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Baltic Cruise

Has anyone been on the Regal Princess Baltic cruise?
We have been on a cruise to the Mediterranean and one to the U.K., We tend to book our own tours from home because I don't like big crowded tours and find the cruise excursions are expensive for the service you get. We are a group of six. Any advice?
Thanks

Posted by
327 posts

We enjoyed the Baltic cruise in 2014 on the Royal Princess (sister ship to Regal). For the 2-day stop in St. Petersburg, we booked the ship's (yes expensive) excursions mainly for language and convenience (ship arranged visa, gluten-free lunches for celiac hubby). Anna was our marvellous, knowledgeable guide for both days - very well organized, skipped the line at some sites, and kept us safe from pick-pockets! Two very full and interesting days. For us, on this occasion, it was worth the splurge to go with Princess tours. However, several of the other Baltic ports, we did our own thing - Copenhagen, Tallinn, and Helsinki.

Mardan

Posted by
2460 posts

We went in July of 2011. Tallin is very doable on your own, walk right into town. St. Petersburg we hired a private guide through the cruise ship because of visas and language. Stockholm the port was far out so we went with the cruise group. Same in Helsinki but we were sorry we did. Since that cruise we discovered toursbylocals.com and have used them to hire private guides for cruise ship ports and have not been disappointed. We went on both NCL (Baltic 10 people) and Celebrity (British Isles 4 people).

Posted by
21709 posts

The only place that you need to use either the ship excursion or a private guide is St Petersburg because of Russian visa requirements. I think a visa cost something like $200 each so $1200 can buy a lot of private tours. The rest is easy to do.

Posted by
76 posts

Thank you all for your input. Much appreciated.

So, I take it, we all agree that private tours are the way to go. When we were on both our U.K. cruise and Cruise to Italy, we hired private guides for the six of us. The tricky thing is finding reliable trustworthy companies.

Have you had a good experience in St.Petersburg and should we get one for Oslo or Estonia?

Thank you so much for the information
Maria

Posted by
2460 posts

Don't need one for Tallin, walk right into town and just walk around and enjoy

Posted by
76 posts

So, I have heard that toursbylocals is a private tour company that many have had good expeiences with. Would I be making the right choice in going with this company?

Posted by
1850 posts

We have booked toursbylocals in St Petersburg based on comments I had seen posted on this forum, and some others as well. I contacted their office (in Vancouver, BC?) with my questions and was pleased with the patience and informative responses. They followed up with an email to me offering any other assistance I might require. I emailed the agent in St Petersburg and he responded promptly and completely to my several inquiries. So we booked, and I'm feeling pretty good about it. The guide handles all the visa requirements. We are US citizens. I expected reams of official looking paperwork. After payment , the guide emailed us "Tour Tickets" to print off and show as we get off the ship (both tickets take up only one printed page). They assure me that is all we need. Again-- we have not yet taken this tour, but so far I am pleased with the professionalism of all the folks with whom I have dealt.

Posted by
76 posts

Thank You. I did check with the consulate in Montreal and the Visa would cost us 40$ each. Not too expensive. The issue is we don't speak the language and it may be hard to get around. I have also been leaning towards the same company. Did you say you are taking the two day tour? We are six so it gets a little expensive

Posted by
327 posts

Mariagiraldi83,
If you book the Princess excursion(s) for St. Petersburg, there is no extra paperwork or Russian visa required for Canadian citizens.
Should you prefer to go on your own, consular fees to arrange a Tourist Visa for Russia in advance of the trip are outlined on this website (much more than CAD$40 per person you mentioned):
http://www.canada-ils.com/main.php?id=travel&lang=en
If you have not already done so, I highly recommend reading RS Northern European Cruise Ports guidebook which explains details about Russian visas, as well as self-guided walks and tours, etc. for many of the ports you will visit on the Baltic cruise. With this book in hand, many of the ports are doable on your own. However, as there are so many iconic sites in St. Petersburg (a big city of four million people), IMHO, you would do well to be accompanied by a knowledgeable local tour operator for the two-day visit so that you can maximize your time and your experiences. Bon voyage!
mardan

Posted by
11286 posts

Ricks' Northern European Cruise Ports book is great. However, as far as I could see, in his St. Petersburg section he only talks about the first two options below, when there are actually three:

1) Taking the ship's tours. For these, you do not need a visa.
2) Touring St. Petersburg yourself. For this, you do need a visa arranged in advance.
3) Taking a tour with one of the companies that gets a "visa equivalent" for you. That's not the official term, but "visa equivalent" is indeed what it is. You send your passport information to them in advance, and you don't need to get a visa. These companies offer small group tours (smaller and with more varied options than the ship tours), as well as more private tours for more money. With these, you do not need a visa.

Some of the companies that offer option 3 are DenRus, Red October, SPB, and Alla Tour. You can look at their websites and see if one of their packages suits your needs, or e-mail them to ask what they can do for your group.

The other port that is a potential "issue" on your own is Rostock/Warnemünde for Berlin. Berlin is about 3 hours from the ports, so seeing it on your own is dodgy (although people do it). Otherwise, getting from the dock to your city is usually easy, and the cities are not hard to see on your own (armed, of course, with Rick's book).

However, if you do want excursions for other Baltic ports, the companies I listed have them, and often offer a discount if you are using them for more than one tour.

You can learn more about your trip on Cruise Critic. Here's their Northern Europe and the Baltics Ports Forum: http://tinyurl.com/by57g9z, which will have more info on all your ports.

Posted by
76 posts

Thank you Harold, for the very helpful info. can you tell me if you know of toursbykocals and if they are reliable