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Phil50

QV Baltics - St Petersburg Q’s

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Posted (edited)

We have never done a cruise before, but we did QM2 TA last October and that was fantastic. We were really impressed by Cunard and didn’t hesitate to look to them for this cruise - we just wanted something that included our 25th wedding anniversary date, which this one in late August does. We weren’t too fussed about destination, just to have 2 weeks on a nice ship will be good enough! Whilst we are quite looking forward to visiting different places, we don’t have that much desire to visit St Petersburg. It will be nice to see I guess, but we aren’t bothered about doing all the museums and things. 

So I’m now getting into planning but I am not sure how to tackle St P. I don’t really want the hassle of visas and going it “alone”, so we will probably just do one of Cunards excursions. However, it’s the second day that I’m unsure about - I would probably be happy just staying on the ship, but is that a “normal” thing to do?!

I think I’ll probably be on here soon with some questions about the other ports, but just want to get this St P “problem” sorted first! 

Thanks, Phil. 

Edited by Phil50

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We are on this cruise on Queen Victoria on 14.7.19 and it might be worth looking at the roll call for this if your roll call is not yet up and running. There are a number of options for tours other than Cunard - we have opted for Alla Tours in St Petersburg - no need to apply for visa independently and there are tours to suit differing needs/interests. Not sure what your itinerary is but most other ports on the Baltic cruises are do-able on your own with Cunard providing shuttle services to a central location from docks in outlying areas and others being walkable from the dock to enable you to plan your own day.

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9 hours ago, Phil50 said:

We have never done a cruise before, but we did QM2 TA last October and that was fantastic. We were really impressed by Cunard and didn’t hesitate to look to them for this cruise - we just wanted something that included our 25th wedding anniversary date, which this one in late August does. We weren’t too fussed about destination, just to have 2 weeks on a nice ship will be good enough! Whilst we are quite looking forward to visiting different places, we don’t have that much desire to visit St Petersburg. It will be nice to see I guess, but we aren’t bothered about doing all the museums and things. 

So I’m now getting into planning but I am not sure how to tackle St P. I don’t really want the hassle of visas and going it “alone”, so we will probably just do one of Cunards excursions. However, it’s the second day that I’m unsure about - I would probably be happy just staying on the ship, but is that a “normal” thing to do?!

I think I’ll probably be on here soon with some questions about the other ports, but just want to get this St P “problem” sorted first! 

Thanks, Phil. 

 

St. P. is often hot in the summer and pretty tiring. I would do a short tour each day to give you some recovery time. Perhaps one could be a walking tour, or a half day trip to one of the palaces out of the city. On our last trip we visited the Fabergé Museum, which also showed us some of the city. I try and pick tours that don't start too early in the morning.

 

But, if that is what you want, it is completely OK to stay on the ship, which will probably have special offers going in the spa. However, the port is some way from the city, and not scenic, so you can't see anything interesting from it.

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We have done this cruise twice (on consecutive years). The first year we booked a full day Cunard excursion in St Petersburg and it was very good. We'd booked another one for day 2 but after the first day being so full-on, we decided against it. So we stayed on the ship and had it to ourselves. 

 

On the second year, we never booked anything at all so we stayed on board for 2 days and again had the ship to ourselves. You can do what you like, there's no "normal" thing to do, why does that idea worry you ?

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For the ports, this is from a review I wrote at the time (2012, first trip):

 

Kristiansand

We were there on a Sunday, and so the town was pretty much closed. It’s a large town, there’s not a lot to see. You can walk to the town centre from the ship in about 10 minutes, it’s very close. We walked over the bridge, across the river and into a more residential area – I don’t think many others walked that far. There is a little train thing that takes you round the town, we saw it but did not go on it. I’d not bother with doing an organised tour as there’s not a lot to see and what there is very close by.

Oslo

Again, you get off the ship and walk into the city centre. It’s maybe 15 minutes, no more. I just walked around, up to the palace, and strolled around the grounds a bit.

 

Copenhagen

You can walk into the city centre, but it is much more of a walk, maybe 40-50 minutes. Cunard said they were not providing a bus since it was so close. Well, it was okay for us, but I can imagine for older people it was a bit too far. One option is to get on a city tour bus; they wait by the ship. We actually walked right though the centre of the city, and got on one there instead. Then as it went round, we realised we were almost back at the ship, so we got off and did not do the whole tour. But it’s good, you see a fair bit of the city from the top deck.

Stockholm

Due to a bit of illness, we did not get off the ship here. However, plenty of people said the Viking museum was very good indeed ( they have a full size model of a Viking long boat )

 

Helsinki

I’d rate this about the best place we visited. Cunard provided a shuttle bus, which cost about £5 each or so. It drops you off in the city centre. We then walked past the Parliament building and went round the Museum of Finland, which is small, but very good. It took us around an hour. It’s easy to find as you just walk past the Parliament and you can’t miss it. They give you a personal audio tour device thing, which is very good. We also went to the Natural History Museum, again very good – but it’s not like ours in London, which is, of course, huge. Again, maybe an hour and you have seen it.

 

St Petersburg

The port is way out of the city centre, so you either have to book a tour with a local operator, or take one of the Cunard ones. We did a Cunard one ( they only one of the ship’s tours we did do ). We did a full day, they take you round to lots of palaces and landmarks first. We were here on a Sunday, so the city is very quiet, the guide said that a lot of people who live in the city go to holiday homes at the weekend.They then took us for lunch in some little restaurant ( included in the price ). The meal was okay, nothing special, some kind of stew ( cat ? ), rice, veg etc. Quite a few people left most of it, other’s cleaned their plates.Then we went to the Hermitage Museum. It’s very big, very crowed and very hot. I think we spent a bit too long in there really. We were flagging, as were others, again, if you are pegging on a bit then I think it was too much.We were glad when we left. Finally, we were taken to a corel recital, which lasted about 50 minutes. Now, it’s not the kind of thing I would normally bother with, but I did leave most impressed by their singing – and there was even a “fat lady” who sang at the end !It was a long day, starts at about 8, back to the ship after 5. About $120 each, but I’d say, looking at what we did, a fair price. The guide was very good, she gave us all a piece of paper that said “Help. I am a tourist, and I am lost, Please ring this number” and said if we did get separated or lost, that whoever we approached and showed the bit of paper to would help, because it’s part of Russian culture to always help some in trouble. Thankfully, no one needed to find out of that was true !

Tallin

I can’t comment on Tallin, as we decided to stay on the ship. However, there was a bus you could hop on to take you to the city centre, and everyone who used it said how could it was, and how nice the city was.

 

Zeebrugge / Brugge

Again, I can’t comment as we decided to stay on the ship, and, in my case, get sun burnt !You can get a bus again to Blankenburg ( about 3 miles away ), and lots of people did that. From there you can get a train to Brugge, which takes about 30 minutes or so.So, we only booked one Cunard tour as almost all the other places, the ship docks within walking distance of the city centre.

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Rather than take a Cunard trip consider using local companies like Alla or Denrus.

They organise group visas so there is no hassle and the groups are a lot smaller than the ship ones.

It would be a pity for you to miss out on St Petersburg.

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I'd say from the one with did with Cunard is it actually pretty good. When we have taken other Cunard excursions they have tended to be little more than a glorified bus ride, but the one is St Petersburgh was the best Cunard excursion we have taken.

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2 hours ago, Pear Carr said:

We are on this cruise on Queen Victoria on 14.7.19 and it might be worth looking at the roll call for this if your roll call is not yet up and running. There are a number of options for tours other than Cunard - we have opted for Alla Tours in St Petersburg - no need to apply for visa independently and there are tours to suit differing needs/interests. Not sure what your itinerary is but most other ports on the Baltic cruises are do-able on your own with Cunard providing shuttle services to a central location from docks in outlying areas and others being walkable from the dock to enable you to plan your own day.

 

We have done this trip  4 times, the last one May/June this year, only did one tour that was on the second day when in St.P.  the only trouble with St.P. You can not get out of the port if, not on a trip or have a visa. We did the same tour as last year, the reason no walking we now have trouble walking, you do call at a tourist shop, this year it was a very good stop when you return to the ship, a few shops which you can purchase various souvenirs before thro customs. One tour that was very popular. Evening at the Ballet.

We did not call at Tallinn this year but a very popular port of call, get the free shuttle bus and enjoy the day.

Our cruise visited Poland and Lithuania both first time for us,  just enjoy the Queen Victoria and the wonderful staff they have, and I am sure you will have a great trip.🍷🥃

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8 minutes ago, ToadOfToadHall said:

I'd say from the one with did with Cunard is it actually pretty good. When we have taken other Cunard excursions they have tended to be little more than a glorified bus ride, but the one is St Petersburgh was the best Cunard excursion we have taken.

 

I agree. All the tours we have done with Cunard in St. P. have been good, and conducted by guides with good English, unlike in some other places. Least good Hermitage trip, where you have to follow the guides' route to avoid getting lost forever...😀

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We were not really bothered by St P either. I know a lot of people see it as the highlight of a Baltic cruise but I wish there were occasionally cruises that didn't go there. There are some other fantastic ports in the area that I prefer.

 

On our second visit we stayed onboard for the 2 days apart from an evening trip to the ballet. It was great - the ship was quiet and we found enough to do. I wouldn't worry about staying on the ship at all.

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Posted (edited)
12 hours ago, Phil50 said:

We have never done a cruise before, but we did QM2 TA last October and that was fantastic. We were really impressed by Cunard and didn’t hesitate to look to them for this cruise - we just wanted something that included our 25th wedding anniversary date, which this one in late August does. We weren’t too fussed about destination, just to have 2 weeks on a nice ship will be good enough! Whilst we are quite looking forward to visiting different places, we don’t have that much desire to visit St Petersburg. It will be nice to see I guess, but we aren’t bothered about doing all the museums and things. 

So I’m now getting into planning but I am not sure how to tackle St P. I don’t really want the hassle of visas and going it “alone”, so we will probably just do one of Cunards excursions. However, it’s the second day that I’m unsure about - I would probably be happy just staying on the ship, but is that a “normal” thing to do?!

I think I’ll probably be on here soon with some questions about the other ports, but just want to get this St P “problem” sorted first! 

Thanks, Phil. 

There would be no problem staying on the ship for the whole 2 days which we have done in the past but only because we have been a few times and done most of the excursions and didnt want to repeat them.

Edited by majortom10

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Oh my word there is so much to see and do in St Petersburg . I cant recommend the folk dancing evening however there are better shows on board the ship. Im sure the ballet is fine however we got our choice wrong last year. If you can afford it get the Cunard Volga vintage car trip it was amazing!! You can get Three in the backseat with lots of comfort lots of stops for photos you get a guide for the trip and a driver plus cream tea!

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1 hour ago, exlondoner said:

 

I agree. All the tours we have done with Cunard in St. P. have been good, and conducted by guides with good English, unlike in some other places. Least good Hermitage trip, where you have to follow the guides' route to avoid getting lost forever...😀

 

We went to the Hermitage and I don't know how our guide didn't manage to lose a few !!

 

Yes, you could image the odd person left behind to endlessly wander the bowels of the museum until the end of their days ! 😁

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1 hour ago, Camgirl said:

We were not really bothered by St P either. I know a lot of people see it as the highlight of a Baltic cruise but I wish there were occasionally cruises that didn't go there. There are some other fantastic ports in the area that I prefer.

 

On our second visit we stayed onboard for the 2 days apart from an evening trip to the ballet. It was great - the ship was quiet and we found enough to do. I wouldn't worry about staying on the ship at all.

 

I'd agree with all of what you have said. 

 

The other thing I noticed was how many people on board were commenting on how very hot it was. I'm sure people had the image of burly Russians walking round in huge overcoats and big fury hats !  

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Fabulous, thank you all so much. I know it was probably a silly question for all you experienced cruisers, but I wasn’t really sure if staying on the ship in port was a viable option. Obviously it is, so that’s fine with me, although I think we will do a tour of some description on the first day there. We would definitely like to see St.P but just a few hours will do us. 

Our cruise is taking in Estonia, Lithuania, Poland and Norway if I remember correctly so should be quite interesting. 

Thanks again. 

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I feel you call at Gdynia, make sure you visit Gdansk. It is quite splendid.

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Just looked on VP - these are the stops - Oslo, Klaipeda, Visby, Tallinn, St Petersburg, Gdynia.

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Oslo is excellent because the ship parks in the city centre. It's pretty much next to the Opera House. 

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Good stuff thanks. Will cross that off the “excursions” list then. 

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11 hours ago, ToadOfToadHall said:

Oslo is excellent because the ship parks in the city centre. It's pretty much next to the Opera House. 

 

Not always. Last year we were further away, but there was a shuttle.

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12 hours ago, Phil50 said:

Just looked on VP - these are the stops - Oslo, Klaipeda, Visby, Tallinn, St Petersburg, Gdynia.

 

 

Klaipeda is a delightful, low key stop. As well as an agreeable town, there is a ferry from where the ship docks across to the sandbar. We did not take this, but strolling among the pine woods looked most attractive.

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36 minutes ago, exlondoner said:

 

Not always. Last year we were further away, but there was a shuttle.

 

Good point. Last time we were on the QV it did seem like Cunard had turned into Ryan Air in this respect.

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On 6/25/2019 at 10:41 PM, Phil50 said:

We have never done a cruise before, but we did QM2 TA last October and that was fantastic. We were really impressed by Cunard and didn’t hesitate to look to them for this cruise - we just wanted something that included our 25th wedding anniversary date, which this one in late August does. We weren’t too fussed about destination, just to have 2 weeks on a nice ship will be good enough! Whilst we are quite looking forward to visiting different places, we don’t have that much desire to visit St Petersburg. It will be nice to see I guess, but we aren’t bothered about doing all the museums and things. 

So I’m now getting into planning but I am not sure how to tackle St P. I don’t really want the hassle of visas and going it “alone”, so we will probably just do one of Cunards excursions. However, it’s the second day that I’m unsure about - I would probably be happy just staying on the ship, but is that a “normal” thing to do?!

I think I’ll probably be on here soon with some questions about the other ports, but just want to get this St P “problem” sorted first! 

Thanks, Phil. 

 

Good morning Phil.

 

I note one or two points in your OP including..." I don’t really want the hassle of visas and going it “alone”, so we will probably just do one of Cunard's excursions".

 

Firstly I would say that for the majority of folk the St Petersburg call would be the Jewel in the Crown.

 

When my wife and I visited the city we were keen to pack as much in as possible plus make a visit that was never going to happen on a ship's excursion, a visit to the famous Stolle Pie Shop...

 

1749516755_StollePieShop1.jpg.9043c2d5db1819aba105127b7fd99168.jpg

 

Hence we booked a 'private' tour with a company named "Alla Tours".  I'll include a link to the review I wrote on my cruise blog...

 

https://solentrichardscruiseblog.com/2013/05/14/one-way-to-do-st-petersburg/

 

...which hopefully will give you some idea of what is available.

 

Using Alla includes their arranging your visas plus the joy is if, as you say,  'we aren’t bothered about doing all the museums',  then they will be more than happy to tailor your visit to YOUR requirements.

 

 

 

 

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21 hours ago, ToadOfToadHall said:

 

I'd agree with all of what you have said. 

 

The other thing I noticed was how many people on board were commenting on how very hot it was. I'm sure people had the image of burly Russians walking round in huge overcoats and big fury hats !  

 

Ha ha. well er yes Toad...

 

1026089668_Richardwinterwear5copyright.jpg.46a67847a2928dc39055906eb3a4ad03.jpg

 

At least the hat came from St Petersburg. 😁

 

 

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Thanks Richard. That’s very interesting, and those pies....wow!!

 

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