Posted February 23rd, 2007, 12:05 AM
Let me explain something to you:
I am someone who prefer to have a personal guide and to save some money by using public transport and limit the service of guides to the section you are really need them.
In Bangkok I would feel safe because the people are always friendly and very open-minded to foreigners.
I think an experienced cruiser like you appreciate the service and the friendliness and friendship onboard of each cruise.
Maybe you have been on an European ship before where a lot of staff is coming from Eastern European countries.
You will never find any Russian as they are not willing to give you the friendly appearance and attitude you are used to have if you are on a cruise ship.
I was staying in Moscow in the Hotel Metropol just at the Red Square. We paid for a standard room for one night about 400 USD. And I never got a more lousy service. The hotel lives from the reputation that once before Julie Andrews and Omar Sharif made some scenes out of Dr. Zhivago in this hotel. And since then nothing was done. I was using the toilet and I called the housekeeping to fix the screws as the toilet was moving while you used it. Their reaction for a 5*-hotel: why don't you move???
I was walking with a RUSSIAN business friend through streets of Moscow and he bewares me to get arrested. Some tricky guys just let bundles of Dollars falling on the sidewalk and hope that you will pick-it up to return to them. They have "witnesses" prepared to tell that you were trying to steal some money out of the bundle and if I am not willing to replace the missing money from my account they will notify the police.
At the airport of Sherevetmeyo 2 even the Lufthansa-staff was as friendly like guards in a Siberian working camp. Although I hate Lufthansa I kissed the carpet like the pope when I arrived finally onboard.
St. Petersburg appears more friendly due to all the cultural buildings and its location at the Baltic Sea more European than Moscow. I would walk alone within the city attractions but I am not sure to do anything outside the city attractions without a russian speaking guide.
The experience with the taxi drivers was for my part too much. And also the habit around the cruise terminal in the duty free shops or immegration is awful!!!
Let me show you two pictures:
This was our cruise terminal (for smaller ships):
When you left the terminal building I remember the first driver already their service as taxi driver.
When you left the terminal area at the checkpoint there were few more.
I remember there were some trolley buses about few blocks away from this terminal.
This is a picture which I took from JEWEL OF THE SEAS which berth at the other cruise terminal. Can you imagine to find here any kind of public transportation in this area???
Only the rich and well educated Russians are able to speak English if you need help. But you will not find them in the streets of St. Petersburg because they have their drivers and their own world like shopping malls, hotel restaurants etc.
You want to use public transportation from a place where normally low-educated workers are using the means of transport. They are unable to speak English and you are part of the old enemy. Therefore you are to strange to them.
I am living in Germany and I am not an Western and I still have the same problems if I am going to the former East Germany: they are afraid to be in touch with foreigners and they are not used. Because in their old education there is only Russia and Russian as language. All others are Brother countries who had to learn Russian to communicate with eachother. But you never had foreign restaurants to discover a foreign culture. You were not allowed to travel to discover new worlds. Since Putin it does not become better as he fixed again a strong Russia with its own identity.
It's only my prospective: No problems with a foreign language or letter. Comparing to Greece I would do everything myself and learn all Greek letters. I learned some Russian and I do can read Cyrillic letters.
But I feel uncomfortable to walk around in Moscow or St. Petersburg for myself.
It's up to you - and it's only my PERSONAL opinion based on the experience ON MY OWN - so no stories from friends!