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I always recommend alla-tours.com on this website -we were incredibly happy with her tour, guide, and prices. IIRC it was $225 pp for a 2-day tour, which was a lot cheaper than what X was charging and we saw a lot more, as with X you only got the chance for a morning and an afternoon tour. There is a facility on her site, to enter your details and say when you will be in St P, and that you are looking for other people to share a tour, because, as you say, for 2 it is rather expensive. Although we had a couple on our cruise who did a private tour with alla-tour, I have no idea what it cost them but we kept bumping into them,at the Hermitage, at Stolle pie shop, at Pushkin, at Spilt Blood - so in my opinion they got to see no where different and were doing the sights at the same speed as the 11 of us were in our mini bus! There is The Other Website, which you are not allowed to mention here, but that also has the facility for people on the same cruise to chat to each other prior to the cruise - RCI and X are very good at premoting this, and it was via this site that we met up with the 9 others that we shared our tour with. I hope this helps.
I have just checked for you, and on alla-tour there is a link at the top - 4th one along that begins M Bs - click on that and then select the month you will be there..there are already people looking for sharers but none from QV yet.
We did the ship's tours in St Petersburg as the easy (if a bit more expensive) option. I think you still need a visa if you are travelling independently. We really enjoyed Peterhof and had a lovely lunch in an old 'palace' hotel. Catherine's Palace was also well worth the visit. We didn't do the ballet or the folklore show in the evening as it would have been too rushed after a long day out. If you decide that this being Russia, queues are inevitable, and take it as part of the experience you'll be fine. The weather was glorious when we were there and there is very little shade when you are standing in a queue, so a hat and sunscreen are essential. Both palaces charged for a permit to take photographs and wanted to 'look after' your camera if you didn't not pay for one. We bought a permit for my husband's camera and put mine in the tour rep's bag. I hope you enjoy your Baltic cruise. We liked Tallin best. If Stockholm is on your itinerary, the Vasa museum is well worth a visit.
You DO NOT need a visa if you arrange a tour with a russian registered tour agency (DenRus, Red October, Alla-tour, Anastasia etc) - you do need a visa if you want to wonder around by yourself but unless you speak russian this is not recommended. Taxis are not even allowed inside the port so it is a hastle even getting to the port gates..
Like Aldrich, we booked a two day tour of St P with Alla Tours and they were excellent. Included were a packed lunch on the first day (not very inspiring) and lunch in a local restaurant on the second (not bad). Also included were charges for camera permits and we also got early entry into the Hermitage which avoids the long queues and crowds. We were not in contact with any other passengers prior to the cruise and were just allocated to a group of approximately 15 on the first morning. With only two days and so much to see you obviously cannot spend too long at each venue, but our guide, Marina, was excellent. In fact, by the end of the two days my brain could not aborb any more and I am having to resort to the internet to fill in the gaps!!! We were there early September this year, and it was slightly chilly - warm clothes were the order of the day. Whichever tour operator you choose I am sure you will enjoy St P - it really is fantastic. Regards Jean Whittle.
We used Denrus when we went to St.Petersburg..they were brilliant..we had the most fantastic tour guide..OLGA.we did the 2 day tour..the driver was wonderful..took us to a lot pf places that you would not see on the ships tour..as well as all the must see things.We had lunch in a restaurant each day..food not really our taste but you make do when in another country!we also did an hour river cruise which gives you a completely different insight into the city.there were only 15 of us on our coach..which was nice.They organise everything including visa's.it was a wonderful experience.Booked it all online..they answer anything you ask..very helpful.You will really enjoy it...you couldnt possible go anywhere in Russia under your own steam!I loved the Baltic Cruise & the weather was fab!!!
Sounds interesting - how much did it cost and did you tip the guide - if so, what currency and how much? - Carole, Nottingham.
You will have a fantastic time and must definitely book with a private company. As has been said - you do not need to get your own visas, the tour company do it for you. Just make sure you are amongst the first off the ship when you dock and take no notice if the ship people say you have to let their own excursions off first. We went with Red October, there were four of us and we were booked on a mini bus which seated nine. The company asked us if we were willing to share with others if they got bookings from the same ship, and we eventually were joined by three others which brought the price down. They provided us with a suggested itinerary but we were free to amend this as we wanted. They then gave us a price for this which we accepted. The guide and driver were brilliant - and we never had to queue. The guide told us to follow her to the front of the queue and look important !! Whether money changed hands we never knew but it worked every time, and it gave us so much more time to see things. The guide came into all the palaces with us and explained everything as we went along, which of course would have been impossible with a coach party of 50 or so. Also she knew all the best places for toilets, which were sometimes round the back of the palaces, rather than inside. We did not have to give any deposit at all when booking (it may have changed now) , we were met off the ship at 8.30am and had a full day's tour and at the end of this first day we were taken to Red October's office where we paid in full. They then met us again at 8.30am second day, to do the rest of the itinerary. We had said that we didn't want to waste time on "posh" meals at lunchtime, and wanted to eat where the locals eat - and so went to the pie shop which someone else has mentioned. Also they do not mind diverting from the original itinerary, one of the people who had joined us was a lady vicar and she wanted to see a Russian Orthodox church. This was really interesting, and quite amusing as there were about 35 christenings happening as we were there - it was like a conveyor belt!! Very many people on the ship who we talked to afterwards said they wished they had booked a private tour, apparently they had spent much of the time queueing, and waiting around on the coach for people who were late back after having queued for toilets. We were there in August last year and the weather was great.
As regards other ports, Tallin was easy to just wander around the old town from the ship, as was Warnemunde if you are going there. Vasa museum in Stockholm is a must do. Have a great cruise.