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nattie

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Posts posted by nattie

  1. I have not been to SPB since I was a kid either :)

    We are doing a custom tour in SPB for our June cruise because anything prepackaged will bore my 10yo to death. And at that my DS LOVES history and almost all museums (except for art ones which he absolutely HATES).

    From experience standpoint, lunch is good, ride on the metro is great (Russian metro system is very different from US in decorations especially). St Isaac's climb was a highlight of my trip to SPB as teenager, so would recommend that.

    Generally, what are your kids interested in? My DS loves military history, so for us a stop at WWII museum describing Seige of Leningrad and Peter and Paul Fortress was a must. We are also doing evening boat tour with dinner included instead of regular tourist boat tour. 

    There a ton of very interesting places to visit in SPB, that are not Hermitage and Palaces. Like Kunstkamera (I wish I had time for that one!) or cruiser Aurora (Privet, napoxoguk!) or Kronshtadt (another wish list for me). I would start with what your kids would enjoy to visit (in case of teenagers minimally whine about) normally and go from there.

  2. On 1/11/2019 at 7:50 PM, duck60d said:

    I recommend using Uber in Taillin.  It's very inexpensive.  We paid 3.29 euros for a 15 min drive.   We placed Alexander Nevsky Cathedral as a good drop off since it's the highest point in town. That way, our walk back to the ship would be all downhill.  Address is Vene 24, Tallinn 10123, Estonia 

    Tallinn Estonia _ Uber.jpg

    Thank you so much! We will UBER it for sure

  3. I agree with  redeeming against card balance as being the most financially savvy, BUT there is nothing better than having under $100 cruise bill at the end of the cruise :). Granted, we spend A LOT on board (wine, excursions, spa, trinkets, etc. pretty much in $ order :)), so we always use up all the credits.

  4. DennStann,

    I was not really looking for best price per se. What I WAS looking for are accommodations of my special requests. As I have stated before, "Big 3" were somewhat pushy (or at least it felt to me like that) in doing standard itineraries. Granted, their standard itineraries are very good and thought out to maximize "once in a life time" experience for standard tourist. I have previously been to St. Petersburg and I speak the language, so we were looking for very specific destinations and avoiding "shopping on Nevskiy" type of ones. Also why would I pay premium for private tour if I can get same itinerary as part of group tour for half the price? Whole point of private tour is that is fully customized to traveler, at least in my opinion. Anyway, main reason I went with City Break is because they were able to accommodate my special requests, as well as suggest alternatives that I didn't even think of.

    Now I am all into researching other ports :)

  5. On 3/25/2019 at 11:27 AM, tourismtessy said:

    We have sailed both and are getting ready to do a 14 day Eastern/Western Caribbean (a 7 day Eastern and 7 day Western all in on trip).  We definitely prefer the Eastern Caribbean.  St Maarten is a lovely port that you can walk very easily.  The beach right next to the port is fabulous and beautiful.  Also shops and restaurants along the beach.  You don't have as much of the street hagglers in the Eastern Caribbean.  When we do the Western Caribbean we pretty much stay on the ship except in Grand Cayman. We love Grand Cayman.  You can't go wrong with either itinerary.  Im not sure if your Western Caribbean choice includes Jamaica but would probably stay onboard there.  Very aggressive street hagglers make for an unpleasant shore experience. 

    When was last time you did Eastern Caribbean? Not a snark. I used to LOVE St. Maarten, but we just did Eastern/Western combo over the holidays and I found Eastern part of it quite depressing. St. Maarten is a ghost of its former self, especially French side. Orient Beach is completely gone... Dutch side looked more cleaned up but still very battered as you go away from beginning of the strip.

    For first time Caribbean cruiser, do Western IMHO. I personally love Belize, but to each its own. I believe Princess has great shore excursion to private island in Belize that takes you from ship directly there skipping tender to shore.

  6. Alaska is just expensive (overpriced IMHO). For a price of 7 day Alaska cruise in early June, I was able to book 11 day Baltic (on sale plus 3/4/ free and OBC's) for the same time. The pricing for 3rd person in cabin for Alaska is sometimes even higher than 1 / 2nd guest price, it is just obnoxious. I was ambivalent on Alaska, but am super excited about Baltic. 

     

     

  7. 7 hours ago, napoxoguk said:

    This is no longer the case. The tickets to Hermitage, for instance, are RR700 ($10.5) flat. Same with Kremlin. I've seen a couple of places that still have the "dual price" policy, but even there the difference is not huge. You'd have a really hard time finding $200pp worth of cover fees, especially over a 3-day visit. I do agree that having a guide would make sense, but not sure about the driver - it might be more cost-effective just to uber between far-between places, and use public transportation for everything else.

     

     

    As to red tape - I do agree it can get quite annoying, but if you've ever carried a Russian passport (vs. the USSR one), the procedure for getting a new one is quite straightforward - it's about 3 months and $250. With the price of a 3-y visa currently at $160+35, renewing your passport seems like a viable option.

     

    Given where you live (btw, congrats to Rockville for making it into some mysterious list of Top Ten Most Livable Places in the US for a third year in a row), it should be easy-peasy.

    Thats great news on the museum prices! I always thought it was very unfair.

     

    I think we will just stick to the excursion for this trip. I might renew the passport if we ever decide to go to Moscow. I have not been back in 10 years, clearly a lot has changed.

     

    Thank you for congrats for Rockville, I actually agree that it is nice place to live :)

  8. 8 hours ago, napoxoguk said:

    Nattie,

    Thank you for publishing this - I'm sure many will find it extremely useful (including the management of one particular company that may realize that manning their inquiry desk is more important than posting dozens of "reviews" on every imaginable travel site).

     

    Actually, I think yours is a rare case when applying for a regular tourist visa (at about $200pp) and going DIY way would actually make sense. 

    I wish! First, I can't get Russian tourist visa. Russian government still considers me as its citizen, therefore I can't get visa :) Oh and I cant renew Russian passport either because I am no longer "registered" anywhere in Russia. It is like Catch 22 of pure bureaucracy.

    Secondly, we would still need english speaking guide and a driver. I want to enjoy sights too and not have to translate non stop! Also, if you ever tried doing Russia on your own you will notice that single entry tickets to any cultural attraction (Kremlin, Hermitage, etc.) for foreigners are 10x the price of Russian citizen's ticket. I highly suspect tour groups get them at steep discounts, otherwise entry fees alone would cost $200 pp at least.

  9. 11 hours ago, GlennaRoseGoes said:

    I’m surprised to hear someone say “the big 3” were dismissive.....I only reached out to SPB in the big name category for a custom 2-day tour for just 2 people this summer, but they were very prompt and created exactly what I wanted for $590pp. Obviously adding some more fee-heavy attractions could drive that price up. I also got a quote for the same custom itinerary I created from https://www.st-petersburg-essentialguide.com/ — they were super responsive and very eager to please, so maybe you should ask them for a quote as well 🙂 

    My tour is for 3 people and comes to about $430pp, which I am quite happy with. I was frankly surprised when it was referred as expensive.

    I think another issue is that we are there during White Nights, so there are probably A LOT of tourists :). I would say everyone I contacted besides ALLA and Anastasia were responsive and pleasant to deal with, however I felt like almost all of them were trying to steer me towards their "pre set" experiences vs what I wanted. Example - all tours stated "Russian traditional lunch", I have to problem with it, frankly I eat Russian food often :), but when I am requesting Hard Rock Cafe as a stop, why not save time and do lunch there? That's what City Break suggested (among other things that made the difference).

  10. Thank you Angie and Bonnieg,

     

    I did check with 7 companies, including Anastasia. Prices I got for my excursion were:

    Alla                         didnt have capacity to accommodate, referred to SPB

    TJ                            $1,575

    Ulko                       $1,608

    SPB                        $1,719

    Ludmila Tours      $1,415

    Anastasia              didnt respond

     

    I think this has to do with what I am asking, since we want Faberge museum(extra $), Diamond room (extra $), river cruise and WWII stop.

     

    I wish it was cheaper :)

  11. Danish Viking, THANK YOU so much for truly wonderful "Wonderful Copenhagen" thread 

     

    I have just changed my arrival date to fly to Copenhagen 1 day earlier instead of day of the cruise. We will be staying in Wake Up Copenhagen Boregarde. This was not my first choice, but it has decent air conditioning according to tripadvisor reviews, which is a must for DH, plus it is conveniently located and offers triple rooms. I have not been to Europe in 10 years and keep forgetting that space is premium :)

    Now to my questions:

    • I was planning to take Uber from airport. Do Uber exist in Denmark? (stupid question, but they were not mentioned in 4 pages here, so I had to ask)
    • It shows about 20 min or so walk to Tivoli gardens from the hotel. Is this somewhat accurate? There is also a Lego store on the way (bonus). 
    • My plan so far is to take it somewhat easy and just walk to Tivoli in the pm after checking in and have dinner there (would you recommend all inclusive ticket or pay as you go option? We are not big on rides, but my DS (10) might want to do a couple). Than in the am walk over to Nyhavn or just walk around the city before heading to the pier. We are planning to take more formal excursion with all the highlights on debarkation day from the ship. Princess normally does great job with debarkation excursions. 
  12. 19 hours ago, fabnfortysomething said:

    it certainly isn't a company recommended or even heard of here on cruise critic

    what price are they offering?

    So the price for 3 people (one child) of highly custom tour is $1300 comparing with $1500 plus for others. What is making a difference I think is that others are not really listening to what I am asking and are trying to fit my requests into there pre-existing tours. For example Treasure room in Hermitage is extra cost of $200/$350 (depends on company I asked) per group for private viewing, BUT it is only $20 pp for join-in. I speak fluent Russian, therefore we opted for join-in thus saving $. Nowhere else "join in" was even offered, only private. Same goes for the rest of tour, I wanted dinner cruise on Neva instead of boat tour during the day. Most companies said no, cant do, except for private boat w/o dinner. And so forth, I am pretty confident they are legit, but will check with some Tripadvisor reviewers and post to let everyone know.

  13. 20 hours ago, cansas.piligrim said:

    How did you manage to find this company? Their rating on Trip Advisor is 84 - not  one of known leaders.

    They were on a first page of search under "deafult" setting for "St. Petresburg tours and trips" I have contacted all the companies on the first page with my request. Actually know leader, ALLA, very rudely told me that they cant accommodate my request and to join they pre configured tour. 

  14. On 3/13/2019 at 1:20 PM, dogs4fun said:

    Is this tour company licensed to offer visa free tours to cruise ship passengers? Please make sure so that you are not "stuck" on the ship in Russia.

    Yes, they are. Again their reviews are quite good on tripadvisor

    https://www.tripadvisor.com/Attraction_Review-g298507-d12364173-Reviews-City_Break_Tours_St_Petersburg-St_Petersburg_Northwestern_District.html

    Looks like they are fairly knew. I am going to contact couple people on Tripadvisor to verify just in case.

  15. 15 hours ago, southerngoose said:

    I've learned many valuable things as a newbie (not kidding):

    • Sanctuary - great but not good for Alaska cruise
    • "Mocktail" can be any drink without alcohol...it doesn't have to be on the Mocktail menu
    • Stanley Bear - need to buy early so that he can get "decorated" during the cruise (better than a towel animal)
    • No sofa - better to know before you go so that I can get the inflatables bought and packed (next time, check the website more closely...looks like there's no jogging track either)
    • Cool power strip that accepts plugs from around the world so that I can plug my cpap next to the bed
    • Oops...can't bring the power strip because it is a surge protector (not sure why it was recommended for plugging a cpap in under the bed...)
    • Next time, read cruise critic BEFORE paying non-refundable fees for the cruise, not afterwards...  Ok, I learned this time.  Next time I will read more carefully before booking.    I'm planning my Panama Canal cruise.  I can't go for 3 more years, but I'll plan ahead next time.

    Just an FYI, room steward will provide extension cord with USA outlet to plug in your CPAP. Its medical device, so they have to. Plus dont forget to ask for distilled water for it. 

  16. On 2/12/2019 at 8:00 PM, elliair said:

    You're assuming that I didn't do any research into our Fiji cruise.  Seriously?  I won't tell you how much we spent on our trip, but let's just say anyone who forked out what we did and did not research, shouldn't be traveling to foreign countries.  You can have Fiji, I'll enjoy Hawaii.  At least I'll see whales, turtles, dolphins, tropical fish, and nice restaurants and stores.  Have fun.

    Why are you complaining about Fiji islands/cruise on this thread? This is about perceived cutbacks by Princess.

    Just keep in mind, to each it's own. I would have loved an opportunity to go to Fiji

  17. On 2/7/2019 at 6:47 PM, Kartgv said:

    It seems that in all the posts on several threads about the chairs, they have only been removed in the balcony (and maybe inside?) cabins, not the mini-suites.    For those of you who don't or wouldn't miss the chair, do you ever order room service?   If so, do you eat standing up?   Sitting on the bed?  On the 'seat' in the bathroom?    I'd really miss the chair, as I have back problems and can't sit comfortably on a bed.   Maybe Princess is really just trying to get everyone to stay in their cabin as little as possible - much better to be out and about spending money.    

    We dont order room service, except for breakfast very occasionally, and that we normally eat on the balcony. I dont like dirty dishes in the room and find it gross when people just leave them in hallways, so I dont participate in the activity :)

    BUT we dont do cruises longer then 14 days, so there is that

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