Testimonials – Travellers Reviews

A huge thank you to the travellers who shared a review of their experience.*To see images travellers shared, click read more at the end of each testimonial.

Kurt SuterAustralia

As a non-photographer, I did not have too many expectations. My focus was on Ice Skating and exploring the Icy Wonderland on foot and with my eyes, and that worked out very well. I had access to skates all week and I enjoyed a number of skating excursions in the vicinity of the van, as the exceptionally low temperatures during our stay on Okhlon Island prevented me from venturing too far. Dimitri, our driver on the island did a fantastic job navigating the icy roads.

Andrew and Igor have been very friendly and knowledgeable tour guides, the program and daily trips they offered were varied and interesting.

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Heather FitzpatrickAustralia

Thank you for all your work, and I will be staying up to date with other tours that 56th Parallel run.

The trip was fantastic. The landscapes were amazing, and I was happy with many of my photos. Accommodation at the Lake: was really good, and perfectly suitable for the trip. Yes, it was a little cold a couple of nights, but really nothing that bad. So, I would say it is a suitable place to book for your future tours. Our guides and their scouting of locations: the locations selected were awesome as they were able to dodge the large groups of tourists, and we nearly always had the place to ourselves. This was absolutely key to the enjoyment of the trip and the quality of the photos, so this was simply wonderful. This was actually the most important aspect of the trip.

Dmitri the driver: he was the king of the ice, that guy. He improved the safety of the trip immeasurably. The food at lunches on the trip: Dmitri's wife cooked the loveliest lunches. Your communications leading up to the trip: you were excellent in keeping in touch and providing information.

CONSIDERATIONS FOR IMPROVEMENT

- Andrej is an AMAZING landscape photographer (which we only realised at the end of the trip when we saw some of his photos), and we sort of missed the benefit of his knoweldge.

- Gaining tips and help: both Igor and Andrej were great at scouting locations and I liked them both very much, but I think they presumed that we all were just capable of capturing the landscape to maximum effect. I am an amateur photographer with no landscape photography experience. Later on the tour, Andrej started to show me some good spots to set up, which I was grateful for. If only this was posible at the start of the trip, and so many more of my photos would have been a better quality. So, I wasn't asking for dedicated and long-winded personal assistance, just a few minor tips and traps along the way was all that was needed to make a difference.

- I learned in other photographic contexts that you should start wide, then go small, and something like this could really help for landscape photography too when there's a group, i.e. start with your wide shots then walk towards the rock or hill that's the subject, for example.

- Packing list: I'd strongly recommend including on the packing list some cleat-like/ice no-slip things that you can place on your shoes. You can buy some fairly low-grade ones at the supermarket there, but they weren't that good. It means the difference between skipping/running along the ice like an elegant gazelle, or shuffling at a snails pace carefully and slowly, and even then falling over and hurting yourself constantly. Also, chemical hand warmers aren't really available in Russia, and I know that some of the others mentioned these. I also bought the reindeer boots that all of the cool Russian kids had there (like this), and I didn't have a single moment of cold toes.

So overall, I really loved the trip and found it to be a once in a lifetime opportunity to see a truly beautiful landscape; one which is fragile and vulernable to our climate change, and over-touristing in the coming years. Thank you for all your work, and I will be staying up to date with other tours that 56th Parallel run.

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Axel BendixsenAustralia

Wonderful tour!

Although I wasn’t as experienced a photographer as my colleagues, I found the places the guides took us were extremely interesting. It was my first time in Russia and I loved it. The cold was very manageable, even though the last three days in Moscow gave us the heaviest snowfall in 70 years! Thank you, well done and I also would be happy to recommend the tour!
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Stephen AllworthAustralia

It was excellent!

All the guides were extremely helpful and did a great job of fulfilling our (somewhat vague) brief.  In particular, the 2 ‘amateur’ photo guides did an excellent job of identifying, planning then executing their elements of the tour.

Admittedly there was a bit of a disconnect as to the exact itinerary for the Moscow component, however, the two guides (sightseeing and a photo guide) synchronised their activities and provided us with what we wanted. Overall, I would have no hesitation in recommending the tour to others.

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Jan McDowallAustralia

Everything about our Russian experience was wonderful.

We had a wonderful trip. The cruise and all the staff, and the food could not be faulted. The entertainment on board was excellent. The hotels we stayed at were in a great location. Close to main attractions, very upmarket. Fellow passengers were mostly Australian. The service we received from your office was great and we have already recommended you to our friends. And of course if we ever go back to see more we would contact you. Regards, Jan
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Ian HeathAustralia

Our St Petersburg visit was certainly a highlight of our trip.

We got back from Europe last week and are catching up with various emails etc. Our St Petersburg visit was certainly a highlight of our trip.  We were very pleased and impressed with all aspects of our tour there. Our guide – Marina – was excellent. She had both encyclopaedic knowledge of all the places and things we were shown and lots of stories and anecdotes as well. She was punctual, excellent at navigating through the various entrance procedures (which were quite often very crowded), and very helpful with advice and assistance for the private parts of our trip as well.

(We had bookings to a concert at the Mariinsky Concert Hall which she took us to make sure we knew where it was and to pick up the tickets.  We also had internet tickets for the Hermitage for our free day which again she showed us where we would have to go to use them). She made a number of recommendations for meals – most of which we followed through with and they were all excellent. Our drivers were also excellent – punctual and skilled.

Our accommodation was also very good.  You may recall that I was uncertain about how 3-star/4-star ratings in Russia would compare with other European hotels we had experienced.  The Renaissance in St Petersburg was certainly well rated at 4-stars – it met our needs very well, especially as we were staying for 7 days which is quite a long time for us in a hotel (we would normally book an apartment for that sort of time).

Our itinerary worked out well I think. We certainly felt like we had seen all the main highlights of St Petersburg. We chose not to book any of the suggested night entertainments because we thought we might be too tired at the end of a day sightseeing – this we think was a wise decision. I do not think we could have turned around after the Peterhof trip or the Tsarskoe Selo trip and gone out in the evening (beyond the evening meals).  (We found Marina was willing to push us to see as much as possible and we had to slow her down a little to include breaks for coffee or food which she was willing to forgo if we had the stamina).  Of all the activities and places we visited, I thought the canal tour was the weakest.  It did not add significantly I thought to what we were exposed to through our land-based activities with Marina. Nonetheless, the canal tours were clearly a major industry in St Petersburg but perhaps we were spoiled with our private guide and others got more out of the canal tour.

The only hiccup in our visit was on our free day (Tuesday).  We wanted to visit the Kunstkamera museum.  Lonely Planet said the Museum was open Tuesday to Sundays and Marina (looking after us again) checked the Russian website to confirm this information. Unfortunately when we got to the museum on Tuesday morning the sign on the door said it was closed on Mondays and the last Tuesday of the month!

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Fiona Kemp & Virginia HilyardAustralia

We have had a wonderful time and are so grateful for the assistance from you guys with planning our trip.

Everything was fabulous and went relatively smoothly. It was comforting to see signs with ours names or your company when we arrived at our destinations to transport us to our accomodation. The ger camp was pretty special and we so enjoyed our guide Chuck who treated us more like family than just another couple of tourists. Lake Baikal was also a special place to go to and we found the accomodation there very quirky and entertaining. Train seats also good. Once again thank you for everything!

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