If the old days of the Soviet Union are over someone forgot to tell the people at St. Petersburg Airport……….I once wrote that I promised never ever to fly into Miami as a cruise ship crew member again after the way I and others were treated……..however I would fly in their everyday for the rest of my life rather than ever leave through St. Petersburg airport. In fact, I would rather cover my head in honey and stick in a beehive then ever use this airport again.

OK, I know what you are thinking, here he goes complaining again about flying but so would you if you had experienced what we just have…….and let me say before I start that the only way to see St. Petersburg is to take a cruise…..you really do not want to fly.

So, you arrive at the airport which looks like a bus station and has that cold Soviet look which is not surprising as one official proudly declared it was built in 1955……and since then no buggerov has bothered to wash or paint it.

So, we arrived and collected our bags and said goodbye to our fantastic operators and guides who had shown us the wonders of their City including today Peter Hoff Palace with its 150 fountains and the Puskin Palace and the famous and must see Amber Room.

Anyway, we collected our bags and walked through the door. The only way I can describe the scene that met us was if someone was making a remake of One Flew Over The Cuckoos Nest and 1,000 people were auditioning. They were walking in circles, shouting and screaming…..it was extraordinary. The reason for this chaos soon became evident when we saw that before you get to check in every person must go through security……that’s everyone not just those who are flying. Well, that doesn’t sound bad but this is where the old days of the good old Soviet Union remained standing firm.

The 1,000 people were thronging to try and enter two doors…..now, that’s two normal size doors…people were shoving and pushing and after a moment of us all standing there wondering what the heck to do I decided to do the same …….so I used my strength and those many portions of Mum’s Yorkshire Pudding to barge myself and the rest of the team to the start of the line. Now, I should point out that each door had three or four lines heading for the opening and as it closer it seemed to merge and the pushing and shoving got worse. We started in the line at 3 pm and it was not until 3:50 pm that we reached the door. During this time I was pushed and had my feet trodden on countless times and it was only after a lady had driven her suitcase over my foot and banged it into my bad ankle which I aggravated walking over cobble stones on Wednesday that I decided to teach the Russians some nice British swear words.

I had also gotten drunk during the hour we stood in line. No, I didn’t decide to start drinking again but Sergei and his friends obviously new about these long lines of disorganized hell and therefore had decided to get totally wasted before flying………their breath assured we were all happy.

I finally reached the start of the security check and my first thought that I had mistakenly gotten into the wrong line and instead joined the “Prostitutes For Hire Line” because the ladies of the security team were wearing grey short mini skirts, grey thin blouses and long knee length boots………..behind the ladies of the night were the uniformed police all wearing those huge red hats. Then behind them were men with no necks who stood in small groups. They were not in uniform but there lack of necks, huge hands and the FBI style thingies in their ears showed they weren’t there to help you decide if you wanted any duty free shopping…..perhaps it was the annual reunion of the KGB appreciation society.

The security check was extraordinary. We were forced to lift our cases onto a conveyor belt that was waist high……how older people managed was beyond me as the girls in boots were to busy looking bored to help. We also had to take off our shoes and then proceed through the X-ray machine…….but here’s the thing …….there was nobody looking at a monitor to see if I had a Yak, 300 pounds of C4 or Jimmy Hoffa in my suitcase. Once through the X-Ray machine things got a little better as one of the boot girls gave me the once over with her magic wand thingy and then made sure that I had nothing hidden in any of my cracks or crevices…….I tried to smile at her but she was colder than an Eskimo’s nose……it was extraordinary that these girls were patting down both men and women, though.

This whole procedure took another 15 minutes and time was pushing on as we raced to the check in desk. This part was fine but then the fun really started as we all moved like cattle to a huge bare concrete room and 6 rows of very quiet people stood in line to go through passport control. I could sense a real fear in the people around me and as I stood with Louis our Chief Purser those fears were realized as a red light above one of the booths came on an alarm sounded………as if my magic two military types appeared and frog marched the poor chap away……I thought that sort of thing had disappeared form Russia but obviously it had not. Soon, it was my turn to go through Immigration and even I felt intimidated by the glass booth behind which sat a very stern but very young officer…..he looked like he was in his late teens and as his spotty face stared at me and then back at my passport he asked me why I had been to Russia. I was going to tell him that I was a CD working for Carnival etc etc but just in case he was an RCI fan and not wanting to see Siberia I decided to say that I was just a tourist. Ivan Zitov looked at me and after a moment’s pause he stamped my visa with an exit stamp and that was me through Immigration.

I let out a sigh of relief which was followed by a few very rude words as another line waited for me and this time it was the airline security check so that was me taking my shoes off, lap top dancer computer out of the carry on and a close encounter with another lady who this time rather than a blonde in boots was a previous Russian weight lifter and as her humongous hands caressed my body I realized that I really wanted to get on the damn plane…….something that I never thought I would here myself say.

Anyway, here I am sitting here writing to you. We need not have worried about missing the flight as it has been delayed for one hour………..buggerov.

So, St. Petersburg……..wow……its indescribable. The Hermitage, The Church of Savior Spilled Blood, all the Palaces……. This is an incredible city and the tour program we have is outstanding. One other thing is that the agents, the tour operators and all the managers and owners of all the historical sites, restaurants and areas we visited are beyond excited about Carnival coming to Russia. Everyone has heard of us and there is no doubt the importance they put into us sending a ship to their brilliant city.

Anyway, time to board Air Berlin flight 332 to…….Berlin. Hopefully I will have an incident-free flight, I am due one surely.

I will miss St. Petersburg but I will miss this airport like I would miss a gangrenous boil on my bottom.

I will send in a few more raspberry blogs later today

From Russia with Love
Your friend
John

Hi, I’m John, and this is my blog. So please don’t mistake my opinions — or those of my dear friends, fans or commenters — for those of Carnival Cruise Line or Carnival Corporation. My apologies in advance for anything I may say that upsets you, but this disclaimer covers Carnival and puts the blame directly on me………….. bugger.