Tag Archives: Caribbean

"Dancing with the Stars" celebrities and professional dancers take to Nieuw Amsterdam's stage.
"Dancing with the Stars" celebrities and professional dancers take to Nieuw Amsterdam's stage.

Exciting news! Holland America Line will continue the “Dancing with the Stars: At Sea” program in 2015/2016 due to its overwhelming popularity and success. For the third year, the collaboration brings the excitement of ABC’s hit show “Dancing with the Stars” to all of the premium ships in the Holland America Line fleet. The program will culminate with the annual Champions Cruise competition on ms Nieuw Amsterdam’s Jan. 10, 2016, western Caribbean voyage.

The 2015 schedule will continue to feature “Dancing with the Stars: At Sea” programming on all sailings in addition to six special “Dancing with the Stars” theme cruises highlighting the show’s professional dancers and celebrities. In 2013 and 2014 select theme cruises featured professional dancers Tristan MacManus, Kym Johnson, Sharna Burgess, Emma Slater, Lacey Schwimmer, Chelsie Hightower, Mark Ballas and Derek Hough, along with television personality Carson Kressley, singer Joey Fatone, actress Sabrina Bryan and Olympic gymnast Shawn Johnson.

“On every cruise throughout the year our ‘Dancing with the Stars: At Sea’ lessons are a huge draw and the competition to dance for the Champions Cruise is intense, which tells us we have a very successful and engaging program,” said Richard Meadows, Holland America Line’s executive vice president, sales, marketing and guest programs. “Dancing always has been a feature activity on our ships, and the partnership with ‘Dancing with the Stars’ has enabled us to provide guests with a very special and exclusive experience.”

"Dancing with the Stars" cast members have a great time on every theme cruise. In addition to performing, they also participate in a Q&A.

“Dancing with the Stars” cast members have a great time on every theme cruise. In addition to performing, they also participate in a Q&A session with guests.

Sail with Dance Pros and Celebrities from the ABC Show on Theme Cruises
The six “Dancing with the Stars: At Sea” theme cruises in 2015/16 are:

Jan. 3, 2015: Seven-day eastern Caribbean cruise aboard ms Westerdam that sails roundtrip from Fort Lauderdale, Fla.
Jan. 10, 2015: Seven-day eastern Caribbean cruise aboard ms Westerdam that sails roundtrip from Fort Lauderdale, Fla.
June 6, 2015: Seven-day Bermuda cruise aboard ms Veendam that sails roundtrip from Boston, Mass.
June 13, 2015: Seven-day Canada/New England cruise aboard ms Veendam that sails from Boston, Mass, to Montreal, Quebec, Canada.
Jan. 3, 2016: Seven-day eastern Caribbean cruise aboard ms Nieuw Amsterdam that sails roundtrip from Fort Lauderdale, Fla.
• Champions Cruise: Jan. 10, 2016: Seven-day western Caribbean cruise aboard ms Nieuw Amsterdam that sails roundtrip from Fort Lauderdale, Fla.

Each theme cruise features lively guest performances from the professional dancers and celebrities who dazzle the audience with routines from the television show and exciting new choreographed dances. Additional events on theme cruises include dance lessons with the ship’s professional dancers, a special fashion show featuring glamorous show costumes and a chance to meet the dance pros and celebrities, ask questions and take photos with them. Celebrities and professional dancers for 2015 will be announced in the coming weeks.

“Dancing with the Stars: At Sea” Dance Competition for Guests
Beginning with cruises that depart on or after Sept. 21, 2014, and continuing with sailings departing through Nov. 24, 2015, every sailing on all 15 ships in the Holland America Line fleet will feature exclusive “Dancing with the Stars: At Sea” programming. Included are complimentary dance lessons with the ship’s dance pros and a dance competition that gives guests an opportunity to compete for a chance to represent their ship on the Champions Cruise. The range of eligible dance competition cruises vary slightly by ship based on actual departure dates; specific eligibility schedules and complete rules for the “Dancing with the Stars: At Sea” dance competition are posted at www.hollandamerica.com.

Following preliminary rounds on each cruise finalists are paired with a Holland America Line dance professional to perform center stage in the ship’s main show lounge. A judging panel — ship officers, shipboard professional dancers and other cruise staff — will score participants’ performances and combine those scores with audience appreciation scores for a total tally to determine the winning guest. Judges onboard the theme cruises may also include some of the “Dancing with the Stars” dance pros or celebrities.

Allyse Ishino, the first Champion, accepts the Mirror Ball trophy following her win.

Allyse Ishino, the first Champion, accepts the Mirror Ball trophy following her win.

Winners of the guest competitions with the highest scores from each of Holland America Line’s ships will win a free ocean-view stateroom for two on the Champions Cruise to compete for the coveted Mirrorball Trophy and title of Holland America Line’s “Dancing with the Stars: At Sea” Champion. There will be one winner from each ship on the Champions Cruise sailing aboard Nieuw Amsterdam Jan. 10, 2016.

Two New Dance Pros Added to Holland America Line’s Remaining 2014 ‘Dancing with the Stars: At Sea’ Theme Cruises
Before the 2015 season kicks off, there’s still time to sail on a 2014 theme cruise with dance pros and celebrities from the show. In fact, Holland America Line has added the talents of professional dancers Sharna Burgess and Artem Chigvintsev to the remaining two 2014 “Dancing with the Stars: At Sea” theme cruises. Both currently performing on the ABC hit show “Dancing with the Stars,” Burgess and Chigvintsev will join ms Westerdam for the theme cruise departing Nov. 29 and the Champions Cruise that sets sail Dec. 6. Both cruises sail roundtrip from Fort Lauderdale, Fla., to the Caribbean.

Burgess and Chigvintsev will be joined onboard the “Dancing with the Stars: At Sea” cruises by dance professional and Mirrorball Trophy winner Kym Johnson, and celebrities Carson Kressley and Sabrina Bryan.

Artem Chigvintsev, left photo, and Sharna Burgess, far right, join the cast of "Dancing with the Stars: At Sea" pros.

Artem Chigvintsev, left photo, and Sharna Burgess, far right, join the cast of “Dancing with the Stars: At Sea” pros. Right photo courtesy of Jason Leppert, www.popularcruising.com.

About Burgess and Chigvintsev
Sharna Burgess has been a dance pro on “Dancing with the Stars” since 2011, performing this season with author and late-night television talk show host Tavis Smiley, and previously with Olympic gold medalist Charlie White, football-great-turned-ESPN personality Keyshawn Johnson and funnyman Andy Dick. She’s also toured with dance shows “Burn the Floor” and “Strictly Ballroom” as well as appeared on “Dancing with the Stars Australia” and “So You Think You Can Dance Holland.” Burgess was a choreographer on the film “Street Dance 2 – 3D.”

Dancing as a pro for first time on the current season of “Dancing with the Stars” with actress Lea Thompson, Artem Chigvintsev was a troupe member on the show last season and won the coveted Mirrorball Trophy during his first season on the U.K. version of the smash hit called “Strictly Come Dancing.” He also was a finalist on the FOX television show “So You Think You Can Dance.”

Will you be booking a “Dancing with the Stars: At Sea” theme cruise in 2015 or participating in the onboard dance competition? Tell us your plans below!

All photos courtesy of Holland America Line/RobComeau.com.

Guest Lin Yeazel snapped this beautiful photo of the Pitons on her Caribbean cruise, which is eligible for Explore4 savings.
Guest Lin Yeazel snapped this beautiful photo of the Pitons on her Caribbean cruise, which is eligible for Explore4 savings.

If you’re thinking about booking a 2015 or 2016 cruise and want to take advantage of the Explore4 savings, time is ticking and you have until Oct. 31, 2014, to make your reservation.

Select sailings are eligible for the “Explore4” benefits that include a free Signature Beverage Package and free Pinnacle Grill dinner for guests booking an ocean-view and higher category stateroom, free or reduced cruise fares for third and fourth guests in the same stateroom on select sailings and 50 percent reduced deposits. Suite bookings also receive a $300 onboard spending credit per stateroom ($150 per person) and a free Canaletto dinner in addition to the other four offers. Guests can receive all of the offers when booking a qualified itinerary.

Guests looking to take advantage of the “Explore4” program can choose select itineraries to nearly all of Holland America Line’s global destinations, including Alaska and Alaska/Yukon Land+Sea Journeys, Asia, Australia/New Zealand, Bermuda, Canada/New England, Caribbean, Europe, Mexico/Hawaii, Panama Canal and South America/Antarctica.

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Suite Travelers Receive an Added Perk
Guests who book a cruise in a suite category stateroom will receive all of the above offers, plus an additional $300 onboard spending credit per stateroom ($150 per person) and a free Canaletto dinner. Canaletto is the line’s alternative dining venue that showcases cuisine from regions throughout Italy and a new “small plate” menu designed around contemporary new serving styles with flavorful dishes designed for sharing.

Good Things Come in Fours for Holland America Line Cruisers
Guests who book an ocean-view or higher category stateroom receive a free Signature Beverage Package valued at $100 per stateroom ($50 per person) per day and includes wine, beer, spirits, cocktails, sodas and coffee. The beverage offer is only applicable on the cruise portion of Alaska Land+Sea Journeys.

“Explore4” offers also include a complimentary dinner at the award-winning Pinnacle Grill for guests who book an ocean-view or higher stateroom. The Pinnacle Grill features a tantalizing menu highlighting steak and seafood dishes like filet mignon and broiled Alaska king salmon, yet also includes favorites like roasted pumpkin risotto and grilled lamb chops.

With free or reduced cruise fare for third and fourth guests on select sailings, a family of four can take a vacation to Europe, a tropical sailing to the Caribbean or longer journey to an exotic destination. In the Caribbean, Alaska and Mexico, fares for seven-day cruises start from $799 for the first and second guests in an ocean-view stateroom, and the third and fourth guests sail free. A seven-day European cruise starts at $1,199 for an ocean-view stateroom for the first and second guests, and the third and fourth guests sail free.

By taking advantage of the 50 percent reduced deposit offer, guests will have more flexibility and time to pay the final deposit on their cruise.

Explore4 Cruise Itineraries
If your looking to take advantage of Explore4 savings but aren’t sure which cruise to book, here are a few options of eligible itineraries.

ALASKA:
While several Alaska itineraries are available for Explore4 savings, here is one cruise that is filled with scenic beauty, adventurous shore excursions and an opportunity to learn about the state’s culture and history.

7-DAY GLACIER DISCOVERY NORTHBOUND
Set sail on ms Oosterdam from Vancouver, British Columbia, to Seward, Alaska, for a seven-day journey that calls at Ketchikan, Juneau and Skagway. The cruise also features spectacular scenic cruising through the Inside Passage and Glacier Bay.

Guest Dale Wood combined his Alaska cruise with an overland tour and took a Double Denali Land+Sea Journey, which is eligible for Explore4 offers.

My wife and I booked a 14-day Double Denali tour, which we did in Sept 2014. We flew into Fairbanks and the adventure began. The next morning it was 37 degrees, which was pretty cold for us since we are from Las Vegas, Nevada. During the land portion we saw moose, caribou, grizzly bears, dall sheep, golden eagles. We even had one of the rare days where Mt. McKinley was in full view! In Anchorage along the Seward Highway we even saw beluga whales! The Alyeska Resort was marvelous and first rate. At the wildlife conservatory we even saw the end of the rainbow! Sorry folks, but when we left the pot was empty… — Dale Woods

CARIBBEAN:
Several Caribbean itineraries are eligible for the Explore4 savings. Here’s one exciting and tropical option for you to consider.

11-DAY SOUTHERN CARIBBEAN WAYFARER
Noordam sets sail for turquoise waters and balmy breezes on this 11-day voyage roundtrip from Fort Lauderdale. Along the way the ship calls at Philipsburg, St. Maarten; Castries and Soufriere, St. Lucia; Bridgetown, Barbados; Fort-de-France, Martinique; St. Johns, Antigua; St. Thomas, U.S.V.I.; and Half Moon Cay, Holland America Line’s private island in the Bahamas.

Always dragged our feet about taking a Caribbean cruise. But the 11-day Southern Caribbean Wayfarer turned out to be terrific. Amazed at how different each island is, how good the shore excursions were and how relaxing the ambiance was. Caught this photo of the Noordam in “full frontal” view coming from Anse La Raye, St. Lucia. And lucky we saw the rainbow over the Pitons. These islands are stunningly beautiful. — Guest Lin Yeazel

Lin got a great photo of SHIP during her cruise in the Caribbean.

Lin got a great photo of Noordam during her cruise in the Caribbean.

EUROPE & THE MEDITERRANEAN
From the North Cape to the Mediterranean, Explore4 offers dozens of cruises in Europe. Whether you want to cruise the fjords of Norway or bask on the beaches in Greece, there’s an itineraries for everyone. Here’s one example of an eligible Explore4 European voyage.

10-DAY MEDITERRANEAN ADVENTURE
Ryndam departs Rotterdam, the Netherlands, for Barcelona, Spain, on this 10-day adventure around Iberia. Guests will visit the memorable cities of Leixoes (Porto) and Lisbon, Portugal; Cadiz, Spain; Gibraltar, British Territory; Almeria and Cartagena, Spain; and Palma de Mallorca, Balearic Islands.

Guests Evelyn and David Stahl took a similar cruise on Ryndam from Dover to Barcelona and had a great time!

Loved the itinerary on Ryndam’s trip from Dover to Barcelona. The accommodations, service, staff and cuisine were outstanding. — Evelyn and David Stahl

Evelyn and David had a great time on their cruise and enjoyed beautiful weather and scenery.

Evelyn and David had a great time on their cruise and enjoyed beautiful weather and scenery.

HAWAII

The Hawaiian Islands are some of the most beautiful locales in the world. A cruise to Hawaii on Holland America Line combines these stunning ports with plenty of relaxing days at sea where guests can take advantage of the shipboard programming and amenities such as the Greenhouse Spa, Culinary Arts Center presented by Food & Wine, Digital Workshops presented by Windows, fitness center, “Dancing with the Stars: At Sea” programming, lectures and so much more!

17-DAY CIRCLE HAWAII

Photo by Inez.

Photo by Inez.

Zaandam visits the gorgeous Hawaiian Islands on a 17-day trip from Vancouver to San Diego, Calif. The ship enjoys several days at sea before reaching Hawaii where guests will have an overnight at Honolulu and then sail on to Nawiliwili, Lahaina, Kona and Hilo. More sea days are on the return route to San Diego where guests can relax and rejuvenate their mind, body and spirit. Guest Inez Siegers had a great time on this itinerary.

It was my first time ever to travel to the Hawaiian Islands by ship, on board the beautiful ms Zaandam. I wanted plenty of sea days, which I got. My experiences on board, while sailing and on shore exceeded my expectations. What was a step back in time for me was going for anchor at Lahaina! That too was a first for me. I couldn’t help but think how in the past all the sail ships arriving at the Hawaiian Islands had to go for anchor. I tried to catch this photo from the Front Street in Lahaina, how it might have looked some centuries ago – granted the ship would have to have been made of wood … — Inez Siegers

There are plenty of other destinations eligible for Explore4, like South America and Antarctica, Mexico, Bermuda and Canada/New England, making it the prefect time to book your next Holland America Line cruise. But don’t delay or you’ll miss the Oct. 31 deadline.

Have you already made your Explore4 booking? Tell us where you are going in the comments below!

From left: Half Moon Cay Property Manager Tony Black; Vice President, Caribbean Relations Matt Sams; Holland America Group CEO Stein Kruse and Resort Coordinator Carlos Forbes.
From left: Half Moon Cay Property Manager Tony Black; Vice President, Caribbean Relations Matt Sams; Holland America Group CEO Stein Kruse and Resort Coordinator Carlos Forbes.

Holland America Line’s top-rated port in the Caribbean is Half Moon Cay, the company’s own private island oasis. Nestled in the Bahamas, Half Moon Cay is known for its pristine beaches, diverse shore excursions, exclusive beach cabanas and kid-friendly activities.

Today ms Zuiderdam makes the first Holland America Line call of the season, and guests will be excited to see that some enhancements have been made to the island. During the off-season, Holland America Line was busy at work giving the area a little face-lift, adding new amenities and making it more welcoming, pristine and relaxing than ever before.

Zuiderdam, anchored in the stunning turquoise waters off Half Moon Cay, kicks off the season today.

Zuiderdam, anchored in the stunning turquoise waters off Half Moon Cay, kicks off the season today.

Matt Sams, Holland America Line’s vice president Caribbean relations, says that guests have a lot to look forward to when they visit this season:

Q: What’s new for guests at Half Moon Cay this season?

Matt: We have added a tram tour and a new snorkel tour. Additional capacity has been added to the three island tenders. This has resulted in smoother and faster tender operations.

What else has been done to Half Moon Cay? At the Welcome Center, the garden was replanted, 40 new conch shells were added to the fountain and a music system was added so guests can enjoy the rhythm and sounds of the Caribbean as they arrive at the island.

The beach cabanas and beach villas were also part of the upgrades. Both received new “welcome” signature to the outside facade, and the two-story villas will feature new refrigerators and seat cushions. The cushions in the 15 beach cabanas were freshened as well. Guests can book their day in a private cabana or villa through the shore excursion area.

This was our second time stopping at Half Moon Cay with HAL as well as our second time booking a cabana. The cabana is a great home base, great snacks and snorkel and water toys. — Guest MarkFD

The cabanas, left, come in a rainbow hue of colors, and the two-story villas are an oasis on the beach.

The cabanas, left, come in a rainbow hue of colors, and the two-story villas are an oasis on the beach.

Loved the beach villa!!!! I have been known to frequent the cabanas, but … I will choose the beach villas from now on. My family had the best time. If you have more than three people … this is the way to go. — Guest Racergirl24

Sams was asked about the cabanas and villas, and here’s what he had to say:

Q: What are the perks of reserving a cabana for the day?

Matt: They are in a prime, beach-front location. They are air conditioned and have a shaded area, sun deck, misting station and refrigerator. Guests also get complimentary snorkeling equipment, floating mats, and reserved lounge and dining chairs. Optional butler packages for food and beverage service is available.

Q: The cabanas and beach villas are a special experience – what might guests not realize is included?

Matt: The beach villas and the Grand Cabana all have a private restroom and changing facilities. They also have indoor and outdoor showers, wet bars, refrigerators, dining tables, hot tubes, large outdoor sun decks, lots of shaded air conditioned areas, great ocean front views and island décor that enhances the mood of being in the Caribbean.

The refurbishments go beyond the cabanas and villas. Guests will notice new furniture at the Mermaid Bar, Captain Morgan on the Rocks Bar and the “I Wish I Could Stay Here Forever” bar.

Guests can relax on new furniture and enjoy a cocktail at the bars on Half Moon Cay.

Guests can relax on new furniture and enjoy a cocktail at the bars on Half Moon Cay.

While waiting for a tender, guests will be shaded by a new tent, and guests waiting for a tram can rest in comfort in a new tram station waiting area. Bathrooms located in the Welcome Center, Dune Path and Food Pavilion also were refurbished.

Sun-worshippers will appreciate new chaise lounges, more clam shells and 75 new floating mats.

All of the roads were repaved, making for a smoother ride, and bicycle stands were installed at all designated bicycle roadside shore excursion stops. Guests on the Eco-Bike & Hike tour will notice the new stands.

For the ocean-going tours and rentals, guests can enjoy the new paddleboards, that were featured in a recent blog post, as well as new water bikes, new kayaks and new Sea Doo jet skis.

New water-going equipment was added to Half Moon Cay, including the stand-up paddleboards and water bikes.

New water-going equipment was added to Half Moon Cay, including the stand-up paddleboards and water bikes.

Stingray Park is a main attraction at Half Moon Cay, and on the Stingray Adventure shore excursion guests can swim and interact with these wonderful creatures.

Feeding the stingrays was an absolutely wonderful experience! I was a little hesitant at first because I’m not fond of the water so I was happy to see that there was a deck for me to stand on to watch everyone else if I didn’t go in the water. Happily, I did go in because the water was shallow enough for me to stand up in (I’m very short) and it wasn’t icy cold even though it was early April. You don’t need to snorkel because the water is so clear you can just look down and see everything perfectly. We got to pet the rays as well as feed them. One of them took a liking to me and she kept rubbing against me just like a cat. The young man guiding us explained so much and answered all our questions. He truly loves his water babies! — Guest LizCruise

Stingray

Guests visiting the stingray area or taking a tour will notice that there is fresh paint, new carpet and landscaping. Additional marine life also has been procured, the sand was replenished and a new walking trail on the ridge from Stingray Park to Water Sports Rental Center #3 was added.

Sams was asked a few more question to get an insider’s perspective on Half Moon Cay, and his answers were fun and informative:

Q: Why do you think Half Moon Cay consistently gets rated the #1 Caribbean port by Holland America Line guests?

Matt: It is what guests have pictured in their mind the Caribbean should look like. The experience ashore matches their high expectations as well. And, we have the best staff in the industry.

Q: What’s your favorite thing to do on Half Moon Cay?

Matt: Walk on the beach at the water’s edge.

Q: Swimming with the stingrays, glass-bottom boat or riding a horse through the surf?

Matt: For me, horses for sure!

The horseback riding tour is a highlight for Sams.

The horseback riding tour is a highlight for Sams.

Q: What’s the most fun thing to do at Half Moon Lagoon?

Matt: View the reef ball trail that is in shallow water and is perfect for the novice swimmer or snorkeler.

And finally…

Q: If you could stay on Half Moon Cay for a week, what three things would you need with you?

Matt: A fishing pole, matches and a good book.

Have you visited Half Moon Cay? What’s your favorite thing to do there, and what refurbishments are you most looking forward to seeing? Tell us below!

If you’re taking a Caribbean cruise that visits Half Moon Cay, the shore excursions, including beach cabanas and villas, can be pre-booked so you get the tour and retreat of your choice.

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Holland America Line is planning special promotions for CLIA Cruise Week which starts today, Oct. 6, and runs through Monday, Oct. 13. Organized by Cruise Lines International Association, the weeklong event features promotions and online opportunities to give consumers a perfect opportunity to book a cruise vacation while taking advantage of special savings.

Throughout the week, Holland America Line will be featuring the exclusive Explore4 promotion on select 2015 and 2016 sailings that provides four added-value extras — a free Signature Beverage Package and free Pinnacle Grill dinner for guests booking an ocean-view and higher category stateroom, free or reduced cruise fares for third and fourth guests in the same stateroom and 50 percent reduced deposits. Suite bookings also receive a $300 onboard spending credit per stateroom ($150 per person) and a free Canaletto dinner in addition to the other four offers.

Explore4

“Each year CLIA Cruise Week highlights cruising as a vacation choice, and we are celebrating by offering special promotions to entice travelers to book their dream vacation,” said Richard Meadows, executive vice president, marketing, sales and guest programs for Holland America Line. “By combining the Explore4 offer and an onboard spending credit, guests can get an exceptional rate this week on a Holland America Line cruise.”

Guests looking to take advantage of the Explore4 program can choose select itineraries to nearly all of Holland America Line’s global destinations, including Alaska and Alaska/Yukon Land+Sea Journeys, Asia, Australia/New Zealand, Bermuda, Canada/New England, Caribbean, Europe, Mexico/Hawaii, Panama Canal and South America.

Travelers making a booking on select 2014 through 2016 cruises during the week also receive a special CLIA Cruise Week onboard spending credit, depending on the length of the cruise and type of cabin booked. Guests can receive up to a $400 per stateroom ($200 per person) onboard spending credit in addition to all four Explore4 offers, when applicable. For example, guests who book a suite on 10- to 14-day cruises receive a $300 per stateroom ($150 per person) onboard spending credit.

With the onboard credit, guests can use it toward a variety of options. From a pampering massage in the spa to an exciting shore excursion ashore, from dinner in the Pinnacle Grill to a souvenir at the gift shop, the credit can be put toward several of the amenities found onboard.

The Explore4 Onboard Credit can be used toward a variety of options like the spa, gift shop, tours and drinks.

The Explore4 Onboard Credit can be used toward a variety of options like the spa, gift shop, tours and drinks.

Eligible Explore4 Cruises
If you’re looking to explore Alaska, perhaps the seven-day roundtrip Vancouver, British Canada, cruise in 2015 is the one for you. Along the way, enjoy scenic cruising in the Inside Passage and Glacier Bay, as well as calls at Tracy Arm, Juneau, Skagway and Ketchikan.

If Australia and New Zealand are on your bucket list, the 28-day Pacific Treasures and New Zealand Collectors’ Voyage that sails roundtrip Sydney, Australia, would be the perfect cruise to see the whole region. Departing in January 2016, Noordam heads to the South Pacific islands of New Caledonia, , and Fiji before making eight calls in New Zealand. Guests will enjoy an overnight at Auckland and scenic cruising through Milford Sound and Fiordland National Park.

Explore Sydney, Fiji and Auckland on the 28-day Pacific Treasures Collectors' Voyage.

Explore Sydney, Fiji and Auckland on the 28-day Pacific Treasures Collectors’ Voyage.

Tropical breezes and golden beaches await on a seven-day eastern Caribbean cruise aboard Nieuw Amsterdam. Sailing roundtrip from Fort Lauderdale, Fla., the ship calls at Grand Turk, Turks & Caicos; San Juan, Puerto Rico; St. Thomas, U.S.V.I.; and Half Moon Cay, the line’s private island in the Bahamas.

The Baltic beckons on the seven-day Vikings Saga Explore4 sailing aboard Rotterdam. Sailing roundtrip from Rotterdam, the Netherlands, the ship explores the majestic fjord and magical landscapes in Norway, and makes calls at Flam, Ulvik, Stavanger, Kristiansand, with scenic cruising in Sognjefjord.

For the ultimate South America exploration, the 38-day South America & Inca Discovery voyage begins at Buenos Aires, Argentina, and makes way up to Vancouver. Zaandam calls at ports in Uruguay, the Falkland Islands, Chile, Peru, Ecuador, Costa Rica, Mexico and California before ending in Canada. Guest enjoy scenic cruising in the Beagle Channel, Exploring Glacier Alley, rounding Cape Horn, and overnights at Buenos Aires; Callao, Peru; and Puerto Vallarta, Mexico.

The South America adventure explores several ports, including Buenos Aires and Callo, the gateway to Machu Picchu.

The South America adventure explores several ports, including Buenos Aires and Callo, the gateway to Machu Picchu.

Other destinations are included in the Explore4 promotion, so be sure to check out the itineraries to Mexico and Hawaii, the Panama Canal, Mediterranean, Bermuda, South America and Canada and New England.

Will you be booking your next Holland America Line cruise during National Cruise Vacation Week? Tell us which itineraries you’re choosing below!

The paddleboard tour in Key West explores the beautiful mangroves. Photo courtesy of Lazy Dog tour operator.
The paddleboard tour in Key West explores the beautiful mangroves. Photo courtesy of Lazy Dog tour operator.

Have you ever wanted to walk on water? Holland America Line can’t quite make that dream come true, but with a stand-up paddleboard “SUP” shore excursion you can get pretty close! Though paddleboarding, in one form or another, has been around since the late 1700s, it’s recently gained popularity among athletes, hobbyists and those who are just looking to explore their surroundings in a uniquely special way. You can try stand-up paddleboarding on your next Holland America Line Caribbean cruise that calls at Key West, Fla.; Grand Turk, Turks & Caicos; and Half Moon Cay.

Key West
In Key West, the Paddleboard Adventure tour takes guests to the other side of the island along the beautiful Atlantic, with the sightseeing along the way. At the marina the guide will give a full SUP lesson before leaving the dock, and paddlers of all levels will enjoy this tour.

The stand-up paddleboard tour in Key West explores the area's stunning landscapes. Photos courtesy of Lazy Dog tour operators.

The stand-up paddleboard tour in Key West explores the area’s stunning landscapes. Photos courtesy of Lazy Dog tour operator.

Sue Cooper, owner of tour operator Lazy Dog, says guests will pick up the technique faster than they may expect.

“I think people are starting to realize that paddleboarding is much easier than they think. Anyone can do it as long as your instructors provide you the right equipment for your body and skill level. We have all shapes and sizes of boards and we make sure our customers are matched properly with the board for their skill level.” — Sue Cooper

Once you’re ready, you’ll hop on your SUP and paddle through the calm, protected waters of the Florida Keys, which make it an ideal location for trying out this fun activity. When participants look down while out exploring, they will be able to see the grassy beds of this beautiful mangrove habitat. There will be chances to stop and rest along the way as the guide points out wildlife and talks about the ecosystem. Watch for colorful fish, rays, conchs, sponges and the occasional manatee or dolphin.

“The water around the Keys is flat, calm and clear, which provides a great playground for paddle boarding whether your a beginner or experienced paddler.” — Sue Cooper

Grand Turk
The waters of Grand Turk are some of the clearest and bluest in the world, making the ideal setting for the Stand-Up Paddleboarding, Snorkel & Beach tour. In fact, the stand-up paddleboards might be the best way to enjoy the turquoise waters and coastline of Grand Turk, mixing fun, fitness and relaxation.

The azure waters of Grand Turk are ideal for paddleboarding.

The azure waters of Grand Turk are ideal for paddleboarding.

Participants of all levels begin at a beautiful white-sand beach on the Grand Turk coast. Here, the guides will provide safety and snorkel gear. Guests also receive instructions on how to control the board. During the excursion guests learn about proper stand-up paddleboard stance and paddle usage, and how to maneuver the board. Once technique is perfected, guests will paddle and glide along the coast for a unique point of view of the spectacular scenery of Grand Turk. Guides will talk about the nature along the way and give you the rich history of the island’s coastal buildings. During the trip participants will also have a beach break that allows for the opportunity to snorkel and spot the beautiful wildlife that calls this island home.

Half Moon Cay
With the rise in popularity of stand-up paddleboarding, Holland America Line has brought the activity to Half Moon Cay, the line’s private island oasis in the Bahamas. In anticipation of the upcoming Caribbean season, new SUP are ready for guests to rent on the beach.

In addition to paddleboards, Half Moon Cay has a variety of rentals available.

In addition to paddleboards, Half Moon Cay has a variety of rentals available.

The new stand-up paddleboards are ready for cruise guests when they call at Half Moon Cay.

The new stand-up paddleboards are ready for cruise guests when they call at Half Moon Cay.

For guests who want to take advantage of the beautiful beaches and try out another watersport activity, there are plenty of rentals available on Half Moon Cay beyond paddleboards. Guests can rent kayaks, snorkel gear and aqua bikes with huge wheels to ride on water. Guest even can rent a helmet camera to record a bike adventure!

If you’re taking a Caribbean cruise that visits these ports, the shore excursions can be pre-booked so you get the tour of your choice.

Are you looking forward to trying paddleboarding? Tell us what you think about the new tours below!

The ruins at Chichen-Itza are among the most impressive Mayan sites.
The ruins at Chichen-Itza are among the most impressive Mayan sites.

When it comes to ancient ruins, there’s more to explore than just Europe and South America. Mexico boasts some of the most incredible and significant ruins in the world. The Mayan civilization spanned more than 2500 years, and hundreds of ruins in Mexico have been documented. In fact, there are so many sites that it’s believed that more than 4,000 undocumented sites exist.

On western Caribbean cruises that call at Cozumel and Costa Maya, Mexico, guests have the opportunity to take a shore excursion that steps back in time and walks the footsteps of those who lived in the Mayan era. If you’re taking a western Caribbean cruise that visits Mexico, the shore excursions can be pre-booked so you get the tour of your choice.

Some of the most famous ruins can be visited from Cozumel. Probably the most well-known, guests can explore one of the new Seven Wonders of the World — the Mayan ruins of Chichen-Itza. Chichen-Itza is one of the most important and exciting archeological sites on the American continent — the home of one of the great Mayan empires — and it was declared a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1988. These awe-inspiring monuments were left as a reminder of the incredible Mayan culture. The guide will escort guests through this legendary city, which extends over six square miles and contains hundreds of structures throughout the area. You will visit the Pyramid of Kulkulcan, the largest and best preserved Mayan ball court, the mystical Cenote where human sacrifices were performed, the Temple of the Warriors and the Observatory, where Mayan priests accurately calculated celestial events from over a million year span. This is the premier site for Mayan culture and certainly is a once-in-a-lifetime experience.

Admittedly this is very long excursion but it is well worth it. Everything was very well organized overall and I would highly recommend this trip … Once we arrived we were each given a bottle of ice water as well as a choice of which guide to go with. We went with Carlos for a slower paced tour of the site. He was superb and I feel I learned so much more from him than we did on our first trip there. After he was finished we were left to wander about Chicen Itza for an hour. This site is very large and you may not have time to see it all but you can always take another cruise to see what you have missed! — Guest Nancy1006

Chichen-Itza is a must-see for guests looking to explore Mayan ruins.

Chichen-Itza is a must-see for guests looking to explore Mayan ruins.

From Cozumel, guests also can visit the Coba Mayan Ruins. Coba is one of the Yucatan Peninsula’s most picturesque and popular archeological ruins. The site is around 30 square miles in size and is swathed in jungle. A tender ride to Playa del Carmen is followed by a motor coach ride to the ruins. The guide will share the secrets of this mystical place and you’ll explore newly restored structures that have only recently been opened to the public. Make your way on foot along a pathway flanked by jungle to the first excavated ruins, which consist of a large pyramid, Grupo Coba and a ball court. See the second-tallest temple in the Mayan world, Nohoc Mul, which is around 136 feet tall with 120 steps to the top. Stop along the way to admire La Iglesia — the small but lovely ruin of church that resembles a beehive.

Coba is one of the Yucatan Peninsula’s most picturesque and popular archeological ruins.

Coba is one of the Yucatan Peninsula’s most picturesque and archeological ruins.

The city of Tulum is a popular site to visit from Cozumel. The walled city of Tulum is the only Mayan city built right on the coast, overlooking the Caribbean Sea. The adventure begins with a 45-minute ferry transfer to Playa del Carmen. The guide will lead you on a scenic and informative one-hour drive to Tulum. Once there, your guide will escort you through the ruins, offering a complete narration along the way. See more than 60 restored temples and some of the mysterious hieroglyphic writings still visible today. Visit the Temple of the Frescos, famous for the detailed carved figures and original paints. And perched on the edge of the Caribbean and rising high above all of the other ruins is El Castillo, with its breathtaking view of the aqua-colored water below.

Well run tour, professional driver and tour guide. Chance to view/buy local artifacts is possible. Tulum is a post card perfect site for pictures of Mayan ruins, the Caribbean surf & beach, and a good historical review of Mayan culture and the Tulum site. — Guest FlyOverCountry

Tulum is the only Mayan city built right on the coast.

Tulum is the only Mayan city built right on the coast.

For a shore excursion that combines history, nature discovery and beachside relaxation, the San Gervasio Archaeological Site & Beach tour is ideal. Head into Cozumel’s jungle interior where you’ll explore the site of an ancient Mayan settlement. Immerse yourself in the mystical feeling that pervades the San Gervasio archaeological site as you walk limestone roads through the vestiges of Mayan construction with native trees and plants all around you. Keep your eyes open for butterflies, birds, iguanas, and other local residents. Once the island’s center of culture and religion, this is the only protected Mayan site on Cozumel and the natural setting offers a real sense of the Mayan life. Your guide will share fascinating stories about the incredible civilization that thrived here 1200 years ago, when Cozumel was a trade stop and center of worship for the goddess of fertility. Next, travel to a beautiful beach club where you’ll have free time to relax on the white-sand beach, swim in the sea, and enjoy the tropical surroundings.

The tour at San Gervasio combines sunshine and history.

The tour at San Gervasio combines sunshine and history.

We did this tour on our recent Nieuw Amsterdam cruise. We really enjoyed it. The tour is very well organized and our tour guide, Mimi, did an extraordinary job explaining the background and details of the Mayan ruins. After the stop at the ruins, the goes to a nice little beach with a restaurant – where you can get a full meal or you can simply relax and have a cold Mexican beer. — Guest Richard1s

The ruins of Chacchoben.

The ruins of Chacchoben.

At Costa Maya, the Chacchoben Mayan Ruins tour visits Chacchoben — the Place of Red Corn. In the company of experts in Mayan history, guests explore the ancient ruins and learn about the temples and other structures only recently partly uncovered in the rain forest. Guests have time to climb the Gran Basamento taking them above tree level. Here archaeologists found ceremonial offerings dating to around 1000 BC. The guide will explain about the wildlife and medicinal plants that are used by the modern-day descendants of the ancient Mayan people.

Our guide Daniel (a full-blooded Mayan; he proudly told us so) was superb. Unlike some guides, he gave interesting information on the way back to port — not just going to and on the tour. We viewed numerous fascinating ruins and gained an understanding of the marvelously accurate Mayan calendar — more accurate than the one we use routinely! — Guest ew2103

Guests at Costa Maya also can visit the Kohunlich Mayan Ruins. Situated in a secluded jungle setting near the border of Belize, guests view detailed Mayan temples combined with the lush green manicured gardens. See the Temple of the Large Masks, the Plaza of the Acropolis, the Plaza of the Estelas, Plaza Hundida and Plaza Merwin. Kohunlich may have been one of the most important sites in the lower Peten region. In today’s world, Kohunlich’s broad range of architecture, natural beauty and expansive, uncrowded seclusion sets it apart from the more widely visited sites.

This day-long excursion to a Mayan archeological site was enhanced by our wonderful tour guide Manuel. We were pleasantly surprised to learn that he was a retired history teacher with a wealth of knowledge on Meso American history. As we strolled along the site his colorful detail made the tour come alive for us. We returned by bus to a wonderful local restaurant where the entire group enjoyed fajitas and cool beverages on an inland lake. A very beautiful setting indeed. We would highly recommend this excursion to any interested in ancient Mayan culture. — Guest ddhodnik

The Kohunlich ruins are nestled in the jungle.

The Kohunlich ruins are nestled in the jungle.

To write a review on a shore excursion, visit the shore excursion page on the Holland America Line website and click on the “review” tab. To read more reviews, visit the individual tours to see what your fellow travelers think about the experience.

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Have you visited the Mayan ruins. Tell us about it below or send your photos to info@hollandamericablog.com and you might be featured on social media.

The Caribbean boasts some of the finest snorkeling opportunities in the world.
The Caribbean boasts some of the finest snorkeling opportunities in the world.

It’s all about sun, sand and surf as Holland America Line gets ready to sail into the 2014-15 Caribbean season this fall and winter. After spending time in Alaska and Europe, nine ships in the fleet are preparing to make their repositioning cruises to the turquoise waters of the tropical Caribbean where powdery beaches, balmy breezes and the award-winning private island of Half Moon Cay await.

From October 2014 through April 2015, ms Eurodam, ms Maasdam, ms Nieuw Amsterdam, ms Noordam, ms Ryndam, ms Westerdam and ms Zuiderdam sail regular Caribbean voyages, while ms Amsterdam and ms Prinsendam each sail one December holiday cruise in the region. The ships feature more than 10 different seven-, 10-, 11- and 14-day itineraries that can be combined into longer Collectors’ Voyages ranging from 14 to 25 days.

On all cruises sailing roundtrip from Fort Lauderdale, guests will get to visit Half Moon Cay, the line’s private Bahamian island. While Holland America Line is committed to keeping 96 percent of its pristine private island wild, Half Moon Cay offers everything you need for a day of play. Park yourself in an air-conditioned cabana along a two-mile crescent of gorgeous white beach. Visit Stingray Cove to feed and learn more about the gentle creatures. Ride a horse to a deserted beach and into the surf. Or, take the kids to Half Moon Lagoon, the island’s aqua park and children’s playground.

All roundtrip Fort Lauderdale itineraries include a call at Half Moon Cay (top), the line's private island. Other calls may include St. Thomas, bottom right, and Grand Cayman.

All roundtrip Fort Lauderdale itineraries include a call at Half Moon Cay (top), the line’s private island. Other calls may include St. Thomas, bottom right, and Grand Cayman.

Roundtrip Fort Lauderdale Itineraries
During the season, Eurodam, Nieuw Amsterdam, Noordam, Westerdam and Zuiderdam will sail a series of seven-day eastern and western Caribbean itineraries that can be combined to form a 14-day Collectors’ Voyage spanning both regions. Maasdam sails seven- and 10-day eastern routes, as well as longer 11- and 14-day southern itineraries. Noordam also features 10- and 11-day southern Caribbean cruises ideal for guests looking for a longer vacation.

Are you ready to sink your toes into the warm golden sand?

Are you ready to sink your toes into the warm golden sand?

In addition to the 14-day Collectors’ Voyages, the itineraries can be combined to form a diverse range of options, including an 18-day southern and western cruise on Noordam, a 21-day southern and eastern option on Maasdam and a 25-day nonrepeating double-southern route on Maasdam.

New for 2015, Noordam, Eurodam and Ryndam have added more dates to their already-robust schedules, giving guests expanded options to choose from.

Grand Turk is known to have some of the clearest waters in the world.

Grand Turk is known to have some of the clearest waters in the world.

Roundtrip Tampa Itineraries
Ryndam spends the Caribbean season cruising roundtrip from Tampa on seven-day western and 14-day southern itineraries. The two options can be combined to form a 21-day western/southern Caribbean Collectors’ Voyage. The ship makes a maiden call at Banana Coast, Honduras, and also visits Puerto Rico, Antigua, St. Lucia, Aruba, Curaçao, Guatemala, Mexico, the U.S. Virgin Islands and Key West, Fla.

Tampa itineraries visit ports in (from left) Aruba, Guatemala and Curacao.

Tampa itineraries visit ports in (from left) Aruba, Guatemala and Curacao.

Celebrate the Season with a Festive Holiday Cruise
For travelers who like to get away from the hustle, stress and chill of December, the holiday season is a special time onboard. A total of 15 holiday sailings will ply the warm waters of the Caribbean on itineraries ranging from seven to 25 days. Several non-repeating itineraries can be combined to form a grand Holiday Collectors’ Voyage.

Guests looking to explore the Caribbean on Prinsendam and Amsterdam during the holidays can embark on their only Caribbean sailings of the season. Prinsendam leaves Dec. 18 on a roundtrip Fort Lauderdale cruise to the southern Caribbean. The 16-day itinerary includes 10 ports and stretches from Half Moon Cay to Tobago. Departing Dec. 22, Amsterdam sails a roundtrip Fort Lauderdale cruise on a 14-day southern Caribbean cruise.

During the holiday cruises, guests can take part in a Christmas tree lighting ceremony, enjoy traditional holiday meals with all of the trimmings and indulge in a special Royal Dutch High Tea with fanciful holiday cookies and pastries. The ships’ international crew chorus performs a magical holiday show, while caroling and sing-alongs take place around the ship. Kids will delight in a visit from Santa Clause and holiday-themed crafts.

holiday

The New Year’s Eve sailings are the ideal setting to ring in a new year, featuring a festive holiday ball with a champagne toast. Prior to the ball, book a special evening at the Pinnacle Grill to celebrate all of the good things to come over a meal of caviar and filet mignon. You can pre-book your Pinnacle Grill dinner by clicking HERE.

So whether you’re looking to get away for the holidays, or just get away, the laid-back vibe, warm weather and beautiful beaches of the Caribbean are the ideal escape this winter.

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Have you taken a Caribbean cruise? What did you like best about the destination? Tell us in the comments below!

Explore 4 is nearly over! Book now to enjoy four exceptional offers on select cruises.
Explore 4 is nearly over! Book now to enjoy four exceptional offers on select cruises.

Holland America Line knows the trend for savvy travelers is to book vacations well in advance. To encourage early cruise bookings the line is returning with its popular “Explore4” savings program that is better than before with four exceptional offers on select 2015 and 2016 sailings.
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