Are private shore excursions in St Petersburg expensive?

cruise shipAs a guide and travel agency owner, I often face a bias that private shore excursions in St Petersburg are much more expensive than group tours offered by a cruise company. I don’t really agree with that and to prove my point I decided to compare the prices with Royal Carribean. I believe that private tours are a very good value for money and become quite affordable for groups of 4 people and more. 

Let’s say that we have a  family of 4 who decided to take a Baltic cruise. They decided to visit the most popular “must see” places. So, on their wish list we see a city tour with visits to the Savior on Spilled blood church and St Isaac’s cathedral, Hermitage museum, Catherine palace in Tsarskoe Selo, the Peter and Paul fortress and Peterhof fountain park.

The problem with shore excursions offered in St Petersburg by a cruise line is that you’ll need to book many tours to satisfy your interest. St Petersburg is a big city, and the port is not in the very city center, so you’ll also use significant amount of time driving to the city center and back to the ship.

Cruise tours offered by Royal Carribean that match our interests:

  •  Grand St Petersburg with Hermitage – city tour with a visit to St Isaac’s cathedral and Hermitage museum. It looks like tours of the Savior on the Spilled blood church and the Peter and Paul fortress are not  included – 180 USD per person
  • Catherine palace and Peterhof tour  –  180 USD per person
    360 USD per person total  – 1440 USD per group of 4. Remember it’s a group, not private tour.

OR

St Petersburg 2 day tour may be the closest match as it includes the Hermitage , Peterhof, Catherine palace, Savior on the Spilled blood and St Isaac’s cathedral. Instead of the Peter and Paul fortress a very nice, but  small and busy Yusupov palace is included. 330 USD per person or 1320 USD per group of 4 ( not  a private tour)

Compare it with the most popular shore excursion  of Petersburgtrip private tours

Day 1: (private car or public transport)

09:00– meeting at the ship
09:00-10:30 – getting to the city center. Tour of the most beautiful metro stations
10:30 – 11:30 –  city tour with visit to the Savior on Spilled blood church. A walk along the Nevsky prospect.
11:30 – 14:00 – Hermitage museum tour (main complex. the impressionist collection or treasuries are not included)
14:00 – 15:00 – lunch break if needed (payed extra)
15:00 – 16:00 – city tour continues. Visit to St Isaac’s cathedral
16:00 – 18:00 – getting to the Peter and Paul’s fortress and tour of the fortress (including visit to the Peter and Paul’s cathedral
19:00 – return to the ship

Day 2 – private vehicle

09:00 – meeting at the ship, departure for Peterhof. On the way there  you can choose between a visit  to the farmer’s grocery market or a supermarket where you can find some local products (the guide will help to find them among international brands )  and learn more about everyday life of the citizens.
10:30-12:00 – tour of Peterhof fountain park. Visit to the Grand palace is not included
12:00 – 13:00 – driving to Tsarskoe Selo
13:30 – 15:00 – tour of the Catherine palace
16:30 – return to the ship

The price of a private tour by car for group of 4 is 310 USD per person. The price includes a private guide, a car with driver, museum tickets and cruise visas. And you will be with your family or friends only! Looks like a great deal!