Viking Ocean Cruises kicked off the cruise ship season in St. Petersburg with a call by the Viking Sky on May 2, the maiden call for the recently-built ship.
However, it was just the beginning for the Russian port, which expects 243 ship calls and more than 540,000 passengers this year – which is a record and an increase of 19 percent over 2016.
It will continue increasing in 2018, according to Valeria Gubanova, a spokesperson for the port.
The port authority has over 20 long-term contracts with cruise and ferry companies, according to Gubanova. Ships venturing to the Baltic prior to April 30 and after October 25 can take advantage of lower port fees.
The majority of calls into St. Petersburg are overnight to help drive shore excursion programming.
The port is hoping to build up winter business with attractions including the Festival of Light and the Festival of Ice Breakers.
One item missing from the monster cruise port is a turnaround business, and port officials are keen on breaking into the homeport market. That, however, will need to begin with the government removing existing barriers to entry by foreign citizens.
A framework has already been put into place between the port and airport with the aim to introduce electric visas and a 72-hour visa-free arrival program.
Infrastructure wise, new mooring dolphins are going in at the No. 7 berth which will increase the length of ships it can handle and also provide an additional ship “parking space” if needed. Construction will start in October and be finished by May of 2018.