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I loved that I got to go to St. Petersburg so easily. The pick-up/drop-off service was excellent, he even came in with me to the terminal to make sure all my tickets and paperwork was in order and then saw me right to the boat. I chose to do a three hour guided tour of St. Petersburg provided by the cruise, and that was a good use of time - the guide was friendly and knowledgeable, and it gave a great overview of the city. The only downside to the trip was the cruise itself, but probably only because I couldn't help but compare it to other cruises I've been on. The boat was clean and the service was fine, it was just outdated and a bit limited. I'm glad I did this cruise, and would recommend it to others as long as they kept in mind the boat is decent but not great.
You should know that this trip is mostly about taking a cruise ship. The pickup and return transportation in Helsinki was spot on and the cruise ship ride was actually pretty nice. Note that you leave Helsinki at 6pm and arrive in St Petersberg at 8am. The return leaves at 6pm and arrives Helsinki at 8am. With the massive lines at Russian customs, figure to be in the city center no earlier than 11am with the return leaving in about 5 hours. Note: the bus tour is not a bus tour. They drop you off at St Isaac Square and you are on you're own. Given the distance between notable places in St Petersburg, you will need to book another tour to take you around the city in the limited time you have.
There were 3 couples in our group and we all had this same impression. Let me say first that the actual arrangements for transport on the ship were well coordinated and as expected. We had a nice little room on the ship and the cruise was nice. HOWEVER, there are some things you must know before you book this tour...
1 your total amount of time actually in the city is only 6 hours or so - not even an entire day. It is a lot of time to spend to dedicate for such a short amount of time in the city. A more accurate description would be 2.5 day cruise with .5 day in St. Petersburg.
2 Russian Customs is absolutely awful. It took us almost TWO hours to get through. Don't plan any other tours or schedule activities before 1130am or you risk missing them. Depending on your time through customs, you will have significantly less time in the city.
3 Once you get through customs, you are on your own and must figure out what to see and how to see it Peterhoff and St. Catherine's are too far away to walk. Walking from one of the drop-off points, you are still not likely to see everything in central downtown.
4 The cruise ship offers their own tours that you can book when on board. One of our group did that tour after learning that no other tours were available and said things went pretty well. When you do this, the cruise ship helps coordinate - so I'd recommend that you consider those tours.
5 Without a visa, you are SUPPOSED to be supervised while in Russia. The bus from the port to the town is considered your supervised tour, but in reality, you are on your own once the bus drops you off. Fortunately, none of us ran into an issue like pick-pockets, accidents or other things that might cause you to deal with the authorities. Deep in the fine print, it says this, but none of us appreciated what it meant.
In the end, it was a fine cruise, but not really much quality time in St. Petersburg. I rated this 3 stars because the transport piece was just fine, but the title makes you think it is more about the city than the boat. As far as rating this tour for it's city emphasis, I'd rate it one star.
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