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About trosebery

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  1. Ditto on the above advice: the independent tour companies in St. Petersburg that you'll see recommended here are all very professional. Best I've seen in any port. I was a little wary myself on our first visit and therefore booked a small group tour with one of the larger companies (SPB), but after seeing how easy everything was, we felt confident enough to book with a smaller company (Red Sun Tours) for a personal, private tour on our visit last summer. . . and it was even easier this time around! Go read the Master Thread linked to above and try contacting some of the recommended companies to see which will work best for you.
  2. No, you will not be allowed past immigration on the third day if your tour ticket from the company is for a two-day tour. (Unless you have an actual visa.) Talk with the company with whom you have arranged the tour to see what they suggest.
  3. Re: layover in Iceland, last time we flew into Copenhagen, Icelandair was the best value. And especially with kids, I'd choose a layover in Iceland over more days in Copenhagen. As much as I like Copenhagen, Iceland is just very different from what you'll see on the rest of your trip -- you can take whale-watching tours from Reykjavik, drive the Golden Circle, or simply visit the Reykjanes Peninsula (by the Keflavik airport) where the Blue Lagoon is. In Copenhagen, I would definitely recommend a canal boat tour with kids. There's one included with the Copenhagen Card, which I'd also recommend as it allows you to hit the highlights and leave before the kids get bored at a number of sights. My daughter's favourite was the Treasury at Rosenborg Slot (go early as it gets crowded later), closely followed by Christianborg Slot, and my son's favourite was the Danish War Museum, closely followed by the National Museum, especially their prehistory and Vikings exhibits. (My kids have never been interested in the changing of the guards anywhere, finding it boring. And Tivoli was quite crowded when we visited -- even though it was a rainy midweek day -- and the lines were quite long.) In Rostock, I've heard many people recommend the Molli Train to Bad Doberan, especially when travelling with kids, although we have not tried it ourselves yet. What we have done is a visit to Rostock and Schwerin, with an audio tour of the castle there. (I'd rate it okay.) And we've done a day where we visited the zoo in Rostock (which is a very nice zoo) and the Marine Science Center (nominally in Rostock but accessed by public ferry from Warnemunde) for their Seal Experience: we went out onto the pontoons with one of the researchers at the centre who explained the types of research they do and how they train the seals. We got to not only pat the seals but also play fetch with them. (Which is as adorable as it sounds.) Let me know if you'd like any more details about what we've done with kids -- including any more details from the posts above or other suggestions. (For example, although last time we went to Nuuksio National Park from Helsinki, the time before that, we did stay in Helsinki, and my kids' favourite there was the Seurasaari Folk Museum.)
  4. Yes, the packed lunch is an ordinary packed lunch but there are also vendors selling snack foods at Peterhof. If there's some special snack food you'd like to try, let your guide know and they might be able to help you find it when you have free time. (Although you might need rubles for this.) We wanted to try some Georgian food on our last St. Petersburg visit, and I do recommend it -- very different and very tasty! (We were on a private tour with Red Sun Tours ourselves, so it wasn't a problem.) Next time I want to try some Uzbek foods.
  5. Yes, do read the first post in the Master Thread that dogs4fun linked to for more details on "visa-free" tours. The only reason you might want to get your own visas is if you want to go exploring on your own without any guide or driver . . . which I wouldn't recommend myself (on a first visit, at least) as the guides are wonderful at getting you around the lines and the drivers are wonderful at getting you through St. P. traffic very efficiently and will drop you really close to the sights (they will drop you at the door, go park somewhere else, and then come to pick you up when the guide says that you're going to be heading out the door in a minute). (The guides are also wonderful storytellers and will bring St. P. alive for you. The last guide we had, on a private tour with Red Sun Tours, was amazing.) Go visa free!
  6. I can understand wanting to skip a sea day (which I've never enjoyed), but have you checked that the cruise line will even let you do this? And have you looked into the cost? (Norway is not cheap!)
  7. Yes, please read through the Master thread dogs4fun linked to above and make a list of several companies, read through their websites, and try contacting them to see which will work best for you. Because while most people here will tout the tour group that worked best for them on their last visit (e.g., in my case, that was Red Sun Tours), there are many excellent companies and you will have your own priorities.
  8. I was travelling with a teenager, so I especially appreciated not having to drag him out of bed early, LOL!
  9. Whereas in other ports, Tours by Locals may be the best way to find a private guide, in St. Petersburg, you'll find many private guide options, including those from companies that are able to offer you visa-free tours. You'll read lots of recommendations on here for companies that people have used. dogs4fun mentioned a few of the bigger names that also operate in other Baltic Ports, but there are many more that operate just in St. Petersburg (on our last visit, we set up a private tour with Red Sun Tours and really enjoyed it). If I were you, I'd read through some of the threads on here (including the "Master Thread" I set up after our last visit) and make note of a few company names, check out their webpages, and email a few companies to see which one is best able to meet your needs. All are very good, but you may find one that just "clicks" with you more than others do.
  10. People organize group tours through their Roll Call because the tour can be cheaper per person or have smaller group sizes . . . or because they simply want to be able to set their own itinerary. First time we were in St. P., we booked a small-group tour with one of the big tour companies (it was in fact SPB), and it was fine. But on our most recent trip, we decided that we'd like to control our own itinerary and set up a private tour (ours was through Red Sun Tours), and I'd really recommend that if you can afford it or find others with similar interests. You'll get to pick and choose which sights interest you most, you'll get to choose where you eat, and you'll get to choose where you shop (and avoid the designed-for-tourist souvenir shops that seem to be standard on the small group tours). But in reference to the OP's original question, it's the same whether you book a small group tour with an independent company or you set up your own tour with one of the same: you'll be sent that tour ticket that will get you past immigration without you having to arrange for a visa.
  11. Any of the well-reviewed tour companies should be able to help you set up a private tour, but we liked Red Sun Tours ourselves. My teenage son's favourites included not only the Hermitage (not for the art, but for the palace) and Peterhof and the Faberge Museum (much thanks to our guide) but also the Soviet Arcade Games museum and the Grand Maket. If the Artillery Museum had been open the days we were there, we definitely would have gone there too. Make time for a subway ride. Oh, and don't underestimate the appeal of food when traveling with teenage boys. (Do try Georgian food.)
  12. Yes, the independent operators start their pickups later . . . But they also drop off later at the end of the day. You'll still get all the promised time and visit all the promised venues . . . And you'll get to sleep in later! Having visited both when the ship would let everyone off at the same time, clogging immigration with long lines, and when the ship made independent tours wait, I much prefer this new system. This last summer, we were through immigration in 5 minutes (and since we on a private tour with Red Sun Tours, we could then leave immediately without having to wait for other cruisers! Loved that).
  13. I would also vote for Amsterdam and connecting by train! I much prefer the train system to travelling by air. It's great being able to arrive just a few minutes before departure and roll aboard with your luggage and roll off on the other end. Plus, the train stations are centrally located.
  14. About 100 km. If you go to this forum, you'll find lots of discussion about the best way to transfer to/from LHR: https://boards.cruisecritic.com/forum/148-british-isleswestern-europe/
  15. The difference in the different small group tours is primarily the total time involved. The intense tours visit more sights, but the pace at each sight is similar. The walking pace is moderate . . . But there is quite a bit of standing around while the guide talks. Fortunately, you will be able to wander a little since you'll be wearing headphones, and between sights, you'll be sitting in a vehicle. However, most of the souvenir shops that the small group tours visit will be very touristy (and not cheap!). If you want to control the pace and visit more authentic shops, you might consider a private tour?
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