Testimonial – Tim Walker
Hi all, thought I would add my two cents worth here for SPB. We arrived via Silversea Cruise lines to St Petersburg at 0800. Smaller ships, like the SS and others, usually dock at the English Embankment. This is very close to the Hermitage. Unfortunately we did not secure a separate visa so we were ship-bound when not with a tour guide. Note to self, the larger ships, and there were seven of them, were docked at the cruise ship terminal which is about 20-30 mins further out of town. We drove out there just to see, and there was really nothing in the surrounding area to do other than take a taxi if you have a Russian visa.
We chose TJ Tours for a 3 day travel around SPB. Of course they arranged for our organized tourists visa with them. The group tour that we arranged was for up to 10 people. We were extremely lucky that there were only 4 of us. We had use of a very nice Mercedes van all three days. The driver and the tour guide, Maria, were waiting for us immediately after we cleared customs. The tours were excellent and since it was a small group, Maria could talk to to us up close and personal as she did not need a microphone and us headsets.
As the tour was three days, we could also cater it to our liking, deciding to do one versus another because of the rain or weather, so we were not on a fixed schedule except for the tour of the Faberge Egg museum and early entrance to the Hermitage.
All I can say is simply amazing. The tour was beyond what we could have imagined. We even got to go to see the art deco in the subway and to actually ride a SPB subway during rush hour. Those escalators are amazingly steep and long, by far the longest I have ever been on. The subways were used as bomb shelters many years ago.
One of the nicest amenities of TJ Travel flexibility. We wanted to see a local market one morning. No one there spoke English but smile broke any language barriers. One of the vendors did ask our guide if we were not afraid, as Americans, to be in Russia. She told him no and he smiled and offered us a cookie. We also wanted to tour a local grocery store which TJ graciously did. We love to see how the locals really live..
SPB is a wonderful city, somewhat over the top in its opulence from former times. TJ Travel does a wonderful job on their tours and I would highly recommend them, especially Maria. Also if you are docking at the English Embankment on the river, the chances of your tour group filling up are small, as it would waste too much time driving all the way out to the cruise terminal and back, at least an hour.
Enjoy SPB, and if on a small ship, an independent Visa is well worth it. I wish we had gotten one.