We arrived in St Petersburg in the evening and were greeted by fireworks! We had a great deck party (Ok it was cold out but we didn't care we had a great time).We started the next morning with a tour of the Hermitage Museum. We entered 2 hours before they opened to the public, so we had the place to ourselves for a while. We were able to go on our own for a bit and we saw Da Vinci, Monet, Renoir, Rembrandt, Paul Gauguin, Matisse etc… too long to go thru, it would take you 11 years to see each piece housed in the Hermitage. There are 100 rooms all filled with art, thanks to Catherine the Great.
We then went to the Peter & Paul Fortress, on an island where the city was born, and where Peter the Great as well as the last of the Romanovs are buried. The church is outstanding. That evening we spent at the Winter Palace in the Hermitage Theatre where we saw Swan Lake. When in Russia one must see a ballet!
Next day we went to Pushkin to visit Catherine's Palace (or the summer palace). Built for Peter the Great and expanded upon by his daughter Elizabeth 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 was recreated and is so gorgeous! The palace is stunning!
Off to Nevsky Prospekt for a little shopping and lunch, we went back to Nevsky Prospect the next day on our own and visited the Russian Museum and had a little shopping and lunch before we headed back to the ship.While ‘at sea’ we enjoyed some awesome lectures about The Romanov's, Russian history, the Lenin & Stalin years, Gorbachov, Siberia, Yeltsin, and Putin and the Democracy. The Russian river cruise is not all about site seeing and shopping, it is all about enrichment — and they do it extremely well.
About the ship…
Our stateroom was a category B and was 161 square feet with a full bath (also a plus in Russia, as most ships there have much smaller cabins with, dare I say it, yacht style bathrooms (Oy!) Our linens were soft and inviting and our room was lovely. The service was great! We totally enjoyed our wait staff, bar staff and tour guides. The food was very Russian but there were alternative choices such as chicken or steak every evening. They have a 24- hour coffee bar on deck 3 and plenty of places to relax and meet some new people. The vodka tasting was hilarious!I had what I think was my very favorite vacation I have ever taken. It was very different and very enriching. Being entrenched into a new and very different culture will bring out a yearn to learn and a true feeling of accomplishment. I would highly recommend a river cruise in Russia; it truly is a very special product.