A small change in Russian visa regulations early last year permits passengers arriving in St Petersburg by ferry to take advantage of a short visa-free stay in the Russian city — a dispensation long enjoyed by cruise passengers but never before extended to travellers using regular scheduled ferry services. Cypriot shipping company St Peter Line was quick to take advantage of this new opportunity, launching a Helsinki to St Petersburg route last April. In the last issue of hidden europe, we speculated how well suited the Pride of Bilbao would be to cruise-ferry style operations to and from St Petersburg. At that time, the ship was laid up in Falmouth after P&O scrapped its Portsmouth to Bilbao route in September 2010.
And last November’s speculation now becomes reality with the news that St Peter Line has purchased the Pride of Bilbao. A lick of paint and a change of identity for the ship, now dubbed the Princess Anastasia, which is due to enter service on a new Stockholm to St Petersburg route this spring.