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About napoxoguk

  • Rank
    Cool Cruiser

About Me

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  • Interests
    Gardening, dogs, judo.
  • Favorite Cruise Line(s)
    Vodohod, Mosturflot

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  1. Please take Dogs4fun's advice seriously. Certain rx meds available in the States (such as, for instance, Adderall) are totally illegal in Russia and can potentially land one in jail (Adderall is listed under Schedule 1, along with cocaine, street amphetamines, heroin, and coca leaves, - you get the picture). The reverse is also true - some meds available OTC in Russia (such as, for instance, some innocuous heart medicines containing barbiturates) are illegal in the States. Historically the authorities on either side of the fence had not been too keen on enforcing these regulations when it came to personal meds - too much hassle, - BUT, with new equipment such as handheld RAMAN analysers being widely available at every border crossing, an express test of any substance only takes a minute or two. Edited to clarify: that said, the vast majority of prescription medications are not subject to restrictions and will cause no trouble at all. But again, please check the list linked to above for your peace of mind.
  2. Neither are any of the Viking's other ships running a rather busy route between Moscow and Saint Petersburg. That's what Mike must've referred to. As to Here are some pictures of post-redesign interiors (including the staircases): http://www.meb.com.ua/pas/PV17.html It also states that the ship had been retrofitted with a 4-person elevator.
  3. Grand Maket is excellent for kids! I'm trying to think of things I still remember after visiting SPB as a child. Arguably, Peterhof is an "experience", especially its trick fountains. Watching bridges drawn at night was an "experience". Visiting the Piskarevskoe memorial cemetery is an experience, even if not a lighthearted one. Hearing a 12pm cannon volley at Peter-and-Paul is an experience, as is climbing the colonnade of St.Isaacs... Grand Maket was not around back then, otherwise it might have been the only thing I would remember ๐Ÿ™‚ Here's a short blog post highlighting some of the things to do with kids (not cruise-specific, but you might find it helpful anyway). There should be links to individual attractions as well, including those in SPB: https://www.globalmousetravels.com/russia-children-trip-report/
  4. That's wonderful news indeed, especially considering they were the only agency to not have found the time to respond to OP's inquiry. Nattie, btw, I stand corrected - I have just checked the pricing for Peterhof museums for April, and there is some difference in fees between Russian tax residents vs. foreigners. The difference is not huge, though, typically something like RUR350 vs. RUR500, or RUR750 vs. RUR1300, varying among attractions. Come to think of it, resident/non-resident tickets to Peter's bathhouse at Monplaisire cost about as much as resident/non-resident pass to Rockville swim center, so I don't find it totally unfair ๐Ÿ™‚
  5. Thanks for the link! This article is extremely dated - just as an example, the "mandatory sale of 75 percent of foreign currency receipts" requirement was lifted back in 2007, if I'm not mistaken. Back then, there were indeed additional restrictions on currency transactions even between residents and non-residents. Like I said, if you follow the letter of the law, the only major restriction remaining is currency exchange - so selling dollars for roubles to a friendly peddler outside of the Hermitage is a no-no. That said, I'm still quite uncomfortable with foreign cash transactions when it comes to paying for cruise tours (not the actual guides, though). I'll have a hard time articulating my position, and even a harder time defending it, but I feel that most of the museums, churches, and other attractions you visit are, in the most general sense, the property of the people of Russia and the very least all these tour agencies can do to "give back" is pay their taxes. If you pay cash you can be almost 100 percent sure that it's not happening.
  6. To quote Article 6 of Russian Federal Law 173-FZ ("On foreign currency regulation and control"), "hard currency transactions between residents and non-residents shall not be restricted", except currency exchange operations (which are restricted as per Article 11 of the same Law). Under Article 1 of that same Law, "foreign currency transactions" are understood to include, inter alia, "use of foreign monies as a means of payment". Since a transaction between a cruiser and a Russian company would be a transaction between resident and non-resident, it seems to me it will not be illegal. Whether or not it is advisable is another story altogether (in my opinion, it is not).
  7. Just for some peace of mind of those people who do prefer to deal with cash - I don't think it is. If I remember correctly, any restrictions on foreign cash currency transactions only apply to residents and/or currency exchange operations. This, however, is a real issue - every time you pay with USD/Euro cash, you can rest assured none of it will ever find its way into any tax return form.
  8. This is no longer the case. The tickets to Hermitage, for instance, are RR700 ($10.5) flat. Same with Kremlin. I've seen a couple of places that still have the "dual price" policy, but even there the difference is not huge. You'd have a really hard time finding $200pp worth of cover fees, especially over a 3-day visit. I do agree that having a guide would make sense, but not sure about the driver - it might be more cost-effective just to uber between far-between places, and use public transportation for everything else. As to red tape - I do agree it can get quite annoying, but if you've ever carried a Russian passport (vs. the USSR one), the procedure for getting a new one is quite straightforward - it's about 3 months and $250. With the price of a 3-y visa currently at $160+35, renewing your passport seems like a viable option. Given where you live (btw, congrats to Rockville for making it into some mysterious list of Top Ten Most Livable Places in the US for a third year in a row), it should be easy-peasy.
  9. Nattie, Thank you for publishing this - I'm sure many will find it extremely useful (including the management of one particular company that may realize that manning their inquiry desk is more important than posting dozens of "reviews" on every imaginable travel site). Actually, I think yours is a rare case when applying for a regular tourist visa (at about $200pp) and going DIY way would actually make sense.
  10. I'm a believer in the power of reviews, too - but when it comes to St.P, that proverbial grain of salt should be replaced with at least a bucketful. For instance, there is a Spb-based company that must have served at least a couple hundred thousand customers over the past decade or so - and they don't have a single review, good or bad, on TripAdvisor. At the same time, some much smaller operators have hundreds of cookie-cutter glowing reviews. Travelling in the US, I find it cringeworthy when I have to tip some teenage DuckBoat tour "guides", who deliver a 30-minute memorized speech and can't answer most basic questions about their city. I'm not a big fan of generalisations, but St.P guides are usually from a different league altogether, typically with a couple of degrees under their belts, as well as a couple of foreign languages, lots of mandatory certifications with individual museums, etc. What's more important, most of them are pretty amazing and a pleasure to deal with. In a cruise tour kind of setting, you are your guide's captive audience - for hours on end. Ultimately, it's your guide that can make or break your tour experience. So yes, I'm totally OK with leaving a 20-dollar tip at the end of the day. If I have any issue with my guide's performance, I will adjust it accordingly.
  11. Ginza project is an umbrella brand for about a hundred different restaurants, ranging from excellent and quite upscale to expensive, kitchy (but good) Russian (Mari Vanna) to casual Georgian/buffet style (Obed Bufet, Baklajan) to quite nondescript experimental (Edim Rukami) Choose wisely, read lots of reviews.
  12. A brief reminder - they have changed their visa fees last week; any visa (including the 3-yr one) is now $160. If you live near one of their consulate centers - it actually becomes a viable option (if you don't, there will be mailing fees, and the total cost of the visa will still be around $280-$300).
  13. Maybe, - there has been quite a bunch of these here recently. It doesn't necessarily mean it's bad - I'd say, a very similar user experience is to be had with any of the "top" 20 to 30 companies, out of which maybe five usually get mentioned on these boards. I've even used the company that usually provides the dreaded "cruise provided" tours - but in a small-group setting, and I have to say all of their guides were top-notch. What I'm somewhat unhappy about is their dubious marketing techniques. But then again, what else can all these companies do to promote their services? Unless and until they get a couple hundred happy cruise critic customers, any of their mentions will be totally lost in the flood of Alla, SPB, TJ, Best Guides, etc. endorsements. In any case, things to look out for: new(ish) accounts; participation on any non-Baltic boards (if any) limited to very casual observations; posts on Baltic boards never failing to mention that ONE company; experience as described lacking details - just how great guides were and how awesome it was to skip the lines. Hmmm.... come to think of it, it actually describes my account pretty accurately :)
  14. Alenka is an umbrella brand for over a dozen Russian confectionary manufacturers. If you do find the time to visit one of Alyonka stores, you might want to have a general idea of what you're getting before you go, as their selection is pretty mind-blowing - they have easily several hundred different kinds of candy and chocolate. Their site is in Russian, but sort of self-explanatory (and then, there is always Google translate): https://shop.alenka.ru
  15. In both Moscow and SPB metro I feel much, much safer than during off-peak hours in DC or New York subway. Their system there is a lot more efficient, too.
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