I'm sure by the date of the original post you are no longer looking for information. However, I never book the ships excursions have have great experiences. In St. Petersburg we went on our own to the Hermitage and ended up getting ushered in through a back door while everyone turned their backs, a young lady saw us in line and recognized us as americans and told us we had a special entrance. We didn't know what the entrance was until after she got us in. Also when we went to change dollars for rubles our taxi driver took us to a back door and got us a great exchange rate. In Warnmueden germany we took the local train instead of the excursion train and had a great experience with the locals and a much better train and a much lower cost. We have run out of gas on our way to the ship, taken local busses with locals and had great stories, snorkeled with the sting rays for lower prices and more personalized trip. Everyone always recommends against going on your own but the experiences I've had have been priceless.