My wife and I will be arriving in St. Petersburg on a cruise ship early on a Sunday morning, and we would like to attend Mass at the Catholic Basilica at 9:30 a.m. Is there a recommended tour company that could handle just this one morning trip for the two of us -- or incorporate this "side trip" into a tour to other sights that same day for the two of us, but at a reasonable cost and without our needing to obtain tourist visas? Since we will only be in Russia for less than 48 hours, we would prefer to avoid the cost and hassle of tourist visas. Thanks in advance for any help.
Most of the tourists coming off ships in St. Petersburg are either going in full size buses or in 14 passenger vans. Smaller buses are much more efficient as they're able to get you to the Hermitage before the tourist rush (from big buses) fill the available space.
In your tour guide's itinerary will be to take you to a Russian Orthodox Church, but probably not during scheduled services. If you were there for services, you'd see that everyone stands through church services.
We found the smaller groups to be the easiest and more manageable way to see all the sights of St. Petersburg. There must be 50 different tour companies operating there, and they're all just great. Often the tour guides are independents working for numerous tour companies.
To have a tour guide take you to a church service will require a private tour guide and a driver which will be much more costly.
That is correct, to do such an off-the-radar tour, you would need either a Russian visa or a private guide arrangement for at least that Sunday. Plenty of options on viator, and while pricier than cookie-cutter offerings from the Big Five tour companies, I've seen some options that are not crazy expensive (but still pricier than the cost of a no-rush single entry or double entry visa).
I've attended an English-language Catholic mass in SPB, and, if I remember correctly, the cathedral is centrally located and easy to find. Personally, I'd just get a visa and do things at my own pace, accepting the fact that I will see fewer places than my fellow cruisers that do ship tours.
Thanks to both of you who responded.
Are Scott from Denver area and scottomiddleton the same person with two identities here?
Yes, you do - the visa in your passport is self-evident; plus, the operators submit lists of their customers to immigration authorities, who check your name and passport details against the list.
PS. This is a response to your query that you moved to a separate thread.