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Lkclark

St. Petersburg private tours vs. Viking river cruise tours

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Unless you have a Russian visa, you can only enter the country via an "officially approved" tour. The ship's tour is approved, of course, but so are some others like Alla (which we used and loved).

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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!

 

You will find reviews under the name of the individual river boats. They are all the same design, so I found it useful to look at all of them. We go in May, so cannot advise as yet. Some people answering on this thread seem to be talking about ocean cruises rather than river cruises, when most trips are covered and everyone needs a visa, so are free to go off on their own.

 

Viking's itinerary does leave a day in St Petersburg and one in Moscow when trips are not included, so you can go off on your own or join one of Vikings optional excursions (which are not cheap IMO).

Edited by tring

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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.

 

 

 

Foser22, how was your trip in May? We are taking the same river cruise in September. Did you decide on private tours or the optional Viking tours?

 

 

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You will find reviews under the name of the individual river boats. They are all the same design, so I found it useful to look at all of them. We go in May, so cannot advise as yet. Some people answering on this thread seem to be talking about ocean cruises rather than river cruises, when most trips are covered and everyone needs a visa, so are free to go off on their own.

 

Viking's itinerary does leave a day in St Petersburg and one in Moscow when trips are not included, so you can go off on your own or join one of Vikings optional excursions (which are not cheap IMO).

 

 

 

Tring, how was your river cruise with Viking? Did you decide on a private tour company or the Viking optional excursions? Thank you in advance for your response. My husband and I are taking the same trip in September.

 

 

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We always book private tours, they tend to always be less $$$ and you can design them the way you want....There are usually 4-6 of us, so also a nice small group.......Most of the cruise companies, river and ocean try to convince you that you are better off booking with them, especially in St. Petersburg....Now, we did need to get our own visas, but our TA handled everything.....part of the high cost is the visa in the ships trips....

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We always book private tours, they tend to always be less $$$ and you can design them the way you want....There are usually 4-6 of us, so also a nice small group.......Most of the cruise companies, river and ocean try to convince you that you are better off booking with them, especially in St. Petersburg....Now, we did need to get our own visas, but our TA handled everything.....part of the high cost is the visa in the ships trips....

What you say may be true for ocean cruises, but is not true for river cruises. For a river cruise one must have a visa, and the excursions are already included in the fare. So the issue here is between an included group excursion and an extra cost private tour.

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What you say may be true for ocean cruises, but is not true for river cruises. For a river cruise one must have a visa, and the excursions are already included in the fare. So the issue here is between an included group excursion and an extra cost private tour.

You are correct - one must secure a valid Russian visa if arriving by any means other than an ocean cruise ship. River cruise ships, arrival by air or train all require a visa. However, I will attest to the fact that the independent tour operators offer a touring experience far superior to the included tours offered by river cruises.

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You are correct - one must secure a valid Russian visa if arriving by any means other than an ocean cruise ship. River cruise ships, arrival by air or train all require a visa. However, I will attest to the fact that the independent tour operators offer a touring experience far superior to the included tours offered by river cruises.

What I was pointing out is that Caripoo was incorrect when he talked about paying for river cruise excursions in the same way as paying for ocean cruise excursions. I'm sure that a private tour would offer a better experience, but, for the river cruise passenger, you would be paying for a group tour that you wouldn't use.

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What I was pointing out is that Caripoo was incorrect when he talked about paying for river cruise excursions in the same way as paying for ocean cruise excursions. I'm sure that a private tour would offer a better experience, but, for the river cruise passenger, you would be paying for a group tour that you wouldn't use.

Yes, I understood - I frequently don't avail myself of the included tours on river cruises. We like to make the most of the ports that are important to us. We are visiting Vienna again this year and will not join the included cruise tour (as this will be a first and possibly only visit for some in our group, we want to maximize the Vienna experience) because it is not nearly comprehensive enough to suit our taste. We are fine with the additional cost of a private tour for a "once in a lifetime" visit - I realize that this is not for everyone. For places such as Melk, the included tour is fine.

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We are on the Viking Homelands Cruise that departs July 28th. We have taken the advice of so many people and booked the Grand Tour with Alla Tours. The booking process was very easy and the information on their website was very helpful

https://www.alla-tour.com/. We are looking forward to the tow day tour of St. Petersburg. After the tour we will post a review.

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We are sailing on May 9th and are interested in a three day tour including Jewish Heritage sights. Anyone else have anything like that planned?

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In Moscow, we booked a day with Tours by Locals. We wanted to go to Ishmaylova (?sp) - and arranged a tour with TbL. Our cost (set price for 4 of us) included our guide meeting us at the boat, taking us on the metro, and staying with us as we wandered and shopped in the flea market. Great to have someone to translate. We had lunch there and had lots of time to chat about life in Russia with someone who lives a fairly "normal" life. The tour did include return to the boat, but our guide (Daniel) lived about 90 minutes from the dock - and had to take the metro, then the train to the outskirts - and then ride his bike!! We decided we could manage to get back on our own once he pointed us to the right train (we had to switch trains and lines...) so ended the tour in the metro station. The day was still more than the 6 hours we booked for.

 

We have used Tours by Locals a couple of times. It is great in that you can customize your tour - and you pay up front, so no money exchanges hands at the time of the tour. Tipping is at your discretion.

 

As mentioned, the cost is per tour (and each tour will tell you the max number of people that can go...) - and will clearly identify what is - and is not - included.

 

Fran

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We did a Viking Ocean and used Alla. They were able to get us in before the crowds which was a huge advantage. Bring tip money. 

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It seems from past experience of mine and reading posts from others that using local tour companies is usually a bit less expensive than the port adventures on the ship. I've done both, and I usually have a better experience with the local tour company. The port adventures are usually set in stone and you don't always get to pick where you want to go, and there is usually a large group of people. If you use a local tour company you usually have a smaller group, and if you book ahead of time, they are willing to work with you on the itinerary so you can pick what YOU want to see. Anastasia's Travel was fantastic in St. Petersburg. So friendly and willing to work with me. They have some general itineraries set up (https://anastasia-baltic.cruises/) but are willing to customize if you reach out to them. 

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As someone has already posted, TJ Travel did an outstanding job for us on a 3-day plan.  Our guide, Victoria, did everything right, including booking us for two night time activities: a ballet and a Folk show.  They provided all our transportation, and their tour tickets were our Russian visas.  We skipped all the Seabourn offered tours, and we were very, very happy with TJ.  As I recall, it was also cheaper than the Seabourn tours by quite a bit.

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On 12/15/2018 at 12:41 PM, lIovetocruise said:

As someone has already posted, TJ Travel did an outstanding job for us on a 3-day plan.  Our guide, Victoria, did everything right, including booking us for two night time activities: a ballet and a Folk show.  They provided all our transportation, and their tour tickets were our Russian visas.  We skipped all the Seabourn offered tours, and we were very, very happy with TJ.  As I recall, it was also cheaper than the Seabourn tours by quite a bit.

This is all very interesting, but it really applies to ocean rather than river cruising.  Previous posts have pointed out the differences. Most tours on river cruises are included in the fare so unless one is looking for something very particular not included by the cruise line or perhaps would like to tour in private, it’s a bit of a waste of money. On my Viking cruise, both a ballet evening and a folklore show for example were included at no extra charge. 

 

The inclusion of a visa for the tours is really irrelevant as all foreign passengers on river boats must obtain a proper Russian Visa before entering Russia. 

 

I suggest that this post  would be more useful and relevant for ocean cruisers if it were in the Ports of Call Russia forum.

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