Baltic Sea Cruise

Mar 24th, 2010, 03:04 PM
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Baltic Sea Cruise

I will be cruising to the Baltics this Aug. 2010 and will have 2 days in St. Petersburg. Does anyone have opinions on taking a private tour with a local company vs. a tour sponsored by the cruise line (Princess)?

What would you recommend for night time viewing or doing in SP?

I will also visit, Stockholm, Copenhagen, Helsinki, Gandsk and Tallinn, but ony for a day each. Could anyone pick one or two must sees in these wonderful cities?

Thanks for much,
GAO is offline  
Mar 24th, 2010, 03:20 PM
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Have you looked at cruisecritic dot com? You'll get a lot of information there. You might even connect with people who are on your same sailing!

DH and I would like to do a Baltic cruise sometime... I'm sure it'll be a lovely one!
simpsonc510 is offline  
Mar 24th, 2010, 04:51 PM
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We were for 2 days in St. P. and had the ship book a private guide and driver for one full day. By then we felt comfortable enough that on the xecond day we took the shuttle bus into the city center arranged by the ship and do our own thing.

On the private tour we saw a lot more than the group tours, because (1) our guide knew the times when some of the sights would get crowded with tons of tourists arriving, (2) we did not have to wait for stragglers, (3) the guide arranged the tour according to what we were interestsd in.
treplow is offline  
Mar 24th, 2010, 05:50 PM
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We are also going on a Baltic Cruise and went on cruise critic and on the Boards you can go to your ship and then to passenger list (I think it is called that) and you will find people who are looking to join others for a tour. It is much cheaper that way. Not sure what the price is on the Princess but our ship was very expensive and we saved over half by joining 3 other couples. The major ones mentioned are Alla, Red October, Anastasia and SBP.
judymol is offline  
Mar 24th, 2010, 05:51 PM
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We took a Princess cruise to the Baltics in 2005. The two days in St. Petersburg were quite hectic. We took the two-day tour, which at the time was excellent and included very good lunches as well. One thing that I did not think to do that you might, if you have the stamina: we did Peterhof and the river cruise with lunch in between on the first day, I believe, and the Hermitage on the second day. This also involved a city tour and stops along the way.

Others on the cruise added Catherine's Palace the first evening. That's a lot to cover in a day and means being on the go from the minute you arrive until late evening, but allows you to see both palaces. I am told that Catherine's Palace is not to be missed (I did).

One other caution: Russia requires a visa unless you are on a cruise. A couple were late and missed getting on the ship on the cruise stop before St. Petersburg. While they might have otherwise been able to catch up with the ship at St. Petersburg, they would not have been allowed into Russia because they were not on board. They ended up having to miss St. Petersburg altogether and catch up with us at the port following. The moral of the story: don't be late getting back to the ship!
Leburta is offline  
Mar 30th, 2010, 04:26 PM
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Thank you to all who replied to my questions on the Baltic Cruise. I have been to cruise critic and found interesting info and some potential contacts for tours. I am a little concerned about booking with a tour not sponsored by the cruise line, just in case something goes amiss and we miss the ship, however everyone agrees that the private tour will be much better. I any further suggestions will be welcomed.

GAO is offline  
Mar 30th, 2010, 04:48 PM
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Isn't it true that if you are not with a tour sponsored by the ship, you must obtain your own Russian Visa in advance? I do not know this first hand but that's what I have heard.
P_M is offline  
Mar 30th, 2010, 05:32 PM
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No that's not true. There are many organized tour groups such as Red October, SPB that are registered with the Russian government that will give you documentation to enable you to join their tour at the ship's pier. Some ship lines try to tell you this to encourage you to take their overpriced shore excursions while others sometimes make the claim that the Russian government requires their shore excursion passengers to leave the ship first and they make every effort to hold back the passengers who have booked tours with others. That is a bold faced lie...the Russian government couldn't care less. What you can't do without a visa is explore on your own.
xyz123 is offline  
Mar 30th, 2010, 09:06 PM
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We did a tour of The Hermitage one day and a tour of the Summer Palace on the other day. We took the tour that was arranged by the cruise and I was very satisfied with the tour.

When we had some free time, I went to passport control at the dock and told the officer that I would like to walk around on my own and that I didn't have a visa. She didn't hesitate a second - she just waived me through.
Dutch is offline  
Mar 30th, 2010, 09:22 PM
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When we did a Baltic Cruise a few years ago, we booked a private tour with Red October, and shared it with 4 others we had met on the cruise critic message board. I cannot praise Red October enough. We DID NOT need visas, as this company has a special deal regarding visas. Our ship was late in debarkation due to some weather problems the night before which meant another ship was still docked in our place, but our tour guide + driver waited for us for 3 hours. While the big ship's buses were still loading, we were already on our way to the Hermitage, menaing we missed all the crowds.

The tour guide was fantastic...very knowledgeable and spoke perfect English. She took our small group to a traditional Russian restaurant for lunch each day and could not have been more accommodating. All in all, we were all extremely happy with the service we received from Red October.

Given the choice, I would always choose (and have done so on each of our cruises) a private tour over a ship's tour (for reasons of cost, convenience, flexibility, wait times etc)
irenen is offline  
Mar 30th, 2010, 11:58 PM
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My advice: see and do AS MUCH as you possibly can! We booked a private tour thru Denrus and no you do NOT have to use a ship-sponsored tour..the cruise line would like you to think you do but it isn't necessary. Our guide was great and we saw many of the major sites including the Catherine and Peterhof palaces, the Church on the Spilled Blood, the Hermitage, Peter and Paul Fortress, as well as taking in an evening ballet performance. Long and jam-packed days but worth every minute and the money spent.
Dukey is offline  
Mar 31st, 2010, 04:50 PM
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So it sounds like if you are with ANY tour you don't need a visa. Thanks.
P_M is offline  
Mar 31st, 2010, 05:44 PM
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That is correct.
xyz123 is offline  
Apr 1st, 2010, 04:13 AM
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Go to the cruise board on this site and check for a post by Percy about his Baltic cruise, I think on Princess as well. His experience got us to choose Alla Tours. We were traveling with another couple and booked a private tour for the 4 of us. For only 4 it was fairly expensive but we saw an incredible amount of St. Petersburg this way.

Here's where to find Percy's post.

And here's my report.

I am having trouble, however, finding the website for Alla Tours. It looks to me like there are some imposters out there. I'll look around and come back with the site if I can find it for you.
JulieVikmanis is offline  
Apr 1st, 2010, 04:22 AM
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Oops. I goofed on the URL for my trip report. Here it is:
JulieVikmanis is offline  
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