Magnificent palace, but due to the recent popularity, was horribly overcrowded. Our private group of 16 had to literally push through the crowd that was waiting on line. The tour guide said that it was becoming so unmanageable, they were thinking of dropping it from their itinerary. But, it was truly beautiful, especially the Amber Room, and I am glad we got to see it, even with the crowds.
Church of the Savior on Spilled Blood Rating:
Beautiful church, great history.
Hermitage Museum Rating:
Two hours was not enough, but we did manage to walk through a great deal of the museum. Unfortunately, it, like most of the venues, was so crowded, that even if we had had the time, we could not have 'strolled' through. It's a beautiful museum.
Peterhof Palace Rating:
We walked through the gardens, which are impressive and beautiful. We arrived there by hydrofoil, which was included in our tour. We did not go inside since we were going to Catherine's Palace next.
Yusupov Palace Rating:
This was a palace of a private citizen and is where Rasputin was killed. They have a very cool 'vignette' showing the scene.
City Tour Rating:
St. Petersburg was amazing. Book a tour with a private company (SPb, TJ, Denrus, Alla). There are several companies and they all offer the same deal, same vehicles, etc. We literally followed each other around both days from venue to venue. The advantage over the ship's excursion is that it is much smaller (16 people max), less waiting in lines, a more complete itinerary, and longer days of touring. They also handle the visa, which is included in the fee. This is important, since you cannot get off the ship without one and they are expensive. The cruise line will try and tell you that you must book with them to get the visa, but that is incorrect. The tour guides are waiting right at the pier, and it is very simple to find them. They don't even ask for payment until the 2nd day.