Russia can only be visited independently if you hold a Russian visa, which are difficult and expensive to obtain, which is a shame as Sochi looked like a nice resort town and on the Nautica a couple of years ago we docked right on the promenade between 2 busy pebble beaches. However, one of our Cruise Critic group was kind enough to put together a tour with Sochi Holidays (www.sochi-holi.ru). It cost $70USeach for 10 of us for 5 hours with a driver and excellent English-speaking guide. We visited an Orthadox church, walked along the lovely seafront park then drove up Akhun Mount, 600 metres above sea level, to climb the observation tower for amazing views of the surrounding city, sea and mountains. From there we drove to Stalin's Dacha (holiday villa) which was interesting, visited a glorious old Spa Hotel from the Soviet era, sadly somewhat decayed now, and enjoyed a sightseeing drive around the city before returning to the ship at 2pm. This was considerably cheaper than the ship's tours and we saw much more. Also, all of the ship's tours stated that they were unsuitable for passengers with wheelchairs or walking difficulties, whereas our driver and guide really put themselves out to help – the only thing DH could not do was the tower climb, everywhere else was fine. It was a very interesting day and highly recommended for anyone visiting Sochi.
All cruise lines like to encourage the belief that any guests not on one of their own tours needs a visa to be able to get off the ship, butu I can confirm that (as in St Petersburg when we toured with Red Oktober a few years ago) there was absolutely no problem or query- our tour leader had given our names to the immigration officers in advance and we simply walked through with everyone else and were met by our guide outside immigration, where we paid cash for the tour on the day.
We used "Sochi Holidays" for a private tour 4/2010. I can recommend them as our tour was wonderful and comments from our cruise critic group were positive.
We had a great tour with Sochi Holidays and their website is www.sochi-holi.ru. In 2009 we used Sochi Holidays and Elena was excellent. She seemed to be in charge of the company. I arranged this and found 4 other couples from CC to go with us. Another group formed after ours filled up and they were also pleased with their guide from Sochi Holidays. Elena arranged our visas - much easier than St Petersburg. I think we just had to give her our names and that was it.
I also had a good tour with Sochi Holidays.
Elena was a pure delight to work with setting up our private tour. She works on cruise ships in the Med (Corinthian II) as the shore tour director and knows her stuff. On our tour, Elena was not our private guide, since she was organizing all of the ship's group tours and probably acting as the main guide on one of the buses. I thought that the guide she assigned to us, Nina, was quite good.
When we visited Sochi on the Navigator in 2008, is Sochi Holidays. We did not take a ship's tour - rather, we organized an excellent private tour for 8 of us which included, amongst other things, visits to Stalin's dacha, Mount Akhun, and the Central Market of Sochi. Elena Miasoyedova of Sochi Holidays set up the private tour for us but was not able to be our guide because she was coordinating the ship's tours. All in all, we enjoyed our visit to Sochi.
Sochi Holidays, was, as I remarked earlier, entirely positive. In fact, just as Elena was recommended to me by people here on CC, I have recommended her on several occasions without hesitation.
We used Sochi Holidays. Sochi Holidays is also the provider for all the Oceania tours. Elena was not our guide as she was doing one of the Oceania tours. However, our tour guide was excellent and Elena will give you options for available tours. Elena did meet us just before passport control at our assigned meeting time......we went through passport control and then she introduced us to our guide.
Our private tour was great, we set it up through Julia with Sochi Holidays Travel Agency. Cost was $120 each and our guide was Anna, who was quite good. We spent about 5 hours on the tour. We saw some cathedrals and the main drag of Sochi, went to Stalin’s dacha, a tea house where we had black tea and breads with different jams and spreads, then we headed back to town, saw some monuments and more cathedrals and went back to port. We stopped a couple of other places but now I can’t remember where. Heard from a lot of folks that they didn't like their HAL excursions, so we felt lucky our private tour worked out so well.