Day 5 - St. Petersburg, Russia

July 5th

Cruise Ship Log

July 5, 2007 - St. Petersburg: During the early morning the Star Princess made her final aproach to St. Peteresburg. After the pilot's embarkation at 0318 we started an interesting navigational passage throught the St. Petersburg channel. At 0610 the vessel was in position on her berth. At 0640 the ship was made fast to the shore and the gangways were landed.

Noon Position:
Alongside in St. Petersburg

Pressure: 1005.4 kPa

Wind: E Force 4

Temperature:18.5° C

Sky: Cloudy

We set our alarm for 7:30 a.m. and scheduled breakfast for delivery between 8 and 8:30 a.m. I was finally able to convince Chris to get room service since we had to get up so early. When I got up I went into the bathroom to wash up while Chris slept, that way I could answer the door when the food arrived. In room service terms 8 a.m. is really 7:48 a.m. and since the sink was running, I did not hear the guy knock. I heard our door close and stepped out of the bathroom to find that Chris had taken care of the breakfast delivery and was now looking out the balcony doors at the busy St. Petersburg dock. We had been told that the boat would dock at 8 a.m. and that the earliest we would be able to disembark was 8:30 a.m., but there were plenty of people already making their way through the customs trailer and onto their tour buses.

While getting dressed and eating our breakfast Chris opened the door to check the temperature. As he did this we could hear a band playing. Being in Russia, you would have thought the music would be Russian. Instead, it was marching band classics and the Star Spangled Banner. I had to check it out because it was definitely unexpected.

At 8:30 a.m. we had to meet the whole group in the photo gallery and head down to the gangway on the lower level. In all the trip materials Princess Cruises had made it very clear that Russia is difficult and that aside from the tours Princess offered you, passengers would not be able to travel in Russia without having secured a travel visa in advance. This warning was echoed to some extent in my travel guides about the area, even one date off on your papers could cause issues. We did not like the tours that Princess Cruises offered and did some investigating on our own. We found DenRus.

DenRus, a private tour company, was just want we wanted. They planned two days in St. Petersburg just for our family. They took care of all the entry papers, purchased all the tickets for the buildings and even took care of the passes for us to use our cameras in the buildings. Princesses way of punishing all those who did not select one of their tours was to have only one of seven customs windows open to passengers on “independent tours.” It was the longest line of them all, but our late exit from the ship helped us because the customs officers and security wanted to get us all moving. We were directed to ignore the signs and divided up into various lines.

the entrance to catherine's palace

After all the emphasis on having the correct paper work, it was really painless to get into Russia. We handed them our passport, a photo copy of our passport and then showed them our little DenRus ticket. They stamped our book, kept our photo copy and gave us a little plastic card; that we were told NOT to lose. On the other side of the trailer we were met by a tour representative who led us to our tour guide Kate (short for Katherine) and our driver Yuri. I don’t think that Yuri spoke any English; he just sort of nodded and loaded the stroller in the back of the van. I always look at the styles of dress in other countries and really questioned the outfit Kate was wearing. It was a '09s style combination with light colored, striped Capri pants, a purple floral mesh top with a tank underneath and a white leatherish purse with stones, beads and rhinestones on one side.

Once we were in our van, Kate took out a microphone and started to tell us about the city. Apparently the city is building a passenger port, which is why we were docked in the ship yard – not the most attractive area of the city. Being a ship yard it also involved a security check point, a little more intense than the other ports we had visited. As we got further away from the port and into the city the buildings appeared to be in disrepair, traffic was heavy and even though it was a fairly nice day outside, there was grayness to the city. We drove past some of the historic buildings and arches as we headed outside of St. Petersburg for Catherine’s Palace. Located in Tsarkoye Selo, the palace had sometimes been referred to as Tsarkoye Selo.