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St. Petersburg plus

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Planning a family vacation for summer 2016. St. Petersburg seems to be a must among some of the family. A Baltic cruise has been suggested, and some hit Helsinki, Copenhagen etc. which do appeal to us, more so than moving farther into Russia.
However, we haven't done the cruise thing and the idea of having to be back on the boat by late afternoon (no late night strolls) seems odd, plus I have heard of long bus rides to major cities such as Florence (though these are mostly ports and maybe not applicable). I guess I'm asking for some logistical help: If you've explored St. Petes what did you do from there and how'd you get there? Is a river cruise more appealing (I researched danube cruises years ago and they iseemed explorer friendly)?

I've done a little cruise research so far and the results are strangely stilted. I wonder if they prefer you talk to a cruise representative, or maybe I'm just not hitting the right websites. Please advise. Thanks.

FWIW we have traveled independenty over the years by train in Italy, Germany, paris, Netherlands, Belgium and/or the UK. This is a bit of a new frontier for us and are trying to accomodate a larger family group, so I'm intentionally being a bit vague on what we want to see because I'm sure that is different for each of us right now, so I'm more focused on transportation/logistic/experiences. Please/thanks.

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