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2nd September, 2015

Saint Petersburg

After a quiet passage we picked our pilot up at 5 this morning and then sailed into the harbour. We docked just before 8.00am at the Cruise Ship Terminal of St. Petersburg with plenty of excursions planned for this first day. The first group set off, bound for Catherine’s Palace, home to the wife of Peter the Great, Catherine I and later to Empress Elizabeth, who refurbished the Palace, with 100 kilograms of gold used to guild the façade and the statues on the roof alone.

The next excursion left on a trip entitled ‘Visions of St Petersburg’, viewing all of St Petersburg’s main sights on a panoramic tour, followed by a visit to the breath taking Spilled Blood Cathedral, and after lunch in a local restaurant a river cruise along the Moika and the Fontanka Rivers. The final morning group went on a panoramic tour passing all of St Petersburg’s ‘must-see’ sights, including St. Isaac’s Square, the Nevsky Prospect with the Kazan Cathedral and the Hermitage

In the afternoon more passengers set off for more trips, the first heading to Peterhof, former residence of Peter the Great, which is renowned for its beautiful gardens and was originally commissioned to be a ‘Versailles by the sea’. The second afternoon group went to the oldest structure in St Petersburg, the Peter and Paul Cathedral. With the city’s second tallest structure, the Cathedral housing the remains of most of the Russian Emperors and Empresses from Peter the Great to Nicholas II. The visit was followed by a cruise along the Neva, Fontkana and Moika Rivers. The final afternoon groups went to the famous Fabergé Museum.

In the early evening guests left for evening excursions. The first group set off for an evening of Russian classical ballet at the Aurora Palace Ballet Hall with the State Symphony Orchestra. Meanwhile the other group set off on an excursion entitled ‘White Nights on St Petersburg Waterways’, on which passengers enjoyed a cruise down the canals, followed by a trip down the Neva River.

For those guests wishing to stay on board, a Grand Quiz Night was hosted by Assistant Cruise Director Kayleigh Lucas, Fitness Instructor/Cruise Hostess Cathy Ellis and Cruise Staff Hosts Andrew Galler and Jay Collins, which was followed in the Britannia Lounge by a classical concert with the Pier Quartet, as they played ‘A Romantic Russian Flavour’, with works from Tchaikovsky, Shostakovich and Rachmaninoff. From 10.00pm on wards a Grand Russian Buffet was held in the Pole to Pole restaurant, with a delicious selection of hot and cold dishes and of course caviar, champagne and Russian vodka with musical accompaniment from the Two Hearts Duo.

After the first of 2 overnights in St Petersburg, the first group left bright and early for a tour of St Petersburg followed by a trip to the Peterhof gardens. Other guests set off on various excursions, some to the Hermitage, others to the Peter and Paul Fortress. Meanwhile, other passengers traveled to the town of Schlisselburg, west of St Petersburg, where they took a boat for a visit to Oreshek Fortress, a UNESCO World Heritage site, which is referred to as the “Russian Alcatraz” due to its former function and island location. Other morning groups set off for panoramic tours and trips to the Fabergé Museum.

In the afternoon, after a speedy lunch for some, the first groups went on a trip entitled ’St Petersburg Cathedrals’ with visits to St Isaac’s Cathedral, the Kazan Cathedral and to the Spilled Blood Cathedral. Meanwhile others also visited the Spilled Blood Cathedral, before going on a canal cruise.

In the evening, the first group set off foran exclusive tour of the Hermitage, with not only the chance to enjoy the collections when the museum is closed to the general public, but also included in this tour was a concert from a full symphonic orchestra. The second group departed for ‘An Evening of Folklore’, with lively Russian folkloric song and dance and sparkling wine, vodka and snacks at the interval.

For those staying on board, in the Britannia Lounge, resident Pianist Perry Grant took to the stage, accompanied by the Saga Orchestra, with a fun-filled extravaganza of a show, with a selection of songs to get everyone singing along. Once again in the Pole to Pole restaurant we had our traditional Grand Russian Buffet until late, with the music from the Two Hearts Duo.

After another overnight here, guests set off on a morning trip to Catherine’s Palace, whilst others went to visit the Parks of Peterhof and the Cottage Palace. Another group left for one of Russia’s largest and most impressive Imperial dwellings, Gatchina Palace, situated 28 miles out from the town of St Petersburg. Another group set off for a visit to the Peterhof Gardens, followed by a Road Train ride to the Park of Alexandria and a visit to the Cottage Palace.

In the afternoon, several groups went to the Fabergé Museum whilst others discovered ‘Railway Engines and Machinery from the Soviet Era’. The final excursion for this 3-day visit to St Petersburg went to the Palaces of Menshikov and Yusupov, two buildings of great historical richness, Menchikov being the first palace to be built in St Petersburg, and Yusupov being infamous for, amongst other things, the place for the murder of Rasputin. All aboard time was 5.30pm, as we bid farewell to St Petersburg after 3 wonderful days here, and set sail for Tallinn, approximately 157 nautical miles away.

This evening Team Trivia was hosted by Cathy in the Drawing Room. In the Britannia Lounge, the Explosive Singers and Dancers opened the show with a Medley from the Drifters, followed by X Factor winner Sam Bailey in Concert saying farewell to The Saga Sapphire with a show demonstrating her warm personality and sensational voice. Later in the Cooper’s Bar Resident Piano Entertainer Perry Grant played, while the Two Hearts Duo played until late in the Drawing Room.

Captain Krzysztof Majdzinski

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.