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Few questions for our cruise to St. Petersburg in June.


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Hi, cruised a few times but not to this area. Going with MSC Opera to St. Petersburg and Scandinavia on 17th June.

Really wondering what temperatures to expect? Warm enough to sit by the pool? Will we need jumpers / jackets in the evening? I know this gets asked a lot but just interested in others experience so we have an idea what to pack :) never had to plan coats etc into holiday luggage before!

 

Also any recommendations what to see in ports? Stopping at Amsterdam, Tallin, St. Petersburg, Helsinki, Oslo, Copenhagen. (sorted for Amsterdam but interested in "Must see's" elsewhere)

 

Taking our cash passport card (to use in cash machines) whats the crack with Russia? Easy to withdraw cash from holes in the wall? Or change cash onboard?

 

Any advice appreciated.

 

Thanks,

 

Gossy :)

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Temperature difficult to predict - just like Northamptonshire, UK - ranging from 10C to 25C - if sunshine you can sit by the pool, but bring jumpers / jackets in the evening.

For money you will be able to use either EUR or USD in ports including SPB - and how much money do you really need in SPB - all inclusive in tours and nothing to buy.

 

Some inspirations - click on link to watch the short videos:

Copenhagen on you own:

 

Tallinn on your own

 

Ship Tours in St Petersburg

 

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GossyBoy

 

We did a Baltic cruise last year, starting in mid September. We were very lucky with the weather, it was mid 20s everyday and about 28C in Tallin. However, the weather in the Baltic is unpredictable as it is here in UK. We ended up taking far too many clothes as we had packed for all eventualities, but as we left from Southampton (where we drove to), it didn't really matter.

 

We frequently go to the Eurozone, so always have a supply of Euros. In SPB we tipped the driver and guide in USD, but paid for our tour with a CC. We did the 2 day Comfort Tour with Alla, which was excellent.

 

In all the other ports, except for Gydinia we did our own thing.

 

If you do a search you will find loads of information on what to do in each port. It is a lovely area to cruise, so you will have a great time.

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Also any recommendations what to see in ports? Stopping at Amsterdam, Tallin, St. Petersburg, Helsinki, Oslo, Copenhagen. (sorted for Amsterdam but interested in "Must see's" elsewhere)

 

Taking our cash passport card (to use in cash machines) whats the crack with Russia? Easy to withdraw cash from holes in the wall? Or change cash onboard?

 

Any advice appreciated.

Hi Gossy

 

These are considered the big 7 things to see for a St Petersburg first-timer

[YOUTUBE]E63tkIQSIAU[/YOUTUBE] [YOUTUBE]driudAEkocs[/YOUTUBE] [YOUTUBE]pLrNXXB2Qr8[/YOUTUBE] [YOUTUBE]ntfg92fRF38[/YOUTUBE] [YOUTUBE]lQR4tA7mGfo[/YOUTUBE][YOUTUBE]8NksYBcarXI[/YOUTUBE] [YOUTUBE]x6AgPa4OYDQ[/YOUTUBE] There is an ATM at the port where you can grab a few roubles. All the well-known companies will have a 2 day tour including these, called The Best of, Highlights of, The Grand Tour of (St P) etc.

 

At Helsinki I went over to the Suomenlinna Maritime Fortress

[YOUTUBE]swIpEG7hR0g[/YOUTUBE]

That ferry is included on the all-day travel ticket (€8 ?) which I mainly used to ride the circular tram to get to one or two other sights. If time is tight don't bother going inside the Cathedral on Senate Square as the exterior is by far the most impressive bit.

[YOUTUBE]p9hcJiVDK0E[/YOUTUBE]

 

And in Tallinn I just walked around and enjoyed the charming city in a leisurely fashion.

[YOUTUBE]fAC8F_2qTTY[/YOUTUBE] All the best, Tony

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Weather could be anything. When we went in 2010, there was a heatwave. Our coldest port was Stockholm where it only got to 25C. In St P they had record breaking temps...I think it got up to about 40C. Loads of forest fires and deaths due to heat stroke. If it is hot, be aware that the Hermitage will be like a sauna. We couldn't wait to get out to the coolness of 38C dry heat!!!

If you don't mind something a bit different, the Segway tour in Copenhagen is brilliant. Book it early though...its the number 1 attraction according to TripAdvisor. http://segwaytourscph.com/

 

Have a great time.

 

Simon

 

PS Whereabouts in N'hants? Anywhere close to me?

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Hi, cruised a few times but not to this area. Going with MSC Opera to St. Petersburg and Scandinavia on 17th June.

Really wondering what temperatures to expect? Warm enough to sit by the pool? Will we need jumpers / jackets in the evening? I know this gets asked a lot but just interested in others experience so we have an idea what to pack :) never had to plan coats etc into holiday luggage before!

 

Also any recommendations what to see in ports? Stopping at Amsterdam, Tallin, St. Petersburg, Helsinki, Oslo, Copenhagen. (sorted for Amsterdam but interested in "Must see's" elsewhere)

 

Taking our cash passport card (to use in cash machines) whats the crack with Russia? Easy to withdraw cash from holes in the wall? Or change cash onboard?

 

Any advice appreciated.

 

Thanks,

 

Gossy :)

 

Gossyboy

 

Glad you made it over here.

 

Are you a sort of Do it yourselfer, or do you prefer escorted tours or even ship's tours? (I would advise against any ships tours on this particular cruise)

For most of the ports on your cruise it is very easy to DIY. You may not get to see EVERY hilite, but you will see most and do it a lot cheaper and at your own pace/ Except for St Petersburg, where most here will recommend that you book a tour with any of the top private tour companies that we all have used. That is the best way to see all the sights in St Petersburg, gain early entrance to several of the venues, and be taken in small groups along the way. Myself, we happen to use SPB Tours, http://www.spb-tours.com/, just a wonderful company. Many others have used them, along with ALLA, TJ Tours, and several others. Also, if you prefer regular tours, most of these companies offer tours in many of the other ports also and you can make a sort of package deal with them. Everyone has a recommendation, but if you are interested, don't just depend on any one 's advice, contact several and see which one feels right for you.

 

Cheers

 

Len

Edited by Giantfan13
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Thanks Len. We DIY pretty much everywhere. We are travelling with another couple so generally Taxi share to where we want to go (unless there are trams / trains / buses) Already booked tickets for House of Bols in Amsterdam. Abba experience in Stockholm and Segway tour in Copenhagen.

As for St. Petes we were just gonna be lazy, go see the Hermitage, have a wander, out for few beers at night and another wander on day two. Seems most of the stuff on offer are museums, churches and palaces? I think there is only so many of them you can see!?

Will do our usual walk / beer in Tallin and Helsinki :)

 

 

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Thanks Len. We DIY pretty much everywhere. We are travelling with another couple so generally Taxi share to where we want to go (unless there are trams / trains / buses) Already booked tickets for House of Bols in Amsterdam. Abba experience in Stockholm and Segway tour in Copenhagen.

As for St. Petes we were just gonna be lazy, go see the Hermitage, have a wander, out for few beers at night and another wander on day two. Seems most of the stuff on offer are museums, churches and palaces? I think there is only so many of them you can see!?

Will do our usual walk / beer in Tallin and Helsinki :)

 

 

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If you DIY in St Petersburg, you realize you will have to get a visa. If you are with a licensed tour group, they have a visa waiver for you.

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As for St. Petes we were just gonna be lazy, go see the Hermitage, have a wander, out for few beers at night and another wander on day two. Seems most of the stuff on offer are museums, churches and palaces? I think there is only so many of them you can see!?

 

 

Heed Annie's words.

 

Russian visas for Brits aren't as expensive as those for our American cousins, but they're still not cheap & obtaining one is a fraught & bureaucratic business - one time when I'd advise using a visa agency, cos that'll avoid your application going backwards & forwards for corrections.

Your visit will also be quite frustrating as you fight with the written as well as the spoken word, and if you do choose to visit somewhere like the Hermitage you'll look at the long queue (by-passed by tour groups) & give up.

That said, there are folk who've organise their own visas, done their own thing, & survived ;)

 

Even inveterate DIYers like us bit the bullet & took a visa-free tour with Alla.

All the local operators will arrange any sort of itinerary - or no "itinerary" at all if that's what you want. That'd be quite expensive for just four of you, but if you can find one or two like-minded couples to share your experience the cost would be about the same as a regular tour.

And it's just occurred to me - if we were on the same cruise we'd share that sort of a tour, having already done the touristy stuff. So there may be folk on your cruise who've been to St Pete's before & would want to do something more relaxed & off-the-wall. Although it's now quite late-in-the-day, it might be worth asking on your cruise RollCall.

 

Удачи, если вы сделать свою собственную вещь. :D

 

JB :)

 

Edited to add. In the UK we get better exchange rates than in the USA, and waaaaaay better than on a ship- especially since your ship's currency is the euro so to change sterling to roubles will probably mean a double-whammy of poor rates. You'll be OK without roubles if you take a tour, though it's handy to have a few pounds-worth in your pocket especially if you do an off-the-wall tour cos many bars & restaurants accept only roubles & no plastic. And I'd opt for the security of taking roubles, rather than putting a card in a hole-in-the-wall more in hope than expectation.

Edited by John Bull
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OMG! I had no idea about the visa situation! How did I miss that!?

We really don't like the long winded take you all over the place tours :( there's just a couple of things we want to see and we really enjoy a good walk about. We wanted to go out on the town at night too, experiencing the light night etc.

So if we book the cheapest shortest tour, visas will be arranged? We do the tour, can we then go on and off the ship at our leisure, because we have a visa??

Help please, what's the best way to do this?

 

Paul.

 

 

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OMG! I had no idea about the visa situation! How did I miss that!?

We really don't like the long winded take you all over the place tours :( there's just a couple of things we want to see and we really enjoy a good walk about. We wanted to go out on the town at night too, experiencing the light night etc.

So if we book the cheapest shortest tour, visas will be arranged? We do the tour, can we then go on and off the ship at our leisure, because we have a visa??

Help please, what's the best way to do this?

 

Paul.

 

 

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The only way you can come and go as you please is with an actual visa. If you book a tour, you are allowed to visit Russia in the company of your tour guide. You won't have an actual visa that allows you to strike out on your own.

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Oh dear! That's not good. We had no idea. This was one of the main places we wanted to have a look around. So if we do any tour we can be taken from place to place by a guide but then we can't go out at night on our own!? That seems a bit crazy! What's the point in the ship staying in port overnight?

I'm really disappointed! None if this was ever mentioned when we booked the cruise. What a shame :(

Anyone else have any info or ideas?

 

Paul.

 

 

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you could always contact one of the private tour companies like Alla, SPB, Denruss others are mentioned in this roll call, tell them what you want to do and see if they can come up with something that would suit you, thought it might be expensive

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Cant advise you any further on the visa situation, what other posters have advised is correct. We booked at the last minute so didn't have time to arrange private tours and did ship excursions instead.

The ship stays in port overnight because there's a lot to see in Saint Petersburg, spread out over quite a large area. We were there for 2 nights on our cruise.

As for the weather, we were there at the end of June last year and it was warm/hot everywhere. Helsinki was the coolest port, in the low 70's. Saint Petersburg it was in the mid to high 80's and as someone else pointed out earlier, it gets very hot in the Hermitage and Peterhof etc. It didn't rain and it was warm enough to sit by the pool every day. I had a lightweight cardi for evenings, but I'm a bit nesh :D

All of that said, the cruise the week after ours had bad weather. It's like ours in that it's unpredictable, it could do anything really although I can probably say for sure it won't snow.

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Thanks all for your help and comments so far! Looks like we're gonna have to book a tour and quick! Has no one ever been out in town at night!? I find that hard to get my head round!

 

Paul.

 

 

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Thanks all for your help and comments so far! Looks like we're gonna have to book a tour and quick! Has no one ever been out in town at night!? I find that hard to get my head round!

 

Paul.

 

 

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It is a bit weird feeling like a prisoner on the ship if you've only booked ship's tours.:D Especially at night when it's still light at 11pm and you can't go out. It's like being grounded! We were docked on the river right in the city centre which just added to the frustration of not being able to go out.

Definitely worth contacting the private tour companies and asking if they can help you out with perhaps a Hermitage tour during the day, and then a few bars and maybe a meal in the evening.

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Thanks all for your help and comments so far! Looks like we're gonna have to book a tour and quick! Has no one ever been out in town at night!? I find that hard to get my head round!

 

Paul.

 

 

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Book a private tour and they'll be happy to take you out on the town at night. If you have any energy left after the busy day. And you're not planning to see a whole lot more the next day since you're dog tired. And you're willing to pay them for the extra time.

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OMG! I had no idea about the visa situation! How did I miss that!?

 

So if we book the cheapest shortest tour, visas will be arranged? We do the tour, can we then go on and off the ship at our leisure, because we have a visa??

Help please, what's the best way to do this?

 

Paul.

 

 

Nice try, Paul - but no cigar.

As Cindy & Annie's posts, you need an appropriate tour ticket to get you through immigration without a visa. You are then in the care of your guide. That day tour ticket won't (shouldn't) get you through immigration in the evening or next day.

If it does & you have a problem in the city, then for being ashore without a visa or an authorised tour company, you will probably end up in a goulag :eek: :D.

You'll probably be sharing a cell with your tour guide & the immigration officer :D

 

On a standard tour you'll certainly not be tied to your guide with apron strings so for instance you can certainly wander off by yourselves within a venue.

Some have reported on this forum that, for instance, on a private tour they arranged to split from their guide on Nevsky Prospekt, the main shopping street, and met up there again later.

 

Yes, you can certainly spend the evening in the city. Some go to the ballet, some (including us) to the Russian folklore show (very touristy but extremely well done & a great hoot), others on other organised trips such as bar-crawls, etc. One member posted that by arrangement with a tour operator they were taken to a restaurant for dinner, once seated & sorted they were left to it, and they were collected later by a tour operator's driver who returned them to the ship.

Likewise, after our day tour we were dropped at a bar, collected an hour or two later & walked to the theatre, escorted in, then left there on our own for the evening. At the end of the show, a driver was waiting outside to take us to the ship. And that evening wasn't expensive. Total about $50 - $60 each IIRC.

 

When it comes to being left to do your own thing, there's a degree of variation between tour operators - I guess a matter of interpretation of the regulations. But it's up to the guides to know how far they can push the regulations, not us.

Ours was Alla - as good an operator as any for you to e-mail with your proposals.

 

In pretty-well any city you're going to need some transport - and you'll need it in St Pete's cos your ship's dock is outside the city centre, way too big for the city centre berth on the River Neva mentioned by Nigella.

So perhaps think of the day/s - and evening - as being as free to do anything you can do in any other city with a tour driver/guide. Probably just as expensive too for just two of you, but if you don't ask you'll never know. ;)

 

If you're still considering the visa route can I suggest you contact a visa agency, quote your sailing date & ask whether the time-scale is problematic. It might be.

 

Edited to add: BTW, you asked about all ports but this thread is understandably dominated by St Pete's. Plenty of info on this forum about the other ports, but in a nutshell they can all be explored cheaply & independently.

So expect to spend most of your shore budget on St Pete's - you won't regret it.

 

And do check your times in port - MSC does tend to stay in port for shorter hours than most cruise ships - it's the Italian way.

 

JB :)

Edited by John Bull
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Paul

 

I think you have been given all the correct info and more.

 

Ships stay in St Petersburg overnight because it is considered the 'jewel' of the cruise and most wish they had 3 days there instead of two. Several of the places people want to experience, like Peterhoff and Catherine's Palace are about an hour out of the city, so seeing them takes a good part of one day. Then you have the churches, the museums, maybe a train ride, a canal tour and you will see there aren't enough hours in the day to see everything.

 

For most people this is a once in a lifetime visit, so they want to see it all.

 

Again, it is not impossible to secure a regular visa on your own, but as you have been forewarned, St Petersburg is pretty spread out, very, very little English is spoken, no street signs are in English and even the taxi drivers won't understand you.

 

With enough money, you can get any of the well known private tour companies to do what you want. You want a night out, they will take you where you want to go, and escort you back to the ship, and leave you alone for the rest of the night. As long as they know where you are. They are responsible for you if you are under their temporary visa and they could get into big trouble if you were out on your own and happen to get into trouble.

 

Believe me, these private tour companies know what they are doing. You will never have more than maybe 16 people on any tour, and you can go with as little as just yourselves or another couple or two. They get you into most venues without waiting on line, they take care of all fees for any place that they take you too. Believe me, it IS the way to see St Petersburg.

 

If you do decide to use a tour operator, contact all the major players and explain what you want to do and see which one will offer you the best possibilities and see which one you feel the most comfortable with. Don't just settle on one because several people say that they used that one and they were great.

 

Just figure the money you will save by doing all the other ports on your own, can be put towards whatever you want to do in St Petersburg.

 

Cheers

 

Len

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