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Comparing SPB & Alla Tours in St. Petersburg


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I'm trying to compare Alla Grand vs SPB Deluxe.

 

Since Alla's Grand comes with a packed half hour lunch on the first day vs SPB's hour lunch at a cafe, does this mean you have half an hour more time to see stuff with Alla?

 

How much time do they spend on shopping? I want to avoid that and spend more time on sightseeing but they both include that and will favor the one that spends less time on that.

 

On Alla's second day, you meet at 7:30 and at 8:30 you go on a canal city tour. In between, from 7:30-8:30, there's time for city tour and shopping but it doesn't specify how much time is on shopping.

 

SPB's Deluxe 2nd day, from 8-8:30, you pay for the tour and there's time for shopping.

 

I don't like the idea of wasting time at the beginning of the day paying for SPB's tour instead of afterwards. Does anybody remember how long it took to do that on a SPB tour?

 

We ate our packed lunch while on the jet boat ride to Peterhof. That way we didn't waste any time with Alla's tour that day. The lunch at a restaurant the next day was actually pretty good. I wasn't expecting much from a group lunch, so we all surprised that it was quite tasty.

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We did a private Alla...meals not included. There were supposed to be 8 of us, but we had two no-shows. Price per person went up just a bit, but all of us were just as happy because the smaller the group the faster you can move through bathroom breaks and such.

 

They did change the schedule on us about a month before. They wanted to start pretty late on the first day and go much later if I recall correctly, but our tour organizer found a compromise.

 

Lunch first day was a Pizzeria. We were all fine with it, since we weren't there for the food. Second day we took a vote and those that were hungry grabbed a quick sandwich at the Hermitage coffee shop. That move allowed us to spend a lot more time there.

 

The shop-market, was a waste...but that is where they take cc payments.

 

Subway ride was also a waste, it was between two newer stations. We had been to Moscow independently on a previous land trip and toured the whole center ring stations one day, so the St. Petersburg subway thing really paled in comparison. Canal ride...mildly interesting, some good photo opportunities.

 

Would have loved to had a real walk down Nevsky Prospekt.

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The "city sight-seeing" is just what happens to be en-route between ship & shop & canal trip, but you'll see plenty of the city during your two days.

 

Did you see Chesma Church and St. Nicohlas Naval Church during those two days?

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We chose SPB tours because we wanted the experience of eating in a Russian restaurant 2 times. I know that eating on the run is fine for some, but not for us. There is just so much one can see in a day and another 1/2 really won't make that much of a difference. We enjoyed to time to sit down, relax and think about what we've seen and where we have been. Again, that's just us. Since we don't eat meat, they ahd a very good fish dinner for us.

 

Cheers

 

Len

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I will write here in favour of SPB Tours.

 

I was on Princess Cruise in June 2013 and left my review on tripadvisor only. I didn't have experience with Alla tours (only heard couple of reviews on board the ship) that's why can't judge but I will write what I really liked about SPB Tours.

 

1. Guides. It was the most important criteria for me. We didn't book any guide beforehand coz we didn't know who was who but our group received an excellent one (Tatiana) and she was with us the first day. Unfortunately she fell ill and on the 2d day we had another one (Milla) who was even better.

2. Food was good, not excellent but good. Most of all we liked blini and we liked how they treated us during lunch. Day was really cold, windy and rainy and during lunch they served us vodka to feel better. Believe me it helped )))

3. Cars were very clean and looked new. Drivers wearing uniform. (Apart from Alla's cars and drivers. Who looked rather dirty and scruffy I saw it with my own eyes)

4. At the end of the tour our guide presented us very nice gifts. (soviet coins, stamps, vodka) I am not sure if it is company's policy or she did it on her own. But anyway we were delighted.

 

All in all nowadays I recommend SPB. 2 families who I advised SPB Tours and who booked with them came with positive reviews which they posted here last year.

 

Ann Liu, Austria

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Reading over these posts, I've not seen anyone mention an advance deposit. Alla Tours is asking me for one. Anyone else having this experience with either company?

Yes, both Alla tours and SPB tours require an advance deposit for their private tours. Neither company requires a deposit on their group tours.

I would imagine that because of past "no shows", these tour companies have been really "stung" with having to pay for a private guide & driver plus all your advance admission fees when the private clients fail to show up for their tours. So, I guess that if you have some "skin in the game" (i.e., deposit), you are much less likely to be a no show.

I have used Alla in the past on several occasions and her guides and tours are outstanding - I highly recommend Alla! :) I have no experience with any of the other tour operators but they all get excellent reviews.

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Did your Alla tour go inside the church or was it just stop and take a photo of the outside?
We did go inside. I wore capris and a 3/4-length sleeve top. They had an area roped off for tours and you could not cross the roped area. It was still a good experience - DH studied Orthodox iconography in his past and loved seeing some of the icons that could be seen in the viewing area. There was a service going on and we could listen to some wonderful chants.
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Dogs4fun, thank you so much for the reassurance. I understood the reason for the request for advance deposit, just didn't know if it was common practice. We are very excited about our tour...only a few months left to wait!

Edited by pickypicky
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Yes, both Alla tours and SPB tours require an advance deposit for their private tours. Neither company requires a deposit on their group tours.

I would imagine that because of past "no shows", these tour companies have been really "stung" with having to pay for a private guide & driver plus all your advance admission fees when the private clients fail to show up for their tours. So, I guess that if you have some "skin in the game" (i.e., deposit), you are much less likely to be a no show.

I have used Alla in the past on several occasions and her guides and tours are outstanding - I highly recommend Alla! :) I have no experience with any of the other tour operators but they all get excellent reviews.

 

Is that new this year? I didn't organize our private tour last year, but I didn't think our organizer had to make a deposit.

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Is that new this year? I didn't organize our private tour last year, but I didn't think our organizer had to make a deposit.

I believe it is relatively new - don't know exactly when requiring a deposit for private tours commenced - but it is now noted on the websites of both companies. And, the deposit is required only on private tours.

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Is that new this year? I didn't organize our private tour last year, but I didn't think our organizer had to make a deposit.

I think so. I first communicated with Alla last fall (2014) about a private tour (for two). There was no mention of a deposit. It was on my second contact with them in April, 2015, that they informed me of the deposit.

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I believe it is relatively new - don't know exactly when requiring a deposit for private tours commenced - but it is now noted on the websites of both companies. And, the deposit is required only on private tours.

We were in St. Petersburg for 3 days in June 2014, and I arranged a private tour for 15 on our roll call. We toured St. Petersburg on days 1 and 3, and Moscow on day 2. We had to pay for the Moscow tour about one month in advance because of the train tickets, but no deposit was required for the St. Petersburg private tour.

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Just wanted to mention that I have organized a private deluxe tour with SPB for 3 families (12 People). We are requested to pay after DAY 1 if by Credit Card and if by cash, the morning of Day 2 so NO DEPOSIT. I have found communication with this company to be prompt. I am a super Type A traveler, so I like to have my ducks all lined up in a row. I am big on TRIPADVISOR (WEARECANADIAN) and found ALLA, TJ and SPB Tours all highly rated. Correspondence and timely replies were all excellent with the above companies. I think I ended up with SPB because they would tailor our private tour to our pace...ie. we are all snobby foodies that want some great dining/lunch experiences... My group consensus was that SPB was willing to take us to our choices for dining and not places where the guide might be getting a kickback. I will report back on our thoughts.....Happy and Safe travels.

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  • 2 weeks later...
I've had some people contact me recently about the comparison chart I did a few years ago. It's really out of date, so am going to withdraw my offer to share it. I'd hate to be responsible for misinformation going out! Hope you understand!

 

Have had people requesting my comparison chart lately -- I guess they missed this post. My chart is over 3 years old now and definitely out of date, so I won't be sharing it any more. I'd hate for people to make decisions based on it since it's so out of date.

 

For what it's worth, if any of you are interested in doing your own, here's how I did it:

- narrow down your choices to 3 or 4 possibilities

- set up a chart with a column for each plus a column at the start for each possible stop on the tour

- for each possible stop, fill in the appropriate tour column with Y or N or write in details such as early admission

 

When I set up the chart I didn't worry about what order we did things in -- my priority was having a solid footing to be able to make content comparisons.

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We chose SPB tours because we wanted the experience of eating in a Russian restaurant 2 times. I know that eating on the run is fine for some, but not for us. There is just so much one can see in a day and another 1/2 really won't make that much of a difference. We enjoyed to time to sit down, relax and think about what we've seen and where we have been. Again, that's just us. Since we don't eat meat, they ahd a very good fish dinner for us.

 

Cheers

 

Len

 

We used TJ's last summer -- it was a wonderful experience! We weren't sure we'd want to waste time eating lunch when our time in the city was so short -- but, as it turned out -- it was VERY hot both days (into the 100s) and we very much enjoyed the short time out to sit in the AC, enjoy a nice Russian meal, and have a cold local brew. (Oh, and a clean bathroom never hurts). Both times we ate in local restaurants.

 

We really loved having the private tour experience -- a little more time at this stop, shorter at the next, hey, that's a cool statute/monument tell us about it -- can we stop for a photo -- that sort of thing.

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  • 2 weeks later...
Have had people requesting my comparison chart lately -- I guess they missed this post. My chart is over 3 years old now and definitely out of date, so I won't be sharing it any more. I'd hate for people to make decisions based on it since it's so out of date.

 

For what it's worth, if any of you are interested in doing your own, here's how I did it:

- narrow down your choices to 3 or 4 possibilities

- set up a chart with a column for each plus a column at the start for each possible stop on the tour

- for each possible stop, fill in the appropriate tour column with Y or N or write in details such as early admission

 

When I set up the chart I didn't worry about what order we did things in -- my priority was having a solid footing to be able to make content comparisons.

 

I did a comparison chart tour for 2015 between the Grand/Deluxe Tour vs Faberge tours and while similar to yours, I did it differently:

 

I printed out the itineraries for the two choices and put them side by side as I crossed out anything the two tours had in common and circled any differences between the two.

 

http://boards.cruisecritic.com/showthread.php?t=2195811

 

I also did a similar comparison chart between Alla and SPB in 2015 where I printed out the itineraries and compared them side by side. Both of them made the same stops so it would have been redundant to mark a Y or No by the stops.

 

Instead, what I did was crossed out the stops they both did that were similar in length. And, then concentrated on the stops that were different in length. SPB and Alla have different starting times so you don't look at the starting time, but how long you'll be in each stop.

 

The big differences I noticed between SPB's Deluxe and Alla's Grand Tour even though they're very similar was SPB had a one hour sit down lunch on the first day while Alla had packed lunch on Stolle pies that you ate on the bus while you traveled to Tsars Villlage.

 

And, with that extra time, it seemed you got to spend a bit more time at the some of the different sites with Alla:

 

For Peter and Paul, SPB was an hour and 15 minutes while Alla was an hour and 30 minutes.

 

For Church of Spilled Blood, SPB was 30 minutes while Alla was an hour.

 

For St Issacs, SPB was an 45 minutes while Alla was an hour.

 

Of course, this is all just theoretical speculation on my part because maybe SPB and Alla count their times differently. Maybe, SPB is saying that's how much time you'll actually be at that sight while Alla is also counting how long it takes to get to that site too.

 

And, this is also assuming that the tour companies follow the timeline. When I went on my tour, it ended up being a bit less than promised because of a later starting time.

Edited by hobbess
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6 of us just returned from Baltic cruise on Silly. We booked 3 tours with Alla

[Warnemunde,St.Pete, and Helsinki], Didn't keep track of times at sites and really was not concerned. We all agreed all tours were great and well worth the money which is all we were interestd in. In fact Alla stepped up in Warnemunde where a train strike occurred and provided a van and driver to transport us to 2 cities(instead of train ride).Later we learned some people were told by other tour operators off of ship that their tour was cancelled because of strike. I booked tours with Alla online before cruise and would do the same again. Also no problem with getting to ship on time.:):):)

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