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Northern Europe & Baltics Aarhus, Bergen, Copenhagen, Gdansk, Greenland, Helsinki, Oslo, Riga, St. Petersburg, Stockholm, Tallinn

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  #1  
Old July 26th, 2011, 05:29 AM
F Markus F Markus is offline
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Default "St Petersburg At Your Leisure"??

We´ve booked an excursion with RCCL called "St Peterburg at your leisure" (PZS5). It starts with "a short bus trip to Nevsky Prospekt". Then we´ll have "about six hours at our on disposial" before the bus picks us up.

When Í search the Internet I only find discriptions of this tour in the scandinavian languages, obviously ment for scandinavian cruisers. However, the tour is described by RCCL as "only in english". Has anyone done this tour? Sounds like a possibility to actually visit St P on your own.
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Last edited by F Markus; July 26th, 2011 at 05:30 AM.
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  #2  
Old July 26th, 2011, 05:42 AM
AJM1973 AJM1973 is offline
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I'm wondering just the same thing. I'd like to tour on my own as much as possible, but wont have a visa. "6 hours for souvenir shopping"? It's gotta be free time to roam on your own? If anyone has any information, it will be very appreciated!
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Old July 26th, 2011, 06:13 AM
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Nevsky Prospekt is 'the' main-drag in St. P. Lots of shops; but there's also a lot of stuff to see down the Prospekt. See this basic overview map here...

If you really can wander off by yourself; you can easily get to The Hermitage & Palace Square (at the left, on the river, on the map ref'd above...); The Admiralty; The Church on Spilled-Blood; St. Isaac's Cathedral & the Neva River... but... that's a lot of walking, and you'll be hard-pressed to make the most of St. P. in a 6 hour gap if that's all the time you have!

Much better IMO to do an organised tour if you really want to see St. P. at its best!

Last edited by EOS-User; July 26th, 2011 at 06:14 AM.
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  #4  
Old July 26th, 2011, 07:49 AM
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It's gotta be free time to roam on your own?
This is the cruise lines copying what the ferry companies have been doing for more than a year. Basically Spb City Hall has decided not to insist on constant supervision. But there are some limitations on how far you should stray.
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Old July 26th, 2011, 08:17 AM
chica chica is offline
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Just did this two weeks ago on Vision of the Seas. It worked out great for us. We did back to back cruises. On our first day in SPB we did the "at your leisure". I had purchased tickets online for the Hermitage so after being dropped off we walked 20 minutes to the Hermitage and were there at opening. We spent about three hours looking at exhibits and then walked back down Nepsky Prospect, toured the Church on the Spilled Blood and did some shopping. Great day. The ships tours only allowed for an hour and a half- to two hours at the Hermitage. This gave us more time and then time to shop and see the church. On our second stop in SPB we did a very intense tour with SPB tours which was an awesome way to see a lot in 12 hours.

So if you want to see alot, go with organized private tour. If you want to spend some time shopping and seeing a few sights on your own, you will be fine with the at your leisure. We were very happy with how we spent our two days.

Edited to add: the above post's link indicates that you do not have a visa and it is somehow illegal. This is incorrect. Your are given a visa with your tour ticket and have it with you in your passport when you are in SPB.

Last edited by chica; July 26th, 2011 at 08:20 AM.
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  #6  
Old July 27th, 2011, 07:00 AM
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You are given a visa with your tour ticket and have it with you in your passport when you are in SPB.
Can I ask, was this a visa that you obtained and bought in advance from a Russian Embassy? Or just ticket to show that you were on a visa-free tour?

Last edited by LucyH; July 27th, 2011 at 07:01 AM. Reason: typo
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  #7  
Old July 27th, 2011, 08:53 AM
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As mentioned, if you choose this option, you need to have your itinerary and admission tickets already in hand. We were on a private tour with SPB and walked in to all the venues with no waiting. The day we were at the Hermitage, it was raining, and there was a line, blocks and blocks long of people waiting to get in. Another thought. . .our guide walked us through the Hermitage and explained the various rooms, exhibits. . .If you go on your own, where do you begin? The place is tremendous. If this is your first time to StP, check into the private tour providers mentioned on the Baltics board. You do not need to apply for any type of Visa. Once you confirm your tour, you provide you passport information to the tour provider, they email you the tour ticket. You present the tour ticket, an immigration form provided by the ship, and your passport when going through Russian immigration off the ship.
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  #8  
Old July 27th, 2011, 09:24 AM
chica chica is offline
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Lucy,
The visa was provided by the ship the night before arrival, with your name and info already filled in. You just need to check male or female and sign your name in a teeny tiny space . You are told exactly what is needed. You meet in the theater with all the other tours and are taken out as a group. You present the visa with your passport as you go through customs. You are leaving with a ship tour, you are not by yourself. After getting through customs you board the ship's tour bus and proceed to Nepsky Prospect. We got a tour on our way with various sites pointed out. (No stops of course.) The guide was very clear about pointing out where we were dropped off and would be picked up and there are many buses there dropping off and picking up. The drop off is near the Church on the Spilled Blood and souvenier shops. It really was "no big deal".

Yes if you want to go to the Hermitage you should buy tickets online to avoid the lines. If you want a tour there are guides available inside the museum that you can hire and their rates are negociable. There are also so many tours going on while you are there you can certainly hear much information by simply being in the room. The signage is in English and you can pick up a map to know what is where.

If the at your leisure sounds good to you, do not hesitate based on unfounded fears.
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  #9  
Old July 27th, 2011, 04:17 PM
jamessemaj jamessemaj is offline
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Just a couple of comments about the visa confusion and the on your own.

The formal visa for Russia requires an invitation form from a tour operator or hotel, plus a long application with photo to be submitted to an embassy or consulate and the visa is applied to a full page of your passport. It costs about $200. if hiring an agency to process it. It can be done cheaper if you appear in person. The cruise ship tours don't require that, and there is no visa, just a license by a tour operator. Obviously, as mentioned, the police and officials in SPB are looking the other way for the on your own thing.

I have never heard of it, but I wouldn't worry about it if I were to go there, having gone through the official visa process and arranged my own 10 day land visit a year and a half ago.

The center of SPB contains major attractions, and Nevsky Prospect is an attraction in itself. It is a pedestrian/traffic boulevard like you have never seen anywhere. I never tired of just walking it, but it is long and has many side venues. If you want to go further down or up or whatever, jump on a bus. You pay a small fee to a conductor, but some are so packed that the conductor will never get to you to collect.

I think this is an exciting opportunity to do your own thing. If you want to punch your ticket for all of the major sights, including the outlying Peterhof and Catherine Palaces, you will need to sign up for a group tour. If you want to get a real taste of SPB, in spite of missing some things, the on your own is a good idea. The more you study beforehand, the better use you can make of the opportunity. If you are doing nothing wrong or illegal, I don't think you need to worry about the fudge on legalities, but don't hold me to that.
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  #10  
Old July 27th, 2011, 04:54 PM
F Markus F Markus is offline
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Thank you so much for the information about "St Petersburg at your leisure" - just what I wanted to hear! It´s probably a good idea to take a guided tour if you want to see as many sights as possible during a short visit. When we travel, however, we like to get a taste of the daily life and prefer to go to ordinary shops, cafés, parks &c. The local supermarket is often the best place to get a glimpse of what it would be like to live your life in that country - and to meet the locals.
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  #11  
Old July 27th, 2011, 06:18 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by F Markus View Post
Thank you so much for the information about "St Petersburg at your leisure" - just what I wanted to hear! It´s probably a good idea to take a guided tour if you want to see as many sights as possible during a short visit. When we travel, however, we like to get a taste of the daily life and prefer to go to ordinary shops, cafés, parks &c. The local supermarket is often the best place to get a glimpse of what it would be like to live your life in that country - and to meet the locals.
We did a 2 day active private tour with TJ Travel and were able to include some ordinary things..Russian Bakery, Post Office, Supermarket,Shops,Grand Palace Hotel and our favorite Stolle Cafe...That's the wonderful thing about a private tour..It's where you want to go and how much time is spent at each location...Enjoy this wonderful city !!!
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  #12  
Old July 28th, 2011, 07:01 PM
kingsbridge kingsbridge is offline
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Default The opposite of a private tour

The St. Peterburg at your Leisure tour is not at all like a private tour. HAL has a similar tour which I took two years ago. You are entirely on your own without any supervision. The bus trip around the city gives you a good orientation and the bus parking around behind the Church on Spilled Blood is very convenient. You can, as noted, walk to the Hermitage or many other sites. In our case the guide took us to a souvenir shop in the square where the Russian Museum is. The benefit of this was that they had restrooms which we could use before starting our free time. I think this tour is great for people who don't need a lot of structure and don't find it necessary to see everything. It's much cheaper than a private tour or than most of the other ship's excursions. It will give you confidence that you can manage on your own in this great city.
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Old July 29th, 2011, 04:25 AM
kruzgal kruzgal is offline
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I would love to do this - does anyone know if Celebrity offer this type of tour?
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Old July 29th, 2011, 10:39 AM
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I would love to do this - does anyone know if Celebrity offer this type of tour?
If you have already booked, check the shore excursions for St. P. for your sailing. I looked through them for one sailing and did not see anything like that. With RCI being the parent to Celebrity, you might expect such an option, but for the August 2 sailing of the Constellation I didn't find one.
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  #15  
Old July 30th, 2011, 01:11 PM
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Default St Petersburg Private Tours

If you fancy organising a private tour rather than pay for the ones the cruise ships offer it may be worth trying TJ Travel. I got a group of 7 together and for a two day relaxed tour it cost $235 - 5% for cash for two days. That included admissions to museums, hydrofoil ride to Peterhof etc. Although it was relaxed it was quite hectic and we didn't have time for a morning or afternoon coffee. If you do this, insist on NOT going to a gift shop unless you really want to - there are loads of places to see in St Petersburg rather than visiting gift shops.
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Old July 30th, 2011, 02:58 PM
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What is the cost of the "At Your Leisure" tour? Any of the private tour companies could make up any itinerary for you. We used SPb tours, and part of our itinerary was the subway, a grocery store (which we opted out), we wanted to see more at the Hermitage. You can get a two day tour for ten people in the low $200 USD, as stated it includes the admissions to everything. You can make it as much "at your leisure as you wish", as long as you get the other people to agree to the itinerary. All we had to pay for was our lunches. All of the private tour companies are very competitive with pricing. . .it really is just a matter of which company matches your personality and needs.
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If you fancy organising a private tour rather than pay for the ones the cruise ships offer it may be worth trying TJ Travel. I got a group of 7 together and for a two day relaxed tour it cost $235 - 5% for cash for two days. That included admissions to museums, hydrofoil ride to Peterhof etc. Although it was relaxed it was quite hectic and we didn't have time for a morning or afternoon coffee. If you do this, insist on NOT going to a gift shop unless you really want to - there are loads of places to see in St Petersburg rather than visiting gift shops.
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  #17  
Old July 30th, 2011, 05:55 PM
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Default Gaining agreement among other participants

I'm not the OP here but I have taken one of these "at your leisure" tours. Mine was with HAL in 2009. It was attractive to me because I didn't have to coordinate my travel plans for the day with any one else on the tour bus. We were free to roam on our own. And no, the police were not "looking the other way." Our tour was perfectly legal. When I took it, there were all sorts of dire warnings from various posters, but they were incorrect. I would agree that a visitor to St. Peterburg who wants to maximize their time is better off on a structured tour, but sometimes gaining agreement among your fellow participants on a private tour is not as easy as it sounds. Someone is usually compromising. With the "at your leisure" option, I was free to wander in the Alexander Gardens (entrance next to the Church on Spilled Blood). I chose to visit the Russian Museum but could just as easily have gone to the Hermitage or taken a canal cruise or gone to the market or used the Metro. I popped into the Kazan Cathedral which is rarely visited on tours and there was an Orthodox service in progress. I was able to quietly watch in the background without disturbing the worshippers. For me it was great to be free to decide things on the spur of the moment and not be locked into a prepared itinerary, even a custom one.
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  #18  
Old July 31st, 2011, 09:59 AM
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Some of us just prefer to do things on our own or may be visiting St. Petersburg for a second time, having already seen many of the main attractions.

The problem for me with private tours is that I heavily research things in advance (a guide rarely tells me something I didn't read already) AND I end up with a very specific list of places that I want to see.....which generally doesn't coincide with what other people want to see on a private tour. This happened to me in Israel, where I ended up paying for a private tour for one person -- a wonderful day but very expensive. Despite advertising the tour on my roll call for months ahead of time, I couldn't find one single person willing to join up.
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Old July 31st, 2011, 10:30 AM
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It is not that I don't disagree. If folks are willing to do the advance planning and research I am sure it works out wonderful. But to the average folk, it might be too overwhelming. Also, you need to focus on the area where they drop you off, you can't just wander off anyplace in STP. I met some pax that got their own visas and they were a bit dismayed that traveling from point to point wasn't as close together as on the map seemed, and there aren't readily available taxis.
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Some of us just prefer to do things on our own or may be visiting St. Petersburg for a second time, having already seen many of the main attractions.

The problem for me with private tours is that I heavily research things in advance (a guide rarely tells me something I didn't read already) AND I end up with a very specific list of places that I want to see.....which generally doesn't coincide with what other people want to see on a private tour. This happened to me in Israel, where I ended up paying for a private tour for one person -- a wonderful day but very expensive. Despite advertising the tour on my roll call for months ahead of time, I couldn't find one single person willing to join up.
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Old July 31st, 2011, 12:23 PM
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We are travelling on this cruise next week and were planning on using the "St P at your leisure tour" as away of doing independent sightseeing each of the two days we are in port.

We plan to get dropped off day one and board the city sightseeing HOHO bus for two hours then disembark it and visit Peter & Paul Fortress - then walk back to Nevsky Prospect to be picked up by the cruise tour.

On day two we planned to again get dropped off by the "St P at your leisure tour" at Nevsky Prospect and walk to the Hermitage and Church of Spilled Blood before again returning to ship with the tour.

Both of these walking routes are within a small radius of Nevsky Prospect.

I have some questions / observations.

(1) Could someone who has been on the actual tour advise if they were informed not to stray away from the drop off point or what advice was given.

(2) We realise that without supervision you are not meant to "stray" too far from your drop off area - but how far is too far??

(3) RCCL are dropping you off on a tour that is called "St P at your leisure tour" - would they do this if they had not researched the practicalities and implications of it. It is not like we are leaving the ship independently we are on a RCCL tour that leaves you for 6hrs to do your own thing and then has the responsibility of returning you to the ship.

I understand from other posts both on this and other forums that the police have been told to ignore visaless tourists unless "something happens" in which case you may be asked for your papers.

Any further info from cruisers who have been on this tour would be most helpful.
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