark our St Petersburg pilot for the 3hr inward transit.

It was a mostly sunny morning, with scattered cumulous clouds (these are the non-rain bearing type) racing southward through the sky; their motion propelled by a brisk northerly wind. Our allocated berth for the next few days alongside here is situated in the outer port area, for we are too large and deep drafted to enter the river and navigate up to the city centre.

I called upon the use of a large tugboat to push the sluggish stern up into the wind and onto the dock so that we could throw our mooring lines ashore. Just after 08:00, important looking officials with gold draped all over them declared the ship cleared for arrival, and our guests eagerly proceeded ashore and into various buses awaiting to ferry them all over this spectacular city.

‘Venice of the north’ as it’s sometimes referred to, the city of St Petersburg is undoubtedly a highlight of this trip. With its diverse history, magnificent cathedrals, palaces, parks and museums, there is simply so much to see and do here. Even the metro system underground is lavishly decorated as if a palace foyer, fit for tsars themselves, and carries around 2.5 million people per day.

There were dozens of options for our guests here within our Explore Ashore programme – far too many to mention here. But amongst them are trips backstage at a ballet theatre, exclusive evening concerts purely for our guests only at the famous Hermitage, a bespoke car service, city tours aplenty by road, river or foot, and trips to castles, museums and cathedrals.

Our two days in this superb city passed in pleasant weather conditions, temperatures in the low 20C’s, whilst the rest of Europe seemingly baked in a heatwave (except, of course, for the UK – which, as always in such circumstances, claimed to be enduring ‘scorching’ weather but was actually experiencing conditions of warm sunshine that any other country would consider ‘rather pleasant’…).

At 18:00 on the second evening, it was time to depart, and there were some extra challenges for myself and the Bridge team to overcome this evening: not only had the wind increased to near gale force, but earlier on in the day someone had rather inconveniently parked one of those giant cruise ships very close to our bow, squeezing us into a corner somewhat. With the skilful help of a tugboat and some gentle manoeuvring, we popped out of our tight gap and found ourselves on our way to our next stop: the Medieval city of Tallinn.

Captain Kim Tanner

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