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Emerald Princess Baltic cruise: Percy and others please help

Emerald Princess Baltic cruise: Percy and others please help

Jan 31st, 2009, 03:04 AM
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Emerald Princess Baltic cruise: Percy and others please help

We've just signed on to this cruise for August. From my reading of another thread, it sounds like Percy may have taken the same cruise. If so, and if your hand/fingers are getting better, I hope you can answer some questions.

This is only our second cruise. We do independent travel and have been to Europe multiple times so I'm really loathe to sign on to ship tours. Nonetheless with only 2 days in St. Petersburg I'm thinking an "independent tour" would be useful. Sounds like you did one. Did you find it good? Would you engage the same person/company again? If so, would you please share the name and e-mail. How long did you use the guide? Where all did you go with him/her? What was the price for the service? Any glitches?

We are two couples and would like to have some help getting around in order to maximize our time and help with language issues, etc. We'd also probably like to dismiss our guide at the end of a touring day and go off on our own for dinner and return to ship by cab, etc. Is all of this possible? Assume it means we'll have to have visas. Can you recommend a visa service?

Any other tips from your cruise of the Baltics? We'll be in Copenhagen, Helsinki, Stockholm, Gdansk, Oslo and Tallin as well as St. Petersburg. Thanks very much for any help/advice you can give.
JulieVikmanis is offline  
Jan 31st, 2009, 04:55 AM
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See the link below for Percy's TR. we also did the Baltic and as for St. Petes there are a number of reliable Russian tour companies. Percy used All tours and in addition you can google search for Denrus and Red October, also well reputed. I hope Percy is getting better so for now I'll lend him a hand.
Just filling in for the big dude! Get well soon Percy. Larry
jacketwatch is offline  
Jan 31st, 2009, 04:56 AM
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Sorry, I meant Alla tours, not All tours
jacketwatch is offline  
Jan 31st, 2009, 06:16 AM
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Jacketwatch, thanks so much for providing the link. I post a fiar amount on the Europe forum but I'm pretty new to the Cruise forum. Glad to know that it's as helpful as the others. I'll post my report on return. i promise
JulieVikmanis is offline  
Jan 31st, 2009, 06:58 AM
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In 2007, four of us had a very good experience with "Julia & Vladimir" in St Petersburg. They have a Chrysler mini-van which is very comfortable for four. (She also booked the ballet for us.) They will tailor the tour to your desires and will cost about half the amount the ship will charge, even allowing for the cost of obtaining your own visas.

Somehow, she manages to get you into the crowded locations without much waiting and will also go to places, particularly for lunch, that the large groups cannot touch.

You may reach her at [email protected] or +7-921-324-46-40.
Jeff801 is offline  
Jan 31st, 2009, 08:10 AM
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Well I will try to stumble and type this.

Thanks for giving my Trip Report link jacketwatch.!

I used Alla Tours in St.Petersburg and she got the visa for us.

Four of us went on this cruise but we let 6 other people join us the tour in St.Petersburg.

It worked out great and the cost was much less thanit would have been for just the four of us.

I planned this tour with Alla and told her all the places I wanted to see .... (I saw them all plus more.)

There is so much to see in St.Petersburg that you really want a tour guide to get you from point A to point B without wasting time.

Here is Alla's e-mail address.

I would use Alla again in a heartbeat!!

Our driver was Boris and our guide was Julia

We stay in touch about 3-4 times a year.

Alla Ushakova

[email protected]

Read my Trip report and if you have any questions we are all here to help you.

I have been to all the ports you are going.

Between jacketwatch, myself and Jeff801 and others we can help you out !

Percy is offline  
Jan 31st, 2009, 09:19 AM
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Thanks to everyone. I am starting to check everything out and will pursue links and info.

One question: When you went with your guides, did you also go to dinner off the ship and return late at night or did you finish touring and return to the ship for dinners?
We're thinking we'd like to schedule dinner in a Russian restaurant. To do so, do we just book our guide to dine with us or would the tour guide cut us loose and have us be on our own to do dinner and return to the ship?

Thanks for all your help.
JulieVikmanis is offline  
Jan 31st, 2009, 09:38 AM
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Percy is a wealth of info so pick his brain. Just to add for info on other tour companies, Denrus and Red October are also highly recommended and several people have used Anastasia's World. We're headed on a Baltic cruise in July on Azamara. I sent Alla several e-mails and never got a response. Maybe it was a fluke because others have certainly had good luck with them. I did get prompt responses from Anastasia World and Denrus and after getting bids/quotes from the two and comparing, 4 of us have booked a private tour with Denrus. Katja was very responsive and helpful in planning the trip.

As for off on your own - without a guide you will need your own Visa to do so. The companies will tell you all about it and can arrange it for you.

You didn't mention if you were flying into your port city early e.g. the day before. I recommend it. Some horror stories out there about people cutting it too close.
patandhank is offline  
Jan 31st, 2009, 09:39 AM
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P.S. All of the companies mentioned have their own websites. Just plug in the name in Google and go from there.
patandhank is offline  
Jan 31st, 2009, 10:57 AM
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Thanks patandhank. Lucky you going on the Azamara. We looked at that and it was my favorite Baltic cruise (like that it gives you 2 days in Stockholm and 3 in St petersburg) but the timeframe and cost of the Princess cruise works out better for us and the other couple we'll be traveling with, so Princess it will be.

We are going into Copenhagen 3 days in advance of our sailing and staying 3 days after to add more days in Stockholm, so I expect we'll be in pretty good position to make the cruise ok. The extra days are the ones I'm most looking forward to since I'm a little adverse to the rushed sightseeing schedules that cruises usually afford.

DH, OTOH, loves cruising so we're seeing this as his chance to cruise while we also get a taste of Scandinavia, Russia and the Baltics to decide whether and for how long we want to return to spend more time independently. DH was born in Riga and we'd hoped to include a stop there on our tour, but now we're thinking to include it with a return to St. Petersburg and Moscow on a future, non-cruise trip. We'll see how things work out. With all the help we are getting here, we should be able to make the most of the cruise. Thanks.
JulieVikmanis is offline  
Jan 31st, 2009, 12:03 PM
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Hi patandhank !

You are correct JulieVikmanis will need her own visa if she wants to go on her own.

The other option is to have the tour guides with her and then after their Russian dinner they can take her back to the cruise ship.

patandhank :

Sorry that Alla has not gotten back to you....I am sure there is a good reason.

I had a wee bit of trouble with Grethe ( my tour guide in Copenhagen)getting back to me when I e -mailed her in Copenhagen.... but she was away doing one of her tours.

I am soooo glad I waited for Grethe and did not booked with someone else.

JulieVikmanis :

With the extra days in Copenhagen you will be able to see all the major places, plus even get down to Konborg Castle ( way up in the Northeaster part of Zealand) and
Frederiksborg in the town of Hillerod.

Percy is offline  
Jan 31st, 2009, 12:39 PM
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Julie: If I had my way I would have used a private tour such as Alla. However we were cruising with friends who, unfortunately were uncomfortable using an outside agency for St. Petes so we used the two day Princess tour instead. Oh well, can't win them all. I was particularly impressed with Gdansk. We had the good fortune to be greeted almost immediately as we disembarked by a jovial local guy who chauffered us around Gdansk, Gydinia and the resort town of Sopot. There was much to see and do. Don't miss the old town ( see the "crane" building) , Mt. Oliva church for the 1100 AM (I think) daily show when the organs play and the many statues animate to play their instruments. Also see the longest pier in Europe at Sopot and the moving memorials to the Solidarity movement. You can easily do all the ports except St. Petes on your own. Tour buses and taxis will be waiting at the docks. Do be aware that you shift time zones from port to port in the Baltic. The ship will remind you but its best to be aware of it as well so you won't be late for anything. Congrats on taking a truely great cruise. Larry
jacketwatch is offline  
Jan 31st, 2009, 01:29 PM
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Hi Percy!!

We've got Grethe booked for Copenhagen. Looking forward to meeting her. She is certainly very nice in all of her e-mails.

Julie V - Lucky you on more time pre and post. That's where we have to cut to only 2 nights pre in Copenhagen.

Really looking forward to the cruise!
patandhank is offline  
Jan 31st, 2009, 03:15 PM
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Four of us used Red October for two days of touring in St. Petersburg, and we couldn't have been more pleased. They sent us a "standard" two day itinerary, as most people want to see the same major sites. They were very accommodating when we wanted to make some changes. We ate lunch in Russian restaurants both days, so returned to the ship for the evening.

My understanding is that if the tour company provides the visa, you must stay with them. If you want to wander on your own, you must get your own visa.
abram is offline  
Jan 31st, 2009, 06:41 PM
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Yes, Red October is another good tour company.

I would think that their intinerary is similar to Alla because most people want to see the same major sites.

I exchanged e-mails with Alla for months prior to my arrival and made a list of all the places I wanted to see...because once you get there, it can be a bit overwhelming.

I would say that it also helps if you know some of the major places and a little bit about them.

This goes for all the ports.

Like jacketwatch stated ,when you get to Poland , get a taxi and tell him where you want to go,because it is a long way to Gdansk from Gydnia.

By all means see the Oliwa Cathedral that jacketwatch is referring to.
It has 7876 pipe organs that are almost 400 years old.

You have to hear these pipes and the see animation ...amazing

The church service lasts for about 1/2 hour but tourist leave after the pipes are played.

Also see Westerplatte Memorial...your here so do not miss the exact place where WW II started on September 1 1939!!

(Your countdown is on jacketwatch, 15 more days !!)
Percy is offline  
Jan 31st, 2009, 08:47 PM
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Hi Percy - Looks like you are able to type a little more. I do hope you get the full use back soon and the physio isnt' too painful.

I just want to second Alla - although I wasn't on the tour my brother did take Percy's advice and got a group together. They loved it and she tailored it to suit their priorities. They all wanted to see a ballet and she arranged for them to see Swan Lake at the Hermitage theatre. By the way Alla has two different email addresses. I know we were using one and she didn't respond and then I found another one and she got right back to us. Sorry I don't remember what it was.

We followed Percy's advice and tour itineraries on our cruise as well. Can't go wrong with his suggestions!!
traveller69 is offline  
Feb 1st, 2009, 02:58 AM
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Thanks to all of you, my ideas on St. Petersburg are starting to solidify. Unless our traveling companions think otherwise, I think we'll try to book --probably through Alla, but I may check a couple of others as well for purposes of comparison--a guide and schedule dinner one night as well as sightseeing for the two days. Sounds like a good compromise between independence and time maximization--as well as hassle minimization.

Thanks for all the tips on Gdansk. I'm now really looking forward to that stop.

And Percy, yes, we plan to do a day trip out of Copenhagen to see some of the places you reference. I may be overreaching, but I also hope to see Lund, Sweden on the other side of the bridge beyond Malmo if we can fit it in.

Again, thanks. This is so helpful.

BTW, I'm needful of suggestions for good, centrally located hotels in Stockholm for our final days after the cruise. Did any of you stay or see some nice places there for me to check out?

I've narrowed our choice to about 5 in Copenhagen, but we amazed when I went on Trip Advisor to check hotels there. Never saw so many cranky reviews for hotels in a city before. Seems like everyone had something bad to say about everything. We'd prefer to stay central, hopefully on or near water. Thanks. This is most helpful
JulieVikmanis is offline  
Feb 1st, 2009, 03:41 AM
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Percy: Actually we leave Feb. 12 on the cruise and Feb. 10 for Acapulco. Can't wait. I contacted a driver for Nicaragua BTW so we have a trip to Leon set up. Now just 4 more days to work and then a nice rest for a while
jacketwatch is offline  
Feb 1st, 2009, 02:07 PM
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Thank you for the kind words.

Yes , I remember you telling me your brother had a great time.

Actually the physio is worse than the surgery was.

The pain is very intense because of so many pain and neurosensory fibers in the hand.

I have to wear a night splint for the next 6 weeks and daily physio until.....?? ( 1-3 months)


You will have no problem going to Lund Sweden , it is just straight down the highway past Malmo.

I went over the Oresund Bridge and into Malmo Sweden...it is quite the bridge ( and finally linked Copenhagen to Europe )


I would sure like to see those places again....that I know Grethe is going to be taking you to.

Hopefully ,you will get to have lunch at her house in the country on the way to Kronborg Castle!!

Grethe just sent me an e-mail about a 10 days ago.


Okay , got it , you leave February 10th for Acapulco and then board the cruise ship on February 12th.

There is a nice church in Leona ( I have only seen it on a picture), it is yellow in the middle and red on both sides.....let me know if you saw this nice church.

to everyone

Percy is offline  
Feb 2nd, 2009, 04:57 AM
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What did the tour guides in St. Petersburg cost?
kenav is offline  

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