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clbkatz

2 day Tour with Celebrity in St. Petersburg, Russia

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Ok you all have convinced me. I am for sure going to do a private tour now! I googled SPB tours and two websites come up. Can anyone tell me the right website for the right SPB tour company everyone is using. I see spb-tours.com and spbtours.com. Thank you all for your input, it really helped me and I am looking forward to my time in Russia so much more now!

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Posted (edited)
1 hour ago, clbkatz said:

Ok you all have convinced me. I am for sure going to do a private tour now! I googled SPB tours and two websites come up. Can anyone tell me the right website for the right SPB tour company everyone is using. I see spb-tours.com and spbtours.com. Thank you all for your input, it really helped me and I am looking forward to my time in Russia so much more now!

 

Interesting -- I was not aware of the two different websites and now I am wondering if they are even the same company. 

But the one we used was definitely the company that has the spb-tours website.

They have a contact form at

 

     https://spb-tours.com/index.php?pageid=7

 

If you scroll down on that page, it has a picture of Viktoria, one of the owners of the company, who is   the person with whom we corresponded.  She was very helpful and promptly answered all our questions.

I would suggest that you fill out the contact form and submit all your own questions.

If there is anything in particular you would like to see that is not already listed on the tour description, be sure to ask about it.

You may also want to ask them about the other SPB website to find out whether or not it is the same company.

 

The descriptions of the various St. Petersburg tours they offer are at

 

     https://spb-tours.com/index.php?pageid=2

 

  If you click on the name of any of the tours, it will take you to a page with more detailed information about that specific tour.

   For example, the tour we took was the 2-day Deluxe Tour

       and the detailed description of this one is at

     https://spb-tours.com/index.php?plugin=tour_details&action=inrussia&tId=3

 

 I hope you are able to get all your questions answered and that you enjoy your tour as much as we enjoyed ours.

 

Edited by varoo

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We recently returned from 25 days in Europe, including 2 cruises.  Our experience with SPB was the ONLY negative about the whole trip.

Our tour guide was Anna. She is very pretty as she repeatedly reminded us. When practically the first thing your tour guide tells you is to take a nap because it is a long bus ride, you know it is not going to be a good tour.
She was also funny and I learned a lot about her private life, but that is not what we paid almost $500 for!
We came to see the beautiful churches, palaces and museums, and to learn about the history of these places. When she did give commentary on them, it was very confusing: the Great War, the Revolution, WWII??? I never knew which one she was talking about. There was hardly any background info and she did not know left from right. Honestly, half the time she told us to look out the left window, she meant right and vice versa.
We had 9 different tour guides during our 3 week trip, and this was by far the worst. She was nice and friendly enough, but she is not a good tour guide. Our driver Vlad was great!, the lunches were good, and Wifi on the bus was a nice amenity.

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This is such an interesting topic to me.  In 2013, we did a 14 Baltics on Celebrity and did use the Celebrity 2 day excursion and found it to be quite good.  We are off again in a few days for the 12 day Baltics on Reflection and are using the shorter Celebrity excursions to fill in some of the gaps and see some of the things we didn't make it to the first time.  But I have often wondered about taking a private tour for a more personalized experience.  

 

What has surprised me the most of hearing from all of you is your level of comfort in providing passport information and credit card information to a tour operator in Russia.  Maybe I'm crazy conservative but Russia is the one place I won't use a credit card (I always bring Rubles) and I use an RFID wallet.  Have you guys thought about the privacy/security risk at all?  Do the tour operators provide you any comfort on this issue?

 

Thanks!

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3 hours ago, clbkatz said:

Ok you all have convinced me. I am for sure going to do a private tour now! I googled SPB tours and two websites come up. Can anyone tell me the right website for the right SPB tour company everyone is using. I see spb-tours.com and spbtours.com. Thank you all for your input, it really helped me and I am looking forward to my time in Russia so much more now!

 

WOW, that's incredible.  I guess imitation is the most sincere form of flattery but this looks to be criminal to me.  The correct link is spb-tours.com  

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22 minutes ago, Ranasa said:

This is such an interesting topic to me.  In 2013, we did a 14 Baltics on Celebrity and did use the Celebrity 2 day excursion and found it to be quite good.  We are off again in a few days for the 12 day Baltics on Reflection and are using the shorter Celebrity excursions to fill in some of the gaps and see some of the things we didn't make it to the first time.  But I have often wondered about taking a private tour for a more personalized experience.  

 

What has surprised me the most of hearing from all of you is your level of comfort in providing passport information and credit card information to a tour operator in Russia.  Maybe I'm crazy conservative but Russia is the one place I won't use a credit card (I always bring Rubles) and I use an RFID wallet.  Have you guys thought about the privacy/security risk at all?  Do the tour operators provide you any comfort on this issue?

 

Thanks!

 

Your correct to be concerned and your passport and CC info can be stolen in a number of different ways.  The SPB and Alla groups have been around for a while and have excellent reputations.  I'll suggest that you have far less of a chance of your info being stolen that you do when a hotel overseas copies your passport info and you pay with a charge card.  If you are really concerned just "lose" your CC after the trip and get a new card when you return.  As far as rubles are concerned with these trips, there isn't a need.  Any place you go will gladly take Euros or US dollars.  I probably wouldn't use my CC with other merchants around town.  

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On 8/16/2019 at 10:48 AM, clbkatz said:

Has anyone done this tour with Celebrity? They offer it in a regular group on a motor coach bus and then in a small group on a van. I was wondering if the difference between doing it on a van versus a bus is worth paying the extra money?. Any help is appreciated. Thanks!

 

When are you going to St Petersburg?

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We did the 2 day deluxe tour with Alla last year while on the Eclipse. They were terrific. We paid at the end of day one. We had a 16 pass van which was comfortable. Guide was excellent and easy to understand.  Group visa was included and we obtained it on the website. Only on the first day the Celebrity tour groups were permitted to exit first. The X groups were in groups exceeding 40 per bus.

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All fair comments.  Risk is everywhere.  I just try to mitigate it where I can.  It sounds like the tour operators don't address this head-on, though.

 

I use my CCs for auto payments for things like electric, cable, etc. so "losing" my card and having one reissued is totally a hassle.  

 

I prefer to use rubles to lock-in my exchange rate upfront vs. be at the mercy of the vendor on the back-end.  Rubles are easy to get from the bank and I ordered some when I got my Euros.  

 

Thanks for your response.

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We did the Baltic with Celebrity a few years ago.  Chose a private tour with Alla Tours rather than the Celebrity bus tours offered.  The best decision we made on that cruise.  Our guide was knowledgeable, delightful, and showed us things we never would have seen on a ship's tour.  We took a subway ride, had lunch at a typical neighborhood restaurant, and saw much of the pre-revolution architecture.  We were at Catherine's Palace on the second day when the weather turned bad.  She decided we should leave ahead of the crowds and return to the city and visit the Battleship Aurora, a museum of the revolutionary period.  As it turned out, the bus tours were delayed for several hours and the ship was delayed in sailing.  The guests from the ship on the Celebrity tours told us they sat on the buses for hours in a massive traffic jam.

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Posted (edited)
11 hours ago, karli_ratte said:

We used SPB the week before last for our 2-day tour. For my partner, DD and myself it cost about the same as the Celebrity tour on a bus would have cost. We had our own guide and driver and paid in €, if that makes a difference depending where you come from (it saved us a bit on conversion rates to US$, which was the original quote when we booked). 

The tour was tailor made for us, included all highlights and was adjusted whenever necessary to fit in everything we wanted (we had the "relaxed tour package" due to having our DD with us. It was NOT one of the special children tours offered, but a regular tour). 

Our tour guide, Fatyma, was amazing. Great knowledge and very interesting to listen to without the sensational story telling you sometimes get from other tour guides to keep people interested. 

And yes, I can confirm what someone said further up. We entered the Hermitage before opening hours and were completely alone (!!!!) in most rooms for hours before the big groups started filtering in. What an amazing experience!!!! So stay away from the ship tours and treat yourself, it will be really worth it! 

Also, all the tour guides work together and have a very elaborate silent communication system in place to keep the crowds moving smoothly. 

 

For those with children: We booked a child seat and had one waiting for us when we started the tour. Unfortunately it was too big for our DD (she's a light weight). SPB organised a new seat while we were at the Hermitage and had it ready for us when we returned to the car. THE BEST SERVICE EVER!!! Absolutely amazing!!!!! 

 

Little fun fact: The tour booked a few days before ours with our driver Olek and our car had been with German band Rammstein and he was very excited to tell us about it. Made us feel like real celebrities 😂

Oh my god, I think I got completely confused, but can‘t edit my original post. Our tour guides were called BEST GUIDES SPB. Bestguides-spb.com! Literally the best 🙂

Edited by karli_ratte

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Interesting that another company has co-opted the moniker "SPB Tours"...

There is one longstanding, well respected tour company named SPB Tours in St. Petersburg that we and others have been dealing with for many years--the one found at:

https://www.spb-tours.com/

 

The woman who owns it is named Viktoria Rother and she runs the operation along with her husband, Steffen Rother.  We have met both of them.  In fact, when I saw her again at the pier in St. Petersburg this summer, she greeted me warmly...like an old friend.  We met her husband Steffen, in Warnemunde during our previous Baltic cruise.  I really don't have a problem giving them my credit card information--they've had it from three different tours over several years--and it never resulted in any problems.  Being Russian doesn't bother me.  This is not the Russian Government or the KGB...It's just a small business.  You give out your credit card information to people you don't know EVERY time you use your credit card--all over the world.  There is always the opportunity for thieves to use that to steal from you...even when using the card in places other than the internet.  Doesn't stop me from using the convenience of a credit card.  As I said, we've never had an issue nor have we heard of any security breaches related to SPB Tours.  Actually, the only time in recent years we've had anyone misuse our credit card account resulted from using the card for an in-store purchase from a camera shop in Hong Kong. (Which, thankfully, after a little back-and-forth, we were able to work out through Capital One).  But never had a problem using the card in Russia--or with this or other tour companies.

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We used Best Guides St Petersburg two years ago and plan to use them again next year - they were excellent for a private tour

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2 hours ago, Ranasa said:

I use my CCs for auto payments for things like electric, cable, etc. so "losing" my card and having one reissued is totally a hassle.  

 

 

This is exactly the reason why we have an additional special "travel" credit card  with a low limit that we use only for this purpose.

 

Even if it should ever be lost or stolen, a thief could not get very much, we would lose nothing at all, and it would have no effect on our regular credit card accounts.

We can cancel it at any time, if necessary, with a simple phone call, so no hassle whatsoever.

 

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I'm not sure what else I can add to the info everyone is chiming in with other than to state that we also are so happy we went with a private tour - we used Alla for a 2 day Grand Tour in May of 2018, and the cost was $250US per person plus gratuity, 16 people to a van. Simply a spectacular experience!!!  The highlight of our Baltics and British Isles month long cruise!

 

We heard lots of stories of disappointment from other passengers who used the cruise ship tours, relating to delays, unmanageable crowds due to the bus sizes,  waiting for too many slow people to get on the bus at each stop, crowd to large to adequately hear the announcements, etc. It was such a comprehensive tour that we really can't say we missed out on anything at all!  BUT... there was a fair bit of walking, and we all knew that up front so we expected it.  

 

SPB and TJ also have very good reviews, so I'm sure you'll be in good hands with any of the big three.  Good luck with your planning, and enjoy!!

 

Celine

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We went a few years back on Princess.  (Look below in my signature for the Baltic cruise.)  We used Alla, who was excellent.  Small group, and we were able to do 50% more than the cruise ship tour.  Payment was required in cash.  Dollars in Russia MUST be new, with no rips, tears or marking, so I brought fresh $100s from the bank.  A small group means shorter bathroom breaks, less chance of someone being delayed slowing down the whole group, etc. 

 

Look at Trip Advisor and you will find the top-rated tour companies.

 

 

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In an earlier post, I think I said that we paid in cash (US dollars) on our Alla tour last summer. I now remember that we paid with our credit card (at the end of the first day). They converted the dollar price that we had been quoted into rubles, which of course was then converted back into dollars by our credit card company (I think we only lost a dollar or two on the conversion). We did use cash to tip at the end of the tour, and they were happy to take dollars, pounds, Euros, or rubles.

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On 8/19/2019 at 7:37 PM, late2cruisin said:

In an earlier post, I think I said that we paid in cash (US dollars) on our Alla tour last summer. I now remember that we paid with our credit card (at the end of the first day). They converted the dollar price that we had been quoted into rubles, which of course was then converted back into dollars by our credit card company (I think we only lost a dollar or two on the conversion). We did use cash to tip at the end of the tour, and they were happy to take dollars, pounds, Euros, or rubles.

 We paid for our 2 day Alla tour with new US cash, but they were also accepting payment by credit card - they used a machine at one of the shops we stopped in at on the end of our first day... some awesome Russian Nesting dolls they had in there!!

 

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This was our Alla tour guide... I can't recall her name, but she was exceptionally great! Probably the best tour guide we've ever had from any of our tours over the years!!

Image may contain: 1 person, smiling, sky and outdoor

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On 8/16/2019 at 4:17 PM, Bruin Steve said:

For the visas, you input your passport info onto their website--they set up a page just for our private tour group...Then, you print out a "tour ticket" from the website..When you disembark the first day in St. Petersburg, you go through "Passport Control"...They will ask to see your tour ticket and passport...THAT is all you need....After that, there is nothing you have to do...It's absolutely seamless...

 

For payment, you need to either pay by credit card in US Dollars 30 days prior via their website (what everyone in our group did) or in cash, in Russian Rubles, on the first day of the tour...We also gave our guide and driver tips in US Dollars, in cash, at the end of the tour.

We booked ALLA tours for all our stops on our Baltic cruise and only paid when we were in Russia.  They quoted the current exchange rate and charged in rubles.  I think we had to guarantee a credit card when booking.  Best tour ever.

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On 8/19/2019 at 2:15 PM, Bruin Steve said:

Interesting that another company has co-opted the moniker "SPB Tours"...

There is one longstanding, well respected tour company named SPB Tours in St. Petersburg that we and others have been dealing with for many years--the one found at:

https://www.spb-tours.com/

 

The woman who owns it is named Viktoria Rother and she runs the operation along with her husband, Steffen Rother.  We have met both of them.  In fact, when I saw her again at the pier in St. Petersburg this summer, she greeted me warmly...like an old friend.  We met her husband Steffen, in Warnemunde during our previous Baltic cruise.  I really don't have a problem giving them my credit card information--they've had it from three different tours over several years--and it never resulted in any problems.  Being Russian doesn't bother me.  This is not the Russian Government or the KGB...It's just a small business.  You give out your credit card information to people you don't know EVERY time you use your credit card--all over the world.  There is always the opportunity for thieves to use that to steal from you...even when using the card in places other than the internet.  Doesn't stop me from using the convenience of a credit card.  As I said, we've never had an issue nor have we heard of any security breaches related to SPB Tours. 

 

The same here.  On our tour with SPB, some paid with cash and others with credit cards.  They accepted US dollars. 

No problem at all.  They even drove a few people over to an ATM to get cash.

 

Viktoria personally met with us all the first day, split us up into the appropriate groups and introduced us to our tour guides.

Our guide was wonderful and spoke excellent English.

 

But the cruise passengers with whom we spoke who were in the other  groups were very pleased with their guides as well.

 

A nice feature was that they had enough guides so they could group people with common interests together and take them to special places they had requested, even if they were not listed on the "official" itinerary.

 

So if there is someplace you want to see or something you want to do that is not listed on the itinerary, do contact her and let her know about it.

 

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