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Any thoughts on my Best Guides St. Petersburg itinerary?


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I’m going on my very first cruise this year (and first trip to Europe) and will visit several ports on the Baltic Sea.  St. Petersburg is the super-highlight of the trip for us, so it’s important that we to do it right.  Thanks to all the helpful reviews/posts on Cruise Critic I knew that a private tour company was clearly the way to go, and I’ve just about completed booking a customized private tour with Best Guides.

 

I’ve never been on an all-day/multi-day guided tour before, so I’m wondering if anyone with experience in St. Petersburg (especially with Best Guides specifically) has any thoughts/advice/opinions to share on our itinerary (tour is in early May):

Day 1: Peterhof (park, fountains, lesser Imperial palace), metro ride, Catherine’s Palace and Amber Room, walking tour of Nevsky prospect, Faberge Museum

Day 2: Hermitage Museum (early entrance), Peter and Paul Fortress/Cathedral, canal boat ride, Church on Spilled Blood

Day 3: Yusupov’s Palace, St. Isaac’s Cathedral, Russian Museum

Also, each day starts with a driving tour.

 

As a side note, I’m impressed with Best Guides so far.  I’ll write a review after doing the actual tour (I hope the info will help future cruisers as much as you have all helped me).  For now, I’ll just say that their customer service is exemplary.  Natasha and I have emailed back and forth several times because I keep thinking of things to add/change/rearrange. Her replies are always quick and helpful, and she never has any problem adjusting the schedule.  Judging by the booking experience, I expect that the tour itself will be excellent!

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I used Best Guides last year and you will be very happy with them, they are wonderful.  We had previously (in 2015) used SPB and they were also great.  Last year we wanted to see specific things not on any tours listed and Best Guides was very accommodating in that respect. Funny how I want to go back and see some more.   Enjoy St Petersburg it's a wonderful place to visit, but wear some sun glasses you will be blinded by all the gold.     Linda

 

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22 minutes ago, Lovincruisin1321 said:

Red October.  Look at the reviews on Trip Advisor.  

 

I found them on this site and they were excellent.  Highly recommended!

thing is OP specifically said they are booking with Best Guides and asked for ideas on the itinerary

 

Red October were one of the first private tour companies but seem to have been superceded in popularity on these boards by newer companies which offer smaller passenger vans

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I see nothing of importance missing from that itinerary - lucky you for having three days :classic_smile: 

And the scheduling makes sense - distant places & heavy schedule on Day One, a more laid-back day close to the port on Day Three.

But like the other small-group local tour operators they are flexible - you might find the itinerary switched depending on the weather etc. 

 

Day One looks pretty packed - is Faberge in the evening?

If it isn't (or even if it is, cos you're in port for two evenings) do consider adding an evening option - popular ones are the ballet (but if you're an afficionado do carefully choose a good dance company) or the Folk Show (a bit cheesy with some audience participation but excellent and varied song & dance, well-performed by both singers and musicians, with a few belly-laughs).

Most tour operators offer other evening excursions too.

And ask if you can be driven back to the ship past the illuminated bridges.

 

BTW, Day One will be a late and slow start due to the immigration procedure - don't concern yourselves that it'll take big chunks out of your three days, the paperwork is done on Day One and subsequently the immigration lines are quick.

 

Best Guides has an excellent reputation.

But then so do all the other St Petersburg operators.

It's the only port where I'd feel confident even if I chose by sticking a pin on a list blindfolded.  :classic_smile:

 

JB :classic_smile:

 

 

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Thank you so much, everyone, for all the helpful feedback!  We chose this cruise itinerary mostly because of the three days in St. Petersburg, and we're determined to make the most of those days.  For that reason, we chose to do a private tour.  It sounds like we can expect an interesting, memorable, and fun adventure!

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On ‎3‎/‎20‎/‎2019 at 5:49 AM, DennStann said:

:classic_smile:I like this palace-focused itinerary. Is it a special interest tour?

 

I'd add the Rasputin exhibit at the Yusupov palace. Other than that, I think it's a good plan for a first-time visit. You'll see a lot. Enjoy your tour.

 

Thank you for your reply!

 

I let my travel partner choose the places.  She looked at preset must-see/best-of itineraries offered by different companies and watched some YouTube videos, and she came up with this list.  Best Guides got everything we asked for plus some in our itinerary!  I really like anything history-related, so I think I'll enjoy the palaces, too.

 

I just checked the itinerary emailed by the company, and the Rasputin exhibit is indeed included.  Yay!  It'll be nice to add some intrigue to the tour.  I've had a Rasputin book sitting unread on my shelf for a while; I guess now is a good time to dig in.

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On ‎3‎/‎20‎/‎2019 at 9:47 AM, zigdilcru said:

Last year we wanted to see specific things not on any tours listed and Best Guides was very accommodating in that respect. Funny how I want to go back and see some more.   

 

 

There's so much I want to see!!!  I couldn't fit even 10% of it into three days.  I keep having to tell myself that I'll probably have opportunities to go again if I really want to.  Otherwise, I'll have us going at such a quick pace that we won't enjoy ourselves.

 

On ‎3‎/‎20‎/‎2019 at 9:47 AM, zigdilcru said:

Enjoy St Petersburg it's a wonderful place to visit, but wear some sun glasses you will be blinded by all the gold.

 

 

😂😎

 

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On ‎3‎/‎22‎/‎2019 at 10:06 AM, cansas.piligrim said:

I was in St. Petersburg twice. The first visit was a similar 2 day tour with Best Guides. I enjoyed it and I did the private tour to see more next year. 

 

 

I'm so glad to hear all of the great experiences people have had with Best Guides, and even other St. Petersburg tour companies.  I was really nervous about booking a private tour because I have trust issues when it comes to businesses (especially ones I communicate with online only) and because something going wrong with the tour company could ruin the highlight port of the trip.  But I've heard virtually nothing but good things about the companies.  I'm now much more confident that it'll be wonderful, and I'm so excited for the tour!

 

On ‎3‎/‎22‎/‎2019 at 10:06 AM, cansas.piligrim said:

They offered me a fully individual itinerary and added a tour to Moscow for one day.

 

 

Ooooohh, Moscow for a day sounds great.  We thought about adding that, but my travel partner has some mobility issues.  From what I'm hearing, Moscow's highlights would be a little faster pace than St. Petersburg, so I'm saving it for another trip.

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On ‎3‎/‎23‎/‎2019 at 3:17 AM, John Bull said:

Day One looks pretty packed - is Faberge in the evening?

If it isn't (or even if it is, cos you're in port for two evenings) do consider adding an evening option - popular ones are the ballet (but if you're an afficionado do carefully choose a good dance company) or the Folk Show (a bit cheesy with some audience participation but excellent and varied song & dance, well-performed by both singers and musicians, with a few belly-laughs).

Most tour operators offer other evening excursions too.

 

 

Faberge will be 6:00-7:00, and then we'll return to the ship (scheduled to be back at 7:30).  Day 1 is longer and more packed than in earlier versions of our itinerary because we asked to return to the ship early on Day 2.  We've book an evening shore excursion for Day 2 with Viking.  We're going to the folk show, for which I have fairly high expectations.  I really enjoy cultural exchanges/experiences.  I'd prefer them to be less tourist-oriented, but I'm OK with it this time since not having our own visas limits our options.  Audience participation?  Oh, boy, I hope we won't be asked to bust a move because I'll ruin the show for everyone. 😅

 

On ‎3‎/‎23‎/‎2019 at 3:17 AM, John Bull said:

BTW, Day One will be a late and slow start due to the immigration procedure - don't concern yourselves that it'll take big chunks out of your three days, the paperwork is done on Day One and subsequently the immigration lines are quick.

 

Thank you for this very helpful information!  On Day 1, I had planned to wake up and get through immigration as early as possible, like the literal minute I'm allowed off the ship.  But now that I know Day 1 is going to be so long, I'm considering waiting until a more reasonable time and getting a little extra sleep.  We'll see how motivated I am that morning to get going, and I guess that will determine my choice.

 

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1 hour ago, Strode said:

 

Faberge will be 6:00-7:00, and then we'll return to the ship (scheduled to be back at 7:30).  Day 1 is longer and more packed than in earlier versions of our itinerary because we asked to return to the ship early on Day 2.  We've book an evening shore excursion for Day 2 with Viking.  We're going to the folk show, for which I have fairly high expectations.  I really enjoy cultural exchanges/experiences.  I'd prefer them to be less tourist-oriented, but I'm OK with it this time since not having our own visas limits our options.  Audience participation?  Oh, boy, I hope we won't be asked to bust a move because I'll ruin the show for everyone. 😅

 

 

Thank you for this very helpful information!  On Day 1, I had planned to wake up and get through immigration as early as possible, like the literal minute I'm allowed off the ship.  But now that I know Day 1 is going to be so long, I'm considering waiting until a more reasonable time and getting a little extra sleep.  We'll see how motivated I am that morning to get going, and I guess that will determine my choice.

 

 

 

Folk Show is fun.

We got there early and chose to sit in the middle of the second row.

Front row is asking for trouble :classic_biggrin: but near the front makes a lot of sense 

 

When we arrived we weren't too sure how good it would be - it's in a grand but dilapidated palace, in a room with just dining chairs rather than theatre-style seats and the "stage" was just a raised dais.

And yes,, it's for tourists.

But it turned out to be excellent - great music, skilful dancers, good costumes, various dances incl cossack.

Humour a mix of subtle and belly-splitting - the belly-splitting provided by those who were hauled onto the stage to be partnered by the performers, but that's only a small proportion of the show.

Plenty of snippets on YouTube.

Do eat before you go, don't rely on the meagre interlude snacks.

 

Day One.

Hopefully Best Guides have told you that priority disembarkation will be given to those on ships' tours - that's a new arrangement which was introduced a year or two ago, and since our visit.

All parties have had time & experience to sort out the wrinkles in the system, and hopefully it just means that your disembarkation and tour start time will be an hour later than our 8am.

 

JB :classic_smile:

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8 hours ago, Strode said:

 

Faberge will be 6:00-7:00, and then we'll return to the ship (scheduled to be back at 7:30).  Day 1 is longer and more packed than in earlier versions of our itinerary because we asked to return to the ship early on Day 2.  We've book an evening shore excursion for Day 2 with Viking.  We're going to the folk show, for which I have fairly high expectations.  I really enjoy cultural exchanges/experiences.  I'd prefer them to be less tourist-oriented, but I'm OK with it this time since not having our own visas limits our options.  Audience participation?  Oh, boy, I hope we won't be asked to bust a move because I'll ruin the show for everyone. 😅

 

 

Thank you for this very helpful information!  On Day 1, I had planned to wake up and get through immigration as early as possible, like the literal minute I'm allowed off the ship.  But now that I know Day 1 is going to be so long, I'm considering waiting until a more reasonable time and getting a little extra sleep.  We'll see how motivated I am that morning to get going, and I guess that will determine my choice.

 

as John Bull noted ships excursions now have priority and private passengers cant get off till they have left

for our trip last year this was enforced by guiding passengers in groups through the Theatre so no short cuts

as a result we were at immigration at peak time with very slow lines-took over an hour to get through

 

do yourselves a favour and arrange a later time to meet your tour guide once lines have died down around 10am

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  • 2 weeks later...

You should ask that question of your travel guide. When we used Anastasia's Travel, we asked them that question. By the time we got a basic itinerary ironed out, they knew our likes and dislikes, and were able to recommend a few adjustments to the schedule to fit exactly what we were looking for! 

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  • 2 weeks later...

Very excited about upcoming trip to St. Petersburg and Moscow.  Best Guides Group has done a wonderful job in arranging for day trips!  They have taken care of everything and are so professional and delightful to work with!  Also, very responsive and never seem to tire of our many questions.  Know it will be an experience of a life time!  Will post again following our cruise.

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  • 1 month later...

We’ve booked a one day tour of St Petersburg through Best Guides for our Baltic cruise next week. I can’t speak highly enough of how helpful they’ve been. We’re travelling with our 4 year old and they’ve come up with a tour tailored to her needs. Kids that age have a short attention span and might not be able to last a full two day tour but Best Guides have produced something that sounds  perfect. All the main sights in one day with an emphasis on child friendly attractions. They’ve also answered all our questions brilliantly. As it’s our 1st time in Russia we’ve had a few! I’ll post a review when we get back. We’re all really looking forward to what we think will be an amazing trip!

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Our family, two adults and two teenagers, used Best Guides for a two-day stop and they were great. Our two days were very similar to your first two days.  Elaina (sp?), a former teacher, was our day guide and she was great.  She was very knowledgeable and was amazing at getting us through the crowds with ease.  She just talked to the employees of the various attractions and we were ushered to the front.  I really enjoyed her perspective of old and new Russia. Our evening guide for the one night (we did the folk show - very good) was Irenea (sp?) and she was great too.  The tour size was just right - we had a van with three families (9 people).  Enjoy!

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  • 2 months later...

We just booked a tour of St Petersburg with Best Guides Group for our group.  Of the many tours we compared, we found the itinerary by Best Guides Group for the 2 days tour comprehensive, balanced and competitively priced.  There is something for everyone in the group to enjoy.  Communication and responses from the company was prompt and professional.  It was a pleasure connecting with this company.

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On 3/22/2019 at 4:39 PM, fabnfortysomething said:

thing is OP specifically said they are booking with Best Guides and asked for ideas on the itinerary

 

Red October were one of the first private tour companies but seem to have been superceded in popularity on these boards by newer companies which offer smaller passenger vans

Red October had small vans.  Only 12 persons to a van.  

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Our cruise ship would dock at St. Petersburg for two nights and so we plan to do shore excursions to see this beautiful city. Since we have ten people in our group, we decided to look for a tour company that could take us around. We found Best Guides and decided to give it a try. We received a response from Natasha Zykova quite quickly, giving us a very detailed and elaborate itinerary. Natasha was highly professional and acceded our many requests promptly. She was also very assuring and helpful. We are so excited and are looking forward to this tour. The biggest advantage of booking Best Guides is that they only collect payment on the day of the tour. This is quite comforting since we are on a cruise and sometimes the itinerary could change due to bad weather or unforeseen circumstances. I would highly recommend Best Guides for those who are looking for a goo tour operator in St. Petersburg.

 

 

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On 3/25/2019 at 7:13 PM, Strode said:

Ooooohh, Moscow for a day sounds great.  We thought about adding that, but my travel partner has some mobility issues.  From what I'm hearing, Moscow's highlights would be a little faster pace than St. Petersburg, so I'm saving it for another trip.

Wise decision, IMHO. Moscow deserves more that a day trip - you spend a good portion of your day on the train to/from Moscow. There is so much so see in St. Petersburg that week just scratches the surface!

Best Guides, like the other popular independent companies in StP, receives excellent ratings on Cruise Critic & TripAdvisor - put your worries to rest and enjoy your wonderful Baltic itinerary.

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