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  1. We used Alla, but I did speak with many other passengers who had used ship's tours (Princess). Most were very happy with them. I did hear a few complaints. One said the air conditioning broke down on their bus. (The temperature was in the high 80s.) Another reacted to me saying that our guide had 18 years experience by saying their guide was only 18. And one other said that their guide lamented the fall of communism.
  2. We had no problem from Boston to Montreal in the summer of 2018, but as others have said, weather can be unpredictable.
  3. Glad to hear it. And Lamanai is a great site to visit.
  4. Yes, the format has changed. It took a while for many of us to get used to the changes.
  5. My DW who is an art teacher went to one of the lectures once, and the lecturer did not show up. They did take our cabin number and sent her some prints. Another time she went and was one of the two people at the lecture. I showed up near the end to pick her up, and the lecturer groaned thinking he would have to start all over again. LOL
  6. We did the same thing. After I put together 10 of us from our roll call, one person asked for that synagogue. Alla's response was fine if no one objected. When our tour started our guide, Viktoria, (who now owns SPB tours) asked if there was anything extra not on the excursion itinerary we wanted to do. I mentioned that I had read that the subway was very interesting. She took us on the subway for a couple of stops having the driver meet us.
  7. A lot of excellent advice in this thread. I would add one thing---check the roll call for your cruise. There might very well be some fellow cruisers looking for others to join them on an excursion with one of the private local companies.
  8. As I posted earlier, the only reason they allow OBC to be used pre-cruise is to counter the negative reaction when they changed their policy about pre-booking excursions and not having them show up as a charge until you were aboard the ship. OBC cannot be used pre-cruise for anything else.
  9. It would be $22 if they match it since that is $20 + 10%. I'll wish you luck, but I do not think they will match it because of the lack of lunch on the private excursion.
  10. Yes, I believe it does mean that. I'm sure if I am wrong someone will correct me.
  11. I believe the change came about after people complained when Princess no longer allowed you to book excursions in advance and not have the charge show up until you were aboard the ship. As a compromise, they allowed you to use OBC for excursions only in advance.
  12. No, it disappears once you use it. If the offer comes up again (with a new expiration date), you can use the new one in addition. We were able to do this on a HAL Boston to Canada cruise in 2018.
  13. All the licensed Russian tour operators are able to supply the same visa waiver that the cruise ships do with their tours. Russian law allows the visa waiver for the cruise ship tours and the licensed local tour groups for anyone visiting only St. Petersburg by cruise ship for 72 hours or less. The cruise lines are now allowed to allow their tours to exit first holding up the departure of those on private tours. The private tour operators have adjusted their schedules taking this into account. One bit of advice---go to your roll call and see if there may be others who have a private tour booked and are looking for others to join, or once you have picked a tour ask in the roll call if others might wish to join your tour. One o
  14. Again that is a wonderful tour. I'm sure some things have changed since 2007 such as we could get right off the ship while non-ship excursion folks now have to wait. Also, from what I have read, Alla and some other tour operators have branched out to other Baltic ports and offer discounts when booking multiple tours. When we did that tour I remember thinking if we could get a total of 8 on the tour, the cost for us would then be less than the ship's tour. We ended with 10 which was a nice number, large enough to decrease the price per person while small enough that we all got along and bonded with each other. Unless it has changed, you can also customize. For instance someone in our group wanted to visit a synagogue. When told that, Alla said fine as long as no one objected. So that was added. My DW is an art teacher and wanted us to skip lunch to add more time for the Hermitage; that was a little too much for others in the group, but we did take a little time off of lunch to add to the Hermitage. Enjoy, I'm sure you will. And really do join your roll call and see if you can get others to join with you.
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