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Duchess1738

Want to see St Petersburg

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Has anyone sailed on the Nautica's 10 day Stockholm to London cruise? We are thinking about Sept 2019  PH1 class. Have sailed once before on Riveria on a Christmas Cruise to eastern caribbean. If so how were the shore excursions and if you do the Hermitage is there a lot of stair climbing involved?

thanks  

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That’s a lot of questions all irrationally thrown together. So I’ll answer the basic one. The Hermitage is one of the greatest museums in the world. It does have about four floors of wide sweeping stairways with incredible art work that entrances you as you walk up each one. 

 

If you can’t do the stairways it’s probably not for you. The place is always crowded and the multiple long chambers of incredible art will provide almost no where to sit along the way because of the crowds. We were there and mesmerized for about three hours. However, I don’t remember ever having an opportunity to sit as we trekked up and down the staircases and along the galleries. There was the occasional seatplace, but good look with the crowd and the pace of your tour guide in ever using it! The crowds are such that not losing your tour guide becomes a challenge and your tour guide doesn’t have rest stops built into the schedule.

 

 

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Nautica is  a smaller ship so be warned the cabins/bathrooms are smaller also

for SPB look into some of the private tour companies like SPB-TOURS, ALLA

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Would recommend Alla Tours for St Petersburg. Small group tours about 14 people.  A person on our tour was in a wheelchair and had no major problems at the Hermitage

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I haveuse TJ Travel twice. I even add the new malls in after art and churches

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8 hours ago, Dp42wl said:

Would recommend Alla Tours for St Petersburg. Small group tours about 14 people.  A person on our tour was in a wheelchair and had no major problems at the Hermitage

+1 👍 Excellent company ...

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There is one small elevator in the Hermitage.  We used Alla last summer and our guide took us to the elevator, as my husband was using a walker.  He still had to do some steps near the entrance; but people were very nice and carried his walker for him.  Whether you have mobility challenges or not, the Hermitage is exhausting and crowded.

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10 hours ago, Dp42wl said:

Would recommend Alla Tours for St Petersburg. Small group tours about 14 people.  A person on our tour was in a wheelchair and had no major problems at the Hermitage

Or use Alla, or another private company to form a smaller group of like minded travelers.   We signed up for a roll call tour that was originally for a group of 8.  Two did not show, but we happily contributed more. A group of 6 was ideal for our active group....we grabbed a quick lunch to extend the Hermitage. A group of 4 or 6 might be ideal for you to go the other way, to slow it down.  Find another couple, or two,  on your roll call and use one of the private companies to design a perfect excursion.

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18 hours ago, Duchess1738 said:

Has anyone sailed on the Nautica's 10 day Stockholm to London cruise? We are thinking about Sept 2019  PH1 class. Have sailed once before on Riveria on a Christmas Cruise to eastern caribbean. If so how were the shore excursions and if you do the Hermitage is there a lot of stair climbing involved?

thanks  

 

Whenever we arrange a private shore excursion, we let the organizer/guide know in advance that we'll want to take it slow, or look for places to rest, especially if it's a walking-intensive tour.  Giving them advance notice allows them to think through the best way to organize it, to allow for stops/resting, or even to avoid missing out on the "regular" last stop if it's special, because you ran out of time.


We sometimes also work with the guide to customize, so we spend more time at "a" and less time at "b" (or add x, and not see b at all), etc.

 

GC

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If ST. Petersburg is really important to you, I would recommend sailing on the Marina for one of the cruises that spends 3 days in St. Petersburg vs. the Nautica sailings which have only 2 port days.  You will not be able to see everything there is to see in St. Petersburg in just 2 days. It would be a 12 or 14 day cruise vs. 10 day.  

 

Then I would use private tour companies as mentioned above, SPB Tours, Alla Tours, Red October, TJ Travel etc.  The first 2 of these companies offer tour packages with discounts add other ports (multiport discounts)- Stockholm, Helsinki, Berlin, etc.  The tour groups are smaller than ships tours, less expensive and often have early entry into the main sights.  They will also provide a "visa" for you even though Oceania and other shipping companies state you will have difficulties if you don't use ships tours that provide a "visa."  The tour companies will send you an email with something similar to an airline boarding pass that you will use to clear Russian customs and immigration. 

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Visiting StP and most places in Russia is different from most of the rest of the world. Unless you go through the process and obtain your own visa, you are on the tour company’s permit. Rules, you stay together as a group. If one of the Group goes to the bathroom, you all go to the bathroom! There is no wandering off from your group and looking at something and meeting back up else. If one of your Group is slow, the entire group is slow. When you go into a restaurant for a meal, you all go in together, stay there , and leave together.

 

During peak season, unless some special arrangement are pre made the tour guides work on time slots inside of heavily toured areas such as Petershof, Mariahof, and the Hermitage. You may be able to linger longer on the grounds and in the gardens, but not inside the facility typically. They may be less strict during shoulder months. Otherwise, the tour guides know when they can enter and when they have to be out.

 

I concur with the comments on going in on the Marina and having 3 full days in St Pete! Wonderful visit, but there are lots of rules many tourists are accustomed to!

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Thanks Everyone for the replies! Its given us a lot to ponder over not just about Tours but also about the choice of ship!

 

Kris

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If you are in SPB on a Monday and have arranged a tour with ALLA or SPB Tours, go to the Hermitage on Monday as it is closed to the public but open for groups. We were there virtually alone - what a difference that made!

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On 10/28/2018 at 7:02 AM, Dp42wl said:

Would recommend Alla Tours for St Petersburg. Small group tours about 14 people.  A person on our tour was in a wheelchair and had no major problems at the Hermitage

Used Alla twice in SPB.  One for 6 people and the second for 4 people. For 3 days.   They were wonderful.  Complete custom tour the way we wanted it.   Can not go wrong with them.   

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17 hours ago, pinotlover said:

Visiting StP and most places in Russia is different from most of the rest of the world. Unless you go through the process and obtain your own visa, you are on the tour company’s permit. Rules, you stay together as a group. If one of the Group goes to the bathroom, you all go to the bathroom! There is no wandering off from your group and looking at something and meeting back up else. If one of your Group is slow, the entire group is slow. When you go into a restaurant for a meal, you all go in together, stay there , and leave together.

 

During peak season, unless some special arrangement are pre made the tour guides work on time slots inside of heavily toured areas such as Petershof, Mariahof, and the Hermitage. You may be able to linger longer on the grounds and in the gardens, but not inside the facility typically. They may be less strict during shoulder months. Otherwise, the tour guides know when they can enter and when they have to be out.

 

I concur with the comments on going in on the Marina and having 3 full days in St Pete! Wonderful visit, but there are lots of rules many tourists are accustomed to!

 

We toured with SPB tours and had none of the "group has to stay close together" rules....there were 10 of us and obviously no one wandered away, but the guide never said anything about having to "stay close together." We were there in July...not shoulder season. We got to go to restrooms alone, as needed. And the company took care of getting our Russian visas....nice.  We customized our 2 day tour and it was fantastic!

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we went many years ago 2003 when the rules were stricter  

we did a ship's tour 

even then we  did  not all have to go to the washroom with others or  stick close  like glue

some people did wander in the market alone   you just had to stay in the general area  & be back on the bus on time ..

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Likewise...  on our trips to St Petersburg in 2013 and again this year, we didn't experience quite the restrictions which pinotlover mentioned.  We were able to walk around on our own during a few moments of "free time" here and there, but with the rigorous schedule which we were following, there simply were not too many opportunities for that.

 

Echoing others' recommendations...  go with one of the well-known, frequently mentioned agencies (such as SPB, Alla, TJ, etc.) and you'll be well served.

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19 hours ago, pinotlover said:

Visiting StP and most places in Russia is different from most of the rest of the world. Unless you go through the process and obtain your own visa, you are on the tour company’s permit. Rules, you stay together as a group. If one of the Group goes to the bathroom, you all go to the bathroom! There is no wandering off from your group and looking at something and meeting back up else. If one of your Group is slow, the entire group is slow. When you go into a restaurant for a meal, you all go in together, stay there , and leave together.

 

Lots of exaggeration here. Each private tour company has a slightly different interpretation of what you have posted and even different tour guides within the same company interpret the rules slightly differently. Fact: Many private tour companies will allow clients to have independent time that varies from 30 minutes in a limited diameter away from a central meet-up point. Some allow as much as 3-4 hours of independent time. (Princess even sells an excursions titled something along the lines of Nevsky Prospekt on your Own.) 

 

The take away message is that cruisers need to make their needs and expectations known when you deal with any private tour company. 

 

OP, since you have some concerns about stairs or stamina in the Hermitage, look for a tour that meets your needs. Alla offers a tour titled "Comfort Tour" but the well-regarded companies. (TJ Tours, SPB, White Nights, etc.) typically have an existing easy-pace tour.

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Alla Tours absolutely fantastic.  We had them for three days (Marina 11 day cruise) and my husband has limited stamina.  He had a cane/seat contraption that he was able to take into all attractions which enabled him to sit down while listening to presentations from the guide.  Elevators were often found for him as well.  

 

Having the same guide, driver and Mercedes mini van made for an extremely intimate and educational trip.  An excursion to the Ballet one evening for just a few of us was also well done.

 

We did have limited free time:  30 minutes after a lunch stop; an excursion into a supermarket; lunch at a lovely restaurant but were able to split the seating (one large table inside and a 4-top on the patio, etc)

Edited by newbie60

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I believe TJ Tours, Allan Tours and SPB Tours are the top 3 providers.  We went with TJ this past August.  The tours were fantastic - everything was perfectly timed.  The guide spoke perfect English with loads of information.  We were all given headsets so that we can hear her well even in the crowds.  It was extremely busy on the first day when 6 ships were in port.  Our TJ guide said they had 90 tours running on that day!  The BIGGEST advantage of using the top companies is they have early entrance and "by pass the line" privileges.  We walked right into Catherines' Palace side entrance when there was a 3 hours line outside!   We saw Celebrity Cruise tours in the 3 hours line!  Smaller companies also may not have the same clout.  In fact we heard from our fellow cruise passengers that SPB lost their side entrance privilege for at least a couple of their tours on the same day we were there and they had to skip going to Catherine's Palace!  Those passengers were not happy when they found out we just waltz through.  

 

Alla also offers a one day 6 AM to midnight tour to Moscow.

 

Re: TJ.  If you tell them you are part of Cruise Critic you will get a significant discount.  

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2 hours ago, ebslcc said:

I believe TJ Tours, Allan Tours and SPB Tours are the top 3 providers. 

 

The notion of the top tour providers is a tricky one. Anyone reading the Northern Europe/Baltic Port of Call board long enough will learn that there have been times when the top tour providers proved to be less flexible than the next tier of well-regarded but popular tour companies. The top providers know they will book up their tours by doing nothing more than exactly what they've been doing -- providing a reliable and memorable visit to St Petersburg. However, if you're traveling with children or someone with limited stamina/mobility, you'll want to investigate companies like Best Guides or White Nights. These have a reputation of being willing to be somewhat more willing to do slight customization.

 

Even for able bodied cruisers who are making their first visit to St. Petersburg and want to do the standard itinerary, there are slight differences among tour companies. Some include shopping time. Some include a sit down lunch from a set menu. Some include a light, on-the-go lunch. Some visit Peterhof via bus both ways; others visit via a combination of bus and hydrfoil. Some itineraries include a bit more exposure to the life lived by ordinary St. Petersburg citizens. Some companies are better with children.

 

If cruisers read the Port of Call board, contact several licensed tour providers, and carefully explain any unique needs and concerns, everyone ought to end up with a fantastic visit to St. Petersburg.

 

 

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16 hours ago, ebslcc said:

In fact we heard from our fellow cruise passengers that SPB lost their side entrance privilege for at least a couple of their tours on the same day we were there and they had to skip going to Catherine's Palace!  Those passengers were not happy when they found out we just waltz through.  

 

 

 

We were with SPB and got to go in the side door/short line.  They also customized our tour as our group requested going to a beautiful synagogue and to a lovely shop with stacking dolls and Christmas ornaments.  We were allowed to walk around on our own without staying all close together.

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St Petersburg berth. R ship.

 

When Oceania takes an 'R' ship there, does it dock at the main dock out of town a bit , Marine Facade; or  does it sometimes dock downtown at English Embankment ?

Edited by Tranquility Base

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36 minutes ago, Tranquility Base said:

St Petersburg berth. R ship.

 

When Oceania takes an 'R' ship there, does it dock at the main dock out of town a bit , Marine Facade; or  does it sometimes dock downtown at English Embankment ?

We were at the English Embarkment on Nautica but it was in 2006 and Marine Facade on Marina more recently.

I guess it depends on docking availability and who else (how many other ships) is in SPB during that time.

Edited by Paulchili

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Main docks, not downtown 

We were there last July

Edited by Sny

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