St Petersburg - guide vs visa

Apr 3rd, 2016, 04:15 PM
Join Date: Mar 2016
Posts: 8
I am planning a Baltic Sea cruise for next year, summer 2017. I am doing my research now. I want to thank you guys for all the info. Jen103, please share your experience once your are back from your trip.

I am thinking either booking the first cruise at the beginning of May or the last cruise at the end of August of May. We don't want to be in the crowded season.

Which would you guys recommend?
jadyn_parker is offline  
Apr 3rd, 2016, 06:21 PM
Join Date: Jul 2003
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The month of June really wasn't that crowded and you can experience true white nights so I would say June really
jacketwatch is online now  
Apr 3rd, 2016, 07:20 PM
Join Date: Mar 2016
Posts: 8
Thanks jacket watch. Your info is very helpful.Maybe I can consider end of May. Do you have any ideal of the pricing of flight tickets during June? Like jentl03, we are a budget/prices conscious group (consist of 6 people)

Have anyone taken Air Belin or Norwegian Air? Are they budget airlines? I was randomly looking at the ticket price to get a sense of the price and they are 600ish and 800ish respectively where as Delta is in the 1200.00. Are those airline safe?
jadyn_parker is offline  
Apr 3rd, 2016, 07:37 PM
Join Date: Mar 2016
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by the way, i am flying out from NYC and most probably to Copenhagen
jadyn_parker is offline  
Apr 5th, 2016, 08:18 AM
Join Date: Jan 2005
Posts: 73
I am a little late to this post but wanted to share my experience. We booked with TJ travel in 2013. We did a group tour for two days - there were three of us and they joined us to two other families for a total of maybe 10 or so. The third day we did a private tour, which was priced hourly, where we saw the places that were not on the group tour schedule and just had a more casual visit (could pop into a random souvenir shop with our guide, choose a place for lunch, etc). I think because it was our third day, they gave us a deal on the private tour. We prefer more unstructured generally, but we were very happy with the group tour too (I guess it depends a bit on the others in the group - the larger family was more active like us and were very funny; the others were two older women who moved at a slower pace but were interesting to talk to as well). TJ did a nice job of taking care of all of us in the group. Highly recommend them.
moosey is offline  
Jul 16th, 2016, 02:42 PM
Join Date: Oct 2008
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jent103, Have you returned yet? We were in St Petersburg last month on a cruise and enjoyed our 2 days with Alla tours. It was a jam packed 2 days but very enjoyable. If you have not left yet, make sure you have a plan B in case you have rain and were planning on self-guided walking tours.
FACS is offline  
Jul 17th, 2016, 12:22 AM
Join Date: Sep 2007
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Don't do self-guided tour in St. Petersburg. The visa process is absolutely horrendous according to a friend of mine. They are for 10 years of travel history as part of the process. Getting the visa as part of your tour is 100% worth it. Book a small group tour. From Percy's recommendation, we booked Alla tour and it was inexpensive when compared to ship's excursion. If you book a private or semi-private you can even customize your itinerary. We added a last minute request to ride on the subway and they happily accommodated that. With 6 in your group, you really should consider a private or semi-private tour on all your stops.

This is my post from 2012. It might give you some insight as it was the planning post.

And this is the trip report:
Eschew is offline  
Jul 19th, 2016, 11:14 AM
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Hi FACS - we actually just got back last night! We ended up booking the 2-day deluxe tour with DenRus, and we all loved it. Our guide was Lana and she is amazing.

For anyone who finds this thread in the future, here's a quick "trip report" - I imagine Alla, etc would be similar, but only have experience with DenRus:

Our friend-group ended up being 9 people (long story); we were assigned to a minibus with ~20 seats. (I think there may have been bigger DenRus buses as well, so it's possible that some groups are larger, but I'm not sure.) Generally, it seemed like each tour group did their own thing, but the DenRus groups all met up at certain points. Lana was fantastic at herding everyone and clearly enjoys both her job and her city. She specifically and DenRus in general were very on top of any situation that arose (stents setting off alarms at immigration, people who got sick on the tour, unexpected lines, etc).

On the Deluxe tour, we covered:
Day 1 - boat ride, the Hermitage, St Isaac's, lunch, Church of the Spilled Blood, Faberge Museum, souvenir stop, lots of drive-bys

Day 2 - subway ride, Peter & Paul Fortress, drive to Pushkin for Catherine's Palace, lunch, and Peterhof, with a hydrofoil ride back to St Petersburg; another souvenir stop somewhere in there

The only snafu we hit was on day 2 at Catherine's Palace. My understanding is that despite the company calling ahead and hearing that it would be possible to go through as long as we got there in the morning (which we did), the lines even for the tour groups were three hours long just to get in due to massive crowds. The DenRus guides had a conference and decided that it would not be worth standing in line given everything else on our agendas, so instead we toured the grounds and were told that we'd get a refund for the palace admission cost. (The refund hasn't shown up on my card yet, but it's been less than a week.) This was a perfectly fine solution for us.

If we'd tried to do it on our own there is no way we would have done even a third of what we were able to do on the tour, and we certainly wouldn't have learned as much. Every interaction I had with the company was great. Everything including lunch was included in the price (the meals were definitely at tourist spots, but that wasn't a big deal).

The deluxe tour we took is very fast-paced and doesn't allow for flexibility (one person on our bus asked about climbing the dome of St Isaac's and was told no in no uncertain terms! ha!); if you have any health issues, Denrus has a more relaxed two-day tour that might be a better pace. But the benefit of the pace and the guides' knowledge and planning is that you see a LOT in your two days.

In short, absolutely go with a tour, and I'd absolutely recommend DenRus based on my experience!

The cruise overall was tiring but fantastic. Some other possibly helpful info:

- We did a bike tour in Helsinki (with our two oldest members opting for a private walking tour); they even customized it for us to include a stop at the market hall, where our guide had arranged a snack of a few traditional foods.

- DenRus in SPB - here's the link to our tour:

- We did Stockholm, Tallinn and Riga on our own, but did meet up with a friend currently living in Kiev who has been to or researched both places. Highlights beyond walking around seeing the sights:
* this restaurant in Tallinn: (so good, y'all)
* the Museum of Occupation in Riga:

Larry - they have not repainted the Vasa, but do have a wall of sculptures recreated with the original paint scheme and a model of what the ship probably looked like.

Thanks again for all your input!
jent103 is offline  
Jul 19th, 2016, 05:51 PM
Join Date: Sep 2007
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IMHO Catherine's Palace grounds is the attraction and not the Palace itself. Don't get me wrong, the palace itself is nice but with a compressed schedule, I would spent more time on the grounds and less time inside. You probably missed 1 hour (or less) of tours for the inside of the Palace. Others may disagree, but you didn't miss much.
Eschew is offline  
Jul 20th, 2016, 08:12 AM
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Join Date: Jun 2006
Posts: 4,248
Eschew, that's kind of what we figured. I was only slightly bummed about missing the Amber Room, but under the circumstances I was fine with what we did!
jent103 is offline  
Jul 21st, 2016, 12:15 PM
Join Date: Sep 2007
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We were in the Amber Room. You did not miss much.

The amber had been all striped off the wall in the early years. What we see in the room now are "replacements". It looks nice, of course, but you really don't have time / space to admire as the room is always crowded. You get a better view by googling for an image on line.
Eschew is offline  
Jul 21st, 2016, 01:03 PM
Join Date: Feb 2006
Posts: 25,159
The original amber was stolen by the Nazis during WWII and subsequently disappeared. I thought the replacement was worth seeing, but it wasn't that crowded in 2004. Aside from the Amber Room, the palace is a place to OD on white and gold.
thursdaysd is offline  
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