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Baltic Cruise Shore Excursion Questions - Percy?

Baltic Cruise Shore Excursion Questions - Percy?

Oct 27th, 2008, 12:52 PM
  #1  
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Baltic Cruise Shore Excursion Questions - Percy?

I've booked the 14 night Baltic cruise on Celebrity's Constellation for next July, and am pretty excited about it.

We're stopping at the following ports:
Amsterdam
Berlin (Warnemunde)
Stockholm
Helsinki
St. Petersburg
Tallinn
Copenhagen

I want to use Alla Tours in St. Petersburg, but I have a question for Percy (or anyone else that has used them) re their 2 day tours.

Percy - based on your trip report, it looks like you may have chosen the "strenuous" two day tour. Is that correct? If so, how strenuous is it?

I'll be traveling with my parents, and while my mother walked all over London, Paris and Athens with me a couple years ago, we didn't move as quickly as I would have by myself and we did stop to rest every so often. Looking at the itinerary, it looks doable for my mom, but the term "strenuous" has me pausing a bit.

I also had a question re currency for some of the ports. It appears that except for Copenhagen, St. Petersburg and maybe in some instances Stockholm, the Euro is used.

We plan to do our own thing in Copenhagen and Stockholm, so we will need some cash. Is it easier to use the ship's currency exchange to obtain kroner/krona, or is it as easy to find an ATM once you get into port?

What about St. Petersburg - I've read that you can use U.S. currency - is this anywhere, or just the places close to port?

Thanks for any help.
chepar is offline  
Oct 27th, 2008, 02:02 PM
  #2  
 
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Let me answere your question the order you asked them.

1. Yes I would use Alla and yes I took the strenuous tour.
Your mother will be just fine..by strenuous ,it means you will get to see more places.

There is time to see and rest..I mean how can you speed your way through Catherine's Palace for example

2. If you know the places ahead of time you can tell Alla what you want to see.

I made a list of all the places I wanted to see in St. Petersburg ..and I saw them all plus more.

Be ready to get off the cruise ship as soon as it dock and you are allowed to disembark.

Tell Alla about what time you will be getting off..........this assures you of getting and early start.

2. About currency....you will need the Rouble in Russia.
Right now it is 27 Roubles for one $US dollar....but don't go buying any ahead of time... I do not think you can do it anyway.!

3. For Hesinki and Stockholm, even though they told us on the cruise ship that we will need local currency......I used US$ and Visa with no problem.

4. There are ATM's everywhere but if you are going to get some local currency ahead of time....like for a beer or taxi ( but even taxi's take US$ and euros).

5. I would bring some euros with me in small bills ...just inthose situations where you might need it.

6. In some places in St. Petersburg you can get by using US$, mainly in those market places.
BUT
if you are going to do some heavy shopping then use Mastercard and or Visa.

7.Get cracking....you better e-mail Alla now.

Please say Hi to her for me..she does know me as we stay in touch

How many of you are going?
How much time in each port.

I want to know how much time you have in each port.

Percy
Percy is offline  
Oct 27th, 2008, 05:14 PM
  #3  
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Thanks for your reply Percy!

This is our itinerary and time in each port:

Amsterdam: 8:30 - 2:00 pm
Berlin (Warnemunde): 7:00 - 9:30 pm
Stockholm: 8:00 - 5:00 pm
Helsinki: 10:00 - 6:00 pm
St. Petersburg: 7:00 a.m., (next day) 6:00 pm
Tallinn: 7:00 - 5:00
Copenhagen: 9:00, (next day) 4:00 pm

So we have 2 days each in St. Petersburg and Copenhagen.

Right now there are 4 of us (my parents, myself and my daughter), but some of my parents' friends are contemplating on also going on the cruise. I'm thinking I can book the tour with Alla and if my parents' friends decide to join, add them to our group later.

As far as Russian currency, I think I read on Cruise Critic that you're not allowed to take rubles out of the country? I guess we need to exchange any leftover rubles before getting back on the ship? Yikes - I'll have make sure to keep my currencies all separate from each other.

I had wondered about whether it was too early to contact Alla - guess it isn't and I better get a move on! I'll be sure to tell her you said hello.
chepar is offline  
Oct 27th, 2008, 05:41 PM
  #4  
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Ok, just sent Alla a note through her website's messaging function. I had read on Cruise Critic that it would be more reliable to contact her that way.

Not sure if I did it right - I typed my message in a box, hit "send" and it appeared in a date and time stamped smaller box below.

Will I receive a response in my regular email account from Alla, or do I need to check my account on her website for any replies?
chepar is offline  
Oct 27th, 2008, 06:44 PM
  #5  
 
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chepar

If Alla has your e-mail address she will e-mail you to your own address.

Yes , you cannot take Rouble out of the country but why would you want to ...they are not good anywhere else.

Let me tell you that I NEVER changed to any local currency for the whole trip !!! I mean NEVER !!! and I got by in all the places.

But depending on what you are buying and where you might be having a beer in St. Petersburg....you may require Roubles.!

1.You have enough time in Stockholm to see every place I mentioned in my trip report.

Just go the the Vasa Museum first..they want local currency there.... I used my Visa .

2. Warnemunde (for Berlin)

I would not take this long trip to Berlin...it is too far and too much driving and Berlin is such a lovely place and the history there is so great...that going there would not be doing Berlin justice.

( I just got back from Berlin in late August !)

3.Helsinki:

Go to Sebelius Park first and then to the Rock Church (a do not miss place).

4, You have lots of time in Tallin ...so do everything that I did and you will still have lots of time for shopping in the Old Town Square area.

5,.Copenhagen for 2days.

You know you are only coming here once.
If you can get the tour guide I had ,then by all means book her because she will show you around Copenhagen and then take you out of the city..which is a must.

She ( tour guide can meet you at the ship or your hotel) and then start your tour right away.

Leave the Tivoli Gardens for the last day,do not do this on your first day.

****
Just get enough Roubles to get by.. you can always give them away to Alla and her guides as tips..so don't worry about geting "stuck" with too many Roubles.

Percy


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Oct 28th, 2008, 09:43 AM
  #6  
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Thanks for your excellent suggestions, Percy. I have printed out your trip report as a reference.

Good idea about using leftover rubles for the tip - it was a kind of "why didn't I think of that" moment. I suppose I can supplement the tip with US currency if I don't have enough rubles?

Turns out I did use the messaging function on Alla's website correctly - I got a response from Katya overnight.
chepar is offline  
Oct 28th, 2008, 11:51 AM
  #7  
 
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Percy you should package amd then sell inineraries!! .
jacketwatch is offline  
Oct 28th, 2008, 01:07 PM
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Hi jacketwatch:

If I do you get 20 %

chepar:

Yes, you can supplement the tips in St.Petersburg with left over roubles.

When I booked Alla, I did not have to pay anything in advance and they did not want any payment after the first day either.!!

So I paid at the end of the second day when they took me back to the cruise ship.
At that point Alla came to meet us and gave us each a DVD disk on St.Petersburg.

After having exchanged so many e-mails with her ...it was nice to see her in person....

She shook hands with everyone, and then came over to me with arms wide open saying, "You just have to be Percy" ( I had sent her a picture of myself via e-mail)and we shared a nice hug...

Boo Hoo , that was the end of St.Petersburg!

(Oh yes in Helsinki...do go to Suomenlinna Islands, this is a UNESCO Heritage site and a 15 minute boat ride from the main market in Helsinki... Yes you have time !

Percy

Percy is offline  
Oct 28th, 2008, 02:09 PM
  #9  
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Percy, you probably could run a nice little side business with your shore excursion itineraries. I'm just really glad to be able to benefit from them.

I noticed in your trip report that you had some caviar in St. Petersburg. That interests me also - was it very expensive? I'd like to try some, but probably not if it will break the bank. I was thinking maybe as a starter for lunch, but I'm not sure if I want to go to a super fancy restaurant, either.

Did you have enough time to visit Peter's Summer Palace and Gardens, or was it more of a drive by? I don't think it's included in the itinerary, so I'm assuming it's an added extra cost.

Thanks again for your continuing help.
chepar is offline  
Oct 28th, 2008, 03:12 PM
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20% is sooo generous but of course that is to be expected from you. Gosh I wish we had better weather in Helsinki so we could have seen more. It was quite cool, windy and rainy, so much so that we really didn't even feel like exploring the market. Maybe some other day.
jacketwatch is offline  
Oct 28th, 2008, 06:17 PM
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Hi you two!

jacketwatch...Yes,I remember you told me about the lousy weather you had in Helsinki.

I was lucky...good weather everywhere except for a slight short drizzle at Catherine's Palace.

If you behave I will up it to 25%

chepar:

Yes,I did see Peter's Summer Palace and Gardens.... but I am not sure which one you are talking about.

You know these Tsars of the day had a Palace everywhere they went !!

I am assuming you are talking about the one that faces the Neva River and over looks the Troitsky Bridge that leads to Peter and Paul's Cathedral.

The gardens are rather nice here ( with Lime trees).

There is a huge area of gardens behind Peter's summer Palace which is nice to go for a short walk and see the statues ,pathways and trees...not to mention the odd couple sitting on a park bench kissing !!

I took a picture of them..they were too busy to notice... Ahh isn't love grand !!

Next door ( across the canal)is another nice park area called the Filed of Mars...... go here and walk up to the Eternal Flame that was started here in 1957 to honor those that lost their lives in the 1917 Revolution.

Or... by Peter's Palace do you mean Peterhof.?

Also ask to go to see the Cruiser Aurora.

Do you know why you should see this ship ?!!

Also since you are in the area of the Aurora ...ask to go to see Peter the Great's original Log Cabin ( 1703).

There is a small fee but it is housed inside a nice little brick building.. to protect it from the elements.

Right across the street from the Log Cabin is a very nice shopping place for Russian souvenirs...so the women can zip in here and you zip across the street to see Peter the Great's Log Cabin.

This was my first and only trip (so far ) to St.Petersburg but I knew the city very well.

I studied the city map until I had it down pat.!

So when we were coming from touring the Peter and Paul Cathedral and getting ready to cross the Troitsky Bridge to go back to the Hermitage side...
(our driver was Boris)

I leaned over to Boris and said:

"Boris ,could you just turn left here ,before the bridge because it is only a few blocks to Peter's Log Cabin... and we might as well visit the Aurora which is just a few minutes further down."

He looked and me a little amazed and grinned and said, "Yes Percy we can do that."

I spent a good 30 minutes walking all over the Aurora.

Next we went to the Church of the Spilled Blood !

chepar ...if worse comes to worse, you can always pay my cruise fare and I will tour you in all the ports FREE!!

Somehow I feel this will be your very last distant option !!

Percy



Percy is offline  
Oct 29th, 2008, 07:22 AM
  #12  
 
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Behave? There's no fun in that. BTW a good place to shop is a store called Red October. Lots of samples of good vodka too.
jacketwatch is offline  
Oct 29th, 2008, 10:14 AM
  #13  
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Hi Percy -

To be honest, I am getting rather confused with all the different palaces and everything named Peter.

I don't think the Summer Palace is the same as the Grand Palace at Peterhof, so it must be the one you mentioned, located by the Neva River.

I think my dad would enjoy the Aurora, so I'll have to read up on that. He used to work at Pearl Harbor and when we were kids, he took us on a tour of a sub once, and we also got to ride a destroyer over to Maui.

I think having you as a tour guide would be fantastic - but my travel funds are being sorely stretched by this trip (kind of a spur of the moment thing). But tell you what, if I win the lottery or have some kind of financial windfall, be ready to go!
chepar is offline  
Oct 29th, 2008, 11:02 AM
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jacketwatch:

Okay the next time ..it will be Red October!

chepar

Let me try to simplify these Palaces.

1. Catherine's Palace is outside of Petersburg..it is not named for Catherine the Great but for Peter the Great's first wife...whose name was Catherine.

This place is 16 miles South of St.Petersburg.

Peterhof....this was Peter the Great's little retreat in the country and is 19 miles West of St.Petersburg.

It is a very impressive site .
Wait till you see the fountains at Peterhof... you will be amazed.

But wait!!

Peter did not really want to roam around in this lavish mansion called Peterhof....so

he had another palace built overlooking the Gulf of Finland.

This place he called, Monplaisir( that is French for My Pleasure).
from here on a clear day you can see the Dome of St.Issac's Cathedral in St. Peterburg .

Now Monplaisir is on the SAME grounds as the Peterhof Mansion.... you walk from the fountains of Peterhof to the palace called Monplaisir..

This was Peter the Great's favourite place.

Was I here ...Yes.. and I had a complete tour of the palace and the grounds.

I also visited the Marly Palace on the SAME grounds of Peterhof.

This was Peter the Great's hunting lodge so to speak....poor fellow he was sure roughing it back then !!!

Now the Marly Palace has its own very lovely statues ,fountains and gardens.

Okay now back to St. Petersburg.

The Winter Palace is part of the huge complex called The Hermitage.

These include:
1. Winter Palace
2.Pavilion Hall
3.Large Hermitage
4.New Hermitage...then a gallery over the winter canal connects you with to..

5.The Theatre.

So when you are doing your reading...just remember that these 5 places above are collected known as The Hermitage.

6. Now about Peter's Summer Palace.

This was built for Peter BEFORE all these other lavish mansions were built.

This Summer Palace is straight down the street from The Hermitage.!

7. Now finally..when you are at Peter's Summer Palace and if you were a bird and could fly straight across the Neva River ( which is in front of you)...you would land on the other side of the River at Peter the Great's Original Log Cabin !!!

8. If and when you visit the Yusupov's Palace...this did not belong to any Tsar ..but rather to a wealthy family...

This is where Rasputin ( "The Mad Monk" ) was killed...well he did not die here but was shot here by the "nice" Yusupov boys.

This is a very nice Palace ( Yusupov) so I hope you get a chance to go and tour here.

Okay enough already

Percy




Percy is offline  
Oct 29th, 2008, 06:17 PM
  #15  
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Thanks for the clarification of the palaces, Percy - especially the inclusion of the general locations of each. That really helps.

I think I need to get another book (with lots of good pictures) and start reading up now on the different sites. I borrowed one from the library a couple weeks ago, but it was a little dry and didn't do much to get me interested in the different sites.
chepar is offline  
Oct 29th, 2008, 07:28 PM
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chepar

What you have to do is go to Google.
There are many sites for St.Petersburg and Peterhof and Catherine's Palace etc.

You want to find some aerial views also because then you can scan the area like a bird,.!!!

Here, ! let me give you a headstart.

Here is a terrific site for the "Fountains of Peterhof" and the Palaces at Peterhof.

Just click on the link below and the site will come up.

Review all 6 pages. Save this site and go over it as many times as you need to until you feel you have it down well.

Now you will not be able to see all these sites ( because it takes time )

..but when we had free time at Peterhof, while everyone else headed for the gift shop

..... I made the rounds of Peterhof by myself and saw almost every fountain..even if I saw them from 1/2 a block away..I still saw almost all of them .

Now click here( below)
http://www.ticketsofrussia.com/peterhof/gallery/

Don't worry,you will master this.
I still know 90 % of these six pages !!!

Good Luck
Percy



Percy is offline  
Oct 30th, 2008, 10:02 AM
  #17  
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Thanks for the link, Percy. I think you're right, Google is my friend.

Took a peek at the website - those fountains are fabulous! I've added the link to my favorites for a more detailed look.
chepar is offline  
Oct 30th, 2008, 02:45 PM
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chepar,
how could anyone add anything more to Percy's "Complete shore excursion guide to the Baltics"?
However, I will try.
When you go to Peterhof by car (probably will have a short ride on Metro first), ask to return from Peterhof by hydrofoil (the driver can meet you by the Winter Palace). We did this with Alla - it's faster and more fun than doubling back by car (plus you avoid the traffic).
Percy - did you make it to Pavlovsk Palace (it's near Catherine's in Tsarskoe Selo) - a distinctly more sober palace with nice gardens as well. This one can only be done with a 3 day tour in St. Petersburg - too many other things to see first.
Paulchili is offline  
Oct 30th, 2008, 02:55 PM
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PS - chepar,
when constructing your tour in St Pete make sure the sites you want to visit are open (closing dates are different for different monuments/palaces/churches - it's not only Mondays).
Paulchili is offline  
Oct 30th, 2008, 04:29 PM
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Hi Paulchili

Bless your heart and Thank You for the kind words.

No,I did not go to Pavlovsk Palace and you are right it is just further South of Catherine's Palace.

You are also correct that it would take another day in St.Petersburg if one wanted to do this palace.

You again are correct that it would be more fun and faster to go back to St.Petersburg by hydrofoil and I thought of doing that....

however,
There were other places and monuments that I told Julia ( our tour guide) I wanted to see along the way back to St. Petersburg.

Like the Narva Victory Arch monument for their victory over Napoleon in 1812...among others

Also I got to ride the famous Metro and our tour driver met us further down the line and then we went directly to Yusupov's Palace.

But you are right... the hydrofoil would be a nice ride back to Peterhof.

Again you are right ( hmm this is getting boring ..about the closing times...but I think this is Alla's job , and she also has no control over closures of some places but I am sure she will have everything arranged perfectly ..she always does.

chepar is in for a great cruise,as all the ports are terrific.

chepar ,I am sure that between Paulchili ,jacketwatch and myself,we will make a St.Petersburg expert out of you by cruise time !!

Percy


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