Tag Archives: Caribbean

Hannah from Getting Stamped thought her Caribbean cruise was a reason to jump for joy!
Hannah from Getting Stamped thought her Caribbean cruise was a reason to jump for joy!

Five of the world’s leading travel social influencers recently cruised the Caribbean on Eurodam and had a fantastic time. Their itinerary called at Grand Turk, Turks and Caicos; San Juan, Puerto Rico; Philipsburg, St. Maarten; and Half Moon Cay, our private oasis in the Bahamas.

We invited Dave’s Travel Corner, Getting Stamped, Healthy Voyager, Never Stop Traveling and True Nomads to see why cruising the Caribbean with Holland America Line is an incredible way to spend the week exploring this tropical and sun-kissed part of the world.

Join them on their journey and see why the next Holland America Line cruise you book should be to meet up with the golden sands, turquoise waters and swaying palms of the Caribbean.

DAVE’S TRAVEL CORNER

Dave from Dave’s Travel Corner loved Half Moon Cay and he can’t wait to return.

There is a private island where the wind blows in the beach pines and the gentle surf laps on the silky white sand. A place that is much loved for moments that can be counted as too short and then left to it’s natural state just as quickly. This place is Half Moon Cay in the Bahamas, a private island.

During his time ashore, he participated in the Horseback Riding by Land and Sea Journeys Ashore shore excursion. Take a look:

Read his entire blog post about Half Moon Cay by clicking HERE.

GETTING STAMPED

Hannah and Adam of Getting Stamped counted down the Top Eight Reasons To Take A Caribbean Cruise on their blog after experiencing Eurodam.

The list includes no shoveling, no winter jackets, no cleaning, no dishes, no cooking, no alarm clock, no responsibilities and no traffic jams!

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THE HEALTHY VOYAGER

Carolyn of The Healthy Voyager is a holistic nutritionist, vegan chef, cookbook author, speaker, show host, consultant and healthy travel expert who took her very first cruise on Eurodam. And now we think it’s safe to say she’s hooked!

From the moment I stepped onto the ship, I was in heaven. A veritable floating city, the Eurodam has 5 restaurants, several bars, a coffee shop, night club, casino, movie theatre, stores, 2 pools, state of the art gym, spa, salon, basketball court and a 2 story live show auditorium. You want for nothing on the ship and 7 days isn’t enough to experience it all!

No matter your age or interests, the Eurodam had something for you. For families, you can request the family staterooms that sleep 4-6 and send the kids off to “camp”! So many fun activities on board for little ones while the adults have plenty to do as well. From Dancing with the Stars contests and cooking classes for those hands-on experiences to relaxation for those who need a break, I can tell you, you can find it aboard a Holland America Line ship!

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Read her most recent article about her Caribbean cruise HERE.

NEVER STOP TRAVELING

Marcia from Never Stop Traveling is a travel expert, and this trip on Holland America Line wasn’t her first cruise. In fact, cruising on Eurodam is a familiar experience for Marcia.

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Marcia wrote on Never Stop Traveling:

You know the feeling when you are about to meet an old friend after a long period of time, with excitement and expectations on high alert? That’s a bit how I felt when I recently boarded Holland America Line’s Eurodam on its first Caribbean sailing of the season. It had arrived early that morning after crossing the pond from Europe.

Today’s Eurodam is not your father’s Holland America ship. The staff continues to be made up primarily of men and women from the Philippines and Indonesia. They provide a traditionally high level of service that HAL has honed into a fine art. And the 21st century is alive and well on this venerable line and continues to pleasantly surprise returning guests.

TRUE NOMADS

True Nomads specializes in diving around the world, and the Caribbean is known to have some of the best diving spots. From Grand Turk’s famous wall to the crystalline waters of Half Moon Cay, this itinerary is a diver’s dream. True Nomads’ Monira and Christopher also took time to explore the ports from above the water as well!

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JOIN US IN THE CARIBBEAN WITH VIEW & VERANDAH

Now is the ideal time to book a Caribbean cruise. Not only is our View & Verandah promotion in full swing, Eurodam — one of the premier ships in the region — just emerged from dry dock with some fantastic new upgrades and amenities. Check out the ship’s refurbished suites, which are available to book under View & Verandah’s free upgrade. Additionally, the Vista-class Oosterdam will soon feature similar suite upgrades and both ships will sail Europe this summer season with numerous sailings also featured during the View & Verandah event.

A refreshed Neptune Suite.

A refreshed Neptune Suite.

The fabulous Neptune Suite bathroom.

The fabulous Neptune Suite bathroom.

A Signature Suite is the ideal "home" to cruise the world.

A Signature Suite is the ideal “home” to cruise the world.

The offer includes stateroom upgrades, up to 10 percent off shore excursions and up to 25 percent off Collectors’ Voyages on 2016-2017 sailings when booked by Feb. 29, 2016!

Are you ready to cruise the Caribbean this year? Which ship will you choose?

Dance the night away as you ring in 2017 on a Holland America Line cruise.
Dance the night away as you ring in 2017 on a Holland America Line cruise.

If you’re looking for something unique and exciting to do next New Year’s Eve, celebrate onboard a Holland America Line cruise. With options in Australia, Asia, South America, Mexico, the Caribbean and Panama Canal over the holiday, you can be sure you’ll welcome 2017 in grand style.

When guests break into “Auld Lang Syne” at midnight and you clink glasses with friends old and new, or if you’re dancing the night away at a Black & White Ball or having a quite moment on deck under the stars with your loved one, there’s nothing more spectacular or unforgettable than being onboard for New Year’s Eve.

Here are some incredible cruises around the world that allow you to usher in 2017 like never before.

Ring in the New Year Down Under

If you’re looking for an exotic destination to ring in 2017 while keeping the warm weather, we recommend a cruise to Australia and New Zealand. There is so much adventure to be found in this part of the world to start the year on a good note. Cruise through the awe-inspiring beauty of Milford Sound’s fiords, play with penguins at Auckland or encounter Aussie-native kangaroos and koalas at Sydney.

Milford Sound, Sydney and Auckland are a few highlights on the New Year's cruise Down Under.

Milford Sound, Sydney and Auckland are a few highlights on the New Year’s cruise Down Under.

The 28-Day New Zealand Discovery and Pacific Treasures Holiday itinerary departing Dec. 7, 2016, is a Collectors’ Voyage on Noordam sailing roundtrip from Sydney. Thoroughly exploring the coast of New Zealand, this cruise also takes guests to some islands of the South Pacific for a chance to experience a different culture. This itinerary is the perfect combination of small, charming ports and big, busy cities where 2017 is welcomed with adventure, relaxation and rejuvenation.

For those with less time to spare, the 17-Day Australia and New Zealand Holiday is a great option. This cruise on Maasdam starts Dec. 16, 2016, at Sydney and ends at Auckland, New Zealand. It also visits a range of cities on New Zealand’s coast including a trip through the Milford Sound fiords. It includes stops in Australia including Melbourne and some highlights in Tasmania.

Cruise To The Far East For A Unique Holiday

The infamous Komodo dragon awaits on this New Year's voyage.

The infamous Komodo dragon awaits on this New Year’s voyage.

The southern region of Asia has become an increasingly desirable destination for those looking to soak up new cultures and experiences. Elegant yet casual, peaceful yet exciting, Volendam’s 28-Day Far East and Indonesian Discovery Collector Holiday sailing from Hong Kong to Singapore on Dec. 6, 2016 has it all.

With 18 calls in China, Vietnam, Cambodia, Thailand and Indonesia, several late-night departures and overnights at Bangkok and Singapore, guests become immersed in the mystery and beauty of the region.

Sail South to Antarctica and Welcome 2017

Sail to South America for New Year's to see penguins and glaciers.

Sail to South America for New Year’s to see penguins and glaciers.

If it’s penguins, glacier and gorgeous scenery you desire to start your New Year right, Zaandam’s 21-Day South American and Antarctica Holiday cruise from Valparaiso, Chile, to Buenos Aires, Argentina, is the perfect itinerary for you. The cultures and destinations are as diverse as their landscapes. The coastline of Chile is dotted with quaint villages, paving the way to the Chilean Fjords and Amalia Glacier. After passing Cape Horn, the southern journey continues to Antarctica, where three days of scenic cruising ring in 2017. The journey back north includes a stop at the Falkland Islands to visit with the penguins, as well as an overnight at Buenos Aires, leaving plenty of time to take in a dramatic tango show.

Go from Atlantic to Pacific via the Panama Canal

Ring in the New Year after transiting the Panama Canal.

Ring in the New Year after transiting the Panama Canal.

One of the greatest man-made marvels in the world, the Panama Canal should be on every traveler’s bucket list. Tick off that adventure on Veendam’s 15-Day Panama Canal Holiday cruise departing Dec. 20 from Fort Lauderdale, Florida, to San Diego, California. Transit the canal after visiting our award-winning private island in the Bahamas and Cartagena, Colombia. The actual transit is on Christmas, making the day all the more merry and bright. Visit Costa Rica, Nicaragua, Guatemala and Mexico before welcoming 2017.

New Year’s in the Caribbean is King in 2017

Many Holland America Line ships spend the winter cruising the Caribbean. Spanning the entire region, this time of year guests can celebrate New Year’s in the eastern, western or southern Caribbean. And there’s no better way to welcome a new year than on a new ship. Embark Koningsdam’s 9-Day Western Caribbean Holiday voyage and soak up the sun while sailing into 2017.

Welcome 2017 in the Caribbean on Koningsdam.

Welcome 2017 in the Caribbean on Koningsdam.

Koningsdam cruises to several Caribbean favorites on this itinerary, including a call at Half Moon Cay on New Year’s Eve, as well as Grand Turk, Turks and Caicos; Falmouth, Jamaica; Georgetown, Grand Cayman; Cozumel, Mexico; and Key West, Florida.

Soak up the Sol on a Cruise to Mexico

The sights, sounds and flavors of Mexico make for an exciting New Year's celebration.

The sights, sounds and flavors of Mexico make for an exciting New Year’s celebration.

Mexico is the land of sun, sand and turquoise seas, not to mention it’s got incredible history and fantastic food. Mexico’s electric vibe and energetic ambiance make it a fun destination to spend the holiday. Next year Westerdam’s 7-Day Mexican Riviera Holiday cruise visits three of the most popular ports in the country: Cabo San Lucas, Mazatlan and Puerto Vallarta. The roundtrip San Diego cruise is an ideal weeklong getaway that will ring in a Feliz Ano Nuevo!

These are just a few of the exciting cruises available to celebrate New Year’s. If you’re ready to come on board and welcome 2017 in style, check out the above cruises and more on the Holland America Line website. With our View & Verandah promotion, now is the perfect time to book. We’re offering stateroom upgrades, up to 10 percent off shore excursions and up to 25 percent off Collectors’ Voyages on 2016-2017 sailings when booked by Feb. 29, 2016!

Which New Year’s cruise sounds like the ideal way to ring in 2017? Tell us your favorite below!

Holland America Line President Orlando Ashford and our fans agree Alaska's beauty and culture make it the top wish-list destination.
Holland America Line President Orlando Ashford and our fans agree Alaska's beauty and culture make it the top wish-list destination.

The holiday season is in full swing, and it’s time to get creative with gift giving. Wouldn’t it be great to surprise your favorite traveler with the gift of a cruise?! We asked Holland America Line’s Facebook fans what their dream cruise would be to receive this year. The answers are as varied as our itineraries! Is your top wish-list cruise destination the same as our fans?

Our biggest fan is, of course, Holland America Line’s President Orlando Ashford. He got into the spirit of the season by revealing the cruise he’d love to receive this holiday.

Orlando“This holiday season, I’m wishing for a special Holland America Line adventure – the Alaska Land+Sea Journey! It would have to be the Triple Denali trip with three incredible days at Denali National Park, plus a journey through the Yukon where pioneers once trekked, often in peril, to find their fortune in the Gold Rush. In my first year with Holland America Line I’ve learned that we were the first cruise line to really explore Alaska — and no one offers a cruise and overland experience quite like HAL. I’d love to see all the Great Land has to offer from the comfort of our ships, including the massive glaciers that meet the sea, then take a ride in a domed train car to Denali Base Camp, where my family and I could enjoy a great salmon dinner and have fun around the campfire. That would be a trip to remember.” — Orlando Ashford

ALASKA IS THE #1 WISH-LIST CRUISE!

Holland America Line fans agree with Orlando that Alaska is the place to visit in 2016. Not only is it one of the most gorgeous areas on earth, it offers so much more than scenic beauty – although that is the major draw. Alaska and the Yukon have an interesting past that is artfully told through local adventures, and nature is at its finest in the Great Land with tours often featuring the opportunity to see wildlife in their natural habitat. Will you be cruising with us to Alaska in 2016?

I have wanted to go on an Alaskan cruise and take my grandson with me. We get pamphlets from Holland America quite often and go through them wishing we could take one of the Alaskan trips. — Donna Swinehart

I would repeat the Alaskan cruise ~ Magnificent! Terrific! Awesome! — Liz Galley

It would have to be Alaska. We have been there 3 times and going again in 2016 … can’t wait. — Kathi Galloway

I would go back to Alaska in a minute! — Connie Martin

Holland America Line fans, including Lynne Legal-Lowe, bottom, and Connie Martin, agree Alaska is number-one on their cruise wish-list.

Holland America Line fans, including Connie Martin, top, and Lynne Legal-Lowe agree Alaska is number-one on their cruise wish-list.

While there a few places I’d love to cruise, I’d have to say an Alaskan cruise. I would love to see that breathtakingly beautiful state. I have also always wanted to see the Northern Lights. — Christine Walker

I’d love to do Alaska again but this time for 14 days. I LOVED all of it, the ship, the scenery, the sights… — Catherine Sutherland

Alaska inside passage cruise. Been on my bucket list for eva! — Debbie Gordine

I would ask to go on your Alaskan Cruise!! Why? So “many good” reasons. Our Alaska cruise we took with you in 2013 was a dream come true. You treated us so wonderful like we really mattered!!! Everything we did on the ship and off was prefect!!! Thank you once again for all you did for us and giving us a vacation of a lifetime!!! — Loma McEwen Gunderson

We were on the Alaskan Cruise in late August. Holland America was amazing. Best staff ever… — Lynne Legal-Lowe

The cruise to Anchorage. Alaska is so beautiful and it really seems like a childhood Christmas with the snow!! Holland America has the best cruise ships in the world. Excellent service and the food is outstanding. — Jan Smith

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Alaska was the best vacation with Holland America that we have ever had. We have been there 4 times. Salmon fishing, fine dining, ice climbing on The Mendenhal Glacier, Glacier Bay, kayaking, everything that makes your dreams come true. — Cary J. Himes Woody

I would retake the Alaska cruise! I am a 4 Star Mariner, 90 years young and have stopped cruising, but really enjoyed all of my cruises when I was still able to travel. Miss it now too!! — Bettie Fleming

I would go back to Alaska. We had such an amazing time there. Holland America is a great cruise line. Everyone was so friendly and helpful. Would highly recommend it. — Dori Vinet

SUNSHINE OF THE CARIBBEAN HIGH ON CRUISERS WISH-LIST:

Not far behind Alaska is the Caribbean. And it’s no surprise why! From azure skies to crystalline waters, the Caribbean is a sun-kissed paradise on earth. Half Moon Cay, our own private island in the Bahamas, makes a cruise to this region even more memorable.

I’d ask HAL to stay at Half Moon Cay for a week! Just open up the bars I’ll take a tender back to the ship for food! — Katie Kenner-Bohl

The Caribbean…because Montana gets cold in the winter! — Kevin Hudson

It would be the Caribbean. Had such a great time with the best bartenders. — Dick Hogue

Southern Caribbean for sure. The waters are warm, tranquil, and the ports of call are amazing! Cruising over the Holidays + Southern Caribbean + HAL = 2 VERY relaxed and happy people!! — Heather Hall

Sun-kissed skies and powdery beaches make the Caribbean a hot spot for cruising.

Sun-kissed skies and powdery beaches make the Caribbean a hot spot for cruising.

Any place in the Caribbean with warm, blue water and a white sand beach (we’re from NW Ohio) and our kids and grandkids with us! — Diane Herman

Back to the Caribbean on an Olivia HAL chartered cruise. It remains to this day our dream favorite!! We had a dreamy time. It was our first HAL cruise. We have had four more since and we have loved them all but that was our first HAL experience and is the reason we ONLY cruise with HAL and Olivia. It was perfect. — Rowan Smith

Just got back from 10 day Caribbean cruise 5 islands A B C would luv to continue to see more! Was wonderful! — Linda Vargas

Just got back from eastern and southern Caribbean… Want to go West now… — Jon Heimsness

CULTURE AND HISTORY OF EUROPE & THE MEDITERRANEAN MAKE IT TOPS

With dozens of diverse cultures, amazing cuisine, a storied history, impressive architecture and gorgeous landscapes, a cruise to Europe or the Mediterranean also came in a close second with the Caribbean.

Norway. Best trip ever. — Dana Lee Jaggers Walker

Dana is ready to go back to Norway!

Dana is ready to go back to Norway!

Voyage of the Vikings! It goes to a lot of the places I’d like to visit. — Jim Parshall

Someday, the Mediterranean, and North Sea. Why? Because they are on the opposite side of the world from where I live; and……why not? — Melva Warren Evans

Just returned from a 7 day Caribbean cruise on the elegant Westerdam. Would love to cruise the Greek isles on the new upcoming Koningsdam. — Michael Erlick

I have been on Holland America twice and both cruises were great. I would love to do an Eastern Mediterranean cruise with them in the summer time. — Barbara Jean Williams

My checkmark on bucket list for a cruise to Europe would be awesome. — Stacy Clements

I would choose your April, 2017 round trip from Civitavecchia to Istanbul that includes a port stop on Crete where we hope to see the Linear B tablets that were the subject of the book “The Laberinth,” a tribute to the triumph of intellect of the woman who translated them. — Alan Nestlinger

Europe and the Med are high on the list of our cruise fans.

Europe and the Med are high on the list of our cruise fans.

I would love the Baltic Jewels because I’ve never been to Northern Europe. — Chris Rechner

FROM THE BALMY AMAZON TO REMOTE ICEBERGS, GUESTS WANT TO VISIT SOUTH AMERICA & ANTARCTICA

South America and Antarctica are on the bucket list of many of our cruisers. South America’s vibrant cultures make it a fan favorite, and Antarctica’s remote locale and breathtaking beauty make it a once-in-a-lifetime adventure.

If someone else is giving it to me as a Christmas present, there is a 21-Day South America and Antarctica Holiday that would be the cat’s meow. — John Fleming

The Amazon, Rio's Corcovado and the Panama Canal (with guest Cris Senseman) are a few highlights on some South America cruises.

The Amazon, Rio’s Corcovado and the Panama Canal (with guest Cris Senseman) are a few highlights on some South America cruises.

Cruise to South America to celebrate my fourth year cancer free!! — Kay Allman McGhee

Would love to go to Manaus, to see where the macaws really come from. — AnneMai Berchtold

To go back to Antarctica, we were blessed with fine weather, so it made it even more wonderful. The blue of the sky and the ice showing every blue between black and white… — Bob Holder

Bob Holder is ready to cruise to Antarctica.

Bob Holder is ready to cruise to Antarctica.

14-day South America! Next on our wish list! — Linda Domeier

CRUISING DOWN UNDER IS A FAVORITE OF OUR FANS

Our cruise fans long to hear “G’day” from the locals on a cruise to Australia and New Zealand. Koalas and kangaroos await Down Under, where emerald landscapes and lush gardens abound. Sydney’s famed Opera House and Harbour Bridge are just two of the iconic sites in the continent’s favorite city. But the entire region is teaming with adventure, including the must-see Great Barrier Reef.

I want an Australian/New Zealand cruise, I want to see that part of the world. — Holly Blanco

Australia would be my wish. Have a daughter and family would love to visit and take a cruise with them. — Edie Hedderick

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I loved my Baltic cruise, but I think my next cruise will be to New Zealand. As long as it’s HAL. — Corrine Kenway

I have done a NZ cruise and Sydney to Singapore both on Volendam and would love the circumnavigation of Australia cruise with HAL anytime! – hopefully one day. — Corrine Kenway

GO FROM ATLANTIC TO PACIFIC TRANSITING THE PANAMA CANAL

It’s one of the world’s modern marvels, and Holland America Line fans are ready to transit the Panama Canal in 2016.

Panama Canal for the second time. Loved it! Best cruise ever! — Debbie Nalley Farrell

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Panama Canal. I would like to go after the new locks are open. — Nancy Wills-Wilson

I’d love to cruise down the east coast of USA and through the Panama Canal…one day perhaps. — Robyn Tataurangi

Would love a wonderful Caribbean cruise to the Panama Canal for my wife and my parents. We’ve done a couple of HAL cruises with you and look forward to our next one with you. We really enjoyed the more intimate setting of the smaller ship, Ryndam and look for that size back in the Caribbean routes! — Paul Erickson

ANYWHERE & EVERYWHERE ELSE!

With cruises around the world, our fans have choose their dream cruise from itineraries that span the globe. They include our Grand World Voyage, Asia, Hawaii, Canada/New England and more! Here are some more of our fans’ wish-list cruises!

I want a repositioning cruise trans-Panama Canal crossing east to west and up to Alaska. Why? Because it would be long, luxurious, and so darn interesting with the mix in locales and cultures. Bring it on, #HAL. I need it in my stocking for Christmas. — Jeff M Omaha

I want the 53-day South Pacific return from San Diego, please Santa. I’ve been a really good girl! — Kathe Deheer

Would like to cruise across the Pacific to Hawaii, or cruise Alaska, or more of the Med. Not fussy. Happy cruising with HAL anywhere they like to take me! — Janet Evans

From Hawaii to Singapore, and transocean, too ... many fans are just happy to cruise anywhere!

From Hawaii to Singapore, and transocean, too … many fans are just happy to cruise anywhere!

I’m not picky, I’d take ANY cruise! However, this is definitely one of my very favorite places….Grand Turk was beautiful. — Kim Sonnenberg-Englehart

The trip around the world. If I had the money I would live aboard! — DebbieandMike Praught

Would love to cruise from Singapore to Japan again, so much to see, I just couldn’t take it all in. — Maggie Morris

Around the world. If I have to choose just one, shouldn’t it encompass almost all the others? My second choice would be B2B Norwegian fjords and Baltic. Because it’s not in the around the world… — Deborah Sampson

My sister and I did the Panama Canal over Thanksgiving for 14 days and absolutely loved your beautiful ship, food, servers, shows…..My sister would love to go to Tahiti. And I would love to go to Italy. We would just love to travel this amazing world. She also has a cruise around the world. Luckily my big sister and i travel well together! Thank you Holland America Line. — Maggie Meme Long

Beautiful New England because in South Texas where I live we don’t have tall trees let alone trees that change colors in the fall. Seeing a New England fall has been on my bucket list for years! — Laurie Ramos Castillo

Around the world…..or just anywhere. LoveHAL. — Carole McNamee

If it’s not HAL it’s not a holiday, loved what we did and it doesn’t matter what cruise we pick it would be great. — Oswald Zonneveld

Oswald is ready to go anywhere on a Holland America Line cruise!

Oswald is ready to go anywhere on a Holland America Line cruise!

Transatlantic — just 17 days of pure relaxation. — Linda Wright

A world cruise. The longer on a ship, the better. — Annemarie Dragt

I just want to be on the rear deck watching the dock disappear. With cola in my 72-year-old hand. — David Roper

Oh to be able to do nothing but cruise would be a dream come true!! At 81 I am tired of housework and cooking. One is made to feel so regal on a cruise!! Hope to do Alaska in 2016. — Patricia Childs

Scandanavia for 21 days in 2014 was a highlight of my cruising life so far. Canada and New England this year was like a comfy pair of slippers. Next year? Yet to be decided….. — Patricia Odgers

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If you really want to surprise someone this holiday season — or if you want to treat yourself — check out our 2016 cruises. It’s not too late to pick your dream cruise and put a bow on it! With our new View & Verandah promotion, now is the perfect time to book. We’re offering stateroom upgrades, up to 10 percent off shore excursions and up to 25 percent off Collectors’ Voyages on 2016-2017 sailings when booked by Feb. 29, 2016!

Spend a week cruising the Caribbean with the family during spring break.
Spend a week cruising the Caribbean with the family during spring break.

Ahhhh, the Caribbean … a perfectly picturesque destination to “get away from it all.” It’s beautiful weather and steel drums call out to cruisers everywhere, beckoning them to dip their toes into paradise on a Holland America Line cruise.

Spring temperatures are the ideal balance of the cooler winter weather that’s passed and warm summer sun that’s coming. And the best part about spring? Students get a break from school! Families can come together on sandy shores to reunite, unwind and enjoy some much-deserved playtime. Why is Holland America Line unique in the Caribbean for families? We offer a sophisticated experience that parents and grandparents appreciate, while Club HAL keeps the kids entertained with exciting activities. If you want to make sure you have as much fun on vacation as the kids, Holland America Line is the perfect cruise line.

Luckily, we have a variety of itineraries sailing to all of the best spots in the Caribbean, including our award-winning private island, Half Moon Cay. And starting Dec. 7 through Feb. 29, 2016, book your perfect week in paradise for spring break with the new View & Verandah promotion! The special offers include stateroom upgrades, shore excursion discounts and savings on select Collectors’ Voyages – so stay tuned for the View & Verandah launch next week!

Find Excitement in Western Waters

The Caribbean islands to the west are filled with sun, sand and adventure. While these islands lie farther apart than the islands to the east, cruises to the west typically offer more sea days, which means more time to explore the ship and rejuvenate for the exciting activities that lie ashore.

The Western Caribbean islands are packed with adventurous shore excursions for active cruisers.

The western Caribbean islands are packed with adventurous shore excursions for active cruisers.

Western islands are packed with shore excursions for guests looking to get active! A stop at Ocho Rios offers a chance to climb up its world-famous roaring waterfalls. Key West calls to cruisers ready to let loose on Duval Street or tantalize their taste buds on a food tour. Wildlife lovers have a blast at Grand Cayman swimming with sea turtles, dolphins and stingrays. A stop at Cozumel offers unique adventures like exploring Mayan ruins, tubing down a rushing river through glistening limestone caves, riding in a submarine through vibrant coral reefs or soaring in the skies via zip-line.

For those who enjoy an early spring break, the 7-Day Western Caribbean cruise on Eurodam departs from Fort Lauderdale, Florida, Feb. 14, 2016 and visits Half Moon Cay; Montego Bay, Jamaica; Grand Cayman, Cayman Islands; and Key West. Also on Eurodam, guests can depart March 13, 2016, for seven days with this itinerary stopping at Half Moon Cay, Ocho Rios, Grand Cayman and Key West.

Nieuw Amsterdam offers a seven-day itinerary to the western Caribbean departing from Fort Lauderdale on March 6 and March 20, stopping at Half Moon Cay, Grand Cayman, Cozumel and Key West.

If the above itineraries don’t work for your spring break schedule, there are a number of other cruises available heading to the western Caribbean that showcase the region’s sun, fun and exciting adventures!

Rejuvenate and Relax at the Eastern Islands

Basque on a beach in the eastern Caribbean and feel like you’ve gone to paradise! There’s nothing like kicking back on a powdery beach with your eyes closed, listening to the waves gently wash up against the shore to help cruisers unwind and relax.

The islands of the eastern Caribbean are refined, relaxing and serene.

The islands of the eastern Caribbean are relaxing and serene.

Elegant and refined, eastern islands like Grand Turk and St. Maarten offer plenty of shopping opportunities, too! Since this region has many islands in close proximity to each other, cruise itineraries in the east stop at a different port of call almost every day.

The Seven-Day Eastern Caribbean cruise on ms Eurodam departs from Fort Lauderdale Feb. 7 and March 20, 2016, calling at Grand Turk, San Juan, St. Maarten and Half Moon Cay.

Similar seven-day itineraries to the eastern Caribbean are offered on different ships and springtime dates, including Nieuw Amsterdam and Westerdam, so no matter when your spring break falls, a Holland America Line cruise to the eastern Caribbean is waiting for you!

Don’t Miss A Call At Half Moon Cay!

Half Moon Cay is our award-winning, two-mile slice of private paradise. Picturesque, white beaches rest against an ocean so clear, guests can see straight to the bottom! Cruisers enjoy virtually limitless entertainment like horseback riding, sailing, snorkeling, jet skiing, biking, deep-sea fishing, kayaking, hiking, beachside massages or lounging in a private air-conditioned cabana.

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Half Moon Cay offers beautiful scenery and exciting shore excursions to please every crowd.

Smack dab in the middle of the eastern and western Caribbean regions, Half Moon Cay is conveniently located so that almost every Caribbean cruise we offer calls there.

If You Can’t Pick Just One…

For those lucky enough to spare more than just one week of spring break, combine two cruises with a 14-day Eastern/Western Caribbean Collectors’ Voyage! These itineraries are the perfect blend of relaxation and excitement, all under sunny skies and swaying palms.

A number of itineraries are available in February and March on Eurodam, Nieuw Amsterdam, Oosterdam, Zuiderdam and Maasdam. The ships will depart from Fort Lauderdale and cruise to destinations all over the Caribbean. Can you feel the soft sand between your toes already? We can!

Move and Groove at Eurodam’s Music Walk

Guests who book a spring cruise on Eurodam are in for a special treat! Just in time for spring break, Eurodam’s Music Walk opens for operation featuring three live-music venues: Lincoln Center Stage, Billboard Onboard and B.B. King’s Blues Club.

Music Walk will appear on Eurodam for spring Caribbean cruises featuring Lincoln Center Stage, Billboard Onboard and B.B. King's Blues Club.

Music Walk will debut on Eurodam for spring Caribbean cruises featuring Lincoln Center Stage, Billboard Onboard and B.B. King’s Blues Club.

While days are filled with fun in the sun, onboard entertainment takes center stage at night. Music Walk will feature something for everyone in the family. Billboard Onboard’s dueling pianos playing chart-topping hits will grab the attention of the young and young-at-heart! Lincoln Center Stage’s breathtaking classical elegance will awe and inspire even the most critical music aficionados, and B.B. King’s Blues Club soothes the seas with funky rhythm and blues.

With such diversity and world-class musicians, this wonderful showcase of sound will be perfect for families on spring break to sing and dance the night away.

Can’t Wait for Koningsdam?

We can’t wait either! Our timeless new Pinnacle Class ship — Koningsdam — will make its debut in April, but won’t arrive in the Caribbean until Fall 2016. Be one of the first to experience this amazing new ship under sunny skies on one of many offered itineraries to the Caribbean.

The first ship in our Pinnacle class, Koningsdam, will make it's Caribbean debut in Fall 2016.

The first ship in our Pinnacle class, Koningsdam, will make its Caribbean debut in Fall 2016.

Are you booking your spring break cruise to the Caribbean? Tell us about it in the comments below!

December 2015 UPDATE: Take Advantage of View & Verandah
We want to make your dream cruise even dreamier with our new View & Verandah promotion. We’re offering stateroom upgrades, up to 10 percent off shore excursions and up to 25 percent off Collectors’ Voyages on 2016-2017 sailings when booked by Feb. 29, 2016. Check out the offer to see if your dream cruise is included and book now!

A Panama Canal cruise is an incredible journey.
A Panama Canal cruise is an incredible journey.

The Panama Canal is an incredible man-made marvel that can be uniquely experienced on a Holland America Line cruise. If it’s not on your bucket list, it should be! There’s an incredible wave of awe that comes over every cruiser transiting the lakes and locks of this spectacle that made the list of the Seven Wonders of the Modern World. And the region is beautifully lush, making it a picture-perfect vacation.

The only way to fully experience the Panama Canal is on a cruise. In fact, it’s the best way to experience any destination! No other vacation is as convenient, pampering and exciting … all at the same time. On a cruise you unpack one time, yet you get to visit many ports and countries. And with dining, entertainment, enrichment and so much more included, there’s no better value!

Holland America Line features diverse and extensive cruises to the Panama Canal, from full transits that reposition a ship from one destination to another, to the roundtrip Fort Lauderdale, Florida, series of cruises that enter part of the canal but don’t fully transit.

Here’s a list of the seven pros of a Panama Canal cruise:

EASILY GO FROM ATLANTIC TO PACIFIC
The days of having to go around Cape Horn at the tip of South America to get from Atlantic to Pacific — or vice versa — are long gone. Now ships can easily move from ocean to ocean, cutting 8,000 miles off the journey. And with the expansion well under way, larger vessels will soon be able to make the 48-mile journey. Ships often make the full transit on repositioning cruises in the fall and spring that take them from one cruising destination to another. Unlike many repositioning cruises, a Panama Canal transit includes a lot of scenic cruising and many ports of call, making it the ideal way to get from one season to the next.

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If You Want To Go:
If you want to get away for the winter holidays and transit the entire Panama Canal, Amsterdam’s 18-Day Holiday Cruise from San Diego, California, to Fort Lauderdale is an incredible way to celebrate Christmas and ring in the New Year! Departing Dec. 18, 2015, the voyage calls at ports in Mexico, Guatemala, Nicaragua, Costa Rica, Panama, Aruba, Curaçao and Half Moon Cay.

IT’S A TECHNICAL MARVEL
It’s called one of the Seven Wonders of the Modern World for a reason. The Panama Canal is a series of locks that raise and lower a ship to different sea levels. It took 33 years to complete the project, which was started by France 1881. The United States took over the project in 1904, and the Panama Canal was officially opened Aug. 15, 1914.

Graphic from panamaliving.com.

Graphic from panamaliving.com.

Onboard, guests will learn facts like this and more about the history of the canal and the art, culture and wildlife of the region through our Exploration Speaker Series that brings on Panama Canal experts.

Our “On Location” Guide Lisa presented a fantastic slide show of what we would see on our transit. Her talk was so comprehensive that we discovered a few things to see that we hadn’t spotted on our previous crossings. And we looked for them on this transit. — Sharon J.

If You Want To Go:
Are you looking for a special way to celebrate the New Year? Join Veendam on a 14-day Panama Canal cruise and see the wonder for yourself. Departing Jan. 3, 2016, the voyage from San Diego to Tampa, Florida, gives guests an up-close view of the inner-workings of the canal.

WHAT A VIEW!
The Panama Canal is a lush gateway lined with emerald-hued flora and an abundance of colorful fauna. Standing on deck as you traverse the canal is sensory overload, with beautiful sites around every corner. Be sure to have your camera on hand.

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Absolutely loved our trip from Fort Lauderdale to San Diego through the Panama Canal years ago. Amazing scenery… — Guest Fiona B.

If You Want To Go:
If you think one cruise isn’t enough, Maasdam is sailing back-to-back transits departing March 1, 2016, from Fort Lauderdale to San Diego, and back to Fort Lauderdale departing March 15. The two cruises have non-repeating ports in Mexico, Costa Rica, Nicaragua, Guatemala, Colombia and the Caribbean, making it the perfect Collectors’ Voyage for guests who want an immersive Panama Canal experience.

CRUISING THROUGH THE LOCKS
The Panama Canal is made up of three locks: Gatun, Pedro Miguel and Miraflores. On average, it takes a ship eight to 10 hours to pass through the canal. While moving through it, the system of locks raises each ship 85 feet above sea level.

Moving through the Panama Canal locks. Photo by Captain Mercer.

Moving through the Panama Canal locks. Photo by Captain Mercer.

Bright Hub Engineering did a great job explaining how ships move through the locks:

• The ship approaches the lock gates at a reduced speed.
• The “pilot” boards the ship and he instructs the ships speed and direction.
• The ship enters the lock gates, which is narrow when compared to the size of the ship.
• The lock gates are then closed, enclosing the ship inside. To lift up the ship, water has to be pumped into the lock chambers.
• When water is pumped, the level of water increases inside the lock chamber lifting the ship up. The lifted height equals the height required for the ship to proceed to the next lock chamber. Thus the ship gets lifted up above the sea-level from the pacific ocean.
• It reaches Gatun Lake after getting lifted up through Miraflores and Pedro Miguel locks. The ship has to be lowered down to get to the level of the Atlantic Ocean through the Gatun locks.
• The ship enters the Gatun lock chamber, where the gates again get closed, enclosing the ship in the lock chamber. The water gets pumped out of the lock gates, decreasing the water level in the lock chamber.
• When the water level equals the level of the Atlantic Ocean side, the outward lock gates open up, leading the ship to the sea passage.

If You Want To Go:
If you want to transit the Panama Canal sooner rather than later, there’s still time to cruise this fall! If you like last-minute adventures, Westerdam and Oosterdam leave Sept. 26 and 27, respectively, to reposition from Alaska to the Caribbean. Westerdam is departing Seattle on an 18-day cruise, while Oosterdam is sailing from Vancouver on a 19-day transit. In October, Veendam cruises from Atlantic to Pacific on a 19-day transit departing Oct. 17 from Boston to San Diego. Those who want to leave from Fort Lauderdale can depart on Veendam Oct. 21.

THE IMPRESSIVE LAKES
The Panama Canal has two lakes: Gatun Lake and Miraflores Lake. Did you know that Gatun Lake is an artificial lake? It was created between 1907 and 1913, and at that time it was the largest man-made lake in the world.

Captain Mercer snapped this photo of Gatun Lake during his transit.

Captain Mercer snapped this photo of Gatun Lake during his transit.

If You Want To Go:
When it’s time for the Alaska season, Maasdam repositions from Fort Lauderdale to Seattle, Washington, on a 20-day adventure that includes a transit of the Panama Canal. Guests looking for a shorter journey can disembark at San Diego, making it a 15-day cruise, or Vancouver, British Columbia, for a 19-day voyage.

SAILING ROUNDTRIP FORT LAUDERDALE
If you want a convenient roundtrip Fort Lauderdale cruise, Zuiderdam offers Sunfarer voyages starting at 10 days that include a Caribbean exploration and a partial Panama Canal transit. The ship spends a morning cruising Gatun Lake where guests can disembark and take one of several shore excursions, including the Gatun Locks & Kayak in the Canal to Colon tour.

Guests on Sunfarer itineraries can go ashore at Gatun and take a variety of tours.

Guests on Sunfarer itineraries can go ashore at Gatun and take a variety of tours.

SEE THE PROGRESS OF THE EXPANSION
In 2007, work began on a $5.25 billion expansion project that will enable the canal to handle post-Panamax ships — those exceeding the dimensions of Panamax vessels built to fit through the canal. The expanded canal will be able to handle cargo vessels carrying 14,000 20-foot containers, nearly three times the amount currently accommodated! The expansion project, expected to be completed in 2016, includes the creation of a new, larger set of locks and the widening and deepening of existing navigational channels. As of Aug. 31, 2015, the project is 93 percent complete.

We will be doing our fourth transit next April with HAL. What a great trip. We learn new things every time. Looking forward to it – again. — Sue C.

If You Want To Go:
If you’re looking to transit the canal but also visit the exotic ABC Islands in the Caribbean, Westerdam’s March 12, 2016, cruise is the perfect choice for you. The 21-day cruise from Fort Lauderdale to San Diego makes 13 calls along the way, including Aruba, Bonaire and Curaçao. Mexico also takes center stage, with five calls throughout the country.

December 2015 UPDATE: Take Advantage of View & Verandah
We want to make your dream cruise even dreamier with our new View & Verandah promotion. We’re offering stateroom upgrades, up to 10 percent off shore excursions and up to 25 percent off Collectors’ Voyages on 2016-2017 sailings when booked by Feb. 29, 2016. Check out the offer to see if your dream cruise is included and book now!

Half Moon Cay's Private Oasis is your personal sanctuary in paradise.
Half Moon Cay's Private Oasis is your personal sanctuary in paradise.

Half Moon Cay is Holland America Line’s number-one-rated port on Caribbean cruises. This idyllic destination features everything you would expect in paradise: crystalline waters, powdery beaches and an endless array of activities. From snorkeling and kayaking to horse-back riding for those who want to get moving and beach chairs for those who want to relax, Half Moon Cay has it all.

But if you’re looking for the ultimate getaway within this amazing getaway, be sure to book the Private Oasis for your family and spend the day in your own, personal sanctuary. This tropical haven is perched on a point partially over the island’s warm waters. They make the perfect spot for a private day with friends and family … a luxurious setting at one of the most stunning beaches the Caribbean has to offer.

Start the morning with an onboard greeting from the butler who takes you to the tender for the journey ashore. Once on land, stroll along a private walkway to your slice of paradise — and a large slice at that with 1,620 square feet of space to enjoy. You can spend time in the large covered pavilion or out in the sun. The facility features a slide that lands right in the ocean, an eight-person hot tub perfect for a relaxing soak, private bathrooms, indoor and outdoor showers with warm water, 100-foot walkway with misting stations and changing rooms.

There's plenty of room for friends and family.

There’s plenty of room for friends and family.

The Private Oasis includes a full wet bar and refrigerator so you can get into the Bahamian spirit with the island cocktail of your choice. With options like Mojitos, Beach Cruisers and Rum Runners or frozen tropical classics like Piña Coladas, Strawberry Daiquiris and Margaritas, you’ll catch the island vibes in no time. Soft drinks, bottled water, juices, beers, wines and mocktails are also included and your own personal bartender and bar waiter are there to whip up whatever you’re in the mood for.

We booked this excursion to celebrate my husband’s retirement and share the experience with 22 of our closest friends and also purchased the Palm Package upgrade. It was worth every penny!! The service by the Pinnacle Grill staff was exemplary and the food and beverages were beyond our expectations. HIGHLY recommend this excursion!!! Guest QuilterPat

You won’t go hungry here either — fresh fruit, danish, chips and salsa are served in the early morning and a barbecue lunch buffet will satisfy your hunger in the afternoon. Enjoy assorted salads, grilled hamburgers, hot dogs, fresh Teriyaki-glazed Mahi Mahi, barbecued pork spare ribs and barbecued chicken, brownies and cookies, all at the indoor teak dining table with seating for six or the outdoor teak lounges and bar stools that accommodate 12. All the cooking is done by your own personal chef — who’s not the only staff that comes with the place — you will also have a butler and lifeguard!

From fresh fruit to grilled shrimp, this oasis has something for all tastes.

From fresh fruit to grilled shrimp, this oasis serves up something for all tastes.

Guest Mom2Huskies gave the Private Oasis five stars on the Holland America Line website and said it was the highlight of her trip:

“This is the most amazing thing to do on HMC you feel like a VIP and so worth every penny plus you get cruise day credits.”

All the above amenities are included in the Private Oasis Palm Package. The packages below offer even more indulgences!

The Private Oasis Royal Palm Package

This upgrade features even more delicious Caribbean fare with seafood, pasta, potato and chop salads; grilled shrimp, Caribbean-style barbecue steaks, blackened grilled fish, tropical spears and banana coconut cake added to your barbecue. You’ll also be able to truly relax in paradise with a Greenhouse Spa masseuse available.

A postcard-perfect day at the Private Oasis.

A postcard-perfect day at the Private Oasis.

Jmack81598 also gave the Private Oasis five stars and said it’s the perfect setting for a celebration:

“We did this to celebrate a birthday during our cruise. We were a party of 10 ages 5-71 and it was perfect for everyone. The food and service were fantastic. The oasis is beautiful and only steps to the main beach. Lifeguard, bartender, waiter and host included. Couldn’t ask for more. Stunning beach! Well worth it – if you are going to treat yourself, this is the way to go!”

Ultimate Oasis Package

The Ultimate Oasis Package is perfect for guests who truly want to enjoy the good life, Caribbean-style! Once you arrive via your escorted transfer from the ship you can begin to pop as many tops as you want with unlimited Dom Perignon Champagne! Snack on Russian Caviar with iced vodka, Iced King Crab Legs and Jumbo Chilled Shrimp, conch and pasta salads and Ceviche of Tuna. You better save room for the main course with Grilled Sea Scallops, Grilled Lobster and Beef Tenderloin on the menu! One Pinnacle Grill Manager, a Chef de Partie and an assistant cook will make sure all the food is to your liking, and two waiters and an assistant waiter will make sure you don’t have to lift a finger! The Private Pasis is also staffed with a bartender, assistant bartender, housekeeper and masseuse.

Here’s what two more cruisers had to say about this getaway-within-a-getaway:

This was a special trip for our family and we treated ourselves to this. We loved it and wished we could have stayed longer! The day starts with a ‘butler’ coming to your stateroom to take you to the oasis. It was so nice not having to wait in line for the tender. We arrived to a great spread of fruit, veggies, dips and chips and guacamole … Lunch was wonderful! Just when you thought that was all the food, surprise there was more! This is a must for a family reunion or if you are traveling with a group of friends. It is well worth the money and you well love it!- Trevor

Guests of all ages enjoy a day in a Private Oasis.

Guests of all ages enjoy a day in a Private Oasis.

If your cruise is calling at Half Moon Cay, remember that the Private Oasis can be pre-booked. There’s only one on the island so book early to make sure it’s available.

If you’re thinking about a cruise to the Caribbean, now is the time to book. Be sure to take advantage of savings up to $1,000 per stateroom with the Fall Finale promotion that highlights 2015 itineraries. At least 60 different sailings, including many Caribbean cruises, are eligible for this deal if booked by Sept. 10, 2015, with a $60 deposit.

If you want to cruise next year or beyond, the Explore 4 special also is in full swing. Benefits for guests booking any category stateroom include a free Signature Beverage Package valued at up to $1,400, a free Pinnacle Grill dinner for two, reduced cruise fares for third and fourth guests in the same stateroom and 50 percent reduced deposits. Bookings must be made by Oct. 31, 2015. There’s never been a better time to book one of the many Caribbean cruises included in this promo!

Have you spent the day in a Private Oasis? What would you celebrate in this idyllic setting? Tell us in the comments below.

The final "Dancing with the Stars: At Sea" cruises will feature from left: Kym Johnson, Florence Henderson, Carson Kressley and Tony Dovolani (not pictured).
The final "Dancing with the Stars: At Sea" cruises will feature from left: Kym Johnson, Florence Henderson, Carson Kressley and Tony Dovolani (not pictured).

Why should you cruise on the final two “Dancing with the Stars: At Sea” theme cruises? In addition to the dazzling performances, fantastic costumes, up-close encounters with the show’s stars and the hilariously antics of Carson Kressley, there’s a new addition to the featured talent: Dance Professional Tony Dovolani!

Dance Pro Tony Dovolani.

Dance Pro Tony Dovolani.

In addition to Tony and Carson, the theme cruises also will showcase pro dancer and Mirrorball Trophy winner Kym Johnson, along with America’s favorite TV mom Florence Henderson. The Champions Cruise departs Ft. Lauderdale, Florida, Jan. 10, 2016, and the Jan. 3, 2016, theme cruise sets sail the week prior. These voyages mark the final chances to experience “Dancing with the Stars: At Sea” programming before the partnership concludes.

When ms Nieuw Amsterdam heads to the Caribbean on the two seven-day voyages, guests will be able to watch these four fan favorites take the stage to perform routines from the hit ABC television show as well as exciting new choreographed dances. Additional events on these cruises include dance lessons with the ship’s professional dancers; a special fashion show featuring glamorous show costumes from the TV show; and a chance to meet the stars, ask questions and take photos with them.

“We are thrilled to have the talents of Tony, Kym, Carson and Florence, entertaining and mingling with our guests on these last two special theme cruises,” said Orlando Ashford, president of Holland America Line. “And the Champions Cruise on the Jan. 10 sailing features the exciting grand finale dance-off following a year of guest competitions, and we look forward to crowning a new Mirrorball Trophy winner with the help of these fabulous stars.”

It’s been a wonderful partnership between Holland America Line and Dancing with the Stars over the last few years,” added Ashford. “The program added an engaging element to our cruises that many guests embraced with passion and dedication. We are thankful to Dancing with the Stars and BBC Worldwide for an amazing run.”

If you’re thinking about joining us for these voyages, read about guest Diana’s adventures on a recent “Dancing with the Stars: At Sea” cruise to Canada and New England. She shared her experience with the blog and got some assistance from fellow guest Shigeo Morita who contributed many of the great pictures. We think you’ll be convinced to put on your dancing shoes!

CRUISE DIARY: SAILING ON A ‘DANCING WITH THE STARS: AT SEA’ THEME CRUISE
by Guest Diana

Kym and Carson share a laugh on stage.

Kym and Carson share a laugh on stage.

When Holland America Line’s Veedam sailed from Boston a sunny, cool Saturday a couple weeks ago, there was a special vibe in the air from everyone onboard excited to jive, samba and waltz their way through Canada and New England with “Dancing with the Stars: At Sea.”

It didn’t take long for the dancing to begin with the first class of the cruise scheduled right after sailaway. I put on my dancing shoes and headed to Veendam’s Showroom at Sea. The waltz class began with a few words from the host of DWTS: at Sea, Jason Venner, and a video lesson by one of the TV show’s dancing pros, Sharna Burgess. After learning a full Waltz routine, a couple participants were selected for a dance-off. They were scored by a panel and a winner was selected to participate in the guest competition on the final night of the cruise! What a perfect start to the voyage.

On the second day of the cruise, a jive lesson had guests kicking and flicking in no time. Later that night we lined up for a photo opportunity with the four stars on this sailing: professional dancers Kym Johnson and Tristan MacManus, Florence Henderson of “The Brady Bunch” fame and Carson Kressley from “Queer Eye for the Straight Guy”. Incredibly gracious, they had a quick chat with each guest. My mom, whom I was traveling with, told Kym she loved watching her with Robert Herjavec in the past season and much to my surprise was able to hold back mentioning she felt Riker Lynch had been robbed of the Mirrorball. An opinion she holds strongly!

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Later in the cruise, guests would be able to get these photos autographed by the stars in a special autograph session.

The real glitz and glamour came midway through the cruise when the full “Dancing with the Stars: At Sea” cast put on a stellar show in the Showroom at Sea. Carson Kressley was a fantastic MC, but he also participated in a couple of routines.

Kym and Tristan danced a magnificent latin-style routine, and Tristan and Florence delighted guests with a classy waltz. The “DWTS: at Sea” dance troupe also wowed guests, particularly with a two-person rumba routine that packed in more lifts and tricks than any routine I had ever seen on the show. On this night in particular, guests who already knew of Carson were delighted to see him at his best, and those who had not heard of him before quickly became fans. His witty remarks, hilarious commentary and perfectly-timed jokes had guests laughing in between every performance. It felt like he put the star in “Dancing with the Stars.”

Have you ever been to a show you enjoyed so much that you stuck around for the second showing? This show was such a hit that the room barely cleared out after the first showing, with many guests staying in the showroom and waiting around for an hour or so for the next one to begin! I was one of them and I can tell you, it was just as fun to watch the second time around. Here are some more moments from the show:

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The following day, a Samba class was on the schedule. Samba is a fun dance to learn. The music is quick and up-beat, and it felt like a party while dancing to it, or “pah-ty” as Kym described it with her Australian accent.

That night we watched the “Dancing with the Stars: At Sea” Fashion Show in a packed house, standing-room only. Members of the “Dancing with the Stars” dance troupe were joined by Veendam’s dancers modeling some of the impressive costumes used on the TV show. True DWTS fans could quickly recall who had worn what, like the fire-y gown donned by Willow Shields in her contemporary dance with Mark Ballas this past season. Carson and Kym MC’d and it was interesting to hear Kym’s commentary on the amount of fabric used for each piece, general inspiration behind them and the totals of Swarovski crystals!

Veendam's dancers and Florence Henderson modeled some of the gowns worn on the show.

Veendam’s dancers and Florence Henderson modeled some of the gowns worn on the show.

I got an early start the following morning with a 10 a.m. fitness class in the Showroom at Sea led by Kym. In the warm-up she told the large crowd of exercisers we would “start with a cha-cha and end with a jive,” a dance-pro way of noting that though things would start slow they would quickly pick up. She wasn’t lying! The catchy music she selected had everyone shimmying up a sweat in no time. Each song involved a different genre of dance and we quickly learned its basic steps. As the tempo picked up the routines got quicker. I was impressed with the routine, a true workout that had everyone out of breath by the end.

Kym Johnson found herself in the spotlight again with a work out class on an early morning.

Kym Johnson found herself in the spotlight again with a work-out class on an early morning.

That afternoon, Kym, Tristan, Carson and Florence took the stage with Jason for a Q&A session. Guests asked the stars questions varying from what a typical week during the show is like to what a certain pro-dancer and her past-partner’s current relationship status is. As they say, what happens on Veendam stays on Veendam, so I can’t give you the answer! Florence spoke about her childhood and her early days on Broadway. Carson spoke about his experience on the dancing show and his passion for horses and Kym talked of her busy schedule. The female guests in the audience weren’t concerned with what Tristan was saying, rather just wanted him to just keep speaking with his charming Irish accent.

An exciting week of “Dancing with the Stars: At Sea” ended with a bang when six guests took the stage, partnered with Veendam’s full-time dancers, for an incredibly entertaining guest competition. The winning routine was an impressive jive and the guest was awarded with a gold star. Her routine will put her in the running to represent Veendam in a competition with the highest scoring guest from every ship. If she’s selected she’ll have to clear her schedule in early January for the “DWTS: At Sea” Champions Cruise where Holland America will crown its final Mirrorball Trophy winner. As for myself and many other cruisers who had just spent the past week with some of a hit TV competition show’s best stars, we’ll be clearing our schedules, too, to sail as regular passengers.

Guests were paired with Veendam's dancers and performed a routine for the panel, which included Kym and Carson. One outstanding jiver won a gold star!

Guests were paired with Veendam’s dancers and performed a routine for the panel, which included Kym and Carson. One outstanding jiver won a gold star!

Will you be joining us for one of the two final “Dancing with the Stars: At Sea” cruises? Tell us which one below!

The Schoelcher Library is a beautiful historical site on the Martinique tour.
The Schoelcher Library is a beautiful historical site on the Martinique tour.

Holland America Line carries thousands of cruisers to the Caribbean each year who are drawn to the region because of its tropical climate and relaxing lifestyle, but there’s more to the islands than meet the eye.

When planning a cruise to the Caribbean, you’ll likely think of the typical snorkeling, sailing and other beach-related excursions that the area is famous for. But with a past packed with imperialism, immigration waves and ancient civilizations, historical tours in the Caribbean make stories fly off the pages of your grade-school textbooks.

Rich with cathedrals, plantations and traditional colonial architecture, the Caribbean has preserved so much of its history for visitors to enjoy today. Almost every destination offers a historical tour, so no matter where your ship may visit, be sure to check out the historical excursions available. These tours offer a chance to get off the beaten path, take a break from the beach and plunge into all of the history the islands have to offer!

Here are six of the fascinating historically themed tours offered by Holland America Line:

1. HISTORY & LEGENDS IN KEY WEST

Visit Ernest Hemingway's famous home in Key West.

Visit Ernest Hemingway’s famous home in Key West.

If you get the chance to stop at Key West, Florida, the “History and Legends” tour is a self-guided experience offering over 100 points of interest to pick and choose from, spending as much or as little time as you want at each destination. Enter the home of the famous author Ernest Hemingway, learn about Key West’s unique role in the Civil War, explore the vacation home of former President Truman and play with the Hemingway polydactyl cats. The visible influence from Spanish explorers and railroad development in the 1800s are nestled within this uniquely historical and tropical location.

2. HISTORICAL ISLAND EXTRAVAGANZA ON ST. LUCIA

Visit the Balenbouche Estate on the historical tour in St. Lucia.

Visit the Balenbouche Estate on the historical tour in St. Lucia.

The “Historical Island Extravaganza” tour at Castries, Saint Lucia, offers a full day of diverse locations and experiences showcasing the best of the island’s history and culture. You’ll travel to a valley packed with banana plantations and small villages, then see breathtaking views as you drive down the Atlantic Coast to the Balenbouche Estate. One of few surviving original plantation houses in St. Lucia, its colonial architecture dates back to the early 1800s. See the island’s history come to life as you explore rooms furnished with antiques, rock basins and petroglyphs on the banks of the nearby Balenbouche River, and a collection of ancient artifacts including stone axes, tools and crafted clay pottery. Cool down with some refreshments before heading to the gardens, and then find the perfect souvenir at the Choiseul Craft Market selling indigenous arts and crafts. Next on the itinerary is the Caribbean’s only drive-in volcano, Sulfur Springs. After a day filled with traveling and exploring the beautiful island, relax with a delicious lunch at the Morne Coubaril working plantation, then enjoy a ride to the jetty with magnificent views of the Pitons.

3. HISTORICAL TRUJILLO AT BANANA COAST
Trujillo

Take the “Historical Trujillo” tour at Banana Coast in Honduras and learn about Christopher Columbus’ landing there in 1502. Explore the Santa Barbara Fortress then revel in the 19th-century Spanish and French colonial architecture that make up the city.

4. LES SAINTES IN GUADELOUPE

Fort Napolean is a highlight of the Les Saintes tour in Guadeloupe.

Fort Napolean is a highlight of the Les Saintes tour in Guadeloupe.

The Les Saintes tour at Basse-Terre, Guadeloupe starts with a 30-minute boat ride to Terre de Haut where you’ll find Fort Napolean. Originally built for defense against British invasion, the fort was later used as a penitentiary. Enjoy panoramic views and vibrant flower gardens before retreating to enjoy a traditional Creole lunch and some beach time.

5. ST. CROIX’S WEST END HIGHLIGHTS

This tour in St. Croix visits the historical sites on the island.

This tour in St. Croix visits the historical sites on the island.

The West End Highlights tour includes a visit the Whim Plantation Museum at St. Croix in the Virgin Islands to admire the 18th-century ambiance. Hear stories of former residents of the Great House, take a walk through the 16-acre botanic gardens dating back as far as 100 A.D., then finish this tour with a trip to the island’s largest distillery where the famous Cruzan Rum has been produced for the last 300 years.

St. Louis Cathedral has an imposing presence in Martinique.

St. Louis Cathedral in Martinique.

6. MARTINIQUE’S HISTORIC STROLL

A Stroll Through Historic Fort-De-France” in Martinique explores the city’s narrow streets and features the island’s history, architecture and local flora. You’ll stop at Fort St. Louis, the War Memorial and La Savanna. Pass the Schoelcher Library, named after the island’s most famous abolitionist who labored to free Martinique’s slaves. Imagine yourself in the colonial era at Maison Bougenot, a traditional home from that time. Pause and energize with some fresh local juice or mineral water before your last stop touring the St. Louis Cathedral, then you’ll be set loose on the main street for some retail therapy!

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Veendam is calling at Key West and Banana Coast in early February on a Seven-Day Western Caribbean cruise. If it’s the southern islands that captivate your interest, Oosterdam will visit Basseterre, Fort-De-France and Castries in the fall on a 21-Day Southern Caribbean Wayfarer/Seafarer cruise, then Maasdam will visit Basseterre, Fort-De-France and St. Croix in the spring on an 11-Day Southern Caribbean cruise.

If you’re interested in visiting these locations, remember that the shore excursions can be pre-booked so you’re sure to get the tour of your choice.

If you’re thinking about a cruise to the Caribbean, now is the time to book. Be sure to take advantage of savings up to $1,000 per stateroom with the Fall Finale promotion that highlights 2015 itineraries. At least 60 different sailings, including many Caribbean cruises, are eligible for this deal if booked by Sept. 10, 2015, with a $60 deposit.

If you want to cruise next year or beyond, the Explore 4 special also is in full swing. Benefits for guests booking any category stateroom include a free Signature Beverage Package valued at up to $1,400, a free Pinnacle Grill dinner for two, reduced cruise fares for third and fourth guests in the same stateroom and 50 percent reduced deposits. Bookings must be made by Oct. 31, 2015. There’s never been a better time to book one of the many Caribbean cruises included in this promo!

Which of these historical tours interest you the most? Have you been on any already? Let us know in the comments below!

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