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  #1 (permalink)  
Old May 9th, 2005, 10:43 PM
ruth lewis
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Default shore excursiions Russia, Scandinavia

Has anyone had any experience - good or bad with DENRUS, or RED OCTOBER/shore excursions in Russia during the summer -? Where did you go and which trips would you recommend? How many were in your group? What is the ideal size? Hpw did you put together enough people ( 16 is miinimum) for the bus tours?
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  #2 (permalink)  
Old May 9th, 2005, 11:06 PM
EKP
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Default Re: shore excursiions Russia, Scandinavia

I am going on the Westerdam 8/29 Scandinavia Russia Cruise. I contacted Red October in St. Petersburg and they are putting together a group for me. So far they have found 1 couple. The price is comparable to the ship's tours.
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Old May 10th, 2005, 08:44 AM
Andee
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Default Re: shore excursiions Russia, Scandinavia

Four of us traveling together had two wonderful days with Red October. We asked on the various mesage boards for others who might want to join us, but didn't find anyone.

Since one of the advantages of using RO is selecting our own itinerary, the idea of their putting together a group of 16 wasn't appealing to us.
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Old May 11th, 2005, 08:58 PM
AR
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Default Re: shore excursiions Russia, Scandinavia

We did RO with an ad hoc group of four couples (ad hoc in the sense that we only met over the internet before the cruise). We did two days with them and had a Mercedes van that could carry about 15, so we had plenty of space and comfort.

Unless you have very specialized interests, there will be no difficulty in several couples agreeing on an itinerary. Certain stops are obvious, and you're wise to follow RO's general suggestions, because they're a very, very good outfit.

The big advantage winds up NOT being that you can choose your itinerary, although that's a nice feature. The big deal is that you get to move around faster and more efficiently than on the busses, and their guides seem to have a knack for sensing what order to do things in based on traffic, crowds, etc. We know from comparing notes that we saw far more each day than those on the ship's tours. This savvy and flexibility, plus the inherent efficiency of a smaller vehicle, is the real leg up. Plus, of course, their guides are recognized as being some of the very best. Ours certainly was top drawer..
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Old May 16th, 2005, 01:38 PM
Elena Brubaker
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Default Re: Re: shore excursiions Russia, Scandinavia

Did you need to apply for a Russian tourist visa since you were touring privately ?

We are sailing on the Celebrity Constellation and we would like to arrange a private tour but I am confused as to whether or not we need a visa.

Any information would be appreciated.

Thanks
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Old May 16th, 2005, 06:35 PM
Andee
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Default Re: shore excursiions Russia, Scandinavia

When you use a tour company like RO, they include a group visa in their price.

If you want to travel completely on your own, you need to get an individual visa.
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Old May 17th, 2005, 08:58 AM
Elena Brubaker
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Default Re: shore excursiions Russia, Scandinavia

Dear Andee,

Thank you for your reply.

We did book with a tour company , Travel in Russia, and they are still telling us that we '
need to get visas.

I wonder if it is because it is only our family of 3 that is touring ???

Oh well, I guess we will get the visas just in case.

Elena
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Old May 20th, 2005, 09:49 AM
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Default Re: Re: shore excursiions Russia, Scandinavia

Hi Elana,

The Russian government has a lot of laws governing this area, and Denrus and Red October are the only tour companies that I know of that are allowed to provide group visas other than the ship's shore excursion tour contractor. I would suggest that you switch to Denrus or Red October because I read some posts on another board indicating that no one has ever heard of the company you mentioned. Since I am traveling so far to see that area of the world, I don't want to take risks like that. But the advantage to having an individual visa is that you will be able to go out on your own at night. We're going out on an evening tour, and that will probably be more than enough for us anyway, so we're well satisfied with Denrus's services. I would surely be asking some questions about Travel in Russia's licenses.

If you do have a good experience with Travel in Russia, I hope you'll post when you return so that more passengers will have additional options to consider in the future.

Hope you have a great trip,
Donna
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Old May 28th, 2005, 01:59 PM
Rene E. Gracia
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Default Re: shore excursiions Russia, Scandinavia

we just cam back from St.Petersburg (May 13-14) we use DenRus they where great and very good. no one problem.
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Old June 3rd, 2005, 12:27 PM
Stan
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Default Re: shore excursiions Russia, Scandinavia

Hi Ruth
Both companies enjoy good reputations for small groups. My preference is Den Rus for many reasons but most first time visitors do not say anything bad about R.O. either. Den Rus is a lot more flexible however.
Large bus tours are larger than that, but van tour range from 4-14 passengers(plus guide and a driver). 15 is too many for a good tour, and 45 in a large bus certainly is too large also to get the most out of your excursions. Why are you looking at such large tours?

Try to get with a group of like minded people who want to have about 8, that is a good size.
If you do want to save money and have a larger bus tour Den Rus has a new program that has the same tour as the ship sponsored tours but for almost half the price. They specialize in small car and van tours however and most visitors find that smaller groups allow a more intimate interaction with such an interesting and spectacular city than large groups.
I live in St Petersburg and the sights and activities are never ending so whatever you are interested in is here. Art and museum lovers are in for a real treat. Other than the spectacular Hermitage, there are about 120 other museums within walking distance of the city center. We have more palaces than any other city in the world and the best performance art(ballet, opera, concerts and theater) So what are you interested in?
Have a great trip
Stan
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Old June 4th, 2005, 03:56 PM
Steve & Rena
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Default Re: shore excursiions Russia, Scandinavia

We are traveling on the HAL Westerdam 6/29 and looking for shore excursion partners for Red October. We have heard very good things about them.

steveb@digitalmaniacs.com
hdhntrena@aol.com
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Old June 4th, 2005, 04:10 PM
Steve & Rena
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Default Re: Re: shore excursiions Russia, Scandinavia

Can you do both tour independently as well as take the goup tours?
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Old June 8th, 2005, 05:21 AM
Stan
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Default Re: shore excursiions Russia, Scandinavia

Hello Steve ....or is it Rena?
Independent touring requires a Russian Tourist or Business visa so if you mix the two, a toue one day with an authorized hosting company such as DenRus (http://denrus.ru ) you will still need a visa if you wing it on your own the next day. If you wanted to wander around without a guide the visas cost $100 ea in consular fees plus whatever the invitations (voucher in the case of Tourist visa) cost. If it is only one day you want to explore on your own it makes more sense to book an additional day with a private guide from the same authorized tour company so you can dispense with the hassle of getting a visa for each person in your party. I believe Den Rus Ltd charges $18/ hour for a fully qualified guide. There are cheaper guides but they require you to have your own visa whereas with an authorized tour company that has permits to host cruise ship passengers without visas, you do not need a visa at all. You would learn a lot more and have an easier tome getting around here in St Petersburg with a guide. If you were here longer, say, a week or more, I would suggest getting the visa and hiring a guide for one day to provide a "city proofing" orientation of how to get around, landmarks and use of transportation systems. If you restrict your exploring to the city center, (and why not? These is a never ending number things to see and do in the city center such as 120 museums within walking distance)

Have fun
Stan
St Petersburg
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Old June 15th, 2005, 05:56 AM
maurice elie
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Default Re: Re: Re: shore excursiions Russia, Scandinavia

Hello..
We are sailing o/b Constellation on 30jul2005.We are holding French passports.
Do we need a Russian visa for the shore excursions in St.Petersburg with a group
from the ship?
Shall we arrange the visa in our country(Israel) or the excursion desk on the ship can
arrange this problem?
Tks coop and quick answer
Best regards
Maurice Elie & Mrs Regine Elie
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Old June 15th, 2005, 01:34 PM
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Default Re: Re: Re: shore excursiions Russia, Scandinavia

when are you sailing. i am on july 30th and looking for others for red october.
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Old June 21st, 2005, 05:52 AM
Stan
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Default Re: Re: Re: Re: shore excursiions Russia, Scandinavia

Hello Maurice or Regine
Your will need a Russian visa only if you travel independently of an official tour company (such as the cruise ships contracted local tour company, or Den Rus Ltd, Baltic Travel or a few others). These companies provide a visa waiver group "visa" that is perfectly legal for visiting without an individual visa.
The Ship contracts with local tour companies, since the ship can not legally guide anyone in Russia, each year for their shore excursions. The only problem with ship tours it the very high cost due to the high commission they extract from the tour company. I believe Arctur Travel is the company with the Celebrity contract this year so their fees for a tour is doubled or tripled by the time the ship sells you the tour. Private tours is a good example. When the ship sells a private van tour the going rate is over $1,000/day for a 8 hour day with a guide and driver. The independent tour companies(all the companies are independents) sell the same tour, with the same vans and same guides for about $500/day, the difference is the commission for the ship.

My recommendation for avoiding this high commission rate is to reserve a tour with one of the independents or even with the company that does the ship tours. Personally I recommend Den Rus Ltd (denrus@denrus.ru or http://www.denrus.ru )because they are the only American-Russian tour company in St Petersburg and have western style customer service and are known for their flexibility.

Stan
Resident of St Petersburg
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