What to see in Vladivostok
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Golden Horn bridge in Vladivostok Russia

Trying to keep their clients happy and increase repeat business, cruise lines are always looking for new destinations.

The name Vladivostok may not sound familiar yet. This city is known as being the homeport of Russia’s Pacific Fleet and was virtually closed to the outside world until 1992. It is also the largest Russian port in the Pacific Ocean.

This city is on the Pacific coast of Russia and is about to become a recognisable name to many cruise holiday makers. Soon, there will be another port for passengers to visit in Russia besides the ever popular St Petersburg.

Vladivostok in the News

Mainly serving as a major container ship port, a few passenger ships have already discovered the city’s charms. Presently, the majority of ships have been Asian cruise liners sailing out of Japan with over 50% of passengers being citizens of Japan. Word has spread out to the west and Princess began to make calls at Vladivostok on a few sailings.

The big news recently was that Vladivostok welcomed Costa’s ship Victoria this month on the 18th of May. It was the maiden call for Costa to this Russian port. The city of Vladivostok organised an all out welcome ceremony of national dances, folklore songs and bands on the pierside.

Costa Victoria

Image courtesy Costa Cruises

The city made quite an impression and now Costa is in discussion to increase the number of ships visiting. Other cruise lines are sure to follow and be part of Russia’s goal to develop cruise tourism in the 2017 and 2018 seasons.

Cruise ships dock at Morskoy Vokzal which is beside the town. Vladivostok’s central area is fairly small and easily walkable from the cruise terminal. Other options for the future are plans for a new terminal.

What to See

Russia is well known for their opera houses and the Russian Opera House in Vladivostok is no exception. Originally constructed for the APEC summit in 2012, the Opera House is unique not only for the symphonies within but also its exterior.

The Opera House is designed to resemble a cube within a cube surrounded by glass walls and consists of three stages. These stages are the Grand Hall, the Small Stage and the Summer Stage. Come here for a great cultural experience.

St Andrews Church is a newly added chapel located on the seafront. The church built in 2004 is quite small hosting a maximum of 50 people.

St Andrews Church Vladivostok

The Sportivnaya Market, the largest in the city is a shopper’s paradise. A favourite amongst locals and tourists alike, this market offers everything from electronics to furniture to even foodstuffs. Excellent fish dishes as well as the Kamchatka crabs makes for an unforgettable culinary experience.

The funicular is over 50 years old and is one of two remaining funiculars in the whole of Russia, the other one is in Sochi. The ride is short, cheap and very smooth but the real attraction of the ride is to admire all the beautiful scenery around you. The final stop is at Eagle’s Nest Hill which offers a truly stunning bird’s eye view of the entire city.

Not only does it offer the best views of the city, it is also perfect for hiking. What was once an extinct volcano is now a marvellous mountain. Lace up those boots and get walking on top of this majestic peak and don’t forget to take the camera.

After all that walking, head to a Banya otherwise known as a Russian sauna. One of the oldest traditions in the nation, dating back to 945 AD. The temperatures can get as high as 34 °C which will require you to wear special headgear for protection whilst in the sauna. The treatment is followed with banny venik branches, laced with eucalyptus and oak, guaranteed to improve your circulation.

At the Zarya Centre for Contemporary Art, visitors can interact in multiple ways. Besides viewing exhibitions, there are interactive games such as attempting to create your own masterpiece.

Sound enticing? Be on the lookout as the “gateway to Siberia” is bound to be an exciting destination on many Asian cruise holidays for years to come.

St Andrews Chuch Photo credit: Vladivostok 3 via photopin (license)

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Top Places to visit in St. Petersburg
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St Petersburg

There are many fascinating cities that a cruise ship visits on a Northern European sailing. All of the ports of call hold significance, but one in particular stands out as the top gem, none other than St. Petersburg in Russia. Formerly known as Leningrad prior to the 1991 fall of the USSR, this city is remarkable for the fact that it took only two decades to transform it from the Cold War relic to a top cruise destination.

Brief History

St. Petersburg was founded in the year 1703 by Peter the Great. It is difficult to believe that this area was at one point swampland, seeing as how it became an attractive city. Almost immediately after its construction, it was the site of increasingly elaborate Tsarist palaces, some of which are still being restored today.

The famed onion-domed churches came shortly afterwards and the Neva river is a delight after all these years. The city was carefully plotted and planned out, taking inspiration from other great cities such as London, Paris and Vienna as well as Venice, who’s influence can be seen by the many canals and passageways that dot St. Petersburg.

St. Petersburg, from 1712 to 1914 served as the capital of Russia. The city still had a large influence in culture and art after the revolution. Famous names such as Pushkin, Dostoyevsky, Tchaikovsky and Tolstoy called St. Petersburg their home and because of this, the city seems like an enormous museum exhibit.

Touring in St. Petersburg

A new modern terminal has been built in St. Petersburg to handle all the cruise ship passengers. Previously it was antiquated and now the modern steel and glass terminal sits along the docks and has eight berths to accommodate visiting tourists.

Unfortunately, a visa is required to tour on your own and must be obtained in the UK prior to your cruise holiday. It makes sense to just take one of the prearranged ship tours as you will be covered on the ships visa.

Top Places to Visit

Hermitage

A visit to the Hermitage is a must. This is the Russian equivalent to the Louver and it has several moving works of Picasso, Matisse and Rembrandt. Considered the second largest art museum in the entire world, this means that you may have to make return trips just to see everything.

The Hermitage

St. Isaac’s Cathedral

Another must see attraction is St. Isaac’s Cathedral which is recognisable by its enormous golden dome. Although it was only built in the middle of the 19th century, it remains an icon of the city to this day. It is known for its surprisingly luxurious interior and as a place of worship; with mosaic murals, granite pillars and marble floors, it’s clear that no expense was spared.

St Isaac's Cathedral

The Russian Museum

The Russian Museum is the perfect place to understand the diverse Russian culture. Everything from the great works of the 12th century to the USSR are represented here and all in good condition. The museum is located on the former grounds of the Mikhailovsky Palace and the Mikhailovsky Gardens are still intact, creating excellent photograph and sightseeing opportunities.

The Russian Museum

Romanov Legacy

But by far the biggest attraction in St. Petersburg are the palaces of the Romanovs. The homes of the last Tsar of Russia and his family, there are two palaces that are essential for visitors to experience; the Catherine Palace in Pushkin and Peter the Great’s Peterhof, located near the Baltic Sea. Both structures have been painstakingly restored and contain beautiful gardens.

Catherines Palace

The Catherine Palace was constructed for Russian Tsar Paul I, the only son of Catherine the Great. The highlight of the Catherine Palace is the beautiful and stunning Amber Room, which has been faithfully recreated. The effort took more than 20 years and cost the equivalent of 8 million pounds. The room had to be recreated due to the fact that the original amber panels were ransacked by the Nazis during WWII and have since been lost.

The Cruise Season

Many of the  major cruise lines offer Baltic itineraries ranging from 7 to 14 nights in duration.

Celebrity, Cunard, MSC, NCL, Princess and Royal Caribbean, amongst others stop at the Port of St. Petersburg. The season is short for a Baltic cruise holiday as they generally run from April to September.

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