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St. Petersburg - Is getting a visa worth it?


tarzanacruisers

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I would like an opinion from those who have visited St. Petersburg. We are traveling on the Emerald Princess this summer and aren't sure about the benefit of getting a visa so we can be on our own. We plan on a couple of shore excursions. Is there any free time provided with the shore excursions for shopping and browsing around the city? Is it worth the expense of the visa?

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We used Red October for our two days in St. Petersburg, and I can't recommend them highly enough. They tailored their "standard" two day itinerary to our interests and requests, and we could browse and/or shop as much (or for us, as little) as we wanted. For the four of us travelling together, it was less expensive than two full days of ship's shore excursions, and we never had to wait for anyone or spend too much or too little time some place.

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And I'd like to 3rd it. We used Red October last year and were SO glad that we did. Not only did they tailor the tour to our wishes, we got early entrance into many of the venues. It was practically a private tour of Catherine's Palace. There wasn't anyone in the gardens but the four of us and our tour guide. A wonderful 2 days and less expensive than the ship tours.

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I would like an opinion from those who have visited St. Petersburg. We are traveling on the Emerald Princess this summer and aren't sure about the benefit of getting a visa so we can be on our own. We plan on a couple of shore excursions. Is there any free time provided with the shore excursions for shopping and browsing around the city? Is it worth the expense of the visa?
Welcome to CruiseCritic. I sailed the Baltics twice, using Red October private tours on the first cruise and Denrus private tours on the second cruise. We thought Denrus was much better, but I was more active in forming the custom itinerary for our 2nd cruise. I think the Red October tour we went on during our first Baltic cruise was just their standard, and we didn't get to see as much as we did touring with Denrus.

 

I would advise you to visit the very helpful Baltics message boards on this site (see http://boards.cruisecritic.com/forumdisplay.php?f=192) to read about your options so that you can decide what is best for you. And then if you are not traveling in a group, you can use your roll call thread to form a private tour group in St. Petersburg if that is your choice.

 

BTW, we've been fortunate to have sailed 15 cruises in Europe with too many ports to count, and I wouldn't do St. Petes on my own even though we are very independent (rarely use shore excursions and either use private tours or trains, etc.). St. Petersburg is amazing, and you can see the most on private tours in that port in my opinion.

 

Have a great trip,

Donna

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Add us to the satisfied DenRus customers. You can tailor your tour to just your interests. We've cruised the Baltic's 2x (& looking forward to a 3rd!) &, on the second trip we were interested in shopping for specific items (not to the typical kick-back type of tourist shops). DenRus was great in setting up a perfect schedule, leaving plenty of time for shopping, as well as sightseeing. They provided the visa's we needed (no extra charge).

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I would like an opinion from those who have visited St. Petersburg. We are traveling on the Emerald Princess this summer and aren't sure about the benefit of getting a visa so we can be on our own. We plan on a couple of shore excursions. Is there any free time provided with the shore excursions for shopping and browsing around the city? Is it worth the expense of the visa?

For the price of getting a visa you can book with DenRus. They are fabulous and you won't be sorry. My two days in St. Petersburg with DenRus are my all-time favorite from any of my cruises!!!

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We also used Denrus.If you can afford to splurge for a private tour it is well worth the money. Our family of 4 had a van, guide and driver for 2 days and saw everything we wanted to. It is a very spread out city ( many of the best sites out outside the city)and I would not want to try get around on my own. Also with a private guide we were able to have lunches at small cafes where the locals eat. We had the most amazing food. So you don't need a visa, go with a tour company.

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I would definitely go with one of the tour companies mentioned. You won't have enough time to get out on your own unless you go totally on your own. The port is not convenient so far as transportation goes, and you're going to need to get from there into the heart of the city anyway.

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we hoofed it everywhere by ourselves in the baltic, and without exception we were successful-- EXCEPT st petersburg. everyone speaks english almost everywhere all the time, but in russia. you can't even guess at the signs because they're in cryllic. stick with a tour group. oh, and even with two days, there will NEVER be enough time. it is one cool place. i could spend a week in the hermitage alone. have fun.

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When you disembark in St. Petersburg, you go through Immigration booths on the dock right at the end of the gangway where your passport and visa (or tour ticket) are thoroughly examined so you will not be able to go more than 10' off the ship without a visa of some sort.

 

If you book an independent tour, you provide the tour operator with the name on your passport, birth date, passport # and where the passport was obtained for each person in your party and they obtain the visa for you. They will issue each person a "tour ticket" that proves you have a visa so you do not have to obtain one separately.

 

We used Viktoria of SPB Tours (www.spb-tours.com) and she was absolutely fabulous. I'd been to St. Petersburg several times before yet I saw things that I'd never seen before. We had a small group in a very comfortable van with a tour guide who spoke excellent English and knew everything about everything. She had a great sense of humor and took us to lunch each day at very small, out-of-the-way places to experience real Russian food, which was fast, delicious and very inexpensive.

 

If your itinerary includes Berlin, Viktoria's husband manages their tours in Berlin, which we took, so you only need to contact one person to book tours in both cities. Our tour in Berlin was on a big, luxury bus with only about 22 people, and our tour guide was an American married to a German; she was very knowledgeable.

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Last I visited St Petersburg via the Grand P, you did not need a visa IF you toured via a Princess tour. Rather than getting a visa to allow me to tour outside of an organized Princess tour - I booked one of those private vans from Princess. A bit expensive, but all the advantages of a private tour operator without the problems of applying for, and paying for a visa. It was great, plus the van guide met me dockside and expedited me throught the long Russia passport check kiosk.

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We were planning on taking the Princess tours? Were others pleased with them? Anyone go to the Evening Folkloric show? What was that like? I know my husband wouldn't care for the ballet.

Elvera,

We did the two day Princess tour in 2006 and thought it was fantastic. It was very well planned and not rushed at all. We saw everything you could possibly imagine and it's two days I won't soon forget. We had the same tour guide both days and she was wonderful.

 

The Folkloric show onboard was very interesting, it's not ballet it's a Russian nightclub show - The Troika Dancers - from the Troika Nightclub and they come right onboard and perform in the Princess Theater.

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Last I visited St Petersburg via the Grand P, you did not need a visa IF you toured via a Princess tour. Rather than getting a visa to allow me to tour outside of an organized Princess tour - I booked one of those private vans from Princess. A bit expensive, but all the advantages of a private tour operator without the problems of applying for, and paying for a visa. It was great, plus the van guide met me dockside and expedited me throught the long Russia passport check kiosk.
You also don't need a visa if you tour with one of the licensed private tour operators in St. Petersburg such as Red October, Denrus, etc.

 

Donna

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