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St Petersburg - guide vs visa

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Hello! I'm a semi-regular poster on the US/Europe boards, but have never taken a cruise before, so am definitely new on this board (and new to cruising in general). I've booked a Baltic cruise in July with some friends, and we are currently trying to figure out how to handle our stop in St. Petersburg. We're sailing with Royal Caribbean and have two days in the city.

It looks like a visa to enable us to go around independently would cost $160 (plus hours of our lives in red tape?), plus we'd have to figure out how to get from place to place on our own (I don't even know if this is feasible - everything I've read so far focuses on guided tours, and Google Maps can only help so much). Private tours are, of course, not cheap, but I'm thinking they might not be more expensive than the visa + transportation, admission, etc, and would certainly be easier. And of course there's the official cruise excursions.

We're all budget-minded, so cost is definitely a consideration, but at least for most of us, this is a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity. There are five of us, in our 30s/40s, plus one set of parents (not mine, so I'm not sure if they would want to do their own thing or tour with us).

Any advice on whether it's even worth considering exploring on our own, what combination of private tour + cruise excursion to use, or anything else would be most welcome! So far Denrus is looking most promising in terms of a private company, but we're definitely open to suggestions.

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