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Old January 28th, 2005, 03:16 PM
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Default Share St. Petersburg, Russia private tours? - August 27 (08/

If you're interested in 2-day private tour in St. Petersburg for our sailing, we'd like to add to a group that we are forming that will be 8-10 passengers max to fully benefit from the private tour. We're in our early 40s, enjoy traveling with passengers of all ages, and we guarantee that we're a lot of fun to tour with. A group visa will be provided by the tour company. I have already done a lot of research that I will be happy to pass along.

For those who are not aware, please note that the advantage to using a private driver in St. Petes, besides the obvious long waits for large groups to load and unload and use the facilities and all that, are that the tour operators are able to take their small groups to the main sites with no long waits in line (some shore excursion groups have to wait as long as 1-2 hours to get into the Hermitage and Catherine's Palace), tours are customized to your interests, more interaction and higher quality interaction with the guide (which is especially advantageous in a port with such a rich history), and you can see much more than you can in a large group.

My husband and I have been to most of these ports on this sailing and have found that they are easy to do on your own (other than St. Petes), so I can pass along some info on that if anyone is interested.

Please feel free to e-mail me directly at dahillark@yahoo.com or post a reply here, and I will get back to you quickly.

Happy travels to all,
Donna
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Old February 3rd, 2005, 03:40 PM
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Default Re: Share St. Petersburg, Russia private tours? - August 27

We have 6 people in our private tour group now and would like to have 4 more passengers join us on a fantastic 2-day tour in St. Petes.

Okay, uncle. I think I sent a reply to everyone who e-mailed me, but I had a suggestion to post the port info here, and I’m thinking that is a good idea. I think I sent replies to everyone, but please accept my apologies if I overlooked your message and note the port information below.

For those who haven’t booked and are considering this cruise, I did find prices $1,000 - $1,300 per person lower than the fares featured on many sites on the Internet, so as of the date of this message, there are still low group fares with at least two travel agencies. Since it’s my understanding that we aren’t allowed to post travel agent information here, you can e-mail me at dahillark@yahoo.com. Unfortunately, the law of supply and demand indicates that there is a lot of demand for European cruises this year (unlike the last few years when there were great specials for many sailings), and it appears that prices for many sailings will continue to go up.

If you’ve already checked in on this board for our sailing, please note that there are at least 20 sets of passengers who e-mailed me indicating that they are monitoring the messages for our sailing but have not signed up for the gathering, so hopefully they’ll sign in at a later date.

These are independent sightseeing notes mostly from a 2003 trip because I’m not a big fan of shore excursions (large groups on tour are sometimes slow and time is too precious in port). My husband and I are in our early 40's and fairly active, so we like to use our shoe leather to explore on foot and feel that we have much more interaction with the locals and have a better feel for the culture of each port, so please keep that in mind when considering our recommendations. But you don't have to use much shoe leather in most of these ports because the attractions are centrally located or within reach by local transportation. Also, everyone has different interests (I love the art galleries and my husband is a WWII history buff), so we sometimes split up to see different sights), so it kind of depends on what you like. We frequently grab a sandwich at lunch from a local bakery so that we can continue on to the attractions, so I don’t have a lot of restaurant recommendations for ports. (We do take the time to sit down for nice meals on pre- and postcruise stays but like to continue on while in port). We kept running into the shore excursion passengers in each port, but we got to see so much more for a fraction of the cost. Some of the shore excursions might be a good option for those with very limited mobility or for passengers in wheelchairs. When we did use public transportation to go from site to site, the buses/trams/ferries ran very frequently (once every 10 minutes or less) and usually stopped right in front of the attractions. If you sit near the front of the bus, tram, etc., the drivers are usually very helpful in assisting you with instructions on when to get off.

Regarding money matters, most of the sights take credit cards, and we rarely saw a minimum amount required for purchase. We followed our usual practice and obtained a small amount—approximately $50 U.S.—of currency for each country from our local bank. Most of the Baltic countries are not on the Euro, so you will need a number of currencies for this trip, and it can be confusing. Since we have a small amount, we usually pay for everything early in the day using our credit card and then start using the cash toward the end of the day. I think it was in Copenhagen that there is some shopping right next to the cruise ship dock (Hard Rock café shirts, sandals from Holland, etc.), and you can always burn extra cash at the end of the day purchasing post cards and things of that nature from street vendors. If you have less than $10-15 left in any currency, you might as well spend it so that you don’t lose most of it in exchange transactions. I strongly advise against exchanging money on the ship because the rates are not good. If you need to convert a significant amount, find a bank, and you shouldn’t have a problem finding a bank in these ports. You’ll need a very small amount of foreign currency to use the public restrooms in most of these ports, so use the facilities at the museums or at a restaurant if you can but make sure to have some change if you can’t. I don’t think you can convert Russian rubbles outside Russia. Generally, the prices in these countries are pretty high and will be comparable to prices in London. A nice sweatshirt in Stockholm was over $50 U.S. and that kind of thing. But I think the entrance fees were very reasonable at the attractions.

The Scandinavia ports are great for independent sightseeing and easy to navigate because English is widely spoken and the public transportation is so convenient, cheap, and reliable. We used the Frommers Scandinavia guide and highly recommend it even to those who will use shore excursions because of all the helpful info. (Some tourists rave about the EyeWitness guide books, and we like those to look at floor plans and photos but find Frommers to be much more helpful with practical information like hours of operation, detailed public transportation info, suggested itineraries, web sites, etc.)

Stockholm was wonderful; it was very scenic and had some of my favorite attractions on our cruise. The walk from the location where our ship docked to the edge of Gamla Stan was about 20 minutes. Our ship ran a shuttle later in the day, but we were off the ship before the shuttle began running. There was a red line painted on the ground that led from the ship to the edge of Gamla Stan—a nice walk along the harbor--so it was all very easy. We were off the ship as soon as the gangway went down (about 7:00 a.m.) and went into the old town (Gamla Stan) in Stockholm while the streets were void of tourists to do the Frommers walking tour that includes the royal palace along with a lot of other great sights. We had great timing because the stores were opening at the end of our walk, and we got to shop some too. Then when all the tour groups were emptied into the old town to shop at the same time and the streets were crowded, we were off to our other activities. We had a fantastic time enjoying the beauty--I can't say enough good things about this port--without all the crowds. Then we took a 5-minute ferry ride to the Djurgården Island (the ferries were very easy to find on the waterfront) and went to the Vasa Museum and to Skansen. You can walk to all the attractions on that island. The Vasa Museum was just great (we liked it more than the Viking Ship Museum in Oslo although I would also recommend a stop there), and Skansen is a park made up of buildings from previous centuries that have been set up like the buildings would have been in that century—fabulous!!! and so very charming! We did not have to wait in lines at any of the sites except approx 10-minute wait at the Vasa Museet. Web sites are http://www.skansen.se/eng/hgtindex.htm and http://www.vasamuseet.se/Vasamuseet/Vasamuseet.aspx?path=%2fhome%2fvasamuseet%2fom&lay out={C0D465E0-3110-436A-A0E4-EA5BB84475B8}.

Good news for the 8/27/2005 Constellation sailing! I’ve done some research to plan our day, and we are VERY lucky with our timing for Stockholm. Since we will be in port in Stockholm on Wednesday, August 31, arriving at noon, until 1:00 p.m. on Thursday, September 1, we will have an opportunity to see a lot due to the late closing times at some attractions. The information is verified as of February 3. The Vasa Museum is open until 8:00 p.m. only on Wednesdays! Skansen is open until 10:00 p.m., although many of the houses close at 5:00 or 7:00 p.m. (links for Skansen and Vasa are listed above). But it’s so very charming that I think it would be worth it for others to go anyway because the villages are just awesome (we will be going for sure and then will be walking through Gamla Stan at night since we’ve seen it in the daytime hours). Skansen opens at 10:00 a.m. on Thursday, and the Vasa Museum also opens at 10:00 a.m.; you would need to allow time to return to the ship via ferry and then a walk/taxi ride/shuttle ride to the ship. The Kungliga Slott royal palace in the Gamla Stan area (http://www.royalcourt.se/theroyalpal...7fff25857.html) will only be open until 4:00 p.m. on Wednesday. Note that it does not open until noon on Thursday, so if you want to go inside, you will need to go on Wednesday, and that should be one of the first stops on your route. The changing of the guard is at noon, so it’s likely that we’ll miss that. (We docked about a 20-minute walk from the palace when we were there in 2003, and I think all aboard will be at 12:30 p.m. for the Constellation departure at 1:00 p.m. on Thursday.) The National Museum (http://www.nationalmuseum.se/NMTempl...e____2677.aspx), which is the art museum and looks very nice, is open until 5:00 p.m. on Wednesday and does not open until 11:00 a.m. on Thursday. Since it looks like many of the attractions we will be visiting are open on Wednesday and are not practical for Thursday, we’re going to be doing some more research on Thursday morning activities to get the most out of our port stay. We’re thinking about touring the city hall since we saw it only from the outside on a previous visit, but we’re open to suggestions.

Copenhagen is also a wonderful city. We were warmly greeted in all the Scandinavia countries, and the Danes are very, very friendly. Since I was in this port overnight and wanted to use the daytime hours to go to the castles and other sights, we went to Tivoli after arriving in Copenhagen. I know Tivoli gets mixed reviews; we all really liked it. There were outdoor shows such as singers on stages, bands, acrobats, rides, and a really fun puppet show (sounds corny but was very funny). The park is really pretty at night. It is not large, and we did not eat there so don’t have any food recommendations. We got up early the next day and combined two of the Frommers walking tours—they intersected, so we combined them--the next morning, and they included all the highlights such as the Little Mermaid (near where our ship docked) and the Nyhavn old waterfront, which is a very scenic area, that is featured in most of the postcards of Copenhagen. After that, we used the trolley type public transportation to go to Christiansborg Palace (note that you'll need to time carefully to get an English tour and I think they are at 11:00 a.m., 1:00 p.m., and 3:00 p.m. in 2005) to see the state rooms. At Christiansborg, you cannot access rooms at that palace outside of tours (unlike Rosenborg which is open and you can just walk around), so you need to see that attraction on a tour. Then we split up, and my husband went to the Resistance Museum while I went to Rosenborg Castle to see the royal jewels and other exhibits. We did not have a public transportation map (could have obtained one pretty easily from a tourist center), so we just asked the nice citizens of Copenhagen and the great bus and trolley drivers for assistance, and we had no problems getting around to the main sites. We also had time to shop on the Stroget, although this is not one of my favorite shopping cities in Europe by any stretch of the imagination. The attractions are a little more spread out in Copenhagen, and our ship docked about a 45-minute walk from Tivoli. Four of us took a taxi for $10 U.S. The taxis take credit cards! And they were readily available. I liked taking a taxi from the ship to Tivoli because my husband and I went for less than half of the ship’s tour price, and we were on our own schedule with our friends. (The ship’s tour dropped passengers off at a certain time and picked them up at a set time.) Also, we walked around that area a little prior to taking a tax back to the ship. Web sites are http://www.tivoli.dk/composite-297.htm
http://www.slotte-herregaarde.dk/cms...lt.asp?Page=21
http://www.slotte-herregaarde.dk/cms...lt.asp?Page=20

In Oslo, our ship docked right beside the Akershus Castle and Fort. We took a ferry from the harbor (the ship docks very close to the ferry landing) to the Bygdoy peninsula. Note that the ferrys run in the summer only, but they were running when we were there in May. Then we went to the Norwegian Folk Museum (it's similar to Skansen in Stockholm--they're both great, but Skansen is a little better) and to the Norwegian Viking Ship Museum to see the really, really old ships. The ship museum here is small, so you won't need more than a hour or so there. Then I did a walking tour of Oslo with some friends from the ship while my husband went to the Resistance Museum. We also went to the Akershus Castle. One note—many of the museums in Oslo closed in mid-afternoon in May of 2003, so it took some careful planning in this port. I do wish we had gone to Vigelandsparken, so we will be going there this time. It didn’t really appeal to me on paper when we were planning our day, but everyone from the ship who went just raved about it. Web sites are http://www.visitnorway.com/templates...156883&lang=EN
http://www.visitnorway.com/templates...=15641&lang=EN
http://www.visitnorway.com/templates...156883&lang=EN

The scenic sailing in the Stockholm archipelago and in the fjords around Oslo is spectacular. In all of the port cities, the architecture is wonderful, and the palaces and attractions are very accessible. We didn't have a lot of great shopping, meaning that the prices are not really low like they are in some parts of Italy or some other European cities, but we were able to find some home decor items that were reasonable—meaning much lower than comparable items cost in the States--and lots of souvenir items.

In St. Petersburg, I recommend a private guide and/or driver. There are lots of notes on the Baltic Ports section of these boards. Our biggest dilemma is narrowing down all the great options in this city.

For Tallinn, it’s a great place to just walk around the city and shop for souvenirs. Most of the streets are closed to vehicles and are pedestrian only. Please note that some people had difficulty walking on the uneven streets; there are some hills and steps too. This is a great addition to the Baltic itinerary. I read that there is a new occupation museum opening this year. The open-air museum is nice (but you have to take a taxi there), and so is St. Mary’s; the Kiek in de Kok and the Alexander Nevsky cathedral are definitely worth a visit. There should be a shuttle from the ship to the old town, and the harbor is pretty. We were unable to get Estonian currency prior to sailing; many of the street vendors accepted dollars, but we got some Estonian money from an ATM. I thought that Tallinn might have converted to the Euro after last year when the country joined the European union, but I can’t find any info indicating that they did switch to the Euro, so I assume the currency is the same as what they’ve been using.
A good web site for photos is http://www.flat3.co.uk/europe/pages/index_tallinn.htm

In Warnemunde, we recommend seeing Rostock, Warnemunde, or nearby areas like Schwerin instead of the 5-hour roundtrip commute into Berlin. We had lots of complaints on our sailing from passengers who spent 10 hours on a bus (in addition to that 5+ hour train ride) with their noses pressed to the windows and only got off 3 times (to eat lunch and twice for photo stops). Berlin is just too far inland and there is too much to see to make that a good option for a day trip in my opinion, but we understand that this may be the only option to see Berlin for some, so we would recommend a private driver (you can search the boards for a recommendation because we haven’t used one in Berlin) if you want to try to see some of the sights in Berlin. Our favorites were Checkpoint Charlie, the museum island (the Alte Nationalgalerie was my favorite there), Schloss Charlottenburg, the war memorial, the Berlin wall, and the Allied Museum.

In Helsinki, we did the Frommers walking tour from Senate Square to the train station. Since we went inside several of the buildings, the walking tour took about 5 hours. We also went to the gardens that are near the train station. Then we took a tram to the national museum.

We haven’t been to Gdynia or to Helsignor, so we’re looking for independent sightseeing tips on those ports and welcome any information that is provided.

In the Scandinavia ports, we did not buy any of the day-pass cards for the museums except in Oslo while we were waiting for the ferry. The day-pass cards might be a good option for some who are traveling in high season (June and July) because you can bypass the lines. We traveled in May and didn’t have any problems with long lines. Since we didn’t go to 4 or 5 museums in one day in any port, we probably came out a little cheaper paying as we went, but I wouldn’t have hesitated to buy a day pass if it would have saved time in port because we were seeing the sights in the ports at a small fraction of the shore excursion prices and because of the savings in time. Also, check the day passes because one of the museums, I think it was the Akershus Fortress, was not on the museum pass, and it might take you more time to find the tourist center to purchase a pass (assuming that you can’t buy it on-line prior to sailing) than it would to just wait in line.

We’ve spent a lot of days in London, and there’s still so much to see! We’re traditionalists and love to see the changing of the guard each time we go, and note that it’s even more fun in Windsor, which is a great day trip that is easy to do by train. My husband loves the Cabinet War Rooms, the Imperial War Museum, and the Royal Air Force Museum. I loved going to Kew Gardens, which is about 30 minutes outside London by tube. The Tower of London would definitely make my top-10 list too; it’s so much fun to see the jewels. There is a moving walkway, but you can go down it several times without the need to get back in line! I absolutely love French Impressionist paintings, and the Courtauld Gallery is amazing. Other favorites include the British Museum, Hampton Court Palace, St. Paul’s Cathedral, National Gallery, Westminster Abbey, and Victoria and Albert Museum. My husband took the train to Portsmouth and spent a day touring the naval sites there and he highly recommends that. The tube is really easy to use, and there is a hop-on/hop-off double-decker bus that is great for first-time visitors to London. Like St. Petersburg, I think this is a place in which research to narrow down the options prior to going will serve you well.

Some day I’m going to put all this on a web page along with our other cruises, but hopefully this will be helpful in the meantime. If anyone from our sailing owes me a favor for providing this info, you can repay me by entertaining my husband on the days at sea. He loves to go from one activity to the next while I like to relax, read my book, watch movies (we stay so busy at home that I always have a lot that I want to see) and visit.

I hope these notes will assist others in planning port visits because we’ve received a lot of great information on these boards.

Best wishes for happy travels to all of you,
Donna
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Old February 5th, 2005, 01:10 PM
arlene koenigsberg
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Default Re: Re: Share St. Petersburg, Russia private tours? - August

Hi Donna, read your info on cruisemates. Please tell me which hotels you stayed, if any in Copenhagen and Stockholm. Thank you, Arlene K.
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Old February 6th, 2005, 10:58 AM
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Default Re: Re: Re: Share St. Petersburg, Russia private tours? - Au

Hi Arlene,

We didn't stay in hotels in Copenhagen and Stockholm but were there for port calls only. I would love to stay in Stockholm on a future trip. I usually use tripadvisor.com and frommers.com to gather hotel info. If you haven't used it before, tripadvisor has a nice tool that allows you to check hotel prices with a number of sites. After you narrow it down to one or two, you can also use travelaxe.com to compare prices on the various sites.

Best wishes to you with your planning.

Donna
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Old February 8th, 2005, 02:38 AM
Marty R. Milette
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Default Re: Share St. Petersburg, Russia private tours? - August 27

Dear all,

Please be aware of some of the 'misinformation' you will see from some companies about St. Petersburg Russia tours:

1. There is no such thing as a 'group visa'. There are only TWO ways you can get into the country as a tourist:

a) as a cruise ship passenger, you may book your tour in advance through a REGISTERED agency -- and your confirmation will allow you to enter the country for up to 72 hours -- provided you spend the nights on the ship.

b) anyone may apply for a regular tourist visa. Very few companies are able to offer a legitimate letter of invitaion -- so be careful! The maximum stay is 3 months, but depends on the duration of your hotel booking.

In either case, I would be delighted to provide further information or details.

2. ALL registered ("legitimate") tour companies are able to arrange "no-wait" entrance to all major attractions. However, there are a LOT of companies that advertise this service, but who are NOT registered or able to really do it! To do this, the company will normally ask for a deposit -- because the tickets MUST be purchased in advance. Watch out! If the company does not ask for any kind of deposit -- it is VERY UNLIKELY that they will be buying your tickets in advance, and you WILL be standing around while the agent waits in line for you.

3. A big warning re. tour guides! There are all kinds of problems to watch out for! First, that the tour guide is EXPERIENCED. Some companies will advertise experienced guides, and then when you arrive, they'll put a STUDENT out to give the tour. This is the most common scam -- because students charge a couple of bucks per hour -- while an experienced guide costs much more.

A second point is that for the major tourist attractions, the guides should be CERTIFIED AND LICENSED. If not, then you will have a second-rate tour, and may get hassled once inside the attraction. (The old ladies who 'guard' each exhibit KNOW the guides -- and if you are using an uncertified, unregistered guide, they have the right to kick you out!)

4. Regarding entrance fees -- make sure that the tour company arranges entrance to the toilets (some are NOT free!) -- and the right to take photos or videos wherever possible. This COSTS EXTRA in most cases! If you take out your camera or video camera and don't have the right ticket purchased -- they can again throw you out or demand the fee on the spot. Please also keep in mind that NOT ALL of the tourist attractions ALLOW photographs or videos to be taken. (This applies especially to churches.) The guide should explain what you are and are not allowed to do.

In general -- BE WARNED that many tour operators will try these and other tricks because they figure that the worst that will happen is that they give you your money back after complaining -- but keep the money from everyone else who doesn't know any better. They figure they'll never see you again, so they do not care if they ruin your trip or not.

There is also a BIG DIFFERENCE (sometimes TEN TIMES THE PRICE) for entrance to tourist attractions for foreigners as for Russians. You may not like it, but this is the law and must be observed. Sometimes tour companies will have someone buy "Russian Citizen" tickets and give these to the tour participants -- but if you get caught with such a ticket -- YOU are the one who can be ARRESTED AND FINED.

All recognized and authorized tour companies pay THE SAME PRICE for legitimate entrance tickets. This is why the prices from most recognized agencies are close to the same -- because the 'overhead' is fixed, and well-known.

Don't get caught in these traps, but please DO visit St. Petersburg and ENJOY your trip! It can be absolutely SPECTACULAR!

Marty R. Milette
http://www.denrus.ru
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Old February 13th, 2005, 07:47 AM
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Default Re: Share St. Petersburg, Russia private tours? - August 27

If anyone has any info regarding why Celebrity changed the itinerary for this sailing and for several others this year to exclude the ports in Helsingborg, Sweden and in Poland, I would really appreciate that information. I liked the old itinerary better than the new one and would like to know the reasons for the change.

Thanks,
Donna
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Old February 13th, 2005, 11:51 AM
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Default Re: Share St. Petersburg, Russia private tours? - August 27

Hi Donna,

I have no idea as to why they changed all of our itineraries but you can read my cynical thinking here: http://<a href="http://boards.cruise...p?t=135590</a>

Good luck with your planning and enjoy the cruise.

Gil
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Old February 13th, 2005, 02:04 PM
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Default Re: Re: Share St. Petersburg, Russia private tours? - August

Hi Aztex,

Thanks for the info. I think there is a lot of confusion right now, and I don't think my individual travel agent was notified on Friday. (The travel agency may have been, but word didn't trickle down or whatever.) As you can see, I'm on the 8/27 sailing, and I can see on the roll call boards on the other site that lots of folks are mad.

When I called Celebrity Customer Service this morning, I was advised that Poland will not allow passengers off the ship without an individual visa. I have read reports the last few years that since 9/11, the U.S. has higher visa fees and stricter requirements, and some countries have retaliated. I know Turkey has. Anyway, I'm not saying this is what happened, I'm just saying that's what I was told.

However, even if the visa issues are true and there are conflicts between our two countries that are out of the control of Celebrity, I think both feel that Celebrity could do much better on the revised itinerary. For example, they could just stay in St. Petersburg for an extra day as far as I'm concerned. I've been to Stockholm before, and it's wonderful, so 7 hours there is just awful under the circumstances. I read your notes about the why that may have occurred, and I remember similar comments last year when some ships didn't call at Tallinn.

I'm planning to fax a letter to Celebrity's offices tomorrow and am awaiting a reply from Celebrity. I'm dbh62ark on the other board that you referenced (I tried to get the luv2cruise name on that board, but it was already taken), and I'll be posting an update when I receive more info.

In the meantime, best wishes to you with your communications.

Donna
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Old February 13th, 2005, 02:30 PM
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Default Re: Re: Re: Share St. Petersburg, Russia private tours? - Au

Wow, was I surprised to find out this morning on another board about the change in itineray for Celebrity. Now I'm very concerned about what I will be able to see in St Petersburg on a Monday. Guess, I need to step back for a moment can calm down!
Elaine
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Old February 15th, 2005, 10:41 AM
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Default Re: Re: Re: Re: Share St. Petersburg, Russia private tours?

Now the itineraries have been switched back to the original itinerary, so there is just a lot of confusion right now.

Donna
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Old February 15th, 2005, 04:47 PM
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Default Re: Share St. Petersburg, Russia private tours? - August 27

Donna,

Talk about confusion. At Celebrity, the itinerary for cruise excursions is back to normal with the old itinerary. The itinerary shown when you call up under destinations is still the new one.

I am trying to keep Ilya apprised at Denrus as well as our walking tour guide in Stockholm - what a mess. Have tried to assure both of them that we might know what is going to happen before we sail.

Gil
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Old February 16th, 2005, 10:32 AM
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Default Re: Re: Share St. Petersburg, Russia private tours? - August

Hi Aztex,

I hope Celebrity sails the original itinerary because I like it much better. I'm awaiting some kind of info from my travel agent and hope to receive the final word soon. I received some e-mails from Ilya at Denrus, and she (I think it's a she??) is very sweet. We're looking forward to our St. Petersburg tours very much. We love Stockholm, and I hope you have a great time there.

Have a great time on your trip,
Donna
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Old February 16th, 2005, 01:45 PM
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Default Re: Share St. Petersburg, Russia private tours? - August 27

Sorry Donna but Ilya is a very sweet guy. Olga is a very sweet lady. Looking forward to the cruise and hoping we get the extended time in Stockholm, instead of sitting out in the bay.

Best of luck -

Gil
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Old February 16th, 2005, 03:58 PM
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Default Re: Re: Share St. Petersburg, Russia private tours? - August

Okay, Ilya's a sweet guy.

Leave the Constellation in good shape for me since we'll be sailing after you! I'd love to hear from you when you get back, especially about Warnemunde, Germany and Poland. My husband and I are not going into Berlin and have been looking at train schedules to Wismar, Schwerin, and Bad Doberan from Rostock. I noted that you're renting a car in another one of your posts. I'm just not sure we want to deal with that on vacation, but I'd love to hear what you think after your experience. We'll be wondering about practical details like did you have problems with parking, etc. My e-mail is dahillark@yahoo.com.

Good luck with your planning too.

Donna
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Old February 16th, 2005, 11:28 PM
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Default Re: Share St. Petersburg, Russia private tours? - August 27

Now that we have Ilya straightened out............;<}

At least they haven't changed Warnemunde on us. Unlike your cruise, we do not go to Poland. Our stops after Tallinn are Riga and Kleipeda. Would have liked to stop in Poland, but I certainly don't mind where we will be stopping.

I'll try my best to remember to email you after we get back on July 9th with news and reviews of the cruise and our experience in Germany. It's been a long time since high school and college German class, but what the hey. After 5 years of German I should be able to say something. I'm working on "Pardon me, but can you tell me where the parking is?"

I'll have to look up Bad Doberan. We will be hitting Wismar and Schwerin, (well, hopefully not hitting) however and will share our stories. Rental cars are not cheap as you know, but I still like the freedom that a car offers and perhaps we will find another couple to share expenses with.

Berlin would be great, but I would rather save that for another trip. After the cruise we will be in London for a week and are scheduled to take Eurostar to Paris for a day. One long day trip per vacation is enough for us.

As to the shape of the Constellation - I make no guarantees about that.

Gil
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Old February 17th, 2005, 08:54 AM
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Default Re: Re: Share St. Petersburg, Russia private tours? - August

Hi Gil,

My husband and I are taking the chunnel train to Brussels after our cruise. You may have already figured this out--we didn't want to backtrack into London to take the train back to the ocean, so we're taking a cab from Dover to Ashford, about a 1/2 hour drive, to get on the train there. I think it's going to be easier. If you figured out a better way, please let me know.

I think you made a good choice regarding the Berlin commute, although I know that is a tough call. I would love to return to an art museum there that had a lot of French Impressionist paintings that I had to whiz by on a previous trip--the museum island in Berlin is phenomenal--but I'm not inclined to do that on a day trip into Berlin from Warnemunde. I think you'll see a lot by rental car, and the long port stop makes that option particularly attractive.

I've read a little and seen photos of Riga, and I think it will be a nice stop on your sailing. I've seen your itinerary, and I think it looks good.

I'm envious that you'll be seeing Paris, but we can't do it all in one trip. We haven't been to Brussels, and I want to go to Bruge, so we're looking forward to that. It sound like you have done a lot of research and don't need tips on Paris, but I'll be glad to help if you do.

Best wishes,
Donna
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Old February 17th, 2005, 09:18 AM
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Default Re: Re: Re: Share St. Petersburg, Russia private tours? - Au

P.S. Bad Doberan has a monastery and a steam train called Molli that goes between Bad Doberan and some seaside villages. Looking at the map, it could be a good stopping off point on the way to or from Wismar or Schwerin. Unfortunately, many of the sites I’ve found are in German only, and I speak only “tourist” German, meaning not very much at all, so I’m still looking at sites and hoping that I won’t have to phone for info with my limited ability to communicate in the German language. Here's some sites I bookmarked:

train in Bad Doberan: www.molli-bahn.de

Schwerin boat tours: http://www.weisse-flotte-schwerin.de/
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Old February 17th, 2005, 11:38 PM
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Default Re: Share St. Petersburg, Russia private tours? - August 27

Donna,

No, I haven't figured out a better way to do the chunnel. Your way is definitely easier. We wanted to spend a little time in London before going to Paris and we need to sign in to our London timeshare on the day we arrive back in Dover.

I've been doing some research on Bad Doberan and it will fit very nicely into our long day around Rostock/Warnemunde.

While I don't collect museums, it will be nice to visit the Hermitage and the Louve on the same trip. Not sure which will wear out first, my eyes or my legs. My brain is already hopeless and not in contention.

Tourist German is probably a lot more than the average German hears when the cruise ships get to town. We spend a fair amount of time in Mexico and I am always trying to expand my tourist Spanish - usually have a good time doing it. I am pretty good with donde esta, como se dice, quanto questa and la quenta por favor. Now, where was I..............eins, zwei, drei, ............

Gil
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Old February 25th, 2005, 11:58 AM
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Default Re: Re: Share St. Petersburg, Russia private tours? - August

Oh my, they've done it again! There's another new itinerary.

Aztex, was yours changed too? Poland's back off ours, and Helsingborg and Helsinki are back on. We lost a lot of time in Copenhagen and still are very limited in Stockholm. This stinks. I can only imagine what's going on at Celebrity.

Donna
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Old February 26th, 2005, 09:10 AM
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Default Re: Share St. Petersburg, Russia private tours? - August 27

Hi Donna,

Yes, they have changed ours again. They have now changed the days that we will be in Helsinki, Tallinn and Riga. Anyone who has made hard plans for those cities is now out of luck and will have to change their plans -- assuming that this is the final itinerary and I seriously doubt that.

What is really unfortunate and sad is that the people at Celebrity who answer the phones, sell the cruises and support their customers have no clue. They just deal with whatever their computer tells them.

Good luck on figuring out when the itinerary is finally real and set - I guess we are supposed to wait until we actually get to port and take Celebrity excursions.

Hang in there - my neck is starting to stretch however.

Gil
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Old April 19th, 2005, 09:09 AM
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Default Re: Re: Share St. Petersburg, Russia private tours? - August

We have room for 2 more passengers in the 2nd van for a great tour (the 1st van is filled). Our itinerary is very comprehensive and hits all the highlights of St. Petersburg with breaks driving from venue to venue, and we have a wonderful group of passengers. We will have 8 - 10 passengers in each van and will be able to see so much due to the time savings from traveling in small groups. If you'd like to consider joining us, please e-mail me at dahillark@yahoo.com.

Happy travels to all,
Donna
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Old April 19th, 2005, 10:12 AM
Karen Adelman
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Default Re: Share St. Petersburg, Russia private tours? - August 27

Donna,
I am interested in this trip for next summer. I would love some advice about the TA you booked with. Do they specialize in Cel. Did you get a discounted rate? Please E amil me.
Karen Queenk2@aol.com
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Old May 17th, 2005, 09:26 AM
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Default Re: Re: Share St. Petersburg, Russia private tours? - August

Hello,

We still have room for passengers in our 2nd van and unlimited room for passengers for night tours to the ballet and the folk show. You will not need an individual visa to join us on our private tour with a very comprehensive itinerary for 2 days of sightseeing in St. Petersburg. If interested, please contact me at dahillark@yahoo.com.

Happy travels to all,
Donna
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Old May 19th, 2005, 04:17 PM
Ying Hu
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Default Re: Re: Re: Share St. Petersburg, Russia private tours? - Au

Too bad that we are on Princess Star and arrving at St. Petersburg on July 8. We are indeed looking for a group to join in.

Ying
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Old May 20th, 2005, 09:44 AM
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Default Re: Re: Re: Re: Share St. Petersburg, Russia private tours?

Hi Ying,

I hope you have a great trip. Have you check the roll call boards at www.cruisecritic.com? This is a great site that a lot of people use, and that one is too. I know some passengers sailing on the Star after you return, so I hope you will post a trip review when you return.

Donna
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Old June 2nd, 2005, 03:43 PM
Rae
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Default Re: Share St. Petersburg, Russia private tours? - August 27

Hi, I am traveling with my husband and 20 year old son on the Constellation (8/27 departure) and would be interested in joining your private tour group of St. Petersburg. Please let me know if you room and what the cost would be. Thank you. Rae (jlp22c@aol.com)
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Old June 2nd, 2005, 04:50 PM
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Default Re: Re: Share St. Petersburg, Russia private tours? - August

Hi Rae,

Yes, we still have room, and I sent an e-mail to you.

Thanks,
Donna
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Old June 27th, 2005, 12:04 PM
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Default Re: Re: Re: Share St. Petersburg, Russia private tours? - Au

Bumping up. Our group of 14 will have 2 vans with drivers and separate guides, so we are looking for a few more for a max of 8-10 per van. If you're interested in joining us on a great private tour, please e-mail me at dahillark@yahoo.com.

Happy travels to all,
Donna
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Old July 14th, 2005, 09:02 PM
janetsandler
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Default Re: Share St. Petersburg, Russia private tours? - August 27

My husband and I are sailing on the Radisson and will be in St. Petersburg on July 25, 26, and 27 and are looking for a small group . Do we work out?
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  #30 (permalink)  
Old July 17th, 2005, 10:01 AM
janetsandler
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Default Re: Share St. Petersburg, Russia private tours? - August 27

When is your sailing?
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