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

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2 hours ago, gnome12 said:

You can only discuss tour shares on your roll call, so whether @cntrymum 's request is difficult or not, that remains the only place for the discussion.

True - tour shares are to be posted on roll calls. The OP still has quite a lot of time before the August cruise - would recommend posting every few days on the roll call to find interested parties.

The downside of the OP's request is that most first time visitors to Saint Petersburg are very interested in visiting both the Hermitage (former Winter Palace of the Tsars)and Peterhof. Regardless of on which venue one tends to focus, 2 days is a very short time for a visit to either Peterhof or the Hermitage. Two days in Saint Petersburg allows one only a taste of the offerings of this magnificent city. Thus, most first time visitors express an interest of getting a "taste" of both Peterhof and the Hermitage as both are, IMHO, fabulous.

The Hermitage is huge - it is the 2nd largest art museum in the world spanning six historic buildings, five of which are open to the public (Winter Palace, Small Hermitage, Old Hermitage, New Hermitage, Hermitage Theater) along the Palace Embankment on the Neva.  The complex also includes the General Staff Building (Impressionist Collection), Staraya Derevnya (storage facility - we enjoyed an absolutely excellent private tour here) Porcelain Museum & Menshikov Palace.

The Peterhof complex is also huge. There are 1024 acres of park and gardens, 32 museums, 150+ fountains and over a ten year period we visited the following:

Grand Palace, Cottage Palace, Monplaisir Palace, Marly Palace, Catherine Block (this palace is now closed for restoration till 2021), Imperial Yachts Museum, Hermitage Pavilion, Royal Church Museum, Grand Cascade Grottos, Art Collector Museum, Playing Card Museum, Bath Houses building, & the Treasury.

We have also been fortunate in twice obtaining tickets to the closing ceremony of the Peterhof Fountains - it is truly a spectacular event.

Hope the OP is able to experience what he/she wants but it simply may not be possible on a group tour.

 

 

Edited by dogs4fun

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8 hours ago, cntrymum said:

We are on RCI Brilliance at end of August and looking for a private tour with more emphasis on Peterhof and less on Hermitage. Would like to see St P&P and Yusupov which aren’t included in most group tours. We are finding private tours for 2 are around $300 - $400 US which is OK for us but wouldn’t mind sharing costs....

Yusupov is included in several tours offered by local operators, like Alla Tours, TJ travel, SPB Tours maybe more. And in some cases they are open to slightly adjust the agenda, our friends for example wanted to see the Synagogue, which was not included in our group tour (we all are booked with Best Guides), however the operator found the way to add the Synagogue to their schedule. They will of course pay extra for that, but the difference was not huge. 

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10 hours ago, cntrymum said:

We are on RCI Brilliance at end of August and looking for a private tour with more emphasis on Peterhof and less on Hermitage. Would like to see St P&P and Yusupov which aren’t included in most group tours. We are finding private tours for 2 are around $300 - $400 US which is OK for us but wouldn’t mind sharing costs....

Hi Cntrymum - thank you for responding. I tried to respond to you personally but it said the message function was disabled. What days will you be in port? We will be there 8/31 and 9/1. If it matches up, we should chat. I actually did a job in graduate school where I spent a ton of time in the Hermitage (actually unpacking boxes and taking out artifacts looking for the perfect piece of Catherine the Great's china) so don't need to spend a lot of time there as well. Since I have spent a fair amount of time in St. Petersburg I am leaving most of the planning to my husband. He has never been. My email is deb1way@yahoo.com if you want to reach out to me outside of this. Thanks! Debbie

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Hi debway, thanks, my post was in direct response to yours. Didn’t think I’d get quite so shot down in flames.... and yes, I have posted specific details on our roll call board prior to the kind advice above!

Wow! What a job - that’s certainly one way to avoid the crowds!

As mentioned, we are happy to pay for what we want in a private tour it was just that you had mentioned your time frame. Alas we we will be there a few days ahead of you. I have been in discussions with St Petersburg Guided Tours, Ludmila Tours and Firebird - none of whom I have seen mentioned on these threads. Firebird were actually the first to suggest we could skip Hermitage all together if it didn’t interest us as even with skip the line tickets, you still spend quite a bit of time in queues.
I think Red Sun and Dancing Bear might also offer some more alternative and customisable tours and will be in touch with them also. There seem to be a lot of guides from the larger firms have gone out on their own and I am a little hesitant to look further with them as it appears they hire a car with driver to make the trip. Feedback from anyone who has used one of the smaller tour operators would be appreciated. 

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2 hours ago, Fran2020 said:

Yusupov is included in several tours offered by local operators, like Alla Tours, TJ travel, SPB Tours maybe more. And in some cases they are open to slightly adjust the agenda, our friends for example wanted to see the Synagogue, which was not included in our group tour (we all are booked with Best Guides), however the operator found the way to add the Synagogue to their schedule. They will of course pay extra for that, but the difference was not huge. 

Hi Fran, our trouble has been in finding operators that include visits to both Yusupov and St Peter & Paul Fortress. That is why a private tour will likely be our best option to suit our interests as we also would like to spend more than 1.5 hours in the gardens of Peterhof.

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On 2/11/2020 at 9:38 AM, gnome12 said:

 

You can only discuss tour shares on your roll call, so whether @cntrymum 's request is difficult or not, that remains the only place for the discussion.

I suggested going to a roll call to find others who might want to share. Tell me what's wrong with that?

 

I also noted that the uniqueness of his desires might make it difficult to find someone willing to share. Again what is wrong with that?

 

Are you a moderator for this group? I see nothing wrong with what I posted. So either take it off the board if you are a moderator and so inclined. If you are not a moderator, I do not understand your concern.

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On 9/24/2019 at 7:48 AM, lois1112 said:

I just returned (September 2019) from a Baltic cruise

I used SPB tours in all the ports, and was very happy with them

I received many "scary" e-mails from the cruise lines about the hazards of doing St. Peterburg on my own (or without the cruise line). 

there was no problem. Princess requested that you provide them a copy of your ticket for the tour, then they gave you a time to leave the ship. Customs was very easy. 

No problem at all either day. 

Our group size was about 20

I would highly recommend SPB

 

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36 minutes ago, Antic Lover said:

Are you sure the workshop is hosted at the Faberge museum?

There are definitely no egg painting workshops held at the Faberge Museum - the Faberge collection is housed in the restored Shuvalov Palace on the Fontanka Embankment - there is no area within this beautifully restored palace wherein painting workshops are held. I believe that the workshop is held at a jewelry center - not sure which one - could very well be Rousskie Samotsvety.

 

Edited by dogs4fun

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I checked out Dancing Bear Tours. While I was looking on their site I got a message to chat with Julia. I advised her that I had mobility issues and used a scooter to get around and I was looking for a private tour for my husband and I. She wanted to know if she could call me right then!  I was so impressed that she did that. She called and inquired about my disability needs and about what things I would like to do and see while in St Petersburg. She then said that she would work up a couple of itineraries for me to look over and email them to me. 
 

I am so impressed with her quick response and her attention to making sure we get to see what we would enjoy and not just some canned itinerary that it’s a no brained for me, they have my business. 

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3 hours ago, flymeaway said:

I checked out Dancing Bear Tours. While I was looking on their site I got a message to chat with Julia. I advised her that I had mobility issues and used a scooter to get around and I was looking for a private tour for my husband and I. She wanted to know if she could call me right then!  I was so impressed that she did that. She called and inquired about my disability needs and about what things I would like to do and see while in St Petersburg. She then said that she would work up a couple of itineraries for me to look over and email them to me. 
 

I am so impressed with her quick response and her attention to making sure we get to see what we would enjoy and not just some canned itinerary that it’s a no brained for me, they have my business. 

That is great.  I worked with Julia too and was very impressed with her.  I can't wait for our tour! 

 

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3 hours ago, thillman123 said:

That is great.  I worked with Julia too and was very impressed with her.  I can't wait for our tour! 

Hi,

Would you please be kind enough to share more details.. as to how many people on tour, where it will go and the cost? It would be so appreciated.. for St. Petersburg.  My husband is disabled.. no walker or chair.. just moves very slowly...Thank you

 

 

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58 minutes ago, JoAnnaBullhead said:

 

Our tour is a 12 person public tour,  All St Petersurg in 20 hours, and was $305 each...again it's a public tour so I don't know how that varies or what they can offer for your needs.  It would be best for you to reach out to Julia directly at  info@dancing-bear-tours.com so she can address all your questions and concerns.  She is super helpful and responsive. If she doesn't respond right away she might be giving a tour and of course there is the time difference 😄 Good Luck!  

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On 2/11/2020 at 12:01 AM, jfpt89a said:

Hello all, my me, my wife and another couple will be taking a Baltic cruise on Brilliance of the sea in May. My wife has some balance issues and feels more comfortable using a walker when on tours. Does anyone have any recommendations on St. Petersburg tour companies who can accommodate a walking challenged person.  Thank you.

We had a tour with Red Sun Tours. My wife had a hip replacement and we elected to go on a private tour to do sightseeing at our own pace. 
We were very happy with the tour. Our guide and driver were very kind and accommodating.  At the Hermitage we even took a wheelchair which was helpful. In Peterhof we traveled by a buggy and could see the entire garden. 
On their website I saw one of the tours is an accessible tour for walking challenged people. 
 

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We are booked with City Break Tours for April 26-27. This tour: 2-Day Group Shore Excursion in St Petersburg with Faberge Museum & Boat Cruise. 

Within just days of booking, we received the following email that there are no tickets for Catherine's Palace:

 

"I also would like to inform you that on some travel dates in the high season there are no available tickets to Catherine's Palace from our company. The days that your cruise ship docks in St Petersburg are one of such dates. The group will visit the Grand Palace of Pavlovsk which is also one of the Imperial palaces of Russia. We inform you very long beforehand to understand the situation."
 

I don't have a problem with this, but should I be concerned that I chose the wrong company?  After reading through all the reviews on this thread, no one mentions City Break Tours, but they've received 134 Excellent reviews, so I thought we were good.   I assumed that if I tried another company, I'd still end up not being able to see Catherine's anyway.  Also, is April really the high season?

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57 minutes ago, mapgirl34 said:

We are booked with City Break Tours for April 26-27. This tour: 2-Day Group Shore Excursion in St Petersburg with Faberge Museum & Boat Cruise. 

Within just days of booking, we received the following email that there are no tickets for Catherine's Palace:

 

"I also would like to inform you that on some travel dates in the high season there are no available tickets to Catherine's Palace from our company. The days that your cruise ship docks in St Petersburg are one of such dates. The group will visit the Grand Palace of Pavlovsk which is also one of the Imperial palaces of Russia. We inform you very long beforehand to understand the situation."
 

I don't have a problem with this, but should I be concerned that I chose the wrong company?  After reading through all the reviews on this thread, no one mentions City Break Tours, but they've received 134 Excellent reviews, so I thought we were good.   I assumed that if I tried another company, I'd still end up not being able to see Catherine's anyway.  Also, is April really the high season?

 

That is odd. Now, I'm not a big fan of Catherine Palace myself (since it's out of the way to visit and often crowded), but many people consider it a must-see. If it's important to you, I would make enquiries with other companies and see what they say. (Is there something happening at the Palace on those particular days that it's not available?) I'd try asking Elena at Red Sun because she's usually pretty good with prompt communication, but any of the bigger companies (Alla, SPB, TJ, etc.) could probably help you too. Email around and find out the story.

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JoannaBullhead. We are still working out the details but it is a private tour and it will probably work out to around $500 pp. for the 2 day tour. They said that some places will not allow me to use my mobility scooter but they have a wheelchair they will provide at no extra cost for me to use. I received an email today with a schedule but I still need to work on it a bit. I think they would be open to looking at your wants and needs and making a tour that suits you. 
 

I know this forum is for those who have already traveled there but it’s so hard to get good info on handicap travel I wanted to pass on my experience to anyone who needed it. 

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1 hour ago, flymeaway said:

JoannaBullhead. We are still working out the details but it is a private tour and it will probably work out to around $500 pp. for the 2 day tour. They said that some places will not allow me to use my mobility scooter but they have a wheelchair they will provide at no extra cost for me to use. I received an email today with a schedule but I still need to work on it a bit. I think they would be open to looking at your wants and needs and making a tour that suits you. 
 

I know this forum is for those who have already traveled there but it’s so hard to get good info on handicap travel I wanted to pass on my experience to anyone who needed it. 

 

Actually, it might be a good idea to start a thread (that could be stickied) about accessible Baltic tours/sights/etc.

 

Because St. Petersburg is probably the easiest port to tour when you have mobility issues, given how well the independent tour companies can cater to their guests! It can be trickier in more DIY ports like Stockholm or Tallinn, especially given the cobblestoned/sloping/etc. streets and historic sites with many stairs. Advice from others with mobility issues who've BTDT would be appreciated.

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Flymeaway, thanks for the feedback. I "THINK" this forum are for those of us that have traveled on this itinerary and those of us that this will be our first time, to share what we know and what we want to know.  I appreciate all who can help with questions and suggestions. This will be our first Baltic experience. Still hoping tht this cruise will go,

but with all of the virus still circulating.. who knows! Again thanks all for the feedback.. we will just do a 1 day tour

and enjoy the view on day 2 from the ship!

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15 hours ago, mapgirl34 said:

We are booked with City Break Tours for April 26-27. This tour: 2-Day Group Shore Excursion in St Petersburg with Faberge Museum & Boat Cruise. 

  Also, is April really the high season?

 

April is definitely not a high season. Such a situation could happen in the end of May or in June…. but not in April. Just try to get in touch with another company. I’m also  not a big fan of Catherine Palace but it’s a must see place.  

Jess.

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Just now, CrazyJess said:

Hi LaPochCka!

 

Sorry for my late replay but better late than never 🙂

 

In 2013 & 2015 we booked private tours as we travelled with a kid of 3/5. When I was preparing for our first cruise   I had a lot of  doubts and fears concerning independent tour operators and was in a long correspondence with different companies. Finally we decided to stay with Best Guides. I already don’t remember why we chose them, probably I just liked the manager I was in correspondence with.  Initially I decided for a mini group tour  Best of the Best, but their manager Natalia convinced us to book a private tour as we had a kid of 3 with us. Yes, it was more expensive in comparison with an open group tour, but it was worth every penny. On that trip we booked regular tours intended for grown-ups. Yes, our itinerary was less intensive, each day we had breaks for lunch, etc. Anyway, the itinerary was adapted to particular needs of our family. Our guide was Sveta, if I remember correctly…. so many years have passed... On the next trip, in 2015, we booked  child friendly tours, as our daughter was already 5 and it’s the best age for such tours. It was fantastic. My daughter still remembers St. Petersburg -– the Hermitage, the secret pass in Peter and Paul fortress where she found a magic key 🙂, Peterhof. She doesn’t remember Stockholm or Tallinn (don’t know why!), but she remembers St. Petersburg…. Our guide was Inna. My daughter fell in love with her. Inna really was very knowledgeable, charming, with excellent English. The main thing - she is excellent with children.  As far as I understand she mostly works with families with kids. When we returned  to St. Petersburg in winter 2019 we asked for her, but she wasn’t available. Our guide was Maria Levina. Excellent choice!  Highly recommended. She speaks English and French. She is a very interesting personality with an unusual biography. For a few years she lived in Europe, later on she worked as interpreter in the Mariinsky theater.   My DH who is crazy about Russian ballet was really happy. Maybe we were just lucky, but all three guides were great. If you want one particular name I would say Maria Levina. Hope she still works for Best Guides.

 

My suggestions concerning particular tours… Of course you shall  go to the Hermitage - make sure it’s early admission! Peterhof - the main place of interest is the gardens. For this place you need good weather.  I don’t know how you can work at it …  maybe just pray for it 🙂. IMHO among all the palaces in Peterhof Monplaisir is the most interesting. Church on Spilled Blood is a must see as well. I also suggest you to visit the Faberge museum. Not too many companies include this museum… You can check Art and History Grand Tour by Best Guides.

 

P.S. If you decide for an evening program I would vote for ballet in Mariinsky theater.

 

Good luck!

Jess

Jess.

 

 

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16 hours ago, mapgirl34 said:

I don't have a problem with this, but should I be concerned that I chose the wrong company?  After reading through all the reviews on this thread, no one mentions City Break Tours, but they've received 134 Excellent reviews, so I thought we were good.   I assumed that if I tried another company, I'd still end up not being able to see Catherine's anyway.  Also, is April really the high season?

April is not high season & if it were me, I would cancel with this company and book with one of the highly rated companies on TripAdvisor (Alla-tour, Spb-tour, TJ-tour, Dancing Bears-tours, etc.) - they all have MANY more excellent reviews than just 134 (Alla, Spb & Tj have thousands of excellent reviews). Furthermore, they will be able to guarantee your visit to Catherine Palace which, IMHO, is a "must see".

Personally, I have never heard of City Break Tours nor have I seen them recommended on the Baltic forums. I have a problem with anyone who gives misleading or false information - I understand that City Break can't get tickets to Catherine Palace but it is definitely NOT because April is high season.

Edited by dogs4fun

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On 2/11/2020 at 11:19 PM, cntrymum said:

 Feedback from anyone who has used one of the smaller tour operators would be appreciated. 

Hi. We used Red Sun Tours for our 2 day tour of St. Petersburg. Booking was easy,  Elena was so prompt in replies and answered all our questions. We knew from the begining we were in good hands. When we arrived and got off the ship our guide and Elena met us by the ship with smiles and hugs, we felt like we arrived to our friends.

It was really nice to be on a private tour, we had skip-the-line tickets and the tour itself was customized for us. So we saw those sites what we were interested in. BTW the tour cost was pretty reasonable. With Elena's help our plans and hopes became reality and the tour exceeded all our expectations. 

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Azamara Quest arrives in St Pete  6/20 at 8AM and can we possibly get thru customs and on are private tour by 9AM.  

 

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On 3/6/2020 at 12:30 AM, lasvegaswinner1 said:

Azamara Quest arrives in St Pete  6/20 at 8AM and can we possibly get thru customs and on are private tour by 9AM.  

 

It may be worth mentioning that Azamara Quest is scheduled to dock at The English  Embankment  terminal not the main cruise port at Vasilyvesky Island.  This will make a significant difference in exiting as they may be the only ship there, rather than 3 or 4 larger ships due to dock at the main port on 20 June. Currently over 8k due to exit on that day!

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