Vantage offers an appealing cruise, Russian Waterways and St. Petersberg and I wonder if anyone has taken this trip. Sixteen days afloat and could be great if the ship is good, food as well, etc. But could also be a grunt if any part lags. Any advice?
I've looked over offerings by Vantage and others and the one thing they have in common is that they leave a lot of holes in the itinerary (free time). An alternative is to set up your own independent travel tour. I think it is the best way to visit. But I'm biased since I've had a tourist guide service in Saint Petersburg for 5 years.
With a firm like mine, we can have an English-speaking guide and driver waiting for you at the airport in Saint Petersburg. The guide accompanies you to your hotel, let's you get settled in, then gives you a neighborhood orientation, helps you to get bottled water for your room if the hotel has not provided it, along with any other snacks you might like to keep in the room, helps you to exchange currency, shows you where the good places to eat are, and reviews strategy for the coming days. If you've got the energy, the guide can immmerse you into the city immediately. Most people want to just relax on day 1, since they usually arrive aound 4pm.
The next day it is you and your guide, who becomes like an instant best friend. There is great flexibility in how we do things. For example, if it is pouring rain when the plan called for going to Catherine Palace or Peterhof, then we switch to indoor activities and save the outdoor stuff for another day. Larger groups don't offer that flexibility.
Where to go, how long to stay, it is all up to our customer. So this is a very personal type of service.
Saint Petersburg is quite an adventure. Seven to 10 days is a good visit. Moscow is good for 3 or 4 days max. We can set you up with a guide in Moscow too. River stop destinations are not our forte.
The cruise ships and river cruises simply don't allow adequate time in Saint Petersburg. It's a place you shouldn't merely visit in a crazy rush, but live in for a while. Those cruise ship passengers miss out and they only experience just a small piece of Saint Petersburg. People should stay long enough to experience the pace of life in this city. It has so many fascinating places to see. When I first visited Saint Petersburg back in 2000, I was truly stunned, shocked and surprised with what I discovered there. It blew my mind. And I came to enjoy this city so much.
If you are interested in discussing an independent visit, here is our website:
I've got tons of hotel reviews for Saint Pete and Moscow there too.
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My husband and I took the Vantage trip you described. It was, without a doubt, the best trip we had ever taken. The Russian ship accomodations are a bit more spartan than the European river cruises, but they were not unbearable. The beds were small, fold down, cot types with a foam mattress. The larger you are, probably the more this might bother you. My husband is 5'10" and too heavy, but he easily survived the bed. The bathroom being different was a non-concern. It worked quite nicely.
The food on the ship, the ship's crew and the Vantage Program Managers were all fantastic. Since my husband is a picky eater, I carried peanut butter, crackers, cup of soup, etc., all of which we gave to children in the various ports because he loved the food.
There was not too much free time. We signed up for two tours which was offered, not by Vantage, but the people who owned the ship. Even without those two ventures, we had plenty to see.
The Vantage Program Managers were great. There was one each for a group of about 20 people. They treated us like we were there best friends or their favorite child. Each group thought their PM was the best one, so I guess they were all as great as the one we had.
The entertanment on board was provided by the crew whom we all came to love.
If we were rich and could afford it, we would take that trip again tomorrow. I don't think you would regret going with Vantage.
I've never been on a tour with Vantage but my friends have and they told me and my husband about their trip. It was good, of course. But on their last day they decided to hire a personal guide to visit the places that had been missed by Vantage tours. My husband and I prefer flexibility when traveling and like being on our own and exploring cities in and out so Dean said he wanted to try his luck and arrange for such private guide services like our firends had. Geez... I was really uncertain about if they would show up and if I would like the guide but my fears were gone by the time we met with Svetlana. We found her on www.saintpetersburgtour.com. She was absolutely adorable and friendly, very knowledgeable so that by the end of the day our heads were so full of exciting stories and useful information that one would need one more full day to sort everything out! Anyways, we absolutely did not regret that we hired her and would certainly recommend her to anyone who's interested and is planning a trip to such a beautiful city like Saint Petersburg. By the way, the trip turned out to be several times cheaper than some packages we were offered by our travel agent so that we just got plane tickets and had our visas with his help. Everything else we did on-line on our own. Diana