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  #21  
Old August 2nd, 2012, 12:40 AM
alcpa1 alcpa1 is offline
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I've been fortunate to have been to St. Petersburg twice.
You cannot do justice to The Hermitage in a week much less a few hours. Your guide will give you just a taste of the treasures within.
I had an extended tour (several days in fact) while there one March and it was crowded even then so prepare for crowds during a summer cruise/tourist season. The massive museum gets very hot in summer and don't be surprised to see open windows within feet of a Raphael.
On our stop there while cruising, and my second visit to the city, I arranged with our SPB guide to start our tour with the grand masters. Our Roll Call group was well versed in art and had prioritized our itinerary. The suggestion to go online and familiarize yourselves with the museum is a very good starting point. Pick the exhibits you wish to view and arrange this with your guide if you are using a private tour company - which is the very best way to see the most sites in St. Petersburg.
Have a wonderful cruise.
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  #22  
Old August 2nd, 2012, 05:38 AM
gwilli gwilli is offline
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I'm not sure how people that took private tours can say that theirs was better than the ship tour. We saw everything. The bus did not have any problems getting through the traffic. The lunches we had were interesting. Both days traditional foods, different menus, and entertainment. Thought the food was good. The tour guide was terrific. As I said, we had two filled days, no waiting in lines, no waiting for bathrooms, felt like we saw as much as we could in two days. So don't knock the ships tours unless you were on it! Cheers!
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  #23  
Old August 2nd, 2012, 10:20 AM
TLCOhio TLCOhio is online now
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Default Marched through Hermitage in Large Group?? Versus Our Experience!!

Quote:
Originally Posted by gwilli View Post
I'm not sure how people that took private tours can say that theirs was better than the ship tour. We saw everything. The bus did not have any problems getting through the traffic. The lunches we had were interesting. Both days traditional foods, different menus, and entertainment. Thought the food was good. The tour guide was terrific. As I said, we had two filled days, no waiting in lines, no waiting for bathrooms, felt like we saw as much as we could in two days. So don't knock the ships tours unless you were on it! Cheers!
We didn't take a ship tour through the Hermitage, but we saw several groups that were given that "forced march" type of group experience. No time or opportunity to ask questions, linger with key art treasures, set your own pace, focus attention on your personal priorities/favorites, etc., etc. Below are some visuals samples as proof and real evidence for why we viewed in St. Petersburg a private tour to be the "best" for many different, specific and tangible reasons. In a large group, you can "see" things, quickly, but what will be the true and honest "experience"?

A personal guide can work well in some key ports, especially if you can have pre-tour communications and establish that "connection" for what you need and seek to fit your travel style and personal interests. We love having a "CONVERSATION" with our guide. I like to ask lots of questions. Take many pictures. Those factors make all of the positive difference to enjoy and experience things in the best, personal manner. I like to learn the history, how real life works there, the current events, etc. A personal, custom guide/tour is much better than being "forced marched" through a great museum or place in a group of 25-35 people with a guide barking out a big bunch of details to us as we walk quickly by these great treasures. Also, in a large group, it can be hard to hear and understand everything that is being shared, asked. But, personal tours/guides are not always possible, affordable, needed, etc., for all port stops. If you have done your "homework" ahead of time, doing it on your own can work very well, too. It's all "personal" based your needs, interests and budget.

Will share more on Catherine's Palace. Kind of spectacular, too!!

TIMING: On Kathy's original and very good question, my assumption was that in the roughly two and a half hour we spent at the Hermitage, we would want more and more. BUT, to be honest, we saw virtually all of the key highlights and "top spots" we desired. I did lots of advance reading and research. We could have spent more time, but we honestly felt that we had seen the "best of the best". I have been in lots of the top, top museums around the world and felt very satisfied in what saw and did in that well-focused and organized time frame. Not having big crowds on this Friday, Aug. 1, 2008, date and a great guide made such a big, big difference to achieve an excellent experience.

THANKS! Enjoy! Terry in Ohio


Did a June 7-19, 2011, Solstice cruise from Barcelona that had stops in Villefranche, ports near Pisa and Rome, Naples, Kotor, Venice and Dubrovnik. Enjoyed great weather and a wonderful trip. Dozens of wonderful visuals with key highlights, tips, comments, etc., on these postings. We are now at 95,361 views for this live/blog re-cap on our first sailing with Celebrity and much on wonderful Barcelona. Check these postings and added info at:
http://www.boards.cruisecritic.com/s....php?t=1426474

For details and visuals, etc., from our July 1-16, 2010, Norway Coast/Fjords/Arctic Circle cruise experience from Copenhagen on the Silver Cloud, check out this posting. This posting is now at 77,690 views.
http://www.boards.cruisecritic.com/s....php?t=1227923


Private, personal tours can be worth it, especially in St. Petersburg. Here our group of four, with our guide, Jane or Zhenya from Anastasia, we are viewing and learning more about one of the two da Vinci masterpieces (Madonna Litta or Madonna and Child) at the Hermitage after an early admission. There are only 14 such painting by this artist existing in the whole world. We did an early admission at the Hermitage, lessening the crowd battles and adding to the enjoyment in this spectacular place/set of five palaces AND museum. It is both! This Madonna and Child was probably painted in Milan, where the artist moved in 1482. The Madonna's tender gaze as she looks at her son, and the tranquillity of the distant mountainous landscape, reflect humanist dreams of Ideal Man and a Harmonious Life. Experts says the painting reveals great beauty in its coloring and composition. The painting came to the Czar's collection and museum in 1865 from the collection of Count Antonio Litta in Milan.:




Examining closely one of the highly-detailed tables in the vast Hermitage collection that includes much more than just paintings and sculptures. The Russian skills and craftsmanship for such details is amazing and must be seen “up close and personal”. You cannot just walk by quickly and appreciate fully the expert workmanship!:




At St. Petersburg’s Hermitage, here is just one of the many, many great galleries with so many different and great architecture details, soaring ceilings, dramatic floors, etc., in areas where the Czars entertained and impressed other Royals and nobility. Even without the art items, these five palaces are so spectacular! This room is adorned with 19th-century Russian lapidary works and feature Italian and Spanish canvases of the 16th-18th centuries, including Veronese, Tintoretto, Velázquez and Murillo.:




One of the two dozen or so paintings by Rembrandt inside the Hermitage. This is his famed Return of the Prodigal Son that was done shortly before his death in 1669. Our guide explained that this painting reflected his normal power of realism, but added more psychological insights and spiritual awareness at this late period period in his personal and artistic history.:




Inside the Hermitage, this is the spectacular Grand Staircase as you enter this Winter Palace for the Czars that is now one of the world’s top museums. It was founded in 1764 by Catherine the Great and has been open to the public since 1852. Its collections, only a small part are on permanent display, total nearly three million items. Western European art collections include paintings, sculpture, and applied art from the 13th to the 20th century. These art treasures are displayed in about 120 rooms, on the first and second floor of the four main buildings.:




Here is a more contemporary example from the Hermitage. It is by Henri Matisse and it is called ''La Danse'' or The Dance from the late 1909. This large decorative panel, painted with a companion piece, Music, was done for the Russian businessman and art collector Sergei Shchukin, with whom Matisse had a long association. Until the October Revolution of 1917, this painting hung together with Music on the staircase of Shchukin's Moscow mansion. The painting shows five dancing figures, painted in a strong red, set against a very simplified green landscape and deep blue sky. It reflects Matisse's fascination with primitive art. The painting is often associated with the "Dance of the Young Girls" from Igor Stravinsky's famous musical work The Rite of Spring. Dance is commonly recognized as "a key point of (Matisse's) career and in the development of modern painting". Many other late 19th and early 20th Century pieces by Paul Gauguin, Vincent van Gogh, Pierre-Auguste Renoir, Pablo Picasso, Edgar Degas and Claude Monet are there at the Hermitage. It is more than just the "Old Masters" here at this world-class museum.:

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  #24  
Old August 2nd, 2012, 10:35 AM
TLCOhio TLCOhio is online now
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Default Catherine's Palace?? YES! Timing?

There were earlier questions on Catherine's Palace. YES! Its interiors (and exterior) are a super, must-see for St. Petersburg. On timing, the good news is that for as large as it appears and is, the key interior rooms are fairly simple and easy to do. You go up the stairs, see the large and dramatic reception area. Then, you walk down a series of small rooms, including those with special furniture and art items. The super highlight is the Amber Room. Below are some of my photo samples as a preview for what you can see and experience here.

THANKS! Enjoy! Terry in Ohio


Did a June 7-19, 2011, Solstice cruise from Barcelona that had stops in Villefranche, ports near Pisa and Rome, Naples, Kotor, Venice and Dubrovnik. Enjoyed great weather and a wonderful trip. Dozens of wonderful visuals with key highlights, tips, comments, etc., on these postings. We are now at 95,361 views for this live/blog re-cap on our first sailing with Celebrity and much on wonderful Barcelona. Check these postings and added info at:
http://www.boards.cruisecritic.com/s....php?t=1426474


As we entered Catherine's Palace in St. Petersburg, here was the welcoming band. This Rococo summer residence of the Russian Czars is located in the town of Pushkin, 15 miles SE of St. Petersburg. The residence originated in 1717, when Catherine I engaged a German architect to construct a summer palace for her pleasure. In 1752, Empress Anna found her mother's residence outdated and had her court architect demolish the old structure and replace it with a much grander edifice in a flamboyant Rococo style. Construction lasted for four years and in 1756 the new 325-meter-long palace amazed courtiers, foreign ambassadors and other visitors. During Elizabeth's lifetime, the palace was famed for its lavish exterior, including more than 100 kilograms of gold used to gild the sophisticated stucco façade and numerous statues erected on the roof.:




Inside Catherine's Palace in St. Petersburg with our personal guide, we view this spectacular reception room, painted ceiling, gold, etc., at our pace and timing schedule.:




At Catherine's Palace, here is the spectacular Amber Room when my camera accidentally went off and captured this view.:




At Catherine's Palace, here is a small sampling of its historic and highly-detailed furniture, plus one of its unique exterior.:







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  #25  
Old August 2nd, 2012, 11:28 AM
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Rembrandt's Danae was substantially destroyed in 1985 when an insane person threw sulfuric acid on it and then cut it a few times. To appreciate how amazing the restoration of this painting is, you might want to find a copy of the original 1636 painting and compare it with the restored one at the Hermitage.
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  #26  
Old August 2nd, 2012, 11:34 AM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by gwilli View Post
I'm not sure how people that took private tours can say that theirs was better than the ship tour. We saw everything. The bus did not have any problems getting through the traffic. The lunches we had were interesting. Both days traditional foods, different menus, and entertainment. Thought the food was good. The tour guide was terrific. As I said, we had two filled days, no waiting in lines, no waiting for bathrooms, felt like we saw as much as we could in two days. So don't knock the ships tours unless you were on it! Cheers!
gwilli - We, also, took Celebrity's tours in St Petersburg and thought they were excellent.
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  #27  
Old August 2nd, 2012, 12:00 PM
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I have been looking into tours in St Petersburg and get the impression that visits to the Hermitage are generally only 2 to 3 hours. That doesn't seem like much.The Hermitage and Catherine's Palace are our priorities. Are all the other parts of the tours worth the time allocated to them?

Can any past cruisers comment please?

Thanks,
Kathy
I have not been there yet, it is upcoming very soon, but my travel friend had been there a few years ago and said 2 hours was not enough. So we have booked four hours there with an independent tour company, TJ Travel. We could have had 7 hours but I figured I would be museumed out. TJ Travel has been great to work with. They modified their regular two day tour to give us a private guide for the 2 additional hours at the Hermitage.
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  #28  
Old August 2nd, 2012, 12:23 PM
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Originally Posted by kkatcruisecritic View Post
I have been looking into tours in St Petersburg and get the impression that visits to the Hermitage are generally only 2 to 3 hours. That doesn't seem like much.The Hermitage and Catherine's Palace are our priorities. Are all the other parts of the tours worth the time allocated to them?

Can any past cruisers comment please?

Thanks,
Kathy
Our tour of the Hermitage was 2 1/2 hours and it really isn't enough, but there were so many other thing we wanted to see that this was the itinerary we set. The second day we decided not to stop for lunch and ate lunch on our way back from Peterhof, which was our favorite place we saw while we were there.

BTW we did a private tour with Denrus.
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  #29  
Old August 2nd, 2012, 01:09 PM
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When I was there our guide said something like if you spend 20 seconds looking at every piece of art in the Hermitage's collection, it would take over a year to see everything. These numbers are not correct but the point is valid. In 2 or 3 hours you're getting at best a taste of what's available. But for most of us, that's enough.

For some people 15 minutes is enough:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=5Kq6w-McPHk


I, for one, was not impressed with the Hermitage. Not because of the collection, that was outstanding, but the structure itself. There's no climate control. On the day I was there, it was raining outside, there were many big windows open, exposing the collection to the damp and humid environment. That can't be good.

They allow people (at a nominal cost) to take photos of the artwork, so in front of every painting of note people are focusing cameras, taking several photos, so the crowds move very slowly. I don't recall if flash was allowed or not but many people were using it anyway. Again, can't be good for the artwork.

The Louvre had many of the same issues.

I was more impressed with the Rijksmuseam in Amsterdam. At the time I was there (2009) they were renovating it and had a limited "highlights" collection. Excellent facilities, even during construction. Also the Van Gogh museum in Amsterdam very nice.
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  #30  
Old August 2nd, 2012, 01:29 PM
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We didn't feel like we were hearded through anything! We had headsets on so we could linger if we wanted. The guide was very knowledgeable and answered many questions. We felt like we saw it all....at least the highlights. Not enough time to look at everything, but saw enough. I don't think one tour is better than the others, just different. You must remember that you have 5 port days in a row.. It was a lot to see in a short time. And the meals were special. Not grab and go.....a real Russian lunch each day. The tours were perfect for us.
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  #31  
Old August 2nd, 2012, 01:30 PM
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No.
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  #32  
Old August 2nd, 2012, 01:56 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by gwilli View Post
I'm not sure how people that took private tours can say that theirs was better than the ship tour. We saw everything. The bus did not have any problems getting through the traffic. The lunches we had were interesting. Both days traditional foods, different menus, and entertainment. Thought the food was good. The tour guide was terrific. As I said, we had two filled days, no waiting in lines, no waiting for bathrooms, felt like we saw as much as we could in two days. So don't knock the ships tours unless you were on it! Cheers!
Just a few thoughts.

I've been on ships tours. While you might have a good experience, my personal experience was not good. My husband became very ill and we had to be put off the ship in Sicily because a ship's tour guide refused to put us in a taxi (which we would have paid for) to go back to the ship. The guide was rushing us and my husband has back problems and needs a slower pace. The guide insisted we keep up. They lost us THREE times and when we finally found them, they person in charge of the tour screamed at us.

As a result of the extra exertion, he became ill.

Whenever a tour involves any walking, we go privately or with river cruise companies that offer "gentle walker" groups as we had with our AMA Moscow to St. Petersburg cruise.

...then there was the poor forlorn woman lost by the Princess tour.

You do realize that the ship is not doing the tours? They hire local companies who own the buses. The bus companies hire the step on guides. Already you have three levels of responsibility (or irresponsibility). You also have the ship making a profit on what they pay the tour bus company.

It is very rare that the same itinerary private tour will cost the same or more than the ship charges for their tours. In almost all cases the charge is less for a private tour.
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  #33  
Old August 2nd, 2012, 03:19 PM
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If you are into art museums, it would take a long time to see and enjoy everything in the Hermitage. We are not into art and just wanted a highlights kind of visit mainly for the others on our private tour. I am more interested in the historical sites. It still took us several hours to go through the Hermitage. You may want to consider the Alexander Palace (where the Romanovs were held prisoners until they were moved for execution), the subways (opulent and beautiful stations), and even a trip to a local supermarket where your guide can point out and translate what food item you are looking at in those packages! We brought home a lot of food souvenirs as their candies and chocolates are quite good. Peterhof is a must and do have an ice cream bar from the vendors there. Our daughter said it was the best ice cream she has ever tasted-lol. There is SO much to see in St. Petersburg and you will definitely want to return. We have been there on the Connie, the Eclipse, and the Jewel of the Seas. All fantastic experiences. You will have to squeeze in and do as much as you can. I would go back in a heartbeat.Having done both ship's tours and private tours, you do so much more on a private tour and can easily share the expense with people on your roll call. And, it is usually cheaper than a cruise line tour. Enjoy!
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RCCL Brilliance of the Seas - Transatlantic 2007
Celebrity Constellation - Transatlantic 2007
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Princess Star Princess - Alaska 2003
Carnival Celebration - Carribbean 1988
Carnival Holiday - Carribbean 1987
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NCL Starward - Carribbean 1974
NCL Skyward - Carribbean 1971
Ariadne - Mexico 1970
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  #34  
Old August 3rd, 2012, 06:23 AM
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Kellie, if the discription says that there is a lot of walking and lots of steps, it is foolish to take that tour if you can't do what is expected. In Russia, you must stay with your group. The ship's tours are with tour companies that they have contracted with, very knowledgeable and experienced guides.
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  #35  
Old August 3rd, 2012, 09:51 AM
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Kellie, if the discription says that there is a lot of walking and lots of steps, it is foolish to take that tour if you can't do what is expected. In Russia, you must stay with your group. The ship's tours are with tour companies that they have contracted with, very knowledgeable and experienced guides.

It was not the "amount" of walking it was the unnaturally fast pace that this guide insisted upon. I have met others who took a ship's tour in the same city and knew this guide. He rushes everyone. These people encountered him the year before we had him and were surprised that he was still contracted as they were certain he'd have been fired.

When I asked the person from the bus company to ask him to slow down her response was that I should ask him as she had in the past and he didn't listen to her.

You never know who is the guide with a ship tour. At least with a private tour there are recommendations either from other cruisers or on Trip Advisor. With a private tour, I can tell them in advance that we need a slower pace.

Just another example. We asked at the excursion desk about a ship's tour in Hawaii last April. The excursion desk emailed the company with our requirements. The company said "no problem" They were not truthful. There was a problem and we just insisted that the guide slow down as her own company had told the ship that she would. She did, but even with such personal service from the excursion desk, the ship tour is not reliable.
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  #36  
Old August 3rd, 2012, 10:34 AM
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There is a lot to see ..... Maybe for your 2nd visit there ..
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  #37  
Old August 3rd, 2012, 01:21 PM
Kathy with a K Kathy with a K is offline
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Default Wonderful Responses!

Thanks so much for all of your responses. You have given me a lot to think about and I have come to the conclusion that I need to switch to a cruise line that offers 3 days in St Petersburg. I will then probably do a 2 day tour that does a little bit of everything, probably with a small group using one of the private tour groups. Pretty much everything that was recommended is included in the 2 day. And then we will do a 1 day private tour for just my husband and I to do more of the Hermitage and anything else we decide we need to spend more time on. This assumes of course that a private tour can be flexible on that day.

Again, thank you all.

Kathy
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  #38  
Old August 3rd, 2012, 01:32 PM
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On our Baltic cruise, Celebrity's shore excursion desk
offered an option in Russia for a minivan type of vehicle with a tour guide/driver. Since it held up to 8 passengers and the charge was per minivan instead of per person, this is a good option for people who want to customize their tour.

Last edited by Bridge Maven; August 3rd, 2012 at 01:33 PM.
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  #39  
Old August 3rd, 2012, 03:27 PM
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Quote:
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On our Baltic cruise, Celebrity's shore excursion desk
offered an option in Russia for a minivan type of vehicle with a tour guide/driver. Since it held up to 8 passengers and the charge was per minivan instead of per person, this is a good option for people who want to customize their tour.
That IS a good option and is exactly what we did on our private tour (a minivan) with Anastasia. On our first two Baltic cruises, we took strictly cruise line tours. We opted for private on our third and last tour. We picked the itinerary and included things we had seen before because we were sharing with people who had not been there before, plus things we had never seen before. I can't believe the difference! There were so many little things that we never got to see the first two times on ship's tours amd although our guide used our itinerary, she added her own ideas and she was wonderful! Most of the tour guides on cruise line and private tours are university instructors and have a wealth of knowledge about history and art. It was funny that on our first time there, the guide bartered for us for the stacking dolls and lacquer boxes which we actually did get from local artisans. The last two times there, most of the things were mass produced and non-negotiable. Capitalism at its finest!
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Past cruises:
Celebrity Eclipse- Baltic - May 2010
RCCL Independence of the Seas-Transatlantic-November 2009
RCCL Independence of the Seas-Transatlantic - April 2009
Carnival Freedom - Eastern Mediterranean-Oct 2008
RCCL Jewel of the Seas - Transatlantic - March 2008
RCCL Brilliance of the Seas - Transatlantic 2007
Celebrity Constellation - Transatlantic 2007
Celebrity Constellation - Baltic 2006
Celebrity Constellation - Transatlantic 2005
RCCL Jewel of the Seas - Baltic 2004
Princess Star Princess - Alaska 2003
Carnival Celebration - Carribbean 1988
Carnival Holiday - Carribbean 1987
RCCL Sun Viking - Southern Carribbean 1985
NCL Sunward - Bahamas 1986
NCL Starward - Carribbean 1974
NCL Skyward - Carribbean 1971
Ariadne - Mexico 1970
MV Freeport - Bahamas 1969

Future Cruises:
Independence of the Seas - January 18, 2014
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  #40  
Old August 3rd, 2012, 06:22 PM
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We were there for two days and hired a private guide. Although we spent the majority of one day at the museum, it certainly was not enough. If that is all you will have, figure out what is your focus and just view that. The Faberge Collection, carriage collection and amazing array of art from all over the world will astound you.
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