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We did the same kind of thing as Morris St Columb, but with Alla Tours. Price was about the same and they too were absolutely fantastic. The smaller vehicles - 16 seater in Alla's case, against 40 plus for the ships - really matter, as it makes life much easier getting around the crowded sites. At the Hermitage they had some problem on the doors, but our small group just breezed in past crowds of folk on ship tours, who were left looking pretty glum in the heavy rain. We felt a bit mean, but were obviously glad we'd done it this way!! Whatever you do, have a wonderful time - it's a great itinerary :-)
Denrus are one of the well known private tour operators so should be very reliable....we went to St Petersburg on Eclipse last year and after doing much research decided to go with the ships excursions and we were extremely happy with them... so don't dismiss them altogether....we did a full day City Highlights and Catharines palace with five course lunch at Holiday Inn then a half day (5 hrs) trip to the Hermitage....excellent guides who took us to the front of the queue each time, ear pieces to hear what she was saying even if we were a distance away...total cost for two of us was £283 !! We felt this was very good value.
DenRus, Alla, Red Oktober, several others, all very reputable & recommended. One may decline to quote you if they have the contract for your ship's tours. ......... none are cheap, but they're much cheaper than ship's tours & much better (smaller groups). All include you on a group visa, incl in the price. ........... Chris.
Actually Chris our trips with Celebrity were slightly cheaper than any of the 'private' tours !!
But didn't you only do one full day and one half day, compared with two full days with the private tour groups?
Like for like they worked out slightly cheaper with the ship ....we also had a five course hotel lunch with the full day ...but it is a personal choice and I was just commenting that people dismiss the ships trips as being expensive, but actually they are not when you do the research....we were very happy with our choice and can't see what could have been improved upon....for us of course!!
We used Alla tours and would highly recommend them for all the reasons given by Mitchell. There were 10 of us on our minibus and our guide was superb! Enjoy St Petersburg.
We used Denrus in 2009. There were probably about 15 of us in a mini coach. We had two great, full days, with a brilliant guide with a very dry sense of humour! We were very satisfied with the service, itinerary etc. We had a good lunch each day which was included also.
We have provisionally booked Alla Tours for our 23rd June departure on Eclipse for the two days in Russia, they were highly recommended to us and have been very helpful in all our correspondence with them.
We toured with SPB Tours www.spb-tours.com. They were also excellent and very flexible too. I don't think you can go wrong with any of the main operators. They are all thoroughly well recommended on Cruise Critic by hundreds of Americans. (Except Alla which has been blacklisted by the website! But not for poor service, just for possibly posting false reviews, I think).