We booked three excursions in total during our weekend in Saint Petersburg as part of our Baltic Heritage cruise on Crown Princess. The first of those had included some sightseeing, a meal, and visits to Saint Isaac’s Cathedral and the State Heritage Museum and this should have left us plenty of time to get back to the ship, get some food, get changed, then get back out for what we had planned for the evening, which was seeing a ballet. However, our coach got back to the port at about the same time as many others did too which resulted in a long queue to get back through the security process both at the terminal and on the ship. This is one area of an otherwise well-organised couple of days in the Russian city where Princess should possibly look into how a staggered return of coaches might benefit and cause less stress to passengers who have other arrangements to be met. Showers and clothes-changing were rapid and we had just enough time to grab the tiniest of snacks before having to get back off the ship to hop on our next coach.
The cruise line (and independent tour organisers) offered several evening options for those who didn’t want to stay on board the ship (and why would you?) but the one we were most interested in doing was attending a Russian ballet performance. Princess offered two ballet excursions: a ballet performance and an upgraded ballet performance. Sadly, there was very little information other than the price difference to tell you what the upgrade was so I had to get in touch with their customer services prior to booking to find out. So, if you want to know the difference between the two ballet choices when visiting Saint Petersburg then it’s this: the cheaper one takes place in a modern hall; the more expensive one takes place in a traditional theatre; the former may have better facilities but the latter will have more history. There’s also likely to be a change in quality of ballet performer although, of course, you never can tell what will happen on the night.
We went for the more expensive option which meant we got to see Swan Lake performed at the Alexandrinsky Theatre.
It was warm in the theatre and the seating was very basic but the venue was absolutely gorgeous to be in and there was a great mix of not just tour groups like our own but also many locals. Wonderfully, we got to sit in the second row so had a stunning close-up view of the evening’s entertainment which took place through three acts.
I have no idea if the ballet was performed well because we had nothing to compare it to; all I can say is that we enjoyed every moment of it from the great music from the orchestra in the pit just in front of us to the dancers themselves and even the impressive set designs and way the lighting changed to produce some fabulous special effects. One thing that surprised us all was just how noisy and heavy ballet dancers sound as they run and leap across the stage.
During the first and largest intermission we were guided out to a room at the back with a lovely balcony and some attractive artwork on the ceiling where we were served a glass of champagne.
Photography was not permitted during the show, for obvious reasons, and when photography isn’t permitted then I don’t take photos. The group in front of me in the first row, however, were not so understanding and took some shots during the first act until I and another person in our group leaned forward and got them to stop. As the act came to a close a theatre usher also came up to them and gestured that they would be thrown out if they took photos again and after we’d got back from our champagne break our guide went and talked to their guide and that group and gave some universal sign language for “put your damn cameras away!” I think the message hit home.
I did take one quick photo at the curtain call. The lighting conditions and the fact that all I had on me was my phone didn’t make for the easiest of shots but you can see how lovely the scenery was.
It’s not easy to get a sense of scale in that photo but this video (not mine) gives a better idea:
Our coach then took us back to the ship where we grabbed a bit more food in the International Café to complement the small amount we’d been able to wolf down before our evening excursion in Saint Petersburg. We checked out Skywalkers briefly and to get a drink before retiring to our room after a long, full day and I shot a few final photos of the area around the port at night.
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