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Holland America Line Wins Four 2015 Cruise Critic Cruisers’ Choice Awards

Seattle, Wash., Feb. 26, 2015 — Holland America Line won top honors in four categories in the 2015 Cruise Critic Cruisers’ Choice Awards. The premium cruise line took first place in Best Dining (large-ship category) for ms Nieuw Amsterdam, Best Value-for-Money (mid-sized category) for ms Zuiderdam, and Best Caribbean Cruises and Best Cruises from Florida for Nieuw Amsterdam in the general categories not based on ship size.

“The readers of Cruise Critic are savvy travelers who candidly share their cruise experiences, and to receive these awards based on their reviews is an honor,” said Orlando Ashford, president of Holland America Line. “Our mission is to provide exceptional cruise vacations, and when Cruise Critic members rank us among the best we know we’re succeeding in creating memorable experiences for our guests.”

The Cruise Critic Cruisers’ Choice Awards name the best cruise ships of the year and are based entirely on consumer reviews of cruises taken in 2014 that were posted to the Cruise Critic website. The awards are broken into three ship classes based on passenger capacity (large with 2,000-plus passengers, mid-size with 1,200 to 1,999 passengers, and small with 1,199 or fewer passengers) and they are calculated using the ratings submitted in each Cruise Critic member review.

“Being named to this list of winners is one of the highest forms of praise cruise lines can receive,” said Carolyn Spencer Brown, editor-in-chief of Cruise Critic. “The awards represent the compilation of thousands of reviews Cruise Critic received over the past year, so it’s truly representative of the experiences of those who have sailed on the ships firsthand.”

Best Dining (large-ship category) for ms Nieuw Amsterdam
Dining options are innovative and diverse aboard Holland America Line’s fleet, with each venue highlighted by elegant décor for a one-of-a-kind culinary event. Guests aboard Nieuw Amsterdam can enjoy the sophistication of the main dining room or casual dining at the Lido Restaurant, Dive-In at the Terrace Grill and Slice pizzeria. Alternative restaurants include the award-winning Pinnacle Grill serving favorites from the Pacific Northwest, Canaletto with Italian fare and a recently introduced “small plate” sharing concept and the Asian-inspired Tamarind. All menus are developed by Holland America Line’s award-winning Master Chef Rudi Sodamin, working closely with the line’s team of highly regarded international chefs.

Best Value-for-Money (mid-sized category) for ms Zuiderdam
Carrying 1,916 guests, Zuiderdam is consistently ranked among Holland America Line’s most popular ships. Offering a timeless and refined setting with a cruise experience that is modern, fresh and full of adventure, the ship highlights the line’s signature style of service and exciting itineraries. And from B.B. King’s Blues Club to Dancing with the Stars: At Sea, all of the latest entertainment offerings are showcased onboard.

Best Caribbean Cruises and Best Cruises from Florida for Nieuw Amsterdam
Sailing seven-day eastern and western Caribbean cruises roundtrip from Fort Lauderdale, Fla., Nieuw Amsterdam took top honors in both categories for its unique itineraries that sail conveniently from South Florida. Ports of call include various combinations of Key West, Fla.; Cozumel and Costa Maya, Mexico; Grand Cayman; Grand Turk, Turks and Caicos; San Juan, Puerto Rico; St. Thomas; and Half Moon Cay, the line’s award-winning private island in the Bahamas. Back-to-back seven-day itineraries can be combined to form an extensive 14-day Caribbean Collectors’ Voyage.

Cruise Critic is the world’s leading cruise review website and online cruise community, with more than 100,000 cruise reviews covering approximately 500 cruise ships.

For more information about Holland America Line, contact a travel professional or call 1-877-SAIL-HAL (1-877-724-5425) or visit www.hollandamerica.com.

Editor’s note: Photos are available at http://www2.cleanpix.com/cleanpix/portal/WMAa-b7h-KeM.

- www.hollandamerica.com -

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The small plate experience at Canaletto contributed to the line's win for Best Dining.
The small plate experience at Canaletto contributed to the line's win for Best Dining.

It was just announced that Holland America Line won top honors in four categories in the 2015 Cruise Critic Cruisers’ Choice Awards. The line took first place in Best Dining (large-ship category) for ms Nieuw Amsterdam, Best Value-for-Money (mid-sized category) for ms Zuiderdam, and Best Caribbean Cruises and Best Cruises from Florida for Nieuw Amsterdam in the general categories not based on ship size.

“The readers of Cruise Critic are savvy travelers who candidly share their cruise experiences, and to receive these awards based on their reviews is an honor,” said Orlando Ashford, president of Holland America Line. “Our mission is to provide exceptional cruise vacations, and when Cruise Critic members rank us among the best we’re know we’re succeeding in creating memorable experiences for our guests.”

The Cruise Critic Cruisers’ Choice Awards name the best cruise ships of the year and are based entirely on consumer reviews of cruises taken in 2014 that were posted to the Cruise Critic website. The awards are broken into three ship classes based on passenger capacity (large with 2,000-plus passengers, mid-size with 1,200 to 1,999 passengers, and small with 1,199 or fewer passengers) and they are calculated using the ratings submitted in each Cruise Critic member review.

“Being named to this list of winners is one of the highest forms of praise cruise lines can receive,” said Carolyn Spencer Brown, editor-in-chief of Cruise Critic. “The awards represent the compilation of thousands of reviews Cruise Critic received over the past year, so it’s truly representative of the experiences of those who have sailed on the ships firsthand.”

Best Dining (large-ship category) for ms Nieuw Amsterdam

All of the fine dining options on Nieuw Amsterdam contributed to the win for Best Dining, including (clockwise from top) Canaletto, Le Cirque in the Pinnacle grill and the main dining room.

All of the fine dining options on Nieuw Amsterdam contributed to the win for Best Dining, including (clockwise from top) Canaletto, Le Cirque in the Pinnacle Grill and the main dining room.

Dining options are innovative and diverse aboard Holland America Line’s fleet, with each venue highlighted by elegant décor for a one-of-a-kind culinary event. Guests aboard Nieuw Amsterdam can enjoy the sophistication of the main dining room or casual dining at the Lido Restaurant, Dive-In at the Terrace Grill and Slice pizzeria. Alternative restaurants include the award-winning Pinnacle Grill serving favorites from the Pacific Northwest, Canaletto with Italian fare and a recently introduced “small plate” sharing concept and the Asian-inspired Tamarind. All menus are developed by Holland America Line’s award-winning Master Chef Rudi Sodamin, working closely with the line’s team of highly regarded international chefs.

Best Value-for-Money (mid-sized category) for ms Zuiderdam

Zuiderdam was named Best Value for Money.

Zuiderdam was named Best Value for Money.

Carrying 1,916 guests, Zuiderdam is consistently ranked among Holland America Line’s most popular ships. Offering a timeless and refined setting with a cruise experience that is modern, fresh and full of adventure, the ship highlights the line’s signature style of service and exciting itineraries. And from B.B. King’s Blues Club to Dancing with the Stars: At Sea, all of the latest entertainment offerings are showcased onboard.

Best Caribbean Cruises and Best Cruises from Florida for Nieuw Amsterdam

Half Moon Cay is one of the many beautiful calls on Nieuw Amsterdam's Caribbean cruises.

Half Moon Cay is one of the many beautiful calls on Nieuw Amsterdam’s Caribbean cruises.

Sailing seven-day eastern and western Caribbean cruises roundtrip from Fort Lauderdale, Fla., Nieuw Amsterdam took top honors in both categories for its unique itineraries that sail conveniently from South Florida. Ports of call include various combinations of Key West, Fla.; Cozumel and Costa Maya, Mexico; Grand Cayman; Grand Turk, Turks and Caicos; San Juan, Puerto Rico; St. Thomas; and Half Moon Cay, the line’s award-winning private island in the Bahamas. Back-to-back seven-day itineraries can be combined to form an extensive 14-day Caribbean Collectors’ Voyage.

Cruise Critic is the world’s leading cruise review website and online cruise community, with more than 100,000 cruise reviews covering approximately 500 cruise ships.

What award would you give to Holland America Line if you could give one? Tell us in the comments!

Renowned experts teach cruise guests regional culinary customs.
Renowned experts teach cruise guests regional culinary customs.

On every Holland America cruise, tremendous importance is placed on the culinary experience. From the exclusive Pinnacle Grill to the casual Lido, from the Dining Room to Canaletto, there are a variety of dining options to tempt every palate.

Part of food- and wine-focused experiences on each ship is the Culinary Arts Center presented by Food & Wine Magazine. Here, visiting guest chefs and the ships’ own experts showcase their talents in a show kitchen at sea that rivals the finest show kitchens ashore. Through demonstrations, hands-on classes and question and answer sessions, guests are able to observe and learn from the finest.

The Culinary Arts Centers on the 15 ships in the fleet are incredible show kitchens that host some of the finest experts in the world.

The Culinary Arts Centers on the 15 ships in the fleet are incredible show kitchens that host some of the finest experts in the world.

Now Holland America Line has elevated the culinary experience to entice the most die-hard foodies and even novice chefs to set sail. Guests looking for a more immersive culinary cruise can book one of Holland America Line’s “Sip, Savor and Sail” itineraries in the Caribbean, Mediterranean and Alaska. On these seven special voyages, guests will be introduced to the finest local cuisine, beverages and specially developed shore excursions. Guest chefs and local vintners, mixologists and brewmasters will share their expertise — and their creations — during classes, demonstrations and tastings in the Culinary Arts Center, while specialized menus will be featured in the dining room and alternative restaurants. Exciting shore excursions with a special Sip, Savor and Sail focus will be available to complete the memorable experience.

The 2015 Sip and Savor cruises in the Caribbean are Nieuw Amsterdam’s March 8 voyage, Eurodam’s March 15 cruise and Maasdam’s April 17 voyage. The May 4 Mediterranean sailing on Ryndam features the program, and in Alaska guests can join Westerdam’s May 2 departure, Statendam’s July 13 sailing or Amsterdam’s Aug. 16 voyage.

Exotic Flavors Spice Up Caribbean Cruises

Come on a Sip and Savor cruise in the Caribbean and learn about local delicacies.

Come on a Sip and Savor cruise in the Caribbean and learn about local delicacies.

In addition to demonstrations and tastings on the Caribbean voyages, the guest chefs will all host a Calypso Brunch in the Pinnacle Grill, and during the call at Half Moon Cay, Bahamas, they will host a shoreside event featuring beach appetizers, libations and steel drum music.

Sip and Savor shore excursions in the Caribbean include “History & Cuisine of San Juan on Foot” at San Juan, Puerto Rico; “Caribbean Culinary Experience” at Basseterre, St. Kitts; and “Catamaran Cruise with Lobster Lunch” at St. Johns, Antigua.

On Nieuw Amsterdam’s March 8 seven-day Caribbean voyage, Chef Wayne Johnson — executive chef/owner of Shuga Jazz Bistro in Seattle, Wash. — will be onboard to bring the Caribbean’s exotic flavors to life. Award-winning Bar Chef Ryan Magarian also will be onboard to craft some delicious tropical concoctions.

Eurodam’s March 15 cruise features Chef Brian Lumley, the creative visionary behind 689 By Brian Lumley, one of Jamaica’s most-loved restaurants. Lumley will show guests why he was named Caribbean Chef of the Year during the seven-day cruise.

On Maasdam’s April 7 10-day voyage, Chef Natacha Gomez will delight guests with her flavorful and unique culinary creations. Gomez is the catering manager of Kokiyaj Bar and Grill and owner of Chef T in Cap-Haitien, Haiti.

Master the Flavors of Spain and Portugal in the Med

Wine and cuisine from Portugal is highlighted on Ryndam's Mediterranean cruise.

Wine and cuisine from Portugal is highlighted on Ryndam’s Mediterranean cruise.

On Ryndam’s May 4 sailing roundtrip from Harwich (London), England, guests will have 12 days to become immersed in the flavors of Spain and Portugal. Wine and port are paired with specially prepared appetizers and presented by the guest chef and wine experts on three evenings during the voyage.

Guest Chef Antony Bennett from La Tasca and Spanish independent concepts La Vina and Bar Y Tapas also will give a tapas cooking demonstration. Rebecca Lamont, head of Wine School at Berry Bros. & Rudd, will present a “Lunch and Learn” session, while Spanish Wine Buyer and Master of Wine Simon Field discusses the intricacies of fine Spanish wine. Together Lamont and Field will host a wine tasting.

Five shore excursions will highlight the region’s culinary and cultural contributions to the world, including “A Taste of Northwest Spain,” “Flamenco & Traditional Spanish Meal” and “Panoramic Cadiz & Jerez with Sherry Tasting.”

Alaska’s Unique Cuisine Comes to Life on Sip and Savor Cruises

In Alaska, guests learn about regional favorites like salmon from local guests chefs.

In Alaska, guests learn about regional favorites like salmon from local guests chefs.

On the three Alaska voyages, guests can savor local fare — from the freshest salmon to local vegetables and fruits — all paired with select wines from Northwest vintners and brews from Juneau’s Alaskan Brewing Co. During a “What’s in the Bag?” competition, the guest chefs will go head-to-head, preparing chowder from mystery ingredients.

Alaska cruises feature a total of 16 Sip and Savor shore excursions in Juneau, Homer, Kodiak and Ketchikan, Alaska, and Victoria, British Columbia. Examples include “Glacier View Bike and Brew” and “Alaska Salmon Bake” at Juneau, “Exclusive Mountaintop Flightseeing & Crab Feast” at Ketchikan, and “Corks and Canvas” and “Off the Beaten Path: Aviation Museum & Cider Tasting” at Victoria.

Westerdam’s May 2 seven-day departure will feature Jeff Maxfield, executive chef at the acclaimed SkyCity Restaurant, a revolving dining room atop the Space Needle in Seattle, and Drew Johnson, executive chef at Kincaid Grill in Anchorage, Alaska. Wendy Stuckey of Chateau Ste. Michelle winery located outside of Seattle will be onboard to impart her knowledge during several presentations.

On Statendam’s July 13 cruise, Executive Chef Perry Mascitti of Tulalip Resort Casino near Seattle, and Al Levinson, chef and owner of Kincaid Grill in Anchorage, will be onboard the 12-day voyage, along with Bob Betz, founder and winemaker at Betz Family Winery.

The Aug. 16 Alaska cruise on Statendam features Kristen and Mandy Dixon, chefs at both Tutka Bay and Winterlake Lodge in Alaska, along with Chef Roy Breiman, culinary director at Cedarbrook Lodge in Seattle. Along with the chefs, Matt Oakley, winemaker at Long Shadows winery, will present a special collection of premium wines during the seven-day cruise.

Holland America Line’s Culinary Arts Center presented by Food & Wine Magazine
Holland America Line’s industry trend-setting Culinary Arts Centers are featured on each of the line’s 15 ships. A world-class show kitchen at sea, the Culinary Arts Centers presented by Food & Wine Magazine resemble the elaborate show kitchens used by celebrity chefs on television cooking programs. The facilities are used for cooking shows, wine tastings, hands-on cooking classes and mixology presentations. All events are taught by highly skilled culinary and beverage staff during every Holland America Line voyage.

Each facility features a theater-style venue with two large video screens and a large cooking display counter. Holland America Line also offers a youth Culinary Arts Center activity program on select sailings to teach kids and teens how to cook. The program incorporates dishes from breakfast, lunch, dinner and snacks in complimentary 45-minute classes.

Are you joining a Sip and Savor cruise? Which local cuisine would you like to learn more about? Tell us below!

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At Holland America Line we’re excited to be starting a new year of cruises all over the world, and our Facebook fans are, too! We gave them a prompt: “Fill in the blank: this year, I am traveling to ___!” and the answers were as varied as our cruise itineraries. Take a look at where our fans plan to sail and maybe their ideas will inspire you to add some travel plans to your 2015 calendar!

January is a cold month for many parts of the world, making it the perfect time for a warm-weather escape. Some cruisers are already packing their bags, like Faye Kinsman Corbin who is headed for warm waters quite soon!

“We are off to the Caribbean at the end of January. Looking forward to 11 days of relaxation.” — Faye

A Caribbean cruise is the perfect winter escape.

A Caribbean cruise is the perfect winter escape.

Debbie Martin Thomas, Mike Miller and Dorene Duffy are all ready for a Panama Canal transit in February. They have a lush, beautiful scenery to look forward to as the ship sails through locks and lakes from Atlantic to Pacific or vice versa.

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Marsha Ellis has a longer wait for her Panama Canal cruise, but she is so excited, she’s counting the days — or nights. She commented:

“Panama Canal in 128 sleeps!” — Marsha

Linda Taylor and Margaret Gray will head to New Zealand and Australia in March, and Linda also will get to take in the beautiful vistas of Fiji! From the surprising glaciers of New Zealand to the adorable “locals” of Australia and the stunning underwater wildlife of Fiji, Linda and Margaret will both have plenty to do and see on their trips.

FFNZAUSFIJI

Jill Hardy is ready for plenty of time at sea where she will be able to take advantage of all of the fabulous onboard offerings like the Greenhouse Spa, Digital Workshops powered by Windows, Culinary Arts Center presented by Food & Wine, “Dancing with the Stars: At Sea” and more! “Transpacific, Sydney to Vancouver, in April,” wrote Jill.

Betty Rempel will be crossing another ocean:

Transatlantic to the Med – 21 days!”

Jaco Olierook and Brian Gillingham will explore one of HAL’s most popular destinations in May: the Norwegian Fjords!

The Seven Sisters Waterfalls in Geiranger Fjord are as impressive as they are picturesque.

The Seven Sisters Waterfalls in Geiranger Fjord are as impressive as they are picturesque.

Everyone loves summer travel, like Debbie Blair Mischo who will head to Bermuda in June, and Jennifer Lengkeek and Mary Loveless who will cruise the Baltic in July and August, respectively, aboard Facebook fan-favorite ms Eurodam.

The Mediterranean is the perfect destination for those looking for culture and history, and September is one of the best months to cruise the Mediterranean due to the nice temperatures and dwindling crowds. Facebook fan Sharon Screaigh will head from Rome to Istanbul, and Jo Hilmo will cruise from Rotterdam to Venice.

Rome's Colosseum is the perfect mix of stunning architecture and intriguing history.

Rome’s Colosseum is the perfect mix of stunning architecture and intriguing history.

And of course, Alaska couldn’t be left off the list! Pamela Frost and Gill Maguire will head to this adventurous destination in 2015, and Vince Lombardo will be there later in the year to celebrate his 50th wedding anniversary.

Alaska's stunning scenery is not to be missed in 2015.

Alaska’s stunning scenery is not to be missed in 2015.

And other Facebook fans, like Nadia Heaney, seem to have plans for the whole year!

Getting close now. Almost time to get that packing list started!!! Panama in February. Then a New York visit followed by 21 days Caribbean in February/March. Then back to Oz until Baltic in August. All HAL cruises. Very excited.

Most of our Facebook fans have been busy making plans for 2015 but some are looking even further ahead. Sharon Burns Bickford is sailing on HAL’s newest ship in 2016: ms Koningsdam. But we’re not ready to fast-forward the year just yet … not with so many exciting months of cruising ahead of us!

With ReadySetSail upgrades and savings on a variety of itineraries, now is the time to book for 2015.

Blog fans, now it’s your turn! Fill in the blank: This year, I am traveling to ___! Tell us in the comments below.

12DayofCruising_blog_Dec17

For the past 12 days, Holland America Line has been revealing some of your favorite HAL destinations and cruise experiences on Facebook for the “12 Days of Cruising.” Each day something new has been unveiled that shows why a Holland America Line cruise is the #BestGiftEver this holiday season! Today is the last day and all 12 photos have been uncovered.

Day 1: Leave the cooking to HAL when you are aboard! Whether you are in the mood for a luxurious dinner at Le Cirque to celebrate the holidays, or simply want to relax and enjoy a private breakfast on your verandah, HAL will ensure that you enjoy your experience from the first course through dessert.

Day1

Day 2: Festive trees, decorative gingerbread villages, and a cheerful crew are just a few ways we are helping you celebrate the holidays on board!

Day2

Day 3: Hoping for a white holiday? We know of a place with snow-covered trees, breathtaking mountains and welcoming ports of call – ALASKA!

Day3

Day 4: Splurge on a Neptune or Pinnacle Suite, and retreat to the Neptune Lounge for an added touch of cruise luxury. Relax, socialize with other suite guests, and enjoy personalized concierge service in the Neptune Lounge.

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Day 5: You better book quickly; we just heard that Santa’s on his way to Half Moon Cay! With itineraries to many Caribbean destinations, we promise a merry and bright cruise – minus the snow!

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Day 6: Book a shore excursion on one of HAL’s Northern Europe cruises, and experience reindeer in their natural habitat. Or, book a photography workshop in Alaska to capture some of the season’s most stunning scenery.

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Day 7: Go on “holiday” this season and sail down under to Australia and New Zealand. Explore this amazing part of the world with itineraries and shore excursions designed to please all of our guests!

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Day 8: The Culinary Arts Center provides guests with various class options ranging from seasonal cuisine, to wine and mixology, to fruit and vegetable art. And, the talented HAL pastry chefs assist in decorating our ships with unique gingerbread villages and other seasonal sweets.

Day8

Day 9: Warm up and then cool wayyyy down with a South America/Antarctica itinerary! We promise the best of everything: sunshine, snow and a trip of a lifetime.

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Day 10: There’s no better place to experience the season than one of our many European destinations. From Italy to Norway, explore festive cultural celebrations in our many ports of call. Book with ReadySetSail now!

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Day 11: Spend the holidays cruising with the HAL family of crew members and experience “as you wish” service throughout your voyage. Our specially trained crew takes pride in fulfilling your every request. From our wait staff to our officers and housekeeping staff, everyone is dedicated to providing you with personalized service.

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Day 12: Thanks for following along with our 12 Days of Cruising countdown! For our last reveal, we invite you to experience Holland America Line’s Grand World Voyage! Customize your cruise around the world, and visit exotic places like French Polynesia, Auckland, Mumbai and Portugal. This truly is the #BestGiftEver.

Day12

Is your Holland America Line favorite in the 12 Days of Cruising? Happy Holidays!

The 15 guest finalists and their professional shipboard dance partners wowed the crowd with a variety of dances on the first night.
The 15 guest finalists and their professional shipboard dance partners wowed the crowd with a variety of dances on the first night.

The “Dancing with the Stars: At Sea” Champions Cruise aboard ms Westerdam is well underway, and everyone onboard is having a great time enjoying the electrifying performances and “Dancing with the Stars” atmosphere.

Since embarking, the 15 finalists have been busy rehearsing and preparing for their performances. Through a series of elimination rounds, the group of 15 will be narrowed down to just three finalists who will compete for the coveted Mirrorball Trophy.

The finalists having some fun with their shipboard dance partners.

The finalists having some fun with their shipboard dance partners.

Social media has been on fire with tweets, photos and comments posted from the professional dancers and celebrities from “Dancing with the Stars” who are onboard to perform and judge the competition. A select group of journalists also were invited to sail, and they’ve been reporting on the events throughout the week.

This week the “Dancing with the Stars” production took place in the ship’s show lounge, featuring pro dancers Kym Johnson, Artem Chigvintsev, Sharna Burgess and Jaymz Tuileva, as well as celebrities Sabrina Bryan and Carson Kressley.

Photo courtesy of journalist Jason Leppert of Popular Cruising.

Photo courtesy of journalist Jason Leppert of Popular Cruising.

Photo courtesy of journalist Jason Leppert of Popular Cruising.

Photos courtesy of journalist Jason Leppert of Popular Cruising.

It’s not all work for the “Dancing with the Stars” team. Kym, Artem and Carson Kressley have been chronicling their adventures on Instagram and Twitter:

Photos from @kym_johnson, @carsonkressley and @artemchigvintse.

Photos from @kym_johnson, @carsonkressley and @artemchigvintse.

Below are the results to-date as the guest competitors advance toward the Final Round to compete for the “Dancing with the Stars: At Sea” Mirror Ball Trophy.

Top 15 – Round 1

Day 1, clockwise from top: the contestants performing an elegant waltz, getting ready for the tango, Jacoba doing the jive, Caroline and her sassy samba, Summer performing the Jive and Ian's exciting cha cha.

Day 1, clockwise from top: the contestants performing an elegant waltz, getting ready for the tango, Jacoba and the jive, Caroline and her samba, Summer and the jive and Ian’s cha cha.

Cha Cha – 1. Jamie (Rotterdam) & John 2. Frances (Volendam) & Tiago 3. Ian (Zuiderdam) & Varinia
Tango – 1. Maurice (Noordam) & Melissa 2. Marie Liza (Ryndam) & John 3. Kelly (Oosterdam) & Ian
Samba – 1. Caroline (Zaandam) & Derek 2. Ritchie (Westerdam) & Jamie 3. Simona (Amsterdam) & O’Brien
Waltz – 1. Matthew (Eurodam) & Leighann 2. Elaine (Maasdam) & Ian 3. LeeAnn (Statendam) & Tiago
Jive – 1. Jacoba (Prinsendam) & O’Brien 2. Summer (Veendam) & Derek 3. Brenton (Nieuw Amsterdam) & Whitney

Eliminated after Round 1 were Elaine, Maurice, Jamie, LeeAnn and Summer. Before taking a final bow, they showed the crowd some more moves.

The eliminated guests showed off some final moves.

The eliminated guests showed off some final moves.

Top 10 – Round 2

Day 2, clockwise from top: The judging panel of professional dancer Artem Chigvintsev, actress Sabrina Bryan  and Cruise Director Johnathon Rogers; Frances doing a tango; Matthew flicking his feet in the jive; Simona's foxtrot; Kelly did the samba; and Caroline and her jive.

Day 2, clockwise from top: The judging panel of professional dancer Artem Chigvintsev, actress Sabrina Bryan and Cruise Director Johnathon Rogers; Frances doing a tango; Matthew’s jive; Simona’s foxtrot; Kelly’s samba; and Caroline and her jive.

Cha Cha – 1. Todd (Amsterdam) & Larissa 2. Kristin (Noordam) & Ken
Tango – 1. Frances (Volendam) & John 2. Ian (Zuiderdam) & Melissa
Samba – 1. Kelly (Oosterdam) & Ian 2. Marie Liza (Ryndam) & John
Foxtrot – 1. Simona (Amsterdam) & O’Brien 2. Ritchie (Westerdam) & Jamie 3. Brenton (Nieuw Amsterdam) & Whitney 4. Jacoba (Prinsendam) & O’Brien
Jive – 1. Matthew (Eurodam) & Leighann 2. Caroline (Zaandam) & Derek

Eliminated after Round 2 were Simona, Jacoba, Marie Liza and Caroline.

Top 6 – Round 3

Tango — Matthew (Eurodam) & Leighann
Foxtrot — Brenton (Nieuw Amsterdam) & Whitney
Cha Cha — Kelly (Oosterdam) & Ian
Jive — Frances (Volendam) & John
Waltz — Ritchie (Westerdam) & Jamie
Samba — Ian (Zuiderdam) & Melissa

Clockwise from top left: Brenton, Ritchie, Matthew, Kelly, Ian and Frances.

Clockwise from top left: Brenton, Ritchie, Matthew, Kelly, Ian and Frances.

Following one more elimination just before the finale tomorrow, the final three contestants will perform their last dance in hopes of winning the Mirrorball Trophy and being crowned Holland America Line’s “Dancing with the Stars: At Sea” Champion! The winner will be revealed on Facebook Friday night or Saturday morning, and we’ll feature the winner on the blog next week.

Don’t you wish you were onboard the Champions Cruise? Book the 2015/16 Champions Cruise on Nieuw Amsterdam departing Jan. 6, 2016, and you can experience the thrill and excitement of “Dancing with the Stars: At Sea!”

Photos of the dancers and performances when not noted are by Vladimir Ramljak.

A cruise to Antarctica is full of memorable moments.
A cruise to Antarctica is full of memorable moments.

It’s Black Friday in the United States, the day after Thanksgiving when consumers go out en masse to ramp up their holiday shopping. To celebrate this unofficial holiday, here is a list of the Top 8 cruises you should go out and book today — dream itineraries around the world that would make the ultimate gift this holiday season.

1. Two Maiden Calls in the Mediterranean

Canakkale, left, and Igoumenitsa are two maiden calls in 2015. Photos courtesy of goturkey.com and igoumenitsa.gr.

Canakkale, left, and Igoumenitsa are two maiden calls in 2015. Photos courtesy of goturkey.com and igoumenitsa.gr.

The 28-day Mediterranean & Black Sea Explorer cruise on ms Prinsendam has not one, but two maiden calls for 2015. New to Holland America Line are the ports of Igoumenitsa, Greece, and Canakkale, Turkey, both found on this extended journey. Departing Sept. 28, 2015, the cruise explores the Mediterranean at an ideal time of year, when the climate cools and crowds diminish. The ship departs Barcelona, Spain, and in addition to the two maiden ports it makes 20 calls at ports in France, Corsica, Sardinia, Italy, Albania, Georgia, Russia, the Ukraine and Romania. However, Greece and Turkey take center stage on this voyage with six calls in Greece and five in Turkey, including an overnight at Istanbul and two calls at Kusadasi. The ship also cruises The Dardanelles and features scenic cruising in the Bosporus.

2. Sun, Sand and Surf in the Caribbean

The golden beaches of the Caribbean await.

The golden beaches of the Caribbean await.

On a seven-day western Caribbean cruise aboard ms Nieuw Amsterdam, guests get the best of both worlds: two relaxing days at sea to unwind and enjoy the shipboard amenities, and four glorious ports that showcase the best of the Caribbean. Enjoy Half Moon Cay, Holland America Line’s provate Bahamian retreats; Georgetown, Grand Cayman, with incredible crystalline water; Cozumel, Mexico, steeped in history; and Key West, Fla., the tip of the U.S. boasting an eclectic culture, diverse water sports and an incredible atmosphere. Onboard, take advantage of the time to indulge in a treatment at the Greenhouse Spa, take in a demo at the Culinary Arts Center, learn how to share vacation photos at a Digital Workshop powered by Windows, learn to cha cha at a “Dancing with the Stars: At Sea” dance class, catch up on a good book while lounging in a deck chair and so much more.

3. Glaciers Galore from the Sea and Sky

Guests looking for adventure can take the Dog Sledding on the Mendenhall Glacier by Helicopter tour in Juneau.

Guests looking for adventure can take the Dog Sledding on the Mendenhall Glacier by Helicopter tour in Juneau.

On an Alaska cruise, adventure awaits around every turn. From the stunning scenery viewed during cruising in the Inside Passage and Glacier Bay to incredible shore excursions that allow guests to fly over miles of glaciers or take a dogsled ride across the icy tundra, this gorgeous part of the world is waiting to be explored. On ms Oosterdam’s seven-day Glacier Bay Discovery Southbound itinerary, guests are able to visit both Glacier Bay and the Inside Passage, along with Juneau, Ketchikan and Haines, Alaska.

Guests on the Glacier Point Wilderness Safari tour in Haines take an expedition boat looking for wildlife, as well as a 31-foot voyager canoe to the face of the glacier. From Juneau, the Dog Sledding on the Mendenhall Glacier by Helicopter tour combines the thrill of a glacier helicopter tour with the oldest operating dog sled tour company.

Guest Gamma said this of the dog sledding tour:

Most awesome adventure of my life. Incredible weather, fantastic staff and thrilling to be riding a dog sled on a GLACIER!!

4. Ancient Gardens, Quiet Shrines and Neon Cities in the Far East

UNESCO World Heritage Site Ayutthaya can be visited from Laem Chabang.

UNESCO World Heritage Site Ayutthaya can be visited from Laem Chabang.

The Far East is a juxtaposition of sights, sounds and flavors. From bustling cities like Hong Kong, Singapore and Shanghai with vibrant skylines dominated by neon to quite sanctuaries like Koh Samui and Nha Trang with beautiful beaches and quiet charm, this part of the world is full of exotic discoveries that leave a lasting impression. Sailing from Hong Kong to Singapore, the 14-day Far East Discovery cruise on ms Volendam features both major cities and smaller villages with calls in Vietnam, Cambodia and Thailand, including an overnight at Laem Chabang, the port for Bangkok. With extra time, guests can take an overnight tour that shows off the sights and sounds of the region.

5. Antarctica – Journey to the End of the World

A cruise to Antarctica is full of memorable moments.

A cruise to Antarctica is full of memorable moments.

The most remote continent in the world, a cruise to Antarctica is a once-in-a-lifetime adventure filled with more “ohhs” and “ahhhhhs” than you could ever imagine. From penguins gliding across the ice to imposing glaciers that can be seen above and below water, Antarctica is a must-do on every avid traveler’s bucket list. But going to the bottom of the world is just part of the adventure that makes a cruise around Cape Horn special. Prinsendam sails a Grand Voyage circumnavigation of South America in 2015 and 2016. The segment that includes Antarctica sails from Fort Lauderdale, Fla., through the Panama Canal, down the west coast to Peru, Chile and Argentina, then back up the east coast to the Falkland Islands and Uruguay before ending at Buenos Aires.

6. Experience the Fall Foliage in Canada & New England

Fall is a pretty time of year to visit Canada/New England. Photo by Hotel Director Marco van Belleghem.

Fall is a pretty time of year to visit Canada/New England. Photo by Hotel Director Marco van Belleghem.

Imaging sailing along the coast of New England and Canada, seeing the shoreline dotted with grand estates, picturesque lighthouses and of course, the vibrant jewel-toned hues of fall. For anyone who wants to experience gorgeous scenic cruising, delicious local cuisine and the charm and history of a region steeped in tradition, a Canada and New England cruise is the picture-perfect way to see all that this area has to offer. The seven-day Canada & New England Discovery cruise on Maasdam begins at Montreal, Canada, and sails down to Boston, Mass. Guests will enjoy scenic cruising in the Gulf of St. Lawrence with tree-lined shores, as well as calls at Quebec, Syndey and Halifax in Canada, and Bar Harbor, Maine, where the famous lobster roll awaits.

7. Beautiful Bermuda is Back

Bermuda is famous for its pink sand and pastel-colored homes.

Bermuda is famous for its pink sand and pastel-colored homes.

In 2015, ms Veendam will return to the pink sands and pastel-colored skyline of Bermuda with several seven-day roundtrip Boston voyages. With three overnights that include two full days and two half-days, guests will have multiple opportunities to experience Hamilton’s British charm, cultural heritage sites and world-renowned beaches on a variety of shore excursions. From the ship, guests can take a short walk to Front Street and explore its array of colorful shops and restaurants. Hamilton also is home to a massive 19th-century, neo-Gothic cathedral and the Georgian-style Sessions House, built in 1815.

8. G’Day Mate! Take a Cruise Down Under

There's a lot to see and do in Australia, including a visit to the famed Sydney Opera House.

There’s a lot to see and do in Australia, including a visit to the famed Sydney Opera House.

A trip Down Under is an incredible adventure, and there’s no better way to see the entire continent than on a 33-day Circumnavigation aboard Volendam in 2015. Sailing roundtrip from Sydney, the counter-clockwise journey not only explores the Great Barrier Reef, it also makes a quick escape up to Komodo Island and Bali before continuing on around the west coast and back to the starting point. Guests will enjoy an overnight at Perth and unique opportunities along the route to see some of the world’s most iconic sites like the Sydney Opera House and Ayers Rock.

These cruises are just a small selection among the hundreds offered by Holland America Line each year. Whether you seek an an adventure or relaxing vacation, whether you like culture and history or fun and sun, with destinations around the globe in a variety of lengths, there’s something for everyone.

If you could book any cruise on Black Friday, what itinerary would you choose?

"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.

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