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Master thread of St. Petersburg advice and recommendations from cruisers who've been!


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50 minutes ago, P_CNovaScotia said:

Question for those who have been to St Petersburg - we will be there on Viking Jupiter in June 2020.  I am interested in seeing Swan Lake and wondered if anyone has had any experience with using an independent tour operator for an evening performance while in port overnight.  Any pros/cons to booking this way?

A benefit of choosing an independent operator is that you may have more choice in troupe/performance/theater.  You can also book your own tickets to the world famous Mariinsky and a private operator can provide transportation to/from to get around the visa issue. 

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1 hour ago, P_CNovaScotia said:

Question for those who have been to St Petersburg - we will be there on Viking Jupiter in June 2020.  I am interested in seeing Swan Lake and wondered if anyone has had any experience with using an independent tour operator for an evening performance while in port overnight.  Any pros/cons to booking this way?

 

What are you planning on doing during the day? Are you planning on doing a small group tour or a private tour with an independent operator? If you are touring with a small group, you *may* have to return to the ship in between your tour and evening, but they may also be able to make arrangements for you to stay in the city for dinner. If you're doing a private tour, no problem staying. I would recommend contacting a few tour companies to see what they'd be able to do for you. (I'll recommend Elena at Red Sun Tours for her speed answering questions.)

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I have a couple of questions for those of you who are experienced with the St. Petersburg tours.

 

1.  A lot of tours describe the activity level as "intense" or "strenuous".  I'm 63 and had both knees replaced a few years ago.  I can certainly walk long distances and climb stairs, but can't maintain a fast pace for very long.  Is there really that much difference between tours described as Intense (say, Alla's 19 hr Grand Tour) as compared to one described Moderate (like Alla's 16-hour Must See Tour)?  And how much standing around could we expect, as opposed to walking?  Strangely enough, I can walk for longer periods of time than I can just stand around.  SPB has been the top item on my bucket list ever since I created it and I hate to miss anything, but I also don't want to be so exhausted I can't enjoy the rest of the stops on the cruise.

 

2.  Would Nevsky Prospect be where we would do souvenir shopping?  Not imported mass-produced stuff, but true souvenirs?

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2 hours ago, frisbeewife said:

I have a couple of questions for those of you who are experienced with the St. Petersburg tours.

 

1.  A lot of tours describe the activity level as "intense" or "strenuous".  I'm 63 and had both knees replaced a few years ago.  I can certainly walk long distances and climb stairs, but can't maintain a fast pace for very long.  Is there really that much difference between tours described as Intense (say, Alla's 19 hr Grand Tour) as compared to one described Moderate (like Alla's 16-hour Must See Tour)?  And how much standing around could we expect, as opposed to walking?  Strangely enough, I can walk for longer periods of time than I can just stand around.  SPB has been the top item on my bucket list ever since I created it and I hate to miss anything, but I also don't want to be so exhausted I can't enjoy the rest of the stops on the cruise.

 

2.  Would Nevsky Prospect be where we would do souvenir shopping?  Not imported mass-produced stuff, but true souvenirs?

1. This question would best be answered by the tour company. We have used Alla Tours on several of our trips to Saint Petersburg and have another cruise visit planned for September. We booked the Grand Tour (listed as very strenuous) and did not find it strenuous at all - at least not by our standards. It was a busy 2 days and we saw a lot - but the tour is very well balanced with periods of rest between sights. I can't compare it to the Must See tour as we have no experience with this particular tour. However, we frequently visit Saint Petersburg via land and get around on our own - our DIY tours are far more strenuous than anything that Alla offers. 😏

2. Nevsky offers everything from cheap mass-produced souvenirs to very nice items that are quite expensive. We have found our best buys away from the tourist areas like Nevsky - we prefer to shop where the locals shop (this may not be an option for you without a Russian visa or a totally private tour). The museum shops also sell some very nice souvenirs.

Edited by dogs4fun
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2 hours ago, frisbeewife said:

I have a couple of questions for those of you who are experienced with the St. Petersburg tours.

 

1.  A lot of tours describe the activity level as "intense" or "strenuous".  I'm 63 and had both knees replaced a few years ago.  I can certainly walk long distances and climb stairs, but can't maintain a fast pace for very long.  Is there really that much difference between tours described as Intense (say, Alla's 19 hr Grand Tour) as compared to one described Moderate (like Alla's 16-hour Must See Tour)?  And how much standing around could we expect, as opposed to walking?  Strangely enough, I can walk for longer periods of time than I can just stand around.  SPB has been the top item on my bucket list ever since I created it and I hate to miss anything, but I also don't want to be so exhausted I can't enjoy the rest of the stops on the cruise.

 

2.  Would Nevsky Prospect be where we would do souvenir shopping?  Not imported mass-produced stuff, but true souvenirs?

 

The difference in the different small group tours is primarily the total time involved. The intense tours visit more sights, but the pace at each sight is similar. The walking pace is moderate . . . But there is quite a bit of standing around while the guide talks. Fortunately, you will be able to wander a little since you'll be wearing headphones, and between sights, you'll be sitting in a vehicle.

 

However, most of the souvenir shops that the small group tours visit will be very touristy (and not cheap!).

 

If you want to control the pace and visit more authentic shops, you might consider a private tour?

Edited by trosebery
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Hi. We will be traveling with a group of 8, 5 adults and 3 teens/kids, all boys age 17, 14 and 10.  Does anyone have advice or recommendation for an 8 person private tour that has some extra items to keep teens/tweens engaged?  We are going early August and will have two days on shore.  

 

Thanks!

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We used Tours by Locals as a private tour custom designed . Our 14 yo grandson liked shopping , Peterhoff , the Metro The Artillery museum were they have tanks and cannon that you can climb on and an AK 47 BB gun to shoot . He also liked the helicopter flight over SPB and eating Khachapuri , a Georgian cheese bread . He didn't mind the beautiful churches and the Hermitage ( early admission to stay ahead of the crowds and keep moving to the good stuff ) .

Edited by scubacruiserx2
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6 hours ago, ForMyBoys2015 said:

Hi. We will be traveling with a group of 8, 5 adults and 3 teens/kids, all boys age 17, 14 and 10.  Does anyone have advice or recommendation for an 8 person private tour that has some extra items to keep teens/tweens engaged?  We are going early August and will have two days on shore.  

 

Thanks!

 

Any of the well-reviewed tour companies should be able to help you set up a private tour, but we liked Red Sun Tours ourselves. My teenage son's favourites included not only the Hermitage (not for the art, but for the palace) and Peterhof and the Faberge Museum (much thanks to our guide) but also the Soviet Arcade Games museum and the Grand Maket.  If the Artillery Museum had been open the days we were there, we definitely would have gone there too. Make time for a subway ride. Oh, and don't underestimate the appeal of food when traveling with teenage boys. (Do try Georgian food.)

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Hi Everyone! My husband and I are planning on going on a cruise that stops in Saint Petersburg for 2 days. I'm originally from there and do not need a visa, however my husband does. Since I know the city quite well and have relatives there still, we would like to explore on our own. Is there anyone on this thread who went this route, rather than going on an organized tour? I researched the process of getting a visa but would also like to hear what were other travellers' personal experiences like? Another thing I don't quite get is - if your cruise ship stays in SPb for two days meaning you get off/on twice, does it mean you need a double entry visa? Thanks in advance. 

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13 minutes ago, fille_canadienne said:

Hi Everyone! My husband and I are planning on going on a cruise that stops in Saint Petersburg for 2 days. I'm originally from there and do not need a visa, however my husband does. Since I know the city quite well and have relatives there still, we would like to explore on our own. Is there anyone on this thread who went this route, rather than going on an organized tour? I researched the process of getting a visa but would also like to hear what were other travellers' personal experiences like? Another thing I don't quite get is - if your cruise ship stays in SPb for two days meaning you get off/on twice, does it mean you need a double entry visa? Thanks in advance. 

 

We have . We got a three year visa the last time and we left with the first ships tour . You can then take the bus or walk to the gate to meet your guide or relative . You don't need a double entry but the 3 year cost the same and you can stay for 6 months . You must leave for a day before returning again for another day .

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2 minutes ago, scubacruiserx2 said:

 

We have . We got a three year visa the last time and we left with the first ships tour . You can then take the bus or walk to the gate to meet your guide or relative . You don't need a double entry but the 3 year cost the same and you can stay for 6 months . You must leave for a day before returning again for another day .

 

Thanks so much for your answer, this is really helpful! What do you mean "you have to leave for a day before returning for another day?" Our ship is only there for 2 days... Also what was the process of going through customs like? Also how did you get a 3 year visa, was it a tourist visa? Thanks again!  

Edited by fille_canadienne
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5 minutes ago, fille_canadienne said:

 

Thanks so much for your answer, this is really helpful! What do you mean "you have to leave for a day before returning for another day?" Our ship is only there for 2 days... Also what was the process of going through customs like? Thanks again!  

 

You only have to leave if you have stayed 6 months , it doesn't affect him for 2 days . You just walk thru immigration one at a time - not together . They did have to call a supervisor for us cause we had our grandson with us but he had a visa also so no problem . Yes it was a tourist visa same price but a little more paper work .

Edited by scubacruiserx2
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1 minute ago, scubacruiserx2 said:

 

You only have to leave if you have stayed 6 months , it doesn't affect him for 2 days . You just walk thru immigration one at a time - not together . They did have to call a supervisor for us cause we had our grandson with us but he had a visa also so no problem .

 

How did you go about getting a 3 year visa, was it a tourist visa? Thank you! 

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12 minutes ago, fille_canadienne said:

 

How did you go about getting a 3 year visa, was it a tourist visa? 

We are US citizens so we utilize the Russian Visa Center (ILS) in the USA to procure our 3 year Russian visas.

https://ils-usa.com/

Your citizenship will dictate how/where you procure your Russian visa - citizens of some countries do not require a Russian visa.

If you are from the USA, ILS will take care of the visa - it is really not that difficult, you just need to fill out the application (which you can do online & then print) & send-in the required documentation including your passport (unless you live in one of the 4 US cities that have a Russian consulate - we do not).

 

Edited by dogs4fun
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51 minutes ago, fille_canadienne said:

I'm originally from there and do not need a visa

You will be traveling on a Russian passport? Do you have dual-citizenship? There are special rules of which you are probably already aware ...

https://ils-usa.com/page/67?domain=5&language=10

Attention Russian citizens with dual-citizenship!

Please be aware that in accordance with Article 6 of Federal Law № 114-ФЗ “On exiting and entering the Russian Federation”, effective as of 15 August, 1996, states that, “Russian citizens may exit and enter the territory of the Russian Federation only with valid documentation that confirms their identity as a Russian citizen abroad.”

Likewise, Paragraph 1, Article 6 of Federal Law № 62-ФЗ “On citizenship of the Russian Federation”, effective as of 31 May, 2002 states that, “Russian citizens who have obtained citizenship of another country, are regarded only as Russian citizens by the Russian government, except for in cases in which international agreements made by the Russian Federation or federal laws supercede that. The attainment of citizenship from a foreign government does not automatically relinquish one's Russian citizenship.     

Thus, it is against the law for Russian citizens to obtain a visa using a foreign passport!

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6 minutes ago, dogs4fun said:

 

6 minutes ago, dogs4fun said:

You will be traveling on a Russian passport? Do you have dual-citizenship? There are special rules of which you are probably already aware ...

https://ils-usa.com/page/67?domain=5&language=10

Attention Russian citizens with dual-citizenship!

Please be aware that in accordance with Article 6 of Federal Law № 114-ФЗ “On exiting and entering the Russian Federation”, effective as of 15 August, 1996, states that, “Russian citizens may exit and enter the territory of the Russian Federation only with valid documentation that confirms their identity as a Russian citizen abroad.”

Likewise, Paragraph 1, Article 6 of Federal Law № 62-ФЗ “On citizenship of the Russian Federation”, effective as of 31 May, 2002 states that, “Russian citizens who have obtained citizenship of another country, are regarded only as Russian citizens by the Russian government, except for in cases in which international agreements made by the Russian Federation or federal laws supercede that. The attainment of citizenship from a foreign government does not automatically relinquish one's Russian citizenship.     

Thus, it is against the law for Russian citizens to obtain a visa using a foreign passport!

 

Yes, I have two citizenship so I will be travelling on my Canadian passport but using my Russian passport to enter Russia, same as I would if I travelled by airplane. I'm quite aware I cannot get a Russian visa where I'm already a citizen. Please read my original post, I'm asking all these questions because my husband requires a visa.

Edited by fille_canadienne
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1 hour ago, fille_canadienne said:

I'm originally from there and do not need a visa, however my husband does

If your husband is a Canadian citizen, info can be found here: https://canada.mid.ru/web/canada-en/tourist-visa

Russian Visa Center in Canada: https://www.vfsglobal.com/Russia/Canada/

Note: Canadian citizens are not eligible for the 3 year visa - tourist visa is single or double entry

 

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4 minutes ago, dogs4fun said:

If your husband is a Canadian citizen, info can be found here: https://canada.mid.ru/web/canada-en/tourist-visa

Russian Visa Center in Canada: https://www.vfsglobal.com/Russia/Canada/

Note: Canadian citizens are not eligible for the 3 year visa - tourist visa is single or double entry

 

 

Again, if you read my original post you'll see that I have already researched the process of obtaining a visa, that's not what I was asking at all, I'm capable of using google - I was looking for other travellers' personal experiences.  

Edited by fille_canadienne
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1 hour ago, fille_canadienne said:

Hi Everyone! My husband and I are planning on going on a cruise that stops in Saint Petersburg for 2 days. I'm originally from there and do not need a visa, however my husband does. Since I know the city quite well and have relatives there still, we would like to explore on our own. Is there anyone on this thread who went this route, rather than going on an organized tour? I researched the process of getting a visa but would also like to hear what were other travellers' personal experiences like? Another thing I don't quite get is - if your cruise ship stays in SPb for two days meaning you get off/on twice, does it mean you need a double entry visa? Thanks in advance. 

 

6 minutes ago, fille_canadienne said:

 

Again, if you read my original post you'll see that I have already researched the process of obtaining a visa, that's not what I was asking at all, I'm capable of using google - I was looking for other travellers' personal experiences.  

57 minutes ago, fille_canadienne said:

 

Thanks so much for your answer, this is really helpful! What do you mean "you have to leave for a day before returning for another day?" Our ship is only there for 2 days... Also what was the process of going through customs like? Also how did you get a 3 year visa, was it a tourist visa? Thanks again!  

Wow - your response is quite rude - I am sure that you are proficient with Google - I was only attempting to help as nowhere did you specify your husband's citizenship and I correctly noted that Canadian citizens are not eligible for the 3 year tourist visa. Since you stated that you will be traveling on a Canadian passport, the logical deduction is that your husband might be Canadian.

When arriving via cruise ship (assuming you are docking at the Marine Facade) the passengers that have booked tours through the cruise line will be allowed to disembark first. Passengers booked with independent tour operators and passengers holding Russian visas will be allowed to disembark only after the cruise tours have disembarked (this is only in effect for day one - on subsequent days, you may disembark whenever you wish).

The immigration process at port is similar to what you would expect at the airport. Passengers enter the terminal on the secured side, queue and go through immigration at individual kiosks (same as you would at the airport). After immigration, you will be in the unsecured area of the cruise terminal where you can get a taxi, bus, etc.

 

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Just now, dogs4fun said:

 

Wow - your response is quite rude - I am sure that you are proficient with Google 

 

I did not mean to be rude, it's just that your replies to my post sounded a bit patronizing. I wasn't looking for links and such, I wanted to hear from people who experienced SPb without booking a tour. I apologize. Thanks for your help. 

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We usually fly into LED but occasionally we cruise - we have no experience with the ports on the Neva (English Embankment, Lieutenant Schmidt) where the smaller ships dock - we have only been on the larger ships that dock at Marine Facade. If you dock on the Neva, I assume that the immigration procedure would go much swifter as the passenger loads on these ships are much smaller.

We are cruising to StP again this Sept and in order to meet-up with our Russian friends, we plan on taking the bus from port to the Primorskaya metro station - unfortunately, our friends aren't allowed to meet us at the cruise terminal.

 

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Hi,  I e-mailed three tour companies to arrange a private tour for 8.   The issue is that the prices between them were significantly different even though the itineraries were roughly the same.   Well actually one of them had a lower price then the other two but had the most items on the proposed itinerary.   So this leads to my question, are they expecting us to negotiate so they throw out a higher price?    A price difference of $60pp really adds up with a party of 8.  

 

Thanks!

Ali

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29 minutes ago, ForMyBoys2015 said:

So this leads to my question, are they expecting us to negotiate so they throw out a higher price?    A price difference of $60pp really adds up with a party of 8.  

Tour price negotiation has not been my experience in Saint Petersburg. We paid the quoted price minus the cruise critic discount. Perhaps some of the smaller independents offer tours that are priced lower than the tours offered by the more experienced, larger companies?  I suspect that the more well-known/established companies receive the lion's share of independent shore excursion bookings and probably don't want or need to offer steep discounts ...  just my guess.

Yes, $60 per person would amount to $480, so I would book with the company that made this offer. Seems like booking with the operator offering a $480 savings is  a no-brainer if you are pleased with the itinerary and the communication you received from this company.

Edited by dogs4fun
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