Very well organised and very simple arrangements, picked up usually on the dockside by coach excorted on tour and returned to the dockside in time to embark and continue on voyage.
We did the two day tour of St Petersburg last September with Alla Tours. They were very efficient and our guide, Marina, was extremely knowledgeable. There was no need to obtain a visa as we were covered by the group visa arranged by Alla. Progress through Russian immigration was very quick, we only had to show our passports and our tour tickets and Alla and her guides were waiting for us. We were then allocated to a group of approximately 15 and we were on our way. We did the Complete St Petersburg Tour and we saw most of the major sights. We were given headsets and Marina was 'miked up' so we could hear every word. My only complaint would be the packed lunch we had on day 1, the lunch in the restaurant on day 2 was better. Hope this helps, I am sure you will enjoy your cruise.
Go for it. You need to arrange a tour with someone (because of the Visa) but if you do it through the cruiseline you will end up in a bigger group than if you go with Alla. We went with Alla last August & they were excellent. We had 10 in our family group so we booked our own tour just for us. We had our own guide & driver in a 16 seat mini-bus. As we were on our own they customized the tour to include some of our own choices such as a subway trip & the palace with all the fountains. The guide spoke excellent English & was very knowledgeable. Customs was no problem. They just met & dropped at us at the dockside each day, right by the Customs hall & boat.
We found them slow to answer emails when we first enquired but they seemed to be having trouble at the time so if you find this just keep trying. Once they set up a messaging facilty on their website it got a lot quicker. Enjoy yourselves.
How did you go about booking the trip with Alla?
Sorry for delay replying but we were away on a cruise.
We contacted them via http://www.alla-tour.com/registration
They have an email address but it seemed to have problems so the best way is to register a personal messaging account & ask them any questions. They replied to us usually within 2 days.
Hope this helps.
We have also booked with Alla. I am a bit worried about disembarking the ship, as I have also heard that the ship will try to prioritise their own trips. How do we avoid getting stuck in the line with ships tour and risk getting left behind. Alla want us off the ship immediately it docks. Advice please?
No question about it. Alla's two days were the best of the whole cruise on our tour last June. Alla herself took payment by credit card on the second morning. All in all, the number of places we visited and sights we saw made this an excellent choice. Unlike the trips organised by the cruise line and by other St Petersburg companies, which had big groups in normal coaches, we were taken around in a group of twelve in an air-conditioned minibus. The driver and the courier were excellent and we had far more personal service than those on the big coaches. Our driver, Nicholai, was very restrained in his driving and was able to take us close to some sights that the big coaches could not reach. With Elena as our guide, we were the first visitors of the day into the Hermitage and covered a considerable amount before the general public and bigger tour groups were allowed in. Unlike those on the ship’s excursions we never had to queue to enter or leave the country or to enter any attraction.
Have no fears about using a private company. I organised two tours with Red October in 2006 and 2007with groups of 11 and 12. Guides were excellent and the arrangements quite simple. You can choose how big or small you want the group to be. Bigger means cheaper of course. I spoke to people who had used Alla tours and they had similar experiences to ourselves, ie. GOOD.
Beware when disembarking your ship at the port. We found that the cruise ships sometimes like to prioritise their own tours and arrange queues on the docks but when you get to the customs window they treat all people the same. Ignore the ship's "shepherds" is my advice and go for the shortest queue at the time.