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Comparing SPB & Alla Tours in St. Petersburg


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I selected Dancing Bear tours because of the excellent reviews (they are #2 on Trip Advisor, second only to SPB. For our group of 8, we are paying the same as other tours are asking for 12-20 passengers. In addition, Julia has been extremely responsive and was very willing to customize the tour to include the Chorale Synagogue, subway, farmer's market, and a visit to the Gold room in the Hermitage. I'll post a review when we return in June.

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I selected Dancing Bear tours because of the excellent reviews (they are #2 on Trip Advisor, second only to SPB. For our group of 8, we are paying the same as other tours are asking for 12-20 passengers. In addition, Julia has been extremely responsive and was very willing to customize the tour to include the Chorale Synagogue, subway, farmer's market, and a visit to the Gold room in the Hermitage. I'll post a review when we return in June.

 

Thanks for sharing the details of your tour. It sounds truly amazing! Enjoy your trip and we will be looking forward to reading your review upon your return.

 

 

Dolfans from Miami

 

"When you're curious, you find lots of interesting things to do!"

Walt Disney

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I have never heard of Dancing Bear Tours in all my years on Cruise Critic. Many satisfied customers for both Spb and Alla on Cruise Critic. I would stick to the tried and true from Cruise Critic because past passengers can attest that they work well with those on Cruise ships. Comparing Alla and SPB is probably like comparing Macys and Gimbels, the same, but certain ways of doing things are slightly different. You can't go wrong with either, but you need to know your self and own personality. Also you want to get a group together on your roll call of ten people. I would go with either if a group has already been formed and covers what I want to do. jmo.

I selected Dancing Bear tours because of the excellent reviews (they are #2 on Trip Advisor, second only to SPB. For our group of 8, we are paying the same as other tours are asking for 12-20 passengers. In addition, Julia has been extremely responsive and was very willing to customize the tour to include the Chorale Synagogue, subway, farmer's market, and a visit to the Gold room in the Hermitage. I'll post a review when we return in June.
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We will be visiting SPB in June/2013 sailing on RCI Brilliance of the Seas. We are very much looking forward to touring with Alla during our 2 day visit. Like others have posted, I don't think you can go wrong with any of the "top rated" companies. I do think it comes down to personal preference and who you feel will be the best "fit" for you. In our case, a member of our party has a slight hearing impairment from many years of flying small aircrafts. When this concern was presented to the several companies we contacted, Alla was quick to respond to our needs with several good options that she could provide for us. In addition, she has posted videos on you tube showcasing her guides which gave us the opportunity to listen to their commentary to put our concerns for potential communication issues to rest. For us, the special accommodations and fantastic customer service she has offered made our decision easy. She is the best "fit" for us!

 

 

Dolfans from Miami

 

"When you're curious, you find lots of interesting things to do!"

Walt Disney

 

That is exactly the point I was trying to make. It is 'THE FEEL' that you get when you correspond with these companies. If you felt Alla made you feel comfortable, then that is the way to go, and never look back. We got 'THAT FEELING form SPB Tours and also couldn't have been happier.

Enjoy your tour, I'm sure you made the right choice.

 

Cheers

 

Len

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Hello Len: Your point is very correct. In my analysis of the past reviews I didn't mention my present actions. Initially was in touch with Viktoria of SPB for some special interest features and I got handed over to another person (whose name I shall not reveal) and unfortunately it took a few email exchanges with that substitute person for him to figure out an appropriate plan. But that plan as well as cost was not as attractive the one offered by TJ whose representative caught on to my needs in our first email exchange.

 

As I said before, you did decide by corresponding, and again, felt that this was just right for you.

As I said before, enjoy your trip, I'm sure TJ will ensure you have a wonderful time in St Petersburg.

 

Cheers

 

Len

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We had a hard time deciding which to go with, so I did up a chart to help with the comparison. It showed when and how long we were at each stop, prices, etc. It was much easier to make a decision once we had all that info laid out in front of us!

 

I think I'm caught up with the requests for this. Let me know at newlaxfan at yahoo dot com if I missed you!

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One more, please! I just sent you an email and thanks so much for your kind offer to share! Happy travels! :)

 

 

Dolfans from Miami

 

"When you're curious, you find lots of interesting things to do!"

Walt Disney

 

Thanks, got it! Greatly appreciated!

 

 

Dolfans from Miami

 

"When you're curious, you find lots of interesting things to do!"

Walt Disney

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I think I'm caught up with the requests for this. Let me know at newlaxfan at yahoo dot com if I missed you!

 

I should clarify that the chart was done for our own purposes so doesn't include all the tours offered by Alla, TJ, and SPB. That being said, it probably still serves as a good starting point!

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I should clarify that the chart was done for our own purposes so doesn't include all the tours offered by Alla, TJ, and SPB. That being said, it probably still serves as a good starting point!

 

Thanks for your comments. The chart is very helpful in that it provides a very comprehensive side by side comparison on these guides. It makes it much easier than going back and forth between websites. Thanks again for your efforts!

 

 

Dolfans from Miami

 

"When you're curious, you find lots of interesting things to do!"

Walt Disney

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A very interesting thread indeed:) Like Len, I find that part of the reason that one chooses their tour operator is based upon the interaction you have with them.

 

I have chosen Alla for that very reason. I tend to be an organizer and a planner and start early. My groups have questions and I believe that it is best if questions are answered early and there are no 'surprises'. Alla had the same attitude and I can tell you that she has been absolutely exquisite to deal with. I am pretty meticulous so i can honestly tell you that I have fired one pile of questions at her. Along with that, a couple of our roll call members had special needs or issues and Alla was more than happy to accomodate them or make recommendations that would suit them the best:)

 

I look at tripadvisor and more importantly cc.:) I've had the privilege of several cc members being kind enough to report their experiences as well as other passengers and this re-affirmed my decision.

 

Our groups originally started with St. Petersburg and then Berlin and then moved to the 4 and 5 city packages.

 

I noticed that SPB was now offering a 5 city package cheaper than Alla's ($450 USD at last look). BUT here's what I noticed was missing - iincluded lunches, the boat ride, the hydrofoil, (in SPB) and the Berlin Grand tour. So, sometimes you get what you pay for.;)

 

I agree that any of the top three should give a good experience in the Baltics - my goal was to make sure that my fellow cc'ers have the best experience

 

I think I have chosen wisely. We go in June and I will happily come back to this thread and report. i think and hope it will be glowing one:D

 

smooth seas everyone:)

 

 

 

 

 

Edited by kazu
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Thank you, Kazu, for providing us with this very informative summation! We will be visiting SPB in June on RCI Brilliance and are signed up on Alla's Comfort Tour. :). We feel we have "chosen wisely" as well! Enjoy your cruise!

 

 

Dolfans from Miami

 

"When you're curious, you find lots of interesting things to do!"

Walt Disney

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I have chosen Alla for that very reason. I tend to be an organizer and a planner and start early. My groups have questions and I believe that it is best if questions are answered early and there are no 'surprises'. Alla had the same attitude and I can tell you that she has been absolutely exquisite to deal with. I am pretty meticulous so i can honestly tell you that I have fired one pile of questions at her. Along with that, a couple of our roll call members had special needs or issues and Alla was more than happy to accomodate them or make recommendations that would suit them the best:)

 

 

I noticed that SPB was now offering a 5 city package cheaper than Alla's ($450 USD at last look). BUT here's what I noticed was missing - iincluded lunches, the boat ride, the hydrofoil, (in SPB) and the Berlin Grand tour. So, sometimes you get what you pay for.;)

JMHO, but there is no way that I would consider a tour in Saint Petersburg that did not include the canal tour ... it was one of the highlights of our tour ... so many photo opportunities from the canals... it was from the canal boat I took some of my favorite pics of the city. :)

 

I think I have chosen wisely. We go in June and I will happily come back to this thread and report. i think and hope it will be glowing one:D

Hi Kazu,

We booked with Alla Tours (in both St. Petersburg and Berlin) in 2011. It was awesome. I know you will have a fabulous time!! :)

Enjoy your cruise!

jill

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Hi everybody,

I agree its not easy to choose right tour group:rolleyes: , there many of them and they all are excellent, despite some negative reviews. All guides have lived in St.-Pete the whole life, love and know their city and love to share its beauty and history with us.

I was very happy with Best Guides group. My plan was to go off the common path and have a VERY personalized tour . And I did !!!:) I even got to have 1-day tour to Novgorod ( over a thousand years old city) with them. They also started tours specifically tailored to kids, convenient for families with youngsters. You can check it out on FB. That said, I would highly recommend to contact The Best Guides as well. I loved them !:)

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Hi Kazu,

We booked with Alla Tours (in both St. Petersburg and Berlin) in 2011. It was awesome. I know you will have a fabulous time!! :)

Enjoy your cruise!

jill

 

Thanks Jill - I agree with your comments on the canal tour.

 

We're really looking forward to this one:D

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Hi everybody,

I agree its not easy to choose right tour group:rolleyes: , there many of them and they all are excellent, despite some negative reviews. All guides have lived in St.-Pete the whole life, love and know their city and love to share its beauty and history with us.

 

Thank you for sharing your experience with us, Kerry2travel. You raise an excellent point in that it can be somewhat of a "daunting" task in choosing a tour company for St. Petersburg:eek:. With the wealth of information available to us via Cruise Critic, Trip Advisor and the internet in general, it can become very confusing in reaching a final decision on whom to choose. We will be visiting SPB in June and I heeded the advice of some very wise travelers on these boards to contact a few of the recommended guides that were suggested by fellow cruisers with specific "wants" and "needs" that were important to us. We received very prompt and courteous responses from most but the very personalized attention in which we have received from Alla is what appealed to us. She addressed all our concerns and reassured us that she would be able to provide us with an itinerary based on our interests within an affordable price. And she did just that!:D We would never "sacrifice" for price and Alla managed to go beyond our expectations! I also somewhat agree with what you have posted in that "all guides have lived in St.-Pete the whole life, love and know their city and love to share its beauty and history with us" but IMHO, you can live and love your city but knowing the history and being able to transform that history into a comprehensive and enjoyable tour is an "art" in itself. We felt confident in that Alla would be able to do just that given her extensive experience in this field and being one of the "pioneers" of her trade! We are very much looking forward to an exciting and memorable visit in St. Petersburg:)!

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Miata,

 

My mom and I are going on a cruise on the Marina in July as well. We leave from Copenhagen on the 22nd. Is that the same time you leave? I think I will book the four city tour with Alla with Berlin.

 

Does anyone know how soon you have to book? I would still like to do a little more research.

 

Thanks, Molly

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Miata,

 

My mom and I are going on a cruise on the Marina in July as well. We leave from Copenhagen on the 22nd. Is that the same time you leave? I think I will book the four city tour with Alla with Berlin.

 

Does anyone know how soon you have to book? I would still like to do a little more research.

 

Thanks, Molly

 

Molly, I would be tempted to book as soon as possible to make sure you have a spot on the tours;) You can then do your research and, if you find that for whatever reason you want to make a change I'm quite sure that can be done:D July is peak time so better to be safe than sorry. JMO though:)

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Molly, I would be tempted to book as soon as possible to make sure you have a spot on the tours;) You can then do your research and, if you find that for whatever reason you want to make a change I'm quite sure that can be done:D July is peak time so better to be safe than sorry. JMO though:)

 

Hi Molly,

I agree with Jacqui ... I would also recommend booking now, especially if you wish to be included in the group from your roll call. You can always change your tour program with Alla (add or subtract) ... she is very flexible. I believe you have up until about a week before your tours commence to make changes. :)

jill

Edited by dogs4fun
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Hi Molly,

I agree with Jacqui ... I would also recommend booking now, especially if you wish to be included in the group from your roll call. You can always change your tour program with Alla (add or subtract) ... she is very flexible. I believe you have up until about a week before your tours commence to make changes. :)

jill

 

I am also in agreement with Jaqui and Jill. We are booked on Alla's tours as well for our June visit and have made a few changes thus far. Alla is very accommodating and easy to work with so don't hesitate in securing your spots!:). Enjoy your cruise!

 

 

Dolfans from Miami

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We are going on the Baltic Russia cruise in August and are trying to decide on the tour company. We plan on doing the 5 city tours. Can someone please email me the spreadsheet showing comparison to vkb2751 at yahoo.com. Would really appreciate it. Thanks for all the information in this thread. Very helpful.

 

Meenu and Vinod

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We are going on the Baltic Russia cruise in August and are trying to decide on the tour company. We plan on doing the 5 city tours. Can someone please email me the spreadsheet showing comparison to vkb2751 at yahoo.com. Would really appreciate it. Thanks for all the information in this thread. Very helpful.

 

Meenu and Vinod

Hi,

There is no spreadsheet that compares the 5 city tour packages. :(

The only spreadsheet comparison was between the 2 day tours offered in Saint Petersburg & with the price changes enacted since January, I fear that those spreadsheets are woefully out of date by now.

jill

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We are going on the Baltic Russia cruise in August and are trying to decide on the tour company. We plan on doing the 5 city tours. Can someone please email me the spreadsheet showing comparison to vkb2751 at yahoo.com. Would really appreciate it. Thanks for all the information in this thread. Very helpful.

 

Meenu and Vinod

 

I don't have a spreadsheet - but I did notice some gaps - if you go to post 87 on this thread - I did point out some differences. The best thing to do is to go to the different websites and take a look. And THEN email the operators and see what 'vibe' you get.:D I do a lot of private tours and rely on cruise critic recommendations, emails that other cc'ers are kind enough to send me, trip advisor and finally and most importantly (sometimes) the replies I get from the operators. After the first 'standard' reply once you start to ask questions I believe you get a good 'feel' on which one is best for you.

 

there are the 'standard' replies that basically are copied and pasted and then there are the personal ones that ADDRESS what your concerns are - the reassurances that they want you to ask questions.

 

When someone encourages me to ask questions, I get the 'vibe' along with their emails (or in Alla's case or her chat site). Actually, her site is very good as you can look back at all the conversations without saving 100's of emails.

 

There is never a perfect answer - that's just how I base things. So far, the system and my intuition haven't let me down;) I have a lot of roll call members relying on me so I do take this quite seriously. I don't want to let anyone down. it's actually my worst fear. So far, it hasn't happened and God willing, it won't:D

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