Thanks for the prompt and very informative reply, Stan.
The NO VISA required + a "fast pass" at arrival puts Den Rus clearly in the lead.
I have sent an email to Olga T. to ask a few ?'s before booking.
So, anyone know of someone as helpful as Stan who can comment on the pros & cons of touring on your own vs. ship tours vs. independent tours at other ports on the Baltic? I can start the ball rolling by putting in my 2 cents in the forum for Helsinki, if there is one, because I was there for 3 weeks about 5 yrs ago.
The Baltics ports are generally very easy to navigate on your own due to how much English is spoken, how westernized everything is and no visa requirement so few larger organized tour companies have catered to the cruisers. There are independent tours operators in most ports but they are "casuals" meaning they can be booked at the time by just getting on their bus/van and going. Because there is so little regulation, immigration processing and venues to have required contracts with, the tours are cheap, even in expensive cities such as Helsinki or Stockholm. The biggest problem are those ports where the ship needs to tender the passengers. On those, the ship has complete control and often restricts people from leaving witha booked tour with them.
Ships are not quite as greedy as they seem, the are just making up for advertizing a cabin for cost or below, knowing that is what we customers look for in buying anything more expensive than a hamburger. They sell cabins cheaper than equivalent hotels costs so make it up on the Shipboard account and shore excursions. In this case St Petersburg is a gold mine for them because they get 60-80% of the selling price as commission for their programs. Several lines have 8 passenger vans, a guide and driver they offer in their catalogs for $2400 or more..for 8 hours!, or $4800 for two days. Of that $4000 of more is commission. That makes up for the bargain cabin price several times over and accounts for the $Billion new ships being built if multiplied by the hundreds of destinations ports and millions of cruisers visiting them.
So you can get a bargain cabin, hold off on the spa treatments and extra drinks, find good private deals on excursions and make the whole cruise one of the best vacations deals around.
Have fun, time for me to go home, it is 10pm in St Petersburg and I still have not had lunch ;>(
Stanj: I am new to CruiseChat and have appreciated your knowledge of Saint Petersburg.
I have been communicating by email with Natalie at Denrus. My last email seems to be taking a while to get a response. How long does it usually take? She has been very helpful and I want to be sure she received my last post.
I asked Natalia how back up she was and she indicated about one day. If you did not get a reply in a day there is a good chance the last message was either no received in Russia or more likely there was a response but overly aggressive spam filters used by your ISP may have blocked it. That happens a lot now that most traffic on the web is Spam, and most aggressive filters error on the false positive side. Try sending your message again, I am sure she is not ignoring messages. Or address it to email@example.com and it will be responded to by the first person who is free. There are 5 who primarily customize tours via email conversations with visitors, any will be happy to answer your questions or fine tune the tour you have in mind.
If you have a question for me, my personal email is firstname.lastname@example.org or email@example.com
Unfortunately I do not know from your screen name how to look up your information or program.
Hope all is well.
I am sure that you are gearing up for the warmer weather just as I am.
Still telling everyone of my fabulous time in SP.
Now in countdown for my July Greek Isles cruise.
Sorry I have not been in touch for some time.
Stan, Love to read yr message and loads of information about Russia. We have a group of 2 couples will be in Rotterdam IV from June 10 to June 22 to Baltic Sea. We would like to join the independent excusions in order to cut down the cost. Pls adv. how we could meet with other passengers and if possible to join them.
This is such a great thread! We contacted DenRus and got a response the next morning. We would like to set up a nearly private tour with the 4 of us and are looking for a couple of other people to join us - Anybody interested??
We arrive in St. Petersburg July 20 on the Holland America Rotterdam. We're arranging a 2 day tour of some highlights and would like to find a compatible person/couple to join us on tour. That will bring the price to around $360 per person. You can email me at firstname.lastname@example.org if you are interested.
I just want to say that if you are planning to take a private tour, ask your tour operator to take you to DK(Dom kulíturi) Krupskoj to purchase all of your souvenirs. I am originally from St Petersburg, Russia, although now live in United States. Whenever I go back, thatís where I purchase all of the souvenirs. Itís like going to a huge bazaar with lots of vendors. You can find everything there and itís not that far away from the center, so you really wouldnít spend too much time and will save lots of money.
I also noted that not one person mentioned actually taking a subway. Subway is beautiful, full of marble and granite, itís like going into the museum, also very clean and safe. Even if you are taking a private tour, ask them to take you around and show you some of the best known subway stations, they are amazing.
Enjoy! St Petersburg is a beautiful city and you will have the best time.