• Sweden edition
 
SPONSORED ARTICLE
Enjoy historic St Petersburg - without the visa

Enjoy historic St Petersburg - without the visa

Published: 03 Oct 2011 09:49 GMT+02:00
Updated: 03 Oct 2011 09:49 GMT+02:00

Imagine visiting St. Petersburg, one of the most majestic cities in the world, without having to fly there and avoiding the headache of the visa-application process. Well, it’s now possible – via the St. Peter Line - which recently started a direct visa-free cruise from Stockholm to St. Petersburg.

St. Petersburg was founded by Tsar Peter the Great in 1703 as Russia’s “window to the west” and the city today still bears a distinctive ‘East meets West’ vibe. One of the world’s most intriguing cities and steeped in history, its stunning buildings and monuments bear witness to the bygone Tsarist and Stalin eras, earning its historic centre a place on the UNESCO World Heritage site list. It’s also home to the Hermitage - one of the largest art museums in the world.

A metropolis of around five million people, St. Petersburg is one of the largest cities in the Baltic Sea region and a mecca for culture, history, food and nightlife.

Yet, until recently, the sheer hassle of trying to arrange a visa to Russia put many visitors off. But there is a loophole: Under Russian law, foreigners are allowed to arrive in the country by ferries and stay for up to 72 hours without a visa as long as they have booked the trip with a tour operator, have a pre-arranged program, a valid return ticket and prepaid hotel voucher.

That’s why St. Peter Line started a direct cruise between Stockholm and St. Petersburg. “We wanted to give Swedes the chance to take a short hassle-free trip to St. Petersburg and also to bring wealthy Russians to Stockholm for shopping and so on. We can arrange the entire program for our passengers,” says Tapani Kauhanen, St. Peter Line’s Marketing Director for Scandinavia.

It takes just 24 hours from Stockholm to St. Petersburg on board the comfortable Princess Anastasia which can carry 2,500 passengers and 580 cars.

If, like American Susan Volsky who recently made the trip, your heart is set on the Hermitage and you’re stuck for time, opt for the three-day cruise which includes a full day in St. Petersburg and a few hours in Helsinki. Others combine the cruise and three nights at a hotel in St. Petersburg.

“Americans expect certain things from cruises but we had no expectations. Once we realised what it was all about, we absolutely loved it,” she enthuses, quick to lavish praise on the super-helpful, multi-lingual staff.

“As we arrived in St. Petersburg, I thought ‘wow, I can’t believe I am finally here’ as I’ve always wanted to go to the Hermitage,” she says. “We were just sorry that we didn’t stay overnight. There’s so much to see and do in St.Petersburg, even if the weather is not perfect.”

The cruise is proving a hit with Swedes, tourists and Russians alike. “Up to St. Petersburg we were around 300 passengers but in St. Petersburg we picked up another 800 or 900,” Volsky noticed.

With such a mix of people on board, is it tough to keep them entertained?

“We cover everything from the upper to the lower budgets so it’s up to you if you want to hang out in the Champagne Bar in the evenings for €350 a pop, lounge by the pool with your kids, have sushi with friends or enjoy the nightclub,” replies Kauhanen.

The cruise effortlessly mixes what you’d expect from a Scandinavian Baltic Sea cruise with a touch of Russian charm thrown in. For example, there’s an XXXX Club, a popular Russian nightclub chain, which has some modest topless dancing after the vodka starts flowing. Passengers are also treated to live theatre and ballet performances by a St.Petersburg-based fine arts academy. “The show was a highlight,” says Volsky. “I loved the Russian dancers.”

If you want to relax and unwind, there’s a generous sized swimming pool, jacuzzi and sauna.

All in all, the cruise is good value for money. “For around SEK 2,000 per person you can have a B-class cabin and three nights in the Sokos Olympic Garden Hotel in St. Petersburg,” says Kauhanen. St. Peter Line has a special agreement with Finland’s Sokos Hotel chain which owns three central hotels in St. Petersburg.

City tours, hotel packages and meal packages during the voyage should be booked online when you book your cruise to get the best deals.

“St. Petersburg is a beautiful city and this cruise was the perfect way to see the Hermitage in a short space of time,” concludes Volsky. “We visit our children in Sweden every year and always try to fit in a side-trip. Last year it was Copenhagen, this year St. Petersburg and who knows - we might be back again next year.”

St. Peter Line cruises can also be used by companies for onboard conferences or, if you want to combine business and pleasure in St.Petersburg.

Must-sees in St. Petersburg

You’ll never run out of things to see or do in St. Petersburg but here are a few of the highlights that shouldn’t be missed!

The Hermitage Museum: one of the world’s largest and most spectacular art museums.

Peter and Paul Fortress: one of Russia’s most historical prisons.

Catherine Palace (also known as the Summer Palace): A glimpse into how Russia’s royalty once lived.

Peterhof: the playground of the tsars with ornate fountains.

Kizhi Island: an open-air museum of wooden architecture – made without nails - from the Karelia region of Russia.

The Russian Museum: home to one of the largest collections of Russian art in the world.

The Bronze Horseman statue: a symbol of St. Petersburg showing Peter the Great on his horse.

Lazarus and Tikhvin Cemeteries: the burial site of some of Russia’s most famous artists, composers and writers.

Boat tour: by day or night, a picturesque tour on the Neva river and through smaller canals. Best done in summer!

Hop on the metro to see the Soviet-style suburbs: to see how “normal” residents of St. Petersburg live.

About the St. Peter Line cruise

Departs Stockholm Wednesday mornings and Saturday evenings.

Prices range from SEK 2,000 per person.

Related links:

Paul Rapacioli (paul.rapacioli@thelocal.com)

Don't miss...X
Left Right

Your comments about this article

NEWS_NOT_YET_IMPORTED
Today's headlines
Florida 'mystery knight' dies in Sweden
Michael Boatwright (R) and Medieval knight re-enactors.

Florida 'mystery knight' dies in Sweden

The "motel mystery" American who baffled US authorities by only speaking Swedish when he woke up from a coma last year has passed away, Swedish media reported on Wednesday. READ () »

Swedes open coffin of 850-year-old king
Photo: Bertil Ericson/TT

Swedes open coffin of 850-year-old king

UPDATED: Scientists pried open the 850-year-old casket of King Erik the Holy on Wednesday, hoping to find out more about the king, his crown, and his eating habits. READ () »

TeliaSonera announces first-quarter profit drop
TeliaSonera CEO Johan Dennelind. File photo: TT

TeliaSonera announces first-quarter profit drop

Stockholm-listed telecom operator TeliaSonera on Wednesday said profits had fallen in the first quarter, but hoped offering customers more data solutions in the future would turn things around. READ () »

'Imperfect EU better than revolting nationalism'
Fredrik Reinfeldt. File photo: TT

'Imperfect EU better than revolting nationalism'

Swedish Prime Minister Fredrik Reinfeldt on Wednesday urged young voters to head to the European parliamentary polls on May 25th "to cure the European disease of nationalism". READ () »

Ericsson quarterly profit defies sluggish sales
Ericsson CEO Hans Vestberg at the first quarter press conference. Photo: TT

Ericsson quarterly profit defies sluggish sales

Swedish telecom giant Ericsson on Wednesday announced a drop in sales but posted a sharp rise in first-quarter profit, which nonetheless fell shy of analyst predictions. READ () »

Fatal Norrköping brawl
Four brothers held as cops fear brawl reprisals
Photo: Johan Nilsson/TT

Four brothers held as cops fear brawl reprisals

Swedish police fear that several people involved in a brawl in eastern Sweden on Monday night may be seeking revenge after two brothers were shot dead. READ () »

Sponsored Article
Beautiful pearls of southeast Sweden
The town of Västervik.

Beautiful pearls of southeast Sweden

Ask a Swede, and they are likely to say that their favourite holiday spot is in the southeast of Sweden. Eastern Småland and Öland offer a smörgåsbord of all the things dearest to the Swedes - from the beloved children's book author Astrid Lindgren to deep forests, long sandy beaches, perfect spots for that all-important 'fika', and a surprising amount of space, peace and quiet. READ () »

Weekend weather to bring summer warmth
Swedes enjoy hot dogs and cherry blossoms in Stockholm's Kungsträdgården. Photo: Jessica Gow/TT

Weekend weather to bring summer warmth

The sun is set to stick around and temperatures could climb into the twenties over the weekend, Swedish meteorologists said on Wednesday READ () »

'Day-care rapist' admits molesting eight kids

'Day-care rapist' admits molesting eight kids

A 21-year-old man confessed on Wednesday to sex crimes against eight children at a day care where he was working as an intern. READ () »

Swedish cops nab man for having big muscles
An unrelated bodybuilder. File photo: Ann Törnkvist

Swedish cops nab man for having big muscles

Police in Sweden's south who hauled a muscular man in for steroid testing have had their knuckles rapped, after it was ruled that big biceps cannot be grounds for narcotics suspicions. READ () »

RECEIVE OUR NEWSLETTER AND ALERTS
TT
Gallery
Inside the 850-year-old king's coffin
Features
Sponsored: South-eastern Sweden offers Öland beaches and more
Gallery
Swedish underwear shop puts staff in front of the camera
Gallery
IN PICTURES: The Local's Property of the Week - Täby
Sponsored: India+Sweden Week - India Unlimited
Features
Sponsored: India+Sweden Week - A film, food, and finance feast
National
University applications rocket to record high
finest.se
Gallery
People-watching April 18-20
TT
Society
Kids in Victorian garb mark Swedish Easter
Shutterstock
National
Swedish MP ordered chemtrail probe
Society
Swedish supermarket Ica pulls contested Easter commercial off air
Kungahuset
Society
Swedish royals set baptism date for princess
finest.se
Gallery
People-watching April 16
Advertisement:
Politics
Who's the prime minister's heir?
Alfie Atkins
Society
Are children's books the key to families integrating in Sweden?
National
'Sweden Dem protests cater to party's martyr image'
National
'Swedish research grants were fantastic, but now it's like Australia'
Society
Only in Sweden: The ten problems you'd never encounter elsewhere
National
Swedes stopped to take my picture, but didn't look me in the eyes
Business & Money
A swipe of the hand replaced cash and cards in Lund
YouTube
Features
Video: Oliver Gee finds out how to embrace The Swedish Hug
TT
National
Abba duo hints at reunion
Private
National
Flash mobs hug it out across Sweden
Finest.se
Gallery
People-watching April 11-13
Stockholm School of Economics
Sponsored Article
Why a bachelor's degree is no longer enough
Latest news from The Local in Switzerland

More news from Switzerland at thelocal.ch

Latest news from The Local in Germany

More news from Germany at thelocal.de

Latest news from The Local in Spain

More news from Spain at thelocal.es

Latest news from The Local in France

More news from France at thelocal.fr

Latest news from The Local in Italy

More news from Italy at thelocal.it

Latest news from The Local in Norway

More news from Norway at thelocal.no

Blog Update: The Diplomatic Dispatch

28 October 15:16

The Green Growth Group Summit »

"Today on the 28 October in Brussels, a large group of key EU Ministers and business people, including UK Secretary of State for Energy and Climate Change Edward Davey, and Swedish Environment Minister Lena Ek, will meet to discuss green growth. They all have a stake in resolving a challenge which, although it is crucial..." READ »

718
jobs available
Swedish Down Town Consulting & Productions
Swedish Down Town Consulting & Productions is an innovative business company which provides valuable assistance with the Swedish Authorities, Swedish language practice and general communications. Call 073-100 47 81 or visit:
www.swedishdowntown.com