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Comparing SPB & Alla Tours in St. Petersburg

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I have just returned from a Baltics Cruise and I booked with SPB tours. I chose them as they were the first to respond and guarantee me a place on their two day Deluxe tour. I booked the cruise only 5 days out, so I accepted the first offer. They were very professional and we had an excellent tour guide with earphones for when we were off the bus. She spoke very clear English and gave us so much information. Embarkation through immigration was very staggered as the ship decided we had to do it in groups after the ship’s tours were done. As SPB Tours had around 20 different group tours going out that day they sent us an email saying they would just fill the buses as we got off, and to also disembark with the people you wanted to travel with. This meant we didn’t have to wait for one person from the ship who was late to embark. That suited me as I get priority when disembarking so it meant I was in the first group to leave. I had 13 in my group. Alla only had two groups going on our sailing, so many of them had to wait for their whole group to disembark. Everyone I spoke to with SPB tours were very impressed with how their tour went. We visited everything on the itinerary and also had two sit down lunches. I thought the whole organization and the clockwork precision to get us to all the different venues and in on time was excellent. The only downside was we had a family of three that we constantly had to wait for. Took selfies on the metro instead of keeping to the right, thus blocking early morning commuters. The father also rudely accused the bus driver of stealing his wallet, while the daughter told us all to check our bags as he’d probably stolen ours, which none of us did as at this stage we’d all realised these people were obnoxious. The wife then admitted she had his wallet. No apology given to the bus driver, but this was not the SPB’s fault. These people could be in any given group.

Note- Viator used TJ Tours.

 

Thanks for this review. I really appreciate it. Our sailing is in 30 days and I'm also booked with SPB Tours. I thought about switching tour operators when I heard about the rumors which turned out to be fake news. They've been very responsive and reassuring in my emails to me. I've also been reading more recent reviews on Trip Advisor. It gives me peace of mind to keep my reservation with them. Thank you again.

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Who did you cruise with

 

 

 

I was on the Norwegian Breakaway.

 

 

Sent from my iPhone using Forums

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Just got back from Baltic Cruise. Used TJ Travel in St Petersburg, Helsinki and Berlin. Excellent tours and guides in all 3 cities. Had Russian guide, married to an Italian for St Petersburg. Has been a guide for 25 years. No language issues. In Helsinki our guide was Finnish, by way of Spain (birth, England, education and Finnish by marriage. Spoke with British accent. In Berlin our guide was American, from Brooklyn, went to Germany around 1990, and stayed. Great and wonderful sense of humor. For Berlin our tour was combined with a SPB tour group. All great tours. From what I heard from other passengers who took different tours, Alla and SPB were excellent tours and guides were great. Same with TJ Travel. One thing I liked about TJ was did not pay until the second day of the St Petersburg tour. Used my credit card and was given a very favorable exchange rate when charging. Actually lowered my cost by about $150 for the 2 of us for all 3 tours. TJ is very, very responsive to any requests and will keep you fully informed of any changes in plans. We had a small change, substituted bus ride for a longer time on river, this enabled them to include one more stop on tour. Refunded money for this small change. I would highly recommend TJ Travel.

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Just got back from Baltic Cruise. Used TJ Travel in St Petersburg, Helsinki and Berlin. Excellent tours and guides in all 3 cities. Had Russian guide, married to an Italian for St Petersburg. Has been a guide for 25 years. No language issues. In Helsinki our guide was Finnish, by way of Spain (birth, England, education and Finnish by marriage. Spoke with British accent. In Berlin our guide was American, from Brooklyn, went to Germany around 1990, and stayed. Great and wonderful sense of humor. For Berlin our tour was combined with a SPB tour group. All great tours. From what I heard from other passengers who took different tours, Alla and SPB were excellent tours and guides were great. Same with TJ Travel. One thing I liked about TJ was did not pay until the second day of the St Petersburg tour. Used my credit card and was given a very favorable exchange rate when charging. Actually lowered my cost by about $150 for the 2 of us for all 3 tours. TJ is very, very responsive to any requests and will keep you fully informed of any changes in plans. We had a small change, substituted bus ride for a longer time on river, this enabled them to include one more stop on tour. Refunded money for this small change. I would highly recommend TJ Travel.

 

Thanks for the info.. we are booked on RC for June, 2019 and I am now researching which tour company to book.. narrowed it down to between Alla and TJ Travel.. I was leaning towards TJ, and your review just confirmed it.. We were also looking at using them for Berlin and Helsinki too.. glad to hear you were happy with those tours too... One question - you said you didn't pay until the 2nd day of the St Petersburg tour.. were your Helsinki and Berlin tours before that? I was wondering how that would work, if we would have to pay 3 times...

 

I know you didn't do the 3 day tour in St Petersburg that goes to Moscow on the 3rd day, but my husband really wants to see Moscow, since this is the only time we will be in Russia. We know it will be a long, tiring day, and are ok with that. My only question is does someone from TJ Travel accompany you on the train ride? I'm not sure I want to just be escorted to the train and then left on our own, with the rest of the group of tourists, on the train.... LOL... If anyone has done this trip to Moscow, how was the train ride handled? Thanks!

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St Petersburg was our first stop. I have a feeling they want paid in Russia, adjusting to dollars, just my speculation. Gave me a better exchange rate than US banks. Dollars are important to the Russians.

 

Have a great trip.

 

Vic

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Thanks for the reply... what currency did you use to tip the guides in each of the cities? I want to be sure we have the correct one.. Thanks!

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In Russia I used Rubles, since we were leaving and I had enough left. Most used Dollars. In Berlin and Helsinki I used US Dollars. Euros also work well. I feel they are happy with whatever is given.

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We used alla and loved it. So you re on a cruise with three days in Russia? As Far as either guide will bevwithbyoubon train they have to be if you do not have a visa.

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I was wondering if they had to accompany us because we wouldn’t have the visa, only their tour tickets.... I couldn’t find anything saying that on their website. I guess I will just email them to confirm it.

 

Yes, we are on RC Ultimate Russia and Scandinavia cruise on June 20, 2019. The 3 days in St. Petersburg and the stop in Germany are the reasons we picked that cruise. Thanks for your help!

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I was wondering if they had to accompany us because we wouldn’t have the visa, only their tour tickets.... I couldn’t find anything saying that on their website. I guess I will just email them to confirm it.

 

Yes, we are on RC Ultimate Russia and Scandinavia cruise on June 20, 2019. The 3 days in St. Petersburg and the stop in Germany are the reasons we picked that cruise. Thanks for your help!

 

Yes sounds like great itinerary. We did the24 day B2B Baltic and British Isles RT Amsterdam in June on Brilliance

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In Berlin and Helsinki I used US Dollars. Euros also work well. I feel they are happy with whatever is given.

 

 

Euros work well in Berlin and Helsinki because that's their currency! I'm surprised that any place in Berlin would accept U.S. dollars. When I lived there about 10 years ago, no store that I went to would have accepted anything but euros.

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Euros work well in Berlin and Helsinki because that's their currency! I'm surprised that any place in Berlin would accept U.S. dollars. When I lived there about 10 years ago, no store that I went to would have accepted anything but euros.

Same here - I have spent significant amounts of time in Berlin and have never used US dollars - their currency is the euro.

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Same here - I have spent significant amounts of time in Berlin and have never used US dollars - their currency is the euro.

 

I think you are getting off topic here. The subject was comparing the two tour companies :confused::confused:

:confused:

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All the local operators get excellent reviews, and we all tend to enthuse about the one we've used. Check the many threads on this forum.

 

Getting a comparison is difficult because there can't be many folk who've been to St Pete's twice, especially who've been twice & used different operators. And even then, it's gonna depend on which actual guide, differences in the weather, the traffic, the sharers, even the mood.

 

I'll enthuse about Alla, others about TJ, others about SPB, etc.

I contacted those three. In choosing, the only difference I noticed was that Alla & SPB needed a minimum 8 to be charged the standard price, TJ needed 10. Prices were within a few dollars of each-other, all accepted booking without payment, payment was at the start of day 2.

 

All use 16-seat vans, except I think DenRus who use a 30-seater bus.

 

JB :)

 

Regarding TJ, booking conditions for a group tour do not require a minimum of 10 to be charged the standard price. Au contraire, they state "We guarantee the departure of the tour even if 1 person signs up."

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In planning for a cruise on NCL next summer, I created a comparison chart for Alla, SPB, and TJ.  We decided on Alla's 2-day Splendors and Faberge Museum Tour.  We liked the sites and the time spent at each, plus the addition of the subway and boat rides.  The quick and helpful email correspondence I have had confirmed Alla as the right choice for us.  Originally, we wanted the 2-day Must See tour with a night tour of the Faberge Museum so we could see both that museum and St. Isaac's Cathedral.  However, our first day in SP will be a Friday and the Faberge Museum is not open Friday night, so we had to choose between the two.  Based upon many reviews I read, we chose the museum.  My chart is attached.

       

St. Petersburg tour comparisons.doc

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22 minutes ago, Janine S said:

 

Janine. we chose Alla last year and loved it. I have a Youtube of the highlights if you want to see. We liked them because of how much we saw but didn't waste time. Some fo9lks who took tours which included Fabrege Muuseum during day were rished from the Hermintage tour. Honestly you can't really squeeze it in during day. Our tour ended at 6 or 6:30 so we just wanted dinner and bed to be up for 8am the next day.

 

Another thing was that 1st day lunch (included) was in restaurant but second was nice box lunch so we could eat on bus and gain an extra hour at the Palace.  Anna at Alla is great and responds fast. Also remember there is a discount for Cruise Critic folks who mantion the Roll call. Have fun. We sure did.

 

 

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4 hours ago, SteveinPhilly said:

Janine. we chose Alla last year and loved it. I have a Youtube of the highlights if you want to see. We liked them because of how much we saw but didn't waste time. Some fo9lks who took tours which included Fabrege Muuseum during day were rished from the Hermintage tour. Honestly you can't really squeeze it in during day. Our tour ended at 6 or 6:30 so we just wanted dinner and bed to be up for 8am the next day.

 

Hi,

Just wanted to check which actual tour you did that included the Faberge, how much time you had there and how crowded / rushed it was.

Thanks.

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10 hours ago, Tranquility Base said:

 

Hi,

Just wanted to check which actual tour you did that included the Faberge, how much time you had there and how crowded / rushed it was.

Thanks.

I guess I wasn't clear. We did not go to the Fabrege Museum while in St. Petersburg. You can't see everything. Alla does offer the Fabrege Tour as an EVENING option. I know we had just the right amount of time in every place we went and so - having seen the eggs in New York (Forbes Gallery - free) we opted for dinner on ship and the Russian Dance Show on board (very good) and bed. They are long days.  But, remember if you use Alla to ask for the Cruise Critic Discount.

 

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14 hours ago, Tranquility Base said:

 

Hi,

Just wanted to check which actual tour you did that included the Faberge, how much time you had there and how crowded / rushed it was.

Thanks.

Alla offers the Imperial Splendors and Faberge Museum Tour which covers the Faberge Museum. 

The museum only allows groups of 18 at any one time and this alleviates crowding when viewing the collection.  You have approximately one hour to view the collection during the day tours regardless of with whom you book your tour. Alternately, you can do an evening add-on of the Faberge providing the evening is not a Friday (museum is closed on Friday). The evening option allows extended viewing (more than an hour if you desire) and you view with an audio guide.

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Thanks for the info SteveinPhilly (go Eagles!).  I'd loved to see your YouTube video!  I do plan to take advantage of that discount (that's why I decided to finally join cruisecritic instead of just reading the posts).  We are taking the tour mentioned by dogs4fun.  I know that it's a lot to fit in, but since our first day is Friday, it's the only way we will see the Faberge museum.  You said that you saw the Russian Dance Show on board--which cruise line was that and did you have to pay extra for it?  I know that NCL does charge extra for some of their shows.  

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Janine: First off we were on RCI - I'm not a fan of NCL  - the price was great. - If you post your itinerary I'll let you know other tips. I can't believe any cruise line charghes for the nightly theater shows (well maybe the 6,000 passenger ships). You find my videos of Alla Tour on Youtube here: 

 

 

and https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Ot-1iXePEAY

 

Each about 30 minutes.

S

 

 

 

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We have not sailed with NCL before, but the reviews seemed pretty positive, so here's hoping we have a good experience!  We have sailed many times with Princess, but they were much more expensive and gave us a minimal discount for being Platinum members.  I looked at RCL as well, but that cruise was 12 days, which was pushing it in terms of vacation days for my husband.  NCL has free nightly shows, but then charges for specialty shows (one looks like Cirque du Soleil).  Anyway, I'm only going to the freebies!   I look forward to watching your video!

 

Our itinerary:

Copenhagen, Denmark (EMBARK)

Berlin (Warnemunde), Germany

At Sea

Helsinki, Finland

St. Petersburg, Russia

St. Petersburg, Russia

Tallinn, Estonia

Stockholm, Sweden (Nyashamn)

At Sea

Copenhagen, Denmark (DISEMBARK)

 

 Thanks!

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Well we are retired and so the 12 days was perfect. If you go to my YT Channel and look at the playlist for the St. Persburg you will see Copenhagen, Tallin, Stockholm and Helsinki videos. In at leasdt two of those were used the HOHO bus which actually picks you up at port. We did not go to Berlin. I would have loved to. Was there in the 1980s. 

 

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