We are a family of 10, so a private tour made the most sense. Jordan at SPB-Tours patiently helped me craft our tour itinerary by email. When the day finally arrived, Katryn was our fantastic and knowledgeable guide and Igor our skilled driver. We learned that our one day in St. Petersburg happened to be a celebration day - the Scarlett Sails - and so the city was filling up with people, roads were closed, and traffic was building. Katryn still made it possible for us to see everything on our itinerary. She artfully guided us through the Hermitage, the Church on Spilled Blood, to the hydrofoil, around Peterhof, then to a delicious lunch, then to the Peter and Paul Cathedral, and then to the Artillery Museum. I still can't believe we saw all we did, and learned so much thanks to Katryn's commentary. She used a microphone and we each had earphones, which I didn't think would be necessary but turned out to be a huge benefit. Everyone could comfortably walk and look where they wanted to rather than crowding around Katryn trying to hear, especially when there were crowds.
At the end of the day, 4 of us stayed in St. Petersburg for the traditional Russian music and dance show. Katryn told us everything we needed to know about the venue and nearby restaurants (blinis are my new favorite food!) and gave us our tickets before taking the rest of our group back to the ship. After the show (which was amazing!) there was a SPB-Tours driver standing out front just for us. With any outer tour company this could have easily fallen through the cracks, but SPB is top-notch, first-rate, and I would recommend them to anyone looking for a tour operator in the Baltic. Back on the ship we compared notes with other passengers, and we had by far seen more than anyone else, especially people doing the ship-sponsored excursions. The day was an absolute success - thank you SPB-Tours and Katryn and Igor!
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