Hi, 4 of us will be in St. Petersburg on July 20-21, 2006 (Holland America Rotterdam). After reading all the wonderful information here in the cruise-chat forum, we decided we'd like to do a more personalized, smaller tour rather than the large bus groups arranged by the ship.
We are in correspondence with a DenRus rep, but we'd like to get the cost of our tour down just a little. If we could get 1 or 2 other people interested, we'd have a group of 4 - 6 people and the two day escorted tour would cost around $360 per person. We're looking for somebody or a couple who are easy-going and interested in joining us for a 2 day St. Petersburg adventure.
We are in our late 50's, early 60's but active (one of our group wants to go for a run sometime on the tour!) interested in history and architecture, and Russian life in general. We might visit Alexander Pushkin's apartments for a little literary history... and a river or canal trip too, as well as a palace, the Hermitage, etc. 3 of us are community college teachers. We live in the San Francisco Bay Area.
I'll be checking back frequently to see if anybody's interested - final exams are here and I am having more time to plan for this cruise.
I am one of Nancy's group, and am about to contact DenRus tours to see if we can convert our already-purchased general group tour to a private one for 6 people. I'll get back to you as soon as I hear from them.
Did you book the value tour? That sounded like a decent alternative if we couldn't find a few people to share with. I liked the itinerary but thought it would run smoother with a small group and maybe be able to pack in a little more. We haven't booked yet and think it would be better to book a van for 6 or 8. If you would like to correspond directly, contact us at firstname.lastname@example.org. Thanks for replying.
8 in a van is very comfortable size. van holds 14 people so you all get a window. also a VERY good price break at that level. we just got back and we were sooo happy we did the smaller private van so we could plan our own itinerary and get in and out of places faster so could see more. tell them you don't want to waste a lot of time on lunch. the fast food blini and pirogi places were great. and real Russians were eating there. and it was quick and cheap.
some people even brought sandwiches from the shp. and others had box lunches delivered to the van for them so they could eat on the move. they were able to fit in Catherine's palace on top of all the ship's tour places.
the canal trip is nice but i think it is missable. you see everything in the van during the day thru large windows that you see on the river cruise. it was a nice float down the river BUT i had that sense of "what am I missing out there in St Petersburg". i'd rather have spent an extra hour in the Hermitage myself. we added a quick stop (15 min) at the Synagogue. they have to call ahead for you to get in so let them know in advance you want to stop. it's right on the way to/from the ship. I also think we spent too much time at Peterhof. after a while, another tulip looked just like the last tulip and another all gold room looked just like the last one ha ha. i was surprised that shopping opportunites were not that great. didn't want to spend a lot of time on it but there was so little in the way of choices that we just got one set of mandatory dolls and 1 christmas ornament. by the way, the swarms of vendors outside the Hermitage had the best prices. 3 doll sets for $10!!! and I liked a lot of their original artwork.
have a great time. rest up. it's an exhausting itinerary on this cruise and you lose ANOTHER two hours of sleep between Copenhagen and St Petersburg. be sure to be down to the gangway reallly early so you can be first ones to get off the ship, especially in St Petersburg and Stockholm. you need to beat the tours down those stairs. i'd say be down there by 6:20am. really. it all went very smoothly. there was NO question or problem AT ALL getting off the ship with no visa. your tour guide will be waiting for you to the left side as you get off.
I'd just like to report back that DenRus was there when we got off the Rotterdam on July 20, with a wonderful tour guide, and the whole experience was excellent. We met 4 wonderful cruisers through this web site and took the tour with them, and everybody was relaxed, easygoing, and we all got along just fine. The group of 8 was easy to work with, and with two on a bench in the van everybody indeed has a window. We had the itinerary we wanted. Our tour guide was so knowledgeable, she was a real delight. I felt a little nervous going through this process, but I am very happy we did this! Taking the ship's tours would have been a little less expensive, but we wouldn't have seen what we wanted and we'd have been on a large bus. If we had taken an 8 person tour from the ship, it would have cost twice as much. Thank you, cruise-chat.com! And thanks to everybody who participates in these chats - it has been so very helpful.