Only small cruise ships can dock close to city center at either English Embankment or Lieutenant Schmidt Embankment . All others dock at Marine Façade.
The Marine Façade is a brand new facility, consisting of 8 berths and 4 identical terminals all linked together. The only facilities on the quays itself are a few duty free stores. Once you go through customs you will find a few souvenir stands and a coffee counter (credit card only). There is a local bus #158, every half an hour, which will transport you to the nearest metro station Primorskaya, only a few rubles. Take the metro to Gostiny Dvor / Nevsky Prospekt, the city center.
Be aware that the Marine Façade is build by the same conglomerate which also owns the tour company, the restaurants and souvenir shops you will be "forced" to visit, a monopoly! Excursions therefore are very expensive. It is kind of a cruise prison: No visa or a very expensive cruise or otherwise organized excursion and there is nowhere to go!
The only way to get through customs is to have a tour ticket for the same day. So if you have booked an afternoon excursion, you will be able to venture outside the terminal in the morning, however the whole complex is located far outside urbanity. Once you have used your excursion ticket this opportunity ceases to exists.
Taxis are available, however keep in mind that traffic jams in Saint Petersburg are more common than not.
Getting into Russia is easy if you are on a cruise or organized group. If you go ashore with an organized shore excursion, or a licensed guide, you need only carry your passport and your excursion ticket. It does not have to be an excursion sponsored by the ship, but you will need to get the paperwork in advance via email from any local guide you use for touring.
However, if you want to do independent touring of Saint Petersburg, you will need a Visa. Obtaining a Russian visa is a costly, time-consuming, and often frustrating process. Most visitors should start the process at least two months in advance, but it can be done in a few weeks if you are willing to spend a little extra. There is also a way to get a visa in just a few days, but for citizens of some countries, this will cost a couple hundred dollars. For citizens of EU countries, this will cost €70 and take three days, instead of the usual 4-10 days.
If your stay in Saint Petersburg is 2 or 3 days obtaining a visa might be worthwhile.
Fuel apparently is cheap in Russia, almost every ship will get refueled while in port.
Printable map to take along.
Cruise calendar for The Marine Façade.
Watch a destination video.
Most cruise ships spend two days or three days in St. Petersburg, but that's still not nearly enough time to see everything. An organized ship's tour or a tour guide is your best bet to see as much as possible efficiently. A tour of St. Petersburg on one of the many canal boats combined with a bus tour is a good way to get an overview of the city. Most people want to visit one of the most famous museums in the world, the Hermitage (Closed on Mondays). Day trips to Catherine's Palace and to Peterhof are very interesting.
You can Google for certified tour guides in St. Petersburg, if you do not want to partake in the cruise organized tours. A visa is not needed then. If you want to visit the city completely on your own, be aware that ticket lines at museums etc. can be long in the high season, whereas tour groups do not have to wait.
As the attractions in St. Petersburg are many, it is recommended to read up on it as much as you can.
The drive between the pier and Peterhof is approximately 50 to 60-minutes each way; the following venues are located there:
The drive between the pier and Oranienbaum is approximately 90-minutes each way; the following venues are located there:
The drive between the pier and Tsarskoye Selo is approximately 50 to 75-minutes; the following venues are located there:
Traffic in Saint Petersburg is very heavy, especially when one of the Neva bridges is under repair. Due to this many cruise ships depart later than planned, waiting for delayed busses to arrive. Often the tours are not able to show you everything of what was promised.
It pays to compare your cruise line shore excursions here.
Nevsky Prospekt is the city's main shopping street. There is a rather big souvenir market beside the Church of Our Savior on Spilled Blood.
On many excursions you will be visiting a "mandatory" souvenir shop. The souvenir shops inside the cruise terminal offer the same items at a much lower price.
The coffee corner inside the terminal offers soda's, beer and other refreshments for a lot better price than on your ship.
The duty free stores in port, are only a good buy for cigarettes (the same cigarettes in town are even much cheaper, but you will need rubles), everything else in these stores is very expensive.
The official currency of Russia is the ruble, which is divided into one hundred kopeks. It is illegal to pay in foreign currency. ATM's are many.
Most upscale establishments will accept credit cards. All souvenir stands accept the Euro.
Russian is the official language, English only spoken in upscale places and by the younger educated.
There is no internet or wifi in port at all. (you might be able to get some connection when your excursion bus is at a stand still in a traffic jam:)
Emergency numbers Police 02; Ambulance 03; Fire 01
Most shops open Mon-Sat 10am-7pm or later.
Public holidays are: Jan 1; Jan 6/7 (Orthodox Christmas); March 8 (Women's Day); May 1 and 2; May 9 (Victory Day); June 12; Nov 7. Russians also celebrate the unofficial Old New Year on 13/14 January - according to the Julian calendar.
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