Prebooked St. Petersburg shore tour


My wife, Gloria, and I took Celebrity Cruises’ 12-night Scandinavia and Russia cruise aboard the Century, Aug. 14-26, 2006. The itinerary took us from Amsterdam to Oslo, Stockholm, Helsinki, St. Petersburg, Copenhagen and back to Amsterdam.

In the pre-cruise literature there were draconian and confusing warnings about passengers taking shore tours in St. Petersburg not arranged through Celebrity Cruises and about the need for having a visa before leaving the ship.

On the first night, passengers were asked to provide details if they were going on any tours not sponsored by Celebrity Cruises. We did so. Subsequently, we were notified that when we anchored at St. Petersburg, we would have to wait for Russian authorities to clear the ship’s passengers before we could disembark. This was not true.

Through the Internet, we had arranged local touring with Denrus, Ltd. (DenRus St. Petersburg, Ltd., Nevsky Pr. 1, St. Petersburg 191186, Russia; phone +7 [812] 3146881, fax 3127320 or in the U.S. call direct 561/459-5534. Visit www.denrus.ru). I had learned of Denrus from ITN readers who responded to my “Person to Person” request for info.

Following the Denrus instructions, we just strolled off the ship at 7:15 a.m. without any problems from the ship’s people or the authorities. Customs/Immigration was a breeze.

We did not have to personally obtain our Russian visas in advance; Denrus did the paperwork for us. After I booked with Denrus on the Internet, they e-mailed me printable tour tickets for days one and two. Leaving the ship, all we had to do at Immigration was produce our passports and that day’s tour ticket. On day one, a photocopy of each passport was also required which the Immigration people kept. Note that our passports were not surrendered to the ship.

We paid Denrus $265 per person for two days’ touring. If we had procured the visas ourselves, the charge would have been only $100.

The 2-day package included visits to Peterhof, Peter & Paul Fortress, St. Isaac’s Cathedral, the Hermitage, the Yusupov palace, Palace Square, St. Isaac’s Square and the Church of Our Savior on the Spilled Blood plus a canal cruise, two lunches (with vodka) and an unscheduled stop at another cathedral outside of Peterhof. We also passed and saw all of the St. Petersburg landmarks.

This was quite a bargain when compared with Celebrity’s offerings, and we were totally pleased with every aspect of the Denrus operation.

Let me state again that Denrus is an authorized company qualified to give excellent St. Petersburg tours for cruise passengers who have not had to bother to personally obtain visas. The tours have to be booked no later than 10 days or so in advance of the ship’s arrival, however.

GEORGE FINCKENOR

Mt. Arlington, NJ

ITN sent a copy of Mr. Finckenor’s letter to Celebrity Cruises (1050 Caribbean Way, Miami, FL 33132) and received the following reply.

While all of our guests are welcome to book shore excursions and land tours on their own, we encourage them to book Celebrity’s, not only for the convenience of “one-stop shopping” but, more importantly, because travel regulations, particularly international visa requirements, change frequently, sometimes without warning. It is our policy to keep our guests well-informed of such possibilities.

Booking a tour or excursion through Celebrity ensures guests that their experience will go smoothly. In certain ports, including St. Petersburg, regulations require that tour operators are licensed to work with guests who do not hold visas. Some travelers have been duped by persons posing as licensed tour operators, but, fortunately for Mr. Finckenor and his wife, they selected a reputable company and had a very positive experience.

We are pleased that they enjoyed their 12-night Scandinavia and Russia cruise on Celebrity Century and thank them for sailing with us.

TAVIA ROBB, Manager, Brand Communications, Celebrity Cruises