As the unrelenting heat continues across the United States, it seems like the perfect time to get away with Oceania Cruises in search of a summer adventure and relief from triple-digit temperatures.
As Blogger-at-Large, I pay close attention to Oceania Cruises’ Facebook and Twitter posts on #WhereintheWorld are our ships today?. I couldn’t help but get a little nostalgic when I saw that Marina made a recent stop in St. Petersburg, Russia, one of my favorite cities.
After founding St. Petersburg in 1703, Peter the Great helped build this city of grandeur. It served as Russia’s imperial capital almost continuously from 1713 until 1918. Nearly five million people call St.
Petersburg home today, and the city is a mere six degrees latitude from the Arctic Circle, making it the largest city in the world in such a northerly location.
The day I visited, our Oceania Cruises shore excursion began at Saint Isaac’s Cathedral, the largest Russian Orthodox Cathedral in the city. It’s hard to believe that the design of this building was originally criticized by some as dry and boring. During World War II, the dome was painted gray to avoid the attention of enemy aircraft. Fortunately, it worked, and even more fortunately, today all traces of gray are gone!
Our next stop was the Peter and Paul Fortress, the final resting place of Russia’s tsars. From Peter the Great to Tsar Nicholas II, emperors and empresses were entombed in this cathedral, elaborately decorated in gold and marble. You would never know by looking at it that this was once a prison for high-ranking political prisoners. Famous inmates include Fyodor Dostoevsky and Leon Trotsky.
We also visited the Church of the Savior on Spilled Blood, which is dedicated to the memory of Tsar Alexander II and was built on the spot where he was assassinated. It contains over 7,500 meters of mosaics, second only to the Cathedral Basilica of St. Louise in Missouri!
Next to the church is one of many waterways cutting through St. Petersburg, giving it a feel similar to Amsterdam and Venice. The city has 42 islands, which mark the northernmost point of the ancient north-south trading route called the Amber Road. Interestingly, the southern endpoint is Venice.
Later we ventured into the countryside outside of St. Petersburg to see the tsars’ summer home, Catherine Palace. Before entering the palace, we were lead through an exhibit featuring the different modes of transportation used to shuttle royalty back and forth to the city.
Exiting this exhibit, the compound opens up to reveal the magnificent palace and grounds that practically took my breath away. The bright blue of the palace is a striking contrast to the surrounding lush green forest and is the perfect backdrop for a spontaneous ballet in the courtyard.
After being treated as visiting dignitaries at the palace, our excursion led us to a feast that was designed to give us all a taste of Russian folk culture. The food, dance and camaraderie made my visit to the Catherine Palace truly unforgettable.
Oceania Cruises itineraries often include two days in St. Petersburg so that guests have a chance to explore this amazing city at length. Before heading onto our next port of call, I took advantage of the extra day and enjoyed a shore excursion to the Hermitage Museum.
One of the oldest museums in the world, it was established in 1764 by Catherine the Great. Only four of the six buildings are open to the public, the most famous being the Winter Palace. But with over three million artifacts in the collection, including the largest collection of paintings in the world, there was plenty to see. We had to find the perfect balance between moving fast enough to see as much as possible but still taking the time to soak in the amazing architecture, artifacts and artworks. Thank goodness our Oceania Cruises guide enabled us to bypass the line to get in!
I am thrilled for Marina‘s guests who visited St. Petersburg this week. It is truly an extraordinary city, and I have no doubt that they enjoyed a once in a lifetime experience. Not to mention, it has been 68 degrees and sunny in St Petersburg all week. Perfect cruising weather!