Tag Archives: Caribbean

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

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

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

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

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

1. HISTORY & LEGENDS IN KEY WEST

Visit Ernest Hemingway's famous home in Key West.

Visit Ernest Hemingway’s famous home in Key West.

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

2. HISTORICAL ISLAND EXTRAVAGANZA ON ST. LUCIA

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

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

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

3. HISTORICAL TRUJILLO AT BANANA COAST
Trujillo

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

4. LES SAINTES IN GUADELOUPE

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

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

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

5. ST. CROIX’S WEST END HIGHLIGHTS

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

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

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

St. Louis Cathedral has an imposing presence in Martinique.

St. Louis Cathedral in Martinique.

6. MARTINIQUE’S HISTORIC STROLL

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

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

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

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

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

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

KODM_new

Guests who have been anticipating booking a Caribbean voyage on Holland America Line’s newest ship, ms Koningsdam, can now do so. Bookings opened for the cruises that feature Half Moon Cay, Holland America Line’s private Bahamian island, as well as a host of other tropical favorites.

The ship, launching in April 2016, will homeport at Port Everglades in Fort Lauderdale, Fla., and sail a series of Caribbean voyages from November 2016 through March 2017.

The seven-day cruises visit popular ports in the region, while the longer nine-, 10- and 11-day itineraries provide more time for exploring a diverse array of off-the-beaten-path islands.

“Since we began taking reservations for Koningsdam’s summer Europe season, guests have been eagerly awaiting the opportunity to book a Caribbean voyage on our beautiful new ship,” said Orlando Ashford, president of Holland America Line. “Demand for being among the first to experience our latest innovations on Koningsdam is high, so we encourage anyone interested in a Caribbean cruise to book early. It’s going to be a fantastic inaugural season.”

Starting in November 2016, the ship will offer two different seven-day Caribbean itineraries. The eastern Caribbean route calls at the Turks and Caicos, Puerto Rico, the U.S. Virgin Islands and Half Moon Cay. The western Mediterranean route visits Half Moon Cay, Grand Cayman, Mexico and Key West, Fla.

The ship’s longer nine-, 10- and 11-day cruises showcase more ports in the region and include unique and lesser-visited islands such as Aruba, Bonaire, Curaçao, Jamaica, Martinique and St. Lucia, to name a few.

The Caribbean cruises follow Koningsdam’s inaugural season sailing roundtrip from Amsterdam, the Netherlands, to Norway, the Baltic, British Isles and Iceland.

Half Moon Cay: Holland America Line’s #1-Rated Caribbean Port

The island's crescent shape is how Half Moon Cay got its name.

The island’s crescent shape is how Half Moon Cay got its name.

Featured on all itineraries, Holland America Line’s private island paradise of Half Moon Cay is consistently rated the number-one Caribbean destination by guests. Perhaps it’s the port’s pristine beaches and crystalline waters in varying shades of blue. Or maybe it’s the variety of activities offered, from swimming with stingrays to horseback riding through the surf. Or the option to simply sit back with a cool drink in hand and soak up the sun.

Cruise Critic’s Erica Silverstein recently wrote an article about Half Moon Cay and had this to say:

“Half Moon Cay — the private island in the Bahamas that Carnival and Holland America share — looks like a movie set of a beach. The sand is pristinely white, with nary a scratchy shell or untoward piece of seaweed. The sea is warm, but not too warm, and turquoise, just like all the postcards you see of Caribbean beaches that you always assumed were fake. The cabanas are painted in bright, happy colors, and the bars have quaint thatched roofs and inviting Adirondack chairs — or are set inside a faux pirate ship. You have to try to have a bad time there.”

To read Erica’s full article on how to enjoy Half Moon Cay, click HERE.

Sun, Sand and Surf … Activities Galore!

Visitors looking to get out and explore Half Moon Cay have more than a dozen shore excursions to choose from that include options in every level of activity intensity. These include horseback riding by land and sea, personal watercraft adventures on the interior lagoon and a stingray adventure, as well as catch-and-release deep-sea fishing trips, eco-tours by glass-bottom boat, parasailing, guided kayak trips and guided bike rides around the island.

HMC_horse

One of the most popular tours is horseback riding by land and sea. Guest Sammiefitz had this to say:

“We have been to Half Moon Cay several times and love the beach day, but this time we rode the horses. Not only did we see parts of the island we have never seen before, but we went to the highest point of Half Moon Cay for a beautiful view of the ocean and our ship. We saw the gardens and animals that the locals who live on the island take care of, and the BEST, I mean BEST part, was taking the horses out into the water, and having them swim with us on their backs. They split us into small groups for this swim, and I would suggest that and someone in your party splits up, like, my husband and did, so they can take photos of you in the water. Second suggestion, it’s a lovely walk back to the beach, instead of taking the truck back. Try it…”

Fun For All Ages

Many guests rate the call so high for its abundance of children’s activities. The Half Moon Lagoon aqua park offers large water toys in the shapes of whales, octopi, sharks and dolphins for kids to climb on and a pirate ship water slide that sprays water from its cannons. A pirate-themed playground is available with two slides and two kid-sized wooden pirate ships.

Half Moon Cay has a variety of fun activities for kids of all ages.

Half Moon Cay has a variety of fun activities for kids of all ages.

Private Beach Cabanas and Villas

Guests looking for a bit of luxury ashore take advantage of the private beach-side cabanas and two-story villas. The cabanas feature a refrigerator, ceiling fan, air conditioner, table and chairs inside, deck chairs and a misting shower on the private terrace, while the luxury villas feature all that plus an exclusive hot tub on the second floor, floating mats and snorkel gear for use throughout the day.

“Loved the beach villa!!!! I have been known to frequent the cabans, but no more. 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

The villas, left, and cabanas are popular a feature on Half Moon Cay.

The villas, left, and cabanas are popular a feature on Half Moon Cay.

Why do guests love Half Moon Cay so much? Matt Samms, Holland America Line’s vice president Caribbean relations, summed it up nicely:

“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.”

There’s so much to do and see on Half Moon Cay that guests keep coming back time and again.

About Koningsdam
Currently under construction, 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 while still featuring popular amenities guests associate with Holland America Line.

In a first for Holland America Line, the ship will feature 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 with artists 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.

Read more about Koningsdam’s exciting features in a previous blog post.

Will you be booking a trip to Half Moon Cay on one of Koningsdam’s Caribbean cruises?

An overnight at Bangkok on the 28-Day Indonesian Discovery & Far East Discovery Collectors’ Voyage shows the city in a different light.
An overnight at Bangkok on the 28-Day Indonesian Discovery & Far East Discovery Collectors’ Voyage shows the city in a different light.

Are you a port or destinations collector? Do you like longer journeys? What about relaxing days at sea? If you answered yes to any or all of these questions, Holland America Line’s Collectors’ Voyages are the perfect cruise travel option. The Collectors’ Voyages are combined back-to-back itineraries that enable cruisers to visit more areas in a region than on a single, shorter voyage. And sometimes they combine two cruises in different regions, spanning continents and oceans. Cruise fares also can be more economical with Collectors’ Voyages, making them impossible to pass up.

If you’re thinking about booking a Collectors’ Voyage and wonder if it’s right for you, here are the top five reasons to take one of these exciting and unique itineraries.

1. More Exciting & Unusual Ports
The beauty of a Collectors’ Voyage is that it combines two back-to-back itineraries into one, extended cruise. Holland America Line often purposefully schedules ships on alternating routes in a region so guests who want to visit more ports in the area easily can combine two voyages into one seamless itinerary.

Just look at how this Caribbean Collectors' Voyage spans the region! From Aruba to Half Moon Cay, it's sun, sand and sea all the way.

Just look at how this Caribbean Collectors’ Voyage spans the region! From Aruba to Half Moon Cay, it’s sun, sand and sea all the way.

If you’re looking for the ultimate Caribbean adventure and want to see what the many unique islands have to offer, Oosterdam’s 21-day Southern Caribbean Wayfarer/Seafarer Collectors’ Voyage calls at 12 ports, including the chance to experience Half Moon Cay twice. Holland America Line’s private island paradise is consistently ranked number-one in the Caribbean by cruise guests. In addition to conveniently sailing roundtrip from Fort Lauderdale, Fla., the ship visits popular favorites like Barbados, Martinique, St. Lucia and St. Maarten. But it also calls at several off-the-beaten-path ports like the ABC Islands of Aruba, Bonaire and Curacao, as well as Grand Turk and St. Kitts.

2. Longer Voyages
While some Collectors’ Voyages can be “shorter” such as the 14-day Easter/Western Caribbean Collectors’ Voyage, many are longer, epic journeys lasting a month, sometimes two. In addition to combining itineraries, many Collectors’ Voyages combine destinations that require more time to get from place to place, or the back-to-back itineraries are already longer individually and make up an even longer cruise when combined.

Guests get to experience the Great Barrier Reef twice on this Collectors' Voyage.

Guests get to experience the Great Barrier Reef twice on this Collectors’ Voyage.

In September 2015 Volendam sails from Vancouver, British Columbia, to Singapore on a sweeping 75-Day South Pacific Explorer and Great Barrier Reef Collectors’ Voyage. While crossing the Pacific Ocean, the ship spends the night at Honolulu, Hawaii, then island-hops among South Pacific jewels en route to Australia. Once there, the ship makes 18 calls around the continent and offers guests two opportunities to experience the Great Barrier Reef, as well as scenic cruising in the Ribbon Reef region. Undoubtedly, it’s a memorable journey.

3. Visit Many Countries on One Trip
Many of the Collectors’ Voyages concentrate on one region, such as the Caribbean Collectors’ Voyages, while others explore multiple countries and span thousands of nautical miles. In Europe and South America it’s easy to hit many countries on one voyage without going too far. But sometimes the Collectors’ Voyages reach countries that are oceans apart.

The 48-Day Mediterranean and Far East Explorer Collectors’ Voyage departs Sept. 13, 2015, on Ryndam and cruises from Rotterdam, the Netherlands, all the way to Singapore in the Far East. The ship calls at 28 ports in 14 countries, making it a fun adventure for the traveler who wants to add to their collection of destinations visited.

Cruise from Rotterdam to Singapore with XX ports calls in-between.

Cruise from Rotterdam to Singapore with 28 ports calls in-between.

In addition to countries like Portugal, Italy, Spain and Greece, guests will visit exotic locales in Jordan, Oman, India and Sri Lanka. A transit of the Suez Canal is a highlight of the voyage.

The convenience of unpacking just once, no hassles with car, train, bus or air transportation, and waking fresh in a new location makes a longer cruise adventure an unbeatable value.

4. Overnight Stays in Ports of Call
Overnight port calls are a highlight of some of the Collectors’ Voyages, allowing guests more time ashore to experience all that the area has to offer. Guests can take an evening tour to enjoy the nightlife side of the city, or perhaps dinner ashore at a well-known local restaurant is on the list of things to do. It also means time to take multiple tours in one port (which is a rare opportunity), go overland to an area farther from the ship than a day-call would allow, or even split time between taking a tour and exploring on your own. The cities that warrant an overnight call are often some of the most culturally rich in the world, leaving much to discover.

On the 28-Day Indonesian Discovery & Far East Discovery Collectors’ Voyage departing Jan. 5, 2016, from Singapore, Volendam guests will call at 16 ports in six countries and have overnight calls at Benoa (Bali), Indonesia; Singapore; and Laem Chabang (Bangkok), Thailand.

Thanks to an overnight call guests can go into Bangkok and see the Golden Reclining Buddha at Wat Po.

Thanks to an overnight call guests can visit Bangkok and see the Golden Reclining Buddha at Wat Po.

The overnight call at Laem Chabang allows guests to make the 2 1/2-hour journey into Bangkok and spend the night at a hotel in the bustling city. The Bangkok Overnight Tour includes visits to some of the country’s most impressive temples, the Grand Palace, Royal Barges and Wat Po with its golden reclining buddha, as well as the chance to enjoy an authentic Thai dinner at a local restaurant.

5. More Sea Days to Experience the Ship
While port days are exciting and full of adventure, it’s nice to have a few sea days to relax, recharge and take advantage of all of the ships’ wonderful amenities. Guests can be as active as they want or simply choose to unwind and do as little as possible. But if it’s activities you’re looking for, Holland America Line has something for everyone.

From culinary and computer classes to the spa, there are a variety of activities to enjoy on sea days.

From culinary and computer classes to the spa, there are a variety of activities to enjoy on sea days.

With guest chefs, cooking classes, wine tasting and mixology classes, the Culinary Arts Center makes it easy to embrace your culinary passion at sea. If you’re looking to get the most out of your gadgets and learn new ways to use them, the Digital Workshops powered by Windows are perfect … and complimentary!

On sea days, many guests love to head to the Greenhouse Spa to enjoy a relaxing experience. You might be feeling run down from all the exciting ports you’ve been visiting, making the spa the perfect place to get refreshed and rejuvenated.

Holland America Line’s “Dancing with the Stars: At Sea” program is one of the most exciting activities available on a cruise ship. Guests have the opportunity to learn the art of a variety of dancing genres in classes onboard, and then compete for a chance to perform on the Champions Cruise.

Holland America Line’s “On Location” program is truly one of a kind. Become further immersed in your destinations with enriching activities featuring the local cultures and cuisine of the ports you have been visiting, all while onboard. From learning tai chi in Asia to lei making in Hawaii, you will love these hands-on classes. And if it’s knowledge you seek, Holland America Line has an impressive roster of experts in a variety of fields that come onboard and provide exciting and informative lectures.

The 44-Day Alaska Explorer and Transpacific Crossing Collectors’ Voyage on Statendam starts off with a port-intensive exploration of Alaska. In addition to calling at Juneau, Ketchikan, Homer, Sitka, Kodiak, Icy Straight Point and Anchorage, guests also are treated to the stunning scenery of Tracy Arm and Hubbard Glacier. But then it’s off across the Pacific to Singapore. Along the route guests will visit Hawaii, Micronesia, Guam, the Philippine, Malaysia and more, but it’s the 19 total sea days that are a real treat for those who are ready to have fun onboard.

Have you taken a Collectors’ Voyage or are you thinking about it? What appeals to you most about these longer cruises? Tell us below!

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 summer 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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