ship's shore excursions vs. private touring companies
In the two day ports such as St. Petersburg, Russia, had anyone taken the ship's shore excursion and been happy with the result?. I have heard that with many ships in port on the same day, lines at attractions are very long and take away from the sightseeing time. Also, driving times to the attractions take longer due to traffic congestion. If there are only going to be two ships in on the day I am in St. Petersburg, would it still be wise to book with a private touring company or take advantage of the slightly lower cost of the ship's shore excursion and still see the city's highlights? Barb
St. Petersburg is a city I would highly recommend private tours (even if it does cost a bit more). There is just SO MUCH to see, and a private tour enables quicker access to all sites, plus they'll customize them if you have specific things you want to see and do.
St. Petersburg is the poster child city for taking private tours. Among the many reasons. . .
1. The typical 8-15 passenger vans can maneuver better and faster than the lumbering busses. You can literally (and we did) be on your second or third stop before the busses get to the first. In this regard it is important to ascertain that your tour company provides both a driver and a guide, as opposed to a driver/guide. I believe all the major ones do. It is very important. You simply are more agile in a small vehicle. Very important in cities like St. Petersburg.
2. If you do your research you can, within reason, customize your itinerary.
3. I'm not entirely sure how she did it, but our guide managed to bust the lines at literally every place we went that was crowded.
4. Being part of a small group is almost always more rewarding. You get to know everybody in your little posse, and it's a lot of fun.
5. Last but not least. . .in our experience the people who get together for private tours have a little more, shall we say, common sense than some of the people who slog around on the busses. With private tours it's virtually unheard of for people to be late returning to the van, or to get lost, or to be "out of it" in other ways. The fact that they've taken the trouble to set something up or seek out a small private group represents a sort of de facto selection process and generally yields folks who are pretty much on the ball. That may not be a politically correct observation, but it has been true in our experience.
We have already joined two private tours on our next cruise.
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Thank you all for your imput. I'll probably go with a private tour. My husband and I have not been able to find others to share a private tour with and of course, this makes it a bit more expensive. We would like to see as much as we can in the time that we have in port and I think that the positives of a private car outweigh the negatives of large bus groups.Barb