NEW YORK -- Russia as of Aug. 27 enforced visa requirements for
passengers sailing to the country on several short cruises from
Passengers on cruises run by companies such as Silja Line and
Kristina Cruises had been exempt from obtaining Russian tourist
visas -- usually mandatory, at a cost of up to $100 -- if they went
ashore on organized excursions, said officials from the
In response to the policy change, Silja rerouted two-night
Baltic cruises on the Silja Opera -- originally set to sail to St.
Petersburg twice weekly through Jan. 6 -- to Riga, Latvia, and
Kristina canceled 100 scheduled shopping cruises on the Kristina
Brahe to Vyborg, Russia.
The move also puts Kristina Cruise's plans for seven two-night
excursions to St. Petersburg on the Kristina Regina next year in
jeopardy, said BJ Mikkelsen, vice president of marketing for the
But Mikkelsen predicted a quick about-face. "Russian merchants
know how much money is poured into the country by all these
The Russian Foreign Ministry laid the blame on Silja, claiming
in an official statement that the company had not requested special
visa-free status for the one-stop cruises, which under Russian law
and international practice would not qualify for a visa waiver.
International cruises calling at at least one other foreign
port, in addition to Russian cities, aren't affected by visa
requirements, Mikkelsen said.
Silja rebooked all Russia-bound passengers on the Riga route and
is refunding advance payments for St. Petersburg shore excursions;
the line is represented by Norwegian Coastal Voyage in New
Kristina Cruises distributors include Borton Overseas,
Minneapolis; Scanam World Tours, Cranbury, N.J.; and Nordique Tours
and Scantours USA, both of Los Angeles.