Sept. 4, 2017
cruise spent 3 full days in port in St. Petersburg. Through the
Cruise Critic web site, we found a fellow passenger who had arranged
a 3 day private tour of the city and was looking for people to join
her. We jumped at the opportunity as the tour was more comprehensive
and alot cheaper than anything offered by Oceania. It was with a
company called TJ Travels. They were easy to work with before hand
via email and obtained the Russian Visas as part of the package.
Our guide met us at the cruise terminal the first day and we joined
the other tour members including Colleen and Mark in the 16 passenger
First a little history. St. Petersburg was founded in 1703 by Tsar
Peter the Great who ruled Russia from 1682-1725. He transferred
the government from Moscow and St. Petersburg became the capital
of all of Russia. The capital was moved back to Moscow in 1918 and
in 1924, when Lenin died, St. Petersburg was renamed Leningrad in
his honor. In 1991 when the Soviet Union disintegrated, the people
voted to change the name back to St. Petersburg.
The city is huge and spread out. It is built on a series of islands.
A network of 60 rivers and canals criss-cross the city and are spanned
by about 400 bridges. It has a population of over 5 million people.
Currency is the Russian Roble. The native language is Russian which
uses the Cyrillic alphabet.
city center was about a 30 minute drive from the port. After a brief
stop along the Neva River we crossed a bridge to the island which
is home to Peter and Paul Fortress. This was the first thing Peter
the Great built to defend the waterways. The fortress includes a
history museum, prison, and a gorgeous cathedral. The
church is the final resting place of the Romanov czars who ruled
Russia from 1613 through 1917. Peter had his own son jailed in the
fortress prison where he later died.
Petersburg is home to over 400 palaces. Many of these were restored
after WWII and house various museums. We visited the beautifully
restored Shuvalov Palace which contains the world's biggest collection
of works by Carl Faberge. Opened in 2013, the Faberge Museum is
built around the collection of Malcolm Forbes and later purchased
by one of Russia's wealthy oligarchs. In addition to the Blue Room
with its 14 magnificent Faberge eggs, the museum contains many other
precious collections and art. But the highlight was the eggs. The
eggs were commissioned by Czar Alexander III as a present for his
wife. The variety of eggs and the surprises they hold is stunning.
Please see photos of many of these in the Photo Gallery.
lunch at an authentic Russian restaurant (delicious Borscht soup),
our last stop for the day was to the Catherine Palace. The palace
is located about an hour's drive south of the city. This was the
summer palace built by Peter I for his wife Catherine starting in
1717. In the following decades, the palace was rebuilt and expanded
many times, most notably by their daughter Elizabeth. She wanted
to make it Russia's answer to Versailles. The
palace had been turned into a museum and carefully documented after
the Bolshevik Revolution. It suffered major damage during WWII but
has been authentically restored based on the documents. This is
a massive structure with opulent rooms and galleries that are adorned
in gold and filled with original furniture, chandeliers and paintings.
The Amber Room was originally a gift to the Romanovs from Frederick
the Great but it was looted and lost in the war. It has now been
painstakingly restored and is an accurate replica of the lavish
original. After touring the inside, we walked back to our van through
the beautiful park that surrounds the palace.
Our first day in the city has been a mind boggling experience,
seeing the opulence and grandeur of the restored palaces and churches,
as well as a body numbing experience with all the walking through
the same. We were given headsets so our guide could tell us about
everything we were seeing. There were crowds of tourists in all
the main attractions so we were glad to have a great guide to lead
To view more photos from our first day in St. Petersburg, please
go to St. Petersburg Photo
Gallery I . To read about our second day in St. Petersburg,
go to St. Petersburg II.
Locations Visited Photos Map