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St. Petersburg, hopefully

We had a trip booked pre-pandemic to fly into St. Petersburg for a few days. Obviously that did not happen, and we lost the $ we spent on our visas and flight. Ouch. I was not ready to try that again, but rather am looking at going the visa free cruise route now.
Does anyone know of a cruise line that goes to St. Petersburg for more than one night (2 partial days)? Also, we would be looking for tour operators that may offer private tours for just our family that may not be as restrictive (There is a famous hotel my husband wanted to stay at but we would be restricted to visiting it for a meal, perhaps). Any suggestions will be welcomed! Thanks!

Posted by
2590 posts

We are taking Viking Ocean Cruises in 2023 the Viking Homelands cruise. They visit St. Petersburg for two days.

Posted by
1204 posts

I've looked at Baltic Sea cruises online in the past few months and as I recall there were several that spent 2 nights in port at St. Petersburg. Twenty-five years ago we visited Moscow and toured The Golden Ring. Still wishing we would have included a trip up to SP - maybe someday.

Posted by
5357 posts

I'd be surprised if you find a cruise line that spends more than one night in St. Petersburg. One night should give you two long days for sightseeing. A second night would give you three, which would be great but good luck finding it.

We had two long days (one night) with Royal Caribbean three years ago and took a two-day tour with Alla Tours, which was very good. Though I couldn't find a reference on their website, I'm pretty sure they'd set up a private tour for you. We prefer Norwegian Cruise Line, which has several cruises on its schedule including an overnight in St. Petersburg.

Posted by
1371 posts

A few years ago I saw Princess had a cruise with two overnights in St Petersburg. It also stopped in Gdansk. Sadly I already had a trip planned and couldn't book. You might try searching Princess.

Posted by
21470 posts

If you take the St. Peter Line and use the 72-hour visa-free loophole, you will be in a hotel for the two intervening nights. The ferry line tries to push you to book your hotel through them, but I'm not sure you really have to do that. You definitely don't want to run afoul of the regulations, so that's something that needs to be checked very carefully. (I have not done so.)

Posted by
3493 posts

I'd be surprised if you find a cruise line that spends more than one
night in St. Petersburg.

Did you read my post just above yours before posting?

It should be noted that are two options, one is the regular cruise lines that have 10 or 7 day trips around the Baltic sea with stops in several cities along the shore. St Peter line on the other hand just runs visa free trips to St Petersburg. You depart Stockholm, Tallinn or Helsinki, travel overnight to St Petersburg. Spend up to 72 hours there and then return to where the trip started, nothing more.

Posted by
4804 posts

Just to be clear, St Peterline is a ferry rather than a cruise line.

I took the St Peterline ferry round trip from Helsinki back in 2014. I booked the hotel through the ferry company so they provided all the necessary paperwork for entry. I believe they’ve changed the timings since I went. We spent the first day wandering around the Nevsky Prospect area, took a tour to the Catherine Palace, Peterhof Gardens, and the Peter &Paul Fortress on the second day, and visited the Hermitage on our last day. It was enough time to get a taste of the city.

Back in 2014, it was possible to book a hotel independently, but you needed to get the registration documentation needed for entry from the hotel. I don’t know if you are still allowed to do this.

Posted by
5806 posts

Just a note, if you are visiting the city on a cruise ship, you don't need a Russian visa (expensive and a pain). Also, if you use a local Russian tour company, you won't need a visa.
However, if you plan on staying in the city independently, you probably will need a visa.

I think all the lines have one overnight and two days there.
Suggest checking the following cruise lines:
NCL
Royal Caribbean
Celebrity
Holland American Line
Princess
Viking (more expensive than the above)

Posted by
1895 posts

Geo….please correct me if I’m wrong, but when we cruised with Holland America a few years ago, it was my understanding passengers were not required to obtain their own visas IF they were on a ship sponsored excursion. I did not think passengers could simply disembark and tour the city on their own. Our cruise stayed one night, two full days and we arranged our own two day tour with a guide with ToursByLocals. He arranged our visas and we had no problem. He provided an excellent tour adjusted to our requests. It was just a little more than the cost of the cruise excursion and it was just the two of us.

Posted by
5806 posts

Denny,
Regarding private tours from a cruise ship while in St. Petersburg, it is my understanding that excursions with the cruise line are one exception to requiring a Russian visa, however, another is to use a Russian local tour company.

The Tour company tours are cheaper and usually have fewer on the tour.

Posted by
21470 posts

You can tour independently around St. Petersburg if you take the visa-free St. Peter Line boat. Your only commitment is the purchase of some sort of bus ticket--I think for transportation from the dock into the city. I haven't taken this trip, but I've done some checking online, because I had hoped to go last year.

Posted by
436 posts

Hmmm..... $340 two-day program, "visas included"? That's a pretty creative interpretation of "visas"... Other than that - yes, that seems to be a typical offering.

If probably still go with Peter line (Moby) instead, but from what I've heard, they haven't been running since the start of covid. Frankly, in not even sure all of the Baltic cruises from regular cruise lines will be happening - but keeping my fingers crossed for you.

Posted by
963 posts

I've been on 2 Holland America Baltic cruises and scheduled for a third this June ( apprehensive about Russia and Ukraine and possible sanctions...) but... on both we were required when being processed by Russian Immigration to show our paper proof of a local tour booking along with our passport. No Visa for the two days/ 1 night the ship was there. arrived 6 or 7 am one day until about 5 the next day.
I used Alla Tours there and in several cities and was very pleased with their guides- excellent English and we traveled in minivans. Alla will also do private tours, which I plan to use since the Hermitage has moved the Impressionists to a different building. Alla has good info on her webpage.
You probably already know the cruise ship concessionaires will try to scare the uninformed about the necessity of their ship excursions-- not very seemly in my opinion.
Ye, you can take the ferry to StP without a visa or tour- but not the train into StP.

Posted by
7000 posts

We went into St. Petersburg on a Norwegian cruise about 4 years ago, and we'd booked a 2 day tour with TJ Tours directly. The tours booked by the cruise line had everyone on large buses, and we traveled with about 8 people in a Mercedes van. Our private driver took us all over the city--down alleys and other back roads so we could see so much more than those on 50 passenger buses.

You can go Visa free if you book tours through government approved tourist agencies. There must be 50 tour companies, and they all get good ratings. The tour guides are fully licensed independents, and they often work for a number of different agencies. We didn't have any local currency, but the tour guide fronted us funds and we settled up with her at the end of the second day.

We're taking a Baltic cruise (hopefully) from May 29 to June 5th. I just hope the political climate has settled down and where we will be allowed to go into St. Petersburg.

Posted by
8316 posts

We went to St. Petersburg independently and the Russian visas were a hassle to obtain and very expensive compared to other counties we have visited including China.

Posted by
5744 posts

It is not likely that cruises to St Petersburg will be taking place under the current circumstances.

Posted by
5669 posts

I have a friend who has spoken with someone in Russia who they have known for years. Her father originally had the connection. The Russian family has been in the US within the last 5-10 years. And yet, when the friend spoke with them within the last week to ten days the Russians were totally clueless. They had completely bought the Putin propaganda that they were fighting Nazis in Ukraine. My friend felt a bit helpless as she feared if she said anything it would put these long-standing family friends in jeopardy. I think that sadly we need to remember back to the Cold War to understand what is happening in Russia. I just pray that Ukraine will prevail in the end.

Posted by
21470 posts

Russia has had very few years of a free press since 1917 (and I don't know what the situation was like before that).

Posted by
3548 posts

" I don't know what the situation was like before that " Pretty restrictive ! The nineteeth century Czars were right wing and authoritarian . The one exception was Alexander II who was somewhat more progressive . He eliminated serfdom in the 1860's having said " If we do not eliminate this horrible practice from above , it will certainly eliminate itself from below ' In 1881 he was assassinated and his son , Alexander III ascended to the throne . A vicious reactionary autocrat , he headed an essentially Russo - Nationalist police state . His policies continued under his son , Nicholas II . Read about this here , I'm a bit lazy about typing more - https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Alexander_III_of_Russia

Posted by
436 posts

If you read the pre-revolution press, it won't be too different from what you'd find in Britain around the same time period - a handful of conservative outlets, some "liberal" ones, lots of geopolitics, drumming up jingoistic patriotism for a war here or there: all in all, general quotidian life of an empire. Plus a good deal of antisemitism and imperialistic "Grand Russian" chauvinism especially in what is now Ukraine, Moldova, Poland, Belarus - which is something that lead to mass exodus (and ultimately formed the landscape of US Jewry) following the early 1900s pogroms and also something that the Bolsheviks had to deal with and try to eradicate post-1917.

The difference is that literacy rates in the Russian empire were abysmally low even in early 20th century, so all that press was catering to maybe 20 percent, tops, of the population. Not too far of a cry, when you come to think of it, from the current fraction of the population that can use anonymizers and VPN to access BBC and VOA (and can actually be bothered to see the other side's take on the propaganda war).

Posted by
2590 posts

Just got notice from Viking Ocean Cruises who had dropped all Russian ports for 2022 that St. Petersburg has been dropped for our 2023 cruise as well.

Posted by
505 posts

The American Consulate in St. Petersburg has closed and, therefore, suspended all consular services. Emergency-only citizen services are being handled solely by Amembassy Moscow. That means that if you get into any kind of trouble in St. Petersburg -- medical, passport gets lost/stolen, or worse, most likely you will be entirely on your own. State has warned all US Citizens to leave Russia, all of Russia, immediately due to known and unforeseen dangers to Amcits. It is even allowing Americans with expired passports, which in my career was unheard of, to travel home. Have you checked current travel requirements for Russia? Travel questions are moot if they aren't allowing Amcits in. Do yourself and your government a big favor and stay out of dodge for the foreseeable future. The Embassy and consulate staffs across Russia are severely limited and don't need more headaches right now. At this time, the risk isn't worth the pay off.

Posted by
28436 posts

Linda posted this question in the middle of November last year and has never come back to say she still wanted to go. She did pop in briefly in February to think about a safari.

So maybe the lecturing is after her decision is made ..

Posted by
505 posts

Hi Nigel. If I came across as lecturing, I apologize; that was not my intention. But after years of having been at the receiving end of American citizen woes because they can't follow instructions/sound recommendations, or show a little common sense, I have little patience for people who purposefully disregard the instructions of people on the ground who are best able to assess situations and recommend policy. I think many Americans travelling abroad are quite ignorant of what the Embassy can do and why when they get in trouble. Some people think they can go to the Embassy and get money to return home if their wallet is stolen. Some people believe because something isn't a crime in the US (but it is wherever they are), we should be able to get them out of jail. Some people think the government provides free legal and medical care to Americans overseas. I have plenty of other examples. I've tried to serve all of these citizens, within my legal limits, but my personal favorite was, and I quote, "I'm an American, you work for me, now do it." First, you take their verbal abuse with a smile. Then you start all over again when you get a letter from their Congressman who has to come up with a satisfactory answer to give their constituent.