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St. Petersburg private tours vs. Viking river cruise tours

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Has anyone skipped using the Viking (Rivers of the Tsars) included and optional tours when in St. Peteersburg to use private tour operators instead? Is there a cost savings? Are private tours more extensive? With four days in St. Pete are we better off to book with private companies? Viking tours seem very expensive and experience tells us your time at an actual museum, etc. is usually cut short by other built in distractions.

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I am wondering the same thing. We are doing River of Tsars next May and I was thinking about looking into private tours. We were on the Romantic Danube with Viking and I booked private tours in Prague and Budapest, before and after boarding. I had one booked in Nuremberg, but ended up canceling it, because I couldn't figure out the exact timing of the cruise. It was a good thing I cancelled. Our boat was not in Nuremberg as long as I was thinking and the boat moved while we were in town. It would have been tricky to meet up to the boat, if we'd been on our own. No one at the Viking call center could tell me specifics prior to leaving.

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Several of us on Viking Ocean skipped the Viking tours and went with TJ Travel's 2 day tour in St Pete. Professional all the way. Good communication via email before the trip. You pay via credit card after your tour. Guides want US $ or euros for tips. You do not need rubles although I had them and gave them to the guide as extra. Our guide was a PhD student at The Hermitage. We got in everywhere early before even the Viking busses. My wife went with them to the Swan Lake ballet. Sat with the Viking people (good seats). Tour of a lifetime.

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I have never been to SPB with a river cruise but visited SPB 4 times - once on a land trip and 3 times with Ocean cruises (3 days each time).

Always took private tours - once with Alla and twice with SPB tours. Both are excellent I can highly recommend them. They would be more expensive for 2 people only but if you can have a group of 6 to 8 from your cruise, it would be reasonable and far better than ship's tours.

You can easily Google both companies (there are others as well like Red October, etc_)

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We didn't go with a river cruise, we were on an ocean cruise so can't comment on the cost comparison. In SPB we did a private tour with DenRus They were fabulous. We were able to bypass all the long lines (especially important at the Hermitage) and they made modifications to the tour on the fly as we saw things we wanted to explore more. It was a bit pricy but worth it as there were only the two of us on the tour with a guide and driver. We were there in 2011 and the cost for the two of us for two days was $500.

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I also have to put in a plug and highest recommendation for Alla Tours in SPB. We had their 3-day tour as part of a Baltic Cruise and found them to be excellent. We had only 11 people in our group - traveled around in a small van and really got to see and do alot.

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Consider the private tour with SPB TOURS. We were with a group of 12 for a 2 day tour. It was the high point of our trip. Plus it was way cheaper and a smaller group than the Viking tour. Our guide (Alex) was very knowledgable, perfect English and a great time manager getting us in and out of attractions. If you don't have a group they will probably put you in one or you might organize one on .Cruise Critic which is what we did.

 

 

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How close is the port to the city? When we took a ocean cruise it was about 40 minutes into town, can you walk into ST Petersburg on the river cruise? We used SPB on our ocean cruise and they were excellent. It appears on the river cruise there are several included tours so not sure why your would pay for an outside guide.

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Check the pricing. On the ocean cruise SPB were much less also a much smaller group. Our group was 12 people and road in a van.

 

 

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The ocean cruise ship docked more than a quick walk. I don't know about the river cruise. If you go by yourself you need a visa and I don't know how keen the Russians are on you touring on your own. I would check into that before you decide not to take a tour.

 

 

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Just thought of this. There is a site that tells you where ships dock. Just google " where do river cruise ships dock" or something like that. That might help.

 

 

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I was given this by Viking, regards our forthcoming river cruise (as well as the English version):-

 

СОЛЯНОЙ ПРИЧАЛ

Октябрьскаянабережная дом 29

193079Санкт‐Петербург

 

Again copying and pasting works. I copied and pasted this Russian version into Google Earth and it worked, but got nowhere with the English version. Looks like we will be a way out of town.

 

 

 

 

 

Got the same for Moscow, if you are interested:-

 

Северный Речной Вокзал

Ленинградский Проспект

 

СтанцияМетро– Речной Вокзал

I was told there is a Moscow metro station ten mins walk from here. I was also told Viking have a complimentaryshuttle bus to the centre of Moscow on the free day, but at restricted times and traffic bad so will take longer than the metro. So we will be looking at how to use the metro to the centre.

 

 

I do not know how to get into the centre on the free day in St Petersburg, but assume there will be some way to do so.

This is the River cruise ports section and people will have to have visas for them. If you are looking at ports from an Ocean ship, I suggest you go to the ports of call section at the bottom of the main page on Cruise Critic, where you will find info relating to Ocean cruises, if you search the relevant thread:-

http://boards.cruisecritic.co.uk/

Edited by tring

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I was told there is a Moscow metro station ten mins walk from here. I was also told Viking have a complimentaryshuttle bus to the centre of Moscow on the free day, but at restricted times and traffic bad so will take longer than the metro. So we will be looking at how to use the metro to the centre.

 

 

I do not know how to get into the centre on the free day in St Petersburg, but assume there will be some way to do so.

************************************************************

I highly recommend using the Metro in Moscow. Moscow is gigantic, with horrible traffic. The Metro is excellent. It would be a good idea to get a basic idea of the cyrillic alphabet before you go though. And research your routes and write out the station names you want in cyrillic. But trains run frequently. (I never waited more than five minutes--usually closer to two.) And people are kind and helpful.

 

 

This is the River cruise ports section and people will have to have visas for them. If you are looking at ports from an Ocean ship, I suggest you go to the ports of call section at the bottom of the main page on Cruise Critic, where you will find info relating to Ocean cruises, if you search the relevant thread:-

http://boards.cruisecritic.co.uk/

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Thank you everyone this has been very helpful. We will be on a river cruise with Viking starting in St Petersburg and ending in Moscow. On our last river cruise Grand European, we could walk into the cities from where the boat docked, sounds like this isn't the case for this cruise.

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... we could walk into the cities from where the boat docked, sounds like this isn't the case for this cruise.

 

Well, technically, you will still be very well within the city limits. For Moscow's Rechnoy Vokzal, the metro is indeed just a ten-minute walk away, there are several parks and a rather bustling shopping area right by the metro. A metro ride downtown shouldn't take longer than about thirty minutes, and the green metro line is one of the older ones, with several stations along the way very well worth exploring on their own. Google maps will give you accurate route suggestions and time expectations if you choose "public transit" option.

Traffic usually subsides by 10 pm, so you can always take an Uber on your way back.

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I am wondering the same thing. We are doing River of Tsars next May and I was thinking about looking into private tours. We were on the Romantic Danube with Viking and I booked private tours in Prague and Budapest, before and after boarding. I had one booked in Nuremberg, but ended up canceling it, because I couldn't figure out the exact timing of the cruise. It was a good thing I cancelled. Our boat was not in Nuremberg as long as I was thinking and the boat moved while we were in town. It would have been tricky to meet up to the boat, if we'd been on our own. No one at the Viking call center could tell me specifics prior to leaving.

 

 

We are also doing this river cruise in May....what ship/date

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We are on the Ingvar departing on May 18. We decided to add the 2 day extension in Moscow. I'm so excited! Which sailing are you on?

 

 

 

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Consider Alla Tours for St Petersburg. We used them a couple of years ago and they were fabulous! We were 6 people and we had 3 full days in St Petersburg. It's a wonderful busy city, despite long lines at different places we walked past the lines directly into each site! Can't recommend them highly enough!

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I was given this by Viking, regards our forthcoming river cruise (as well as the English version):-

 

СОЛЯНОЙ ПРИЧАЛ

Октябрьскаянабережная дом 29

193079Санкт‐Петербург

 

Again copying and pasting works. I copied and pasted this Russian version into Google Earth and it worked, but got nowhere with the English version. Looks like we will be a way out of town.

 

 

 

 

 

Got the same for Moscow, if you are interested:-

 

Северный Речной Вокзал

Ленинградский Проспект

 

СтанцияМетро– Речной Вокзал

I was told there is a Moscow metro station ten mins walk from here. I was also told Viking have a complimentaryshuttle bus to the centre of Moscow on the free day, but at restricted times and traffic bad so will take longer than the metro. So we will be looking at how to use the metro to the centre.

 

 

I do not know how to get into the centre on the free day in St Petersburg, but assume there will be some way to do so.

I have been to both St. Petersburg and Moscow multiple times - most recently 3 months ago. The metro is easy to use and you can download an online metro map for each city.

St. Petersburg: The Solyanoi pier or Salt pier (29 in your case) is about 23 km downstream from the Hermitage located in an industrial cargo port. The nearest metro station is Proletarskaya. Taxi to the metro station would be my choice.

Consider Alla Tours for St Petersburg. We used them a couple of years ago and they were fabulous! We were 6 people and we had 3 full days in St Petersburg. It's a wonderful busy city, despite long lines at different places we walked past the lines directly into each site! Can't recommend them highly enough!

I too have used Alla Tours and can vouch for the quality of her tours. One must bear in mind that even armed with a visa, during the high season (May - September), queues are very long at the Hermitage and other popular venues. The Catherine Palace is almost impossible to visit without benefit of pre-booking or a private tour operator. As was previously mentioned, you will bypass the queues with Alla.

If you plan to DIY and are spending several days in the city, I would recommend the Saint Petersburg Card: https://petersburgcard.com/en/

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If you plan to DIY and are spending several days in the city, I would recommend the Saint Petersburg Card: https://petersburgcard.com/en/

 

I looked into it last year - and found potential savings to be minuscule. Too much small print. Maybe it was just my itinerary, though.

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I looked into it last year - and found potential savings to be minuscule. Too much small print. Maybe it was just my itinerary, though.

Yes, I agree about the "small print" - during special events, some of the free museums are unavailable but I've always been able to work around this issue by checking the calendar of events listed on the website and simply rearranging my schedule. Perhaps, to obtain full advantage from the card, one should plan on spending at least 3 days in the city (although the card can be purchased with up to 7 days validation).

 

I've used it to my advantage. I use public transportation (using the card is cheaper than purchasing individual tokens) and, since I yearly visit the city, I have explored many of the more esoteric sites offered on the card. It includes most of the heavy hitters like the Impressionist collection (General Staff Bldg - Hermitage), Catherine Palace (also includes discount for court carriage collection), Peterhof (Fountains, Gardens, Grand Palace & Cottage Palace - the cottage palace is one of my favorites and the term "cottage" is definitely a misnomer), Saviour on Spilled Blood, Peter & Paul Fortress, St. Isaac's Cathedral, Russian Museum, Pavlovsk & the Aurora battleship. The only main item missing is the Hermitage Museum and, to avoid the long queues, I always purchase my ticket online here: https://www.hermitageshop.org/tickets/

The HOHO bus and boat are also offered free on the card.

I've also availed myself of the discounts offered in museums such as the Faberge.

Some unique & worthwhile offerings are: Grand Market Rossiya (great if you have kids), Dostoevsky Museum (I am a fan of his writing & enjoyed visiting the apartment where he lived), Peter the Great's cabin & soviet arcade museum (weird but fascinating).

 

It is MHO that for first time visitors to the city, a guided tour is the way to go - best way to maximize limited time in the city, bypass queues and acquaint oneself with the incredibly complex history of the Russian empire.

However, for inveterate DIYers, the card is an option.

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I used SPB tours when I did Baltic Capitol Cruise. My contact person was Vika. Go to their site & see what they offer. Some tours were as much as 40% less than ships. In St Petersburg they offered Peterhof Palace, Catherines Palace, And Church of the Spilled Blood. Full tours inside Catherines & Church. Also Did Russian Ballet Wonderful to work with as well.

 

 

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It seems that many of the replies are from ocean cruisers to Saint Petersburg, while the OP is planning a river cruise in which many tours are included in the overall cost, as opposed to the relatively expensive excursions offered by ocean cruise ships.

 

I took the Viking "Waterways of the Tsars" cruise a few years ago and found the included tours were very good (better in fact than the ocean cruise tours I took in St Petersburg on a previous visit). There were a number of optional tours offered at what I consider quite a reasonable cost (again compared to a ocean cruise).

 

As others have noted, the river cruise port in St Petersburg is at some distance from the centre of the city and requires a trip by metro and bus. The Moscow port is also at some distance, but is a short walk from the Metro.

 

So unless the OP is not concerned with extra costs, or has particular sights and destinations in mind that are not covered by the ship's tours or simply doesn't want to spend the day with fellow passengers, I would advise taking the included tours and supplementing these with optional tours offered by Viking.

 

 

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Your reply was very helpful to me!! I am considering the Viking Waterways of the Tsars tour for 2019, but am having a hard time finding reviews. I was confused when people were talking about private tours, since the fact that tours were included was important to me. Do you have any room recommendations for the ship? Since cost is a factor, are the veranda rooms worth the upgrade? Thank you!

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