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1 month has passed since we returned from our first cruise and we are still full of impressions. I would like to express my gratefulness and respect to the group of highly professional guides and managers who have made our two days in St. Petersburg one of the most outstanding life experiences. We decided to go on a private tour for the two of us and enjoyed the flexibility of the program: seeing what we wanted to see and stopping when we needed a rest. Thanks to the well-done planning we managed to visit all the main sight on the list (including the Jusupov palace, which was one of the highlights) in quite a moderate pace. Our guide Lisa was highly knowledgeable, flexible, very caring and open to share her family history, which gave us a great perception of the real life of the country. Our driver Alexander was always there to meet and greet us, his Mercedes appeared in front of us before we started to look for it. We were taken excellent, professional care of, with a pleasant personal touch, which we appreciated a lot. I will keep recommending Best Guides to my friends and colleagues without hesitation.

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  • 8 months later...

We also had a great experience wtih Best Guides. We did the "Best Guides Children's Tour." My full review is posted at this link but I have copied the part re: Best Guides below: http://www.cruisecritic.com/memberreviews/memberreview.cfm?EntryID=106938

Day 1, St. Petersburg

Once we met our guide (Masha) we knew it would be a good day. What makes her a "best" guide for us is she always spoke directly to our children and made the tour both educational AND fun for them.

Started the day with a city tour with stops for photos and the kids were given specific instructions to hunt for "secrets." They even found gold keys. Went to a fortress that was a political prison 100 years ago--very creepy and the kids were enchanted. My son got to experience solitary confinement when he volunteered to let them turn off the lights when he was alone in a cell for a few seconds. We took a hydrofoil (like a boat on skis) to Petershof Gardens/Fountains (the czars' summer palace). Very pretty with gold everywhere. Our guide whipped out some supplies for her purse and showed the kids how to make their own fountain using a hose, bottled water, etc. The kids were also challenged to walk across a series of stones while trying to "avoid" stepping on a mystery stone that would set off a fountain. They were soaked in seconds and didn't seem to mind it being so cold. Had a Russian lunch on site. Delicious beef stroganoff which was invented in St. Pete's and Russian pancakes for dessert. The bathhouses were interesting. The highlight of the day was the private Matroshka wooden doll painting class. The teacher was so patient and we all did a good job. I got bit by quite a few mosquitos while there. The class was supposed to be in one of the guides' home but it had to be moved since my mother injured her foot right before the cruise and the guide's home was on a fourth floor --not accessible. Too bad because our kids were supposed to meet her kids and practice their language skills. Maybe some other trip. But in any case, the doll painting class was a real treat. By this time we were exhausted. We could have arranged tickets to the Russian ballet at nighttime but we were glad we did not as we still had a full day in St. Pete's the next day.

 

Day 2, St. Petersburg

Our guide took us to the Hermitage Museum. Lots of gold everywhere and beautiful art. We also went to the gorgeous Church of Spilled Blood and had another good Russian lunch of Borscht soup. We climbed nearly 300 steps of St. Isaac's church for a spectacular view. Also went to pretty St. Nicholas's church where the guide had headscarves ready for my daughter and me. Our guide taught the kids about mosaic art and gave them "sidewalk chalk" to practice on the ground in an area where it was permitted to do so. These hands-on activities were perfect for the kids to have fun while learning!

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  • 2 weeks later...

I'd like to add to the praise for St. Petersburg Best Guides Group. We were part of a group of four on a Baltics cruise in June 2012. Our guide was Inna, and she was fabulous. She teaches English and French, and is quite knowledgeable (and candid) about the history and politics of Russia and St. Petersburg. We were there during White Nights, a festive time during the longest days of summer, so we wanted to go to the Mariinsky Theater to see Swan Lake and we wanted to see the opening of the bridges, a White Nights tradition. Best Guides arranged for wonderful ballet tickets (first balcony front row toward the front) and delivered us to the theater in a comfortable van that waiting for us when the performance was over. The opening of the bridges didn't work as planned -- it was pouring rain, and the bridges didn't open on schedule. But our guide, Inna, stayed with us until we all called it a night around 2 a.m. -- well beyond the call of duty. She and the driver dropped us off back at the ship and gave us advice on how to counteract the cold and rain (vodka shots -- worked like a charm, once we got back on the ship.)

 

During our three days in St. Petersburg, everything worked like clockwork. They met us at the port with a sign with our names on it; we had the early opening to the Hermitage, which allowed us to avoid waiting in the long lines and gave us about an hour before the galleries started to get crowded. They were always willing to adjust the schedule if we were hungry or tired. It was great not having to worry about where to stand in line to get tickets, whether or not photography was permitted and if so, was a permit needed, and trying to figure out public transportation or taxis.

 

St. Petersburg was one of the highlights of our trip, and Best Guides certainly enhanced our experience.

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  • 2 weeks later...

We went with Best Guides while on our trip to St Petersburg in 2012 on board the Eurodam. We were a group of four from Australia. We communicated with Anna and have nothing but praise for her organisation and prompt replies prior to the trip. We were sent a variety of itineraries and could add or subtract according to our wishes. On arrival in St Petersburg all happened as planned and we were met promptly on disembarking and had a wonderful trip with Best Guides we could not have asked for better. Our guide on the day was Marina and she did a fabulous job. We highly recommend Best Guides and suggest you contact them before travelling.

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  • 2 weeks later...

We also used Best Guides for our non-cruise tours. We were in Russia in winter and they organized a trip of 4 days in St.Petersburg and 3 days in Moscow for us. The tours could not be better! We had wonderful guides both in SPb and in Moscow. We went to the Hermitage twice and Inna, our guide in St.Petersburg never showed us two things twice. Actually she always had some new information for us during all the 4 days. We were never tired of listening to her. I was surprised how a person could be so knowledgeable and at the same time so enthusiastic! Moscow was also a wonder. Lena, our Moscow guide was also very informative and pleasant and told us a lot of interesting stories about ancient Moscow and about Soviet Moscow. It was one of the best trips we have ever had!

And now that we are going on our first cruise (and so much looking forward to it!!!!!!!) Best Guides are making a new itinerary for us to visit places which we could not see in winter.

We will for sure go to Petrodvorets. And Best Guides suggested Oranienbaum and the Cottage. Maybe someone has some more suggestions? What is there that would be interesting for the second visit?

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I concur that Best Guides does a good job. Last year we arranged a private tour with Anna, one of the owners. Nice car, driver, Anna's English and expertise excellent. We made all the stops and had a little time left over so we stopped for coffee and she threw in the little Dutch house that was Peter the Great's first home in St. Petersburg. All around A+. We are coming back to St. Petersburg this year and Best Guides is our choice once again for a tour. From Sanfran4me.

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  • 2 weeks later...

We had a special family oriented tour with Best Guides in St. Petersburg last summer. The way of delivering the information was adapted to our daughter’s age (10yo). We didn't miss any of the must see places and had many things extra that were interesting for all of us. We were closer to real life, saw some yards and playgrounds, saw more of the inner life of the city than with the group tour I had done before. With an individual children oriented tour you have more freedom in making a stop/break when you need it and spending more time at the places that your daughter likes making it more enjoyable for all of you.

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We had a special family oriented tour with Best Guides in St. Petersburg last summer. The way of delivering the information was adapted to our daughter’s age (10yo). We didn't miss any of the must see places and had many things extra that were interesting for all of us. We were closer to real life, saw some yards and playgrounds, saw more of the inner life of the city than with the group tour I had done before. With an individual children oriented tour you have more freedom in making a stop/break when you need it and spending more time at the places that your daughter likes making it more enjoyable for all of you.

 

Thanks Aorinka! This sounds nice!

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Hi! We are traveling with a child of three and plan to book with the Best Guides. I’m currently in correspondence with Natalia. She offered us a baby sitter while we are in the Hermitage. The cost is pretty low - 25 $ per hour. Who ever used babysitters from the Best Guides or from any other Russian companies? How it worked? All information is very welcome. Thanks in advance. Jess

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Hi! We are traveling with a child of three and plan to book with the Best Guides. I’m currently in correspondence with Natalia. She offered us a baby sitter while we are in the Hermitage. The cost is pretty low - 25 $ per hour. Who ever used babysitters from the Best Guides or from any other Russian companies? How it worked? All information is very welcome. Thanks in advance. Jess

 

Staying with a baby sitter at home is very different from staying with a baby sitter in an absolutely new unknown place. I dunno - with my little one I would not take the risk.

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Staying with a baby sitter at home is very different from staying with a baby sitter in an absolutely new unknown place. I dunno - with my little one I would not take the risk.

Thank you, you are right. I also think that it’s too risky. We’ve decided to take Nicole with us. Thank you.

Jess :)

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  • 3 weeks later...

The Catherine’s Palace was crowded indeed, but you can always carry a 3-year old on your shoulders. Or, one of the parents just stays in the park with the little one. We saw horses and carriages there so you may go for a ride in the park… or was it in a different park… not quite sure now. Ask your manager, she will know that.

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  • 5 months later...
We are going to visit St.Petersburg during our first! cruise next summer and are choosing between Best Guides and few other companies. What would you recommend? We are family of 4 with 2 children of 9 and 12, and that's why we're thinking between group tour and children tour. It's hard to decide as both of children are quite mature and used to excursions but still need fun! :)

Jane

 

We were in St. Petersburg twice. First time it was a land-based tour and then it was a cruise. Best Guides did a wonderful job both times. So I have no doubt that if you book with them you will be absolutely happy with your choice. As for the group tours versus individual tours it is difficult to give any advice. Both my tours were individual. But when I was in St. Petersburg first I was on a relatively long trip in winter, so there simply were no tours to join. When I went on a cruise it was my second visit and all the group tours offered the must-see places that I had already seen before. So once again my choice was a private tour to see something else.

 

If I were on a cruise and it was my first visit to the Baltic I would probably join a nice little group tour. It's more budget and you will see all the first choice places anyway.

Have you already chosen a cruise? How many days does your ship dock in St.Petersburg?

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  • 1 month later...
Thank you!We are deciding now between Eurodam and Crystal Symphony, both dock for two days, so we will take two-day program anyway.

And how many people there are usually in a little group?

 

I am not sure as we didn't opt for the group tour. Best Guides' web-site says there would be 12 (which in my opinion is quite a comfortable group size). I think most other companies have larger groups, but really do not know how much larger. In the port in St.Petersburg we saw a lot of mini-vans which looked like they could accommodate about 20 people. There were a lot of big buses as well but those were mostly for ship excursions.

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  • 2 weeks later...
Thank you!Twelve sounds quite nice, we don't want our group to be larger. I've checked other companies web sites, they usually have either larger groups or private tours. Probably private tour is better, although we don't mind to be in a group.

Is it better to form your group by yourself or it's ok to leave it to the tour company?

 

As for me I always prefer individual tours. But it is the matter of choice. The group tour will reduce the cost. I would say that if it is your first time in a big city and the time is limited it is OK to join a little group. You will include all the first choice places into your itinerary anyway, so why pay extra. However if your circumstances are special (like being in the city for the second time, limited physical activity, having a little baby or having special interest in what to see) then it is better to have an individual itinerary. And if you would like to have an individual itinerary and at the same time reduce the cost you may try to form a group of people willing to join you (I mean those who have the same preferences and like your itinerary). Again we did not do that, but I read on this forum, that you can invite people to join you through the Roll Call of your ship.

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  • 3 weeks later...
Thanks a lot! But I haven't quite understand what does early admission mean. Are there less people or is it opened only for the tour groups? :)

Jane

 

Yes, early admission means open only for tour groups (before opening to the general public) whose touring company has this early admission arrangement. However, there will most likely be a lot of tour groups that will be taking advantage of early admission. Expect crowded conditions at the Hermitage even with early admission (we had early admission and it was crowded).

Edited by dogs4fun
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Our small group of 4 adults also toured with Best Guides in St. Petersburg for three days and it was the highlight of our cruise. Great driver, wonderful guide who spoke perfect English and was not only knowledgeable about the sights but also about the art in the Hermitage. They were always on time, the vehicle was clean and very comfortable and their knowledge of where to be when and suggestions of what to see were perfect. The overall cost was lower than the ship's excursions (even with generous tips) and we had a customized and flexible itinerary. Our guide was also willing to join us for lunch (we paid for her meal, of course) and it was interesting to learn a little about what it's like living in Russia "then" and now.

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  • 1 month later...
And one more silly question:) Has anyone tried Best Guides White Night tour? What does it include? Is it good? Do they provide something special? Thanks everyone in advance!

 

Hi! Cansas piligrim, We didn’t try it. We were traveling with a child of 3, so we decided to return back earlier. Another couple which was travelling with us booked Folk Show and White Night tour with the Best Guides. They were very happy about the show itself and the Night tour. As far as I remember they didn’t pay for the Night tour, it came complementary after the program. Good luck!

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  • 4 weeks later...

We took a children tour with Best Guides last Summer. We were thinking of going on a group tour first, but then decided that for our six year old daughter this would be one time too much, so we booked individually.

 

The tour was called "The secrets of St.Petersburg" and was perfectly tailored for the little one. Our guide told stories like fairy-tales so my daughter listened with her mouth opened. We found some treasure (a little toy key) in a secret passage of the Fortress and climbed the Colonnade of the St.Isaak's Cathedral (it was quite scary for me, but the little one had a lot of fun). In the Hermitage our guide told Em she had to be be dressed up for the Royal place and gave her a little tiara and a fan. And then we went through the rooms "playing princess" - it was so cute!

Parents were not forgotten either :). After the "fun part" was over we went to see the impressionists' paintings and our guide surprisingly turned from a fairy into an art expert.

All in all we were absolutely happy we chose this tour!

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  • 3 weeks later...
We took a children tour with Best Guides last Summer. The tour was called "The secrets of St.Petersburg" and was perfectly tailored for the little one. Our guide told stories like fairy-tales so my daughter listened with her mouth opened. We found some treasure (a little toy key) in a secret passage of the Fortress and climbed the Colonnade of the St.Isaak's Cathedral (it was quite scary for me, but the little one had a lot of fun). In the Hermitage our guide told Em she had to be be dressed up for the Royal place and gave her a little tiara and a fan. And then we went through the rooms "playing princess" - it was so cute!

 

We traveled with a child of 3 and were told she is too young for the "The secrets of St. Petersburg".

We had normal tours for grown-ups which were just adopted for the needs of our family. But we also found some treasure – a toy key - and Nic was really happy! In the Hermitage she got a “magic mirror” as a present from Russian empress :):):)

 

Jess:)

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I just got into their website no problem. I have been corresponding with them - they have always responded fairly promptly, but are the least proactive of the three companies I started conversations with.

Edited by phxbne
Correct typo
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  • 1 month later...
I just got into their website no problem. I have been corresponding with them - they have always responded fairly promptly, but are the least proactive of the three companies I started conversations with.

May I ask you what exactly you mean by proactive? Just curious. In my case the correspondence always worked perfectly well.

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  • 2 weeks later...

My wife and I recently took a Baltic Cruise on Silversea. It was a fantastic trip overall and the weather could not have been better. We hired Best Guides to provide private and shared group tours for us both in St. Petersburg and Moscow. Overall, we were very impressed with the professional way that the tours were carried out from booking through completion. A couple of quick bullet points:

 

*Natasha worked over email to carefully identify the things that were most important for us to do. For example, we wanted to go to the Vodka museum and this was added to our first day of sightseeing.

*We had hoped to participate in a group tour, but there were none available during our time window, so Natasha worked to help us cut costs and connect us with with cruise passengers from other lines to combine tours. I really appreciated this extra level of service.

*The cost of booking with Best Guides was generally cheaper than several of the other tour companies and much cheaper than the cruise ship tours.

*The Moscow day trip was expensive and exhausting, but fully worth it!

* Anna (anysenka90@gmail.com) was a fantastic guide for the Hermitage museum both in her knowledge of Russian history and the art and artists.

 

The only negative feedback I would share was that the pace of the tours is geared to provide the maximum activity and information. This did not lead to much down time for taking lunch or snack breaks. This makes sense given the short time window in port and the expensive cost of the tours, but if you want more time to have a relaxed meal then make sure to specify this when booking.

 

Overall, we liked Best Guides and would recommend and use them again.

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