DenRus St. Petersburg Tour review [long]



We just completed the Baltic cruise on Celebrity Constellation. We used the services of DenRus and would like to share our experiences with everyone.

Upon checking in at the dock in Dover, we were asked if we had a Russian visa. We replied that we had a blanket visa from DenRus as we had a two day tour with them. Several days before reaching St. Petersburg we were informed that Celebrity had new procedures for visiting Russia. They recognized three groups of tourists to Russia: passengers using Celebrity tours and their blanket visa, passengers traveling with their own personal Russian visas and those passengers [like us] who had a blanket visa from an approved Russian tourist agency.

We were asked to let the Customer Services know which tour agency we would be using and the times of our tours. We then received a Priority Disembarkation card and were to report to Michael's Club 15 minutes prior to our scheduled tour. They also said that Russian immigration needed a copy of the first two pages of each passport and our room stewards would make copies for us.

On the day we reached St. Petersburg the ship docked at approximately 7:00am, approximately 15 minutes later we were escorted to the lines for immigration. There our passports were checked and the copy taken but no one even looked at our tour tickets. We were each given a red card to keep with our passports while in the country. This took less than five minutes.

Our guide from DenRus, Elena Zhivopistseva, was waiting for us with our driver, Sasha. We had reserved a van for four persons [brother/sister-in-law] for two days. Elena was fluent in English as she teaches English at the University and is also a private translator/interpreter. She works as a guide in the summer. Sasha was a great driver and was able to avoid many traffic jams.

The highlights of day one were a city orientation drive, Grand Palace in Peterhof, Russian buffet lunch at a very nice hotel [not included in the price of the tour], a ride on the Metro, Hermitage Museum, Church on the Spilled Blood and the Flea Market. We arrived back at the ship at about 5:30 in time to get ready for dinner at 6.

The highlights of the second day which started at 9am were Catherine Palace at Pushkin, sandwich lunch at a different hotel, Peter and Paul Fortress, Kuznechy Food Market and a walk along the Nevsky Prospekt. Each day we stopped at two different shops [at our request] for vodka, restrooms and souvenir shopping. We were back on the ship at 5.

The only snag was our payment process. We were not asked for any money at the start of the tour. We were informed that Olga would meet us at the Hermitage Museum on the first afternoon. When we tried to pay by credit card [both using LLBean MSNB Visa]; each card was refused authorization by LLBean. We had both informed the credit card company prior to the trip that we would each be making a large purchase in Russia; no problem, said they! Fortunately we both had a Master Card which was immediately authorized. We chose to use credit cards, even though there was a very small surcharge, as we did not want to carry that amount of cash. Brother-in-law contacted credit card company today and was informed, "It's not that we didn't authorize the charge, we just wanted the merchant to verify the charge". They could have cared less that we didn't use their card. Lesson learned - always have an alternate way to pay.

Everything was handled beautifully and we would use DenRus again if we ever visit Russia.