After two additional days at sea, we reached St. Petersburg, Russia. The Russian government required guests who wished to visit the city without the supervision of the cruise company to have visas. As we did not have visas, we had to go on several of the cruise company’s tour packages of the city. The first day, we took a bus tour around St. Petersburg. I quickly came to the conclusion that I will never go on an organized bus tour of Europe! The bus insulates you from ever feeling that you are anywhere but a bus. We would drive around from monument to monument, stopping for the occasional 15 minutes to take a photo of a famous church or to grab trinkets being sold by the Russian street vendors.
In the evening, we attended an exclusive performance of Gis&egrav;le by a Russian ballet company. No photos from the bus ride or the performance, as I left the camera (about the only time the camera wasn’t with me) on the boat. The story didn’t really do it for me, and the dancing was only so-so. We felt that the second lead male and female dancers were better than the leads. Also, why couldn’t Prince Albert get offed by the swamp ghosts in the end???
The second day featured a very fast tour of the Hermitage Museum, the third-largest museum in the world (next to the British Museum and the Louvre). Following our tour guide Tatiana (who got married the following day), we blitzed through the five buildings of the Hermitage in a record 3 hours. Rae and I felt that the building itself — the walls and interior decorations — were more impressive than the pieces of art on display!