Any feedback on the alla 2 day tour of St Petersburg? We are going in September as part of an Oceania cruise
We probably don't have that specific experience. Rick's N. Europe Cruise Ports book helps you sightsee on your own in St. Pet, but also recommends checking www.cruisecritic.com for reviews of the local tour companies.
The specific part of Cruise Critic where you'll find reviews of people's tours is the Northern Europe and the Baltics Ports Forum, here: http://tinyurl.com/by57g9z
We used Alla tours for 2 days in St. Petersburg in June 2012. They were fine. You might also look at TripAdvisor for recommendations/ratings. Have a great trip!
We also took a two-day tour from Alla in 2010. I thought they were great. You can choose both the itinerary (from among a couple of choices) and the size of your group. We chose up to ten people (ended up being ten from our ship, plus a guide and driver, in a twelve passenger van). We also chose "strenuous" (not sure they still offer that) to try to get away from the slower passengers. At Catherine's Palace they let groups of up to six in with no waiting otherwise there's a long line - that was the only time I wish we were a smaller group. We ended up sneaking in with a larger Italian group at the front of the line (amusing to watch our tour guide try to outsmart the surly ladies working there).
The trip was fast paced and didn't allow time to stop for lunch (although there were stands where you could grab a bite). We packed sandwiches and light snacks from the ship. Everyone followed our lead on day two (but complained about not having a lunch stop).
The cost was $300 each, including tip, which I thought was a good value because a Russian visa alone was $160 then. We paid in US currency (as described on their website).
Our ship (Princess cruise) repeatedly announced that the only way off the ship was to take one of their excursions. If you hear that, don't worry. Follow the instructions on Alla's website, have everything they tell you to bring, and you will have no problem. The first day Russian immigration put a small paper "ticket" inside our passports and took them back at the end of the day. I've heard there is no reason for this other than to fine you if you lose it. The second day they didn't give us a ticket and didn't miss it when we returned to the ship - go figure?
I have used Alla twice in St Pete's, including earlier this month, and recommend them. They have discounts if you are visiting any other Baltic cities, and their tour guides were very good. I chose the "grand tour" both times, see as much as you can while you are there.
Also, they do have a different way of communicating with you- they post replies on their website and you have to sign in each time to read the query or print your tickets or book the tour-- no direct emails.
As for lunch, the day you tour the Hermitage they use a restaurant nearby with salad, tea or coffee, entrée ( beef stroganoff with mashed potatoes) and a simple dessert, and the day you go on the hydrofoil you get a sack lunch consisting of a blini ( a cheese and chicken filled folded crepe) with an apple, a chocolate bar, a juicebox and a water. Both meals included in the $300.
My first trip to St.P, the ship was adamant that taking food or canned drinks from the ship was an issue with the Russian immigration and was a very bad idea. Had seen fussy officers in the Black Sea, so didn't try... Have fun! Much to see there!
We also heard not to take any food from the ship because Russian immigration would have a fit about it. I'm not sure if that came from the ship or just other passengers. We did our normal cruise stop routine, however, put a sandwich each, some fruit, and another snack (like a cookie) into a day pack. Immigration never asked once what we were carrying (they may have if we looked like we had a lot).
I've always thought it's good to have some food with you for cruise stops. If you spot a nice cafe, you can still stop. If you don't, you have something to keep you from starving and don't have to commit your limited time to finding food.
While this thread is old I would like to point out that in almost EVERY country taking food off the cruise ship into port is a bad idea . While the poster says they routinely get away with it, when they are finally caught they will wish they had never come up with that idea. I once met a woman on a ship who spent the entire day in the port authority office because they caught her with baked goodies!
What port? America is more picky than most countries and states like Hawaii and California can be especially picky. Other countries couldn't care less. Usually it's related to protecting their own agriculture industry from potential food-borne pests - particularly fruits. We heard Russia was a problem but as surly as the immigration people were, they didn't seem to care about food at all.
Off the top of my head I don't remember which port, but it was in Europe so I know it was not America (Cruise started in Barcelona and went to France and Italy!)
So if they tell you on the boat not to take your food off you might consider listening! (I always find the "well I got away with it in the past" or "others have done it" defense to be one authorities don't really accept. I see it quite often at airports and while it's amusing it's also useless)