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 St. Petersburg, Russia

St. Petersburg, Russia
Shore Excursion and Port Information

Hermitage Interior, St. Petersburg, Russia
(Yes, that is gold and precious stones making up the interior walls, ceiling and pillars)

St. Petersburg, Russia Information
Tom Ogg

Entry Requirements
Language and Currency
What is St. Petersburg Like?
What is the Weather Like?
Where Does the Ship Dock?
Where is the Shopping?
What is There to Buy?
What is There To Do?
Is There Anything of a “Don’t Miss Quality?
Are There Any Great Restaurants or Bars?

St. Petersburg, Russia Port Reviews

Entry Requirements

You will need a valid passport and also a valid Russian visa if you intend to go out on your own. The Russian visa must be obtained before you arrive in Russia and is best obtained well in advance of arrival, as it becomes quite expensive to acquire the closer to your arrival in Russia that you apply for it. Note, that if you take the ship's shore excursions that you may use the ship's group visa and there is no need to acquire one individually. On one trip to St. Petersburg, my wife and I and another couple were able to arrange for a private driver and interpreter to take us shopping and wherever we wanted by making the arrangements through the ship and using their group visa. Hint: If you do plan on getting a visa and taking off on your own, I would strongly advise you to make arrangements with an English speaking guide before you arrive in St. Petersburg as the taxi drivers do not speak, nor understand English.

Note that there is a provision in the Russian immigration policy for visitors arriving on cruise ships and staying three nights or less, that no visa is necessary as long as a tour is booked with a certified tour company in St. Petersburg. There are several "certified" tour companies to select from, but the two that are the largest are Denrus and Red October. Both companies offer a substantial number of pre-designed tours and also offer the opportunity for one to plan their own excursions. Be aware that you will need to make advance reservations with these companies before you arrive in St. Petersburg. Click Here for more info on visas and tour companies

Language and Currency

The official language of St. Petersburg is Russian and the currency is the Russian ruble. English is not spoken nor understood by most people and U.S. dollars are accepted on a limited basis. Street vendors and most shops will accept dollars for items they are selling (be sure to have lots of small bills $1s, $5s, $10s and $20s as change in U.S. dollars is not available.) You are not allowed to take rubles out of the country. Dollars can be exchanged for rubles in the major hotels in St. Petersburg and your ATM card can be used in ATM machines throughout St. Petersburg. There is an ATM machine located just inside the Hermitage.

What is St. Petersburg like?

The Bronze Harseman

St. Petersburg (formerly Leningrad) is a huge city just dripping with Russia's fascinating history. Everywhere you look you see the unusual and intriguing. One could spend weeks in St. Petersburg and barely scratch the surface of its wonderful history, sites and sounds, but most ships only call on her for two days. I guarantee you that St. Petersburg will be one of the most memorable ports you will visit in your lifetime.

What is the weather like?

Opening of St. Petersburg's White Nights Festival

While St. Petersburg can be warm in the early summer, you had better bring a collapsible umbrella in case of rainy weather. Temperatures will range in the 60s and 70s with the potential for warmer weather on occasion. During the early summer months St. Petersburg celebrates the "White Nights Festival" and the almost 24-hours of daylight that takes place. Attending the opening of White Nights is a wonderful experience as the entire population of St. Ptersburg lines the river to watch the Palace Bridge open signifying the start of the festival.

Where does the ship dock?

The Century at dock in St. Petersburg's Industrial Harbor

The main cruise ship terminal is ;pcaqted in the main industrial harbor about a 20 to 30 minute drive from the downtown area of St. Petersburg, but some smaller ships dock in the river right downtown within walking distance of everything. There is a new cruise terminal being built that should come into service in 2006 or 7.

Where is the shopping?

One of the Stalls in the Shopping Area by the Church of the Spilled Blood

The best shopping for price and selection is in the street market adjacent to the Church of the Spilled Blood. Here U.S. dollars are readily accepted and the prices are negotiable. The market at St. Isaacs Cathedral is also very good. There are vendors selling goods at every major tourist attraction and some offer excellent values. There are several "tourist stores" that carry high quality items that you may purchase, but you will need a private driver/guide to find them and gain entrance to them.

One of the Shopping Malls Located on Nevsky Prospekt

For a local's version of shopping head to Nevsky Prospekt, St. Petersburg's main shopping street with department stores, restaurants, book stores, specialty shops and just about everything you can think of.

Nevsky Prospekt

Finally, if you are docked at the main cruise ship terminal, there is a shopping area just past the immigration station offering quality items at non-negotiable prices in case you forgot something you intended to purchase.

Here is an excellent suggestion from Stanj, a frequent poster to who lives in St. Petersburg. "As for shopping. The shopping area behind Church on Spilled Blood is known for pickpockets but is generally safe. There is better shopping elsewhere however. For real bargains try the Apraksin Dvor not far from the 18th century shopping center Gostinny Dvor (a great place to see hundreds of small shops in one historic building) is a place that Russians go for real bargains. It has been a flea market since the early 1700's. Most people get nesting dolls, laquered boxes and such, but the real St Petersburg products are porcelain, fine designer furs, original art and fashions. A great gift is a set or part of a set of Lomonosov china for good prices (about 1/2-to 1/4 of what it would cost in the US) and they will ship it home for you and guarantee safe delivery. The classic style is called Cobalt Blue, a famous St Petersburg design. Original art work can be a real bargain here also, the easiest to find is right on Nevsky prospekt #32-34, on the small plaza in front of the first Catholic church in Russia. One item that is a major hit but seldom talked about is the cheap CDs, CD-Roms and DVD. For about $2.50 you can buy any software, movie or record you can think of. Kiosks and stores are all over which offer those prices."

What is there to buy?

St. Petersburg's Nested Dolls

Oh man! Russian nesting dolls are a great thing to purchase. They sell for peanuts from the street vendors and do come in different qualities. Some of the best nesting dolls may have up to 40 pieces and reflect true Russian craftsmanship. Hand painted lacquered boxes with exquisite designs and colors finished to a high gloss are also extremely collectible.

Chess Sets are a Great Bargain

Lacquered napkin rings and other lacquered items are bargains as well. Ceramic faced dolls with reversible garments are really cool, Russian fur hats, chess sets, army hats, war memorabilia, china and glass items, jewelry, paintings, artwork and on and on. Don't forget to bring home a bottle of Russian vodka and some caviar.

What is there to do?

The Hermitage, St. Petersburg, Russia

One of the main reasons for visiting St. Petersburg is to visit the Hermitage, a huge museum that would be impossible to inspect in even a month.

A Vase Made From Precious Stones and Gold

It is said that if one wanted to view every piece in the museum that it would take years.

The Hermitage's Inlaid Wood Floors

The Hermitage is best viewed on one of the ship's tours or with a private guide so that you can see the highlights without wasting too much time getting lost in the maze of rooms and buildings that make up the Hermitage. Note that there is some shopping in the square where buses will let you off and also on some shopping is available on the side streets.

St. Isaacs Cathedral

This gold domed cathedral stands above the rest of the gold domed buildings in St. Petersburg and is absolutely gorgeous. There is a substantial open air shopping area directly across from the entrance to the cathedral.

Church of the Spilled Blood

The Church of the Spilled Blood is an awesome sight. When lit up at night, it is probably the most stunning and memorable sight in St. Petersburg.

Peter and Paul Fortress Cathedral

Peter and Paul Fortress
Also near the Hermitage is the Peter and Paul Fortress. This is well worth the stop and be sure to go into the chapel. The gold inlay on the upper walls and ceiling is dumbfounding. There is limited shopping near the restrooms here.

Catherine the Great's Summer Palace

Catherine the Great's Summer Palace
About an hour from St. Petersburg lies Catherine's Summer Palace. It is well worth the trip to get to the Palace, as its wealth and presence is simply overwhelming. The fabulous wood work, inlaid gold, fabrics and immense size is hard to believe. There is some shopping from the vendors where the buses pick you up. Great deals here but you have to act fast.

The Entrance to Peterhof

In the other direction down on the coast is Peterhof.

Some of the Peterhof Gardens and Fountains

Peterhof, is probably the most fantastic of the palaces built by Peter the Great. Peterhof is simply stunning.

The Royal Palace at Peterhof

Its massive size is overwhelming but the intricacy of its design and attention to detail make it one of the world's most fabulous structures.

Peterhof Gardens

The Peterhof gardens are immaculate and cover a huge area. The gardens alone are worth the price of edmission.

The Cathedral at Peterhof

The Royal Palace even has its own cathedral with gold covered domes. A trip to Peterhof is a must see attraction in St. Petersburg.

Just One of St. Petersburg's Many Cathedrals and Museums

There are several gorgeous cathedrals, museums, numerous bridges, unlimited monuments and statutes to enjoy everywhere in St. Petersburg. Click Here for a local's suggestion for the optimum 48-hour itinerary.

Is there anything of “Don’t Miss” quality?

Yes, even it you have seen every museum in the world, plan on visiting the Hermitage. It is simply breathtaking and I suspect, the world's greatest museum. The collection of artwork is absolutely overwhelming.

Are there any great restaurants or bars?

St. Petersburg's nightlife is legendry and if you are interested in such things, I would suggest that you take a nightclub tour to experience the true culture and beauty that Russia has to offer. Click Here for more information regarding St. Petersburg's night clubs.

 Port Reviews

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    Saint Petersburg, Russia Cruise Passenger Visa Requirements and Authorized Tour Companies By Stanj, The following is an excerpt from a thread in more

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