Up at 6am, Tim and I walked sleepy eyed to Truffles Restaurant for breakfast. Today we were docked in St Petersburg, Russia! And like always Tim and I are super dooper organised and left booking a tour to the last minute 😉 because of Russia’s strict visa requirements, everyone on the cruise has to be apart of a tour (whether through the cruise line or independently) to be able to leave the boat. We had applied for a couple independent tour companies as they only take 18 people instead of 40 so it would be a lot more personal, it was cheaper and you saw a couple extra places that the tour on the cruise ship didn’t. We unfortunately missed out on the independent tour companies so had to book a tour through Carnival Shore Excursion, it was expensive for the 2 days, but we had to pay for it as we didn’t want to have to stay on the boat.
The 2 days (9 hours each day) ‘Grand Tour’ cost $350 per person, if we had been more organised and arranged through an independent tour company we would have been looking at around $270-300 for the same tour plus a couple other places.
Meeting in the Foley theatre we were given our bus number (bus number 13) and waited for our number to be called.
Once we were called we left the boat and went through the immigration process. We needed our passports, immigration forms and tour tickets. The process was quite quick and within 10 minutes we were through immigration and looking for our bus.
Once we were on our bus our tour guide Alexandra explained the plan for the day, handed out portable headsets so that we could hear our tour guide even if we weren’t right next to her and we left for our first destination.
Alexandra informed us that there was on average 13 sunny days in St Petersburg and we were lucky to have one of them. The sun was shining making the colourful buildings of St Petersburg stand out.
Our first stop was of a water view of the Winter Palace (the main building of the Hermitage Museum). We were heading there later today, but from this view you can really see how big the museum is. Next to where we were was a boat, which has been transformed into the cities most expensive restaurant and gym.
Our first building to explore was the Orthodox church called The Church of our Savior of Spilled Blood, the outside of the building was stunning! So colourful and attractive.
The beauty didn’t stop once we were inside either, the church interior was beautiful. We were lucky to be the first group for the day to walk through the church as it isn’t a place you want to be with hundreds of other people as it is quite small.
The artwork was so special because it is all made from mosaic, floor to ceiling.
After about 20 minutes we left the Church of Spilled Blood, piled back onto the bus and headed towards St Isaac’s Cathedral. St Issac’s is the 4th largest domed church in the world. It was really pretty and again covered from floor to ceiling with detailed artwork.
Next was the Hermitage Museum. We were promised that with the tour excursion we would skip all the lines, but that wasn’t the case. When we arrived there was a line that went around the building, the group had to wait 45 minutes to get inside. Tim and I snuck off to take a few photos and made it back in time to enter the building.
We walked through hall after hall, all filled floor to ceiling with famous artwork, examples being Peter the Great and Da Vinci.
I’m not a massive fan of art museums so didn’t mind the pace that Alexandra was going, but there were quite a few people complaining that she was going too fast. In total we would have been in the museum for 2 hours, it is easily a place you can spend a good couple of days in, if art is an interest of yours.
Next was lunch; salad, soup, chicken, ice cream, water, wine and of course VODKA! We were greeted with a shot of vodka, no chaser, just pure vodka, was strong but tasty.
We spend an hour and a half at the restaurant talking with those seated around us. After lunch it was time to go shopping! We knew from other tours that we have been on that the tour guide would take us to a shop that has all the souvenirs any tourist would want to buy at ridiculously high prices. We were correct, so only purchased post cards and a couple magnets. The Russian Dolls were from 10-3000€, depending on how much detail there is and Russian Eggs from 40-1000€.
After everyone had finished shopping – spent an hour here – we went down to the water to take some photos before it was time to head back to the boat.
Truffles restaurant had anytime seating, so once we were back on the boat Tim and I headed straight to the restaurant as we were starving. The rest of the night was pretty quiet as we had an early start, so Tim and I went to bed and watched a movie.