Tag Archives: Caribbean

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The finalists having some fun with their shipboard dance partners.

The finalists having some fun with their shipboard dance partners.

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

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

Photo courtesy of journalist Jason Leppert of Popular Cruising.

Photo courtesy of journalist Jason Leppert of Popular Cruising.

Photo courtesy of journalist Jason Leppert of Popular Cruising.

Photos courtesy of journalist Jason Leppert of Popular Cruising.

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

Photos from @kym_johnson, @carsonkressley and @artemchigvintse.

Photos from @kym_johnson, @carsonkressley and @artemchigvintse.

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

Top 15 – Round 1

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

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

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

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

The eliminated guests showed off some final moves.

The eliminated guests showed off some final moves.

Top 10 – Round 2

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

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

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

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

Top 6 – Round 3

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

1. Two Maiden Calls in the Mediterranean

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

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

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

2. Sun, Sand and Surf in the Caribbean

The golden beaches of the Caribbean await.

The golden beaches of the Caribbean await.

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

3. Glaciers Galore from the Sea and Sky

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

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

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

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

Guest Gamma said this of the dog sledding tour:

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

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

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

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

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

5. Antarctica – Journey to the End of the World

A cruise to Antarctica is full of memorable moments.

A cruise to Antarctica is full of memorable moments.

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

6. Experience the Fall Foliage in Canada & New England

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

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

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

7. Beautiful Bermuda is Back

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

HAWAII

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

17-DAY CIRCLE HAWAII

Photo by Inez.

Photo by Inez.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Stingray

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Matt: For me, horses for sure!

The horseback riding tour is a highlight for Sams.

The horseback riding tour is a highlight for Sams.

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

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

And finally…

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

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

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

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

CLIA_Blog_hero

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

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

Explore4

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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