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HAL Shore Excursions in St. Petersburg . . . "Two Hours Free Time" ?

We will be going into St. Petersburg and while there we will be on a Holland America-sponsored excursion. Rick Steves cautions visitors that they should apply for and have a visa for Russia unless they arrive by cruise ship and "are accompanied by a local tour operator . . . you are required to remain with with your guide . . the entire time you are on land". This is all fine. But what about HAL's "two hours of free time to spend as you wish" as advertised for the excusion?

Posted by
4685 posts

I'd suggest that you try asking your question on cruise critic ( as you are more likely to find someone who has actually been on a Holland America shore excursion and can tell you what the free time actually is. However, I suspect for the two hours of free time, the guide probably just gives you time to walk in an area such as Nevsky Prospect and lets you meet back.

I traveled to St Petersburg on the ferry last year visa free. The ferry visa free rules are different from the cruise ship rules; with the ferry, you are not required to be accompanied by a guide. However, we did take a one day group tour with TJ Travel ( and all the other participants were from a cruise ship. The tour guide was excellent, so I can recommend this company. When I was researching companies that offered group excursions to the Catherine Palace, this company was one of several recommended by participants on cruise critic.

Posted by
8293 posts

As well as, contact Holland America for a definitive answer.

Posted by
38 posts

We did this excursion with HAL in summer of 2014. We did have free time around the Church of the Spilled Blood. It was refreshing to be able to walk around and shop, eat, without someone telling us what to do. This excursion allowed us off the ship and gave us an overview of the city.

We always prefer traveling independently, but here choose this option because it did allow us the free time on our own. It was the only excursion that did. We are traveling again on this cruise this summer with family. And will go on this excursion again.

Posted by
97 posts

Nancy -
You did the HAL tour or the St. Petersburg tours? Which tour are you doing this summer? Have you tried any private tours?