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Cruise Diary: After Hours at the State Hermitage Museum

Award-winning author and writer Jeanette Hurt is cruising the Baltic on Prinsendam with her entire family to watch her parents renew their vows. Enjoy her words and her husband (and professional photographer) Kyle Edwards’ photos. You can also follow her on Twitter @JHurtAuthor or

The Church on the Spilled Blood was beautiful. Catherine’s Palace was exquisite. But our night at the Hermitage was absolutely unforgettable.

The State Hermitage Museum, St. Petersburg, Russia

The State Hermitage Museum, St. Petersburg, Russia.

Like the Louvre or the National Gallery, the Hermitage is crowded. Very crowded. All the time. And most visitors barely get a glimpse of its artistic gems as they are shepherded through the gallant rooms, their guides nipping at their heels like sheep dogs on task.

Not so for us. Through Holland America’s special arrangement, we enjoyed the museum after hours. Instead of competing with thousands of visitors and dozens of tour groups, there were only hundreds, and we were spaced out evenly so that all of us could actually walk through the museum and enjoy the art.

HAL Hermitage 4 (1)

HAL Hermitage 3

We were able to stroll through the Impressionist galleries. My husband Kyle got to see some Cezannes that previously he had only seen on the cover of his college art history book. I was able to stand – just 1 inch – away from Da Vinci’s masterpiece, his Madonna and Child. I was so close I could make out his individual brush strokes. We stood, face to face, with Rembrandt’s last work – the Prodigal Son.

HAL Hermitage 2

At one point, as we strolled and lingered, savoring the art, I actually got to stand in the middle of a gallery of Flemish masters, all alone. It was amazing, and absolutely, absolutely unforgettable.

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