A Taste of Life Ashore

Creative Culinary and Contemporary Lifestyle Shore Excursions in Europe for Discriminating Cruise Ship Guests

RUSSIA

Crafted in Russia by
Exeter International offers private and small group travel to Russia and Eastern Europe since 1992 at the highest level of luxury and service.  Recognized as the ‘Top Travel Specialist’ annually since  2001 by the editors of Conde Nast Travel and selected as a Travel + Leisure’s ‘A-List’ agency consecutively since 2002, Exeter International creates experiences beyond the usual, sharing exclusive access to extraordinary people and places.

ST. PETERSBURG:  Our Exclusive 3 Day Insider’s Tour of the city and Contemporary Life in Russia

Day 1

This morning your English-speaking guide and driver will meet you on the pier at 9:00 a.m. for your private transfer into St. Petersburg.

Today at the invitation of chef Sergey you will have the unique experience of attending a cooking class at one of the city’s best classic Russian restaurants, 1913.  Step into the kitchen and done your apron, you are going to learn how to make two of Russia’s national dishes, pelmeni and draniki this morning. You will be invited as special guests into his kitchen and learn the finer points of how to prepare Russian dumplings and their famous potato pancakes.

Start by mixing the dough by hand and then rolling it out into sheets in a fine layer. You’ll prepare the stuffing, it will likely be mushrooms, and then create your pelmeni by dropping the stuffing into the dough pouch. It’s easier than it sounds and chef Sergey will explain everything! Draniki are wonderful potato pancakes that are just as simple to prepare and even more wonderful to taste. You will have the kitchen to yourselves this morning, so enjoy and create with Chef Sergey!

Next your guide will take you to the Kuznechny Market. This is the best of St. Petersburg’s local markets and is a hive of activity with aggressive vendors pressing you to taste every vegetable and fruit imagineable. You will also be able to taste honey fresh from the comb – and probably will never want honey from a jar again! Various varieties of pickles and a myriad of spices from the Caucasus will keep you fascinated in this unique environment.

Today you will also have the opportunity to experience the St. Petersburg subway system. While it is not as ornate as the Moscow system, thousands of city residents use the subway to travel around the city and avoid the traffic congestion that is ever-increasing.

If the weather is nice, you might cap of your day with a private boat tour of the canals of St. Petersburg (from May to September only).  This is one of the most enchanting ways to explore the city, as you take in the sights while gliding along the canals and rivers of the city- past the Winter Palace, the Mariinsky Theater, the Summer Gardens and many other important sights.  The boat ride is an optional excursion and is not prepaid. Your guide will make the arrangements for you if you are interested and you can pay for this excursion on site.

Day 2

Your guide and driver will meet you on the pier this morning at 10:00 a.m. and take you out into the countryside.

In the village of Tsarskoe Selo you will have the opportunity to visit the Alexander Palace, which was the last residence of the family of the last Russian Emperor Nicholas II and his family. The palace was originally commissioned in the 1790s by the Empress Catherine the Great for her favorite grandson and future emperor Alexander I. Nowadays the palace rooms have been arranged as they looked when the royal family lived there, with a lot of the original decorations and furniture, pictures, children’s clothes, and dolls. The tour includes the studies of the Emperor and the Empress, guest rooms, bedrooms, and reception rooms. Only the left wing of the two-storey palace is open to visitors, while the right wing is still occupied by the Russian military.

A summer retreat outside of the city is an essential part of Russian life. Written about by Tolstoy, Dostoevsky and Pushkin, nothing is more Russian than the dacha. A small shack or a large castle, anything can be a summer retreat, but typically a dacha is a modest wooden home set in the countryside well outside the din of the city. Ideally a waterhole will be nearby (think Tom Sawyer!) and there will always be a small garden for the owners to carefully tend from spring to fall.

Today you will step inside this quintessentially Russian world with a personal invitation to spend an afternoon in a charming countryside dacha. You’ll be special guests of the owners today, so expect to be treated to fresh tomatoes from the garden, cucumbers and even berries picked from the fields – all when in season, of course. Russian salads, pickles and other “zakuski” will be laid out in their traditional manner, so expect to feast this afternoon! And of course, plan to enjoy a bit of Russia’s best vodka…  No doubt the conversation will be lively over your lunch (no need to worry, while your hosts might not speak perfect English, but your guide will to translate easily). There is no better way to see how Russians live than a day at the dacha- enjoy!

Early this evening, if you are interested, your guide will take you to a Russian Orthodox service at one of St. Petersburg’s beautiful cathedrals.  Most worshippers do not stay for more than a few minutes, so you can come and go as you like – just as the Russians do.  The acoustics at these cathedrals are excellent, so when the choir is singing, you will experience a special treat!

Day 3

Meet your guide on the pier this morning and transfer into the center of the city. Your guide will take you to see the ornate (and must-see) Church on Spilled Blood on Canal Griboyedova.  The Church on Spilled Blood is so named because it stands on the spot where the Emperor Alexander II was assassinated on March 1, 1881.  Its unique design was actually inspired by St. Basil’s Cathedral in Moscow.  This is the only church in the world covered completely inside and out by mosaics of tiles and precious and semi-precious stones.  This is one of the most extraordinary buildings in St. Petersburg and is well worth the visit.  During the Bolshevik revolution the church fell into a state of decline, and only recently has it been fully restored to its former glory.  Across the street you will find a small souvenir market selling inexpensive Russian handicrafts.

You can then explore the city with your guide. You may enjoy a walk along the famous Nevsky Prospect – St. Petersburg’s main thoroughfare. The 3-mile-long Nevsky prospect was laid out in 1710, making it one of the city’s first streets connecting different bends of the Neva River. St. Petersburg’s most famed street starts at the foot of the Admiralty building and runs all the way to the Alexander Nevsky Lavra. Some of the main sights lining the Nevsky Prospekt include the Stroganoff Palace, the huge neoclassical Kazan Cathedral, the Art Nouveau Book House (Dom Knigi), some 18th-century churches, a monument to Catherine the Great, the Russian National Library, and the Anichkov Bridge with its horse statues.

Your guide will be happy to provide information on any of the buildings you are interested in along the way and take you into a typical coffee shop to enjoy a refreshment.

This afternoon enjoy tea with a local family in a city apartment. This will provide you with the unique opportunity to learn about city life through the eyes of the local residents and enjoy some traditional Russian hospitality.

Later this afternoon transfer back to your ship for your evening sailing.

Price per person: $1,900 USD (based on 2 people traveling together)

YOUR TOUR OF RUSSIA INCLUDES:

  • Transportation by private vehicle and driver
  • Licensed English-speaking guide during tours
  • All sightseeing noted in the itinerary
  • Taxes

ST. PETERSBURG:  Custom Morning Sightseeing and Lunch with a Russian Family

This morning your guide and driver will be waiting to meet you on the pier and to travel into the heart of the city, where you will have the opportunity to experience ‘a day in the life’ of the locals.

Stroll Nevsky Prospekt, the city’s main boulevard and step inside some of the wonderful boutiques that attract the city’s more affluent citizens.  Next your guide will take you away from this main boulevard into areas of the cities that are frequented by the average citizens If you are interested you might wish to visit the local market where resident of the city shop daily for their produce, cheeses and other local products.

Please advise your guide if you have a specific interest such as a toy store, book store or perhaps the local supermarket offering recognizable foods (and many not so well recognized) behind labels and signs that are impossible to read. This will also be an opportunity for you to learn to read some basic Russian.

Your guide will also take you on the St. Petersburg metro system which carries thousands of local residents every day as they move to and from work and go about their daily lives.

This afternoon enjoy a visit to the home of a local family and enjoy lunch in their dacha.  Many families who live in large cities maintain a dacha, or a seasonal or second home in the countryside.  Dachas first appeared in Russia during the reign of Peter the Great and in archaic Russian, the word dacha means something given. You will be able to learn about life in rural Russia and enjoy a traditional lunch.

Price per person: $625 USD (based on 2 people traveling together)

YOUR TOUR OF RUSSIA INCLUDES:

  • Transportation by private vehicle and driver
  • Licensed English-speaking guide during tours
  • All sightseeing noted in the itinerary
  • Lunch
  • Taxes

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