Dancing Bear Tours in St. Petersburg

By: Donna Suddeth
This item appears on page 27 of the March 2018 issue.

As part of a 3-week, self-planned trip to Northern Europe, my husband, Steve, and I traveled to St. Petersburg, Russia, staying only three days, Aug. 23-26, 2017. With our short stay, we wanted to maximize our time there, plus knowledgeable friends (from Russia and Bulgaria) strongly suggested arranging for a tour if we wanted to visit the State Hermitage Museum.

On Aug. 7, after visiting their website, I emailed Dancing Bear Tours (Bryantsev str. 18-67, St. Petersburg, 195269, Russia; phone +7 812 379 26 33, http://dancing-bear-tours.com).

The next day, Julia Ivanushkina, co-owner of the company with her husband, responded. I told her we wanted a private tour for two, preferably mid-morning on Aug. 24. She wrote back the same day with the specific terms but noted that the exact time could not be confirmed yet because of our fairly late request. She also asked where we would be staying to be sure we could be contacted.

On Aug. 20 we received an email stating that our entry time was 11:35 a.m. 

After arriving at our hotel, the Kempinski Hotel Moika 22 (Moika River Embankment 22, 191186, St. Petersburg, Russian Federation; phone +7 812 3359111, www.kempinski.com/en/st-petersburg/hotel-moika-22), we received a telephone message that our guide would meet us at 11:20 the following morning in the hotel lobby, as the Kempinski, a great hotel, was very near the Hermitage.  

Alexandria was fantastic. She spoke excellent English and was both very personable and extremely knowledgeable. She geared the tour to what we wanted to see, yet made sure we saw everything.  

We toured for four hours, with one short break, at our request, for coffee. For our tour, we paid $120 (which included the entry fees) plus a $15 tip. 

Alexandria mentioned that Dancing Bear offers many tours (good marketing!). Although interested in touring the subway, I had been hesitant to set up too many prearranged activities because of our short visit, but our outstanding tour with Alexandria changed my mind, and she was available the next day. 

I again contacted Julia via email, and a tour for one (just me) was arranged. Alexandria and I rode the subway and, for over an hour and a half, visited the most beautiful stations plus the deepest station in the world. Her knowledge of the system and the history of the stations was impressive. 

The Metro stations operate on a token system, and one token (included in the tour) allows you to ride until you leave the system. The price was equal to $20 per hour, so I paid a total of $40 for the tour.

DONNA SUDDETH

Naples, FL