Posted July 27th, 2011, 10:24 AM
The visa was provided by the ship the night before arrival, with your name and info already filled in. You just need to check male or female and sign your name in a teeny tiny space
. You are told exactly what is needed. You meet in the theater with all the other tours and are taken out as a group. You present the visa with your passport as you go through customs. You are leaving with a ship tour, you are not by yourself. After getting through customs you board the ship's tour bus and proceed to Nepsky Prospect. We got a tour on our way with various sites pointed out. (No stops of course.) The guide was very clear about pointing out where we were dropped off and would be picked up and there are many buses there dropping off and picking up. The drop off is near the Church on the Spilled Blood and souvenier shops. It really was "no big deal".
Yes if you want to go to the Hermitage you should buy tickets online to avoid the lines. If you want a tour there are guides available inside the museum that you can hire and their rates are negociable. There are also so many tours going on while you are there you can certainly hear much information by simply being in the room. The signage is in English and you can pick up a map to know what is where.
If the at your leisure sounds good to you, do not hesitate based on unfounded fears.