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St Petersburg With A Child

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We’re doing a Baltic cruise with Celebrity next June. We’re looking at potential half day tours of St Petersburg with a 4 year old (not sure she’ll last a full day away from the ship!). Any suggestions? 

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I'd look at doing a private tour(s.)  You'll have full control of when to stop for a break or go back to the ship.  You may even be able to do a mid day break then go out again in the evening.  

 

It will be less pricy if you can find someone to split it with, or depending on how many people are in your travel group, it may price out just over what a ship's tour would cost.  Either way, unless you plan on going back to SPB in the future, it might be worth the money to be able to see as much as you can.

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3 hours ago, ljandgb said:

I'd look at doing a private tour(s.)  You'll have full control of when to stop for a break or go back to the ship.  You may even be able to do a mid day break then go out again in the evening.  

 

It will be less pricy if you can find someone to split it with, or depending on how many people are in your travel group, it may price out just over what a ship's tour would cost.  Either way, unless you plan on going back to SPB in the future, it might be worth the money to be able to see as much as you can.

Thank you for this. Which tour groups would you recommend looking at? 

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We took our 3 year old on a Baltic cruise, and he absolutely loved it.  There are lots of details on our excursions (which were all independent, except for St. Petersburg) in my review which you can view from my signature line below this post.

 

I would agree with ljandgb that you need to look at private tours for just your family to maximize your ability to keep your preschooler happy and therefore be able to tour longer.  On our private tour we were able to stop whenever my son got whiny or hungry and feed him, which cheered him up immediately and averted meltdowns.  We stayed longer at places he enjoyed (the subway ride, Peterhof, canal cruise) and skipped the less important parts of other palaces (for example Catherine's Palace has amazing rooms in the beginning and the amber room in the end, but the middle tends to get repetitive and skipping through that was fine with us).  

 

In the Hermitage, there is an internet cafe.  Our son spent 45 minutes happily looking at the art, and then he was done.  We had researched the type of art we wanted to see ahead of time, and saw the Renaissance art for me first, so I was able to sit with my son and feed him a pastry while my husband looked at the Impressionists.  

 

With all of the breaks, my 3 year old actually was able to see everything on a standard tour in the two days we were in St. Petersburg, and he considers st. Petersburg to be one of his three favorite cities, along with Stockholm and NY.

 

Stolle has very good sweet and savory pies, and is very fast.  They are a great place for lunch with a child.  

 

I'd recommend pricing out a private tour for two full days.  Our backup plan was to leave our son in the kids club if he couldn't handle touring, but thankfully that never happened.  If you are on a two day private tour, you can take your child back to the kids club at any time she has hit her limit, and then the parents can continue to tour.  If you do choose to book only a half day tour, then just view pictures of all the major sites to choose what is most important to you to see.  

 

Also, many ships have Tallinn as the day before St. Petersburg.  Tallinn is beautiful, but includes a ton of walking, and you need to conserve your energy so your kids don't get tired after walking all day in Tallinn and then again in St. Petersburg (there was a family review of their baltic cruise in which the kids were exhausted and refused to go on day 2 touring of st. Petersburg.  And then the mom was scared of leaving the kids alone on the ship, so only the dad got to see the second day of St. Petersburg).  In order to minimize exhaustion in Tallinn, take a cab to the top of Toompea Hill and either walk down or take a pedicab ride through the amazing old Town.  There's a cute tourist train that was actually a nice ride even for the parents and winds its way through the charming cobblestone streets.  

 

I didn't discover Best Guides prior  to my cruise (I booked at the last minute 6 weeks prior to sailing) and I'd agree that families on these boards were very happy with them.  Here's their children's page, which might give you and idea of your options with kids even if you choose a different company.  https://www.bestguides-spb.com/children-page.html  Also, the other thing I didn't know about ahead of time and is therefore missing from my review is that in Helsinki there are tours available in which you can meet reindeer.  I obviously cannot vouch for the quality of these tours, but its something to consider along with what my family actually did that is located in my review.  This is actually a great trip to take young children on, and I hope your family has a wonderful time.  My oldest son has been asking to do this cruise again, since I was pregnant with my middle child while we were on   this cruise and he wants his brother to see St. Petersburg.

 

Please also check with your tour provider, as the ships are now allowed by Russian authorities to let ship tours off first in St. Petersburg.  People on independent tours may be required to wait until all the tour groups disembark prior to being let off the ship.  You should check with your tour provider about what time would be useful to meet to avoid standing on line (some tours are willing to start day 1 later, and day 2 earlier to miss lines at customs).  Obviously if you are only doing 1/2 day it would also be easy to avoid lines.

Edited by kitkat343

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We used TJ tours for a private family tour.  No littles, but a bored 11yo and grandparents.  We were able to customize it to add a cat cafe for my daughter and a spontaneous ice cream and coffee stop when we were all flagging.  I found the entire experience, from emailing them beforehand to the tour itself exemplary.

 

We did a DCL sponsored reindeer excursion in Helsinki.  I loved it.  It was an hour drive out to a reindeer sanctuary.  They we were able to get up close and personal to them, while feeding them big blobs of moss (their preferred food.)  There were some trails for running around and swings for the kids afterwards.

 

 

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We took our 3yr old on a Baltic cruise, he's quite active. so we contacted a couple of tour operators to come up with a single day itinerary for our family that would be suitable. All came back straight away with some great ideas. My wife wanted to visit the Bronze Horseman and they incorporated that into the trip for us. it was Just the 3 of us so we had a people carrier complete with child seat to ourselves. We chose to avoid things that would involve lots of queuing so didn't go to the Hermitage. We went to the winter palace, Winter gardens, st Katherines, did the outside of a few bits, went to a park and enjoyed a playground then went to Peterhoff to see the fountains. we had lunch there and then rode the Hydrofoil back into town. Having the guide to ourselves meant that we could leave when the little one got bored, or take a walk when he needed a nap and I would thoroughly recommend it. it cost about the same as a ships excursion and cut out all the waiting about that you get with large groups. Lunch at Peterhoff was particularly good.

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Though this is more of a boy thing, we had our private tour (with SPB) go to the Varshavsky Train Museum (outdoor).  We had a 3 (almost 4 year old) son with us.  I'm no train nerd, but this place was amazing.  Probably the only chance I'll get to see a missile launcher close up.

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Thanks for all the responses.  They've been really useful, especially considering Celebrity's excursion list doesn't toook very child friendly.  Only just joined this forum but it looks like a brilliant way for cruisers to interact. 

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4 years in my opinion is too early for any tours. I'm in correspondence with Best Guides concerning my tours  and they told me  the minimum age for child friendly tours is five. I guess they're right....

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21 hours ago, maddocfamilyu said:

4 years in my opinion is too early for any tours. I'm in correspondence with Best Guides concerning my tours  and they told me  the minimum age for child friendly tours is five. I guess they're right....

 

But any tour company can put together a 'child friendly' itinerary?

 

 

Edited by OzCanuck

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I would pick one thing, SP is big , focus on that. I would guess that getting to and from the peter hof palace is more than 1/2 day.

schedule a tour of that one site , maybe get back on this site and try to put together a tour with other families full or multi day.  There were kids and families on our ship they were on tours, sometimes the kids stayed on the bus ( with a family member) and the other family members toured. ( we crossed paths with the tours several times) . 

or pick something like a hop on hop off tour ( motor coach drive by tour) that my give a lot of bang for your buck .  

we toured SP independently - It is not as difficult as people have you believe. we are a family of 7 ( 5 kids) It is a lot of walking maybe consider this . only problem is the distance from the ship to city center - we used bus and  underground. 

while waiting crew members were also waiting . they had knowledge of the area , and helped us navigate from the ship to city center. 

 

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The hydrofoil to Peterhof is approx. 45 min.  The van ride back, maybe an hour?  So depending on how long you stay, it's really not more than a half day.  There are few buildings to go in, as the main building is unfurnished, and I believe not fully reconstructed still from WW2.  The fountains would be fun for a little kid, and it would be a good chance to let him run and stretch his legs.

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On 11/7/2018 at 8:05 PM, OzCanuck said:

 

But any tour company can put together a 'child friendly' itinerary? 

 

 

 

We were in St. Petersburg in summer. We were in a small group of 8. My sons were 9 and 10. The tours were really great and the boys enjoed them, but they were really tired at the end. For younger kids I would suggest  shorter days.

Some ideas for families with small kids:

 Cat republic cafe

Petrovskaya aquatoria

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I’d do a private tour and be sure to include the Grand Maket...it will be enthralling for a 4 y/o and adults alike. My kids are older, but you can read my trip report in my link

 

Peterhof fountains would also be fun for a small child...bring extra clothes!

Edited by KittyloverCA

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I agree with the cruisers above. I would look at doing a private tour.  Pick one like Anastasia's Travel that will allow you to customize your day to fit your child's needs. They are really great at understanding your needs and setting up your day to fit your family.

Also, my children have been cruising and port hopping since they were 9 months old. I don't think 4 is too young. You know your child, so listen and look for her queues for when she gets tired and cranky. And bring some snacks for her. You'll be amazed at what a wonderful time she will have. 

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A private tour with a small kid is really the best idea. You can work out a relaxed itinerary and include things that would keep your daughter interested. Peterhoff is really a great place for kids, they love playing with trick fountains (that's why the above tip about the extra clothes!). I would not probably recommend trying to visit any palaces there, as the gardens with fountains are stunning and enjoyable for both kids and adults.

In the Hermitage, kids usually like the throne interiors and the Peacock Clock. As for art, I agree with posters who say that you should determine your interests beforehand and focus on them, so your guide can take you straight there without hours of wandering through the halls.

Grand Maket and Petrovskaya Akvatoria are cool places for kids. They are basically interactive models of Russia and historic St Petersburg. You can press the buttons and see little scenes of fishing, street concerts, festivals, firefighting... Kids love it. Akvatoria is more central than Grand Maket.
There is also a chance to arrange a cooking class or Matryoshka painting class. With a 4y.o. Matryoshkas would probably be better. She will make her own piece of art!

In Tallinn, there are Marzipan workshops, which are also very cool, so you may consider this if you have enough time.

In Helsinki, there is a great place called Winter Wonderland. where you meet husky dogs, may have a ride and go to an Ice bar for a juice or a cocktail.

There are lots of options. Good luck with planning!

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I agree a private tour will be the best choice for a 4 y.o. Moreover when you travel with a kid under 5 many companies wouldn't even allow you to join a group tour. IMHO they're absolutely right.

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12 hours ago, cansas.piligrim said:

I agree a private tour will be the best choice for a 4 y.o. Moreover when you travel with a kid under 5 many companies wouldn't even allow you to join a group tour. IMHO they're absolutely right.

The good thing about tour companies is that if they DO take small kids on tours (I mean private tours), they sometimes do not charge anything for the kids under 5 or 7, and they go for free!

Edited by Lagerta

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22 hours ago, cansas.piligrim said:

I agree a private tour will be the best choice for a 4 y.o. Moreover when you travel with a kid under 5 many companies wouldn't even allow you to join a group tour. IMHO they're absolutely right.

 

Hmmm... 14 cruises with our 15 month-7 year old, and probably 30-40 tours.  Never had a tour that wouldn't take us and him.  I mean, if we did a ziplining tour that would probably have age limitations, but sightseeing?  Never... 

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1 hour ago, OzCanuck said:

 

Hmmm... 14 cruises with our 15 month-7 year old, and probably 30-40 tours.  Never had a tour that wouldn't take us and him.  I mean, if we did a ziplining tour that would probably have age limitations, but sightseeing?  Never... 

Yes, some Baltic tour operators do not allow small children on many of their group tours. Honestly, I cannot conceive of a very young child keeping pace with and managing the very long days of the more active St. Petersburg group tours - 9 hour days would be, IMHO, pure torture for such a youngster. Private tour options are always available.  Usually, the group tour cut-off is around 3 - 4 years old. 

Young children are usually not even allowed on most river cruises - probably because these cruises are designed primarily for a more mature crowd and there are no amenities available for younger children.

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20 hours ago, Lagerta said:

The good thing about tour companies is that if they DO take small kids on tours (I mean private tours), they sometimes do not charge anything for the kids under 5 or 7, and they go for free!

As I know museums offer free admission for kids. I guess in Russis all kids under 7 will have free admission to all the museums.

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2 hours ago, Sea,Sun&Sail said:

As I know museums offer free admission for kids. I guess in Russis all kids under 7 will have free admission to all the museums.

That's right, but apart from the adission to the museums the kids are not charged for other services like guides and transport. Also, some companies give car seats for free.

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"I agree a private tour will be the best choice for a 4 y.o. Moreover when you travel with a kid under 5 many companies wouldn't even allow you to join a group tour. IMHO they're absolutely right."

 

We have traveled with our very young children to the Baltics, plus Norway and Cartagena.  And they have enjoyed their tours, which included visiting all of the major museums and highlights of St. Petersburg.  But I have tried to avoid group tours for young children for two reasons - if I control the itinerary, I have a much better chance of being able to create a tour my children (and thus everyone else) can enjoy and I don't want to subject other people to meltdowns if my children hit their limit.  And that happened once on the only group tour I ever booked - which I absolutely didn't want to take, but the Panama Canal Authority doesn't let you off the ship unless you have a ship tour booked in Colon, Panama.  My kid melted down on a small boat tour through Princess cruises and it was a nightmare.  I had thought about not getting on the boat (I only wanted the second part of the tour, where we get to see the canal locks) but was worried we'd get lost if we let the tour go ahead without us.  The tour was a disaster even without my kid - it was an ecotour with no wildlife, but my son didn't help the experience for anyone.

 

And my concern about children ruining excursions stemmed from a cruise I took to Alaska when I was pregnant with my first child.  I researched the helicopters to dogsled excursion, and one of the reviews was from a passenger whose helicopter ride was ruined because a kid next to him got scared and screamed the whole time.  At the end of my tour, I noticed a woman reunite with her husband.  I had read reviews of families being separated, and asked if that had happened to her since I was wondering how often they separated groups (the helicopters are carefully loaded by weight to balance the helicopter).  She explained that she had cancer, and they couldn't afford for her husband to go with her.  I remembered the review of the screaming kid and have tried to do everything I can to ensure that my kids don't ruin someone's once in a lifetime vacation.  And St. Petersburg is really a bucket trip for most cruisers, so even if they are willing to let you join a group tour please be pretty certain your kids wouldn't ruin anyone else's experience prior to doing so. 

 

 

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Honestly SPB is so special it’s worth the splurge to have a private tour. That way you can schedule a couple of kid friendly activities (grand Maket!). Even with a private tour our guide kept us moving all the time.

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kitkat343, this is very responsible of you to think about other people and do your best not to riun their tours by the needs of the small kids. This is definitely one of the reasons why a private tour is the best option for families with small children. Everyone enjoys the tour, the kids are entertained, their needs are satisfied quickly and you never feel guilty for your decision to travel with kids. And after the tour the kids will have good memories. Maybe they look at the photos some years later and recall some of the impressions, which is priceless.

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