19th September, 2019
The Hotel General Manager had asked me if I would arrive early in St Petersburg as we had hundreds due on tour by 0830, and we wanted to be “ahead of the game”. The “favour” was granted (although he now owes me!!) and so the pilot was boarded at 0430 for the 25Mile and 3 hour run in. We made good progress and were actually docked by 0710 which ensured it was one of the best St Petersburg tour dispatches ever!! Our berth is at the multi-million dollar cruise terminal with excellent facilities and the modern districts of the city looming in front of us, near the mouth of the Neva River.
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.
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. I decided to join a tour - “An evening cruise on St Petersburg’s waterways” which was a wonderful way to see and appreciate the size and skyline of this incredible city. Although a little chilly on deck, guests had the option to “go below” as well. I decided to help by handing out the free drinks and there were lots of blankets to wrap up warm for those enjoying the fresh air.
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 at 2200 on the first day in St. Petersburg, where the restaurant is laid out with a Russian banquet for all guests. With a large waiter compliment in attendance and many delicacies to sample, 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 Tallinn in Estonia and then off to Denmark.
Captain Julian Burgess
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