Cruise News UK goes on tour with Orthodox Cruises as the ms Anton Chekhov sails from Saint Petersburg to Moscow. This is the third in a series of articles aimed at describing, firsthand, a cruise on one of the most rapidly developing niches within the industry and how best to tailor this product to potential clients. Here we will explain why many of the industry’s leading figures are becoming increasingly excited by the prospect – and commercial viability – of river cruising.
One of the most interesting aspects of Baltic cruising – from a sea perspective – is how quickly it has gone from emerging market into established brand. There are many reasons for this: for one, the countries within the region are economically developed and safe for tourists; two, despite point number one, they are still relatively unknown and unexplored; and three, they have been savvy enough to conduct themselves as a united front. These three reasons have been the driving force behind Baltic cruising’s impact on the industry.
So, bearing this in mind, what trip to Saint Petersburg would be complete without a visit to one of the fastest growing ports in not just Europe, but the world? Admittedly, not the way that most visitors would spend their last day in Russia’s cultural capital, but the opportunity to see the new facility at Saint Petersburg’s passenger cruise port proved too tempting for Cruise News to miss.
There, we were given a tour of the complex, with its numerous construction projects and development plans outlined to us – including the construction of what will likely become the city’s main business district – and then granted time with Andrey Fedorov, commercial director of the port. In our meeting we were given details of the rapid growth the port has seen, its ship numbers and why the decision was taken to join Cruise Europe as opposed to the local association, Cruise Baltic. Our entire conversation with Fedorov will be thoroughly outlined in an upcoming issue of Cruise News (sorry!) however, what was interesting was the discussion we had regarding the extent to which the city has struggled to market itself as a global destination. Historically, while Saint Petersburg has the key ingredients to put it on a level playing field with the most attractive cities in Europe, it has not contracted the same figures. Why is this? Why were we so surprised when we came to the city? The answer is marketing. It is an endemic issue for the city. And, while the numbers are rising at an impressive rate, there is no doubt that more can be done. It is a matter of communication and the facts are there: Saint Petersburg needs to do more to help agents and cruise lines sell the city. There are tools which are being put in place – such as the free visa for cruise tourists – but if the city wishes to compete, then it must put its money behind strong initiatives. We will be outlining a further analysis piece – including the full interview with Fedorov – in the coming weeks.
Having returned to our ship we get ready to depart Saint Petersburg. Paradoxically – and hypocritically – our stay has been memorable for exactly the reason which is its downfall: our expectations were relatively low and they were exceeded many over. From streets lined with palaces, to its cosmopolitan yet unspoilt nature; Saint Petersburg is a city which offers far more than expectations prepare for.
The next stop on our tour will be 295km away, in Mandrogi.
Read Day Four of our Cruise Diary here