Since Judi got sick down in Indio and returned home for treatment, our 2018 travel plans were cancelled and 2019 is still being developed, but 2020 is well underway. We have just booked our 2nd World Cruise to celebrate our 40th anniversary.
We board the Viking Sun in Los Angeles on 4th January 2020 and will spend 118 nights aboard, departing in London on 2nd May.
Stockholm is a long and complicated pilotage from the Baltic through the archipelago of islands, so many cruise ships opt for Nynashamn, located on the Baltic about 40 miles south of Stockholm. Unfortunately, our ship was one of the ones opting for Nynashamn, rather than the scenic cruising in/out of Stockholm. Normally the ship docks alongside, but due to weather issues, we had to anchor and tender ashore.
We signed up for another ship’s tour, which comprised a city drive and visit to the Vasa Museum.
After two very busy days in St Petersburg, we had a quiet evening on board the ship, as we cruised at a sedate speed, the few miles from St Petersburg to Helsinki, Finland. Arriving early in the morning, we enjoyed a leisurely breakfast in the restaurant before heading ashore for our tour. We signed up for a ship’s tour to Porvoo, one of Finland’s six medieval towns that dates from the 14th Century.
Located about 30 miles East of Helsinki, we spent about an hour on the bus before arriving in the old town.
Departing Peter and Paul Fortress, we settled into the bus for the almost 1 hour trip to Catherine’s Palace in Pushkin, a St Petersburg suburb. It was only about 20 miles, but took almost an hour. Yes, St Petersburg traffic is similar to any major city.
For me, one of the Alla Tours selling points was rather than lunch in a fancy restaurant, they provided a quality boxed lunch to eat on the bus. We had limited time, so I was happy enjoying lunch on the bus, rather than losing an hour sight-seeing while sitting in a restaurant.
This is the 4th and final post covering our 2 days in St Petersburg. Some may say they kept the extreme opulence and more than a little gold, to the end of the tour.
Our 2nd and final day in St Petersburg started with an early breakfast, then off ashore to join the 2nd installment of our Grand Tour with Alla Tours. Although we breezed through immigration yesterday, we still departed the ship about 15 minutes early. However, immigration was even faster. With no queues, we walked straight up to a booth handed over our passports, which were scanned and within a couple of minutes were in the terminal.
While yesterday was a very busy day, with minimal commuting between stops, today would be a slower day with a canal cruise, hydrofoil ride and a couple of 1 hour drives through the outlying areas.
After a delicious lunch in a 5-star restaurant, we re-boarded the mini-bus to visit more of downtown St Petersburg’s spectacular attractions. This afternoon’s schedule includes a couple of Russian Orthodox churches and another palace, which is still being restored. The tour included both the opulence of the formal rooms and the rather stark confines of the basement.
Departing the restaurant, it was a short drive to our first stop, which included passing the Faberge Museum, as we drove along the banks of the Fontanka River. Unfortunately, we didn’t have time in the schedule to visit this museum.
Enjoy the many photographs of the remainder of our first day in St. Petersburg.
Departing the ship, you pass through immigration, before accessing the passenger terminal. Having read and heard of potential delays, we departed the ship well before our Alla Tours meeting time. However, this was one of the shortest and smoothest transits through immigration we have ever experienced. The Russian officials had every booth open, resulting in very short queues. We had 1 couple ahead of us, so within 5 minutes of departing the ship, we were in the passenger terminal, where we met the Alla Tours representatives.
An excellent start to 2 very busy days in St Petersburg, which I will cover in 4 posts.
In the 1600’s, the ruling Swedish colonists, constructed a fort at the mouth of the Neva River. During the Great Northern War, Tsar Peter I, also known as Peter the Great, won those coastal lands, providing Russia with his long sought Baltic coastline. On winning control, he inaugurated the city of St Petersburg in 1703, with construction of Peter and Paul Fortress.
A very new city by European standards, its magnificent architecture, river and canal network has the city frequently referred to as, “Venice of the North”. A very apt reference.
During WWI, St Petersburg was deemed to sound too German, so the Tsar changed the name to Petrograd, which was subsequently changed to Leningrad, by the communists, after the 1917 revolution. In 1991, the citizens voted on renaming the city, with the majority favouring a return to St Petersburg.
Next to St Petersburg, walking the walled “Old Town”, with its well preserved 13th Century narrow, winding cobbled streets and fascinating architecture, this was one of our pre-cruise highlights. Tallinn, one of Europe’s best preserved medieval cities, was originally home to wealthy merchants, but now with a plethora of cafes, restaurants/bars, museums and churches, it is now a popular tourist destination.
Being mid-September, it was approaching the end of the season and we were the only cruise ship in town, so the crowds were reasonable. During mid-summer with up to 6 mega cruise ships, it can be extremely busy, as most tours follow a similar route.
In 1997, the well preserved “Old City” was incorporated as a UNESCO World Heritage Site.
After a long day visiting Berlin, we enjoyed a relaxing, full day at sea, before docking in Tallinn, the following day about 11:00. Perfect timing, as after a leisurely breakfast, I wandered up to the Sun Deck on a rather blustery day, to watch the arrival.
In Tallinn, we booked a 5 hr city highlights and Old Town Walking Tour with Alla Tours, the same company we are using in St Petersburg. Our group of 5 passengers met our excellent guide and driver outside the dock gate, which was the start of an exceptional tour – vastly superior to the 50 seat tour bus the ship provides.
This post covers the city drive portion and the following post will cover the Old Town walking tour.