Our final destination on our Russian river cruise was St Petersburg. We arrived in the evening and were greeted by fireworks! We had a great deck party. (It was cold outside, but we didn’t care -- we had a great time).
We began the next day with the tour of the Hermitage Museum. We entered two hours before they opened, so we had the place to ourselves for a while. The collection here is amazing, and most of it isn't even on public view. We saw Da Vinci's, Monet's, Renoir's, Rembrandt's, Paul Gauguin's, Matisse's etc… too long a list to go thru... They say it would take a person 11 years to see each piece housed in the Hermitage. There are 100 rooms in this former palace, all filled with art. Afterwards, we proceeded to the Peter & Paul Fortress. Peter the Great is buried here, as well as the last of the Romanov dynasty. The church there is outstanding.
We spent our evening in the Hermitage Theatre of the Winter Palace, where we saw Swan Lake. When in Russia one must see a ballet!
Next day we went to Pushkin to see Catherine’s Palace (or the summer palace). Built for Peter the Great and expanded by his daughter, Elizabeth, it is an amazing example of Russian baroque architecture. It was burned to the ground during the siege of St Petersburg, but the restoration is the finest in the world. The ever controversial amber room has been recreated and is so gorgeous! The palace is stunning and a must-see!
Off to Nevsky Prospekt in the city, for a little shopping and lunch. With some free time the next day, we visited the Russian Museum, where you can follow the history of Russian art, and enjoyed some shopping before heading back to the ship.
On Russian river cruise ships, one enjoys fascinating lectures. Some of the topics on our cruise included The Romanov’s, Russian history, the Lenin & Stalin years, Gorbachov, Siberia, Yeltsin, Putin and the Democracy, and what to look for in souvenirs. The sightseeing included on our river cruise was all the more enriching given when put in context the onboard lectures provided.
Our Russian river cruise really was one of my favorite vacations, and was one of the more exotic cruises I've experienced. For those that haven't been, Russia is a very different and enriching destination. Being entrenched into a new and very different culture will bring out a yearn to learn more, and a true feeling of accomplishment. I would highly recommend a River Cruise in Russia; it truly is a very special trip!