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About trosebery

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    Cool Cruiser

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    Ontario, Canada

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  1. What do you want to see or do? Do you just want to sightsee (what sights? geothermal? waterfalls? etc.), or are you interested in activities?
  2. We also took the train from the airport directly to the central station without any difficulty. . . . But the cobblestones between the central station and our hotel were a challenge!
  3. On our last cruise (visiting all those countries and more), the only currency we travelled with was EUR for tips (or US$ in Russia). We used the toilets at cafes and museums and never encountered a pay toilet. Even the person selling ice cream bars from a bicycle cart in Copenhagen took credit cards.
  4. Yes, when we were there last summer for a couple of days, we needed no cash. We did have a chip-and-PIN credit card though. (Most places we were just tapping for payment.)
  5. Yes, we looked into the HOHO in Oslo but ended up on public transit, which was included in the Oslo Pass and worked really well (Google Maps knew the routes and timetables and navigated for us). And yes, it did run more frequently. And included the ferry to Bygdoy.
  6. I'm very jealous of those of you who get to tour in the off season! (I'm a teacher. School holidays only for me.) But yes, the fountains should still be running through mid-October . . . and the fountains in the park should be running before the Grand Cascade starts at 11:00 am. First time we visited, we were on a small group tour which timed our arrival at Peterhof for the start of the Grand Cascade (which was ridiculously crowded in high season) at 11:00 am; this past year, I'd set up a private tour with Red Sun Tours and saw that we were scheduled to arrive at Peterhof at 10:00 am, so I was confused. When I asked, Elena explained that the other fountains (including the trick fountains) would be running then and the earlier crowds would be much more reasonable, and we could circle back to see the Grand Cascade after the opening, when the press of the crowds had moved on . . . and she was right! Bottom line is that the St. Petersburg tour companies really know their timings and can answer all your questions. Do you know if you're going to do a small group tour or a private tour (with just you or the others on your Roll Call)? I will warn you that if you start researching things to do and see in St. Petersburg, you'll be tempted into a private tour as there's a lot of fascinating sights that don't make the standard tour itineraries!
  7. Yes, lots of people have done tours through the cruise line, even some people here! Sometimes it's because they have lots of OBC, sometimes it's for peace of mind (especially if they're travelling with a large group and they can't talk everyone into an independent excursion), sometimes it's because there's some special experience the cruise line is touting (e.g. I remember Princess advertising its evening at Catherine Palace), etc. And people do enjoy them because it's hard *not* to enjoy St. Petersburg. There's just the trade-off of the higher prices and the larger groups -- and since larger groups are slower, the itineraries usually don't get to visit as many sights. (I also like my groups as small as possible so that I can ask lots of questions of the guide, which is one reason why I selected a private tour with Red Sun Tours on our last visit.) Bottom line is that you won't be unhappy if you book a tour with the cruise line. But I would strongly recommend doing some research first to see if that's the *best* choice for you.
  8. Ditto on the above advice: the independent tour companies in St. Petersburg that you'll see recommended here are all very professional. Best I've seen in any port. I was a little wary myself on our first visit and therefore booked a small group tour with one of the larger companies (SPB), but after seeing how easy everything was, we felt confident enough to book with a smaller company (Red Sun Tours) for a personal, private tour on our visit last summer. . . and it was even easier this time around! Go read the Master Thread linked to above and try contacting some of the recommended companies to see which will work best for you.
  9. No, you will not be allowed past immigration on the third day if your tour ticket from the company is for a two-day tour. (Unless you have an actual visa.) Talk with the company with whom you have arranged the tour to see what they suggest.
  10. Re: layover in Iceland, last time we flew into Copenhagen, Icelandair was the best value. And especially with kids, I'd choose a layover in Iceland over more days in Copenhagen. As much as I like Copenhagen, Iceland is just very different from what you'll see on the rest of your trip -- you can take whale-watching tours from Reykjavik, drive the Golden Circle, or simply visit the Reykjanes Peninsula (by the Keflavik airport) where the Blue Lagoon is. In Copenhagen, I would definitely recommend a canal boat tour with kids. There's one included with the Copenhagen Card, which I'd also recommend as it allows you to hit the highlights and leave before the kids get bored at a number of sights. My daughter's favourite was the Treasury at Rosenborg Slot (go early as it gets crowded later), closely followed by Christianborg Slot, and my son's favourite was the Danish War Museum, closely followed by the National Museum, especially their prehistory and Vikings exhibits. (My kids have never been interested in the changing of the guards anywhere, finding it boring. And Tivoli was quite crowded when we visited -- even though it was a rainy midweek day -- and the lines were quite long.) In Rostock, I've heard many people recommend the Molli Train to Bad Doberan, especially when travelling with kids, although we have not tried it ourselves yet. What we have done is a visit to Rostock and Schwerin, with an audio tour of the castle there. (I'd rate it okay.) And we've done a day where we visited the zoo in Rostock (which is a very nice zoo) and the Marine Science Center (nominally in Rostock but accessed by public ferry from Warnemunde) for their Seal Experience: we went out onto the pontoons with one of the researchers at the centre who explained the types of research they do and how they train the seals. We got to not only pat the seals but also play fetch with them. (Which is as adorable as it sounds.) Let me know if you'd like any more details about what we've done with kids -- including any more details from the posts above or other suggestions. (For example, although last time we went to Nuuksio National Park from Helsinki, the time before that, we did stay in Helsinki, and my kids' favourite there was the Seurasaari Folk Museum.)
  11. Yes, the packed lunch is an ordinary packed lunch but there are also vendors selling snack foods at Peterhof. If there's some special snack food you'd like to try, let your guide know and they might be able to help you find it when you have free time. (Although you might need rubles for this.) We wanted to try some Georgian food on our last St. Petersburg visit, and I do recommend it -- very different and very tasty! (We were on a private tour with Red Sun Tours ourselves, so it wasn't a problem.) Next time I want to try some Uzbek foods.
  12. Yes, do read the first post in the Master Thread that dogs4fun linked to for more details on "visa-free" tours. The only reason you might want to get your own visas is if you want to go exploring on your own without any guide or driver . . . which I wouldn't recommend myself (on a first visit, at least) as the guides are wonderful at getting you around the lines and the drivers are wonderful at getting you through St. P. traffic very efficiently and will drop you really close to the sights (they will drop you at the door, go park somewhere else, and then come to pick you up when the guide says that you're going to be heading out the door in a minute). (The guides are also wonderful storytellers and will bring St. P. alive for you. The last guide we had, on a private tour with Red Sun Tours, was amazing.) Go visa free!
  13. I can understand wanting to skip a sea day (which I've never enjoyed), but have you checked that the cruise line will even let you do this? And have you looked into the cost? (Norway is not cheap!)
  14. Yes, please read through the Master thread dogs4fun linked to above and make a list of several companies, read through their websites, and try contacting them to see which will work best for you. Because while most people here will tout the tour group that worked best for them on their last visit (e.g., in my case, that was Red Sun Tours), there are many excellent companies and you will have your own priorities.
  15. I was travelling with a teenager, so I especially appreciated not having to drag him out of bed early, LOL!
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