My wife and I will be sailing on the Oosterdam in September. We stop in St.Petersburg for two days. I am considering using a private tour guide. Does anyone know any in St.Petersburg? I have been on a web site for a company called "Red October". They quoted me nearly $500.00 a day for two. That seemed excessive to me. Is that the going rate?
We used Red October last month, and can't praise them enough. There were four of us, which means a significant cost savings. I think we paid approximately $275 per person for the two days. It was cheaper than going on two all day shore excursions, and we got to chose our own itinerary, and do everything at our pace.New Cruiser wrote:
We got them down to $200, based on a group rate deal. Even if we have to ride with a dozen people in our van, it's more intimate than a 40-passenger bus. Especially when it comes to loading and unloading at every stop.
We used Red October in St. Petersburg for 2 days in August, 2003. It was a fabulous experience. There is no waiting in line, as they swish you to the front of the line. There were 4 of us in our group and the price was about $400 a piece for the two days. We used credit cards, which brought the cost up a little. They will plan itinerary with you and around your wants. We had lunch in a Russian home, toured Hermitage, lunch in a Russian restaurant, went to a market, toured St. Catherines and Peterhof, took a canal tour could stop for photos whenever we wanted, went to folklore show. I have only positives to say about this tour group.
People who used the cruiseline for St. Petersburg, waited in line for 2+ hours to get into Catherine's Palace. While they were waiting to get inside, we had toured the Palace and the grounds.
Our guide was wonderful as was the driver.
If you want more info, feel free to contact me. Mindy@sharphaus.com
We just had a 2-day Red October tour in August. I can't say enough about those 2 days. It was the highlight of our cruise.
We went to Catherine Palace, the Hermitage (including the Gold Room), the Peterhof, a number of churches and other sites (I can't remember each one at the moment), 2 restaurants, took a subway ride, went to a grocery store, went to the Kirov Ballet, had a wonderful guide and driver all for $270 per person. We had a group of 6.
If you want to find people to share your tour with (to reduce the cost) post a message here and on the Crusie Critic Baltic Port message board with details of your ship and dates. Also, Laura who owns (I think) Red October will help put groups together.
Glad to read the positive reports about Red October. I'm going to do the 10 day Baltic in August 2004 and hope to book this with some other people. Sounds much better than being in line with hundreds from the ship, especially since Princess is putting the Grand on that sailing rather than a smaller ship!
Curious about a Visa though, if you don't go with a ship tour do you need a Visa???
You'll need a visa only if you want to explore the city on your own. As long as your with a ship's tour or guided tour, you won't need a visa. (apparently your tour sponsor guarantees to the Russian government that you will return to the ship at the end of your tour - maybe a vestige of the days when Russians would leave their ballet troupe and defect once they landed on American soil!).
Be warned, however, that the Russians have raised the visa fee to $100, to match the US State Dept's $100 charge for a visa interview at an American embassy or consulate. The price goes up for expedited service (e.g. you decide you need a visa less than a month before you depart).
Regarding Red October, make sure you send your stuff directly to Laura - sometimes she didn't receive the information we sent to other employees or other Red October e-mail addresses. Also, see if she can schedule a lunch or dinner with a local host family. It's a refreshing change from the "Potemkin Tour" of the city that you'd be seeing otherwise.
We went to Saint Petersburg in August 2002 and used Palladium Tours run by Alexi Fetisov. His email is**Commercial e-mail deleted**
He gave us a driver and an english speaking guide. The guide was most knowledgeable about the various sites. Below is an extract of what he arranged for us last year. He also assisted with the visas.
I would like to recommend the following program for your two days' stay in
St. Petersburg: a panoramic city tour, visits to St. Isaak's cathedral and
Peter-and-Paul fortress, an excursion to the Hermitage museum, and a trip to
one or two summer palaces of the Russian Tsars - Peterhoff, Pushkin
(Tsarskoye Selo) or Pavlovsk. Tickets to a ballet or a folklore show can be
arranged for the evening. An average duration of such a program would be:
the first day - approx.9 hrs. (without the theater), the second day -
approx. 5-6 hrs. Your program can certainly be amended to suit your
requirements either in advance or on site.
Our rates are: the services of an English-speaking guide - $8 per hour, a
car (a European make) with a driver - $10 per hour, a minivan (up to 7
pax) - $16 per hour, a minivan (up to 12-14 pax) - $20 per hour.
Folklore show at the famous Nikolaevsky palace - $15 per person (incl.
traditional Russian snacks during the interval).
We also used Pallidium this past summer. They did an excellent job. They gave us free visa support letters and we paid $100 each for visas. It was wonderful having the freedom to spend time in St.Petersburg on our own, no guides needed for part of the time. We had our guide and driver from Pallidium take us to Peterhof the first morning. Around 1 p.m. they dropped us off at the Hermitage, as we requested and we toured it on our own. This was just like seeing the Louve on your own, no problem. We then visited St.Issacs, shopped in a street market, walked the city, and did a canal cruise all without a guide. In the evening we attended the Folklore show that Pallidium had bought tickets to ahead of time for us. It was $20 each and WONDERFUL. I had the driver show us where it was located while we were with them in the morning and we walked to the Palace which was not far from St.Isaccs, along the river. The Pallidium driver picked us up after the show and drove us back to the ship.
The following day we met Olga Stepanova, recommened by others on the net. She met us at the port gate. We simply took the port bus from the ship to the gate for no cost.
Using mini vans, for .25 a ride we drove into the city, took the metro with Olga's help, and visited several sites including an indoor market, Church on Spilled Blood, T. Cemetary, Peter and Paul Fortress, and much more. I made a list of where I wanted to go that day and she put it in order and by using the metro and mini-buses, guided us. She charges $10 an hour for this service. At the end of our time she spoke to a taxi driver and arranged a taxi ride back to the port gate for $10. We then took the port bus back to the ship from the gate. It was a wonderful 2 days in St.Petersburg and wonderful using a guide when needed, but having the freedom to tour on our own for much of the time.
My wife Linda, two friends of ours and I are planning to use Red October when we are in St. Petersburg next summer- we are booked on the Oceania Regatta for 8/10/04, departing from Stockholm. We arrive in St. Petersburg on 8/13/04.
We would like to have a few more people join us to cut the tour costs down, ending up with 8 or 10 altogether. A group negates having to get individual visas.
Anyone out there interested? I already have been in contact with Laura at Red October and have a good, tour lined up. I have been there before, but many years ago when it was Leningrad.
Forgot to add - despite what the State Dept tells you, don't be afraid to bring cash on your trip to St Pete. You can bargain with the souvenir dealers much easier when you're waving a $20 bill under their noses, and it'll come in handy when tipping your tour guide and driver at the end of your tour. And if you choose to use your credit card to pay for the tour itself, there'll be a 7% SURCHARGE over and above the quoted tour price. So I guess cash is still king over there.
P.S. Peter - If you're awake when the ship sails into port, check out the shipping terminal on the starboard side - there's still a huge sign that reads "Leningrad" - if you don't read Cyrillic, you wouldn't notice it.
Thinking of using Red October in St. Petersburg. Everything we've heard until now was that we had to have a travel visa to get off the ship in Russia. Their email indicated that their tickets were sufficient to allow us to leave the ship for the duration of the day tour. What was your experience with this? Thanks.
I'ved been in touch with Olga at Den rus Tours. They are the other tour company, similar to Red October, which does not require you to have a visa. She gets back to you immediately by e-mail and couldn't be more helpful. It might be worth it to check on their tours and prices. Her e-mail address: **Addy deleted** Sorry folks, this comes under the advertising policy
We've just returned from a Baltic cruise and touring with RO for our two days in St. Petersburg.
We booked way ahead of time which allowed us to hook up with some other couples to make a small (and manageable) group of six, and at the same time, take advantage of a lower price than if were just two. For the two of us, I think the two-day total was just about $600, plus the tip for the driver and guide. This included two lunches (one at a restaurant, one in the home of a Russian family), early admission charges where necessary, the extra charge for the Gold Room at the Hermitage, and camera charges at all sites requiring a photo fee.
RO came through with everything they proposed. Our guide was very pleasant and extremely knowledgable. We bypassed all the long lines and crowds, and avoided the hassle and waste of time waiting for stragglers - a common annoyance when you are part of a busload of 40 people on a shore excursion.
I can't imagine exploring St. Petersburg without the services of a group like RO, just with respect to the language barrier and the transportation logistics involved in getting around.
I would highly recommend RO to anyone visiting St. Petersburg. Whatever the cost, they are well worth it.
We booked the ship's excursion to the Catherine Palace and the Folklore show (well worth it). The rest of St Petersburg we did on foot or by jumping in Taxi's (antiquated Lada's with the craziest of drivers- an experience in itself- loads of them around). Ask how much before you get in. We were about $5 a trip. We used the map the ship gave us for getting around.
Do some research before you go and plan what you want to do. We did not go to the Hermitage although we did obviously see it. My husband and I fell in love with St. Petersburg and returned a couple of years later to catch up on what we did not have time to do in the 2 days we had. We spent a whole day in the Hermitage. There are still things we would like to see and hope to go back some day (Petroverts for example- it was february and apparently recommended to see in the summer months).
There are great markets selling all your usual gifts etc. which are very cheap. They were happy to accept US Dollars or £ sterling (even coins) which was just as well as the ship ran out of roubles.
We are off to Alaska this year and I'm really looking forward to it but have to admit to a tinge of envy at you going off to St. Petersburg- Enjoy!!!
We have three couples sailing on the Grand Princess August 7th of this year. We had prebooked a two day tour in St Petersburg with the ship. After reading your answer to somebody about Red October we may want to change our minds. Any information your have would be very much appreciated. If you have any suggestion on the other ports I would like to hear about them too.
We'll be there in September. How do we connect with Red October here in the States to book a van. Thank you.
We did Alaska on HAL last June and every where the ship stopped there were cabs eager to take carloads of us to the same places the HAL tours were going. Issues od language and alphabet, though, make us want to arrange it beforehand
Dear TARgirl, how do we get a hold ouf Laura?TARgirl wrote:
> We just had a 2-day Red October tour in August. I can't say
> enough about those 2 days. It was the highlight of our cruise.
> We went to Catherine Palace, the Hermitage (including the Gold
> Room), the Peterhof, a number of churches and other sites (I
> can't remember each one at the moment), 2 restaurants, took a
> subway ride, went to a grocery store, went to the Kirov Ballet,
> had a wonderful guide and driver all for $270 per person. We
> had a group of 6.
> If you want to find people to share your tour with (to reduce
> the cost) post a message here and on the Crusie Critic Baltic
> Port message board with details of your ship and dates. Also,
> Laura who owns (I think) Red October will help put groups
> Have great cruise!
e-mail address: **Addy deleted** --- and ask for Olga.
We are also looking for additional persons for our Red Ocotber tour. We are on the Holland America Westerdam leaving Copenhagen on Jun 20th. The ship docks in St. Petersburg on June 23rd and 24th. Red Ocotber charges less per person if additional persons are in the van. If interested, please contact them.
RO passes on the extra cost of using a credit card to the tourist, even though legally they aren't supposed to do so. We paid in cash to avoid the extra charge.
Also, your cruise line will state in their documents that you will not be allowed off the ship in Russia without a visa or a ship issued excursion ticket, but this is not true! Nobody on the ship checks your tickets or visas when you debark. You simply show your RO tickets and passport to the Russian immigration officials and they will let you through...your RO guide will be waiting for you on the other side!
This is an outstanding tour company. We had a wonderful time and it was well worth the cost.
The two main tour agencies are Den Rus and Red October, both are good, but after living in S Petersburg and knowing about as much as any American does about the city, I recommend Den Rus,. Both agencies have high marks for satisfaction but there are differences.
If you do write to R.O. you ought to write directly to the agency rather than the US agent which is mainly just an automatic email responder robot that can take orders to be passed on to the real agency in St Petersburg.
Ship tours are not the great deal the cruise lines claim them to be. Crowding onto a large bus with over 40 other visitors means a lot of your valuable time is spent getting on and off the bus instead of interacting with the city and Russia. When a solo guide is trying deal with a large group she spends a lot of her time waiting for her group to reassemble as the move between rooms or exhibits in museums for example. The ships want you to book their tours because they mark them up substanially.
An independent tour company like Den Rus and R.O. are authorized to provide group visas for thise who book tours in advance. They assemble the booking dates and interests into small vans of like minded visitors, who have the same choices in sights and activities. They have the ability to bypass the long lines waiting to get into the museums and palaces.
In order to take advantage of shore group visa 72 hour waviers, the tour company needs to file the proper documents with the Ministry of Internal Affairs prior to your arrival in Russia for you to be able to leave the ship. The alternative is to apply for a conventional Tourist visa. Den Rus or several visa support companies or hotels can suppy the needed documents needed for you to apply for the visa at yorur nearest Russia consulate With a visa, you can explore the city on your own if you wish.
St Petersburg will be the highlight of a Baltic cruise so how effectively you spend you r time in ths port will determine your overall enjoyment of the cruise.
If you have any questions about the city and how best to experience it I would be happy to answer questions and offer my opinions.