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?
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.
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..
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.
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
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)
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
Maurice Elie & Mrs Regine Elie
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 (firstname.lastname@example.org 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.