Today starts really early. We’ve sailed into a time zone two hours ahead of Amsterdam, so the 5:30 am wake-up feels like 3:30 am. The Moscow group meets at 6:40 and we’re quickly moved to the gangway to wait for the ship to clear customs. They want to make sure we’re the first group off the ship because of our flight. It’s not long before we’re cleared, and out to Russian Immigration. There are 27 in our group, including the Celebrity Cruise escort, Anita, and a Russian tour guide, Irena, as we load the bus and head out to the St. Petersburg airport.
At the airport, there are security checks at the entrance. It’s nice to check-in without any luggage. The next step is another, more thorough security gate. When we’re all cleared, we walk to the gate with 50 minutes to kill before boarding our 9:50am flight. We’re flying Aeroflot, a Russian airline. During the hour flight, we get water and a small snack box with a half sandwich. The attendants have to hustle to serve the drinks and food and get the trash picked up before landing. Ludmilla, our guide for Moscow meets us we exit and takes us out to the bus. We have a light lunch in a sack while we drive to Moscow, arriving at 11:45.
McDonalds in Moscow?
We get commentary of city sites as we drive to Red Square (KGB building, American Embassy, etc). The city itself is rather unimpressive with lots of brown and gray square buildings. Then we round a corner and WHOW! It’s Red Square and St. Basil’s Cathedral. The sight is breathtaking with all the colors and size of the area. We see the National Museum, and Lenin’s tomb, and get time to explore the area. We meet at our assigned time and place (except for Mr. Sanchez, 15 minutes late, remember the name), and walk to the nearby Metro station. I had heard the Moscow subway stations were unbelievable, but that’s an understatement. They are really deep (bomb shelters during WWII), and decorated with chandeliers, sculptures, and murals.
We come out of the subway and are taken to a 5-star hotel (not many in Moscow, apparently), for coffee, tea, and snacks. We need the wake-up. After snacks, we get back on the bus and drive to the Kremlin. We walk the Kremlin area. Since 1991 (the fall of the USSR), the only office of government that works out the Kremlin is the president (currently Putin). There’s a lot of history, restored cathedrals, and museum called “The Armory.” It’s full of relics from the era of the Czars, and contains huge jewel encrusted silver pieces, crowns, armor, coronation coaches, and so much else. We’re tired as we walk thru the area, but around every corner, there’s an unbelievable display we’re glad we had a chance to see. Our guide wants to make sure we’ve seen it all. We walk thru some gardens on the way to the bus, and when we arrive, we’ve lost Mr. Sanchez, again. Our guide looks for ½ hour and can’t find him, so she gives our driver and escort directions to our dinner restaurant, then gets off the bus to continue the search.
When I first started confirming the Moscow trip details at the excursion office on the ship, all the staff could talk about was this great restaurant we were going to visit for dinner. They kept saying it was one of the top restaurants in the city, and we were so lucky. We heard about it when we got on the bus early in St. Petersburg, and again when we got off the plane in Moscow. When our bus pulled up and we unloaded into an unbelievable location, we weren’t surprised. The room was gorgeous, and we all felt very special. The waiters seemed confused, the tables were not really ready for patrons and no one is scrambling to get food to the tables? Maybe this is the Russian way? We sat for 20 minutes, until Ludmilla arrived (with Mr. Sanchez, he supposedly stopped to take pictures in the garden area and lost the group.) There was huddled conversation between our group organizers, and the wait staff, and then we get the announcement: “Please get up and go next door. This is the wrong restaurant.” Our driver didn’t know exactly where we were supposed to be and dropped us close to where he thought it was, and Irena and Anita led us right in where we dropped.
We walked up the street to another restaurant, and enjoyed a truly delicious meal. They even served caviar. It’s not going to the top of my favorites list. After an enjoyable meal, with a lot of laughs, we bus back to the airport. We already have our boarding passes, so we go straight to the really long security line. Everyone eventually gets through and down to the gate. The There are three gates jammed into a small area and it looks like six flights are going out in the space of 2 hours. There are too many people for the small area. The flight leaves on time, and we are on the ground in St. Petersburg at 11:20 pm. We arrive back at the ship at 12:30 pm. It has been a remarkable day, and we are beat!!!