Docked from 8am to midnight gave us a chance to see the highlights.
We arranged a private tour with Alla Tours for 10 hours. Through emailing back & forth we settled on a program to suit us.
We started with an outside stop at the Petrovsky Soccer stadium (for our soccer mad son). Then our guide (Angie) took us to the beautiful & small Church of St Nicholas to contrast it with our next stop the massive St Isaac's Cathedral. We also had a photo stop at the of Church of the Spilt Blood.
Next we had a 2 hour tour of the Hermitage Museum including The Winter Palace, Gold Room, the Picasso display, the impressionists and more. Our guide took us through most of the 30 rooms, showing us and telling us the background story to the main attraction in each room. Exactly what we wanted.
After a brief lunch stop, next was the Hydrofoil trip to St Peterhof fountain gardens which were stunning.
After this we had a nap on the 1 hour trip back to the city before a ride on the Subway to view the amazing decorated underground stations.
Through the day we had 2 stops at Official Souvenir stores where we could have coffee and Vodka tastings and purchase souvenirs if we wanted to and use the restrooms. These stores accepted Euro & credit cards which was handy.
We arrived back to the ship exhausted but elated. This tour cost USD$520 for the 3 of us. It may seem quite alot but compared to what you get from the cruise ship tours, we saw at least twice as much in the comfort of our own van with our our personal tour guide and driver. Worth every cent. Angie put us at ease from the moment we met and was so knowledgeable throughout the tour as well as acting as our photographer and telling us about life during the Soviet years.
We booked the 4 Star Scandic Anglais Hotel thought the cruise line at very good rate. The hotel was lovely (in the Scandinavian minimalist way)and was in an excellent location (Humlegarden) within walking distance of the main attractions & 2 Tube stops from Gamla Stan. We had dinner in the restaurant which was nice Sek800 for mains course for 3, 1 dessert & drinks.
It was Mid Summer festival for the 3 days we stayed in Stockholm which gave a lovely atmosphere. All tourist attractions were open but the department stores/ shops were closed. As the weather was beautiful, we were able to walk to most attractions. We saw the Vasa Museum which was impressive. We took the movie first (25mins) followed by the guided tour. Both very informative as well as entertaining. It cost Sek110 per adult (child free).
Across the road is Skansen open air museum, another must see, but it looked so packed we decided to leave it for another day. 5 mins further along, Grona Lund amusement park kept us thrilled (and frightened) for a few (expensive) hours.
The old town (Gamla Stan) is lovely and you would could spend the day here. The best thing we did was pre book a walking tour by Gallivant Productions. Sweden from Ice Age to Ikea. The best value 2 hours we had in Stockholm (Sek135 adult/90 child). Cant recommend this highly enough. We had lunch in the Italian restaurant Michelangelo. Sek 700 for 3 mains, 1 dessert & drinks.
We also ate in Berns Restaurant which we found very overpriced for "Singapore Street food" although served in very opulent surroundings.
We also took an evening cruise as far as Vaxholm on SS Stockholm which we booked at the pier. The scenery is beautiful and was very relaxing 3 hours. We bought drinks & desserts on board which -like everywhere in Stockholm-was very expensive Sek110 for a dessert, 800 for a drink. The cruise cost was reasonable at Sek 400 for 2 adults & 1 child.
Overall, Stockholm is one of the most beautiful cities we have been in. We would go back in a flash except that it is so expensive for eating & drinking there.
Tallinn's old town is a good 15-20 minutes walk from the cruise terminal. We walked there but took shuttle back as it was so warm (USD$4). There is an extensive Flea Market on the way with every souvenir you could want. We did not take a tour so cannot comment on the history of the city. We just strolled through the beautiful medieval streets, had coffee and shopped. A lovely way to spend a couple of hours prior to "The Big One" St Petersburg.