Planning a trip by cruise ship or ferry to St Petersburg, Russia? If so, learn more on your Baltic Cruise with our best recommendations.
In the last few years, travelling by cruise ship or ferry to St Petersburg has become one of the most popular ways to get to Russia. It is legal, fun, and relaxing. And, it can be a romantic idea for a weekend getaway or a great short break destination.
By sea you can enjoy a wonderful journey across the Baltic sea and the Scandinavian coastlines while drinking, eating, and relaxing on-board the ship, plus you will be able to enter Russia without a visa and get a quick glimpse at our beautiful city also called "The Venice of the North", where you enjoy interesting museums and monuments; unique canals and concerts; stunning cathedrals and churches, and much more.
Many first-time visitors from the USA and Canada choose to cruise on a big ship liner, while others, mostly Europeans, prefer to come on a ferry cruise. Naturally, between ferries and cruise liners, there are some differences when it comes to cost, comfort, and on-board service but there are also some tiny travel restrictions on arrival that will limit your visit to the cultural capital of Russia.
Cruise ships tend to be more expensive than Ferries for obvious reasons, but both are easy ways to travel to Russia nowadays thanks to the law that allows cruise ship passengers to visit the city of St Petersburg without Russian visas for up 72 hours if they meet certain requirements (more on that later).
We, Anastasia and I (Davide), have been travelling by ferry to St Petersburg on several occasions, and we still remember that time when we were chilling out on the deck and looking at the beautiful Baltic sea and blue Gulf of Finland while passing through the coastlines of Finland and Estonia on the way to Russia.☺
Now let's get into the content of ferry to St Petersburg and see what cruise ship or ferry you should keep an eye on to get here. To get started just click on the links below or scroll down the page. Happy reading!
Saint Petersburg, sitting at the eastern
of the Baltic sea, has been a major port city and an attractive
destination for sea travellers since its foundation by Peter the Great. So getting to Russia's Imperial Capital by sea won't be difficult, but just a long pleasant trip.
If you would like to travel by sea you have two options: you can take one of the major international ship cruise lines such as Princess, Norwegian, Royal Caribbean, Holland America, Carnival,
Cunard Line, Celebrity, MSC, and so forth. Or you can take the popular St. Peter Line Ferry, the only operator offering both a ferry cruise and a cargo ship directly to Saint Petersburg, Russia.
Alternatively, if you are looking for other options that are not going direct to St. Petersburg, then you could also take a ferry from Stockholm to Helsinki and from Stockholm to Tallinn, including Riga with Tallink & Silja Lines or Viking Cruises. Both are two established European shipping companies offering access to the entire Baltic Sea region with the most modern fleet. From there, you can continue your trip to St Petersburg by bus or by train.
If you are on a tight budget then you could try your luck with freight travel. We know that there is a direct ferry to St. Petersburg, Russia from countries such as Germany, Poland, Spain, UK, Belgium, Denmark, Finland, Estonia, and Sweden operated by Finnlines Cargo-Passengers Ships, but we're not sure if they still board passengers, so check the company for yourself.
The most popular routes by ferry or cruise ship from Northern Europe are Helsinki to St. Petersburg, Stockholm to Helsinki and St. Petersburg, or Tallinn to St. Petersburg or Stockholm, and reverse. Instead, all the international ship cruise lines have a route to St. Petersburg, but they include several stops in some European capital cities, and even worldwide, if you board from USA, China, or Australia for instance.
Speaking of travel time, if you travel by ferry to St Petersburg from the Baltic States it may take from 14hrs to 38hrs, depending on the route chosen. If you're going with one of those major ship cruises instead, it will take days, or even weeks, depending on your cruise package chosen.
Whether you go with a major cruise liner or a ferry it is entirely up to you. In both cases, you can travel to Russia without a visa and enjoy the sea cruise. However, nowadays, most people prefer ship cruises to ferries because they can travel cozily, hassle free, and see more cities. In fact, there is no doubt that going on a cruise ship is totally a different and better travel experience than going on a ferry cruise.
On a ship cruise, you can make friends on board, relax with all the services provided (sauna, massage, gym, swimming pool, jacuzzi, etc), sleep comfortably, eat delicious food a' la carte, and enjoy the on-board entertainment (shows, night clubs, bars, casino, etc). Basically, you can travel in comfort, relax, and have fun.
On the contrary, when going on a ferry cruise you will save money, but you won't experience such a luxurious trip as with a cruise ship, even if the Ferry St. Peter Line appears to be no less.
Normally, the price varies
according to the cabin category and cruise package chose, the season you are travelling,
and the time or date you are planning to leave. So start doing your research in advance. And don't forget to reserve your sightseeing program in St. Petersburg in advance regardless of you book a private tour with a local company or an open tour provided by the ship cruise.
Speaking of booking your shore city tour you have two options: you can take the tour offered by your ship company, or you can find one on your own before you go. Definitely, the second option will guarantee you a much better experience and it is legal in terms of the visa.
We often recommend to avoiding package shore tours offered by the ship cruise because most of the time they are offering you standard city tours, which are low quality and overpriced for what you get. Instead, if you book a private tour with a local company you will have fun, learn more, and get the most out of your short visit.
If you're interested in booking a private tour before you come, please let us help you. We can arrange individual, family, and group VISA-FREE customized shore excursions in St Petersburg, Russia.☺
Take a ferry to St Petersburg with St. Peter Line and enjoy a regular sailing from Stockholm, Helsinki or Tallinn, and stay in Russia for up to two nights before sailing back. All you need is your passport!
The St. Peter Line is a famous Russian based ferry operator that offers moderate high-class Baltic cruises on Princess Maria and Princess Anastasia ferries, as well as on a regular cargo ship.
Cargo ship won't be of interest I think, so let's look in more details at the two most popular cruise ferries, Princess Maria and her sister Anastasia, the only options currently available that will bring you directly to St Petersburg Russia Visa free, if you decide to go with them of course.
As far as we know, these ferries were named after daughters of the last Russian tsar, who were murdered by the Bolshevik secret police after the Red Revolution. They both offer a high level of service and entertainment on board similar to those big cruise liners. In fact, cabins are basic by cruise standards but lavish compared to a ferry. Lucky for you the prices are more like ferries too.
To give you an indication, a one-way trip starts at €38/$42 in a shared cabin below the car deck, while a two-berth cabin on an upper deck starts at €165/$181. Alternatively, a B-class private cabin for yourself, both ways, costs around €356/$390 (including the mandatory city tour). Certainly you could economize your journey by buying a special offer package, sharing a cabin with someone else, or booking a few months early.
As I said earlier, on board you can expect a few cruise-ship features, such as an entertainment lounge, casino, tax-free shop, cinema, sauna and even a small swimming pool deep in the bowels of the ship.
Not too bad for being a mix of a ferry and cruise, is it? But there is more!
When taking St Peter Line, you can also benefit from luggage delivery to your cabin,
hotel or excursions packages, and you can even bring your pet on board, at a price obviously. But the best part, the one I suppose why you might choose to go with them, is that if you buy their city shuttle-bus ticket at the same time as you book your ferry trip, you qualify for the 72 hours Visa free rule.
This city bus tour is actually no
more than a shuttle bus that would take you to the city from the port and back to the port on your departure day. As soon as they drop you off in the city - you're free to go anywhere, free to use public transportation, visit museums, theaters, restaurants, shops, etc.
I know it sounds great but believe me due the limited time you have I would recommend that you book a private city tour so you make the most of your visit stress free, especially if this is your first time. My two cents!☺
That said, the difference between the two ships is their sea route.
If you go with Princess Maria, you will cruise directly from Helsinki to St Petersburg or reverse (average time 15 hrs), while if you go with Princess Anastasia, you will cruise from Stockholm to St Petersburg or from Tallinn to St Petersburg, and reverse (average time 40 hrs).
Wondering where to buy the ticket for your ferry to St Petersburg? If so read on...
To purchase your ferry or ship ticket (whatever you like) you have two options: ask a travel agency or book online. Personally speaking, among the two, the cheapest and easiest way would be to book on the internet.
The best thing to do would be to find the website for the shipping company of your choice, and then see if they provide a ticket reservation service online.
Alternatively, you can find a travel agency that represents the shipping company you have chosen and ask them to arrange the tickets for you. Nowadays there are many Baltic tours available and so many travel agencies you can contact.
However, by buying online, you will avoid the inflated prices of some tour operators or the travel agent service fees, and you won't need to call or travel to the agency. So, online is really the way to go as you will get a better deal while booking comfortably from your home.
If you plan a trip by sea on a ship or a ferry to St Petersburg you must know that to qualify for the visa-free access you have to meet some requirements, which between the one and the other are slightly different. Read on...
If you choose to travel on a cruise ship you can go ashore on the condition that you stay no longer than 72 hours, you are accompanied by an authorized tour guide, and stay overnight in the ship. This means that you cannot walk around the city freely but you need to stay with a local guide all the time you are on the Russian soils.
On the contrary, if you choose to go on a ferry with St. Peter Line (the only operator connecting directly Russia with Europe) you can go ashore on the condition that you stay no longer than 72 hours, you book an accommodation ( Hotel, Hostels, or Flat), and you buy a round-trip ticket with the same ferry company. In addition to that you must also book a "City Bus Tour", which has nothing to do with an organized excursion group but it has the pretense to do so. This way your ferry trip is classified as a cruise and you can benefit from the visa-free regime.
This city bus tour through St. Peter Line is actually no more than a shuttle bus that would take you from the port to the city center of St.Petersburg to the St.Isaac’s Square and reverse on your arrival/departure day. As soon as the driver drop you off you're free to go anywhere in the city, free to use public transportation, visit museums, theaters, restaurants, shops, etc.
However, when taking a ferry to St Petersburg from Stockholm, Helsinki or Tallinn with St. Peter Line you don't need to book a hotel if you leave on the same day as your arrival, but you must return in the same way as you came.
Wondering where you will dock when taking a ferry to St Petersburg? If so read on...
So, if you will be travelling by ferry to St Petersburg via sea, you will dock at the new Sea Passenger Port (Marine Facade), while if you will be travelling by ship via river, then you will dock at the old River Passengers Port (Rechnoy Vokzal).
Specifically, the new terminal of Marine Façade will be the place where you will arrive when taking a ferry to St Petersburg with St. Peter Line or other major ship cruise lines such as MSC, Norwegian Star, Queen Elizabeth and many others.
Built in 2011 and located in the Harbor of Vasilevsky Island the sea terminal Marine Facade comprises a modern building, with a total area of 18,500 square meters and landing-stages capable of taking four ships at once. Inside you will find comfortable and spacious arrival halls, ATM machines with a currency exchange function, cafes, a souvenir shop, post office, duty-free shop, information desk, VIP waiting area where you can relax, and much more.
Today, it handles more than 200,000 passengers each year and provides ferry connections with the cities of Tallinn, Helsinki and Stockholm and also sea trips, excursions and cruises.
On the contrary, the old River Passenger Terminal Rechnoy Vokzal, welcomes all Russian river cruises from Moscow, the Northern part of Russia, and cruises on river - going vessels along the Neva as well to the islands of Valaam and Kizhi (the most beautiful Russian islands located in the Ladoga lake). Basically this will be the place where you will arrive if you take a river cruise on the Volga River or across the large Neva.
If you're planning to take a ferry to St Petersburg, and you hold all the necessary documents to go ashore then keep reading the information below, while, if you are a cruise passenger skip this paragraph, as you cannot leave the ship on your own.
With that in mind, from the sea passenger port to the city you can take the bus № 158 or the minibus (marshrutka) which goes to metro station Primorskaya, two stops from the Nevsky Prospekt station in the city center.
If you don't like taking the bus or metro, then you can always arrange a taxi from the information desk at the sea port to go downtown, or much better, you can book a taxi with us before you come.☺
The price should be around 1000rubles (€18/$20) or less for a taxi, while 36rubles (€0.65/$071) for the Marshrutka. The trip takes no more than 20 minutes.
Instead, from the River Terminal to the city you can easily walk to the nearest metro station Proletarskaya - it takes about 10 minutes - and from there, take the metro, taxi, or bus to reach the central part of the city.
If your plan is to stay only two or three days in the Northern Capital of Russia, then we don't see the point of going through the visa process, but rather we believe you should book a ferry to St Petersburg with the St. Peter Line, or one of the big ship cruise lines. This way you'll take advantage of the visa free service offered.
If you're coming by ferry to St Petersburg keep in mind the following tips: