Remember those gorgeous snapshots I sent you from St.Petersburg? I promised to tell you about how Mr.A & I traveled visa-free to St.Petersburg. Here’s the whole story.
Since we hold Indian passports and Schengen visas, nearly all our travels in recent years have been in and around Europe to countries that acknowledge the Schengen. (Do you want to check out all the lovely places we have been?!) We’d need a visa to visit Russia but that’s a pity considering how close it is – a flight from Stockholm to St.Petersburg is a mere 1 hour and 20 minutes! So we’d always fantasise about going there someday when we had more time to fix all the paperwork.
But one fine day Mr.A came across some new info – a cruise liner called St Peter Line that allows visitors into St.Petersburg without the hassle of applying for a visa, upon a ship named ‘Princess Anastasia’. It follows a fixed weekly itinerary docking at four ports around the Baltic Sea, Stockholm, Helsinki, Tallinn and St.Petersburg. Of these, all but Russia accepts a Schengen visa, which we both hold on account of living and working in Stockholm for the past few years. We had visited Helsinki during an excruciatingly cold December a few years ago, and in spite of the weather, had managed to see most of the places that interested us, so we weren’t too keen on Helsinki again. Last year I was in Tallinn for the first time but for Mr.A it was the third, so we ruled that out, too. But then, St.Petersburg was a whole new proposition and we were both instantly saying, as we almost always do, ‘Let’s go!’.
In case you decide to take this route, here are some practical suggestions that might help with your planning:
- The cruise liner’s website provides you most of the information you need including visa free rules, day by day itinerary, etc.
- You don’t have to stick to the whole journey but can opt for any leg of the journey. Since our goal was St.Petersburg, we decided to fly to between Stockholm & Helsinki, and cruise between Helsinki & St.Petersburg.
- Need I state the obvious? Remember to carry your passport and any other resident permits that you hold.
- The cruise itself is on the average side but there are enough options to eat & drink & pass the time. The evening dance performance we watched was quite a good show. Taking bigger & better cabins on the higher decks might considerably improve your experience but the ones on the lower deck are obviously cheaper. Your pick!
- Since you stay overnight in the city, you can either book a hotel in the city or choose to return to the cruise for the night. We chose the latter option. Not only was it terribly cheap to add the extra night, it also eliminated the hassle of carrying our stuff back & forth and the time constraints of checking in & out of a hotel.
- Before boarding, you check-in at the terminal and they provide you with the boarding cards that couple as room keys as well as three other cards required for the visa procedures. The personnel explain all of this pretty clearly, bottom line being, carry them with you at all times & hand them over when asked to.
- When you get to St.Petersburg expect some rather longish queues (assuming the cruise was packed) at the terminal because this is where the border control happens and you get your passport stamped, yayie!
- Mini-buses transfer you free of charge between the terminal and a couple of drop off points the city – the one outside of St.Isaac’s cathedral brings you to the heart of the city. Bus schedules are provided when you board or you can simply ask for one at the reception on the ship. These seat 20 eager passengers at a time and ply every 15 mins, so it might be a bit of challenge to get on the first one that comes by – people don’t really follow the queues here, not even the Europeans, everybody is impatient to get their trip kicked off. Taking a taxi into town would be a quicker way out. Might be a good idea to check with the reception about the most suitable time to leave or return to the ship.
- Once in the city, we were off on our own. I’ll tell you the highlights of our trip in another post soon. Promise!
- Return to the ship in good time on the day of departure, since there might be a bit of queuing then as well, though I noticed it was way less than on the day we arrived. Watching the ship sail away from the docks with a refreshing drink in hand is very relaxing & enjoyable. Especially while leaving St.Petersburg, you get to watch the ship graze by inches below a bridge. They do this every week, but it’s nearly impossible to hold back a whoop & a cheer for the captain 🙂
Is St.Petersburg on your travel wishlist too? Then I hope you find this post helpful. I’ll be more than happy to share my two cent’s worth on this journey, in case you have any questions, fire away!
Last September, Mr.A and I took a leisurely three-hour train ride to pop into Sweden‘s second biggest city, Gothenburg. It’s a lively, vibrant city with a great food scene. Here’s what we enjoyed…
# Breakfast at Scandic No. 25
We stayed two nights at the Scandic No. 25 during our stay and very much enjoyed their scrumptious breakfast which was included in the room tariff. The spread is impressive, hearty muesli, dainty sandwiches, flaky croissants, fluffy pancakes, it’s all in there. The lobby and dining area are pleasant to lounge around in. There is fika of tea, coffee, cakes & biscuits all day, too.
# Lunch at Feskekôrka
Feskekôrka translates to Fish Church, an indoor marketplace for seafood. We had an excellent lunch sharing a plate of grilled fish, a fish pasta in hot sauce & a delicious fish soup at the restaurant housed within the building. Seating is available both indoors & outdoors by the water. Although there is all kinds of raw fish being sold in the same premises, surprisingly there is no unpleasant fishy smell at all. The structure is unique in itself, standing there since the late 1800’s. Gothenburg’s fish harbour used to be across the canal – the men would bring in fish & women would sell the wares right where the fish church is. The building was built to give the fish sellers a place to sell fish during the colder winter months. It was very nice to be able to visit and eat at a place of historical interest. Plus the food and service were simply great.
# Fika at Cafe Husaren
By evening we wandered into Haga Nygata in Gamla Haga, the oldish part of town. The street itself has a quaint old town feel & Cafe Husaren complements that perfectly. The decor takes you back in time with those chandeliers hanging off a tiled ceiling and the beautiful tiles on the ceiling. The coffee is great, there is a splendid array of savoury pies, delectable cakes, and the unforgettable “queen of the kitchen” – a giant kannelbullar or the traditional Swedish cinnamon bun. Of course, if you can’t finish it, you can ask for a bag to take it with you 🙂 If I were living in Gothenburg, I’d be going there all the time!
Hope you enjoy the post! Have a great weekend!!
Sky. Ocean. Teal. Berry. Sapphire. Azure. Aegean. Peacock. Cobalt. Denim. Navy… Picture each of these, and a random collection of words will quickly transform into vivid and evocative names for various shades of Blue.
Sunny, happy day. Santorini, Greece
Calcutta Trams, running since 1902. Kolkata, India.
Chunks of glacier ice floating on a lagoon. Jökulsárlón, Iceland.
Stained glass window at a church. Västerås, Sweden.
Azulejo, a mural made from tin-glazed ceramic tiles. Lisbon, Portugal.
Call for selfie onboard the Tallink ferry! Tallinn, Estonia.
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