St. Petersburg Cruise stop

Jun 18th, 2001, 11:35 AM
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St. Petersburg Cruise stop

I've applied for my visa, armed myself with guidebooks and have researched how to do this port on my own. The only thing I'm missing is how to get from the cruise port to the city.

Has anyone successfully toured St. Peterburg on their own from a cruise? Are there taxis at the piers? Are they safe? Do they take $ if I don't have rubles? Any problems getting back to the ship in the evening?

I'd appreciate any advice anyone has!
Jun 18th, 2001, 04:01 PM
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Kris-Sorry, can't answer your questions specifically, but be prepared to fall in love with beautiful St Petersburg. There is history everywhere you look. Would suggest you learn a a few *key* phrases (where is xxx, how much is xxx, etc), and also take a stab at grasping the Cyrillic alphabet so you can string the words together. English is not widely spoken. The city is preparing for it's upcoming 300th birthday in 2 years, so there's quite a bit of scaffolding around town as things are cleaned.

We stayed at a hotel very close to the cruise terminal, which is about 15-20 minutes outside of 'downtown', depending on traffic. Taxi's should be there when a ship is in port, and I believe drivers prefer 'hard' currency ($) over rubles.

Like us, I'm sure you'll find your visit too short and want to return to this beautiful city. E-mail directly if you have other questions. Happy Travels!
Jun 18th, 2001, 05:40 PM
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Sorry but I can't help you out here either. We were there last summer on a cruise but didn't have visas so didn't venture on our own. I want to highly recommend the Folklore show at night though. It is fabulous singing,dancing and acrobatics and beautiful costumes. My husband and I (as well as our whole group) raved about it! We were on Holland America but I'm sure all the cruise ships have access to these great shows.
Jun 19th, 2001, 04:20 AM
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My info is from 1999. We did it on our own, but you have to be prepared for a little frustration. There are taxis at the ship, they take dollars, they will take you to town, and pick you up at a prearranged time. However, if you decide to take another taxi (at an earlier time like my brother did), only the "special" taxis can go all the way to the ship, so you will have to walk the final 1.5 miles. Unless the port authority guards take pity on you and taxi you (as they did my sister and her young daughter) for a price. If you set a time with the Taxi driver, I really think he will be there (he wants the fare, and the hard currency).

The downtown is very walkable, if you are let off at the Hermitage, you could spend several hours there and then walk into town, there are lovely bridges and parks. There is a great "Souvenir market" behind the church of the Spilled Blood, where I got a wonderful amber necklace for $33.00 (they take dollars), and lots of other things like beautiful handpainted eggs and boxes etc. etc. etc.. My son got a really cool russian army pocket watch.

You can only go to these kinds of places if you explore on your own, but you have to have a little sense of adventure to do that. No one speaks english, except at the "Souviner market". Where bargining was mandatory. Have fun!
Jun 19th, 2001, 04:37 AM
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We're going to cruise to St. P in late August/early Sept. Is it too late to get a visa to investigate on our own? How much did the visa cost you? How did you get it? How did you arrange the "invitation"? I'm a bit frustrated going all that way to only have 36 hours and a guided tour or two. Is there a good alternative?
Jun 19th, 2001, 07:00 AM
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Thanks for the advice everyone.

Leo, you were the one that made me think I could do it on my own, hopefully we won't get into too much trouble I'm finding varying info re: taxis at the port, I think there are several different ports and we'll just have to see what we get when we get there.

Libby, there is a very spirited discussion over on on the Ports of Call Europe board regarding private tours. These are arranged independently of the ship and apparently you can tailor the tour to the things you want to see. I think in some cases the tour operator arranges for the visa for you. I believe you can also arrange for private tours with the ship but I'm not sure how much these would cost.

I think a private tour may be a better alternative to what we are trying to do (and to the canned ship tours), if you are not experienced travelers. Russia has been the most difficult place that we've visited but it was quite some time ago and I assume some things have changed. The alphabet is Cyrillic so street signs are hard to read, apparently not many people speak English, things don't always go on schedule, etc. We've been to Russia before and are confident that we can get around on our own. If you do go it on your own, be sure to pick up a Russian/English phrasebook and a very good map (Eyewitness books usually have good ones)

If you are still interested in getting a visa after all my cautions, you should be able to get an invitation issued through the ship. Contact your TA or the cruise line directly. Orient Lines supplied us with the name of the land operator that they use in Russia and I contacted them via email and they emailed me back the invitation. I then printed a copy of the visa application from and mailed it to the Russian Embassy. I am still waiting for the visa so I'll let you know if it worked. I should be getting it this week. A visa in 2 weeks should be $70 each, more if you procrastinate like I did.

I'm emailing a trip report to several people when I return that will have info on how to do the ports on your own, let me know if you want a copy.
Jun 19th, 2001, 07:14 AM
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Do a search on Russian Visa. There is lot more info.
Message: A few instructions and lessons learned after getting our Russian Visas. We were on a cruise ship so all of this info may not apply to you or your friend.
First- Do you need one? If you only do the organized tours, you will not need a visa. However, if you want to wander off by yourself to shop or sight see, then you will need a visa. If you want to get off the ship or you are not in an organized tour you will need a visa.
Second-How do you get one? It is a little confusing but relatively easy. The Visa agencies that the cruise line directed me to all wanted about $80 per person to do the application plus the cost of the application $65-75. They told me it was difficult and time consuming and tried to scare me off, but it was relatively easy. All you need are five documents
1) Visa Application- get this off the Rusian embassy web site and keep one to use to check the information on the final visa (it is in Russian, but translation is easy with the copy). Make copies in case.
2) Copy of the passport pages with important info (cut to size ) follow instructions on Visa info sheet about placement of pictures and staples.
3) Three pictures
4) Letter from the travel agency IN RUSSIA with REFERENCE NUMBER.
This was the hardest document to obtain because numerous phone calls to our cruise line NCL, got just as many different answers (I even talked to managers). You need to call the cruise line and demand to talk to the cruise excursion desk. They will know exactly what you mean when you ask for a letter from the travel agency in Russia. They can fax a copy of the letter from the Russian travel agency that is handling the ship. It will also have on it a code number that you have to put in the 7th line of the application form.
5) A letter from the Travel agent (if you booked through an agent) with the information about group, dates etc. (see Visa Info sheet).

Finally, they were very prompt. One week service was 1 week. We could have saved money and used the two week service, but I was scared by the visa agencies that I had called (names given by NCL during the numerous phone calls of misinformation). We dropped our visa applications off at the embassy in DC and picked them up a week later. You can call the consulate to find out if they will handle mail, etc., and allow plenty of time.

Libbie, you should have pleanty of time to get this done before AUGUST.

KRIS, THANKS- you will be fine. The taxi drivers want to make money. They will be there. If they aren't let me have it when you get back!!! Now don't ask about the public buses- now that even terrified me!
Jun 19th, 2001, 07:15 AM
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We just returned from 4 days in St. P. I took part in a Scientific Meeting. St.P. is a mess, alot of the streets are torn up as are the sidewalks on a portion of the Nevsky Prospect. Everything is dirty and disty and it looks like all the construction is moving at a snail's pace. Traffic is the worst in any city I have ever been to in the world. Large parts of the Hermitage are closed and the part we saw was much less maintained than when we last were there (as Leningrad). My wife went to the Peterhof and parts of that were closed also (especially the part she wanted to see). My advice is to stick to the tour offered by the cruise boat. You will not have the hassle of getting a visa. You will be spared the Russian red tape, inefficiency, bureaucracy and difficulty of getting around by yourself in surface traffic and on the tour you will see some of the highlights. You can't see all of St. P. so just be happy with what you can see. Unless you speak Russian there will be a language problem if you go on your own. This is another reason to stay with the cruise tour. Your desire to get away from that tour is understandable but perhaps in the case of St.P. it may be a necessary evil. Good luck.
Jun 19th, 2001, 05:24 PM
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Thanks to all who answered -- esp. Paul! I think for once in my life I'll do the prudent thing, and take your advice and follow the crowd. I'm sorry to hear that things are a mess there, but I'm still most anxious to see as much as I can. But I think I'll do it safely, from the back of the tour bus!

Jun 19th, 2001, 05:33 PM
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We've been to St. Petersburg twice, both times on a cruise. Once we obtained visas etc. and did our own thing (2 couples). I would not recommend it. The city is very spread out and it was difficult getting to see what we wanted to see. Two years later we returned and bought the Holland America excursions and thoroughly enjoyed it. We saw so much more than when we tried to do it on our own. I highly recommend going with the cruise excursions to see as much as possible in two days. Jill
P.S. We too saw the Folklore show one night and considered it a real highlight of St. Petersburg. Book early if you want to attend.
Jun 24th, 2001, 07:54 PM
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What is the folklore show like? We have a choice of that or a "special" ballet performance for the ship. That sounds a bit odd to me, so I thought of the folklore, but don't know what to expect.

Jul 14th, 2001, 09:51 PM
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Does anyone know if it is possible to take the cruise lines (HAL in our case) trip to Moscow on our first day in port at St Petersburg and also fit in the folklore show that night? Sounds like a killer of a day but I would sure love to see the show. Guess I should probably be contacting HAL about this (the more tours they can sell the happier they will be) but would like to know if anyone has been able to do this and actually survive the day. Judy
Jul 14th, 2001, 11:27 PM
Marc David Miller
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Re: Moscow and Folklore show--check the schedule for the show. If it starts at 8 PM you will only be able to spend a few hours in Moscow

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