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3 nights in St Petersburg, 3 in Moscow, Private tour vs. Group?

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Hi folks,

It's been a while. I'm traveling alone to Helsinki for 2 nights June 24,25th staying at Hotel Kamp (for free on points). Then Quark expeditions puts me up for 1 night at an airport hotel in Helsinki.

Then 11 days to the North Pole and back with them.

My questions come about tours in St Petersburg and Moscow afterwards. I plan to stay for 3 nights in each location. It's all the time I have. Quark gave me a list of tours while there and the prices seem crazily high. I'll be by myself and an intimidated, like others, to travel alone in these 2 cities. I've traveled over much of Europe alone but not here. I'm not going to learn the language, or even take a course in the alphabet. I have no interest or the time. I work ALL THE TIME so I'm just going to wing it like I always do.

I'm staying at the W Hotel St Petersburg (for free on points) and the Sheraton Palace Hotel in Moscow (for free on points).

Are these prices super high for these tours below? My trip planner from Quark Expeditions said that they as a company don't do group tours here, that they're all private with a driver and typically a Mercedes car. I usually take free walking tours in Europe when I travel, or bike tours that run $35-100 for 4 hours, for cheap tour around $65-90 per day. Nowhere near the prices listed below, but they were mostly group tours set up on the day or arrival or the day I woke up and decided to do a tour.

I don't want to get stuck in horrible lines at the Hermitage and I'm terrible with directions, taking mass transit (I get lost a lot, though I typically do it anyway when traveling), and this is... Russia. It's just different, right? I read a few just back reports but am still not sure which way to go. This is what he wrote me:
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Please find the ST PETERSBURG info below, please note that all tours are private include English speaking guide and Mercedes car:


Tour of Pushkin: Catherines Palace and Park w/ English guide - 4 hrs - $235
Tour of Pavlovsk: Pauls palace and park w/ English guide - 4 hrs - $235
OR both together for - Pushkin & Pavlovsk - 6 hrs, with price - $355


Transfer to the pier and Hydrofoil to Peterhof Palace w/ English guide - one way by hydrofoil, return by car (transfer to pier is included)
(including tickets for hydrofoil to guide, Park & Grand Palace in Peterhof). Duration 5 hrs $330

Tour of park and one of the Smaller Palaces: Monplaisir or Bath House w/ English guide by car, duration - 5 hrs - $285
Tour of Lomonosov: Menshikov Palace and Park w/ English guide - 5 hrs - $285
Tour to Lomonosov can be combined with Peterhof
Tour of St Isaac’s Cathedral w/ English guide (visit to St. Isaac's lasts not too long, so it can be included to the city tour, city tour incl St. Isaac's (3 hrs together) - $165


And for MOSCOW (Ford Modeo or Toyota Camry and English speaking guide is included)

Tour of Saint Basils Cathedral w/ guide - Visit to Saint Basil's cathedral & Red Square (30 min) can be included to the city tour - $325

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I'm lost as to which tours to take. Which are WAY too expensive for what they are. What a good itinerary would be in St Petersburg and Moscow with my limited time here. Any suggestions as to the highlights? I LIVE FOR ART, seeing the Hermitage will be a dream come true for me, and I like historical walking tours that aren't boring :o). For Helsinkin, I'll figure out what to do when I get here but for these 2 cities, I'm lost...

Thanks in advance,

Steve R
Gaithersburg MD

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