One thing you’ll quickly learn if you travel by cruise ship is that lands tours booked aboard ship are incredibly expensive. You can do a lot better going online and getting a group together beforehand, or even snagging a tour directly after disembarking. The disadvantage is that your tour operator had better get you back before sail-away, or you’re on your own catching up with the ship down the line. If you’re on a ship’s tour, the captain will either wait for your group or the cruise line will get you to the next port at their expense.
But if you’re adventurous, and you choose a reputable tour, you should have no problems while saving 50% or more. Well before our cruise aboard Vision of the Seas Ursula attached us with a group putting together a two-day tour of St. Petersburg and the surrounding sights for a fraction of the cost for a similar tour offered by the ship’s excursion desk. Our tour operator is one I can highly recommend — Alla Tours.
Catherine I commissioned a “summer” palace at this location back in 1717, but the façade you see today was the result of Empress Elizabeth, who found her mother’s summer palace lacking and ordered it replaced some 35 years later. That commission resulted in the Rococo-style behemoth you see here. As an aside, I once knew someone who didn’t like anything that wasn’t Baroque, including this late Baroque style. I once admonished him that he should expand his taste, telling him, “If it ain’t Baroque, don’t nix it.”
You’ll see a lot of gilding here in Catherine Palace. Indeed, over 100 kilograms (220 pounds) of gold were used in the gilding of decorative exterior elements alone.
And where would an empress sit? Why, in the Throne Room atop a plush, gilded throne, of course:
We’ll continue our tour on Wednesday, but until then here are a few more images of Catherine Palace: