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 use a booklet of Royal Carribean that my tourists brought me in 2014.

The most popular sights cruise tourists visit in St Petersburg are the city tour, Savior on Spilt blood church, St Isaac’s cathedral, the Hermitage, Catherine palace in Tsarskoe Selo or Peterhof fountain park and sometimes Peter and Paul’s fortress.

Let’s say that we have a couple who decided to take a Baltic cruise. They decided to visit several “must see” places without a rush and also take a taste of local life. So, on their wish list we see a city tour with visits to the Savior on Spilt blood church and St Isaac’s cathedral, Hermitage museum, Catherine palace in Tsarskoe Selo, and, to touch local life, a visit to a food market and a metro ride.

The problem with shore excursions offered in St Petersburg by a cruise line is that you’ll need to book many tours in order to fit your interests. 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.

Group tours offered by Royal Carribean in 2014

2 day private tour offered by Petersburgtrip private tours
1. Grand St Petersburg and the Hermitage. The tour also includes a visit to St Issac’s cathedral and a city tour. A tour of the Savior on Spilt blood is not included as far as I see, you’ll only see main city sites from the outside. Tour price is 175$ per adult.

2. Tsarskoe Selo – Pushkin. Tour price is 59$ per person.

3. Local life experience: metro ride, Kuznechny market – 46$ per person

So total it’s 280$ per person

 You’ll see the same sites for 300$ per person (if there are just 2 people in a group) and the tour also includes a visit to the Savior on Spilt blood church and the Peter and Paul cathedral.  If there are more people in a group, it will be cheaper!

You move around by public transport the first day and by private van on day 2, so it’s meant for more active people. Of course, a car for the first day can be arranged upon agreement.

And it’s a private tour.

  Day 1

08:30 – meeting at the ship
08:45-10:00 – getting to the city center by public transport. Tour of the most beautiful metro stations.
10:00 – 11:30 – walking city tour with visit to the Savior on Spilt blood church
11:30 – 14:00 – Hermitage museum tour
14:00 – 15:00 – lunch break if needed (payed extra)
15:00 – 16:00 –  walking city tour continues. Visit to St Isaac’s cathedral
16:00 – 18:00 – getting to the Peter and Paul fortress and tour of the fortress (including visit to the Peter and Paul’s cathedral (burial place of Russian tsars and Trubetskoy bastion prison museum which was infamously known as Russian Bastille)
19:00 – return to the ship or evening options

Day 2 – private vehicle

08:30 – meeting at the ship. Driving to Tsarskoe Selo. On the way we’ll make a photo stop to take photos of the beautiful Chesma church and monument to the Heroic defenders of Leningrad.
10:30 – 12:30 – tour of the Catherine palace and park (including visit to the famous Amber room)
12:30 – 14:30 – driving back to the city. You can choose between a visit to the farmer’s market or a visit to 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.
14:30 – 15:00 – quick lunch break if needed (payed extra)
15:00 – 15:30 – free time for souvenir shopping if needed or a visit to the Summer garden.
16:00 – back to the ship