Palaces, Estates and Dachas of Imperial Russia with Genevieve Jacobs

Palaces, Estates and Dachas of Imperial Russia
with Genevieve Jacobs


19 June – 2 July 2020 (14 days)



Revel in the mid-year summer bloom at Imperial Russia’s most magnificent palaces, estates and gardens in a journey through Moscow and St Petersburg’s most celebrated and lesser known cultural treasures.

Explore the sumptuous gardens of the palaces of Peterhof, Gatchina and of Catherine the Great, as well as both the famous and lesser-known botanical gardens and public parks of St Petersburg and Moscow.

Discover the region of Vladimir, located in Russia’s “Golden Ring,” and spend a day visiting captivating private gardens, as well as a traditional Russian dacha, or summer house.

Enjoy visits to historical sites, cathedrals and museums, including the opportunity for an evening visit to the Hermitage, one of the most renowned museums in the world.



• Marvel at the palace gardens of Catherine I and Peter the Great outside St Petersburg
• Explore private country gardens in the vicinity of the “golden ring” city of Vladimir
• Visit traditional Russian dachas (summer houses) for a close-up look at life outside the major cities
• Enjoy visits to the great museums of Moscow and St Petersburg, including an evening visit to the Hermitage without the crowds
• Enrich your experience with engaging talks by your tour leader, Genevieve Jacobs



Thursday 18 June 2020 / Depart Australia/New Zealand

Depart Australia or New Zealand on suggested Qatar Airways flights to St Petersburg via Doha. Renaissance Tours or your travel agent can assist you with your flights and other travel arrangements.


Fri 19 Jun / Arrive St Petersburg

Arrive in the mid-afternoon in St Petersburg on suggested flights and transfer to your hotel. (transfer included in the tour price).

This evening, join Genevieve and fellow travellers for a welcome briefing and dinner. (D)


Sat 20 Jun / St Petersburg

Enjoy a morning orientation tour of this magnificent city, first planned by Peter the Great and later embellished by his imperial successors to become one of the truly great European capitals. See the mounted statue of Peter the Great, which stands outside St Isaac’s Cathedral and admire Catherine I’s Winter Palace, which now houses the Hermitage collection from the banks of the Neva River.

After lunch, transfer to the Imperial Gardens Festival. An annual celebration of landscape art in St Petersburg, the main event is the exhibition of landscape compositions garden installations and objects d’art. This evening dinner will be in a local restaurant. (BLD)


Sun 21 Jun / St Petersburg

In the morning, enjoy a talk by Genevieve before a visit to the Church of the Saviour on Spilled Blood. Built in 1907 on the site of the assassination of Tsar Alexander II, the church was closed during the communist period and used as a store house for vegetables. Re-opened as a museum in 1997 after 27 years of restoration, the church is now the most iconic site in St Petersburg. The interior is astoundingly beautiful, awash with intricate and colourful mosaics.

Then, discover “The Venice of the North” on a tour of the many canals of St Petersburg. Relax on an open-air canal boat as it leisurely passes by the many palaces, theatres and gardens of the city.

In the afternoon, journey outside the city to visit the private garden and nursery of Marina Shimanskaya, a renowned Russian landscape designer. (BL)


Mon 22 Jun / St Petersburg

This morning, enjoy a visit of the Komarov Botanical Gardens. Situated on the island of Aptekarsky in the delta of the Neva River, the Botanical Gardens are the oldest of their kind in Russia. Originally the herb garden of Peter the Great and founded to grow medicinal plants, the garden is now home to a park, arboretum and twenty-five greenhouses.

Then, travel to a traditional dacha (Russian for summer house) for a private visit to observe life outside the city and to enjoy lunch.

Return to St Petersburg in the late afternoon. The evening is at leisure. (BL)


Tue 23 Jun / St Petersburg (Pushkin)

Drive out of St Petersburg to the town of Pushkin, formerly known as ‘Tsar’s Village’ (Tsarskoye Selo), renowned for its remarkable ensemble of palaces and parks. It is particularly famous for its impressive Catherine Palace, the Baroque-style palace where Empress Catherine the Great lived and died.

After lunch, visit Gatchina Palace. The palace was built from 1766 to 1781, and contains elements of classical architecture and themes prevalent in medieval castles. The palace was built for Count Grigori Grigoryevich Orlov, who was a favourite of Catherine the Great, and it was a favourite place for the Imperial family to relax. (BL)


Wed 24 Jun / St Petersburg

This morning enjoy a visit of St Isaacs Cathedral. Dominating the skyline of St Petersburg, the church was dedicated to St Isaac of Dalmatia, the patron saint of Peter the Great. The cathedral was turned into a museum in 1931 by the Soviets, and has remained a museum since. The interior architecture uses pink granite and malachite, cut from the Ural Mountains which form the border between Europe and Asia across Russia.

Then, visit the captivating Fabergé Museum. Housing not only one of the finest collections of Fabergé eggs in Russia, the museum also houses other works produced by the jewellers of Peter Carl Fabergé.

Enjoy the afternoon at leisure before a private guided tour of the main branch of the State Hermitage Museum in the evening. The museum is housed in the Winter Palace, the former principal residence of the Romanov Tsars. At the conclusion of the tour there will be free time to remain in the museum to witness Catherine the Great’s elaborate Peacock Clock, which, fortunately for us, chimes only on Wednesday evenings. (BD)


Thu 25 Jun / St Petersburg (Peterhof)

Travel outside the city to the magnificent palace and gardens of Peter the Great at Peterhof. Built directly in response to the construction of Versailles by Louis XIV, the palace contains many outbuildings and subsequent smaller palaces as well as sprawling gardens of many different styles.

In the afternoon, board the hydrofoil to return to St Petersburg by sea for afternoon tea at the Eliseyev Emporium, a famous entertainment complex and food hall. Built in 1902-1903, it is one of the most striking examples of Russian Art Nouveau architecture. Enjoy a specialty coffee or sample a macaroon from one of the store’s many colourful displays. (BA)


Fri 26 Jun / St Petersburg – Moscow

Check out of the hotel and transfer to the train station for the high-speed ‘Sapsan’ train to Moscow (travel time approx. 4 hours). On arrival in Moscow, transfer to the hotel.

This evening enjoy a guided walking tour of Red Square followed by dinner at a local restaurant. (BD)


Sat 27 Jun / Moscow

This morning visit the Kremlin with its many treasures, including the sumptuous interior of the Cathedral of the Assumption and the more intimate Cathedral of the Annunciation. Wander through the colourful Taynitsky Garden, the site of which was once home to the Church of St Constantine and Helen, which was destroyed by the Bolsheviks.

Then, visit the Armoury Chamber with its collection of Fabergé eggs and an astonishing array of glittering jewels, robes, thrones and carriages – a telling reminder of the pre-revolutionary opulence of the Romanov Dynasty.

In the afternoon, visit the Alexander Garden. Stretching the length of the west Kremlin wall, the garden is one of the oldest public spaces in Moscow. Consisting of an upper, middle and lower garden, the upper garden contains the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier and Eternal Flame. (BD)


Sun 28 Jun / Moscow

Following a talk by Genevieve, enjoy a morning tour of Moscow, visit the Novodevichy Cemetery, where many famous Russian political and cultural figures are buried (including Russia’s first president, Boris Yeltsin), and enjoy a panoramic view of Moscow from Sparrow Hills.

After lunch, visit the Moscow Apothecary Botanical Gardens, which now form a part of the botanical garden of Moscow State University. When the garden was established in 1706, the plants grown here were used not only for the preparation of medicines, but also for teaching botany and medical students.

Later, visit the formal and landscape parks of Kuskovo Estate, the former summer country house and estate of the Sheremetev family. One of the few estates of Russian nobility still preserved, the park is a favourite recreational place of Muscovites. (BL)


Mon 29 Jun / Moscow (Vladimir)

Enjoy a day in the Russian countryside in the region of Vladimir, near the so-called Golden Ring.

First, visit the private garden of Igor Uspensky, a noted Russian gardener and author of several books on coniferous plants and ornamental gardens. Dubbed “The Fantasy Forest”, the garden is closed to the public and features rare plants in an ornamental placement.

After viewing the garden, enjoy lunch at Igor Uspensky’s dacha.

In the afternoon, visit the “Garden of a Fairytale”, the private garden of Larissa Ivanova. The garden features hydrangeas and conifers as well as rhododendrons, azaleas and magnolias. Enjoy some home-made Russian pastries in the garden before returning to Moscow. (BL)


Tue 30 Jun / Moscow

This morning journey to the southeast of Moscow to visit the former royal estate of Kolomensky. Inhabited since 1339, Kolomensky became a favourite country estate of the princes of Moscovy. The White Ascension Church, built in 1532, was built to honour the birth of a long-awaited heir to the throne, who later became Ivan the Terrible.

Tsar Alexis I had all the previous wooden structures in Kolomenskoy demolished and replaced with a new wooden palace, famed for its fanciful, fairytale roofs. Foreigners once referred to this huge maze of intricate corridors and 250 rooms as ‘an Eighth Wonder of the World’.

Return to Moscow to spend the afternoon in Gorky Park. Opened in 1928, the park complex is a favourite entertainment venue for Muscovites. June will see the park’s gardens in full bloom and a range of seasonal venues and restaurants in full swing, serving everything from Russian pancakes to cocktails.

This evening, enjoy an optional performance at one of Moscow’s world renowned theatres. (Performance details to be announced in early 2020, Optional, extra cost applies) (B)


Wed 1 Jul / Moscow

In the morning, visit the Botanical Gardens of Moscow State University, followed by the Neskuchny Garden. The oldest park in Moscow, it was once the former residence of the Emperor and was created as a result of the integration of three estates in the eighteenth century. It is also home to the “Green Theatre”, the largest amphitheatre in Europe, which can house 15,000 people.

Then, enjoy time at leisure on colourful Arbat Street, before rounding out the tour at the Muzeon Park of Arts for the Moscow Flower Show. See exhibition gardens created by professional landscape designers from Russia and around the world.

This evening enjoy a special farewell dinner with Genevieve and fellow travellers. (BD)


Thu 2 Jul / Depart Moscow

Tour arrangements conclude with a transfer to Moscow Domodedovo or Moscow Sheremetyevo airports. Renaissance Tours can assist you with your flights and other travel arrangements, including any extra nights’ accommodation, either before or after the tour. (B)

At time of publication (July 2019), most but not all garden visits were confirmed. Private owners, in particular, are reluctant to commit more than two to three months prior to the visit. Therefore, while we undertake to operate the tour as published, there may be some changes to the itinerary.

Mediterranean Wildflowers, History, Gardens and Architecture of the Gods Cruise

Mediterranean Wildflowers, History, Gardens and Architecture of the Gods Cruise




Day 1. Embark Ship, Athens
Embark the small boutique ship, Island Sky at 4pm at Piraeus Harbour and sail this evening towards the island of Crete. Enjoy a Welcome Dinner on board.
Eleven Nights: aboard MS Island Sky (D)

Day 2. Heraklion, Crete, Wildflowers
Step ashore this morning on the fascinating island of Crete and journey to Knossos, the ancient capital of the great king Minos. Discover the fantastic ruins of the ancient palace complex and then journey through the charming countryside of Crete and picturesque villages to one of the three great mountain ranges, Mt. Dikti where we hunt for spring flowering plants including wild tulips and anemones.

Day 3. Rethmynon, Crete Freedom of Choice
We visit the ancient Fortezza and enjoy a scenic drive to Gaios Kambos which is renowned for endemic Cretan plants and again we seek out the crown anemones, turban buttercups, narcissus tazetta, orchids, irises and Bulbocodium species, before a visit to the Monoan Cemetery at Armenoi. After lunch on board, you can enjoy a free afternoon to explore on your own or choose to take a scenic drive to a botanical park with 20 hectares of fruit trees, herbs, medicinal and ornamental plants to explore. (BLD)

Day 4. Peloponnese, Greece Freedom of Choice
Enjoy a scenic drive through the beautiful and fertile Peloponnese countryside to Agios Nilona where there is a riot of springtime Euphorbia and wildflowers. At Areopoli, one of the most attractive traditional villages in Greece, we stroll the cobbled lanes that wind through the village. Alternatively choose to visit the ancient Greek site of Sparta where the warrior society ruled in the Achiac and Classical periods. (BLD)

Day 5. Kefalonia
Made famous by the filming of Captain Corelli’s Mandolin this Ionian Island has great charm. See the capital, Argostoli including the famous lighthouse and then drive to the nearby Botanical Gardens. We continue to Mt Ainos National Park renowned for its dense forest of Kefalonian Fir trees and endemic flowers including orchids. This afternoon you can enjoy a free afternoon in Argostoli, soaking up the atmosphere of this interesting place. (BLD)

Day 6. Corfu. Freedom of Choice
A half day visit to the historical village of Gastouri and the Achilleion Palace, the former residence of Empress Elizabeth of Austria and later Kaiser Wilhelm the second. Explore the museum with its royal treasures and enjoy the splendor of the landscaped gardens. Then return to historic Corfu Town which is on the World Heritage List (UNESCO) for a tour and some free time before returning to the ship for lunch. Alternatively take a full day trip taking in Mon Repos, the birthplace of Prince Philip, enjoy the scenic beauty of Corfu Island including Mouse Island and have an authentic Greek lunch at Agios Yannis and explore the old town of Corfu. (BLD)

Day 7. Lecce, Italy
Often referred to as the ‘Florence of Southern Italy’ Lecce’s Roman heritage is evident in the Amphitheatre built to accommodate 20,000 spectators. Our tour will include the Santa Croce Basilica and the Piazza Duomo. Later, a visit to Palazzo Tamborino-Cezzi, a privately owned 15th century palace has been arranged. This afternoon we cruise to Sicily. (BLD)

Day 8. Catania, Sicily, Private Garden
After a relaxing morning at sea, we arrive at Catania in Sicily for an exclusive private garden visit at the invitation of Princess Borghese, who will personally take us around her beautiful garden and extend her welcome hospitality to us. (BLD)

Day 9. Syracuse, Sicily, Private Garden
Our tour will begin in the Archaeological Zone and include the well preserved Greek theatre. Paradise Quarry is now a garden and orange grove and is famous for the curious ‘Dionysus Ear’, a vast grotto with an amplifying resonance. After lunch we enjoy a private visit to the gardens of the Marquess of San Giulliano. See the Mediterranean, Arabian and Tropical Gardens which owes much to the head gardener, Rachel Lamb. (BLD)

Day 10. Taormina and Stromboli
We visit Taormina, a walled town lying in the shadow of Mt. Etna, Europe’s highest volcano. The town has been a popular tourist destination since the 19th century and our guided tour will include walking the characteristic alleys before visiting the 15th century Palazzo Corvaja and the impressive Greek Theatre, from where there are marvellous views over the town and coast. This afternoon we sail towards Stromboli, one of the most active volcanoes in the world, in time to see it lit up in the evening light. (BLD)

Day 11. Naples, Ischia, Herculaneum Freedom of Choice
Arrive this morning in Naples to the sight of the Norman castle that protects the port and the backdrop of Vesuvius in the distance. You may choose to spend the afternoon on the island of Ischia to see La Mortella, a wonderful garden designed by architect Russell Page for Lord and Lady William Walton. Alternatively, enjoy an afternoon visiting the ancient Roman town of Herculaneum or enjoy a free afternoon in Naples. (BLD)

Day 12. Naples, Ninfa, Rome
Disembark this morning. A transfer from Naples to Rome is available with a visit to the romantic garden of Ninfa, arriving in Rome by 5.00pm. (BL)


M.S. Island Sky

Enjoy the intimate and personalized atmosphere of this small boutique ship with just 100 guests on board.
The décor resembles a grand English style country hotel with two lounges where a traditional afternoon tea is served, plus a bar. There are two restaurants for you to choose from including a fine dining room complete with white table clothes or the more informal on deck, Lido Restaurant where you can enjoy the passing coastal scenery and the fresh sea air. There is a Beauty & Massage Parlor, plus a lift to all floors. The large suites with wood paneling and brass features are spread over four decks and all have outside facing views, en-suite bathrooms, a sitting area and television. The 70 crew will attend to your every need in a friendly and efficient way making your Botanica cruise very special.



• Learn about the history of the regions from local guides
• Enjoy the comfort of small ship cruising – unpack once
• See historical sights & villages on Crete, Peloponnese & Sicily
• Visit the Greek Islands of Crete, Kefalonia and Corfu
• See the Botanical Gardens of Crete
• Learn about ancient civilization and architecture
• See the birthplace of Prince Philip
• Explore Paradise Quarry in Syracuse
• Private garden visit to Marquess of San Giulliano’s garden
• Private garden visit to Princess Borghese garden
• Visit the beautiful Sicilian walled-town of Taormina
• Explore the Island of Ischia & La Mortella garden
• Discover the fascinating volcanic ruins Herculaneum
• Have a choice of touring options in selected locations
• Learn about the plants and gardens from your Botanical Guide, Dr. Toby Musgrave



• Services of a Cruise Director and Botanical Guide, Dr. Toby Musgrave
• Airport transfers on first and last day, tipping and port taxes
• Meals – 11 Breakfasts (B) 11 Lunches (L) and 11 Dinners (D)
• Wine, beer and soft drinks included with lunch and dinner on board the ship
• Eleven nights on the boutique small ship, the MS Island Sky, with just 100 guests
• Learn about the Mediterranean plants with onboard lectures by the Botanical Guide
• Freedom of Choice Touring on some days at no extra cost


Experiences: Wildflowers, Private Gardens, History & Ancient Architecture


This tour can be combined with:

• Italian & French Gardens tour (BTIF9)
• Italian & French Gardens & Bordeaux Cruise (BTBIF16)


2016 Garden Tour of France & Germany with Danube Cruise, hosted by Helen Young

Garden Tour of France & Germany with Danube Cruise 2016, hosted by Helen Young


DAY 1 Thursday May 26, 2016 Departure
We depart Australia on our flight to Paris.

DAY 2 Friday May 27, 2016 Paris
On arrival in Paris we are met by private coach and transferred to our hotel, where we’ll have time to freshen up, before enjoying a sightseeing tour of the romantic city of Paris with a local guide. Highlights include the Notre Dame, the Louvre, the Tuileries and a drive along the Champs Elysee to the Arc de Triomphe. Those wishing to dine together can meet in the lobby, where the tour manager will suggest good-value restaurants for dinner.

DAY 3 Saturday May 28, 2016 Paris
This morning we visit Claude Monet’s famous house and garden at Giverny. The garden, with its ponds and water lilies and Japanese bridge, appears in many of the artist’s paintings. Another section of the garden has a more formal layout, featuring espaliered apples and pears and abundant plantings of roses, irises, spring bulbs, poppies and more. It has been magnificently restored and gives a vivid impression of Monet’s inspiration. Helen will make sure that we get the most out of this garden. This evening we will enjoy a welcome dinner to formally meet Helen and other tour members.

DAY 4 Sunday May 29, 2016 Paris
This morning we visit the Chateau de Bagatelle on the edge of the Bois de Boulogne. In addition to the noted rose garden with its climbing roses, there is a water lily pool, grotto, potager and iris garden. We will have free time to explore Paris in the afternoon.

DAY 5 Monday May 30, 2016 Beaune
Today we head to the Burgundy region of France and visit Jardins de l’Abbey de Fontenay. The abbey was founded in 1118 by St Bernard of Clairvaux. It is the oldest preserved Cistercian Abbey in the world and was included in the World Heritage Sites register by UNESCO in 1981. Surrounding the abbey is a wonderful landscaped park, nestled in the hollow of a valley that stretches over 1,200 hectares. The park was transformed by landscape architect Peter Holms in 1977. We will see a wide variety of roses, viburnums and hydrangeas as well as many ancient trees and a trout pond. It was classified as a remarkable garden in 2004. We continue on to Beaune, for a two-night stay. The tour manager will give recommendations of local restaurants for dinner.

DAY 6 Tuesday May 31, 2016 Beaune
This morning, we enjoy a sightseeing tour of the charming small town of Beaune with a local guide. The tour will include a visit to the famous Hotel-Dieu, founded as a hospital by Rolin in 1443, and a great example of Burgundian-Flemish art. We then travel with our local guide through the famous Cote de Nuits wine-producing area to the village of Nuits St Georges to enjoy a wine tasting at one of the famous Burgundy wine chateaux. On our drive north of Beaune, through the vineyards and west towards the mountains, we will see some of France’s most beautiful countryside. This evening, join us for an included dinner at our hotel.

DAY 7 Wednesday June 1, 2016 Strasbourg
We travel north of Beaune for a visit to the gardens of the Chateau de Barbirey. This park-like garden is set on 8ha in the l’Ouche Valley. A superb potager garden, orchard and natural prairie area are highlights of our visit. We continue to beautiful Strasbourg, where we will stay for the next three nights. Known as the “Venice of the north”, the city grew up around its first cathedral, established in the 7th century, later replaced by the Romanesque cathedral seen today. Strasbourg remained a free city within the Holy Roman Empire until eventually submitting to annexation by Louis XIV in 1681. The historic centre of Strasbourg was classified as a World Heritage Site by UNESCO in 1988.

DAY 8 Thursday June 2, 2016 Strasbourg
A sightseeing tour of Strasbourg this morning includes the cathedral and a walk through the Old City, with its timber-framed houses and traditional features, such as wooden galleries and loggias. We see Place Kleber, the city’s most famous square. This afternoon will be free to explore the city individually – perhaps visit one of the many museums or shop in the historic centre of this charming town.

DAY 9 Friday June 3, 2016 Strasbourg
This morning we visit the Chateau de Kolbsheim and its garden. The chateau has two wings, the oldest built in 1703, with lovely views over the Alsatian plains. The upper part of the garden is a formal French garden, decorated with ponds, fountains, hedges and topiaries. The lower part is an English park, with many venerable trees. Much of the garden was destroyed in the First World War, but has been restored by the current owners, the Grunelius family. We continue our journey for a visit to Saverne’s historic rose garden, which contains more than 8,500 rose bushes with a total of 550 different varieties. With its attractive pools and fountains, this is a gorgeous garden, full of fragrance and colour. The remainder of the afternoon and evening will be free for your own exploration.

DAY 10 Saturday June 4, 2016 Regensburg
Today we travel east, across the European plain into Bavaria, continuing to Regensburg. On the southern side of Stuttgart, we visit the private garden of Waltraud and Hans Fahrion. The garden has been established for 20 years and features many box plants pruned into different shapes and used to divide the garden into garden rooms. A hint of the baroque is added by sculptures, stone shapes and furniture. We continue our journey to Regensburg.

DAY 11 Sunday June 5, 2016 Regensburg
Regensburg was originally a Roman garrison town, guarding the northernmost part of the Danube. It was a centre of religious life in the Middle Ages and became a trading hub. We will have a guided tour of this captivating town this morning. We will see the eight-storied Old Town Hall built in the 13th century and the Haidplatz, a square surrounded by historic buildings with the Fountain of Justice at its centre. We will see the green belt surrounding the historic centre. In the afternoon we visit the Palace and Gardens of Thurn and Taxis. The present palace was converted from an abbey and given to the prince, as compensation for his loss of the Bavarian postal monopoly in 1812. We visit the Max Buchhauser Garden, which is located on the north side of the Danube. This sculpture garden is impressive because of Max’s bizarre and whimsical character.

DAY 12 Monday June 6, 2016 Passau
This morning we drive to Passau, where we board our four-star river boat for our seven night cruise. Passau is known as the “town of three rivers” as it lies at the junction of the Inn, the Danube and the small River Ilz. The old town, with its baroque churches and patrician houses, lies crowded onto the narrow tongue of land separating the rivers. The rest of the day will be free to explore the boat and the charming town of Passau.

DAY 13 Tuesday June 7, 2016 Melk/Vienna
This morning we stop at the town of Melk for a visit to the Benedictine Abbey on a rocky outcrop above the town. The abbey was founded in 1089 when Leopold II gave one of his castles to the Benedictine monks. The monastic school was founded in the 12th century and the baroque abbey in the early 18th century. We continue to Vienna, where we arrive early evening and are moored overnight.

DAY 14 Wednesday June 8, 2016 Vienna
This morning we will enjoy a sightseeing tour of this grand city. We will see the Hofburg Palace, the former winter residence of the Hapsburgs, the Parliament, St Stephens Cathedral, which is known for its vast roof of glittering tiles, and the wide boulevards befitting an imperial city. In the afternoon we will visit the Schonbrunn Palace and Gardens now a UNESCO World Heritage Site. This is the former summer residence of the imperial family. It takes its name from a beautiful spring that was found on the site. Leopold 1 started building the grand baroque residence here in 1695. Half a century later, Maria Theresa transformed it into a glittering focus of court life. It remains the premier architectural, cultural and historic monument in Austria. The extensive gardens feature fountains and statues framed by trees and alleyways. There are follies, an orangerie, a French garden with a maze and a magnificent tropical greenhouse erected in 1882.

DAY 15 Thursday June 9, 2016 Budapest
We arrive in Budapest late morning. After mooring, we will enjoy a sightseeing tour of Buda, the hilly area around the castle. We see the ornamental gateway leading to the Hapsburg Steps and the royal palace and visit Matyas Church built between the 13th and 15th centuries. It was rebuilt in the baroque style by Franciscan friars in the 16th century. From Gellert Hill, we will get a stunning view of Budapest. We cross the Danube to Pest via the Chain Bridge, the city’s first permanent bridge. It was built in 1839 and led to an expansion of Pest in the late 19th and 20th centuries. Other sights on our tour around Pest include the Hungarian National Museum, the Parliament Building designed by Imre Steindl, the winner of a competition, and many Secession buildings. In the afternoon, we visit the Fuveszkert Botanical Garden located in the grounds of a villa in Pest. There are approximately 6,000 species of plants in the collection and a 150-yearold ginkgo tree, as well as a palm house with tropical and sub-tropical plants.

DAY 16 Friday June 10, 2016 Esztergom
This morning is free to explore Budapest. We depart on our cruise to Esztergom at lunch time. Esztergom is Hungary’s most sacred town, the seat of the Archbishop of Hungary. We have free time in the hour we are docked to explore this attractive town.

DAY 17 Saturday June 11, 2016 Bratislava
After docking in Bratislava, we travel to visit Buchlovice Castle. This Italian-designed summer house was built at the end of the 17th century for an Italian, Agnese Carlonna. During the 18th century the Berchtold family transformed the land around the villa into an elegant landscape of 65 hectares crossed by winding paths and dropping to a bridge over a stream. There is an outstanding collection of well-grown trees, now in their maturity. We return to the boat mid-afternoon.

DAY 18 Sunday June 12, 2016 Durnstein
Today we wake in the charming baroque village of Durnstein. We will have a sightseeing tour of the town and see the ruined castle where Richard the Lionheart was incarcerated. We then travel to a winery in the Wachau Valley for a tasting of wines typical of this region. We return to the boat at lunch time and sail to Passau.

DAY 19 Monday June 13, 2016 Passau/in flight
We travel to Munich airport to board our flight to Australia.

DAY 20 Tuesday June 14, 2016 Australia
We arrive in Australia this morning and tour arrangements conclude.

History, Gardens and Music under Sail in the Baltic

London Festival Opera – we are delighted to be joined by some members of the London Festival Opera on this cruise. One of the world’s leading private opera companies, the London Festival Opera has performed for Presidents, Prime Ministers and senior members of the British and European Royal Families. Engagements have included exclusive performances in the presence of the Royal Family at St James’s Palace, and for the British Prime Minster at Number 10 Downing Street.

Botanical Lecturer – Dr. Toby Musgrave has a passion for horticulture and is an authority on garden history, and shares his knowledge as an author of many garden history books. Historical Lecturer – Peter Warwick is a renowned historian and published author who will share his extensive historical knowledge during your cruise. Peter often lectures at the National Maritime Museum.

Day 1. Arrive St Petersburg and Embark Ship

Be met at the airport and transfer to the Sea Cloud II. Enjoy Welcome Drinks and dinner onboard the luxurious ship.

Twelve Nights: Sea Cloud II (D)

Day 2. St Petersburg Sightseeing

This morning we drive out to Peterhof Palace. A series of terraces bright with gilded animated fountains lead to the palace built by Peter the Great on the edge of the Gulf of Finland. Later, enjoy a cruise along St Petersburg’s canals, and see St Peter, Paul Fortress and the Embankment with wonderful architectural panoramas, bridges and palaces. (BLD)

Day 3. Helsinki, Finland

Spend a relaxing morning at sea cruising in the Gulf of Finland. Arrive in Helsinki during lunch. Very much the water city, we shall moor close to the city centre and explore Helsinki by foot. Visit the colourful Market Square, the President’s Palace, the impressive architecture of Senate Square including the Lutheran Cathedral of Finland and Uspenski Cathedral, the Russian Orthodox Church with its striking onion domes. Take advantage of the long northern evening light with a pre or post dinner walk. Sail in the late evening. (BLD)

Day 4. Tallinn, Estonia

This historic maritime city completed its city walls in the 16th-century and the Old Town within these walls is one of the best-preserved from the Middle Ages. Its numerous churches, guild halls and gabled merchants’ residences date mainly from the 15th-century. Tallinn is dominated by Toompea Castle, once a fortress, and now the seat of the Estonian parliament. It is set high on a steep hillside overlooking the city and the Baltic. Spend the afternoon at sea as we begin our crossing of the Baltic. This evening, enjoy a concert by the London Festival Opera. (BLD)

Day 5. Stockholm, Sweden

This morning we sail through the many islands of the Swedish Archipelago into Stockholm. This is a great sailing area and the islands are peppered with attractive summer homes. Spend the afternoon exploring this handsome city, known as the ‘city on the water’. It is built on 14 small islands among open bays and narrow channels. It is fitting, therefore, that Stockholm has the Vasa Ship, one of the outstanding archaeological discoveries of the 20th Century. Stockholm also has a magnificent ‘Old Town’, splendid Baroque and 19th-century buildings with distinctive green copper roofs and gleaming towers. Moor overnight in Stockholm and from our central mooring we will be able to enjoy the delights of this most sophisticated and lovely city. (BLD)

Day 6. Stockholm Garden Visits

Enjoy a free morning in Stockholm or visit The Linnaeus Garden, originally laid out in 1655 by Olof Rudbeck the elder, professor of medicine at Uppsala University. It is today arranged according to Linnaeus’ own plan from 1745. Approximately 1,300 species of plants are grown here today, all of which are known to have been cultivated by Linnaeus: the garden is a living complement to his writings and drawings. It is also possible to visit the Linnaeus Museum, situated within the gardens, which was Carl Linnaeus’s home for 35 years. We set sail at lunchtime, through the Stockholm archipelago and then in a southerly direction to the Swedish Island of Gotland. (BLD)

Day 7. Visby, Gotland

Today we visit this once important Hanseatic port. Best explored on foot, the beautifully preserved medieval town snuggles inside 13th-century walls, housing 44 watchtowers. In Viking times and several centuries after, the Swedish island of Gotland and especially the city of Visby, became a centre of trade in the Baltic Sea and is a World Heritage-listed site. Walk its streets from the Middle Ages and see its gardens ablaze with flowers, earning the city its nickname ‘the city of ruins and roses.’ Later, visit the Viking exhibits at the Fornsal Museum and wander the paths of the botanical gardens. Sail during lunch. This evening, enjoy a superb performance by the London Festival Opera. (BLD)

Day 8. Gdansk, Poland

We have the day to explore Gdansk, formerly known as Danzig, a leading member of the Hanseatic League. This great port has been sympathetically restored after extensive war damage and is again, one of Europe’s most splendid cities. Our visit includes the church of St Mary, an enormous Gothic hall church with crystal vaulting, Arthur’s Hall and the Knight’s Great Watermill. Gdansk is also famous as the city of ‘Solidarity’, where the dockers united to overthrow the Polish Communist regime. We visit the monument commemorating this struggle. (BLD)

Day 9. Bornholm, Denmark

We visit the beautiful Bornholm Island with its woodland and attractive rocky coastline dotted with fishing villages. We moor in Gudhjem and visit Nykirke, one of the 12th-century round churches on the island. Although of simple style, the church has a beautiful altarpiece, thought to have been made in a Lübeck workshop around 1510. This evening, enjoy an unforgettable performance by the London Festival Opera. (BLD)

Day 10. Copenhagen, Freedom Of Choice Touring

We have a full day in the charming Danish capital, which will include the Palace of Amailienborg exterior only. The four identical Rococo buildings have been the Royal Residence since 1784. Also see Christiansborg Castle, the Royal Theatre and Nyhavn. In the afternoon, explore independently or join the excursion to Helsingor to see the Kronborg Castle, one of Europe’s most important Renaissance castles and known the world over from Shakespeare’s Hamlet. Later, see St Olai’s Church and the carefully restored medieval merchants and ferrymen’s houses, or visit some exclusive private gardens with Toby Musgrave. Sail in the late evening. (BLD)

Day 11. At Sea

Enjoy the opportunity to spend a relaxing day at sea under sail as we cross to Norway. (BLD)

Day 12. Lillesand, Norway

Arrive into the southern coast of Norway. Lillesand is one of Norway’s best kept secrets, a charming summer resort. Small islands and skerries dot the coastline making the approach to the town by sea a memorable sight. On a morning ashore, we can soak up the unique atmosphere of a Norwegian summer resort in the old town with its enchanting white clapboard houses. (BLD)

Day 13. Disembark Ship and Depart Oslo, Norway

Welcome to the capital of Norway, Oslo. This morning disembark the ship and be transferred to the airport. (B)

Baltic and St Petersburg Cruise

  • DAY 1 Saturday 5 July, 2014 Depart Australia 
  • DAY 2 Sunday 6 July, 2014 Amsterdam 
  • Arrive at Amsterdam airport then visit Paleis Het Loo, which features a wonderful sunken garden, clipped arbours, extensive parterres, gilded statues and elaborate water features, then a visit to the garden of Piet Oudolf, extraordinary plantsman and landscape designer.
  • DAY 3 Monday 7 July, 2014 Amsterdam
  • City tour and leisure time to explore
  • DAY 4 Tuesday 8 July, 2014 Celebrity Constellation 
  • Hortus Botanicus, Amsterdam’s botanic garden then we board the Celebrity Constellation.
  • DAY 5 Wednesday 9 July, 2014 At sea
  • DAY 6 Thursday 10 July, 2014 Warnemunde, Germany 
  • Explore Warnemunde’s pleasant waterfront, then we travel on to Schwerin Castle, one of Europe’s foremost examples of historic architecture and dramatic 19th century garden.
  • DAY 7 Friday 11 July, 2014 At sea 
  • DAY 8 Saturday 12 July, 2014 Tallinn, Estonia 
  • Guided tour of the medieval city of Tallinn, the capital of Estonia, with its cobblestone streets and gingerbread-style houses, including Toompea (the old town), the Viru Gate, Raekoja Plats and the sixth Garden Design Festival.
  • DAY 9 Sunday 13 July, 2014 St Petersburg, Russia 
  • We explore beautiful St Petersburg, visiting the oldest part of the city: SS Peter and Paul Cathedral and fortress, the world famous Hermitage Palace, with its wonderful art collection and see the city’s most famous theatre, the Mariinsky.
  • DAY 10 Monday 14 July, 2014 St Petersburg, Russia
  • We travel to Petrovorets, the summer house of Peter the Great, who wanted the gardens to surpass the gardens at Versailles. The centrepiece is the Grand Cascade and Water Avenue. We continue the day with a visit to the Imperial Palace at Tsarskoe Selo; the Catherine Palace.
  • DAY 11 Tuesday 15 July, 2014 Helsinki, Finland 
  • We have a sightseeing tour of Helsinki, the capital of Finland, including the Sibelius Monument and the unusual underground Temppeliaukiojn Church.
  • DAY 12 Wednesday 16 July, 2014 Stockholm, Sweden 
  • Stockholm, capital of Sweden is surrounded by clear water and unspoiled countryside. Later we travel to Drottningholms Slottsparken, the most impressive of Stockholm’s palaces. The extensive baroque garden was laid out in the 1690s for Queen Hedvig Eleonora.
  • DAY 13 Thursday 17 July, 2014 At sea 
  • DAY 14 Friday 18 July, 2014 Copenhagen, Denmark 
  • From Copenhagen our private coach takes us on a guided tour of the city, including the Amalienborg Palace, Radhus, (city hall), Kongens Nytorv, the Royal Theatre and Charlottenborg, a 17th-century Dutch baroque palace. We then travel north to visit the author Karen Blixen’s Manor House and garden.
  • DAY 15 Saturday 19 July, 2014 At sea
  • DAY 16 Sunday 20 July, 2014 Paris 
  • Disembark in Amsterdam and travel south to Paris, ‘the city of light’ by coach. On the journey we will stop in Villers-Bretonneux to visit the Australian War Memorial, a very moving experience.
  • DAY 17 Monday 21 July, 2014 Paris
  • We have a sightseeing tour of Paris seeing the Eiffel Tower, Arc de Triomphe, the Champs-Élysées, the Seine, Notre Dame and the other major sights of Paris. After lunch, we visit to Claude Monet’s famous house and beautiful garden at Giverny. This garden, with its ponds, water lilies and its Japanese bridge, appears in many of the artist’s paintings.
  • DAY 18 Tuesday 22 July, 2014 Paris 
  • This morning we will visit a mystery private garden. This afternoon will be free so you can enjoy Paris at leisure.
  • DAY 19 Wednesday 23 July, 2014 Depart
  • Transfer from our hotel to the airport for the flight back to Australia.
  • DAY 20 Thursday 24 July, 2014 Australia 
  • Arrive in Australia and the tour concludes.