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19th September, 2013

St. Petersburg

With the Ruby following close on our heels we approached the ageing pilot cutter in darkness, punctuated by numerous stars. It wasn’t to last though and as the dawn slowly broke bright in the east, cloud started rolling in to smother any blue there might have been.

The air felt more than autumnal - a kind of chilliness that comes when a grey sky meets an even greyer sea. Although the forecast suggested sunshine could be expected, it never came. In fact for the few hours after arrival a mist descended and all but obscured the other cruise ships in the Marine Façade, including Ruby, which was berthed way over on the other side of the basin.

There was a certain degree of expected ‘officialdom’ put in the way when the agent was asked to check whether our two vessels could have crew visiting each other. Lists had to be made, an immigration charge paid, seaman’s books stamped, etc.

In the end I don’t believe anything happened, except I did see a couple of cheery Ruby rascals who, after their short visit, got back on their ship’s bikes and pedalled off back around the quay. There were no blue flashing lights, no sounds of screaming tyres and no one jumped out from the shadows to apprehend them.

The second of our days alongside did eventually brighten up and passengers came back most pleased. Meanwhile, on the other side of the security fence a small tent was erected and a very large barbecue set up.

About a dozen brand new truck cabs came and parked in the lot opposite the passenger terminal and two truck manufacturers banners were placed at the entrance. Throughout the evening the trailerless trucks kept going round and round the parking lot in some kind of ‘catch me if you can’ scenario, and I never did see anyone eating the masses of barbecue food that had been prepared. All very odd.

That evening, after the excursion to the Ballet, a Russian buffet was served in the main dining room. This has become a firm favourite and, if I had not been to our very special East to West restaurant, I would have been down there with the rest of them.

Ruby left after the second afternoon, but we expect to meet her again in Sandefjord on the 24th, two days before we berth next to each other in Dover. We left the following afternoon after yet another dry day.

The passengers have enjoyed their tours, listening to the guides and seeing just a small part of Russia, but there have been quite a few early starts so the comment I have been receiving is that they are looking forward to a day at sea so that ‘batteries can be recharged’.

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.