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Kris June 15th, 2001 06:26 PM

Baltic Cruise-doing it on our own
We're taking a Baltic Cruise on Orient in a couple of weeks (yippee!!!). We're intending to do all the ports on our own, including St. Petersburg which we've visited before. We have applied for our visas and am crossing my fingers that they get here on time. We've traveled in Europe quite a bit so we are comfortable on our own.

Any tips on touring on our own in these ports (Copenhagen, Stockholm, Tallinn, Helsinki and St. Petersburg)? I'm mostly concerned with St. Pete, are there taxis at the piers, any trouble getting a taxi back to the pier? Has anyone tried the circus? Do they still have the 100% fat ice cream? Any trouble with lines at Peterhof and the Hermitage? I've read that opening times are not set in stone, any trouble getting into anyplace? They didn't have restaurants open to the public on our last visit, is it safe to eat away from the ship?

Has anyone shopped for amber? Best quality/prices in St. Pete or Copenhagen?

Any trouble using the ATMs in St. Pete?

I will be armed with several guides books and lots of internet printouts, a Russian/English dictionary.

Any other general wisdom/tips/suggestions would also be appreciated. Thanks!

norm June 17th, 2001 08:59 PM

Re: Baltic Cruise-doing it on our own

I understand that there are still problems going ashore on your own in St. Petersburg, but I'm not sure of the details (whether you simply need a particular visa or whether you can't do it at all).

You might want to check the U. S. Department of State web site ( for more information on the countries where you have ports of call.


BETTY June 23rd, 2001 02:10 PM

Re: Baltic Cruise-doing it on our own
Hi -- We are going on the Galaxy in September. I understand there has been an effort to make acquiring individual visas for Russia a little easier. Also a reduction in cost from $100 to $40. I don't know how this compares with the cost of a shore excursion from the ship. I have read also that getting from the docking pier to "downtown" is not easy.

RZ June 24th, 2001 04:38 PM

Re: Baltic Cruise-doing it on our own

We were on the Renaissance R8 Baltic cruise 3 wks ago. We took the ship's tour of the Hermitage and the big advantage was that the tour groups had access to the Hermitage a few hours before it was open to the public. I would guess that the crowds are larger now with the peaking tourist season. After the general public entered - it was crowded. The trip and tour were great.

An unexpected treat were a truly professional dockside band (the St. Petersburg Dock Band). These guys played their hearts out and were great. They play for donations - musicians of their caliber sadly have to do this for an income.

pamda June 24th, 2001 11:08 PM

Re: Baltic Cruise-doing it on our own
Kris ...

We did it on our own with our trusty Lonely Planet Guide. There are taxis at the pier at St. P. Getting back isn't that easy, the cabbie will drop you off at the pier gate and ANOTHER cabbie will take you to the ship. After a long day, the $5 to get back to the ship is a bargain.

It is a wonderful, but VERY WEARING, itinerary. From conversations we had with others, we saw about 4X as much as the people on ShoreX's.

If you have any other questions, e-mail or post here.

pamda -- Cruise Mates Utility Infielder

Robie July 15th, 2001 10:27 PM

Re: Baltic Cruise-doing it on our own
WE just did 14 nights on the Galaxy. Did most ports ourselves. Bought the city cards in Oslo, Arhus, Copenhagen, and Helsinki. It really is great. In kmost places the cards admits you either free or at a reduced fee to most museums and attractions. Buses, trams, trains and ferries are also include. In some cities, sightseeing tours are included. A really good way to see the sights. We only bought tours in St. Peterburg. The Hermitage tour in AM gets you in about an hour before the crowds. The line when we left was wrapped aroung the block. People who did it on their own waited 2 hours and were crowded in the palace. Even if you get a visa and a guide, take the ship,s topur of the Hermitage. We also got in early at Catherine's palce in Puskin. We took the PM tour to Peterhof. Although, we bypast the lines to get in, it was crowded. THey were all worth seeing. Have fun. Relax and enjoy.

SandyB July 24th, 2001 10:27 PM

Re: Baltic Cruise-doing it on our own
I'm also sailing- Galaxy cruise of 9/8. Sounds like it might be interesting to get a group together to do van tour in St. Pete's. Any interest if thsi is your cruise?

Robie July 26th, 2001 10:32 AM

Re: Baltic Cruise-doing it on our own
Russia on your own. Not smart. Everywhere else, just fine.Ship does provide a shuttle service to a place called "red October" if you have a visa. Getting around in St. P is tough.Roads are the worst. Taxis break down. Lots of nasty folks. Beware. Take the ship's tours. It's safer and more convenient. You don't need a visa if you take ship tours. If you go on your own, be ready for long waits in lines at most attractions. Hermitage- over 2 hours. Very crowded. Ship tours get in an hour before the public.

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