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4th September, 2018

St. Petersburg

Up early and on the deck as we sail into our next port of call, St. Petersburg. With the modern districts of the city looming in front of us, we docked in the new cruise terminal, at the month of the Neva River. Two large ships to our left and a further two to our right, the port area was preparing for a busy day ahead.

By 08:00, the pier came alive, with guests heading ashore for an array of excursions into the city and beyond. With so many choices in St, Petersburg and such an array of attractions on offer, guests would have two busy but magical days ahead of them.

We had several small group excursions head off to marvel at the Faberge collection, with only 14 per group, a guide and ships escort, guests were treated to a real VIP experience, as they immersed themselves in the palaces and riches of a bygone era. Some of the full day excursions that headed out to the city limits and to the magnificent palaces that surround the city, such at the Peterhof and Catherine Palace, give a flavour of the splendour of the Russia under the rule of the Tsars, and guests are treated to a wonderful Russian lunch experience to add to the flavour of the tour. For something a little different, the Railway Engine Museum excursion provided interest for some of our guests, with a behind the scenes tour of the locomotives and machinery of the communist era. The Hermitage Depositary tour was also on offer, allowing guests to see the archives and storage areas of the World’s largest museum.

Of course, in the evening is when our guests experience some of the best that St. Petersburg has to offer; the Ballet, a performance of Swan Lake, the traditional Folkloric performance, and an exclusive Hermitage visit and concert, were all on offer, to delight our guests.

Onboard, the F&B team were working around the clock to ensure the meal times fit with the heavy excursion program ashore. The pinnacle of their operation being the evening buffet on the first day in St. Petersburg, where the restaurant is laid out with a Russian banquet for all guests. With the full restaurant waiter compliment in attendance, the string quartet accompanying the delicacies and delights on offer and a full room of guests, the late-night buffet is a perfect way to end a busy day in the City - it’s what we call THE SAGA WAY!

The greatest thing about St. Petersburg, is that after a long, exhausting and exhilarating day, we all get to repeat it again during this two-day call.

As the second day draws to a close and all guests are back onboard we know they have experienced a wonderful part of this voyage, never to be forgotten. The city is truly remarkable and forms a magical part of any cruise. As we set sail, we have other destinations to discover, tomorrow Kotka in Finland, and a very different experience awaits our guests, for we will be arriving into a laid back and off the beaten track destination, which will show to our guests a wild side of the Baltic, so different from their experience in St. Petersburg. A true cruise of contrasts, which we hope will be enjoyed by all.

Nat Green, Shore Excursion Manager

Additional comments by Captain Julian.

I had the pleasure of joining the “Exclusive Hermitage Experience” evening excursion along with my good friend the Ships Doctor. Wow what a fabulous evening. There was 27 of us on the coach and we had 2 guides, so with 14 in my group we had an amazing private tour. To basically have the Hermitage to yourself and be guided around was a real privilege. To literally be face to face with paintings by Leonardo da Vinci, Rembrandt, Danielle and statues by Michael Angelo is quite something. There is so much to see in the Hermitage and the opulence is jaw dropping. As if walking around was not enough we enjoyed a 45 minute classical concert by the St Petersburg State Symphony Orchestra in a magical setting – photos included. As you might expect from such an orchestra the performance was 1st class and at times spine tingling. After the concert we were then led down the most beautiful “Presidential) like staircase to waiting staff serving champagne. Our return trip to the ship was only a great experience as we got to see a good part of St Petersburg by night – I definitely recommend this tour to everyone.

Captain Julian Burgess

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