We signed up for the two day tour of St Petersburg a couple of weeks before our MSC Baltic cruise since it seemed like we would see a lot more of St Petersburg and for a lot less money. We also booked a night at the ballet (Swan Lake). While steaming toward the city we were told many times by MSC Opera staff that only those who had booked an MSC tour would be allowed off the boat. On the first morning in St Petersburg there was a very large queue (over 100) of passengers who had booked through SPB Tours (and the other Russian based tour companies) waiting to get off quickly to join their tours. Even up to that point messages were put over the speakers that only people with MSC booked tours would be allowed off. The crew even blamed this on Russian immigration saying it was their policy. However after about 45 minutes wait we were allowed off and as we expected it was not a Russian policy at all.
We were quickly greeted by SPB tour staff and off we went. The whole two days went perfectly and exactly as detailed in the adverts. The minibus was very new and very comfortable. The information from the guide was informative. We were given headsets so we could always hear the guide while walking around. These worked well and were very clear. My only suggested improvement for the tour is that the guide should also use the headsets in the minivan as I thought the speakers in the van were a bit muffled and I missed some of the commentary. But my wife said she could hear well enough and perhaps I was a bit deaf. The lunches were also very enjoyable. We didn't have long back at the boat to change for the ballet - probably about 45 minutes. However the ballet should not be missed. It was my first and it was excellent. Interestingly the MSC tours also put on a ballet trip to the same venue. The only difference was that they got a free glass of champagne at intermission. However they did pay more. Anyway we went and got a glass since they had made us wait so long to get off that morning.
So I can fully recommend SPB tours and I am sure from talking to other passengers that the other Russian tour companies are equally as good. Just don't sign up for the MSC tour.
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