Our tour, Splendor of St. Petersburg Day 1, began on a sunny Saturday right at the port. We loaded into an 18-passenger van with 14 passengers present. Our tour guide Alex had previously lived in the US (Cincinnati, Ohio to be exact), so his English was quite good.
At the time of our visit, the 2018 World Cup was in town and some of the downtown streets were closed or diverted. With that in mind, we headed straight for our first stop, the Hermitage. During our ride we learned that St. Petersburg was named after Peter the Great and at a former time had also been known as Leningrad. For a moment we pulled off the side of the road next to the Neva River to take some photographs of the Egyptian Sphinx in front of the Fine Arts Academy.
Afterwards, we continued our journey arriving at the museum at 9:20 am. The queue for the Hermitage was just 20 minutes as we had early entry passes. This also greatly cut down the number of visitors inside.
At 9:40 am we passed security and entered the State Hermitage Museum. Beginning in the Room of Paintings, we then toured the museum for over 2 hours gaining a terrific amount of knowledge from our guide along the way. There are a great many special items on display and any trip to St. Petersburg would not be complete without visiting the Hermitage.
At noon we left the Hermitage and headed to a local restaurant for lunch. We arrived at the restaurant and entered from the street through what looked like a simple storefront. Inside and upstairs was a nice formal restaurant where we were greeted with champagne, water, and Chicken Salad. The meal service came shortly thereafter consisting of Beef Stroganoff, White Rice, and Salad, and then followed by Raspberry Ice Cream. During our meal, we listened to live Russian Folk songs and had the opportunity to play some of the unique instruments.
We departed the restaurant at 1 pm and headed towards the Neva River for an afternoon boat cruise. Our City Tour Riverboat departed at 1:20 pm and took us on a circular route around St. Petersburg. It was a nice way to view the city and snap some great photos. The narrated boat ride ended promptly at 2 pm.
At 2:20 pm we were standing outside of Yusupov Palace, which was simple on the lower floor and very grand upstairs. Our tour guide explained the Palace’s role in the murder of Grigori Rasputin in 1916 where he was offered wine laced with cyanide, but the initial plot failed. Later in the evening, Rasputin was shot in the downstairs cellar area by one of the guests. We toured the cellar and many other areas of the palace extensively.
Afterwards we listened to a Russian a cappella ensemble singing their rendition of Down the Volga River.
We departed the Palace at 3:45 pm and by 4 pm we were at St. Isaac’s Cathedral. Here we admired the stained-glass windows, many mosaics, and the grand alter.
We stayed at the Cathedral for 40 minutes and then headed for our final stop of the day, the Pushkin Art Shop for some souvenir shopping.
The art shop had two levels with the lower consisting of the regular type of souvenirs one would expect, and the upstairs being devoted entirely to the Christmas season. The staff was very nice, and each guest was offered hot tea and biscuits. We then made our way back to the ship arriving at 5:30 pm.
Steps Logged: 6,389
Day 1 – Night Tour – Russian Folklore Evening
After our day tour, we returned to the ship to change our clothes and grab a quick bite to eat. We left the ship again and made our way through the port facility to our awaiting coach. We drove through the city and arrived at the theater 40 minutes before the show began. It was a wonderful evening of folk dancing accompanied by music.
There was a brief intermission were juice and champagne were served. There were also souvenirs available for purchase.
Cruise Port: St. Petersburg, Russia
Tour Name: Splendor of St Petersburg | Russian Folklore Evening
Cruise Ship: Queen Elizabeth
Tour Guide: Alex