After much research, we booked an all inclusive 2 day tour of St. Petersburg, Russia through a company called DenRus.
I learned that unless you have a Russian visa or are in a tour that is operated by a government approved company, that you can't step off of the ship while it is docked in Russia.
Besides the price, what I liked about DenRus is that it is all inclusive...tour for 2 days, lunch for 2 days, all camera and video fees.
At many of the museums and tourist attractions, you have to pay a fee to take photos and another fee for taking video.
This 2 day Complete St. Petersburg Value tour package was 2 days of intense sightseeing but well worth the time and money.
The prices that Norwegian Cruise Line were asking for their St. Petersburg tours were much higher and did not included as much things to see.
DenRus was a much better deal and it was definitely the right choice for us.
Here is what was included in the price taken directly from the DenRus web site....which by the way...I got at last years prices which was about $30 less expensive than their current rate.
WHAT YOU EXPERIENCE:
Catherine’s Palace - typical of Baroque style, was built for the wife of Peter The Great in the village of Tsarskoe Selo, or today's Pushkin, and it became known as the Catherine’s Palace. Catherine became the Empress, Tsarina, after her husband’s death, and she was called Catherine I. It must be noted that Catherine I was not Catherine the Great, who was officially Catherine II. Tsarskoe Selo (in English: "the Czar's Village") is located about 27 kilometers (17 miles) south of the city. Catherine’s Palace exceeds all the other palaces with its gigantic size and unique decorations. The stunning façade of the palace extends for almost 300 meters (1000 feet), and gives the first impression what to expect inside.
We shall have a full tour of the entire palace, however, the most stunning rooms of the Palace are the “lost Amber Room”, which has walls complete covered by different shades of amber mosaic, and the Great Hall with gilded walls, chandeliers and mirrors. We shall also view parts of the surrounding park's and gardens consisting of almost 600 hectares (1.500 acres). – An inside visit is included.
Peterhof Fountains & Grounds – You will be exceptionally lucky since our tour enters the palace compound through the unbelievable Upper Park, which is very seldom visited by hurried tourists. Built to rival Versailles in France, the palace sits atop of a high hill overlooking the Gulf of Finland. Peter the Great drafted the layout for the 300-hundred acre park and supervised the design of the palace fountains. The Grand Cascade, the most famous fountain group, features gilded Samson prying open lion's jaws as water cascades down the terraced steps, and small spouting fountains anoint smaller sculptures. We shall stroll through the lower parks and gardens, and view and “experience” (be careful!) some of the Peters surprise creations among the many decorative fountains. – No inside visit, only the parks and gardens.
Lunches - The quality of Complete St Petersburg lunches are unmatched by any imitator. One of the restaurants your reservations will be in is the elegant Summer Palace Restaurant on the day you visit Peterhof and the Fountain Parks. It and the other day's restaurant may well be the finest restaurant experienced during your entire cruise.
Peter and Paul Fortress – The location where the first brick was laid in 1703, and from where the entire city started. To protect his new Russian capital Peter the Great decided to build first a fortress to protect the city against the Swedish attacks. However, the fortress soon became Russia's Tower of London, a place for imprisoning politically harmful people - including, among the others, Peter the Great's own son. Inside the territory we shall visit the Peter and Paul Cathedral - the city's tallest structure in the days of Peter the Great. The traditional, ornate church interior boasts gilded iconostasis, 18th century paintings and icons - and the tombs of many Romanov Dynasty Tsars and Tsarinas, including Peter the Great, Catherine the Great, and also the last Tsar, Nikolai II and her family members. – Inside visit is included.
Hermitage - The former residential palace of the Romanov rulers, called the Winter Palace, and four other buildings together house today one of the world's most prestigious museums, called The Hermitage and one of the premier art collections. Your guided tour includes both the Winter Palace and the Hermitage display rooms, which contain over three million art works, including paintings by DaVinci, Rafael, Monet, Rembrandt, Renoir, Picasso, Van Gogh - to name a few. The Baroque style Winter Palace was designed by Italian architect Rastrelli, and boasts huge ceremonial reception rooms, throne rooms, private theatre, gold and marble, irreplaceable state gifts and collections, patterned parquet floors, ornate staircases, molded and decorated ceilings, and gilded appointments. If nothing else, this is the “must” place in St. Petersburg. – An inside visit.
Church of the Savior on the Spilled Blood - This recently restored church sports a fantastic ornate "Russian-style" exterior with the traditional colorful onion domes. The church was built on the exact site of the March 1, 1881 assassination of Tsar Alexander II, while riding in his carriage along the canal embankment. That is also the reason why the church is called “spilled blood”. The church is distinguished by its picturesque silhouette and rich colorful decoration. The facade is lined with ceramic tiles and colored glazed bricks. Inside you shall view large size works of colorful mosaic of different religious themes. During the Soviet Union the church served as a warehouse and a storage space, and it took more than a decade to restore it to its current condition. This is unquestionably one of the most popular photo spots in St. Petersburg. – Inside visit and a photo stop.
Canal Cruise - St. Petersburg is also called “the Venice of the North”, and that is why our tour also includes a cruise on the River Neva and along the picturesque downtown canals. A 60-minute journey by small open-air boats travels the Fontanka River, the Kryukov Canal, the Moika River and the Neva River. Peter the Great conceived the Neva as the main thoroughfare of the city, and from the beginning the river was considered a vital part of the whole architectural ensemble. During the journey you pass under numerous picturesque bridges, and admire the exteriors of the many old beautiful buildings in St Petersburg. Also to view the low silhouette of the city from the wide Neva offers many unique photo opportunities. Your guide will provide a map so you can follow your route as you motor along. – 1-hour cruise included.
Metro (the city’s underground subway system) - Visit the magnificent "palaces of the People" as the St. Petersburg Metro used to be called during the Soviet Union years. The construction was started after the II World War, and its expansion continues endlessly, new stations opening periodically A ride is arranged between the Technological Institute and the Moscow Arch of Triumph stations. Since the entire St. Petersburg was built on the marsh land, the tunnels had to be dug deep, deep until solid soil was found, and you shall descend endlessly deep on extremely fast moving escalators. All the stations are totally different and individually designed. Some are luxurious with art work, statues, sculptures, mosaic walls, and chandeliers, some are simpler looking. The trains run like clockwork, normally at 2 minutes apart, and they are always crowded, as if there was a constant rush hour. – A ride is included.
St. Isaac's Square - St. Isaac's Square - In the center of St. Isaac's Square there is a monument to Nikolai I. Opposite the Cathedral, on the bank of the Moika River, stands the Mariinski Palace, the former residential palace, which was built for Princess Maria, the daughter of Nicholas I. Today, the palace is the seat of the St. Petersburg Council of City's Deputies. To the right of the Cathedral stand the historical Hotel Astoria, where Hitler had scheduled a party with printed invitations to celebrate his victory after conquering the city, but out it turned out that his invitations were printed in vain. The most prominent site on the square is naturally the St. Isaac’s Cathedral, commissioned by Alexander I in 1818, and it took forty years to complete. The cathedral is surrounded on each side by huge red granite pillars, supporting the massive central dome, which is covered with 220 pounds of pure gold, and dominates the entire city skyline.. – A photo stop.
The Palace Square – This historical square was once the site of the Russian imperial power, having on one side the Winter Palace, and on the opposite side the huge curved building of General Headquarters, and across the street the Admiralty, Russian military navy headquarters. In the center of the square there stands a high granite obelisk, called the Alexander Column, depicting an angel leaning against a cross. During this centuries the square has witnessed many Russian historical events. In 1905 the Bloody Sunday, in the 1917 bolshevik revolution the storming of the Winter Palace, and most recently in 1992 the mass celebration for changing the city’s name from Leningrad back to the original St. Petersburg, and many, many others. Also during the Soviet Union years it was the site for the annual May Day military parades. – A photo stop.
The Cruiser Aurora – Currently a museum ship on the west bank of the Neva River, this armored cruiser Aurora fired her gun to signal the beginning of the Bolshevik Revolution in 1917, which brought Vladimir Lenin to power, and later changed the entire country from Russia to Soviet Union. Before the Aurora became a tool for the Bolsheviks, she had served the last Russian Tsar loyally for a long time. She participated in the Russo-Japanese war and took part in the famous Tsushima sea battle, where Japan defeated Russia and almost totally destroyed the Russian fleet. The Aurora was one of the few Russian war ships which survived. – A photo opportunity during the cruise
The Monument for Peter the Great – Empress Catherine the Great ordered this magnificent equestrian statue for the honor of the founder of the city. The artist was Etienne Falconet and the monument was dedicated in 1782. It took a total of twelve years to design and sculpt and cast. Falconet wanted to have a natural stone pedestal for his work, and a suitable red granite bolder was found in Finland, just about 6-7 miles from the city , Because of its size and weight it took a full year with the primitive equipment of those days to transport the huge rock to its current location. Later the Russian national poet, Alexander Pushkin, wrote a poem about the monument calling it a Bronze Horseman, and that is now the name as all the Russians know and refer to it. – A photo opportunity pending on the traffic.
Rostral Columns - These two attractive city monuments are detailed parts in one of the most elegant architectural ensembles in St. Petersburg, called the “strelka”, or in English “the tip of an arrow”. The tip refers the sharp end location of the Vasili Island, where the columns stand. With the pillared former Stock Market building in the background they create a classical architectural combination, which has become one of the most photographed locations in St. Petersburg. The columns were built in 1805-1810, and they also served as lighthouses. These days they are still lit on special national festivals or celebrations, and gas flames of almost ten feet high can be seen far away. The columns imitate the ancient Roman practice of displaying the prows of captured enemy ships on a victory column. Also a most unforgettable and beautiful, panoramic view of the Neva River embankment, and the Winter Palace opens in front of our eyes from this location. – A photo stop.
Browse for Russian souvenirs and gifts and bargain with local vendors at the various stops during your excursion. Your tour includes a stop at one of St. Petersburg's souvenir shops where you can barter for such traditional Russian goods as lacquered boxes, jewelry, pins, hand painted nesting dolls, usually called “Matryoshka dolls”, handicrafts, china and porcelain, Russian delicacies like Caviar, military memorabilia of the Soviet Union, beautiful coffee table books about Russian topics, and many others.
IMPORTANT: The shops also serve as our emergency toilet stops. The shops are located all over the city, and when a group member announces a need to use a rest room, our guides normally make the emergency stop at the nearest souvenir shop. They are well equipped to receive tourist for that purpose. These stops are often misunderstood by our guests, and taken as an effort to make the group members to shop, but no person is required to step out from the bus, except the one who requested the restroom. The fewer people go inside the faster the tour shall continue again.
What other sites you will see along the way: During the two, or three days of touring (depending on the length of the stay of your cruise ship) in St. Petersburg your motor coach will pass through the city's residential and suburban districts en route to Peterhof on the Gulf of Finland. Among other things you shall pass the St. Nicholas Cathedral, and the nearby Theater Square with the world famous Mariinski Theatre (of such world famous ballet dancers like Vaslav Nijinski, Rudolf Nurejev, Mikhail Barishnikov) the St. Petersburg Conservatoire, and the monuments to the distinguished composers Rimsky-Korsakov and Glinka. You will pass by the Yusupov Palace (once the wealthiest person in Russia), and the symbol of St. Petersburg - the Bronze Horseman in the Decembrists' Square. Across the Neva River are the oldest buildings of St. Petersburg, including the Menshikov Palace (the mansion of the first governor of St. Petersburg), the St. Petersburg University, which are lined up one after another, and they never fail to impress a visitor every time you drive around this "museum in the open air." On the opposite side of the Neva there stands the Admiralty with its sharp and high golden spire, which is a compositional center of the entire city, and will never allow you to get lost. You shall also naturally drive along the Nevskij Prospekt, the fashionable main street of St. Petersburg. It is the center of business, fashion, boutiques, major shops, restaurants, hotels, but also some famous sites like the Kazan Cathedral, the Gostinni Dvor 18th century department store, the Alexandriinski Theatre, the Anichkov Bridge and many others.
As you can see, there were plenty of sites to see. We ended up taking almost 1000 photos in St. Petersburg alone. I will post quite a number of photos but due to the shear numbers of photos that I took, I will refer you to the 2 slide shows that will be at the end of each days post, so that you can see all that we took.
Veronica and I got up early and had a good breakfast. I also packed in my backpack some goodies...cookies just in case we got hungry or whatever they served us for lunch wasn't something that appealed to us, which did happen. At least we had something to keep us going until we got back to the ship.
This was our first view of St. Petersburg as we entered the harbor area.
It was a rather dark and dreary morning with light rain and showers. It eventually cleared up a bit in the afternoon.
I found St. Petersburg to come across as a rather dark and cold place....just my opinion. I am sure that the weather had something to do with it but the was just a ton of grey tall housing buildings everywhere. They were just lined up one after another. I really could not believe how many housing areas and building that there were.
When I think about St. Petersburg, that is one of the first things that I remember about it.
Another housing area
This is the Palace Square
St. Petersburg had a lot of street cars that ran off of electricity. The electrical wires were to be seen everywhere
I saw both Subway and McDonalds in St. Petersburg. Actually I saw the names of several familiar companies in the city.
There were lots of churches in St. Petersburg too
Below is one of the many electric street cars that we saw
I found a lot of really beautiful styles of architecture. The architecture kept me and my camera very busy
Big buildings, ornate and interesting architecture and lots of statues
Back left side of the photo is one of the underground subway terminals
Below are photos of the Church of the Savior on the Spilled Blood
The photos due not due this church justice. The colors were very deep, rich and vibrant
Here is Veronica standing in front of the church
Below are some of the photos taken of the interior of the church
There was this man outside of the church that had 2 monkeys with him. I am not sure if he was selling something or what.
Another style of electric streetcar
As ornate and beautiful that many of the Palaces, Museums and Country owned building were, there was as many if not more buildings that really were in rough shape and looked like they had seen better days.
There was quite the dichotomy between those who had and those that had not...the buildings and architecture also mirrored that same impression.
A Japanese Restaurant in Russia
There are some things that always are the same, no matter which country that you might be visiting
Now these were kind of scary. In the globes of the light fixtures shown below, are video cameras. I found these light fixtures with cameras in them everywhere.
I watched these video cameras as our bus passed by them and I know this will sound strange but when we passed them, both cameras would follow and track our bus as we went by. I could actually see the cameras moving together at the same time and following our movements as we drove by them. I pointed these out to a couple of the other passengers on the bus. They had not originally noticed the video cameras but when I showed them, they were kind of taken aback to see them in the light fixture and that they were moving as our bus moved
Here is another photo that can be put in the weird category. I saw these 4 woman standing outside a building with their dogs and the dogs had muzzles on them.
These are either Police or Military personnel.
After watching these women for a bit, I saw the door to the right in the photo, open up and saw men in some sort of uniforms. They could have been either military or police personnel
After we walked through the Peter And Paul Fortress, we all hopped on a boat and took a cruise through the harbor area and some of canals of the city. Below are some of the sights that we saw while we did our cruise.
This is the Cruiser Aurora – Currently a museum ship on the west bank of the Neva River
These ornate buildings were everywhere
Below is the Hermitage Museum
Below are what is called the Rostral Columns. According to the DenRus web site, Rostral Columns - These two attractive city monuments are detailed parts in one of the most elegant architectural ensembles in St. Petersburg, called the “strelka”, or in English “the tip of an arrow”. The tip refers the sharp end location of the Vasili Island, where the columns stand. With the pillared former Stock Market building in the background they create a classical architectural combination, which has become one of the most photographed locations in St. Petersburg. These columns also served as lighthouses at one time
A closer view of the Rostral Columns
This bus was being used as a portable toilet.
Below is the Cathedral of SS Peter and Paul is the oldest church in St. Petersburg, and also the second-tallest building in the city
I have so many photos of St. Pertersburg that I decided to divide the 1st into 2 parts. This concludes part 1 of our 1st day. Part 2 coming up tomorrow.
Here are some videos of our canal and harbor cruise which left from the Peter And Paul Fortress