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Cornishpastyman1

Videos of 3 days in St Petersburg with a travel wheelchair

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With such a great port we were desperate to make the most of every minute and debated whether my mother (81) would be able to cope with the 3 day tour offered by the major players, as although she can manage steps and walk short distances she gets quite tired quite quickly.

 
As a family party of 6 we very much wanted to stay together so rather than split up we reasoned that with a lightweight chair (and several pushers) she would be OK. Words/phrases like ‘strenuous’, ‘comfort’, ‘lots of walking' etc mean different things to different people and we didn’t her feeling she was holding the group back, or of course suffer because of the pace and intensity of 3 days/26 hours in St P.
 
So we booked the 3-day Deluxe Tour with SPB Tours (magnificent). The maximum number is 16 - we were just 10 in total but the van was big enough for 16 in comfort. Our wheelchair is very light and folds down to around 12 inches wide so easily fitted in the back of such a vehicle, but one that does not fold is not suitable for this tour.
 
In case this gives help or insight to those with similar thoughts and concerns, the videos show just about everything we did. Some places were easier than others but overall if your situation is similar to ours this tour will also be for you. Despite the itinerary there is a fair amount of slack in the schedule and opportunity to rest. In extremis you can always stay in the van with your friendly driver should you need a break.  
 
Days 1 and 3 were spent in the city. My brief summary of how wheelchair-friendly each ‘attraction’ is :
 
THE HERMITAGE - not suitable as the sheer volume of people makes getting close to the exhibits impossible, and you would always be worried about running into them. Mum walked it all on a very hot day for around an hour, although the option to bail out and wait in the café was always there. For her, this was the hardest part of the 3 days.
 
CHURCH OF THE SAVIOUR IN SPILLED BLOOD (CSB) - very easy as it is a decent-sized church with those fabulous mosaic walls and ceilings to admire and some stone seating if needed.
 
METRO RIDE - Not suitable, as there are many steps down into the station. We left the chair in the van. After those initial steps it’s escalators and trains and very well worth doing if you get the chance. If you can’t manage the steps just stay in the van and meet up with the others in 15 minutes time - and have an alternative mini-tour of the city with the driver !
 
FABERGÉ MUSEUM - Fairly easy as it is nowhere near as busy as the Hermitage so you can get close to the display cabinets. But we left it in the corner of each room as we passed through so she could walk up to them for the best view. The museum has 9 of the 43 Imperial eggs found to date. Wanting a  souvenir from the trip I bought an 'egg’ from the souvenir shop. They are in plentiful supply both on the ship and at the port terminal but I wanted one from the great man’s museum. 
 
PETER AND PAUL CATHEDRAL - The courtyard leading to the entrance is fairly cobbled so needs care, and inside is very busy, so the same issues as the Hermitage. I didn’t see anywhere to leave the wheelchair unattended so just folded it and wheeled it around while mum walked. No problem as you are in and out in around 15 minutes.
 
St ISAAC'S CATHEDRAL - even bigger than the CSB so plenty of room to use it inside if necessary.
 
CANAL BOAT RIDE - no problem taking it on board but there were 3 steps down to the undercover seating.
 
 
YUSUPOV PALACE  - not suitable, especially 'Rasputin’s basement’. We left the chair just inside the entrance and spent around 35 minutes wandering through the palace and basement. After the Hermitage this was the most difficult for mum as there are few opportunities to sit and we didn’t stay very long at any one place in any case. There is a booth where you can pay a small charge for photo and video, which I dutifully did, wearing my sticker of proof. And soon noticed stickerless tourists filming away on their phone, so maybe it’s not mandatory.
 
 
On Day 2 we went into the country to Peterhof and the Catherine Palace. They are 20 and 25 miles from the port and in different directions so with a lunch break make up a full day. You may be taken to a department store at the end of it before heading back to the ship - ideal for buying Russian dolls if those on the ship or at the port are not your liking.
 
PETERHOF with its wide open spaces is ideal for wheelchairs. My only caveat is that returning from the Grand Cascade area to the upper gardens to exit the park requires pushing up a fairly gentle but loose slope. Ask for help if you need it, there are sure to be plenty of people around. To avoid damage to the original flooring wheelchairs are not permitted in Monplaisir, Peter’s summer residence, but you are in and out in under 15 minutes so not too much waiting time for those that don’t go in.
 
 
THE CATHERINE PALACE totally wheelchair friendly but we were asked to use their chair, as ours might have marked the parquet flooring. That was fine - theirs was more comfortable.
 
 
We were lucky to have 3 days in this fantastic city. If you have 2, and assuming you do the Peterhof/Catherine Palace day you will have to drop 2 out of the Fabergé Museum, Yusupov Palace and the canal ride. 
 
I hope this helps if someone on your visit has mobility issues. On the rest of the cruise (Copenhagen, Stockholm, Helsinki,Tallinn, Helsingborg and Skagen) we got around very well, the only really difficult place being the upper parts of Tallinn where the cobbles are monsters. But as mum can walk that was OK, and if she was too tired there was always an easier route.
 
All the best, Tony

 

Edited by Cornishpastyman1

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Thank you for sharing! I've been telling my father and his wife that they should do a Baltic cruise, but mobility is somewhat of a concern, and I'll pass these videos and this information along to them. We did a group tour (also with SPB Tours) our first time in St. P., but I admit I wasn't thinking at the time about accessibility. (For our second visit, we did a private tour -- with Red Sun Tours this time -- and obviously on a private tour, you don't need to worry about accessibility, but I know a private tour is not necessarily in everyone's budget.)

 

If you want to share more details about your experiences in the other ports, I'd love to hear them (and pass them along).

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Thank you so much for sharing! Great videos! Watching them made me miss the tour we had earlier this year. This is very helpful to everyone especially for those with mobility issues. This would help them plan their trip better and give them an idea on how much walking they need to do or how accessible the tourist sights are. Thanks again!  

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14 hours ago, trosebery said:

Thank you for sharing! I've been telling my father and his wife that they should do a Baltic cruise, but mobility is somewhat of a concern, and I'll pass these videos and this information along to them. We did a group tour (also with SPB Tours) our first time in St. P., but I admit I wasn't thinking at the time about accessibility. (For our second visit, we did a private tour -- with Red Sun Tours this time -- and obviously on a private tour, you don't need to worry about accessibility, but I know a private tour is not necessarily in everyone's budget.)

 

If you want to share more details about your experiences in the other ports, I'd love to hear them (and pass them along).

 

Thank you for your kind words (and also to flowslow, Kate and schmerl), much appreciated.

 

Like you, I had done a St P 2-day tour in 2010 so knew what to expect. As you have been twice and know all about your dad and his wife's capabilities it sounds like they will be very well able to do such a tour, so if seeing this is the final nudge to make them go for it that's great. 

 

The main point of my post was to reassure waverers due to mobility concerns (which I would never underestimate) that St P with a guide is among the easiest tours you can do, as you are more or less hand-held every step of the way, if not quite literally.  

 

Perhaps people's reticence is down to the fact that there is such a thing as the 'Comfort' or 'Standard' tour, which infers that anything above this in some way much more arduous, when in reality it means that you visit one or 2 extra museums or churches and have a canal ride ride, spread over 2 days. The pace is still relatively gentle. Your guide and driver will ensure your comfort throughout. So if by mid afternoon you feel an hour walking around the Hermitage is too much then ask to be left in the café while the others do it. Don't fancy seeing St Isaac's Cathedral at the end of the day ? Tell your guide you'll stay in the van for that 25-30 minutes. It's a holiday not an assault course 🤣

 

There is also the undeniable fact that when you leave in the morning you're not coming back until 5 or 6 pm and so the day is long with no chance to abort and return early to the comfort of the ship. And while that's true I would say that every day is split into 4 or 5 shortish segments so there are constant rest breaks, occasional short travel periods, and probably an hour for lunch. 

 

And then there are the sights themselves, all remarkable on first and even second viewing. The sheer fun and fascination drives each day, learning from the guide, asking questions, getting to know the others on the tour etc. And you will make friends if you wish to. Seeing the city is clearly a shared interest and your fellow tourists will aid anyone who needs it. 

 

As for the other ports, our chair was an enormous insurance against mum's fatigue and enabled us to see all we desired. We just did our own thing at all of them as it's so easy as long as you do a bit of research. Of course it helped that on this cruise the ship docked so close to the action. A free shuttle was provided at Tallinn but the distance to town was so short that it would've been quicker to walk !   

 

We flew into Copenhagen at midnight and went straight to the ship the next day, so didn't do much there other than have breakfast on the Nyhavn Canal.

 

 

The next day was Stockholm. Whereas in 2010 we docked at Nynasham and missed sailing through the archipelago, this time we docked in the city harbour. Had to get up early to see the islands but it was well worth it. We pre-booked the City Hall tour and as the weather was so good did a harbour cruise (with commentary). Just walked on - had it been full we'd have booked one for later in the day. When that was over we walked around the Old Town and came back to the ship on foot (about 15 minutes walk). We could have done quite a bit more but it was very hot and afternoon tea was calling... 

 

 

In Helsinki we took another harbour cruise and then walked around Senate Square and the market before returning to the ship on foot (about 10 minutes walk). We could have done quite a bit more but it was very hot and afternoon tea was calling... 

 

 

Will do the final 3 videos -  Tallinn (town walk), Helsingborg (Hamlet's Castle) & Skagen (not much) soon but they are all very easy pleasant, places to mooch around in. Twenty years ago I would have rushed around seeing as much as I could but for reasons I won't bore you with here this cruise was a wonderful bonus to us all and our sole aim was to celebrate our good fortune and appreciate what a privilege it is to have the health and resources to see these great sights.

 

I hope you all are as lucky as we were, Tony

 

 

Edited by Cornishpastyman1

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Thank you! Thank you so much for taking time to publish this post. Excellent videos! I’m sure the info will be useful for many travelers. I’ve been to Baltic 2 times and to St. Petersburg 3 times and now I’m thinking about bringing my mother (85) there.

 

Jess

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