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trosebery

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  1. How much is "so much?" What's your limit for staying on your feet at one time and total over the course of the day? Can you handle two strenuous days back-to-back (without wearing yourself out for other ports like Tallinn)? The tour operators themselves are your best resources. Email them and they can match you with a tour that best fits your needs. I recommend emailing several and choosing the best match for you. (I selected a private tour with Red Sun Tours as the best match for us on our last trip after emailing around. You might find a different best match.) And remember that one person's "must see" is another's "meh," so don't feel that you need to see some sight just because others are raving about it. Choose what you like.
  2. As schmerl pointed out, many companies will allow you to book without paying a deposit, and especially if you would like a private tour, I would suggest booking with plenty of lead time. Our tour with Red Sun Tours last summer didn't require payment until after the first day of the tour, and booking in advance gave us lots of time to ask all the questions we needed to tweak our itinerary just the way we liked it.
  3. The district with the highest concentration of Art Nouveau buildings is about a 20 minute walk north of the medieval Old Town, around Albert Street if you're checking a map. If you want to see both, make sure you give yourself enough time to do so. (There is also an Art Nouveau Museum if you're interested in interiors.) Note that if you want to do the tour at the KGB museum, they recommend booking tickets in advance.
  4. Actually, it might be a good idea to start a thread (that could be stickied) about accessible Baltic tours/sights/etc. Because St. Petersburg is probably the easiest port to tour when you have mobility issues, given how well the independent tour companies can cater to their guests! It can be trickier in more DIY ports like Stockholm or Tallinn, especially given the cobblestoned/sloping/etc. streets and historic sites with many stairs. Advice from others with mobility issues who've BTDT would be appreciated.
  5. That is odd. Now, I'm not a big fan of Catherine Palace myself (since it's out of the way to visit and often crowded), but many people consider it a must-see. If it's important to you, I would make enquiries with other companies and see what they say. (Is there something happening at the Palace on those particular days that it's not available?) I'd try asking Elena at Red Sun because she's usually pretty good with prompt communication, but any of the bigger companies (Alla, SPB, TJ, etc.) could probably help you too. Email around and find out the story.
  6. We only visited Oslo in Norway. Our favourites have been the Bygdoy museums (Viking Ship, Fram, and Kon Tiki) and the Vigeland Sculpture Park. No tours are necessary. Get the Oslo Pass and use public transit. Stockholm we've spent a few days in. The Gamla Stan old town is really nice and I especially like the Palace's Royal Armory. The Vasa museum is amazing, and we enjoyed the Nordic animals in Skansen. (I found the ABBA museum too crowded when we were there.) I also enjoyed visiting the Icebar and going on an art tour of the subway stations. I'd never thought about visiting Tallinn before we'd booked our first cruise, but it's amazing (and very walkable from the port). Its medieval Old Town is very well preserved, and modern Tallinn (e.g. Kalamaja and Rotermann districts) is very fun too. (E.g. first time we were there, we also visited the Seaplane Harbour Museum, and I enjoyed exploring the Soviet-era sub.)
  7. Riga is very walkable (and public transit wouldn't save you too much time), but it'd still be a tight schedule as you've got about 2 hours total walking time and only 6 hours in port (figuring an 11:30 debark time and a 5:30 all-aboard time), leaving you with 4 hours to see 4 sights. From a debark time of 11:30, it's about a half hour walk to the Ghetto Holocaust Museum and Central Market. (You can probably save 10 minutes by public transit -- there's a tram from very near the port to the central market that would take you about 20 minutes -- although you'd have to decide if the time savings was worth the extra hassle of finding the stop, buying the ticket, etc.) Figure you'll be there by noon. The Museum and Market will probably take you about 2 hours, if you include lunch? Figure that you'll leave there by 2 pm. It's about a 1/2 hour walk to the KGB Museum (again, you may be able to save 10-15 minutes by public transit). Figure that you'll be there around 2:30 to see the exhibition. There's then an English guided tour of the cell block at 3 pm. Figure you'll be finished and starting your walk back no later than 4 pm, giving you a little more than an 1 hour to stroll back through the ship via the Old Town (e.g. House of the Blackheads). It's about a 45 minute walk, allow at least 15 minutes for short detours/photos, aim to be back at the ship by 5 pm for an all-aboard time of 5:30. Would that be adequate time for you to see everything you wanted? If you do choose to use public transit, this is Riga's webiste (though Google is pretty good with the schedules): https://www.rigassatiksme.lv/en/ Single-use tickets are EUR 2.00.
  8. Absolutely, especially if you're relying on public transit. (We used Google to help us with bus, tram, and train schedules.) And let me add an additional disclaimer to my own recommendation: there are many things to do and see that are *not* included in Rick Steves' guide. For example, last time we were in Warnemunde/Rostock, we did the Seal Experience at the Marine Research Centre, where we got to go out on the pontoons with one of the researchers and he explained the research studies they were doing and how they train the seals to participate. (We got to play fetch with the seals. Very fun.) I never would have known it was there if I'd limited myself to just Rick Steves' guide.
  9. We did a Stockholm to Southampton in August 2019 (with yes, just one sea day) and it was incredible! To answer the OP's question, yes, my two Baltic cruises (I've not yet been on a Norway fjords cruise) have been two of my favourite holidays. I did one with Princess and one with NCL, and I'd give the edge to the NCL cruise just because the itinerary was one-way instead of round-trip so we had more ports and fewer sea days. The cruises are very different from Caribbean cruises because they are so port-intensive: we were off the ship first thing in the morning and only back for dinner. Sometimes we'd make to to the evening entertainment or into the hot tub to soothe our aching feet before collapsing into bed, only to do it again the next day! We looked upon the cruise ship as our floating hotel, and we didn't even mind sailing in cheap inside cabins as we were in our cabins only to sleep. In most ports, you can DIY without a shore excursion: many of the ports are very walkable and have excellent public transportation. So although the demographic on the ship trends slightly older, you can really customize your on-shore time any way you want. Yes, the Royal Palaces and Old Towns are AMAZING (and the museums, e.g. the Vasa Museum or ABBA Museum in Stockholm or the Bygdoy museums, including the Viking Ship Museum, in Oslo, are top-notch), but you can also visit a sauna or the reindeer in Finland, do a marzipan or chocolate workshop in Tallinn, see Copenhagen by bicycle or by kayak, play Soviet-era video games in St. Petersburg. . . . Well, St. Petersburg is the only city where you don't really want to DIY, but there are independent tour operators offering many different visa-free tour options, including private tours you can customize (our tour that took us to the Soviet Arcade Game Museum was a private tour with Red Sun). I'd recommend grabbing a copy of Rick Steves' Scandinavian & Northern European Cruise Ports from your local library to help you plan.
  10. Yes, with the exception of St. P., all the towns you've listed are easy to DIY. Although I would recommend looking into walking tours if you appreciate the services of a guide, as the walking tours can be quite affordable. (E.g. we had an excellent walk+bike tour with Traveller Tours in Tallinn on our last visit.) And although Rick Steves' guide is a great place to start, it's not comprehensive (it can't be, given the space!) and there may be places not listed that would interest you if you do a little more research. (E.g. that Traveller Tours tour took us into the Kalamaja district to places like Telliskivi creative city and the market; and then in the afternoon we visited the Kalev shop in the Rotermann district and did a chocolate-truffle making workshop with others from our Roll Call.) One note about St. P.: research the sights first and then take your time to select a tour that visits the sights that *you* care about. For example, if you really want to see the Faberge Museum, take care to select an itinerary that includes it or at least lists it as an evening option. If you don't see an itinerary from any of the tour operators that especially appeals to you, consider setting up a private tour (and defraying costs by inviting others on your Roll Call to join you). The first time we visited St. P., we were travelling with little kids, so we selected SPB's Highlights tour because it sounded about their speed -- and it was, and there were lots of other kids in our group! The second time, we set up a private tour with Red Sun Tours so we could set our own itinerary and skipped many of the so-called "must-sees" for the sights that appealed most to us.
  11. Yes, it's probably because the company has had complaints in the past from older guests who had difficulty keeping up with the guide on the cobblestoned, sometimes-sloped streets or had difficulty staying on their feet and walking around for a couple of hours without a break to sit down somewhere. But most able-bodied people, like ontheweb, would describe walking tours of Tallinn tour as leisurely.
  12. Except for Russia, where I tipped in crisp US 20s, I tipped in Euros even in the Scandinavian countries, and no one minded. Some guides even seemed surprised to get a tip. (But all the guides I tipped were excellent and we really wanted to show our appreciation.)
  13. I didn't have a problem with our St P tour (not SPB but Red Sun, so we paid there) BUT I had a problem paying our tour provider in Finland, of all places. After the first charge was flagged by the fraud department (which froze my card), I had to call VISA to unfreeze it and tell them the charge was coming through, and they told me it would work the next time . . . But it didn't. It took 4 tries, the last one with me on the phone with the fraud department while I did the transaction so that they could manually release the funds. Good luck!
  14. What have you got planned in other ports? I may have a few recommendations about entertaining that age group. (I also teach teenagers.)
  15. The Viking Village would be about a 1/2 hour drive (by taxi or tour) or 1 hour by transit. I'd probably look for things closer to the Old Town. Last time I was there (with my teenage son and twenty-something daughter), we did a walking+bike tour that took us through the Old Town and also some of the outlying districts (notably Kalamaja): https://www.traveller.ee/tour/best-of-tallinn-bike-and-walking-tour And then we joined others on our Roll Call at a chocolate-truffle making workshop in the Rotermann District: https://kalev.eu/en/shop/chocolate-shop-and-workshop-in-rotermann-quarter/ The time before that, when we were travelling with younger kids, we visited the Seaplane Harbour Museum after taking a walking tour of the Old Town: http://meremuuseum.ee/lennusadam/en/the-museum/ I especially liked the Lembit submarine. I would say that there's a lot to entertain you in Tallinn itself without having to go further afield.
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