St. Petersburg on our own? (Star 5/15/05)



In following the Baltic ports part of this forum, I have yet to find info from someone who did St. Petersburg on his/her own. I have been there before and would love to be independent while there on the cruise.

Does anyone know where the Star (or previous Princess vessels) docks? The industrial port, the passenger port or the English River? A taxi from the former is $30 each way into town, but the latter have public transport options.

Does the Princess cruise line provide visa support letters to independent passengers, or do we have to find Russian agencies for this? Princess was evasive when I asked -- they said we would find out as the date approached....

If we must use a guide, has anyone found anyone cheaper than Den Rus or Red October? $300 per person for two days of basic sightseeing seems high, but they seem to have us over a barrel with independent visa costs and taxi fares.

Thanks, efs


I can speak only for Celebrity but know that independent travel [which I researched because that is what we wanted to do] necessitates a Russian visa that you must get yourself. The cruiseline will provide the info needed to get that Russian visa on your own. Celebrity even has a link to an agency that will do that. The cost and amount of paperwork seemed prohibitive.

We traveled with DenRus on their 'blanket visa' which the cruiseline and Russian immigration honored. When we matched the cost of the cruiseline shore excursion [and the services they included] with the van and driver for four of us, we decided that DenRus was indeed a 'bargain'. We did not consider it basic sightseeing as we were able to plan our own two day itinerary and saw everything we wanted. They even added a few suggestions which we would not have thought of.

Hope this helps; contact me for further info if needed:


Thanks for your reply. That means that Celebrity does not provide visa support -- I hope Princess does. The cost of the visa (about $100 pp when dealing direct with the Russian embassy, last time I checked) would be worth it, but not if one has to add the expense and hassle of visa support in Russia (even if we do not use an American visa service) and port to city taxis. I guess if one wants to travel independently in St. P, a cruise is not the way to do it. Glad we have done it on our own before. This time we will pay the $300-400 pp for the two days and be guided around.


Applying for a Tourist visa for independent to Russia is a two step process and not complicated.
First you need to contact a tour company or visa service(, you mentioned DenRus, they would be a good source) and obtained a voucher/visitor acceptance document. It can be faxed or emailed to you. It usually costs $25-40 for the voucher, sometimes called an invitation, incorrectly. Include this voucher with your application to your nearest Russian consulate. In addition to the voucher, a passport type photo, application form, and consular fee you will need to include your passport because the visa is now a permanent page sticker that takes up an entire passport page. The fee is determined by the processing time length you select from same-day(very expensive) to "not less than 7 days" which means exactly 7 days from my long time experience in getting visa even after I moved to St Petersburg from San Francisco in 2003. I've had 12 year long multiple re-entry business visas to Russian and have seen a number of chages in process over the years but not it is about as easy as ever, certainly not harder.

If you stay longer than 72 hours, which is longer than cruise ships stay in port, you would need to "register " your visa, Den Rus can do that for you in that case if you did not leave with your ship.

Your cruise line will not be energetic in getting visa support letters for you for two reasons, one they are not authorized to issue them because they are not Russian visitor agencies and two, they want you to use their sponsored tours because they make a lot of money on these large tour bus operations. I can not imagine seeing such an facinating city in a gigantic 45 passenger bus when it is best experienced on foot and small van....for less money and a lot more memories. The cruise lines contract with some of the same tour counpanies who provide the independent tour..such as Den Rus and Red October but both those company's independent tours are conducted in much more flexible smal groups of from 1 to 8 visitors plus a guide and driver.

If you have any questions let me know, I am very familar with St Petersburg specifically and Russia in general.
Have a great visit