What is the best cruise line to visit St. Petersburg?
"best cruise line" depends on your needs. Do you need a luxury line? Or are you happy with mainstream lines? And are you choosing your cruise based on the ship/line, or the itinerary?
I've cruised, but not yet in Europe. Someday would love to do a Baltic itinerary and when I do I'll choose whatever one does three nights in St. Petersburg.
The web site www.cruisecritic.com is wonderful for reading reviews (the editor's as well as those by regular people).
If you like small, higher-end ships, check out Seabourn and Silversea (we have enjoyed both of them). For larger ships, my sister swears by Princess, and a friend swears by Holland America. Regent Seven Seas is another respected cruise line, but I have not sailed with them and don't know anyone else who has.
Some cruise lines include the shore excursions, some don't.....so you will be comparing apples/oranges when you look at pricing.
I'm not sure if National Geographic sails there or not, but you can check at www.nationalgeographicexpeditions.com Lindblad operates their ships, and we enjoyed our experience with them.
There are lots of cruise companies that go to the Baltics, so you'll just need to see which style of cruising best suits you (do you like a quieter, smaller ship? or do you like a larger ship with casinos and late night shows?) Different people like different things.
There are some good bargains out there, if you will be booking this year.
If you are just looking to go to St. Petersburg, rather than take a Baltic cruise, the St. Peter Line runs ships between Helsinki and St. Petersburg. The advantage is that, at least according to one poster, you don't need a visa if you take this ship, and you don't need to stay with a tour. Of course, you have to double-check, as the regulations change often.
You can shop for different cruise options. We went on Princess.
My recommendation is to choose a cruise with two nights in St. Petersburg and book a local two day tour (rather than the cruise excursions).
We chose Alla tours and booked up to ten people in a twelve person van. They put you with others from your ship (you don't have to find your own group). It cost half of the ship's tours and we moved much more quickly in a van versus a 60 person bus.
The on board PA system repeatedly announced that you couldn't leave the ship if you weren't taking one of their tours - which was a pretty horrible lie. We followed the instructions from our tour company exactly and had no problem at all. We got off the boat right away, while the other groups were forming up on the ship. Our group was on our way well before the ship's tour groups even got through immigration.
We paid a total of $300 each (including a tip for the guide), in US currency. I considered it a good deal because a Visa alone, to tour independently would have cost us more than half that and the tour included transportation, a guide, and admissions to all the major sights. The price might be better now because of sanctions against Russia.
I enjoy people and people-watching. St. Petersburg is run by surly middle-age women. Our first immigration inspector was a really beautiful 20-something blonde - but every bit as surly. Our guide told us we could get a Russian smile by saying "Yellow Blue Bus" (actually more like yallow blue vass), it means I love you. It's not considered disrespectful at all and always seems to get a positive response. I didn't have the guts to say it to the immigration inspector.