I know what you're going through, we spent so much time researching what to see and do is St. Petersburg without having to deal with high price of the ship and VISA issues. What we found was the following: Huge praises for a company called Red October. They basically tour groups from cruise ships throughout the St. Petersburg area with English speaking guides, better and more in-depth commentary, smaller group sizes and fit in all the highlights while costing a fraction of what the ship charges. And better yet, they deal with all the visa issues - we do nothing. We put a package together with them based upon reading and research for the second day while we are in St. Petersburg. The following is the itinerary we are planning on doing and right now it's just my wife and I but we would love to share our tour with others which also brings down the price significantly. Hope I've answered some of your questions and please feel free to ask me anything. Take a look at your the following and let me know if you'd like to join us.
08:00 AM - Departure for Tsarskoye Selo (Pushkin)
- Photo stop at the Chesme Palace and Chesme Church built by Yu. Felten for
A. Orlov-Chesmensky in 1774 - 1780.
09:00 AM -Arrival in Tsarskoye Selo, official residence of Russian Tsars.
09:00 AM -Visit to the Catherine Palace founded by Peter I for his wife Catherine I and re-built and enlarged for their daughter Empress Elizabeth by Italian architect F.B.Rastrelli; the striking luxury of the interior decoration of the palace was created by the best artists of XVIII and XIX centuries. The most famous Amber Room with the walls paneled with amber was completely lost during the WWII is restored completely.
Early Entrance to the Palace
- Stroll in the wonderful Catherine park with beautiful valleys, Cameron Gallery, Agate Rooms etc.
10:00 AM - Drive back to St. Petersburg
11:00 AM - Visit to the Hermitage Museum located in Winter Palace, official winter residence of Russian Tsars and four adjacent buildings; there one can see masterpieces of Leonardo da Vinci, Raphael, El Greco, Velazquez, Rembrandt, Rubens, Van Dyke etc. as well as the beautiful interior decoration of the palaces.
Visit to the Gold Rooms (Treasury)
01:15 PM - Lunch at the city restaurant "Our Peter"
Ø Greek Salad,
Ø Russian beet root soup "Borsch",
Ø Stroganoff "Russian style" with rice
or Pike-perch "a la Polonaise" with sauce and boiled potatoes,
02:15 PM - Shopping opportunity at the biggest and best souvenir shop of St. Petersburg - Red October ( wooden dolls of various dimensions and quality, authentic lacquer boxes from Palekh, Mstera etc., splendid amber, china, Russian shawls etc.)
02:45 PM - inside visit of Peter-and-Paul Fortress, place where the city was founded in May of 1703, incl. the Peter-and-Paul Cathedral (1712 1733), burial place of the Romanovs
03:30 PM - Visit to the Savior on the Spilled Blood Cathedral built in 1907 as memorial church to honor Russian Emperor Alexander II murdered on the spot by the terrorists. It is a sample of "Russian style" architecture and decorative art of the edge of the XIX-XX centuries. Mosaic attire of the church (over 7.000 sq. m) was created by the most famous Russian artists of the epoch.
04:15 PM - Visit to St Isaac's Cathedral (architect Montferrand), one of the finest architectural monuments of the XIX century, the former principal Cathedral of the Russian capital, the largest cathedral in town able to accommodate about 10,000 audience. The cathedral is beautifully decorated inside: marble of 13 colors, malachite, lapis-lazuli, paintings and mosaics made by the most famous Russian artists, impressive stained-glass image of Christ seen through the open doors of the magnificent Icon-Stand etc.
05:00 PM - Return to the pier
06:30 PM - Departure of the ship
Price per person to include all of above (admissions, transportation, guide, lunch, early admission, gold room, etc).
2 people $305 pp
4 people 212 pp
6 people 184 pp
8 to 10 people 179 pp