First Impressions Of Russia: No Surprises, Plenty Of Intrigue

The third stop on a 12-night Summer Russia and The Baltics sailing aboard Azamara Quest, St Petersburg was a highly anticipated destination. Many of us onboard had never been there before and, earlier in life, thought we ever would be. To some visiting the Russian port was a dream come true. Others were simply curious and this was one stop on an overall intriguing itinerary. To me, St Petersburg was all of that and a bit more, highlighting some serious differentiating factors owned by Azamara Club Cruises.

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We arrived early, as anticipated. In a unique element of the Azamara cruise experience; the Captain provides a great amount of detail over the ship’s loudspeaker system just before we leave each port of call. Little details. Right down to the order in which the mooring lines used to keep the ship in place when docked will be released.

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Have you ever wondered which of the officers will be taking the ship out to sea? We find that out just before leaving port, along with the route we will take, anticipated weather and more. Initially it might seem like too much information and some passengers on other lines might tune it out.

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But many of us aboard Azamara Club Cruises’ ships are from the “when the Captain speaks, you listen” generation and over the course of a few days we make a subconscious revelation: There are a number of officers and all of them know how to drive the ship. Good to know but not a big surprise.

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That the destination focus runs past marketing the unique places Azamara visits, rarely repeating itineraries is not surprising. They have been at it actively longer than many other cruise lines. But it is as though they looked at everything they do and asked “What is the destination element in this?”. The detailed information provided in what might otherwise be a typical daily Captain From The Bridge announcement drives home the destination focus.

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Partly cloudy skies seen as we approached the port in St Petersburg gave clouds, cold and a bit of mist in the air. First-time visitors to Russia would later describe the weather that day as “about what we expected.”

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Our Panoramic St Petersburg tour would take us to a number of landmarks in the city, as anticipated. What we did not know; the plan also included abundant free time to wander around unrestricted at each place along the way.

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In advance of arrival, Azamara passengers on this voyage were informed by the cruise line; the only way off the ship was to either have your own Russian visa (would cost us $hundreds) or visit via cruise ship tour in which case the cruise line pays a bulk visa fee, included in the price of the tour. Sort of like how port charges are more when visiting the protected waters of Alaska, tour prices seem to reflect a bit of that visa fee.

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Still, once through immigration and on tour, we were free to walk around just like anyplace else. No KGB agents following us… although there was a bit of mystery lingering in the air.

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Significant here is that the expectation set by Azamara for St Petersburg was entirely accurate with no surprises at a destination where personal safety is of high concern.  Like when visiting other major tourist destinations around the world, we leave jewelry, credit cards and expensive personal items on the ship to avoid being a target for criminals.

See more of our Azamara Club Cruises Russia sailing:

Pinterest Photo Boards – one for each port and more

Flickr Photo Albums- all our photos for each place, free to use

Facebook Photo Albums