Our next port was the much-anticipated St. Petersburg, but before I jump into the wonders of Russia, I wanted to preface with an ode to my husband's intelligence and the total coolness of http://www.cruisecritic.com/
CruiseCritic is the TripAdvisor.com for the cruising industry. You can go there to learn all the scoop about what other people are saying about their voyages. Everything from the food, service, ports, to the excursions are evaluated in detail by other travelers.
We booked this Princess cruise because it went to St. Petersburg. And it was to be the absolute highlight for us. It wasn't until after we were locked in that we discovered how difficult it was to get into Russia from the boat - you must have a tourist visa which is expensive and difficult to obtain. The Princess Excursion will conveniently get one for you if you sign up for their 2 day Grand Tour for the bargain price of ~$600 apiece...oh and Connor counts so that would have been $1800! Gulp. Ummm. No thank you.
There had to be another way. We just knew it. Kirk referenced this CruiseCritic website to investigate. Sure enough there are private companies that do this for a fraction of the price and no charge for Connor - you just have to research and pull back some layers to find them. With the added bonus of being in very small tour groups instead of the ship's behemoth sticker-wearing mass. (It was Kirk's goal NOT to have to wear a sticker identifier anywhere we went on the trip!)
Alla Tours and CruiseCritic helped match us with 2 other couples who coincidentally were in our age bracket and also seeking a way around the Princess pricetag. They were all very patient, friendly and engaging with Connor. We did the "strenuous" 2 day trip in St. Petersburg and had an absolute ball!
The best part was that even before we left home we had exchanged numerous emails of anticipation and excitement with our new friends....John & Abbey and Brian & Rebecca. In Copenhagen Brian and Rebecca happened to even be staying in our same hotel and we received this sweet note from them as we arrived. What a bonus!
Morale of the story - there is always an answer out there when something seems too expensive. We definitely had more fun, saw more sights and paid maybe a third of the cost for our St. Petersburg tour.Thank you CruiseCritic!!!!
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