Reviews › A great time on a great tour in St Petersburg
“A great time on a great tour in St. Petersburg”
Firstly, cruise ship + tours = expensive, very expensive.
I decided to do something about this. I contacted several travel agencies in St. Petersburg to find out how much they would charge for a 72 hour stay. All of these sites promised prices in the region of 575 euros for the three days. The problem then arises that as we were visiting late season they would have to charge more as they would not be able to fill the tour. The ONLY one that promised a price and stood by it was MaxiBaltTours.
Having friended the proprietor - Alexei Volkov on Facebook I checked out his photos and his background. I decided to go ahead and booked the trip. No money changed hands and during the weeks prior to us arriving Alexei was most helpful with any questions that I may have had.
So, we approach our visit. I am on a Fred Olsen ship (the Braemar) and we get talking to the passengers. They start putting doubts in our mind saying that if you are not on the ships tours that you will not even be let off the ship, never mind get up to the Russian immigration place to gain entry into the country. I managed to email Alexei and he reassured me that everything would be fine.
We arrived in St. Petersburg and found that the ship was moored right next to a main road at the English jetty. I had visions of us being in some massive dockyard and that the immigration part would be miles away. It turned out to be only a walk down the length of the ship, through immigration, across a small bridge onto the road. I could have seen Alexei on the road from my cabin had I known what to look for.
Off the ship we went armed with the tour tickets sent to us by Alexei and met up with the stern Russian immigration guards who seemed to check everything. I thought to myself that maybe the passengers on the ship were right. But, no, they were wrong. After checking their lists both my wife and I were on the list arranged by Alexei, our passports were stamped and we walked onto Russian soil.
There at the top of the ramp was Alexei and Mariah who turned out to be our guide.
It was a very satisfying experience to see all the other cruise passengers being herded onto the various tour coaches of which there must have been at least 16. We on the other hand got into our private tour vehicle which was an Audi and then we departed.
I asked about payment to which Alexei said no problem you can pay me at the end. He did ask though for payment for the ballet trip that we arranged with him prior to the performance. The way we actually paid was to give him two days money including the ballet charge at the end of the second day with the final amount given to him when we finished the tour on the last day.
What did we do? We went to St. Catherine's Palace, Peterhoff, private VIP Hermitage visit, river cruise, city tour, shopping trip and several other churches and tourist attractions.
Our guide Mariah turned out to be a historian who has worked with the BBC and others and what she did not know about st. Petersburg was not worth mentioning. She was very pleasant and made us feel as though our trip was the only time that she had done this although she does this day in and day out. So, well done Mariah.
Alexei was the organiser behind it all and I must say it was done very professionally. He was there as arranged at all the times so if you have any doubts in your mind about booking with him I can assure you that I too had those doubts but they proved to be unfounded. He even came out in the evening with us to the ballet then he went off to the gym whilst we watched the show and was there to take us back. This trip was a lot more civil than the ship tour. We left a good half hour after the ships tour and got back half an hour before they all got back.
It was funny sitting in the back of the Audi listening to the two of them trying to figure out which was the best way of getting somewhere. I think that girl power won though with Mariah seeming to get her way. This happened because the weekend we were there a new road had just opened which Alexei had not been down before and it was a pretty big and long road.
Overall then, the trip was great and I mean GREAT. If you are thinking of using this company you will have no problems at all. I think we were lucky in the fact that it was just the two of us which made it special for us. We had entry to some of the museums through what can only be described as the staff entrance so no queues for us.
Highlight for me was probably the ballet trip. Before I went there I would rather have had needles put into my eyes than go to the ballet. My eyes were opened up though by a great performance. My next highlight would be St. Petersburg overall. Three days was just not enough to see everything.
The only thing that I missed and I think that Alexei should put this into his itinerary is a trip on the underground. A lot of the passengers on our ship had been on this and thought it was great so take note Alexei.
Also remember that a private trip means that you can go at your pace, not the pace set by the coach tours where the average age of the passengers on our ship was about 75 years old. My wife and I are in our early 50's and can go at a lot faster pace.
One other thing about the 72 hour tourist visa. Once you get on the Russian soil it is not as though you have to have your guide with you at all times keeping an eye on you. We were given free reign to do lots of things and we were on our own on the river cruise. As long as you come off the ship at the right time and return at a reasonable time to the tour itinerary we were fine.
I hope that you enjoy your time with Alexei if you book with him. I would have no hesitation in booking with him again should I ever return to the wonderful city of St. Petersburg.
Thank you Alexei and Mariah for a great 72 hours.
Please read original MaxiBaltTours TripAdvisor reviews and management responces
Please Contact MaxiBaltTours to get more information and to book your tour