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You pay for the tour after they pick you up at the ship. You will stop at the Red October Store and pay there. There is an additional charge for credit card but I can't remember what %. It is a great tour...Enjoy...

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We took this tour and most of it was great. Do not plan to book a lunch with a Russian family.......the host was very gracious, however, the apartment and lunch that was served had much to be desired, not worth the money at all. Also we had lunch on the first day at a restaurant called the Bezborodko which we paid $21 each......the food was cold and not that good either. Some of the other Red October tour members tell us they took their own lunch with them and that worked out well.......wish now we had done that also.

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We just returned from the Dream Baltic cruise last week. We used Red October for our two days in St. Petersburg. I cannot say enough wonderful things about the Red October group....they are truly a class act. They do everything on your agenda and demonstrate true flexibility.

 

Example: We were planning to take our lunches from the ship but three days before we arrived at St. Petersburg were informed that we couldn't take food off the ship in St. Petersburg. I emailed Laura at Red October and she beautifully arranged lunches in restaurants for both days. I enjoyed the lunches (although I don't plan to move to Russian food as a staple during the next few years!)

The lunches were nice--and it gave us an introduction to the Russian culture and a taste of the food.

 

Laura met us when we came through immigration and when all of our group made it through customs, we were ready to go. Because we were a small group of eight, we got to do additional items that were not on our itinerary. The difference between unloading and loading eight passengers versus 40-50 makes a huge difference in what you do with your time in St. Petersburg.

The second day we traveled for a short distance on the St. Petersburg subway system and saw how beautiful everything was. FYI--you CANNOT take pictures of the subway terminals.

If you are a photographer (DH and I are), then the camera fees are worth the cost. They add up but when we got home we had the most beautiful museum pictures we have ever collected.

 

Advice: pay for early admission to the Hermitage and Catherine's Palace. We walked past all the tour groups. When we got back to the ship, we heard that people on ship shore excursions waited in line for an hour or more to enter the same places we breezed into.

 

On the last day of your tour, you will stop at the Red October store. Save your shopping for this store--we had stopped earlier at another store and the prices were much higher for the same quality merchandise with much less selection (my DH is still kicking himself!!). You pay your Red October fees here. My suggestion--take a printed copy of the final agenda you have agreed upon with Laura by email. Because you add things and subtract things as you go, the calculations can become confused.

 

Red October prefers cash--take crisp new bills because evidently they have trouble exchanging the 'tattered' bills. There is a surcharge if you use a credit card--about 3% if I remember correctly.

We received a computer printout or a handwritten receipt for every Red October transaction we had.

 

Our guide and driver were wonderful. We could ask questions....and we could fall asleep when we were truly exhausted.

 

If I go back to St. Petersburg, I will contact Red October.

They are wonderful!!

 

If you want additional information, let me know and I will send to you via email.

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Thank you spappa for the great information on my post. So just to verify - you did not pay for the two day until the second day? Who told you about not taking food off the ship -- was that the cruiseline?

 

Thanks

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I'd also like some info on other ports. Also about taking lunch from the ship for driver, guide and ourselves. Read so much about doing that earlier this year, that I have already arranged that with Laura. If we do have to go to a resturant, is there somewhere just to get a sandwich. I really don't want to waste time stopping to eat something that I probably won't like, there is way to much to see in St. Pete. You can email me at: japiscopo@aol.com

 

Thanks for any info you can send,

Mary Lou

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In most of the Baltic Ports they have the City Sightseeing tours that are waiting as you get off the ship. They are the red double decked hop on and off busses. The prices are $15 to $25 for the day. We did this in almost all of the ports and it was great.

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We were on the same cruise as SPAPPA and also had a wonderful experience with Red October. We met three other ladies on Cruise Critic and shared a van with them. (Also met them on the ship several times and became fast friends). We felt we saw much more than the ship's excursions and give Red October high marks for everything. The price was no more expensive than the ship's full day excursions, and that was for big buses. Our guide, Irina, spoke perfect English and kept us informed of everything we saw, answering our questions readily. The driver, Petr, didn't speak English but was friendly and accomodating. If we walked somewhere, always with Irina, he'd be waiting for us.

 

We were told on the NCL Dream not to take any food on shore, so our box lunches were provided by Red October, I think they were $15 or so. We ate in the van as we were driving around, so as not to waste time. They provided two sandwiches, fruit, bottled water. We saw an incredible amount of palaces, churches and museums, always getting to the front of the line immediately. St. Petersburg was the highlight of our trip. The Hermitage just took our breath away - don't miss the gold room - it's worth $15 extra.

 

Brigitte

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We had made arrangements with Red October to bring sack lunches from the ship prior to the cruise. About three days before we arrived in St. Petersburg, the ship sent out a 'Notes about St. Petersburg' page that said we were prohibited from taking any type of food, plant or animal off the ship. One of the guys in our Red October group picked up on the sentence--I certainly missed it--and all eight of us in our group decided that we really didn't want to spend jail time in St. Petersburg!!

 

In retrospect no one was checking or asking questions so we probably could have done that but we really didn't want to blow our first trip to St. Petersburg.

 

Yes, you don't pay a thing until the last day of your tour. When you stop at the Red October store, Laura works with each person or couple. She presents a printed copy of the two day bill, which you really need to scrutinize before paying. One of the girls in our group picked up that we had been charged twice for one of our early admission fees. Since we had already paid our Red October fees and were just merrily shopping away, Laura graciously brought us back our $15 each and located us in the shop so we could get our money.

Again, take a copy of the last itinerary you and Laura agreed upon--you can certainly make changes as you go. We added the Gold Room at the Hermitage on the tour and our St. Petersburg subway trip was added on.

Also Lubov our guide paid our camera fees at each stop, then we reimbursed Red October at the end.

Consequently we never changed any of our money to rubles and didn't bring home Russian change (which we managed to do for every other country).

 

Please let me know if you have other questions. Toots and I were on the same cruise--got to meet each other, what fun--even though we were on two different Red October tours.

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We just got off the Constellation from the June 5 cruise, and we had a wonderful trip with Red October. Be prepared to pay for both days on the first day including any special lunches or admissions. I would not do the Gold Room again, but everything else was wonderful. We did have lunch at 2 restaurants $21 per person and one was very good the other so so, but it was a good break. Food was not allowed off the ship. I found the Red October store well stocked and as cheap as any other option.

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Yes, you do need VISA's for Russia, however, if you're on a ship's tour, or a private tour with Red October, they handle the Visa's for you. I beleive that Denrus also does this. The only problem for us was that we would have liked to go out to dinner in St. P, the first night and couldn't do it because we didn't have Visa's and couldn't leave the ship once we returned.

However, Princess brought a group of entertainers from a local nightclub called "The Troika" onboard for the evenings entertainment. They were wonderful.

 

We enjoyed Red October alot, our guide Irina, was wonderful. We chose to be only a group of 4 so we had flexibility. That worked out great for us as we shortened some things in order to go to a russian supermarktet as well as a typical russian shopping mall.

 

DH and I would have preferred a restaurant for lunch, however, the other couple had some dietary issues, so we brought sandwiches to eat in the van. It was no problem and we brought enough for the guide and driver too. People who allowed themselves to be be taken to the tourist restaurant were disappointed. If you do decide to have lunch out, pick another restaurant - some of the museums have cafe's. I'd skip the "touristo - get 'em in, get 'em out" place. At $21. a person it's a real rip-off.

 

Yes, we stopped at a store called "One-a gin" for a bathroom break. Our guide told us that the goods would be very expensive here. They were riciculously high. Don't buy anything there.

 

We went to the flea market next to the Church of the Spilled Blood and bought some nice trinkets. The prices of the same trinkets at the Red October store were slightly higher - but not ridiculously so - and you could pay with credit card. For example, I bought a set of painted napkin rings at the Red Oct store for $10, and they were $8. at the flea market. However, Red. Oct had a much larger selection of colors so I was happy to pay $2. more and get the colors I liked. The chess sets were the same price at both places. However, the fur hat I bought in Helsinki for $75. was $200. at the Red October store.

 

Red October charges a 3% commission to pay with credit card.

 

We paid the $15. extra to see the Gold room. DH and I were glad we did, the other couple said they could have cared less. So, it's simply a matter of opinion. In my mind, you travel so far and might not ever get back there, so for an extra $30. a couple (which I agree is a rip-off), why not see it all? Maybe there's a preview of the Gold Room on a Hermitage website so those of you trying to decide whether to do it or not could get a little preview???

It did annoy us that we were asked if we wanted to pay an extra $5. per camera for every place if we wanted to take photo's. The Russians are really into soaking the tourists and it gets annoying, IMO.

 

BTW, I found out from another couple that there's a George Ballanchine exhibit at the Hermitage right now. We missed it, but the other couple just stumbled upon it. I was so sorry that I didn't know about it beforehand. For those of you who are ballet fans, I hear it's a "don't miss".

 

Jane

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Thanks Jane

 

That was very helpful. When you say "pick another restaurant" what do we look for? Does Red October make suggestions?

 

Is this the Hermitage site you mentioned?

 

http://www.hermitage.ru/fcgi-bin/db2www/quickSearch.mac/gallery?selLang=English&tmCond=gold+room&go.x=13&go.y=9

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Jane: Thanks for the info about St. Pete. We are going in about 7 weeks.

You mentioned that you brought sandwiches that you ate in the van. That's what we plan to do, but have been reading lately on this board, that the ship won't let any food off the ship because of Russian imigration laws. Did you have any trouble? Where you able to change money in each of the ports easily? Did you do ship excursions in other ports? Or did you tour on your own? Any ideas as to what not to miss? Hope you don't mind my asking these questions? You can email me at japiscopo@aol.com.

 

Mary Lou

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My husband and I returned two weeks ago from the Baltic on board the Regatta (Oceania line) and used Red October. We were there for three days and used them for all three. Fabulous!!! Just a comment on the "Lunch with a Russian Family". All of us in our little group of six were interested in how typical folks live in St Pete and so we signed on for this. I think our price was $15 or $17 a person. No, the food was not the star attraction, but in fact it was nicely presented, salads, soup, chicken with mashed potatoes and some store bought cookies, bottled water and tea and coffee, all served with the lady's best stemware, silver and pretty plates.

 

For us, we were treated to an inside glimpse of a typical fourth floor walk-up, up four dismal flights of stairs. TWO rooms in which the lady's grandmother, mother, daughter and grandson and herself had been raised, generation after generation. TWO VERY SMALL ROOMS, one her BR and one shared by her daughter and grandson, which served as our dining room for the lunch. She had set up a kind of portable table between the two little beds. It was very tight. One very tiny kitchen (with a small divan) which doubled as the "living" room, and one very small and antiquated bathroom. This is the allotted space for a family under the Soviet rule and seems to still be the norm.

 

This is their past their present and their future. It was an eye opener and all of us left there very grateful to have been "behind the door" to catch a view of what the everyday Russian in St Pete must deal with. The hostess was very pleasant and tried to please us American visitors. My husband and I still find ourselves thinking about that lunch. No, the food was so so, but we'll never forget the experience.

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We did RO in May and paid the first day. We did pay with the credit card and paid 3% more than if we would have had USD. However, if you go to the passport site and Russian travel sites, they warn you to never use any money other than the ruble or credit card. We had some people who ran into a little trouble with using USD and we opted not to take a chance. If you read IMoore review on the Grandeur of the Seas, (it says Mexican Riveria but should be Baltic) she goes into the money problem they ran into in St. Petersburg a little bit. They did not use USD, but did get hassled.

 

We brought bottled water, fruit, and cookies from the ship and ate in the van while touring. No one checked us for food going through customs, however we never heard you could not bring your own food. Taking our own food allowed us to have a great 6 1/2 hour tour plus have time to go back, shower, have dinner a quick nap and then off to the folk show. Others went to the ballet. We seen just as much in 6 1/2 hours as the ships tours do in 9 hours. Cost was 89 each plus 15 for gold room, and 42 for the folk show. (7 people)

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To John and Betty: We did not get visas since we were going with RO. As long as you are on tour with them (or any tour company or the ship's tours you are covered). If you want to meander around on your own you will need a visa. We were so pleased with RO and took 3 day tours. Laura from RO had suggested some evening activities by email well before the trip, but we finalized our decisions pretty much while in St Petersburg with our guide. She was in contact with Laura by cell phone. We ended up seeing a very nice Folk show at a hotel, enjoyed it. We were not up to an opera, and the option of ballet seemed too dull. Our days were very full so the thought of going around on our own did not occur to us. It was wonderful to be escorted around in a small group and we gained quick entrance to the sights.

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I hope this isn't too long, but am passing along info I had gleaned before we went and found it really usefull.

 

Below is what our tour was. You do not need visa if touring with the cruise line or a qualified tour operator. We did not do the second day listed below as we wanted to do a canal tour (highly recommended) and my husband and son went to the military and high tech museum (turned out to be really great if into the cold war stuff) in the afternoon and I went to Peterhoff. These were done with RCI. I much preferred RO over the ships full busses. Our price was $5 cheaper for the first day than listed for the seven of us on the tours. We did the gold room and took a little extra time at the Hermitage which made the tour 1/2 to one hour longer. The RO shop was only okay. Others who went elsewhere, I felt got better quality items for a better price, but with so much to see, it is hard to spend much time shopping so having it all in one place can be convenient. You can request RO to take you to a different shopping place. In the evening of the first day we went to the folk show in a hotel, leaving the ship around 7PM and getting back around 10-10:30 due to traffic which was not all that heavy on a Sunday. We thought the folk show was very good but also heard great things about the ballet at the Hermitage. I don't think we could have gone to the night show if we had done a longer day. You end up standing most of the time plus it is very hot and extremely crowded in the Churches and the Hermitage and walking cobble stone streets can wear you out. We took fruit, cookies and bottle water from the ship to eat after the Hermitage, but did not feed the driver or guide. We (couples) did tip the driver $10 and the guide $30. I don't know if this was high, low or just right, but it was what us three couples (plus our son) had decided ahead of time each couple would tip. You have to remember the average doctor makes about $85 a month and a prof at the U makes about $75 a month and the average retiree gets about $45. We felt they got paid quite well. Our guide was Dmitri and he was excellent. He spoke flawless American (no English accent) and our driver stayed with the van so we could leave things in the van when we went into the churches and Hermitage as you can not take backpacks and have to pay extra for cameras. We paid RO at the RO store on the first day with Credit card with the 3% markup. I was glad not to be walking around with that much money on my person. We paid for purchases with the credit card at the Hermitage and Peter and Paul fortress. The only place I needed USD was the bathrooms at Peterhoff. Bring tp along as everyplace was empty and sanitary wipes for your hands. At Peterhoff I wish I had Lysol too! Remember any tp does not go in the toilet, but in the trash can beside the toilet. The toilets plug up when you try and flush tp and then it was quite a mess, especially at Peterhoff. I suggest holding before using Peterhoff's if at all possible. Nasty nasty, still turns my stomach.

 

 

DAY ONE – 6 HOURS

May 23, Sunday

 

07:00 AM - Ship’s arrival in St. Petersburg

09:00 AM - Start from the pier for a city orientation drive (city highlights): St. Nicholas’s Church, Theatre Square with Mariinsky Theatre, St. Isaac’s Square, majestic St. Isaac Cathedral, “Bronze Horseman” – the most famous monument to Peter the Great, Shmidt Bridge, Vasilievsky Island with Arts Academy, Menshikov Palace, University, Kunstkamera, “Strelka” with Stock Exchange and Rostral Columns and with the most beautiful view of Neva Embankments Winter Palace and other buildings of the Hermitage Museum, Twelve Colleges, Palace Bridge, Palace Square with Winter Palace and Alexander Column, Admiralty, Nevsky Avenue, the central street of the city, Smolny Cathedral and Smolny Institute, “Field of Mars”, drive by the Savior on the Spilled Blood Cathedral, Troitsky Bridge, Peter’s the Great Cabin, Cruiser “Aurora”.

10:15 AM - inside visit of Peter-and-Paul Fortress, place where the city was founded in May of 1703, incl. the Peter-and-Paul Cathedral (1712 1733), burial place of the Romanovs

11:00 AM - Shopping opportunity at the biggest and best souvenir shop of St. Petersburg – Red October (wooden dolls of various dimensions and quality, authentic lacquer boxes from Palekh, Mstera etc., splendid amber, china, Russian shawls etc.)

11:30 AM - Tour of the Hermitage Arts Museum · Excursion to the West-European Masters’ collection (Rembrandt, Rubens, Leonardo da Vinci, Raphael, El Greco, Murillo, Van Dyck etc.)· Living and gala halls of the Winter Palace,· French Impressionists and art of XX century.· Optional visit to the Gold Rooms (Treasury) of the Winter Palace for additional $ 15 per person (minimum 10 persons in a group)

02:00 PM - Visit to the Savior on the Spilled Blood Cathedral built in 1907 as memorial church to honor Russian Emperor Alexander II murdered on the spot by the terrorists. It is a sample of "Russian style" architecture and decorative art of the edge of the XIX-XX centuries. Mosaic attire of the church (over 7.000 sq. m) was created by the most famous Russian artists of the epoch.

02:30 PM - Drive back to the pier

03:00 PM - Return on board

 

The per person cost of the program:

if you are 7 is USD 94 pp

Extra charge for the Gold Room USD 15 pp

The above costs include car transportation, highly qualified English speaking guide services, entrance fees to the museums as mentioned in the program.

 

 

DAY TWO – 5 HOURS

May 24, Monday

 

09:30AM10:30 AM11:30 AM - Departure for Peterhof. Drive 30km/19 miles west of St. Petersburg.Peterhof is a jewel of the Russian art, a town of parks, palaces and fountains. In the past it used to be an exquisite summer residence of Russian tsars. - Arrival in Peterhof. - Visit to the GRAND PALACE famous by the unbelievable splendor and beauty of its interior decoration.- Stroll through the wonderful “LOWER PARK” with its 150 fountains, cascades and various pavilions and palaces.

00:15 PM - Drive back to St. Petersburg

01:30 PM - Visit to St. Isaac's Cathedral (architect Montferrand), one of the finest architectural monuments of the XIX century, the former principal Cathedral of the Russian capital, the largest cathedral in town able to accommodate about 10,000 audience. The cathedral is beautifully decorated inside: marble of 13 colors, malachite, lapis-lazuli, paintings and mosaics made by the most famous Russian artists, impressive stained-glass image of Christ seen through the open doors of the magnificent Icon-Stand etc.

02:00 PM - Drive back to the pier

02:30 PM - Return to the ship

06:00 PM - Ship’s departure

 

The per person cost of the program:

If you are 4 is $ 118 pp, if you are 7 is $ 98 pp, if you are 8-9 is $ 93 pp, if you are 10 is $ 86 pp

The above costs include car transportation, highly qualified English speaking guide services, entrance fees to the museums and visit to the Grand Palace on special arrangement as mentioned in the program.

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It's been 2 weeks since I sent RO an email trying to book a tour with them for our Aug. cruise, but I didn't receive any reply. Usually, how long does it take for RO to email you back? Is it too late to book a tour with them for early Aug?

 

Alicia

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John and Betty,

 

When I said "pick another restaurant" you could go about it a few ways. Go to a website with restaurant recommendations or ask your guide. Just tell her/him that you don't care to go to the tourist place for a group lunch but rather to a regular restaurant where russians would go.

 

Before my trip I found a good website listing some interesting restaurants in St. P'burg. I don't recall how I found it - perhaps through American Express Travel online.

 

We were on Princess and no one said anything about not bringing food off the ship. No problem - either with Princess or with customs. Customs just looks at passports and Red October letter.

 

We were able to pay for everything with US dollars. Just bring new, crisp bills.

 

Jane

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It's been 2 weeks since I sent RO an email trying to book a tour with them for our Aug. cruise, but I didn't receive any reply. Usually, how long does it take for RO to email you back? Is it too late to book a tour with them for early Aug?

 

Alicia

They are very responsive, normally a day or two. If you didn't get a reply, something must be wrong.

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