Many of our past clients reported receiving false information from cruise line personnel regarding private tours. Usually, the story goes 2 ways:
Myth #1: Denied entry to Russia
The claim is that the tour tickets provided by us are NOT a legitimate substitue for visas and "for sure" these tickets holders will not be allowed to go ashore in St. Petersburg.
Upon boarding the ship you may hear things like " What company? What tour ticket? Sorry but this flimsy piece of paper will NOT get you into Russia. You'd better hurry and sign up for cruise ship tours - unless you want to be stuck on the ship while your fellow cruisers are enjoying St. Petersburg. And do it right now - tomorrow it may well be too late!"
Myth #2: Delayed disembarkation from the ship
Another cruise line's favourite is a claim that independent tour participants can ONLY leave the ship after the ship organized tour groups have gone ashore. Often 9:30am or even 10:00am are offered as the earliest time private tour guests can start leaving the ship "due to the latest communication received from the St. Petersburg Port Authorities" or simply because "earlier disembarkation by independent tourists causes major delays for ship organized tours."
Yet, despite these and other similar scare tactics stories we have never had a client who was refused entry to Russia. All our clients with valid tour tickets have gone ashore with no problem!
Your best course of action if faced with a similar communication from the ship is to be prepared.
Please remember the following:
1. Your cruise ship DOES NOT exercise control over your entry into Russia. Only the Russian Immigration Service has such powers under the Russian Law and no commercial cruise line was ever granted the right to decide who can enter Russia and who cannot.
2. Once we send your personal details to the Russian Immigration Service and you get our Tour Tickets, your names will be entered into the Russian Immigration Database so your arrival will not be a surprise to anyone ashore. In fact, the Immigration Service will be expecting you and your disembarkation will be swift.
3. It is not 1986 and there is no Big Brother aboard the ship. Your decision to retain independent tour services does not make you a second-class citizen and so you are free to leave the ship as soon as it clears (usually 30-60 minutes from the moment it docks).
See Visa Section for more information.
Leave your worries behind - Your tour guide is waiting for you on the pier!