Vision of the Seas Voyage # 784
Sweden – Russia 11 Night Cruise
We’ve been to St Petersburg twice already, but it was only this cruise that I had a chance to get off the ship, besides shooting gangway. Marli and I had the whole afternoon and evening off (an unusual treat) so we had ample time to explore!
Going out in Russia is a pain in the bum. Most guests (except Brazilians and guests from a few other Russia-friendly countries) need a visa if they want to visit. If they haven’t got a visa, the only way for them to see St Petersburg is to join a Royal Caribbean tour. We crew have it a bit easier. We don’t need a visa, but we have to take a Russian serviced shuttle bus from the port to town. This costs $15, which is pretty steep, especially since we can normally catch the port shuttles for free. Nevertheless, off we set.
I didn’t know what to expect and as all the guests have been warned against petty crime in the area, I was in South Africa Safety mode, keeping my bag close and my camera strap around my neck at all times! We didn’t have any security problems, but I was a bit nervous when walking alone down some of the more narrow streets. On the whole, I find St Petersburg a bit claustrophobic. The narrow streets are flanked with 5 story buildings; a disorderly array of cables criss-cross the sky and swarms of Russians and tourists fill the pavement. Many of the buildings are pretty and must have looked very glamorous back in the day, but just as many if not more could do with some loving, with faded, peeling paintwork and crumbling concrete. This doesn’t seem to bother the Russian woman, as I spotted many of them dressed up quite glamorously, wearing stilettos and cocktail dresses at midday.
My main objective was to find the Church of our Saviour on Spilled Blood. This Orthodox church is beautiful and is the main icon of St Petersburg. I was walking down Nevsky Prospect (the main street). I spent a long while walking about just marvelling at the building. There is a park next to the church and I wondered around, listening to 2 musicians playing classical guitar and violin and the music wove a magical haze over the experience. There is a park next to the church and I wandered around, soaking up the atmosphere and enjoying some good quality “me” time. The strange thing about the park was that the grass areas were no-go areas so you could only walk on the pathways and look at it. Weird right? Also, it seems that the Russians are incredibly fond of pigeons, feeding them all over the park. One man even had them sitting on his arm and eating out of his hand – gross.
In the evening, Marli and I joined a Royal Caribbean tour as escorts to see a Russian Folkloric dance show. It was amazing! The whole first performance was in top gear, like it was a pre-recorded show and someone had pushed the fast forward button. I would describe the dance as a highly animated, running on the spot style that was both hilarious and brilliant! The next performance freaked us out big time. The tempo changed to really slow and the female dancers, wearing long elegant dresses floated onto and about the stage on their tip toes. They moved so smoothly that they looked like they were statues being wheeled about the stage.
I swear, ballet, line dancing, marching formations, jiving, breakdancing and even the chicken dance originated in Russia! I include the chicken dance because the dancers dressed up like cockerels, hens and chicks for one of the performances, bucking their heads and flapping their arms about the stage. Very entertaining!
Funny Guest Story: We had a lot of Spanish speaking guests on board this cruise and one of the Photogs took a liking to one young Columbian lady. It actually became quite a joke with her family and her dad ended up calling him “son in law”. On the last evening of the cruise, the young Columbian beauty spent quite a bit of time in and around the photo gallery. Since she spoke almost no English and he almost no Spanish, they resorted to using Google translate on her phone to get their flirting on. Using this method, she asked him to join her for a drink when he finished work. To his credit he did say no. However, I have a feeling this was because relations between crew and guests are forbidden and not because he wasn’t interested!
Highlight of the cruise: Crying with laughter and wonder at the Russian Folkloric show.
To end off, a picture of a beautiful reindeer towbar cover. Enjoy!