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25th July, 2012

St Petersburg

St Petersburg

We had a splendid two days in St. Petersburg despite the best efforts of the arrival pilot who stopped the ship about two hundred yards from the berth and seemed to be waiting for Russia to come to us.

St Petersburg

Passengers were almost chomping at the bit to get off on tour, but were, as usual, brought back to snail’s pace as they went past the straight faced immigration lady. She didn’t seem to be overly impressed when my wife and I went to go off together. Visa arrangements are different for ship’s crew and passengers, but all was eventually sorted and a delightful young Russian lady, in her first season of being a guide, escorted us into the city and the Cathedral of the Spilt Blood. This was not for a religious experience, impressive as the cathedral is, but to go to the doll market next door. My wife was on a mission, not for cleverly crafted dolls that come apart and fit inside each other in ever reducing sizes, but for something a ‘little warmer’, which apparently would be a ‘good buy’. The morning was not without reward, not exactly what was required but a little something that was a suitable substitute for keeping ones neck warm. Apparently I have saved money yet again.

The evening tour was one I would most certainly recommend, a ‘Musical Evening in the Hermitage’. It was a leisurely walking tour around the staterooms of this normally bustling museum opened just for our party. The treasures amassed by the Russian emperors are truly magnificent and after an hour and a half we ended up in the Italian Skylight Hall, sitting down to listen to the State Symphony Orchestra of St. Petersburg play eight pieces of popular classical music. It was a remarkable evening that ended with a champagne reception.

For many, St. Petersburg was the highlight of their cruise, and it is a great city to visit, but two days hardly gives the experience justice as there is so much to see. Designed by Peter the Great just over three hundred years ago, it still has many of the grand buildings that were erected in the 19th century, along with everything else that has survived from the periods of the Czars, the Revolution and eventually the post communist ‘liberation’. We passed along the River Neva and across it’s busy bridges, the battleship ‘Aurora’, the ship that fired the shot that was the signal for the October Revolution in 1917, and returned to the new Marine Facade, built on reclaimed ground in only the last few years in order to take at least six of the world’s largest cruise ships at the same time.

St Petersburg

When we left on the second evening the sun was still shining, our new pilot wasted little time in turning the ship towards the shallow channel that would take us out past the naval island of Kronshdat and the Gulf of Finland. The numerous Soviet built hydrofoils that take locals across the water to the Peterhof Palace came racing passed at regular intervals, with even their skippers leaning out of the window to take a photo of us. And the young lady guide from our first day has learned a new English phrase, ‘Cheap as chips’, very useful when sorting out the tourist trivia from the real thing.

The opinions expressed are those of the author and are not held by Saga unless specifically stated.

The material is for general information only and does not constitute investment, tax, legal, medical or other form of advice. You should not rely on this information to make (or refrain from making) any decisions. Always obtain independent, professional advice for your own particular situation.