St. Petersburg City Tour Excursion Reviews
The only excursion worth discussing is St. Petersburg as the others are mostly short, one day visits that barely give you time for a quickie visit. We used an independent tour agency for the St. P. port. Using an agency is a necessity for St. P because of the visa issues and problems. Best Guides was are agency of choice, and I can't recommend them highly enough. Professional, attentive, responsive and worked with our small five person group for a custom created tour at a price well below the ship's published rates. We had a 14 hour first day and a 9 hour second day. We did the folk song/dance show in the first evening and the agency provided a late night drive through St. P. Our guide was Svetlana and would suggest you try and get her as her knowledge of the City is excellent as is her English. We did a few different things, including a visit to the Grand Synagouge (nice change of pace to the Orthodox Churches we were seeing), and the Erarta Museum (contemporary art).
Avoid the high cost of HAL’s large bus tours and the hassle and expense of getting your own visa and contact TJ Tours http://st-petersburg-tours.ru/. I found Tatiana, the owner, to be extremely friendly, competent and professional. For the reasonable price of $315/adult and $280/child for a 2 day tour with a private van, dedicated driver and English speaking tour guide. Our guide was Ksenia and we thought she was excellent. Our tour lasted from 8 AM – 5 PM both days and we opted to sign up for dinner with a Russian family at their home for $55/person….worth every penny. Dining with the Russian family was the highlight of the entire trip! Don’t miss out on this wonderful experience.
When the ship docks you immediately go through immigration. Expect long lines and delays. It took us over 30 minutes to get through immigration and all kiosks were open. There are separate lines for each kiosk so just pick one and wait. The HAL staff is on hand to make sure it goes as smoothly as possible, but there is really not much they can do to speed up the process...this is Russia after all! Once through and past the kitschy souvenir shops, Tatiana, the owner, was waiting with several of her guides. We started our tour hitting all the sights that I had outlined via email months in advance. We chose to see: Peterhof by hydrofoil, the upper gardens and lower parks. We did not go into the palace. We had a traditional Russian lunch at an out of the way restaurant. The food and service was excellent. Next was a master class of Matreshka doll painting, but my son was fighting a cold and we preferred to go to a typical Russian supermarket (similar to Wal-Mart). My husband was severely scolded by the security officer for taking photos. We returned to the ship to freshen up before our 7 PM pick up for dinner with a Russian family. We had the privilege of seeing a typical Russian apartment and met a lovely woman, Olga who made us a lovely meal and we talked about Russian life. Everyone agreed, it was the highlight of the trip. On the way back, it was 9:30 PM and there was only 1 immigration window open allowing people back on the ship. Russia can and should do a much better job with their immigration procedure. Day 2, we met at 8 AM and caught a boat ride for a guided tour of the rivers and canals, then to the Hermitage museum where our English guide gave us a private tour, traditional lunch at a sandwich shop and a visit to the Church of the Spilt Blood. We were taken to TJ Travel’s office to pay Tatiana. Everyone was extremely happy with the tour guide, driver and the entire experience. To have TJ handle visas, transportation and provide a tailor made tour is worth every penny. Don’t do Russia any other way. Each day, we had one or two obligatory stops at a tacky souvenir shop that provided free vodka and coffee. A small price to pay in my opinion.
My advice for St. Petersburg: Use TJ Tours…sit back, relax and enjoy….enough said.
In St. Petersburg, Russia, we took the Hermitage and Palace tour. Our guide was very good. His English was great and his knowledge of the places we visited and the tricks of the trade (which entrances and routes were best based on time of day) were very good. I was amazed at the huge masses of people at all the tourist sites we visited and the lack of order. Fortunately we had a good and aggressive guide who could get us through the log jams.
The Winter Palace Hermitage was the palace constructed for Catherine the Great in 1764 and was room after room after gaudy, gold leaf adorned room full of artwork. If you are an art fan, this is your place! There was little time to stop and really ponder and appreciate the artwork, but we did see a very large number of paintings by Rembrandt, Da Vinci and other famous artists. If you are not a huge art fan or person interested in classical architecture, then skip this tour because this is most of what you will see (along with hundreds of other noisy, pushy tourists).
Our lunch was an excellent four-course meal served in an old palace-turned office building. The meal was very good and included the obligatory shot of vodka and glass of sparkling wine (as well as bottled water). A young man played piano for the first part of the meal, which was very nice.
After lunch we toured the very ornate church in the Peter-Paul Fortress and saw the tombs of the Romanov family as well as other famous Russian Royals. Here the crowd control was most needed, as there was a huge mob of tour groups trying to enter at the same time. The cathedral was absolutely beautiful but hard to take in given our short time there and the pressing crowds. I might also add that flash photography and the use of a camera tripod are prohibited here.
Next we drove to an old cathedral with brightly colored spires and turrets. We were not able to go into it. Our bus parked on the street and our guide escorted us to the “perfect place” from which to photograph the cathedral (his wife is a photographer). He was right about the spot.
Our next stop was a tourist shop where there was a huge variety of very expensive tourist trinkets as well as free vodka shots and coffee and clean rest rooms.
We got back to the boat thirty minutes late, but found that there were still busses that were behind us, so it wasn’t a big deal. Apparently this is the norm in Russia. Clearing customs was a snap and we headed back to the boat.
St. Petersburg is a beautiful, European-style city.
Very compressive two days well organised. Tour groups were everywhere but our SPB guide knew his way around and how to deal with some zealous museum guides!!
Many highlights too many to list. As a point of difference the little trip on the subway via a couple of the old stations was fun
We like to spend time exploring on our own, so we booked a tour that included this near the Chruch of the Spilled Blood. Our guide showed us where to walk and get some lunch, shop, take photos and where she would be if we needed her. It was great and my photos are awesome because I had time to set up my shots. Lunch was fun and delicious. Of course, I had borscht and my husband a veggie beef soup. Then across thre street to the ice cream man in the park.. We did purchase souveniors there also and I wish I had purchased more as the prices were the best. We also toured the city and because of the beautiful weather our photos out the bus windows came out well.
A beautiful, clean and impressive city
We had a great City tour which covered many of the important bridges, buildings and churches. We stopped at Church of our Savior Spilled Blood, view across the canal of Hermitage, St. Isaac's Cathedral etc. There is so much to see! We had lunch at Russian Cultural Centre and were entertained by Russian dancers and singers.
Due to my husband’s difficulty with walking, we took few tours on this cruise, but the ones we did take were wonderful. We especially wanted to compliment you on your choice of the guide for our June 25 afternoon “Highlights of St.Petersburg” bus tour. Her name was Maria and she made the city and the Russian people come alive for us. Her English was uniquely cadenced and charmingly fractured (She called group assemblies in St. Peter’s Square “manifestations.” for instance.) However, we soon came to understand her vocabulary, pronunciation and inflection, and were charmed by it. She was very informative, full of anecdotes and historical details and humorous comments on Russia’s past and present. She was most attentive to our desire for good photos and pointed out opportunities for shots. She filled her comments with “inside” anecdotes about things like Anastasia, the city’s history, day-to-day life in St. Petersburg, life since the USSR and even Vladimir Putin. Her entertaining and informative tour eased our regret that we could not tour the Hermitage, or Peter’s and Catherine’s Palaces, due to the walking.
She exemplifies the qualities that make Regent so special.
Incredible city. Hard to describe.
Our TJ Travel guide was knowledgeable and flexible. It was great.
not worth doing-we were on the bus the majority of the time-you could get out for a photo op, but not to go in and see anything--our bus went to the wrong place and our 45 minute boat ride ended up being 10 minutes, and we saw the same sites we had seen by bus
Good overview of the city.
Absolutely superb! Our guide, Nadia, was the best we've ever had anywhere. Not only full of info about the tour destinations, but also happy to talk candidly about daily life in St Petersburg. Our heads were buzzing after two intensive days but we will never forget this experience. GO with Alla!
Nice un-rushed photo stop opportunities
Great tour with an expert guide who knew the city inside and out
Its never easy to properly experience a city from inside a coach. "On your left you will see the old KGB building, said to be the tallest building in St.Petersburg". I looked at a large but not very tall building, unimpressed. "They say it was tall enough to see Siberia from there". Ah! That wonderful Russian humour :)
The tour is more about filling time in between going from point A to point B and therefore, like it or not, absolutely necessary.
Horrible, terrible, no good. $208 per person to spend the entire day inside of a bus, museum of church that looked exactly like the last. The state-owned souvenir shop is a huge rip off. The tour guides ripped us off claiming a 5 euro fee to take pictures at the stops, however there was no such fee... they pocketed the money. They delivered us back 1 hour late, as most of the day was spent waiting in line and packed like sardines in stuffy old museums.
I recommend doing a tour of the streets of St. Petersburg and nothing too formal, it was a waste of money and we didn't step foot in an authentic Russian restaurant or on the streets. So disappointing.
Folk show was wonderful
City tour was great
After reading great reviews on TripAdviser we signed up for a 3-day deluxe private tour in St. Petersburg for our party of four. Everything was exactly as described and truly exceeded our expectations. Our guide. Olga shared her knowledge of the city in a bright and cheerful way. She got us into all the palaces, museums and attractions in front of the lines. She picked up on our interests or lack-of and readily adjusted her tour accordingly. The itinerary perfectly met our needs and we left St. Petersburg feeling confident that we saw and learned what we had hoped.
Driving around St. Petersburg is a huge challenge & beyond what I would try to do on my own. Our driver, Valerie was able to zig & zag our comfortable Mercedes mini-van with all the traffic minimizing our travel time while always dropping us as close as possible to the entrances and then picking us up nearest the exits. A real take charge driver.
All of our lunches were included and once again exceeded our expectations. If you are going to St. Petersburg SPB tours is the best way to go.
Bus tour with photo stops. Just right.
Our tour leader was great and gave us so much information. Reluctant to answer any questions that could be negative. Enjoy what you see but don not forget that you see what the government wants you to see.
It is interesting to see the old mixed with the new. St Petersburg is definitely a city in transition.
country and city tour.....plus canal tour and hydro foil tour and freee lunches...Russian food...thanks SPB
I researched private company tours. Cost is basically now the same for the Celebrity 2-day excursion and the private company's 2 day tours. Our bus was not full so about 25 people. Granted, private tour companies would have smaller groups -- but I went with peace-of-mind to get back to ship on time etc. Julia our tour guide was amazing and must be a senior person among tour guides from all companies as she often was directing others to go somewhere else, gesturing to them to hold back etc. Also, she must have a degree in art history. We booked early and were one of the first groups to leave the ship. Julia reversed the order of the tour and we did Day 2 first: Peterhof, Russian lunch at a former palace, and then the Hermitage. Peterhof was incredible....only 2 groups went in before us and there was no que. Absolutely beautiful rooms and grounds. We had time on our own to explore the grounds and saw the start of the Waterfall Cascades -- turning on of all the fountains while the National Anthem was played. Quite stunning. Lunch was excellent back in the city in a former palace: beautiful china place settings: a shot of vodka, water goblet for bottled water, and a white wine in wine glass. First course was delicious squash soup; second course a very tasty and creamy potato salad; third course beef strogonoff with potato; all topped off with scrumptious apple tart and a great cup of coffee. Hermitage in the afternoon was amazing and again, Julia had us in where there were no crowds. Often we were the only ones in a room, gazing at original Rembrandts, Renoirs, da Vinci, Van Gogh, etc masterpieces. We could take photos without flash. No airconditioning but we were fine. Going in the summer? Dress light and bring a tissue or hankie to mop your brow as it will be warm! Since we were often the only ones in a room, with much time to explore and see the artwork and artifacts, Julia went into excellent detail. It was just an outstanding tour!
Enjoyed the sites we visited, but the store they took you to shop at was set up for only cruise line passengers and items could only be purchased with dollars or euros.