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Everything posted by trosebery

  1. Thanks for bumping this thread: I'm trying to talk my sister into joining me on a Northern Europe trip in the future, and I think she will love Tallinn (possibly even more than St. Petersburg), so Tallinn photos are always welcome. And I will agree that a Tallinn guided tour is not necessary as it's very easy to DIY, although I did really enjoy the very reasonably priced private walking + bike tour with did with Traveller Tours (a local company) on our last visit, as I especially enjoyed contrasting our medieval city walk with our cycling tour of the more modern areas (such as Tell
  2. Thank you for sharing! You forget just how much gold there is everywhere until you see the photos again. Oh, those pictures made me long to go back. . . . I'm trying to talk my sister into joining me for a trip in the future, so I will email her the link as a lure. I would point out to first time visitors, though, the the port guide is not completely comprehensive in that it does not cover all sights and even omits some favourites like the Fabergé Museum. Do read tour descriptions carefully to make sure that you visit all the sights that *you* want to visit. And if setting up a pri
  3. Wow, I'm just back to this forum (thinking of yet another Northern European cruise), and I'm noticing a lot of older threads are getting bumped! I'll post a link to this thread that's currently stickied to the top of this forum: https://boards.cruisecritic.com/topic/2696545-master-thread-of-st-petersburg-advice-and-recommendations-from-cruisers-whove-been/ that contains a lot of advice posted at the end of last season (and since). I've done both the 15-16 person tour (with SPB) and the personalized custom tour (with Red Sun Tours), and I'd obviously give the edge to the p
  4. I just noticed that this old thread got bumped, so I'll add a link to this fairly current thread started at the end of last season (now stickied to the top of this forum): https://boards.cruisecritic.com/topic/2696545-master-thread-of-st-petersburg-advice-and-recommendations-from-cruisers-whove-been/ Especially if you're wanting a private tour, I recommend compiling a list of several companies that appeal to you, from recommendations here and on TripAdvisor, and emailing each of them to see which is the best fit for you. (This is how I wound up touring with Red Sun Tours on ou
  5. Yes, thank you so much for the photos! Not only did they bring back wonderful memories, but I've enjoyed our two trips to the Baltic -- most recently my trip with my daughter and teenage son on the Norwegian Spirit in 2019 -- that I'm considering joining my sister on another in 2021! (Hence I'm back scrolling through this board!) In addition to my thank you, I'll add my own port reviews for the benefit of anyone who might come across this thread (edited from some notes I was making for my sister's benefit): Stockholm: It depends where you are berthed. The first time we
  6. These are unusual times. They may be running short-staffed. They may be trying to determine how they will deal with the current changing situation and the unknown future. Unless your questions are urgent, I would definitely give them more time.
  7. If you want something unusual, you'll probably have to set up a private tour? We did a standard small-group tour with SPB Tours on our first visit and then a private tour with Red Sun Tours on our second visit, and although both were very good and very well-run, a private tour obviously gives you so much more personal attention and control of your itinerary. Fortunately, most tour companies are very willing and able to organize private tours, and the private tours aren't as expensive as you'd think. I'd recommend searching the master thread (at the top of this forum) for some names
  8. As others have noted, it will depend on your interests. Some people like palaces and cathedrals, some people like slice-of-life visits (subways or grocery stores), and others like quirky things -- for example, two places that we visited on our last visit were the Soviet Arcade Game Museum (where you get 15 kopek coins to play the games, and our guide also found us an employee of the museum who was able to tell us about history of video gaming in Soviet Russia) and the Grand Maket (not market but maket -- it's a giant model train set with Russia in miniature). Finding the quirky sites can be tr
  9. We went last two weeks of August last year and had beautiful weather. Sunny skies (we lucked out and got zero rain), temperatures mostly in the low 20s (70s in F) with only 2 genuinely hot days.
  10. On European cruises, I've often saved money by sailing in inside cabins as we were only ever in them for sleeping. Yes, the ports (in general) are very DIY friendly. Many are walkable and public transportation is very good. You can search this forum for more threads about particular ports or ask your own questions. Many people recommend picking up the Rick Steves guide to Northern European Cruise Ports, although do remember that this is only a starting point. (I don't always agree with his recommendations, and some information like public transport connections can go out of date an
  11. On our last cruise, I set up a private tour with Nordic Experience and then posted on our Roll Call and quickly filled our tour. I then forwarded the email addresses to Nordic Experience and they invoiced everyone individually so that we were all paid up by credit card before we left. We had no trouble finding our guide and driver, and they got us back on time -- although the traffic was indeed terrible! (Fortunately, minibuses can take some roads to get around the traffic that the big buses can't.) We picked the Stutthof Concentration Camp + Gdansk Highlights Tour, which we apprec
  12. It definitely depends on the ports and on the port hours -- the more hours in the ports, the better. (And the more days in St. Petersburg, the better.) Choosing between your two itineraries, I'd probably pick the 11-night because it visits Sweden and Poland. (Although starting and ending in Copenhagen is also a good pick as Copenhagen is a beautiful city.)
  13. How much is "so much?" What's your limit for staying on your feet at one time and total over the course of the day? Can you handle two strenuous days back-to-back (without wearing yourself out for other ports like Tallinn)? The tour operators themselves are your best resources. Email them and they can match you with a tour that best fits your needs. I recommend emailing several and choosing the best match for you. (I selected a private tour with Red Sun Tours as the best match for us on our last trip after emailing around. You might find a different best match.) And rem
  14. As schmerl pointed out, many companies will allow you to book without paying a deposit, and especially if you would like a private tour, I would suggest booking with plenty of lead time. Our tour with Red Sun Tours last summer didn't require payment until after the first day of the tour, and booking in advance gave us lots of time to ask all the questions we needed to tweak our itinerary just the way we liked it.
  15. The district with the highest concentration of Art Nouveau buildings is about a 20 minute walk north of the medieval Old Town, around Albert Street if you're checking a map. If you want to see both, make sure you give yourself enough time to do so. (There is also an Art Nouveau Museum if you're interested in interiors.) Note that if you want to do the tour at the KGB museum, they recommend booking tickets in advance.
  16. Actually, it might be a good idea to start a thread (that could be stickied) about accessible Baltic tours/sights/etc. Because St. Petersburg is probably the easiest port to tour when you have mobility issues, given how well the independent tour companies can cater to their guests! It can be trickier in more DIY ports like Stockholm or Tallinn, especially given the cobblestoned/sloping/etc. streets and historic sites with many stairs. Advice from others with mobility issues who've BTDT would be appreciated.
  17. That is odd. Now, I'm not a big fan of Catherine Palace myself (since it's out of the way to visit and often crowded), but many people consider it a must-see. If it's important to you, I would make enquiries with other companies and see what they say. (Is there something happening at the Palace on those particular days that it's not available?) I'd try asking Elena at Red Sun because she's usually pretty good with prompt communication, but any of the bigger companies (Alla, SPB, TJ, etc.) could probably help you too. Email around and find out the story.
  18. We only visited Oslo in Norway. Our favourites have been the Bygdoy museums (Viking Ship, Fram, and Kon Tiki) and the Vigeland Sculpture Park. No tours are necessary. Get the Oslo Pass and use public transit. Stockholm we've spent a few days in. The Gamla Stan old town is really nice and I especially like the Palace's Royal Armory. The Vasa museum is amazing, and we enjoyed the Nordic animals in Skansen. (I found the ABBA museum too crowded when we were there.) I also enjoyed visiting the Icebar and going on an art tour of the subway stations. I'd never thought about vi
  19. Riga is very walkable (and public transit wouldn't save you too much time), but it'd still be a tight schedule as you've got about 2 hours total walking time and only 6 hours in port (figuring an 11:30 debark time and a 5:30 all-aboard time), leaving you with 4 hours to see 4 sights. From a debark time of 11:30, it's about a half hour walk to the Ghetto Holocaust Museum and Central Market. (You can probably save 10 minutes by public transit -- there's a tram from very near the port to the central market that would take you about 20 minutes -- although you'd have to decide if the ti
  20. Absolutely, especially if you're relying on public transit. (We used Google to help us with bus, tram, and train schedules.) And let me add an additional disclaimer to my own recommendation: there are many things to do and see that are *not* included in Rick Steves' guide. For example, last time we were in Warnemunde/Rostock, we did the Seal Experience at the Marine Research Centre, where we got to go out on the pontoons with one of the researchers and he explained the research studies they were doing and how they train the seals to participate. (We got to play fetch with the seals
  21. We did a Stockholm to Southampton in August 2019 (with yes, just one sea day) and it was incredible! To answer the OP's question, yes, my two Baltic cruises (I've not yet been on a Norway fjords cruise) have been two of my favourite holidays. I did one with Princess and one with NCL, and I'd give the edge to the NCL cruise just because the itinerary was one-way instead of round-trip so we had more ports and fewer sea days. The cruises are very different from Caribbean cruises because they are so port-intensive: we were off the ship first thing in the morning and only ba
  22. Yes, with the exception of St. P., all the towns you've listed are easy to DIY. Although I would recommend looking into walking tours if you appreciate the services of a guide, as the walking tours can be quite affordable. (E.g. we had an excellent walk+bike tour with Traveller Tours in Tallinn on our last visit.) And although Rick Steves' guide is a great place to start, it's not comprehensive (it can't be, given the space!) and there may be places not listed that would interest you if you do a little more research. (E.g. that Traveller Tours tour took us into the Kalamaja district to places
  23. Yes, it's probably because the company has had complaints in the past from older guests who had difficulty keeping up with the guide on the cobblestoned, sometimes-sloped streets or had difficulty staying on their feet and walking around for a couple of hours without a break to sit down somewhere. But most able-bodied people, like ontheweb, would describe walking tours of Tallinn tour as leisurely.
  24. Except for Russia, where I tipped in crisp US 20s, I tipped in Euros even in the Scandinavian countries, and no one minded. Some guides even seemed surprised to get a tip. (But all the guides I tipped were excellent and we really wanted to show our appreciation.)
  25. I didn't have a problem with our St P tour (not SPB but Red Sun, so we paid there) BUT I had a problem paying our tour provider in Finland, of all places. After the first charge was flagged by the fraud department (which froze my card), I had to call VISA to unfreeze it and tell them the charge was coming through, and they told me it would work the next time . . . But it didn't. It took 4 tries, the last one with me on the phone with the fraud department while I did the transaction so that they could manually release the funds. Good luck!
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