Great. No Ferry Service to Saint Petersburg From Helsinki. Now What?

W hen I found out that I could visit Saint Petersburg in Russia for up to 72 hours without a visa if I arrived from Helsinki via ferry, that interested me…

Great. No Ferry Service to Saint Petersburg From Helsinki. Now What?

…but upon my research, there is only one company which operated ferry service from Helsinki to Saint Petersburg — specifically, St. Peter Line, of which I highlighted a Black Friday sale as late as Tuesday, November 22, 2016 in this article — and it is currently not operating ferry service because “the Russian shipper St. Peter Line that operates the Tallinn-St. Petersburg route with a fleet of two ships, Princess Anastasia and Princess Maria, is to sell the ships to Italian cruise ship operator Moby Lines”, as announced in this article in The Baltic Course back in late September of 2016.

Ferry service will supposedly resume starting on Sunday, April 2, 2017; but there is no official confirmation that that information is indeed definitively true. At best is this article found at the Internet web site of St. Peter Line, which offers minimal information at best:

ST. PETER LINE ferry company and the largest Italian ferry operator Moby Lines has signed a merger agreement in November 2016. As a result of synergy of two brands there will appear a new cruise product, which will contains the rich experience of Italian culture and saving the best traditions of Russian hospitality.

According to the new concept, passengers will be able to feel charm and amazing nature discover the infinite beauty of Italy. Traditional Mediterranean cuisine will provide real explosion of new emotions and impressions.

In addition to change the general cruise concept, it will be absolutely new schedule. After departure from St. Petersburg (every Sunday), the ferry will arrive to Helsinki on Monday only for 1.5 hours and the same day it will depart to Tallinn. Therefore, in fact the second city of entry for Russians will be Tallinn. And on the second day the ferry will arrive to Stockholm and then to Helsinki. Since Thursday to Friday the ferry will stay in St. Petersburg as a hotel for foreign passengers, who arrive to the Northern Capital of Russia for 72 visa free hours. Since Friday to Sunday the ferry will be following the route: St. Petersburg – Helsinki – St. Petersburg.

The new cruise product will be launched in April 2017. During 2017 FIFA Confederations Cup and coming 2018 FIFA World Cup, fans from all over the world, which will stay in St. Petersburg could enjoy the high level of service of new cruises on the Baltic sea.

Summary

Should I be amazed that there is currently no ferry service between Helsinki and Saint Petersburg or Saint Petersburg and Tallinn at this time with no alternative ferry service? April 2017 is not that far off into the future. Why is there no way to book a reservation on a ferry at this time?

I could always skip Saint Petersburg and simply take the ferry from Helsinki to Tallinn — although did you know that “the cities of Helsinki and Tallinn, Estonia, have just signed an agreement to develop a rail line connecting the two capitals via a 92-kilometer (57.2 mile) tunnel beneath the Baltic Sea”, according to this article written by Feargus O’Sullivan of CityLab? “If all goes to plan, the link could slash journey times: a trip that currently takes one hour and 40 minutes at its very shortest would last just 30 minutes.”

That new tunnel will not be ready by the time I arrive in Helsinki; but it sure would be cool to travel through the longest undersea rail tunnel in the world.

I was hoping to take advantage of this opportunity while in Helsinki — especially as I would not have to apply and pay for a visa to Russia — and the ferry is the only way of which I know in order to visit Saint Petersburg without a visa for up to 72 hours. Arriving by any other means of transportation — such as train or bus — do not qualify for the visa-free visit.

Do you have any thoughts or suggestions?

Source: St. Peter Line.

10 thoughts on “Great. No Ferry Service to Saint Petersburg From Helsinki. Now What?”

  1. MFK says:

    I have no info on Helsinki-St. Petersburg alternatives, but if you choose to go to Tallinn instead, I would highly recommend continuing from there to Riga, Latvia and, if you have the time, to Vilnius, Lithuania. There are relatively inexpensive and short bus connections between those three cities, and I found each of them to have their own unique charms, though I especially love Riga due to its high concentration of Art Nouveau architecture. Another alternative would be to fly into Minsk from one of those cities. I just read on Lonely Planet that they have relaxed their visa requirements for US, EU and some other citizens who fly into the capital and stay for five days or less (or perhaps it is fewer than five days?). Either way, if you’re in the area, it’s now easier than ever to check off another “off-the-beaten-track” country. Safe travels.

    1. Brian Cohen says:

      I appreciate the advice, MFK. Thank you.

      Actually, my original plan — not abandoned by any means — is to travel from Helsinki to Tallinn to Riga to Vilnius to Warsaw, where I will catch a flight back to the United States; and I have thought about visiting Minsk along the way. The relaxation of travel restrictions must have been very recent; so I will check into that.

      I have 12 full days on the ground not counting flight days; so including Saint Petersburg might be overdoing it — but it was a thought.

  2. Benno says:

    I would agree with the advice to spend time in the Baltics. I found St. Petersburg bleak and depressing when I visited five years ago. Loved Tallinn, Riga and Vilnius.

    1. Brian Cohen says:

      Hmm…I heard good things about Saint Petersburg, Benno; so I thought I would spend at least a night there — but I will keep your experience in mind.

      Thank you.

      1. Benno says:

        It is beautiful.

        You proabaly know this, but there is a train from Helsinki to St. Petersburg, though you’d have to pay for the visa.

        1. Brian Cohen says:

          Paying for the visa is only part of the problem, Benno. I understand that the entire process is rather difficult and not worth one or two nights at the most.

          I understand the train ride is four hours one way; and I would certainly consider it if it included the visa-free option.

          1. Benno says:

            If you decide to do it, know that there is sometimes a train to Estonia and sometimes not. When I was there, there was no train. Or to put it more precisely, some people thought there was a train, others did not. No one could tell me whether there was one or not. This makes sense in Russia.
            I took a bus to Tallinn.

  3. Karen in Florida says:

    I didn’t find the Russian visa process that difficult. You do have to mail your passport away, though. But I now have a 5 year visa and have since visited Moscow and I have a trip planned for St. Petersburg this summer.

  4. Karen in Florida says:

    Sorry, that was a 3 year visa.

  5. Ric Garrido says:

    Good to know about the ferry route for visa free St. Petersburg. That may factor into my summer trip plans.

    http://usa.mfa.gov.by/en/embassy/news/dbec02e99fa6c45b.html

    I was looking at Minsk as a 24-hour flight transit this week. After reading the comment here, I found the link. Unfortunately, looks like it takes effect Feb 12, 2017 and my dates are before then.

    I picked up the $69 Wow SFO-CPH ticket Jan 10. Looked at Kaunas, Lithuania as the cheapest destination at $22 roundtrip Ryanair from CPH. Club Carlson 4-for-2 rate $35/night.

    Decided to fly to Prague for $45 with a $31/ night Club Carlson rate and make my way to Poland for flight to Stockholm and Norwegian back to Oakland.

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