Tag Archives: Caribbean

Repositioning cruises offer extended relaxation at sea, unique itineraries and extraordinary value.
Repositioning cruises offer extended relaxation at sea, unique itineraries and extraordinary value.

Summer is coming! That means the Med is heating up and Alaska is entering prime-time for cruising. Across the fleet Holland America Line ships are preparing to reposition from their winter homes in the Caribbean and other tropical regions to temperate climates that have shorter-but-sweet cruise seasons.

As the ships move from one region to the next a number of unique itineraries become available — giving guests the chance to cross oceans and see some incredible ports of call. Some prefer these longer and less common voyages. We asked guests to weigh in — read on to learn the why, when and where of repositioning cruises!

Crossing the Atlantic
Transatlantic itineraries are the most popular ocean crossing options. From Europe to the Caribbean or vice-versa, guests set out to open sea with unique itineraries. The 29-day Baltic & Viking Passage is a wonderful opportunity to follow the paths of explorers past to the northern regions of the Atlantic. Cruise from one pristine nordic city to the next and through fjords. HAL guest Bruce Hirte praised the cruise saying,

“We have been on more than 20 cruises – several have been in the 30 day range. One of the most memorial was on the Eurodam doing the Baltic and the transatlantic into New York. We had the good fortune of cruising thru the fjord in Greenland on a clear and calm day. A GIFT!” – Bruce Hirte

Cruising through the fjords of Norway on a clear calm day is magical.

Cruising through the fjords of Norway on a clear calm day is magical.

Southern transatlantic itineraries forgo the fjords for more tropical temperatures.

“The Caribbean to Europe is my favorite cruise!” exclaimed Christine Lewis, a veteran HAL cruiser.

Bob Hale added that he loves that a transatlantic cruise offers plenty of time to enjoy all of Holland America Line’s fabulous culinary offerings and to rest. After all, the ocean is vast, which means more days at sea. Guests who are fans of sea days, like Ester Cooke, treat the ship like a destination in itself, taking time to engage in onboard activities at the Culinary Arts Center, Digital Workshops powered by Windows and more. Another great perk? When you cruise across the ocean you can slowly adjust to changing timezones — which means no jet lag!

“We loved sailing from Rome to Ft. Lauderdale stopping at Malaga, Spain, Alicante, Cadiz and the Azores. We were so pleasantly surprised with how gorgeous the Azores are. The sailing across the ocean was wonderful and we loved gaining an hour each day.” – Sharon Beecro

“Looking forward to the day I can do the trans from Lauderdale to Barcelona. That’s tops on my bucket list … for now.” – Chuck Botts

Cruise into Venice totally relaxed on a transatlantic journey.

Cruise into Venice totally relaxed on a transatlantic journey.

Another fabulous benefit of repositioning cruises is that they offer totally different perspectives on the same cruise. Imagine visiting Asia and Alaska in the same vacation! Revel in the cherry blossoms and medieval castles of Japan, see the sights in Shanghai and then — just a short while later — walk on the surface of a glacier in Alaska. These cruises are are Grand Voyages in themselves.

“Japan to Vancouver across the North Pacific via Alaska on Volendam was our April/May 2014 cruise. Loved the experience of far northern ports of Japan & then 1st cruise ship for season into Glacier Bay – magic.” – Clive George

The sakura (cherry blossom) is in full bloom in Japan in the spring.

The sakura (cherry blossom) is in full bloom in Japan in the spring.

Traversing the Pacific Ocean

Like transatlantic cruises, transpacific itineraries typically have northern and southern routes. The South Pacific is renowned for its extraordinary beauty. The editors of Portsie.com sailed across the Pacific in 2014 on ms Oosterdam and likened the experience to something out of a classic travel novel. Typical calls between Sydney and the States include the volcanic islands of New Caledonia, Fiji and Hawaii.

Moreover, these journeys are typically available at incredible rates as Wendy McDonald pointed out, saying, “Repositioning cruises; great value for the money spent!”

“Love any crossing … but lately we’d prefer west coast (which is why we signed up for the grand pacific!)” – Richard E Menken

“USA to Australia — great cruise.” – Nancy Abel Weigand

Visit the volcanic islands of Hawaii, Fiji and more when you cross the Pacific Ocean.

Visit the volcanic islands of Hawaii, Fiji and more when you cross the Pacific Ocean.

Exploring Other Oceans Around the World

Repositioning cruises aren’t always grand ocean crossing voyages, however. Ships move from region to region all over the world. Sometimes that means a journey from the Med through the Suez Canal and onward to Australia and Asia through the Indian Ocean. Another popular option is transiting the Panama Canal between the Caribbean and Alaska. Facebook fans Eileen Herr Ludermilch let us know that she is currently on a repositioning cruise through the Panama Canal, and Marsha Ellis is looking forward to a cruise in May that transits the canal en route to San Diego.

The extended length of such cruises is a great opportunity to get to know fellow passengers and Holland America Line’s fabulous employees. Bob Deffenbaugh and his wife were delighted to get to know some special HAL crew members throughout the course of their repositioning cruise.

Bob said, “Julius is our favorite crew member working at HAL, We met him for the second time aboard the Zuiderdam on our repositioning cruise!”

Sail from sea to shining sea on a Panama Canal itinerary.

Sail from sea to shining sea on a Panama Canal itinerary.

Whether going from Atlantic to Pacific or from the Caribbean to the Med, all of the repositioning cruises offer a unique adventure for those who like to combine relaxing days at sea with exciting ports. Which repositioning cruise most appeals to you? Let us know in the comments below!

The Caribbean will welcome ms Koningsdam in Nov. 2016.
The Caribbean will welcome ms Koningsdam in Nov. 2016.

Following its inaugural Europe season in 2016, Holland America Line’s new ms Koningsdam will homeport at Port Everglades in Fort Lauderdale, Fla. The ship will kick off the Caribbean season with a four-day cruise to the Bahamas, followed by a series of diverse itineraries criss-crossing the region from fall 2016 through March 2017.

The seven-day cruises — which are all roundtrip from Fort Lauderdale — visit popular ports in the region, while the longer nine-, 10- and 11-day itineraries provide more time for exploring and include a variety of islands with exciting, off-the-beaten-path calls.

“We are excited to sail Holland America Line’s newest ship from Port Everglades on the most varied and robust Caribbean itineraries of any of our ships,” said Orlando Ashford, president of Holland America Line. “The Caribbean remains among the most popular cruise destinations in the world, and by having itineraries that range from four to 11 days guests will be able to enjoy a vacation that fits their schedule.”

Which itinerary is right for you? Read this blog post comparing the Caribbean regions to help you decide.

Four-day Bahamas Cruise

Half Moon Cay, top and left, and Nassau, are the featured ports on the 4-day cruise.

Half Moon Cay, top and left, and Nassau, are the featured ports on the 4-day cruise.

Koningsdam begins its inaugural season in the Caribbean with a four-day cruise to the Bahamas departing Nov. 9, 2016. Following an overnight in Fort Lauderdale, the ship calls at Nassau followed by Half Moon Cay, Holland America Line’s award-winning private island. The voyage is the perfect way to sample Holland America Line’s new Pinnacle-class ship.

Seven-day Caribbean Cruises Include a Holiday Sailing

Clockwise from upper left: St. Thomas, San Juan and Grand Cayman are featured on the seven-day voyages.

Clockwise from upper left: St. Thomas, San Juan and Grand Cayman are featured on the seven-day voyages.

Two different seven-day itineraries provide an ideal getaway in winter, when the balmy breezes of the Caribbean beckon. The first itinerary sails Jan. 8 and 29 and Feb. 12, 2017, calling at Grand Turk, Turks & Caicos; San Juan, Puerto Rico; St. Thomas, U.S. Virgin Islands; and Half Moon Cay. The second itinerary departs Jan. 15 and Feb. 5, 2017, and visits Half Moon Cay; Georgetown, Grand Cayman; Cozumel, Mexico; and Key West, Fla. The two itineraries can be combined to create a nonrepeating 14-day Caribbean Collectors’ Voyage.

For the holidays, the Dec. 23, 2016, departure falls over Christmas, Hanukkah and Kwanzaa, making it the most festive of voyages. The seven-day cruise will visit Grand Turk, San Juan, St. Thomas and Half Moon Cay.

Nine-day Caribbean Cruises Include a New Year’s Option

Guests looking for a slightly longer Caribbean vacation can embark Dec. 14, 2016, for a nine-day voyage that showcases six popular ports. The ship calls at Half Moon Cay; Road Town, Tortola, British Virgin Islands; Philipsburg, St. Maarten; Basseterre, St. Kitts; San Juan; and Grand Turk.

The beautiful beaches of St. Maarten and Tortola are showcased on the nine-day cruises.

The beautiful beaches of St. Maarten and Tortola are showcased on the nine-day cruises.

Another nine-day voyage departing Dec. 30 rings in the New Year with fun, sun, sand and surf. The ship will call at Falmouth, Jamaica; Half Moon Cay; Grand Turk; Georgetown, Cayman Islands; Cozumel and Key West.

10-day Caribbean Cruises Feature Southern Caribbean

The ABC Islands of Aruba, Bonaire and Curacao highlight the 10-day itineraries.

The ABC Islands of Aruba, Bonaire and Curacao highlight the 10-day itineraries.

From the turquoise waters of the Dominican Republic to the powdery beaches of the ABC Islands, Koningsdam’s 10-day itinerary highlights some of the most beautiful ports in the region. Departing Nov. 13 and Dec. 4, 2016, and Feb. 19 and March 12, 2017, the cruises call at Half Moon Cay; Grand Turk; the exclusive cruise port of Amber Cove, Dominican Republic; Kralendijk, Bonaire; Willemstand, Curaçao; and Oranjestad, Aruba.

11-day Caribbean Cruises Offer Blend of Several Ports

The eastern Caribbean takes center stage on the 11-day voyages that depart Nov. 23, 2016, and March 1 and 22, 2017. Koningsdam will visit the ports of Philipsburg; Castries, St. Lucia; Bridgetown, Barbados; Fort-de-France, Martinique; Basseterre; St. Thomas; and Half Moon Cay. Guests aboard also will enjoy scenic cruising in Soufrière Bay and past the famed Mount Pelée volcano.

More gorgeous ports like Barbados, above, and St. Lucia with its famed Pitons, highlight the 11-day cruises.

More gorgeous ports like Barbados, above, and St. Lucia with its famed Pitons, highlight the 11-day cruises.

The inaugural Caribbean season of Koningsdam will be open for booking in April 2015. Which cruise will be you joining us on? Tell us below!

Koningsdam

Holland America Line’s new ms Koningsdam to Homeport at Port Everglades for Caribbean Cruises in Winter 2016/Spring 2017

Ship to sail four- to 11-day Caribbean itineraries from South Florida

Seattle, Wash., April 1, 2015 — Following its inaugural Europe season in 2016, Holland America Line’s new ms Koningsdam will homeport at Port Everglades in Fort Lauderdale, Fla. The ship will sail a series of Caribbean voyages and one cruise to the Bahamas from November 2016 through March 2017. Koningsdam’s Caribbean itineraries will be available for booking in late spring.

The seven-day cruises visit popular ports in the region, while the longer nine-, 10- and 11-day itineraries provide more time for exploring and include a diverse array of islands with exciting, off-the-beaten-path calls. A four-day cruise to the Bahamas kicks off the Caribbean season. All voyages are roundtrip from Fort Lauderdale.

“We are excited to sail Holland America Line’s newest ship from Port Everglades on the most varied and robust Caribbean itineraries of any of our ships,” said Orlando Ashford, president of Holland America Line. “The Caribbean remains among the most popular cruise destinations in the world, and by having itineraries that range from four to 11 days guests will be able to enjoy a vacation that fits their schedule.”

Four-day Bahamas Cruise
Koningsdam begins its inaugural season in the Caribbean with a four-day cruise to the Bahamas departing Nov. 9, 2016. Following an overnight in Fort Lauderdale, the ship calls at Nassau followed by Half Moon Cay, Holland America Line’s award-winning private island. The voyage is the perfect way to sample Holland America Line’s new Pinnacle-class ship.

Seven-day Caribbean Cruises & Holiday Sailing
Two different seven-day itineraries provide an ideal getaway in winter, when the balmy breezes of the Caribbean beckon. The first itinerary sails Jan. 8 and 29 and Feb. 12, 2017, calling at Grand Turk, Turks & Caicos; San Juan, Puerto Rico; St. Thomas, U.S. Virgin Islands; and Half Moon Cay. The second itinerary departs Jan. 15 and Feb. 5, 2017, and visits Half Moon Cay; Georgetown, Grand Cayman; Cozumel, Mexico; and Key West, Fla. The two itineraries can be combined to create a nonrepeating 14-day Caribbean Collectors’ Voyage.

For the holidays, the Dec. 23, 2016, departure falls over Christmas, Hanukkah and Kwanzaa, making it the most festive of voyages. The seven-day cruise will visit Grand Turk, San Juan, St. Thomas and Half Moon Cay.

Nine-day Caribbean Cruises Include a New Year’s Option
Guests looking for a slightly longer Caribbean vacation can embark Dec. 14, 2016, for a nine-day voyage that showcases six popular ports. The ship calls at Half Moon Cay; Road Town, Tortola, British Virgin Islands; Philipsburg, St. Maarten; Basseterre, St. Kitts; San Juan; and Grand Turk.

Another nine-day voyage departing Dec. 30 rings in the New Year with fun, sun, sand and surf. The ship will call at Falmouth, Jamaica; Half Moon Cay; Grand Turk; Georgetown, Cayman Islands; Cozumel and Key West.

10-day Caribbean Cruises Feature Southern Caribbean
From the turquoise waters of the Dominican Republic to the powdery beaches of the ABC Islands, Koningsdam’s 10-day itinerary highlights some of the most beautiful ports in the region. Departing Nov. 13 and Dec. 4, 2015, and Feb. 19 and March 12, 2016, the cruises call at Half Moon Cay; Grand Turk; the exclusive cruise port of Amber Cove, Dominican Republic; Kralendijk, Bonaire; Willemstand, Curaçao; and Oranjestad, Aruba.

11-day Caribbean Cruises Offer Blend of Several Ports
The eastern Caribbean takes center stage on the 11-day voyages that depart Nov. 23, 2016, and March 1 and 22, 2017. Koningsdam will visit the ports of Philipsburg; Castries, St. Lucia; Bridgetown, Barbados; Fort-de-France, Martinique; Basseterre; St. Thomas; and Half Moon Cay. Guests aboard also will enjoy scenic cruising in Soufrière Bay and past the famed Mount Pelée volcano.
The inaugural Caribbean season of Koningsdam will be open for booking in April 2015.

About ms Koningsdam
Currently under construction at Fincantieri’s Marghera shipyard in Italy, Koningsdam represents a new Pinnacle Class of ship for Holland America Line. When it sets sail on its Premier Voyage April 8, 2016, the vessel will debut several innovative concepts and new public venues while still featuring popular amenities guests associate with Holland America Line.

Guests will have the opportunity to enjoy fine dining in several alternative restaurants including Sel de Mer, a new French seafood brasserie; a new immersive farm-to-table dinner experience in the Culinary Arts Center presented by Food & Wine magazine; a re-designed casual Lido Market with themed serving stations; a stunning main dining room; and favorites such as Pinnacle Grill, Canaletto Italian restaurant and pan-Asian Tamarind. The ship also will feature Holland America Line’s first purpose-built staterooms for families as well as single staterooms among its 1,331 guest accommodations.

Entertainment is taken to a new level with the energetic Music Walk area featuring all genres of music showcased in venues including Lincoln Center Stage performing chamber music nightly; Billboard Onboard where live musicians rock the crowd with chart-topping hits; and the popular B.B. King’s Blues Club in the Queen’s Lounge bringing the best of Memphis music to sea. World Stage brings 270-degree LED projection to the main showroom, enabling new concepts for showtime performances and immersing the audience in a panorama of sight and sound.

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Whether you're headed east, west or south, the Caribbean features beautiful beaches and bright turquoise water!
Whether you're headed east, west or south, the Caribbean features beautiful beaches and bright turquoise water!

Travelers new to cruising might not know that the Caribbean presents itself in very different ways. There are several common options — from the ease of the eastern Caribbean to the adventure of the western and exotic charm of the southern Caribbean, each itinerary has its own characteristics. Comparing and contrasting these destinations can give you an idea of what to expect and help to ensure that you choose the right cruise!

The Easy, Breezy, Eastern Caribbean

Do you want to visit a new port every day? Do you love to shop and prefer a refined experience? The eastern Caribbean might be the way to go! The islands of the eastern Caribbean are in relatively close proximity, so you can wake up every day at a new destination. Typical ports include San Juan, Puerto Rico; Grand Turk, Turks & Caicos; St. Thomas, Virgin Islands; and Half Moon Cay, Holland America Line’s award-winning private island. At these destinations you’ll find world-class shopping and beautiful white sand beaches.

A great way to kick back and explore is to embark on the half-day Champagne Catamaran Sail, Snorkel & Beach tour from St. Thomas, or set out to see some of the most incredible marine life on the Reef Snorkel & Stingray Safari at Grand Turk.

On Half Moon Cay, there’s nothing more relaxing and pampering than the Beach Villa Package. The two-story villa is air conditioned and includes a hot tub, refrigerator, misting shower and private sun deck, and is painted in the colorful Calypso style of the eastern Caribbean. It is the ultimate way to relax. Ken from Tampa visited with his family and said,

“We had four children and seven adults so this Beach Villa was great for us. It was nice to have your own private bathroom, shower and a place to get out of the sun and relax.”

Relax in a private Cabana at Half Moon Cay.

Relax in a private Cabana at Half Moon Cay.

Find Adventure in the Western Caribbean

Western Caribbean itineraries are known for outdoor adventure! Find some of the best snorkeling in the world at Grand Cayman, zip line through the jungle at Cozumel or check out Bobsled Jamaica & Dunn’s River Falls, an excursion that allows you to climb the world-famous waterfall and then fasten your seatbelt and ride a Jamaican bobsled through the rainforest at Falmouth or Montego Bay, Jamaica.

Are you in for adventure? How about a hike up Dunn's River Falls on calls at Montego Bay or Falmouth, Jamaica.

Are you in for adventure? How about a hike up Dunn’s River Falls on calls at Montego Bay or Falmouth, Jamaica.

Because the western Caribbean islands are a bit further apart, a western Caribbean cruise usually offers a few sea days to enjoy onboard activities. Fans of sea days enjoy the time to take a class at the Culinary Arts Center, hit the spa, or simply relax on the Lido deck with a good book as the bright blue Caribbean Sea rushes by.

Western Caribbean itineraries typically visit Mexico, where you can put on your archaeologist hat and explore the gorgeous coastline and historical Mayan ruins. At Costa Maya the Chacchoben Mayan Ruins are just a short drive from the port. Guest ew2103 from Michigan took this tour and said,

“Our guide Daniel (a full-blooded Mayan; he proudly told us so) was superb. 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!”

Take Your Time in the Southern Caribbean

The southern Caribbean itineraries typically visit Half Moon Cay and cruise by way of the eastern Caribbean islands and then — just when other cruise ships are turning back — dive deeper to explore the Lesser Antilles. There you’ll find European charm in the tropics. From French Martinique to British Barbados, to the Dutch-tinted ABC Islands of Aruba, Bonaire and Curaçao, the influence of the European colonial area is strong, but the islands maintain their natural beauty. The distance means that often these cruises are longer.

Among the most gorgeous islands in the southern Caribbean are Bonaire, sometimes called the best scuba in the world, and St. Lucia, which combines dramatic volcanic Pitons with colonial history. Get to know St. Lucia on the Historical Island Extravagana tour. One guest did, saying,

“…we had the most wonderful time with this one! The sights were superb, the stops were educational and comfortable, and the people who hosted us were well versed and most gracious, the food was great, the working plantation was most informative, and that volcano — what a hoot!”

The Pitons of St. Lucia are among the most impressive sights in the southern Caribbean.

The Pitons of St. Lucia are among the most impressive sights in the southern Caribbean.

Torn between two Caribbean itineraries? Maybe a 14-day Western/Eastern Caribbean cruise or a longer 21-day Southern/Eastern Caribbean is the one for you! Whichever course you choose, the Caribbean is brimming with beauty and wonder, and a cruise is an outstanding way to island hop … offering a most complete view of the region.

Don’t forget, you can pre-book shore excursions to save time onboard and ensure you get the tour of choice!

Which Caribbean itinerary most appeals to you? Let us know in the comments!

NADM

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.

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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.

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