|Subject: Re: Russia - tour vs. independent|
Originally we landed in St Petersburg via the Baltic lines, staying aboard ship for several days while doing day tours and wandering about on our own. Gave one just a taste of St Peterburg. This was still while it was pretty complicated to get visas to be totally on your own.
A year or so ago, we took the Volga cruise arranged through General tours and then stayed over in St Petersburg on our own. I would have no qualms about exploring Russia independently, but would advise you to make local tour arrangements for at least a day in the cities; helps you get oriented and make the most of your time. I wished we would have taken some time in Moscow before the cruise for we really didn't even scratch the surface there. As we had been in St Petersburg before, we had some idea of where we were and what we wanted to do.
We stayed at the St Petersburg Hotel, a big basic tourist place near the Metro, overlooking the river. Cost was $100 a night with a good filling buffet breakfast. General Tours did arrange for the hotel and also did do the airport transfers, which was a big help.
Hope this helps!
Jo in Sunnyvale CA