Tag Archives: Europe

HAL's shore excursion Collections feature world wonders and once-in-a-lifetime opportunities like Borobudur.
HAL's shore excursion Collections feature world wonders and once-in-a-lifetime opportunities like Borobudur.

When taking a Holland America Line cruise, you can expect incredible shore excursions, tailor-made to offer the best experience at every port. Holland America Line has grouped many of the tours into five distinct collections, so you’ll know exactly what to look for when booking your tours in advance or onboard.

Each collection is centered on a different type of experience and you can find them at nearly every destination around the world. From late-night museum tours only available to Holland America Line guests to helicopter tours and cuddling with koalas — here’s an explanation of all five collections, and some of the best tours you’ll find in each group.

Medallion Collection
The Medallion Collection is a series of exclusive experiences designed for the most discerning Holland America Line guest. You’ll enjoy first-class style and smaller groups. Perhaps one of the most popular Medallion Collection excursions is Dog Sledding on the Mendenhall Glacier by Helicopter at Juneau, Alaska. This unforgettable tour combines the thrill of a glacier helicopter tour, flying over lush rain forest and glacier-carved peaks, and a dogsledding adventure that will be like nothing you have ever experienced before.

You’ll head to the oldest operating dog sled tour company in Alaska by helicopter and either help the professional mushers drive the team or relax in the sled as you take in stunning scenery around you. Of course … you’ll also get plenty of time to play with the dogs!

A helicopter tour and dog-sledding adventure is about as exhilarating as it gets!

A helicopter tour and dog-sledding adventure is about as exhilarating as it gets!

Another exciting Medallion Collection shore excursion is the Pearl Harbor VIP Military Base Experience — the only tour of World War II Battlefields, including exclusive access to military bases and the Arizona Memorial. You’ll also stop at the largest Army Base outside the Continental U.S. and visit the Pineapple Pentagon — headquarters of the U.S. Army Pacific Command.

The Medallion Collection also features incredible overnight adventures, like the Milford Sound to Dunedin Overnight Tour. Highlights of the tour include passing through the magnificent Fiordland National Park, stopping for photos at the Chasm and Mirror Lakes, and heading to Queenstown for a gondola ride up to Bob’s Peak. The following day you’ll also enjoy a sightseeing tour at Dunedin, to see why some call it “the Edinburgh of the South.”

You'll be surrounded by natural beauty at Milford Sound.

You’ll be surrounded by natural beauty at Milford Sound.

And in addition to first-class tours and unforgettable experiences, these tours offer in-depth perspectives with access to events and sights not normally readily available, like the Exclusive Evening at the Hermitage tour at St. Petersburg, Russia. On this tour, the Hermitage Museum opens at night for an evening viewing exclusively for Holland America Line guests. The museum, a work of art in itself, ranks among the world’s best.

The Medallion Collection features VIP experiences at the Hermitage and Pearl Harbor.

The Medallion Collection features VIP experiences at the Hermitage and Pearl Harbor.

Encore Collection
The Encore Collection is perfect for cruisers visiting destinations they have been to before. These tours let you discover what lies beyond the well-known attractions of a place. The Landscapes & Sheep Dogs: A Scottish Experience tour at Greenock (Glasgow), Scotland, lets you take a deeper look into one of this country’s most important workers. You’ll first drive across the valley of the Lowland region and head to the small market town of Aberfoyle to the Scottish Wool Center. You’ll meet some adorable border collies, one of the smartest dog breeds, and members of the Scottish Sheepdog School — a center for excellence for the breeding and training of young sheepdogs. You’ll observe class while the dogs display their agility and ability. Then after lunch you’ll head to the ‘Bonnie Banks of Loch Lomond’ — a stunning mountainous region and embark on a boat cruise on Loch Lomond.

One of Scotland's adorable border collies shows off his talents at Greenock.

One of Scotland’s adorable border collies shows off for guests, rounding up ducks!

The America’s Cup tour is also Encore Collection, letting you enjoy the thrill of sailing on the waters of Auckland, New Zealand — the legendary City of Sails. In the past, sailing an America’s Cup yacht was only available to the racing crews themselves. With this tour you’ll be part of the crew, encouraged to participate in sailing the powerful yachts. But if you’re just looking to sit back and relax, you can do that too, taking in the beautiful Waitemata Harbour.

You can sail with Pride of Auckland on the Waitemata Harbour.

You can sail Pride of Auckland on the Waitemata Harbour.

Other once-in-a-lifetime experiences on Encore Collection tours are getting a taste of castle life and high tea at Quebec, Canada’s, famous Château Frontenac; a flight and hike to the famous Mayan ruins of Tikal from Santo Thomas de Castilla, Guadeloupe, and a tour of one of the four Imperial Cities and the capital of Morocco, Rabat, during a call at Casablanca.

Find Encore Collection excursions during calls at Quebec City, Santo Thomas de Castilla and Casablanca.

Find Encore Collection excursions during calls at Quebec City, Santo Thomas de Castilla and Casablanca.

World Wonders Collection
The World Wonders Collection features natural treasures, architectural marvels and technical wonders. See the Seven Wonders of the World and some carefully selected additions including the ancient city of Pompeii at Naples, Italy, and one of southeast Asia’s most incredible sights, the temple of Borobudur, during a call at Semarang, Java, Indonesia.

What the World Wonders Collection tours have in common is the ability to awe guests. The Giza Pyramids, Sphinx & the Egyptian Museum of Antiguities tour at Alexandria (Cairo), Egypt, will do just that. You’ll head to Cairo, the capital of Egypt, and first visit the great pyramids of Giza. The largest of these, Cheops, is the only remaining one of the Seven Wonders of the Ancient World. You’ll also see the Sphinx and then head to the Egyptian Museum of Antiquities for a wander through time. Here, the world’s most important collection of Egyptian antiquities is housed, with thousands of statues, jewels and artifacts, including the amazing treasures of Tutankhamon.

The Sphinx is one of Egypt's most iconic sights.

The Sphinx is one of Egypt’s most iconic sights.

The Lake Myvatn tour at Akureyri, Iceland, features stops at Godafoss — one of Iceland’s most spectacular waterfalls and, of course, the Lake Myvatn area. The Great Barrier Reef Cruise & Snorkel tour at Hamilton Island in Queensland, Australia, features one of the world’s best underwater wonders, and the Grand Canyon of the Pacific tour features one of Kauai, Hawaii’s, most popular attractions — Waimea Canyon.

From the Great Barrier Reef to Lake Myvatn and Waimea Canyon -- the World Wonders Collection is all about bringing awe to Holland America Line guests.

From the Great Barrier Reef to Lake Myvatn and Waimea Canyon — the World Wonders Collection is all about bringing awe to Holland America Line guests.

Cruise With Purpose Collection
The Cruise With Purpose Collection was carefully crafted for the thoughtful cruiser who wants to give back or pay it forward. These these activities are all about enriching your soul and improving the planet, one voyage at a time. The Iceland Tomorrow: Planting for the Future & the Ancient Ring of Fire is a predominantly green-focused tour that circles the active, 2,635-foot Hengill Volcano, at Reykjavik, Iceland. At the time of Iceland’s settlement, in the 9th century, an estimated one fourth of the country was covered by birch woodlands, but today just a little over 1% of Iceland is forest. So aside from scenic drives and visits to the Hellisheidi Geothermal Plant Visitor Center, the town of Hveragerdi, and the UNESCO World Heritage Suite of Thingvellir, you’ll get to plant a tree in your name!

Two Cruise with Purpose Collections are centered around planting trees in countries with much deforestation: Iceland and Australia.

Two Cruise with Purpose Collections are centered around planting trees in countries with much deforestation: Iceland and Australia.

The Koala Sanctuary & Tree Planting tour at Brisbane, Australia, lets guests leave their mark while getting up close to some of Australia’s most adorable animals. You’ll visit the Lone Pine Koala Sanctuary, the world’s first and largest koala sanctuary, and plant a gum tree in its eucalyptus garden. These trees provide a habitat for local wildlife and reduce carbon emissions, and most importantly, feed the koala’s, whose food resources have grown increasingly scarce due to wild fires and deforestations. Afterwards, you’ll get to hug an adorable koala, hand-feed a kangaroo, see the rare platypus and enjoy many other Australian natives.

Other Cruise With Purpose Collection tours let you interact with Nicaraguan children at Corinto, Nicaragua, produce a silk thread in the age-old, traditional manner at Dubrovnik, Croatia, and draw plankton samples, identify whale species and record their behaviors in Juneau, Alaska.

Cruise With Purpose Collection tours involve a variety of different activities including interacting with kids in Nicaragua, making a thread of silk in Dubrovnik and documenting whale behaviors in Juneau.

Cruise With Purpose Collection tours involve a variety of different activities including interacting with kids, making a silk thread and documenting whale behaviors.

Signature Collection
The Signature Collection is an exclusive touring option for independent-minded travelers. You can completely customize your time ashore by reserving private transportation (whether by car, van, boat, floatplane or limousine) and a guide, and head to the sights you most want to see at the pace of your choosing. Signature Collection tours are offered all over the world at Holland America Line destinations from Punta Arenas, Chile; and Fortaleza, Brazil; to Katakolon (Olympia), Greece; Hakodate, Japan; and Seoul, South Korea.

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

Have you taken any of these unique tours before? Which collection “label” do you look for first when you book shore excursions? Tell us in the comments below.

Bookings for  Koningsdam's European itineraries open Saturday, Feb. 7.
Bookings for Koningsdam's European itineraries open Saturday, Feb. 7.

You’ve asked and you’ve waited, and now it’s finally here! Starting today guests can make bookings for the summer 2016 European cruises of ms Koningsdam and the May 9 Christening Cruise.

As previously detailed on the blog, from May through the summer the ship will be sailing roundtrip from Amsterdam, the Netherlands, on itineraries to Norway, the Baltic, British Isles and Iceland. That makes three ships sailing from Dutch homeports – a first for Holland America Line.

Additionally, the ship’s 13-day Christening Cruise that departs May 9, 2016, from Civitavecchia, Italy, to Amsterdam, the Netherlands, will be open to book. The Christening Cruise will feature the ship’s official naming celebration May 21 in Rotterdam, the Netherlands, followed by an overnight at Amsterdam.

“We are excited to open the maiden European summer season of Koningsdam for booking and especially pleased to announce the Christening Cruise that will feature the official naming celebration of this special ship,” said Orlando Ashford, president of Holland America Line. “The summer season cruises on Koningsdam offer unique itineraries, so we recommend guests book early to reserve their preferred sailing date and stateroom.”

From its summer homeport of Amsterdam, Koningsdam will begin a series of seven- and 14-day cruises to Norway that showcase the country’s stunning scenery and dramatic fjords.

In August the ship sails a British Isles and Iceland itinerary that features three calls in Iceland and visits to ports in England, Scotland and Norway.

Three ports in Iceland highlight the Northern Isles itineraries. Guests can even go whale watching on the Husavik Whale Watching Safari tour in Akuruyri.

Three ports in Iceland highlight the Northern Isles itineraries. Guests can even go whale watching on the Husavik Whale Watching Safari tour in Akuruyri.

On two 14-day itineraries in June and September, guests can embark on a journey to the Baltic and visit historical and cultural sites in Denmark, Germany, Estonia, Russia, Finland and Sweden.

Gorgeous ports in the Baltic await, like Helsinki, Finland, and Tallinn, Estonia.

Gorgeous ports in the Baltic await, like Helsinki, Finland, left, and Tallinn, Estonia.

The ship’s fall and winter itineraries will be announced in the coming months.

Raise your hand if you’ll be booking a Koningsdam European itinerary or the Christening Cruise! Tell us which one below!

History and Old World charm come to life on intimate ports in Europe, like Kotor, Montenegro.
History and Old World charm come to life on intimate ports in Europe, like Kotor, Montenegro.

When Eurodam and Nieuw Amsterdam explore Europe this summer and fall, both Signature-Class ships will set sail on longer journeys that visit some of the most charming, quaint and lesser-known ports in the region. These itineraries were recently added to the ships’ line-up to add more comprehensive options and to extend the season into the fall when the temperature falls slightly and the crowds diminish … making it an ideal time to visit.

Guests who want to also visit marquee destinations such as Stockholm, Sweden; St. Petersburg, Russia; Venice, Italy; Copenhagen, Denmark; and Barcelona, Spain, need not worry. Those popular jewels are still on the routes. But what makes these itineraries so alluring is that they feature the perfect combination of famous capitals and off-the-beathen-path ports that are on the verge of discovery but still retain their old-world style and ambiance.

From northern Europe to the Mediterranean, join us and explore our picks for the most exciting lesser-known ports on these incredible itineraries.

DRAMATIC LANDSCAPES AWAIT IN NORTHERN EUROPE

Invergordon (Inverness), Scotland
While you might not have heard of Inverness, you probably know about this charming port’s most famous resident … the Loch Ness Monster. Those who are interested can go in search of the monster at splendid Loch Ness — Britain’s deepest freshwater lake — whose murky depths inspire lurid tales of fantastical creatures. The Loch Ness, Water Monsters & Highland Castles tour features Loch Ness, Urquhart Castle, Culloden Battlefield and Cawdor Castle — a truly beautiful, traditional medieval castle with exceptionally lovely gardens.

Lock Ness is 23 miles long and only a mile wide. Its deepest point in 754 feet and it contains more fresh water than England and Wales combined.

Lock Ness is 23 miles long and only a mile wide. Its deepest point in 754 feet and it contains more fresh water than England and Wales combined.

Yet, it’s not all about Nessie. Those who are looking to explore Scottish culture can learn about whiskey on a visit to the distillery that produces Glenmorangie, one of Scotland’s favorite malt whiskies. And photographers will relish in the opportunity to capture the Scottish Highlands — indisputably one of the most picturesque and photogenic areas in the U.K. — with the aid of a professional photographer on the Photographic Expedition in the Scottish Highlands tour.

Stavanger, Norway
While Olso and Geiranger are better known Norwegian destinations, Stavanger is a port that’s one of the most beautiful and memorable. Guests might have seen images of Pulpit Rock but not known where to find this iconic location. The answer is Lysefjord, which is accessible from Stavanger. This natural wonder juts out more than 1,500 feet above the sea, and on the Lysefjord: Pulpit Rock Cruise tour guests are able to cruise under it!

Pulpit Rock is one of the most scenic natural wonders in Norway.

Pulpit Rock is one of the most scenic natural wonders in Norway.

Guest Grams said:

The best fjord viewing of the cruise. Although the Ryndam does cruise near to Pulpit Rock, there were other “up close” moments that made this tour worth the money.

Guests who want to climb the rock can do so on the Pulpit Rock Hike Tour. To reach the Pulpit Rock involves a two-hour hike through a variety of different landscapes includeing mountain, forest and marsh with some lovely ponds along the way. The last 600 yards are quite spectacular as you walk along a narrow path with steep cliffs on one side and the Lysefjord far below on the other. Finally, upon arrival at the Pulpit Rock, guests can enjoy fantastic scenery and view the Lysefjord some 1,500 feet below.

Portree (Isle of Skye), Scotland
The mountainous Isle of Skye provides breathtaking vistas from nearly every destination. The largest town on Skye, this port’s harbor is fringed by steep cliffs, and the town’s Gaelic heritage is evident in the local attractions. Harry Potter fans will recognize that the town is home to the fictional Pride of Portree. Everything is a short stroll away within Portree, and nearby Glasgow provides further opportunities for exploration. Visit Dunvegan Castle, stronghold of the Chiefs of MacLeod for nearly 800 years, or Iconic Eilean Donan Castle and the West Highlands. Guest Jeanne had this to say:

There’s plenty of time to visit the castle and roam around the grounds on your own. The guide was very knowledgeable about his land. The scenic drive was awesome.

For the rest of the itinerary details, click HERE.

THE BALTIC BECKONS

In addition to Norway and the British Isles, Eurodam heads to the Baltic next summer. These lovely ports enhance the itineraries, showing the culture and traditions of this stunningly beautiful part of the world.

Tallinn is among the most charming ports in the Baltic.

Tallinn is among the most charming ports in the Baltic.

Tallinn, Estonia
Toompea, the old town, is a thicket of turrets, spires, and onion domes that overlooks the rest of Tallinn and the Gulf of Finland. From the brilliantly preserved All-linn (the lower town) to Pirita — site of the 1980 Olympic Games — there’s so much to see and do at Tallinn. Guests can explore the 16th-century ruins of St. Bridget’s Convent, see the walls and towers that surround the Old Town area, and admire the architecture of St. Kaarli’s Church and the Estonian Opera & Ballet Theater.

For the active adventurer, the Countryside Cycling & A Stroll Through the Old Town tour goes through a forest park on the coast and the picturesque area of Kakumae.

Kiel, Germany
While you might have heard of the Kiel Canal that links the North Sea at Brunsbüttel to the Baltic Sea at Kiel-Holtenau, did you know that Kiel also is a city in Germany? In fact, it’s Germany’s largest passenger port. Offering the perfect blend of urban charm, culture and history, Kiel also serves as the gateway for Hamburg, a beautiful port city on the Elbe River. From Kiel, guests can visit A UNESCO World Heritage Site: Medieval Lubeck & its Famous Marzipan.

Enjoy the medieval ambiance of the Altstadt (Old Town) with its well-known Holsten Gate — a landmark of the city and one of the few relics of the original fortress. Pass the Gothic Rathaus (City Hall), among the oldest in Germany, and one of the first old age homes in Germany — the Heiligen Geist Hospital. See Buddenbrooks House, home of the famous writers Heinrich and Thomas Mann, and admire some of the city’s 82 quaint alleyways.

Guest Dobo highly recommends the tour:

The trip to Lubeck was so interesting. It is not a strenuous trip, as there is plenty of opportunity to rest with walking distances quite short. Our local guide, Yan, was absolutely fantastic! He was knowledgeable, interesting, enthusiastic, and eager to answer individual questions. As he had chosen Lubeck as his home, he had learned a great deal of its history and could tell us stories about the buildings. This was one of our best tours on the trip. We would recommend others to take advantage of this tour and learn about the history of this area, the Hanseatic League, construction methods, and enjoy the local marzipan. Three cheers for Yan!

Visit these ports and more on the Baltic Adventure cruise.

VISIT THE MEDITERRANEAN IN THE FALL

The Europe season has been extended for Nieuw Amsterdam to give guests more options into the fall. It’s the perfect time of year to visit the region, with less tourists and cooler temperatures. Many of the itineraries explore several countries, making it easy for guests to unpack only once while seeing multiple destinations. Imagine waking up in a new country each day, easily traveling from port to port by cruise ship. These smaller ports make the voyage all the more memorable.

Kotor, Montenegro
Kotor is located along one of Montenegro’s most beautiful bays. First settled during the days of ancient Rome, the city today has a well preserved urban center with a vibrant community. Medieval architecture and numerous monuments of cultural heritage have made Kotor a UNESCO listed “World Natural and Historical Heritage Site.” To learn about the city, the Traditional Montenegro tour is an immersive experience.

Kotor is a must-see port on the Mediterranean cruises.

Kotor is a must-see port on the Mediterranean cruises.

In the old village of Lastva, enjoy a brief walking tour to visit a local house and the St. Maria Church. Learn about olive oil production and enjoy a snack of homemade bread, smoked ham, cheese and wine. On display is an exhibition of traditional arts and crafts, and watch a folklore performance by a local group. On returning to Kotor, stop to explore the city that is known as the jewel of Montenegro. The guide will take you on a walking tour that will include a visit to St Triphon’s Cathedral. Guest JerseyGirl praised the tour:

This tour should not be missed. The only difference is that they now have a little hall where they serve the refreshments and do the folklore performance. You will leave this tour feeling that you have seen something that will be a treasured memory. I have never meet such friendly people. Bring your camera and movie camera too!

Salerno, Italy
An attractive Italian city location in the region of Campania, Salerno is a popular destination and a gateway to the beautiful Amalfi Coast. In addition to beautiful beaches for guests who simply want to soak up the sun, visitors can journey to Positano, Capri, Amalfi and the lost city of Pompeii.

Roman emperors such as Caesar Augustus and Tiberius vacationed on the island of Capri, and the magnificent remains of their Roman villas remain today. Capri is a popular destination for artists and jet-setting travelers, although it’s known for its quaint charm and beautiful landscapes.

Gorgeous Capri is known for its chic vibe and stunning scenery.

Gorgeous Capri is known for its chic vibe and stunning scenery.

Pompeii is probably the most well-known of the attractions. Perfectly preserved since the eruption of Mt. Vesuvius in A.D. 79, guests learn what the residents were doing at the time of the eruption and gain an insight into the lives of the ancient Romans as you discover baths, theatres, temples, markets and the huge forum.

Alicante, Spain
A dynamic Spanish city with an abundance of attractions, Alicante is a juxtaposition of old-world charm and a busy, buzzy vibe. Modernity runs alongside tradition, and visitors can still find very traditional villages tucked away in the mountains. It’s also known to have some of the best cuisine in Spain. The unbeatable rice dishes are the most typical dish from Alicante.

Alicante features beautiful scenery and amazing cuisine.

Alicante features beautiful scenery and amazing cuisine.

If you want to learn about the area, set out to visit The Castle of Santa Barbara, a 12th century fortress that sits on Mount Benacantil in the center of Alicante. There’s also Iglesia de Santa Maria, a cathedral in a gothic style that was built in the 14th and 16th century over the remains of an old Moorish Mosque. And the co-cathedral of St. Nicholas is the main church in Alicante and exhibits a striking combination of baroque and renaissance features. The Gravina Palace is located in the Old Town of Alicante and is home to the Gravina Museum of Fine Arts. Built between 1748 and 1808, it houses a rich collection of Spanish artworks.

These ports are featured on the 19-day Gems of the Mediterranean cruise that explores seven countries on one itinerary and includes an overnight at Barcelona.

EIGHT SHIPS EXPLORE THE MEDITERRANEAN IN 2015
In addition to these new voyages, Holland America Line will have eight ships in the region for Summer 2015. The Europe cruises continue to focus on destination diversity, timeless appeal and high-quality experiences. The ships explore the entire region on itineraries that include northern Europe and the Norwegian fjords, Iceland and the Baltic; the British Isles; Canary Islands; Italian and French rivieras; Iberian Peninsula; Black Sea; the eastern and western Mediterranean; and transatlantics.

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

Will you head to Europe in 2015? Tell us which off-the-beaten-path port you’re looking forward to visiting in the comments below.

Holland America Line announces exciting new European itineraries for ms Koningsdam.
Holland America Line announces exciting new European itineraries for ms Koningsdam.

In summer 2016, Holland America Line’s newest ship, ms Koningsdam, will sail out of the port of Amsterdam, marking the first time the company will have three ships sailing out of three Dutch ports: Koningsdam out of Amsterdam, Rotterdam out of Rotterdam and Prinsendam out of Ijmuiden.

The ports of Amsterdam, top, and Rotterdam hosted press events today to announce Koningsdam's new itineraries. In the center photo are Mark Kammerer, vice president, international marketing and sales; Rene Kouwenberg, director of the Passenger Terminal Amsterdam; and Nico Bleichrodt, managing director, sales and marketing — North and Central Europe.

The ports of Amsterdam, top, and Rotterdam hosted press events today to announce Koningsdam’s new itineraries. Pictured are, from left, Mark Kammerer, vice president, international marketing and sales; Rene Kouwenberg, director of the Passenger Terminal Amsterdam; and Nico Bleichrodt, managing director, sales and marketing — North and Central Europe.

Koningsdam will debut a series of northern Europe and Baltic cruises as part of the premium line’s robust Europe season that features seven ships sailing throughout the region. Koningsdam’s summer itineraries — and all of Holland America Line’s 2016 summer Europe sailings — will be available for booking in early February.

Following a series of previously announced seven- and 12-day Premiere Sailings from Feb. 20 through April in the Mediterranean, the ship will reposition from Civitavecchia (Rome), Italy, to its summer homeport of Amsterdam, the Netherlands. Koningsdam will then go on to sail roundtrip Amsterdam itineraries to Norway, the Baltic and Iceland, where breathtaking vistas and grand fjords await. Orlando Ashford, president of Holland America Line said,

“For the first summer sailing season of our beautiful new ship ms Koningsdam, we’ve crafted some incredible itineraries to Europe’s most beautiful ports. We recommend booking early because response to Koningsdam’s Premiere Voyages was overwhelmingly positive.”

Koningsdam’s 13-day repositioning cruise from the Med departs May 9 and explores 10 ports in Spain, Gibraltar, Portugal, France, Belgium and the Netherlands before ending with an overnight at Amsterdam.

Kongingsdam Showcases Norway in Summer 2016

Once at Amsterdam, the ship will begin exciting seven- and 14-day cruises to Norway that showcase the country’s majestic scenery and quaint landscapes. A seven-day itinerary in May, July and August calls at Flam, Stavanger, Kristiansand and Oslo, with scenic cruising in Sognefjord and Oslofjord. Another seven-day itinerary in June and July calls at Eidfjord, Ålesund, Geiranger and Bergen, with scenic cruising in Hardangerfjord and Geirangerfjord. A seven-day voyage in August calls at Bergen, Hellesylt, Geiranger, Ålesund and Eidfjord, with Hardangerfjord and Geirangerfjord scenic cruising.

A highlight of the Norway cruises is the call at Geiranger at the heart of Geirangerfjord.

A highlight of the Norway cruises is the call at Geiranger at the heart of Geirangerfjord.

A longer 14-day Norwegian exploration departs May 29 and July 17, and crosses the Arctic Circle while calling at eight ports in Norway. Guests also will enjoy memorable scenic cruising in Hardangerfjord, Geirangerfjord, Trondheimsfjord, the North Cape and Sognefjord.

British Isles and Baltic Round Out Koningsdam Europe Highlights

Travelers looking to visit the British Isles and Iceland can embark Koningsdam Aug. 14 for a cruise to Newcastle upon Tyne, England; South Queensferry (Edinburgh) and Invergordon (Inverness), Scotland; Reykjavik (overnight), Isafjordur and Akuruyri, Iceland; and Ålesund and Bergen, Norway.

Edinburgh, Scotland, left, and Reykjavik, Iceland, are two of the calls on the Northern Isles cruise. Photos courtesy of Jaap Wisse, left, and Jan Yetke.

Edinburgh, Scotland, left, and Reykjavik, Iceland, are two of the calls on the Northern Isles cruise. Photos courtesy of Jaap Wisse, left, and Jan Yetke.

The Baltic awaits Koningsdam’s guests on two 14-day itineraries in June and September, also sailing roundtrip from Amsterdam. The ship calls at the most sought-after ports in the region, with visits to Copenhagen, Denmark; Warnemunde (Berlin) and Kiel (Hamburg), Germany; Tallinn, Estonia; St. Petersburg (overnight), Russia; Helsinki, Finland; and Stockholm and Gothenburg, Sweden.

Calls at St. Petersburg, Stockholm and Copenhagen are featured on the Baltic cruises. Guests can explore each port on tours like An Evening at Tivoli Gardens on Your Own and Edinburgh Highlights & Castle.

Calls at St. Petersburg, Stockholm and Copenhagen are featured on the Baltic cruises. Guests can explore each port on tours like An Evening at Tivoli Gardens on Your Own and Edinburgh Highlights & Castle.

At the end on the season, Koningsdam sails from Amsterdam to Civitavecchia on a 12-day journey that visits England, Gibraltar, Portugal and four ports in Spain. On Oct. 24 the ship repositions to Fort Lauderdale, Fla., on a 14-day voyage that crosses the Atlantic following calls at Alicante, Malaga (Granada) and Huelva (Seville), Spain; and Funchal, Madeira.

Koningsdam’s Premiere Voyage and Sailings

As previously announced, Koningsdam’s seven-day Premier Voyage sails roundtrip from Civitavecchia departing Feb. 20 to Dubrovnik, Croatia; Kérkira (Corfu) and Katakolon (Olympia), Greece; and Naples, Italy. The 12-day Premiere Sailings that follow are two alternating itineraries roundtrip from Civitavecchia. The “Greek & Turkish Treasures” itinerary calls at Katakolon, Piraeus (Athens), Rhodes and Crete, Greece; Istanbul (overnight) and Kusadasi (Ephesus), Turkey; and Naples, Italy. This itinerary also will be offered Sept. 30, in addition to the Premiere spring departures.

The “Mediterranean Mosaic” itinerary spends 12 days visiting Naples, Italy; Palermo, Sicily; Cagliari, Sardinia; Gibraltar, British Territory; and Cádiz, Málaga, Cartagena and Barcelona (overnight), Spain, sailing roundtrip from Civitavecchia. In addition to the Premiere spring departures, this itinerary also will depart Oct 12.

About ms Koningsdam

Koningsdam represents a new Pinnacle Class of ship for Holland America Line. The vessel will debut several innovative concepts and new public spaces and venues, while still featuring popular amenities guests associate with Holland America Line.

To bring a fresh vision to ms Koningsdam, Holland America Line tapped Adam D. Tihany, one of the world’s pre-eminent hospitality designers. Tihany joins distinguished maritime designer and architect Bjørn Storbraaten who worked with Holland America Line on ms Eurodam and ms Nieuw Amsterdam. The two firms will create an interior that blends a fresh, contemporary styling in perfect harmony with the line’s renowned classic elegance.

The line recently unveiled the first series of interior renderings for ms Koningsdam on their website, and additional details will continue to be revealed over the coming months, including plans for the ship’s official christening.

Are you looking forward to ms Koningsdam’s summer 2016 itineraries? Let us know which cruise you want to book in the comments!

ReadySetSail_Blog_main

With the 2015 cruising season quickly approaching, Holland America Line is launching a new ReadySetSail promotion that enables guests to take advantage of special offers, including an onboard spending credit for suite guests that can be put toward a variety of shipboard experiences. ReadySetSail offers are available on select 2015 summer sailings and feature savings for multiple destinations, so guests are encouraged to book early for the best stateroom selection.

ReadySetSail_Blog_250Guests who book cruises or an Alaska Land+Sea Journey (offers on cruise portion only) with the ReadySetSail promotion will receive a complimentary stateroom upgrade from an interior to ocean-view or ocean-view to verandah stateroom, up to 10 percent savings on select shore excursions when booked before March 15, 2015, free or reduced third and fourth fares, and a reduction of 50 percent off the normal deposit rate. With complimentary upgrades, guests can sail in an ocean-view stateroom for the price of an interior or receive a free upgrade to a verandah when purchasing an ocean-view. Suite bookings receive a $300 onboard spending credit per stateroom ($150 per person), a complimentary three-bottle Wine Navigator Package and two free soda cards per stateroom in addition to the other ReadySetSail offers.

“This is a great time of year to introduce some of our best promotions when people are thinking about making their summer plans, and ReadySetSail features exceptional savings that we know will entice travelers to book a Holland America Line cruise,” said Orlando Ashford, president for Holland America Line. “It’s hard to beat the value of a cruise vacation, and ReadySetSail makes it even more inviting to take a dream holiday with family and friends.”

Cruise destinations featured in the ReadySetSail promotion include Alaska cruises and Land+Sea Journeys, Bermuda, Canada/New England and Europe.

Where will you go on your ReadySetSail cruise?

Where will you go on your ReadySetSail cruise?

Ideal Family Cruises with Extra Savings
Families reap vacation benefits from ReadySetSail with free or reduced third and fourth fares. With ReadySetSail, travelers also will enjoy fun and interesting experiences for the whole family with select summer shore excursion adventures that can be booked before March 15, 2015, at up to 10 percent off. These savings provide the perfect opportunity to visit some of the most recognizable monuments, photograph stunning scenic landscapes and embark on a memorable adventure.

By taking advantage of the 50 percent reduced deposit offer, guests will have more flexibility and time before paying the final deposit on their cruise or Alaska Land+Sea Journey. And a complimentary full category upgrade makes it possible to book a lower-fare cabin and cruise in a higher category.

Onboard Credit for Suite Guests
The onboard credit for suite guests can be used to enjoy a variety of shipboard experiences, including a treatment at the Greenhouse Spa and Salon, gift shop purchases, shore excursions, beverages or a dinner at an alternative venue such as the Pinnacle Grill, Canaletto, An Evening at Le Cirque or Tamarind.

Remember that once you book your cruise you can pre-book your shore excursions, dining reservations and make your spa appointments for the Greenhouse Spa & Salon. You can also call the shore excursion call center at 888-425-9376.

Will you be booking your summer 2015 cruise with the ReadySetSail promotion? Where will you go?

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?

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.

Exp4

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!

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

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