The Harry James Orchestra highlights the Big Band cruise in 2016.
The Harry James Orchestra highlights the Big Band cruise in 2016.

When the horns start to sound and the saxophones playfully project their syncopated rhythms, cruisers aboard Holland America Line’s Big Band Cruise in 2016 featuring the Harry James Orchestra will be swinging, swaying and jiving!

Sing & Swing Across the Atlantic Ocean

Departing March 21, 2016, from Fort Lauderdale, Florida, Oosterdam is sailing a transatlantic voyage to Civitavecchia (Rome), Italy. This unique 13-day itinerary is perfect for fans of that classic Sinatra big-band sound. After crossing the Atlantic, the ship will stop at Funchal, Madeira; and Cadiz (Seville) and Cartagena, Spain, before disembarking at Rome.

The Harry James Orchestra will perform up to four sets a day on Oosterdam's Big Band Cruise.

The Harry James Orchestra will perform up to four sets a day on Oosterdam’s Big Band Cruise.

With a total of nine days at sea, guests will have plenty of time on the dance floor. This one-of-a-kind experience highlights the most popular music of the 20th century with up to four performances a day in various venues on the ship. The world-class musicians of the Harry James Orchestra will take cruisers back to the post-World-War-II era with show-tunes, standards, love songs and music from the golden age of swing. Check out the video below for a preview of what Big Band cruise guests will experience.

Explore Onboard Activities Between Big Band Sets

Time flies aboard a Holland America ship where there’s no shortage of onboard activities. In between sets, cruisers can take a breather and explore all that the ship has to offer.

Onboard Activities Collage

Our Culinary Arts Center presented by Food & Wine magazine is a venue that appears on every ship in the fleet. A “world class show kitchen at sea,” attending a show at the Culinary Arts Center will transport you to your favorite television cooking program featuring a show kitchen & celebrity chefs to boot.

A day at the Greenhouse Spa is the epitome of paradise. Enjoy a pampering massage; exotic skin, body, hair and nail treatments; a dip in a warm, bubbling hydrotherapy pool of seawater or lounging on a heated ceramic throne overlooking the vast sea.

Active cruisers love our fitness classes and facilities while others enjoy a good book or board game at the Explorations Café powered by the New York Times. Guests also can polish up on their tech skills and learn to edit cruise photos at a Digital Workshop powered by Windows. Guests love to top off every evening with high-quality dining, and dazzling shows.

When in Rome … Sleep Where the Romans Do at Two Local Hotels!

Once the ship arrives at Rome April 3, guests will enjoy a complimentary overnight in one of Rome’s finest hotels: either the Visconti Palace Hotel or the Hotel Giulio Cesare.

Rome Collage

After Big Band cruisers disembark at Rome, they will have the chance to explore its many beautiful landmarks like St. Peter’s Basilica, Trevi Fountain and Colosseum.

Perfectly located in the heart of Rome’s historic and cultural center on the bank of the Tiber River, the Visconti Palace Hotel is bright and welcoming with an understated elegance. Within walking distance to St. Peter’s Basilica, the Roman Forum and more, the hotel also is home to the Rooftop Terrace, the perfect place to sip, dine and enjoy a perfect sunset.

Located down a tranquil street of Rome’s Prati district and a few minutes away from St. Peter’s Basilica and Piazza del Popolo, the Hotel Giulio Cesare awaits you in the elegant, upscale setting of an ancient patrician villa, dating back to the end of the 19th century.

Special fares for the Big Band Cruise include a nonstop return flight from Rome to Miami including transfers from Miami to Fort Lauderdale and from the ship to the airport in Rome, or a nonstop return flight to Miami and a complimentary hotel stay in Rome the evening of April 4.

With amazing live music surrounding a journey to the Eternal City, all in Holland America Line’s signature refined style, the Big Band Cruise featuring the Harry James Orchestra will be the vacation of a lifetime.

Take Advantage of View & Verandah Savings!

If you’re interested in the Big Band Cruise, we have great news! This dream vacation just got even dreamier — as it’s part of the View & Verandah promotion featuring stateroom upgrades, up to 10 percent off shore excursions and up to 25 percent off Collectors’ Voyages on 2016-2017 sailings when booked by Feb. 29, 2016. So don’t delay and book now!

Thanks to the Harry James Orchestra for providing all photos and videos included in this post.

Love that Big Band sound? Tell us some of your favorite songs in the comments below!

Holland America offers dozens of Med cruises with a variety of lengths.
Holland America offers dozens of Med cruises with a variety of lengths.

With its sparkling coastal shores, abundance of significant historical sights, authentic fresh flavors and inspiring architecture, a Holland America Line cruise in the Mediterranean is a memorable experience.

Stretching from Spain to Turkey with incredible attractions and stunning ports in between, the most difficult part of planning a cruise to the Med is picking which destinations to visit and how long to cruise. That’s why Holland America Line offers a variety of itineraries to fit your preference of length and location. Whether you want to spend one week, two weeks, one month or more exploring the Mediterranean, here are some popular cruise options. All that’s left for you to do is choose!

Seven Days, Six Cities & One Incredible Country

One way to enjoy a short and sweet weeklong voyage in the Mediterranean is to stick to one country and see as many of its ports as possible. This cruise is perfect for guests wishing to extensively explore a single country’s culture and experience its diverse regions.

Explore Malaga (Grenada) and Cadiz (Seville) on a Gems of Spain cruise.

Explore Malaga (Grenada) and Cadiz (Seville) on a Gems of Spain cruise.

The 7-Day Gems of Spain cruise on Eurodam departs Barcelona Apr. 17 and Oct. 21, 2016, and stops at five additional ports in Spain including Valencia, Cartagena, Malaga (Grenada), Gibraltar and Cadiz (Seville). This itinerary promises plenty of adventurous shore time, an unbeatable seaside climate, delectable local dishes, plus exposure to Spain’s fascinating history and culture. From large, vibrant cities to charming coastal towns, this sailing thoroughly immerses guests into the Spanish lifestyle for a truly outstanding and rewarding cruise experience.

12 Days, 10 Ports, One Fascinating Eastern Med Exploration

Med Dream Collage

Pictured from top left to bottom right: Saint Peter’s Basilica, Acropolis & the Parthenon, the Colosseum, Pompeii, the Vatican, Olympia and Ephesus.

Two-week cruises to the region allow enough time to explore more than one country. Oosterdam’s 12-Day Mediterranean Dream itinerary departing in April, June, August and September 2016 is the perfect getaway to the eastern Mediterranean. Starting at Venice and ending at Civitavecchia (Rome), Italy, this exciting itinerary calls at 10 ports across Italy, Greece and Turkey.

The eastern region of the Mediterranean showcases picturesque deep-blue oceans. It is also the birthplace of fresh culinary favorites like pizza and gyros. This sailing is laced with historic sites including the Acropolis, Parthenon, ancient Olympia, Ephesus, the Virgin Mary’s home, Pompeii, Saint Peter’s Basilica, the Vatican, Colosseum, Pantheon and the Sistine Chapel … just to name a few!

The Mediterranean Dream itinerary hits a new port nearly every day so guests can get the most out of their 12-day vacation. Rich in sun, sand, history, food and culture, this cruise is perfect for foodies, history fanatics, nature enthusiasts, seasoned travelers and newbies alike!

25 Days, 2 Unique Itineraries, 1 All-New Ship

For those who love the Med and the thrill of “collecting” new places, Holland America Line’s Collectors’ Voyages offer in-depth explorations on artfully crafted, port-intensive itineraries. Collectors’ Voyages offer an excellent value with two combined cruises priced at one reduced rate. They feature more sea days to indulge in onboard luxuries and activities, and select itineraries even include overnight stays in popular ports of call.

The 25-day Mediterranean and Christening cruise on Koningsdam departs April 27, 2016, and offers not only the opportunity to collect new places but also collect a new ship! This cruise on the new flagship begins at Civitavecchia (Rome) and features three additional calls in the country: Naples, Palermo and Cagliari. After a call at Gibraltar, guests will enjoy an in-depth exploration of Spain with calls at Cadiz, Malaga, Cartagena and an overnight at Barcelona, the first of three overnight calls on the itinerary. The ship returns to Civitavecchia before beginning the second leg of the Collectors’ Voyage.

Guests can get an in-depth look into Spain during the Mediterranean & Christening Cruise. (Top: Cadiz, Malaga and Seville. Bottom: Barcelona and Vigo.)

Guests can get an in-depth look into Spain during the Mediterranean & Christening Cruise. (Top: Cadiz, Malaga and Seville. Bottom: Barcelona and Vigo.)

Guests will return to Gibraltar and Cartagena before two more calls in Spain: Huelva (Seville) and Vigo. The ship also calls at Lisbon, Portugal; and Cherbourg (Normandy) and Le Havre (Paris), France. The incredible trip ends with back-to-back overnight calls at Rotterdam and Amsterdam in the Netherlands.

55 Days, 12 Countries, One Grand Cruise

Cruise roundtrip from Fort Lauderdale, Florida, on the journey of a lifetime with the 55-day Grand Mediterranean Voyage that is perfect for guests with time to spare! The elegant explorer Prinsendam departs Fort Lauderdale March 11, 2016, on a cruise that features calls in all of the great Mediterranean countries: Portugal, Spain, France, Italy, Malta, Greece, Croatia, Albania, Montenegro, Monaco and Turkey!

This itinerary is highlighted by overnight calls at two magnificent cities, giving guests the opportunity to enjoy them at night. An overnight stay at Venice, Italy, is the perfect chance to admire this magical port from the water, through a ride in its enchanting canals made even more special with a nighttime gondola serenade. During the overnight call at Istanbul guests can indulge in a delicious dinner at the Maiden’s Tower Restaurant, dating back 2,500 years.

Discover the Mediterranean at night with two overnight calls and various late departures.

Discover the Mediterranean at night with two overnight calls and various late departures.

But Venice and Istanbul aren’t the only cities guests can discover by dark. With late departures from Barcelona; Valleta, Malta; Kusadasi, Turkey; and Lisbon, Portugal, guests can experience the nightlife of a variety of cultures. And for guests that love transatlantic crossings, they’ll do so twice on this epic voyage.

Which Med locales are at the top of your must-see list? Tell us in the comments below.

December 2015 UPDATE: Take Advantage of View & Verandah
We want to make your dream cruise even dreamier with our new View & Verandah promotion. We’re offering stateroom upgrades, up to 10 percent off shore excursions and up to 25 percent off Collectors’ Voyages on 2016-2017 sailings when booked by Feb. 29, 2016. Check out the offer to see if you dream cruise is included and book now!

Eurodam will call at beautiful ports like Monte Carlo on the newly announced 2016 itineraries.
Eurodam will call at beautiful ports like Monte Carlo on the newly announced 2016 itineraries.

One of the many wonderful things about cruising is that changes to itineraries can be made fairly easily when needed or desired. Whether it’s a last-minute switch due to the weather or a now-open berth at a highly desirable locale on a cruise a year away, the mobility of cruise ships allows the addition of exciting ports of call that enhance the itineraries. In 2016, Holland America Line just revised several Mediterranean cruises on ms Eurodam and ms Oosterdam in April and October – and the new itineraries are available to book today!

Eurodam Adds New Seven-Day Cruises and Collectors’ Voyages

Eurodam will now sail a set of two back-to-back seven-day voyages in April and October, visiting marquis ports along the coasts of Spain, France and Italy. Additionally, these two voyages can be combined to form new 14- and 19-day Collectors’ Voyages.

The seven-day Gems of Spain cruise sails roundtrip Barcelona, Spain, and calls at Gibraltar, U.K., and the Spanish ports of Cadiz, Malaga, Cartagena and Valencia. An April 17 departure was added, while the Oct. 21 remains unchanged.

Two new seven-day Mediterranean Glamour voyages also sail roundtrip from Barcelona and call at Cagliari, Sardinia; Palermo, Sicily; Civitavecchia (Rome) and Livorno, Italy; and Monte Carlo, Monaco. This itinerary sets sail April 10 and Oct. 28.

The Gems of Spain, top right, and Mediterranean Glamour itineraries are great additions to Eurodam's roster.

The Gems of Spain, top right, and Mediterranean Glamour itineraries are great additions to Eurodam’s roster.

The April 10 and 17 cruises, as well as the Oct. 21 and 28 departures, can be combined to form a longer 14-Day Mediterranean Glamour & Gems of Spain Collectors’ Voyage with nonrepeating ports.

Beautiful ports like Monte Carlo await on this Collectors' Voyage.

Beautiful ports like Monte Carlo await on this 14-day Collectors’ Voyage.

Guests wanting an even longer cruise can embark the new April 17 Gems of Spain cruise and combine it with the existing 12-day Mediterranean Tapestry voyage that sails from Barcelona to Venice, Italy, with calls in Croatia, Italy, Monaco and France. The new Collectors’ Voyage is an unforgettable 19-day adventure!

Oosterdam Features New 12-Day Itineraries

New for 2016, Oosterdam will be sailing four 12-day Mediterranean Explorer voyages throughout the eastern and western Mediterranean. The cruise will depart from Civitavecchia, and call at Monte Carlo; Livorno; Ajaccio, Corsica; Almeria and Ceuta, Spain; and St. Tropez, Marseille and Sete, France. Guests will enjoy an overnight at Barcelona at the end of the voyage. The new departures are May 12, June 29, August 16 and Oct. 10.

Gorgeous Almeria is one of Oosterdam's calls on its new itinerary.

Gorgeous Almeria is one of Oosterdam’s calls on its new itinerary.

Which new itinerary interests you? Tell us below!

December 2015 UPDATE: Take Advantage of View & Verandah
We want to make your dream cruise even dreamier with our new View & Verandah promotion. We’re offering stateroom upgrades, up to 10 percent off shore excursions and up to 25 percent off Collectors’ Voyages on 2016-2017 sailings when booked by Feb. 29, 2016. Check out the offer to see if you dream cruise is included and book now!

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

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

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

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

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

1. HISTORY & LEGENDS IN KEY WEST

Visit Ernest Hemingway's famous home in Key West.

Visit Ernest Hemingway’s famous home in Key West.

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

2. HISTORICAL ISLAND EXTRAVAGANZA ON ST. LUCIA

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

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

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

3. HISTORICAL TRUJILLO AT BANANA COAST
Trujillo

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

4. LES SAINTES IN GUADELOUPE

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

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

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

5. ST. CROIX’S WEST END HIGHLIGHTS

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

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

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

St. Louis Cathedral has an imposing presence in Martinique.

St. Louis Cathedral in Martinique.

6. MARTINIQUE’S HISTORIC STROLL

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

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

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

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

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

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

A group from Fanning Island's Latta Moreaai Kindergarten School pose with HR Manager Christopher Houghton and HR Clerk Hempry Hartono.
A group from Fanning Island's Latta Moreaai Kindergarten School pose with HR Manager Christopher Houghton and HR Clerk Hempry Hartono.

Holland America Line ships sail to all seven continents and explore the world’s oceans. During our global adventures we visit hundreds of ports and our guests are warmly welcomed into those communities. So it is with great pride that whenever necessary we help those communities when in need.

Holland America Line recently participated in some great acts of giving around the world, providing supplies and monetary relief to communities in need.

Aid Delivered to the Island of Vanuatu

In April during a scheduled call at Port Villa, Vanuatu, in the South Pacific, Oosterdam delivered much-needed supplies to the island, which was ravaged by Cyclone Pam in March.

Not only did Oosterdam collect donations and supplies from guests and crew, it also carried essential goods on behalf of Save the Pacific Foundation. The organization had supplies to be delivered and needed a way to get them to Vanuatu from Sydney, so they coordinated the relief effort with Carnival Australia and Holland America Line. Oosterdam was making a scheduled call — the only ship calling at Vanuatu departing from Sydney in the next two months — and agreed to carry the supplies to the island.

Oosterdam delivered several palates to aid the people of Vanuatu.

Oosterdam delivered several palates to aid the people of Vanuatu.

Included in the eight pallets from Save the Pacific Foundation were medical supplies, clothing, bed linens, shelter tarps and tents, gumboots, work tools for rebuilding and food such as whole milk powder, rice and cans of basic items.

The ship also collected monetary donations and goods from guests and crew who wanted to help, and delivered additional pallets that included canned goods, insect repellent and personal hygiene items.

Earthquake Relief Efforts in Nepal

Last month Carnival Corporation teamed with several of its global cruise brands to pledge $200,000 to relief efforts in Nepal in the wake of April’s devastating earthquake. Carnival Corporation worked through Mercy Corps, the Disaster Emergency Committee and Save the Children to support on the ground teams distributing emergency supplies and aiding rebuilding efforts targeting the most affected families in Kathmandu and surrounding areas.

Carnival Corporation’s support will help the three organizations provide access to shelter supplies, food, water and hygiene supplies, support the operations of the Nepal Red Cross and ultimately assist families in rebuilding their lives after initial life-saving needs are met.

P & O Cruises UK and Cunard Line provided a significant portion of the donation out of the companies’ offices in the United Kingdom. Likewise, Carnival Cruise Line, Seabourn and Holland America Line combined to donate the majority of the funds in North America in coordination with Carnival Foundation, the company’s philanthropic organization.

Amsterdam Raises Money for Children in Myanmar

During Amsterdam’s 2015 Grand World Voyage, guests participated in a silent auction to raise money for the Smile Education and Development Foundation (SEDF) in Myanmar. SEDF benefits many organizations to help children at risk.

Organized by Culinary Arts Center Host Samantha Seyfert, the silent auction featured donated items from all departments, including a Grand World Voyage navigational map hand-signed by Captain Jonathan Mercer and the ship’s officers. The auction also featured dozens of hand-knit items donated by guests participating in the Sit & Knit gatherings, watercolor paintings donated by guests in the watercolor class, and items from the arts and crafts class.

Myanmar604

Children at the Rattana Metta Foundation performed during one of SEDF’s workshops while ms Amsterdam was in port March 11.

March 10 Amsterdam called at Yangon (formerly Rangoon) for two nights and SEDF representatives came on board for lunch and a tour of the ship. Samantha presented SEDF Director Virginia Henderson with $7,000 raised from the auction. Children at the Rattana Metta Foundation performed during one of SEDF’s workshops while ms Amsterdam was still alongside March 11.

Statendam Makes a Big Donation to the Kids of Fanning Island

On April 25, ms Statendam called at remote Fanning Island in the South Pacific Republic of Kiribati. Crew members delivered 45 boxes of school supplies, clothes and sporting equipment to the Fanning Island school committee. Over the past 18 months, Statendam has visited the island several times to bring a total of 200 boxes of much-needed supplies donated by guests and crew.

Kindergarten School Teacher Owati Kettrii oversees the children while Human Resources Manager Christopher Houghton gives them each a Statendam blow-up toy.

Kindergarten School Teacher Owati Kettrii oversees the children while Human Resources Manager Christopher Houghton gives them each a Statendam blow-up toy.

As the needs arise, Holland America Line will continue to help our global friends whenever possible.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

OODM

Holland America Line topped the list in 2014 for the World’s Leading Weather Observing Cruise Ship Companies who submitted weather information to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA). The Holland America Line fleet of 15 ships sent in a combined total of 22,281 observations during the year, landing them at number one. Holland America Line also was at the top of the list in 2008 and 2006, and individual ships excelled in past years — as featured on the blog.

Among individual cruise ships that sent in information, ms Oosterdam lead the Holland America Line fleet with 2,858 observations. Amsterdam, ms Volendam, ms Zaandam and ms Zuiderdam also were listed among the top 10 of all individual cruise ship observations.

Clockwise from top left: Zaandam, Volendam, Zuiderdam and Amsterdam also were listed among the top 10 weather observing ships.

Clockwise from top left: Zaandam, Volendam, Zuiderdam and Amsterdam also were listed among the top 10 weather observing ships.

“Our ships travel oceans all over the world through all types of weather, and it’s an honor to help support a process that affects hundreds of millions of people globally,” said Orlando Ashford, president of Holland America Line. “With our ships face to face with the weather patterns and conditions that can help meteorologists predict global forecasts, we feel that it’s our duty to report our findings.”

Despite the presence of weather satellites and many ground stations, regular weather reports from ships are still of great value to meteorological and hydrological services around the world preparing daily weather predictions. These weather reports also provide important climatological data to the World Weather Information Service of the World Meteorological Organization (WMO).

Congrats to everyone onboard who contributed to this honor.

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?

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