This exploration of St. Petersburg begins with a picturesque drive to Catherine's Palace, the lavish summer residence of the imperial family until the time of the last tsar. Expanded and renovated, first by Peter's daughter Elizabeth and then by Catherine the Great, the palace is truly breathtaking, and you will have access to many of its most glorious areas. Highlights include the superb white marble Grand Staircase and the spectacular baroque Great Hall, an astonishing room of gilded carvings, mirrors and vast ceiling paintings. You'll also visit the Cavalier's Dining Room, set with china made for Catherine the Great, and the handsome Amber Room, a magnificent chamber decorated with ornate panels that have been recreated to match the splendor of the originals from 1709. Outside Catherine's Palace, you may stroll through the formal gardens, which are laid out geometrically and adorned with Italian marble statues and baroque pavilions.
Following lunch, more highlights await you, including the fabulous Peter and Paul Cathedral, which was completed in 1733. Tsars from Peter the Great to Nicholas II are buried here, along with other members of the royal family. Next, you will pass the Aurora, the cruiser that signaled the beginning of the Bolshevik Revolution by firing a single round from its bow gun. Soon, the beautiful Field of Mars and the Marble Palace will come into sight, en route to the extraordinary Church of Our Savior on Spilled Blood and St. Isaac's Cathedral, both wonderful settings for picture taking. Returning to the ship, you will pass the famous equestrian statue of Peter the Great.