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18th September, 2012

St Petersburg Day 1

Good morning St Petersburg. We picked our pilot up at 0500 this morning and sailed our usual route down towards the port. I have done this route so many times now, I could do it with my eyes closed. Many changes have taken place with this port since my first visit in 1997. One major change is that the port has now completed the once derelict flood barrier, with a now shiny new swing barrier, of great proportions and a great civil engineering feat.

And as we approach the port, we now peel off to this new dredged channel to arrive at this massive, very expensive and very large purpose built cruise terminal. So the run in is now a much easier affair and certainly less stressful. I remember my first trip in command when I had to take Saga Rose through the canal, up river towards the Lieutenant Shmidt berth. With the river running and very little room to manoeuvre, it certainly took years off you!!!

We were all berthed by 0745 and there was a great buzz on board the vessel. Most of the ship was up and about and waiting with baited breath as we tied off and the first of the tours set off into the delightful Russian port.

The ‘Splendours of St Petersburg’ started off the dispatch this morning. The nine hour panoramic tour commenced with a short drive through the city taking in most of the major sights. At lunchtime guests were treated to a wonderful lunch in a popular downtown restaurant, and the afternoon was spent exploring the treasures of the beautiful Hermitage. Another trip of note heading off today was the ‘Park of Alexandria and Road Train’. Taking in the aforementioned and the Peterhof Gardens, this was an excursion for those who wanted to see some of the famed landscaped gardens.

Being that St Petersburg is built around some 185 miles of canals and rivers, it was natural that one of the most popular and scenic tours was the ‘Spilled Blood Cathedral, Shopping and Canal Cruise'. Cruising around most of the major waterways including the Winter Canal, and the Neva and Moika Rivers, a great time was had by all under the coloured bridges of the city.

Since we were having an overnight, there were a number of opportunities to enjoy the citie's lively and famous entertainment culture. Trips to the ballet, a ‘Musical Evening at the Hermitage’, or an ‘Evening of Folklore’ at the Carnival Concert Hall were all well received.

Back on board the ship, our classical group The Flanagnan Trio performed a dramatic Russian program in the main lounge. Whilst in the Pole to Pole, the Food and Beverage Department laid on a delicious Russian buffet, featuring caviar, vodka and a glass or two of champagne. With musical accompaniment from Perfect Mood, it was a wonderful end to our first day in St Petersburg.

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.