Tag Archives: Shore Excursions

The Santa Barbara Fortress is a highlight of the trolley tour at Banana Coast.
The Santa Barbara Fortress is a highlight of the trolley tour at Banana Coast.

Holland America Line is always working to spice up its cruise itineraries and bring guests new ports. Though the Caribbean has been a longtime cruise destination, there are still new places to discover. Here is one ports new to cruisers, one port new to Holland America Line and once port that’s still not fully on the radar of travelers but should be.

Banana Coast, Honduras

Banana Coast recently opened as mainland Honduras’ first cruise port, and Holland America Line is one of the first cruise lines to call there. Located in the deepwater bay of Trujillo, Honduras, surrounded by mountains, rainforest, and pristine beaches, the port offers a new window into the historic city of Trujillo, Campo del Mar Park, and the outlying region.

Once the Banana export capital of the world — shipping more than 8 million stems annually – Banana Coast and Trujillo have a rich history. Christopher Columbus landed at Trujillo in 1502 and it was established as a Spanish colony in 1524. Through the course of its history the city has been inhabited by the Honduran Garifuna tribe, Dutch, French – and pirates.

The Bay of Trujillo

The Bay of Trujillo

If when you arrive at Banana Coast you feel like adventure is calling, the Jungle ATV tour is the answer. Head to Camp del Mar to begin an off-road trip through the jungle of Honduras. You’ll ride your own 4-wheel all-terrain ATV along winding, narrow jungle paths and through tropical vegetation. You’ll take in the sights and sounds of the jungle as your guide accompanies you through rivers and swamplands.

If a trolley tour is more your style, you’ll love the Historical Trujillo tour. Here you’ll learn about Christopher Columbus’ landing and see the Santa Barbara Fort. You’ll also visit the town square that features the Cathedral of St. John the Baptists, a central plaza and buildings of early Spanish and French colonial origin.

The Santa Barbara Fortress is a highlight attraction at Trujillo.

The Santa Barbara Fortress is a highlight attraction at Trujillo.

The Starfish Bay Snorkel & Beach Break is one of the most popular tours at Banana Coast. It is designed to give everyone a fun and relaxed experience, even if they have never snorkeled before. From the pier you will board a boat and enjoy the spectacular views as you head out to Starfish Bay. After a short snorkel lesson you’ll hop into the water to look at the starfish and other underwater creatures. Afterwards, you’ll head to Casa Kiwi for a beach break and have the chance to enjoy some typical Honduran food.

The Campo del Mar Nature Park and Beach Break tour features 22 acres filled with flora, fauna, and resident wildlife. You can hop on or off the trolley that runs through the park during the day and explore the park’s Botanic Gardens and Orchard areas. Afterward, you can enjoy a beach break at Campo del Mar’s pristine, private beach. MidwestCruiser gave the tour five stars on the Holland America website.

“The Nature Park is beautiful and clean. On the beach, the music was great and the service staff was very friendly. We had a wonderful time. The food was also good. The ideal thing was with HAL being the only ship in port there were no lines and you had plenty of space and had a good opportunity to relax in a beautiful setting on this private beach. The bus ride to the park gives you insight into the true culture of the area. Highly recommend!”

There is also a Behind the Scenes tour offered at Camp del Mar Nature Park where you can enjoy a tour with your guide through the fruit orchard, vegetable garden, and learn about how it all grows. A biologist will give you a behind-the-scenes look at the Animal Rescue Center where you will have an opportunity to meet some of the the animals up close. You’ll also enjoy a delicious lunch under the mango tree canopy and marvel at the artisan displays.

Falmouth, Jamaica

Falmouth is not a new Caribbean destination per say, but it is definitely new to Holland America Line. It is the capital of Trelawny, Jamaica, and located not far from popular Montego Bay. It was one of Jamaica’s busiest ports in the late eighteenth and early nineteenth centuries with a booming export business. Today, Falmouth is home to plenty of great sights including St. Peter’s Anglican Church and the Greenwood Great House. Whether you like to experience a new place by getting an authentic meal or having a thrilling adventure … there’s something for everyone here.

If you are looking for a delicious Jamaican meal, opt for the Taste of Jamaica tour that takes you to the Good Hope Great House. With a menu put together by Al Pacino’s personal chef of old, this experience includes a tasty buffet lunch. Enjoy crisp salad, herb rice and true Jamaican dishes that feature distinctive spices like curried chicken with mango chutney, escovietch fish made with a fresh local catch, and fried plantains — a true Jamaican favorite. For dessert, enjoy the sweet tastes of coconut drops and muffins made with fruits from around the Good Hope Estate. You’ll also have a chance to tour the Great House, built in the 1700s and restored to its original grandeur, and take in some of the 2,000 acres that once featured a working plantation.

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From delicious food to ziplines, Falmouth has something for everyone.

Experience three exciting activities on one excursion with the Tranopy tour. First, on the Sky Explorer chairlift, you’ll enjoy a fun ride up 700 feet through the tropical forest canopy. Next, you’ll enjoy a thrilling time on Bobsled Jamaica — the signature ride that features a gravity-driven plunge through 3,280 feet of twists and turns on a specially designed sled, evoking the glory of the infamous 1988 and 1992 Jamaican Bobsled team. Lastly, you’ll receive a harness for your zip line flight. You’ll take off through the canopy on a series of cables and pulleys interconnected on tree- and land-based platforms. Afterwards you can admire the panoramic views, swim in the infinity pool or enjoy lunch at the restaurant.

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Enjoy a horseback ride through the Caribbean’s beautiful waters.

At Falmouth, you’ll also have the opportunity to saddle up for a Horseback Riding Adventure. After a drive along the scenic coastline you will head to where your riding adventure begins. During your ride, experienced guides will educate you on Jamaica’s rich history, culture, flora and fauna. You’ll love the feel of the refreshing breeze of the Caribbean sea as your companion takes you along the charming coastline overlooking the ocean to Chukka Beach. Robertti gave the tour five stars. Here’s how he described his “unbelievable experience.”

Once we arrived to the ranch, the horses were quickly prepared and we saddled up. We rode for 30-45 minutes through what I (as a first-time rider) thought was exciting terrain. The views of the mountains and jungle were beautiful. The ride took us to a second staging area where the saddles were taken off the horses and we changed into swimwear to remount. We rode the horses into a beautiful cove of the ocean and rode while they ran and swam underwater. It was truly exhilarating! After the swim, the saddles were put back on the horses and we rode 20-30 minutes back to the main ranch. All of the men on the farm were friendly and helpful. One even carried our camera for the first 10 minutes and snapped action shots along the way.

Dunn’s River Falls is one of Jamaica’s most popular attractions, believed to be the site of the famous Battle of Las Chorreras in 1657 between the Spaniards and English for possession of this beautiful island. Today, Dunns River Falls is the perfect place to experience the thrill of climbing a waterfall and enjoying lush tropical foliage of ferns, bamboos, ginger lilies, orchids, a variety of palms and breadfruit trees. You can also take advantage of the soothing effects of the water as it cascades over the rocks and down to the sea to the ‘massage parlor!’

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Dunn’s River Falls is beautiful from every angle.

You can relax at Falmouth with the Chukka Beach Break, or see more of the island, including one of the Caribbean’s finest antique museums with the Best of Falmouth & Greenwood Great House tour.

Grand Turk, Turks Islands

Grand Turk is the capital island of the famous Turks & Caicos and features the perfect mix of excitement on land and by sea. While it’s not new to Holland America Line, it’s relatively new to the cruise industry and among the most beautiful of all the Caribbean ports. Cockburn Town is the islands’ center piece and features plenty of Colonial-style historical buildings. Here, you can visit the Turks and Caicos National Museum or enjoy shopping. You can also visit nearby Gibb’s Cay, an uninhabited island that is the perfect spot for a day of sun, sand and relaxation. But for one of Grand Turks’ greatest attractions, you’ll have to be ready to get wet!

If you love to SCUBA, you probably already know what you will be doing during a call at Grand Turk: the Certified SCUBA tour. About a quarter mile from the western beaches at Grand Turk, the sea floor drops 7,000 feet. Just at the edge, divers will find the Grand Turk Wall, a world-famous reef that is teeming with incredible saline. Turks & Caicos boasts the third-largest barrier reef in the world, and SCUBA divers can take at least some of it in with the Certified Scuba tour. Guests are outfitted at a dive shop near the port and receive a safety briefing before departing by boat to the dive site. Guests will have the opportunity to dive two different sites on the tour and take advantage of great visibility in the Caribbean’s clear waters. JMWDVM posted a review of the tour on the Holland America website and described it as a “totally terrific two tank dive.”

After a short walk down the beach from the pier, we board a powered catamaran and headed to the first dive site, Fin Bar Reef. The dive was a follow-the-divemaster with two groups of six buddied up. Down to 75 ft for 40 minutes on the wall we saw nurse sharks, plenty of reef fish and even a turtle. The second dive was to 55 ft for about 45 minutes with appropriate surface interval. Coral Gardens has beautiful open coral heads, fish and another turtle who followed us up to the surface.

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However you see it, there’s plenty of beautiful wildlife in Grand Turk’s clear waters.

If you don’t dive but still want to experience what divers from all over the world go to Grand Turk to see, take advantage of the Semi-Sub Exploration tour. You will cruise up the west coast of Grand Turk along the famous wall in the Oasis Yellow Semi-Submarine. Large windows provide full views of marine life along the way and the crew will point out different species of marine life. You will see a variety of stingrays, grouper, sharks, and schools of Caribbean fish, all while staying dry aboard your semi-sub.

If you want to see what Grand Turk has to offer shoreside, the Historic Grand Turk by Trolley Train tour is a great experience. The trolley departs the pier toward the historic town where your guide provides geographical and historical information about Turks & Caicos. You’ll pass the John Glen memorial and salt salinas as you learn about the island’s arid climate and the plant and wildlife it supports. Your tour continues along historic Duke Street to Front Street where you will have free time to snap photos or browse the local gift shops.

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Take in plenty of Grand Turk with a tour on the trolley, including the Grand Turk lighthouse.

In February, March and April of this year, ms Ryndam will call at Banana Coast on a seven-day Western Caribbean cruise, roundtrip Tampa, Fla. The ship also calls at Key West, Fla.; Santo Tomas de Castilla, Guatemala; and Costa Maya, Mexico.

ms Westerdam will sail a seven-day Eastern Caribbean itinerary roundtrip Fort Lauderdale in October and November that features a call at Grand Turk, as well as Half Moon Key — another Holland America fan favorite; San Juan, Puerto, Rico; and St. Thomas, U.S. Virgin Islands.

With a 14-day Eastern/Western Collector cruise on ms Eurodam in October or November you can enjoy Falmouth; Grand Turk; and other excellent Caribbean ports including Georgetown, Cayman Islands; and Philipsburg, St. Maarten, among others.

If you’re taking a cruise that visits these ports, don’t forget that the shore excursions can be pre-booked so you get the tour of your choice.

Have you visited any of these ports? Tell us what you did in the comments below.

Guests have time to see more of ports around the world with overnight calls on the 114-Day Grand World Voyage.
Guests have time to see more of ports around the world with overnight calls on the 114-Day Grand World Voyage.

Today, Jan. 5, 2015, ms Amsterdam departs on the Grand World Voyage — the experience of a lifetime! The cruise goes around the world in 114 days, transiting the Panama Canal, making its way to the South Pacific, Australia, New Zealand, Southeast Asia, India, the United Arab Emirates, Egypt and Jordan. From Jordan it’s a comfortable journey through the Suez Canal to the Mediterranean. Guests then spend a full two weeks in the Mediterranean before a transatlantic crossing that ultimately disembarks where it all began, at Fort Lauderdale, Fla.

Along the way there are 11 overnight calls that offer guests extended time to explore some of the most exciting destinations in the world. Whether you’re already onboard, joining the cruise later, or an armchair traveler, take a look at these outstanding overnight ports — and get an idea of what to do ashore on the 2015 Grand World Voyage!

For those looking to take a last-minute adventure, there’s still space on segments of the 2015 Grand World Voyage like from Auckland, New Zealand, to Dubai, United Arab Emirates, via the Far East. Guests can get a taste of some of these overnights on the remaining segments.

And if a Grand Voyage is on your bucket list for next year, the 2016 Grands — that also feature several overnights — are open for booking. Check out the 115-day Grand World Voyage, the 67-day Grand South America and Antarctica Voyage and the 55-day Grand Mediterranean Voyage.

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OVERNIGHT CALLS ON THE 2015 GRAND WORLD VOYAGE:

Papeete, Tahiti, French Polynesia

Relax and sail by catamaran at Tahiti.

Relax and sail by catamaran at Tahiti.

After a trip to and through South America then a Panama Canal transit, the ship heads to the South Pacific where guests can go out and about on an overnight call at Papeete, Tahiti, the capital of French Polynesia. The colors that Paul Gauguin brought to canvas could have been lifted from the markets, beaches and buildings of today’s Papeete. Shop for black pearls, visit tropical gardens or check out Tahiti Sail by Catamaran, then walk the park along the waterfront.

Meanwhile, the rest of the island is waiting. Stop by the romantic Vaipahi Garden and the fern-lined sea caves of the Mara’a Grotto, then do anything on, beside, or under the island’s elysian lagoon. With two days at port there’s time to stroll and enjoy! The overnight makes it possible to take the Dinner & Show, a Night Out at Papeete tour. In addition to a colorful and delicious buffet at the Intercontinental Hotel, guests enjoy an evening show that is a stunning dance show that highlights Tahiti and its way of life — La Soirée Merveilleuse in the colors of Gauguin.

Auckland, New Zealand

Take in the views at Auckland, New Zealand.

Take in the views at Auckland, New Zealand.

Auckland has been called one of the loveliest and most livable cities in the world. Just imagine: a short drive from the cosmopolitan city and you can find the mountains, the countryside or at an isolated beach. The diverse landscape is truly incredible. Two days means you could experience America’s Cup and take in the landscape that inspired Lord of the Rings. A Stroll through Tamaki Hikoi is a fabulous experience if you want to experience Maori culture. Guides from the Ngati Whatua tribe re-tell ancient stories on a tour through Auckland. Along the way guests learn about the history of Auckland and visit the summit of Mount Eden for panoramic views.

Sydney, Australia

From the iconic opera house to the Blue Mountains -- see it all at Sydney!

From the iconic opera house to the Blue Mountains — see it all at Sydney!

Sydney, Australia, was recently rated the number one “bucket list” port by Holland America Line Facebook fans. And there’s no wonder why! Culture, adventure, beach and beauty come together at this coveted city. Visit iconic sights like Bondi Beach, the Sydney Harbour Bridge and the Sydney Opera House. Or Discover the Blue Mountains — an UNESCO World Heritage site that features an awesome Grand Canyon-like rock formation among deep valleys and cascading waterfalls.

The overnight call allows guests to visit the iconic Sydney Opera House for an evening performance, an experience that can only happen with more time in port.

Adelaide, South Australia

Australia produces some of the world's finest wines, which can be enjoyed on tour.

Australia produces some of the world’s finest wines, which can be enjoyed on tour.

Adelaide, the capital of South Australia, is a cosmopolitan city of wide boulevards, fertile gardens and diverse architecture. Discover the Anglican Holy Trinity Church and the Parliament House. Explore the collection of Aboriginal, colonial, and Melanesian art at the South Australian Museum. Stroll the historic Adelaide Central Market, or simply relax beneath a fig tree canopy in the Botanic Gardens.

With extra time, a longer tour is possible. Australia is known to produce some of the finest wines in the world, and the Wine Tasting in the Barossa Valley tour shows just why they are so excellent. A scenic 90-minute drive through the rugged Adelaide Hills will bring guests to the Barossa Valley — Australia’s foremost wine-producing region. With more than 150 years of viticultural involvement, the Barossa Valley is home to around 50 wineries. Tours, tastings and an opportunity to purchase the wines you have enjoyed are the highlights of the day.

Fremantle (Perth), Australia

Kangaroos and Namburg Park too! Don't miss a beat at Perth!

Kangaroos and Namburg Park too! Don’t miss a beat at Perth!

Perth’s climate is Mediterranean and its beaches are abundant and uncrowded. History here starts 40,000 years ago when the first Aboriginal people arrived. Modern history starts 39,800 years after that with the arrival of the first Europeans. The natural history is timeless and enduring. Cruise visitors would do well to spend some time at Scarborough or Cottlesloe beaches. Take a trip out to the Swan Valley wine region, then catch the koalas and kangaroos at the Perth Zoo or at Caversham Wildlife Park & River Cruise.

With the overnight call, guests can enjoy the City of Lights Dinner Cruise and Perth’s city skyline after sunset. Guests admire the waterfront and city views from the dinner table while cruising along the Swan River under the stars.

Benoa, Bali, Indonesia

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The small village of Benoa is located on the southeastern coast of Bali, and while the town has developed over the past 20 years into a popular cruise destination for visitors, it retains its charming identity as a local fishing village. The calm waters and the beautiful white-sand beaches have made Benoa one of Bali’s most appealing water-sport destinations. For a great all-in-one view check out the East Bali Heritage tour. Guest Vito enjoyed it immensely saying,

“… the sites the history and views were truly wonderful. It’s a beautiful country. The final stop was at Besakih, the Mother Temple of Bali, a sprawling complex of some 20+ individual temples. Worth the trip!”

Singapore

Catch the sunset at Singapore.

Catch the sunset at Singapore.

The sights and sounds of Singapore make it an incredible stop on the Grand World Voyage. Learn about Feng Shui, the ancient art of balance and harmony during the Mysteries of the Orient Tour, or visit the Exotic Jurong Bird Paradise. Set in 50 beautiful acres of landscaped ground, Jurong Bird Park has amassed more than 8,000 exotic birds and 600 species from all over the world. Even as you enter, talkative and brilliantly colored macaws chatter and fuss. There’s opportunity to take in the natural beauty, the cosmopolitan side and the ancient roots of Singapore on a two-day stay.

With the overnight, a trip to the the world-famous Night Safari is a must. It’s the world’s first wildlife park purpose-built to be viewed at night. Set in 98 acres of dense secondary forest, the Night Safari offers visitors the unique experience of observing wildlife in a tropical jungle at night. Through the use of subtle lighting techniques, guests are able to view the 1,000 nocturnal animals of 100 different species in vast natural habitats.

Thilawa, Rangoon, Myanmar

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After more several calls, including the lovely Phuket, Thailand, the ship goes on to spend three days at the port of Thilawa, the gateway to Yangon. There you’ll find stunning pagodas, sunset cruises, traditional Myanmar dances and countless other forms of entertainment and enrichment.

Guests can take take advantage of the extra time and take the Best of Bagan Temples Overnight Tour. After the flight to Bagan, guests visit the Shwezigon Pagoda, the amazing Ananda Temple and Gubyaukgyi Temple (Wetkyi-Inn). Bagan is not only famous for the profusion of pagodas but also for its artistic handicrafts, where the process of making each piece can be seen at a local lacquerware workshop.

Mumbai, India

The Taj Mahal is on many a bucket list!

The Taj Mahal is on many a bucket list!

Another city of contradictions, Mumbai presents itself in two parts. Discover a bustling modern commerce center and bask in the ancient religious iconography. The prolonged stay affords the opportunity to visit the astounding Taj Mahal on a Taj Mahal Overland Adventure that explores the region over four days. Don’t forget to check this one off your bucket list!

Dubai, United Arab Emirates

Dubai is unforgettable.

Dubai is unforgettable.

Dubai is an iconic modern marvel to explore. The architecture of the city is like no other. Explore the palm shaped islands, luxurious mansions and astounding skyscrapers and more of Dubai’s Architectural Marvels. Guests Mike and Pat from New Jersey visited and said,

“These folks know how to build a city. You hit all the biggies. The trip to the top of the tallest building is not to be missed. Truly architectural marvels. Some of the most beautiful buildings you will ever see. As cosmopolitan as it gets.”

With the overnight call, guests can take the Arabian Nights: An Evening Safari & Camel Ride tour. Cross the desert of Dubai with photo stops during an exciting dune drive en route to a camel farm. Continue across the desert, stopping to watch the beautiful sunset before reaching a desert campsite. Make the most of this opportunity to ride a camel and try sand boarding. Guests may also want to try out a henna design on their hands or feet. After working up an appetite, enjoy a delicious barbecue dinner and a sheesha (Arabian water pipe). Before returning to the port, watch a belly dancer performing around the campfire by starlight.

Piraeus (Athens), Greece

Athens is the last - certainly not the least - overnight call on the 2015 Grand World Voyage.

Athens is the last – certainly not the least – overnight call on the 2015 Grand World Voyage.

Last but certainly not least of the overnight calls on the Grand World Voyage is the port of Piraeus – gateway to Athens. Milton wrote that Athens was “the eye of Greece, mother of arts and eloquence.” Visit the Parthenon, walk the winding path towards the Acropolis, pass through the Propylaea, and see the Erechtheum temple and the Porch of the Caryatids in the distance. Reinforced by the hand of man, the natural fortress of the Acropolis stands 230 feet above the city. You cannot help but be in awe of the view below.

Venture away from Athens during the overnight on the Delphi & Greek Easter Overnight Tour. Visit the Shrine of Apollo at Delphi, located nearly 2,000 feet up the slopes of Mount Parnassus. Delphi was considered by the ancients to be the physical and spiritual center of the earth. In the Delphi Museum examine such treasures as the Omphalos, which marked the center of the world, and the magnificent bronze Charioteer—one of the finest pieces surviving from the fifth century B.C.

On Day 2, head to Antirio and the village of Ancient Olympia to join in the Greek Easter festivity at the Touris venue. See the preparation of the various roasts (lamb on spit, Kokoretsi & Kontosouvli) and participate in Greek dancing, celebrating the resurrection of Christ. Guests get to experience a traditional Greek Easter feast.

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Don’t forget that between these overnight calls the Grand World Voyage will visit plenty of other exciting destinations. This is a once in a lifetime experience. If you’re unable to join then follow along here on the blog where we’ll share updates from around the world!

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.

Taj Mahal

From South America to Europe to Australia, Holland America Line’s ships cruise to some of the most breathtaking places around the world. Among these sights, however, there are some that we consider better than the rest, iconic. Defined as “widely known and acknowledged especially for distinctive excellence,” you can experience their excellence firsthand on your next Holland America Line cruise.

Istanbul: Blue Mosque

The Sultan Ahmed Mosque, also known as the Blue Mosque, was built in the early 1600s during the rule of Ahmed I. The mosque is named for its richly adorned interior of magnificent Iznik tiles, though its exterior is equally as impressive. Its classical Turkish design features six minarets. The mosque is the first stop on the Ottoman Wonders tour and can also be seen on the Best of Istanbul tour, both which also feature the amazing Topkapi Palace.

The Blue Mosque and Leaning Tower of Pisa are two iconic sights.

The Blue Mosque and Leaning Tower of Pisa are two iconic sights.

Pisa: The Leaning Tower of Pisa

With a call at Livorno, Italy, you can head to one of the country’s most popular symbols, the Tower of Pisa. This freestanding bell tower is known worldwide for its sideways tilt. Don’t forget to take the typical Pisa picture of yourself holding up the tower — or at least enjoy watching the tourists that do! The Lucca & Pisa tour will also give you the chance to enjoy a walk through the ancient city of Lucca at the northwest corner of Tuscany.

Rome: The Colosseum

Colisseum

Rome is nicknamed the Eternal City, and rightly so for its array of icons including the Pantheon, Castel Sant’Angelo, the Sistine Chapel, St. Peter’s Basilica, and one of the world’s most popular sites — the Colosseum. Also known as the Flavian Amphitheatre, the Colosseum was the largest amphitheater of the Roman Empire and one of Roman architecture’s best works. Located east of the Roman Forum, its construction began under Vespasian in 70 AD and completed in 80 AD under Titus. The Panoramic Rome & St. Peter’s Basilica is the perfect way to see much of the Eternal City’s stunning architecture.

Rio de Janeiro: Christ the Reedemer Statue at Corcovado

Corcovado

No sight is more famous in Rio de Janeiro, and even Brazil, than the statue of Christ the Redeemer atop Corcovado Mountain. Over 300,000 visitors make the trip every year to see the statue and the stunning view from the peak’s platform of downtown Rio. With the Corcovado & Rio Highlights tour, you will enjoy a drive through the city to the Tijuca Forest National Park. Then you will board a 115-year-old cogwheel tram for a 20-minute ride through the forest to the top of the mountain. The tram ride features spectacular views of the city’s beaches, buildings and bridges. At the top, you can choose between an elevator or escalator to the summit — a 2,400-foot climb! The statue stands 125 feet tall and will always welcome you with open arms.

Lima: Macchu Picchu

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A call at Callao (Lima), Peru, is the perfect opportunity to see the ruins at Machu Picchu. This stone city was built in the 15-century but abandoned just a century later at the time of the Spanish Conquest. It was rediscovered in 1911 by American historian Hiram Bingham. The Lost City of the Incas represents the cultural heritage of mankind and is located almost 8,000 feet above sea level. The Cuzco & Machu Picchu Overland Adventure is perfect for itineraries with overnight calls at Callao followed by a call at Lima, where you will fly to on the third day of the tour to meet the ship. You must book this tour prior to sailing.

Sydney: Sydney Opera House

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The Sydney Opera House in Australia might be the youngest sight on this list, but it is still incredibly impressive. Designed by Danish architect Jorn Utzon, the opera house opened in October of 1973. The space hosts over 1,500 performances each year and the Evening at the Sydney Opera House shore excursion is the perfect way for you to take in one of them. Attending a performance here will be the experience of a lifetime and you will quickly understand why it’s considered a Holland America Line Medallion Collection tour!

St. Petersburg: Church on the Spilled Blood

Spilled Blood

St Petersburg, Russia’s, Church on the Spilled Blood is one of the most remarkable buildings in the world. Built in 1907 on the spot where the Russian Czar Alexander II was assassinated in 1881, the church features an embellished and exuberant style with ornate decorations and incredible attention to detail. A 23,000 square foot area inside is believed to be the largest indoor mosaic in the world, put together by the best mosaic stone carvers of the 19th and 20th century. You can visit this church and also enjoy a riverboat ride through the “Venice of the North” with the St. Petersburg Waterways & Church on the Spilled Blood excursion.

Agra: Taj Mahal

Blue Mosque 2

The Taj Mahal is a marble mausoleum found in Agra, India. It was built by Mughal emperor Shah Jahan in memory of his wife around 1632, though construction was not completed until 20 years later. Today, more than three million people visit every year. The Taj Mahal became a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1983. The agency called it “the jewel of Muslim art in India and one of the universally admired masterpieces of the world’s heritage.” You can admire Taj Mahal on the Taj Mahal Overland Adventure tour that begins in Mumbai with a flight to Delhi and visits the Taj Mahal at sunrise — widely regarded as the best time to see it — on the third day of the tour. You will also enjoy stop at Humayuns Tomb, Agra Fort, and plenty other impressive sights before flying to Dubai on the fourth day of the tour to meet the ship.

You can take in the Blue Mosque and Colosseum with ms Prinsendam’s 17-day Grand Voyage that starts with an overnight in Instanbul and ends at Civitavecchia departing on April 19, 2015, or with Nieuw Amsterdam’s 12-day Mediterranean Tapestry you can enjoy the Leaning Tower of Pisa and Colosseum with calls at Florence and Civitavecchia. Nieuw Amsterdam departs Barcelona, Spain, on April 22, May 28 and September 13, 2015. You can explore Machu Piccu with ms Statendam’s 15-day Incan Empires cruise departing San Diego, California, on March 15, 2015, or enjoy Corcovado at Rio de Janeiro and famous Carnaval on ms Maasdam’s 24-day Amazon and Carnaval Explorer itinerary that departs from Fort Lauderdale, Fla., on January 14, 2016.

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 visited any of these icons? Tell us your favorite in the comments below.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Experience the sultry tango through "On Location" and shore excursions in South America.
Experience the sultry tango through "On Location" and shore excursions in South America.

Dance is an integral part of Latin culture, and on cruises to Argentina the sultry tango takes center stage. As they say it takes two to tango, and through the “On Location” program and a variety of shore excursions Holland America Line offers guests of all ages and abilities an opportunity to get familiar with this feisty dance.

Tango conjures up images of elegant women in beautiful dresses and men in sleek attire, but the dance has origins in the urban lower classes of Buenos Aires, Argentina, and Montevideo, Uruguay. The regions’ mixture of European, African and native influences merged and created a distinctive cultural identity. Enthusiasm for the dance spread and today tango is so well-recognized that it was placed on UNESCO’s list of intangible cultural heritage in 2009.

Shall we dance? Guests of all ages and abilities can enjoy tango lessons.

Shall we dance? Guests of all ages and abilities can enjoy tango lessons.

With Holland America Line’s “On Location” program that brings local culture onboard, guests are able to experience the tradition of tango in a number of ways. As you cruise around South America, take advantage of the complimentary tango lessons onboard and learn to dance in a relaxed atmosphere from world-class dance professionals. These classes are separate from “Dancing With the Stars: at Sea” lessons, but the moves can translate from stage to stage! A variety of styles and levels are taught during the entire voyage, ensuring everyone can get in on the fun.

Once you’ve got the steps down head to the Milonga “On Location” event. Milonga is a term for a place or an event where tango is danced. Authentic Argentinian performers, including dancers, singers and a traditional bandoneon player, set the tempo at the tango-themed parties. Guests even have the opportunity to dance with world champion tango dancers throughout the evening.

Mix with the dance pros at the Milonga.

Mix with the dance pros at the Milonga.

“It’s amazing to see guests night after night packing the Ocean Bar dance floor to watch our world champion tango performers. The informality of Milongas is the perfect way for guests to truly experience firsthand the South American culture without leaving the vessel.”

- John Mann
Holland America Line “On Location” Talent Scout

Toward the end of the cruise guests are treated to a particularly wonderful performance in the ship’s main theater. “Tango Pasión” is a highlight of all of the tango activities. The program showcases the talents of professional dancers who have dedicated their lives to tango music and dance in an intimate cabaret-style performance. They are the same pros who teach lessons throughout the cruise, so it is especially exciting to see them let loose and perform to their fullest abilities. The show is extremely popular with high energy and passion, so be sure to catch their performance.

The dancers and musicians showcase their talents at Tango Pasión.

The dancers and musicians showcase their talents at Tango Pasión.

With all of the “On Location” tango offerings you need not even step ashore in order to enjoy the culture of Argentina. However, going ashore means more marvelously entertaining tango shows! If you’re enjoying the tango onboard be sure to check out the Tango: A Night of Passion & Desire with Dinner shore excursion at Buenos Aires. The tour takes you to one of the most iconic tango theaters in Buenos Aires for a special performance by exceptional professionals who will leave you breathless with their skills, timing, passion and stamina.

A tango show ashore in Argentina.

A tango show ashore in Argentina.

Enjoy drinks and a sumptuous three-course dinner in opulent surroundings while the artists get ready for the tango show. Then, you’ll be amazed by the intensity and precision of the dancers, singers and live orchestra as they take you on exquisitely choreographed journey through the ages of Argentina’s most celebrated dance.

At Buenos Aires enjoy dinner and a show with Tango: A Night of Passion & Desire.

At Buenos Aires enjoy dinner and a show with Tango: A Night of Passion & Desire.

Whether you get up and dance yourself, or choose to watch, tango is an exciting addition to South American cruises. Zaandam will be cruising 19-21-day South America and Antarctica itineraries in early 2014. These cruises end in Buenos Aires, Argentina. If you want to extend your tango time look into post-cruise hotel packages!

The tango isn’t the only “On Location” program in South America. Guests on voyages to Antarctica aboard ms Prinsendam and ms Zaandam will be joined by a special “Expedition Team.” These world-renowned Antarctica experts will mingle with guests and give history, geology and zoology presentations; wildlife observations; scenic cruising commentary; lead marine animal and bird watching encounters; and host question-and-answer sessions. Read more about the Expedition Team from a previous blog post.

Travelers wanting to see the tango live can cruise aboard Zaandam, left, and Prinsendam in 2015.

Travelers wanting to see the tango live can cruise aboard Zaandam, left, and Prinsendam in 2015.

Have you enjoyed an “On Location” program? Let us know in the comments!

If you’re taking a cruise that visits Buenos Aires, don’t forget that shore excursions can be pre-booked so you get the tour of your choice.

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As part of its “Our Marvelous Oceans” partnership with Marine Conservation Institute, Holland America Line has created a new program that highlights and educates cruise guests and crew about marine protected areas (MPAs) around the world through onboard presentations by shipboard personnel.

Topics will cover what a marine protected area is and how to visit one without causing harm to the habitat and wildlife. This information can be enhanced through participation in featured shore excursions.

“The goal of this partnership is to promote marine protected areas around the world — especially in those regions where our ships sail. The new program also will create enrichment opportunities for guests to learn more about these important conservation locations,” said Richard Meadows, executive vice president, marketing, sales and guest programs for Holland America Line. “Together with Marine Conservation Institute, Holland America Line shares a belief in our responsibility to protect the oceans, and together we want to educate our guests and crew about these special places and about how we can collectively make a difference.”

In the Caribbean the program will largely focus on marine life and a variety of tropical ecosystems. For example, in Key West, Fla., guests can go snorkeling in the Florida Keys National Marine Sanctuary to see the area’s beautiful coral reefs. Or in San Juan, Puerto Rico, cruisers can embark on a unique nighttime kayak adventure into the bio-luminescent bay at Laguna Grande of Fajardo to learn about the water’s organisms and see how they “light up” at night. Guest “GoBlueGirl” took the tour and had this to say:

The bio-luminescent kayak trip was AMAZING! … Upon reaching the bay near dusk, we were beginning to doubt the bio-luminescence of the water… but we didn’t have to wait long before we were proven wrong! It. Was. Awesome. The tour guides provided an excellent description of the organisms that create the illumination and the history of other locations in the world that these organisms live. Once we were able to paddle around to experience the bay on our own — we found an area that fish were VERY active in … I won’t say more — experience it for yourself. Do it. You won’t regret it.

In Australia and New Zealand, regional programs include a nature cruise to observe Hector’s dolphins at the Akaroa Marine Reserve in New Zealand.

Guests get to explore an MPA on the tour to the Akaroa Marine Reserve in New Zealand.

Guests get to explore an MPA on the tour to the Akaroa Marine Reserve in New Zealand.

I absolutely loved this excursion. We sailed right from the ship into Akaroa Harbor. Excellent narration. We saw cormorants, dolphins, penguins, seals, and an albatross. It was the perfect amount of time, dropping us off at Akaroa pier just in time to get lunch and explore the beautiful town. — Guest “Nikjil”

These are just a few of the excursions offered by Holland America Line that feature marine protected areas.

The “Our Marvelous Oceans” partnership began in 2010 and will continue through 2016. The goal of the program is to educate guests and crew about marine conservation issues, including this new focus on sensitive marine protected areas. Holland America Line also continues to work with Marine Conservation Institute to provide sustainable seafood options for its guests and also features an in-stateroom video series onboard all 15 ships highlighting the importance of ocean conservation.

Here are just a few examples:

“We are excited to create another meaningful program in partnership with Holland America Line,” said Dr. Lance Morgan, president of Marine Conservation Institute. “Marine protected areas are an important tool for safeguarding critical ecological places around the world, yet they receive little attention and awareness. This is a fantastic opportunity to bring more focus on these special ocean places.”

About Marine Protected Areas
Marine protected areas are ocean places that are designated by government or international authorities to conserve marine life such as corals, fishes and dolphins. Similar to parks on land, these underwater preserves are recognized as important places for conservation because of their ecologic value.

Currently there are approximately 6,600 marine protected areas around the world, with varying levels of protection. Some do not allow human access. In those locations where human access is permitted, the specific activities that are allowed will vary depending on the designated degree of protection. Marine Conservation Institute is working to catalyze strong protection for at least 20 percent of the ecosystems in each marine biogeographic region of the world’s oceans by 2030. For more information on marine protected areas visit MPAtlas.org.

About Marine Conservation Institute
Marine Conservation Institute is a team of highly experienced marine scientists and environmental policy advocates dedicated to saving ocean life for us and future generations. The organization’s goal is to help create an urgently needed worldwide system of strongly protected areas — the Global Ocean Refuge System (GLORES) — a strategic, cost-effective way to ensure the future diversity and abundance of marine life. Founded in 1996, Marine Conservation Institute is a U.S.-based nonprofit organization with offices in Seattle, near San Francisco and in Washington DC. For more information, please go to: www.marine-conservation.org.

Are you aware of MPAs? What are you looking forward to learning about on your next cruise?

Catherine's Palace just outside of St. Petersburg, Russia, is a work of art in itself.
Catherine's Palace just outside of St. Petersburg, Russia, is a work of art in itself.

For more than 100, years Holland America Line has cruised northern Europe, introducing travelers to the rich history and beauty of the region. Year after year Denmark, Finland and other northern European counties are counted among the happiest and healthiest in the world. One might think that the northern climates would come with somber moods, but these friendly Baltic countries prove otherwise.

From Sweden to Russia, and everywhere in between, over half of the Baltic population lives within 50 miles of the sea, and cruising remains the best way to travel from city to city, absorbing unique cultures and varying landscapes. See for yourself what makes the Baltic region so special with Holland America Line’s top 10 Baltic shore excursions (in no particular order)!

Get to know Kiel by canal.

Get to know Kiel by canal.

Maritime Kiel: Submarines & Fish Rolls

The Baltic Sea reaches into the heart of the city of Kiel, capital of the state of Schleswig-Holstein in Germany, creating a truly traditional maritime city. A 90-minute panoramic drive takes you past the city’s highlights, including the Town Hall and a view of the impressive Kiel Canal, connecting the North Sea with the Baltic. Watch for submarines, which use this marine highway quite frequently. Travel along the eastern shore of Kiel Fjord to the town of Laboe, with its impressive Navy Memorial. Learn more about the history of the German Navy — a detailed exhibit here reveals fascinating information and you will step aboard a sub. It’s hard to beat the view from the top of the building — it includes the World War II submarine U-995. Finish your tour with a delicious snack of a fish roll and a beer, a typical Kiel treat. Guest Cruisingguy from Vancouver took the tour and said,

“Part of the success of any tour is the guide. We had an excellent guide, Hans, who was a retired Germany Navy officer who had a passion for history. I think he knew all there could be to know about this area. He talked non stop as the bus was driving along and everything he said was interesting.” – Guest Cruisingguy

Tallinn, Estonia, is a charming ancient city.

Tallinn, Estonia, is a charming ancient city.

Highlights of Tallinn

Tallinn’s beachside region of Pirita may bring back memories of the 1980 Olympic Games, held here at the yachting complex. You will see the 16th-century ruins of St. Bridget’s Convent and the Song Festival grounds. In Tallinn’s Old Town, disembark the motor coach at Tall Hermann Tower; then walk up Toompea Hill to Palace Square. The Baroque palace at the top is now the seat of the Estonian Parliament. You will visit the outstanding Russian Orthodox Alexander Nevsky Cathedral, complete with gorgeous mosaics and icons, dominating the Upper Town’s skyline. Narrow cobblestone streets take you to the Gothic Dome Church (St. Mary’s Cathedral). Step inside to see more than 100 Coats of Arms on display. Then, finally, you will look out over the rooftops of the Lower Town from a scenic viewpoint before walking back to your motor coach.

Fun Fact: Tallinn is a UNESCO World Heritage Site and has been called the “best preserved medieval city in Europe.

Get to know St. Petersburg like a local on a two-day tour.

Get to know St. Petersburg like a local on a two-day tour.

Russia’s Imperial Heritage Two-Day Package

Overnights at St. Petersburg afford more time to get to know the city. This tour, in particular, combines a number of fabulous tours offering guests the opportunity to see the sights and mingle with the locals. The first day of the tour takes you from the bustling markets of St. Petersburg to the magical mosaics of the Church on the Spilled Blood to the ornate tapestries of the Hermitage Museum.

Day two begins with a drive to the countryside where you’ll visit the magnificent Catherine’s Palace, restored over the past 40 years to its original splendor. Then it’s off to Peterhof, the collection of Palaces, fountains and parks built by Peter the Great to rival Versailles. Peterhof lies on the southern shore of the Gulf of Finland, and the layout of the 300-acre park and its spectacular fountains were designed by Peter himself. Upon return to St. Petersburg, you’ll visit Yusupov Palace, on the banks of the Moika Rivers. It was here, in 1916, that the notorious Grigori Rasputin was assassinated. He was lured to Yusupov’s home, and fed poison-laced food, which failed to kill him. He was then shot several times, which he also survived, and was later thrown into the Moika River, where he finally drowned. Climb down the narrow, winding staircase to see the very place where Felix Yusupov, with his accomplices, tried to assassinate Rasputin.

This tour is designated for a small group of 16-20 guests and covers St. Petersburg extensively, so it is recommended for energetic guests who want to see it all. One such guest, “Little Aussie,” took the tour and said,

“The palaces, churches and the Hermitage were amazing!!!! I was blown away by the opulence … You will enjoy this tour if you love the detail in the architecture, the gold and opulence and want to maximise what you see in St Petersburg.” – Little Aussie

The Church on the Spilled Blood is a marvel.

The Church on the Spilled Blood is a marvel.

Imperial St. Petersburg

Those who prefer a one-day tour can see the top highlights of St. Petersburg as well. This tour also visits Peterhof, with plenty of time to stroll through the beautiful gardens and elegant interiors. Enjoy lunch at a local restaurant near Peterhof then take the hydrofoil back to St. Petersburg for a fabulous tour of the Church on the Spilled Blood. You will also have some free time to shop for traditional Russian souvenirs and drive by Decembrists’ Square, where you will see the famous Bronze Horseman statue of Peter the Great, and St. Isaac’s Cathedral.

Fun Fact: St. Petersburg is the world’s northernmost city with a population over 1 million.

Explore the Finnish countryside and chat with the locals.

Explore the Finnish countryside and chat with the locals.

Helsinki Highlights & Country Home Visit

Leaving the ship, you’ll pass the colorful open-air market, the Presidential Palace, Uspenski Orthodox Cathedral, the icebreakers docked for the summer, the Bank of Finland and the House of Estates. Stopping at Senate Square, you’ll hear about the history of Helsinki and take in the neo-Classical-style buildings that date from the mid 1800s. Head out to the farming community of Sipoo, close to the city yet very typical of the Finnish countryside. In Sipoo, you will view St. Sigfrid’s — the oldest church in the community dating back to the 15th century. Continue your drive through the forest to a Finnish countryside home beside a beautiful lake. Stroll the grounds and hear from your hosts about Finnish life. Enjoy refreshments of coffee or tea with seasonal berry pie and ice cream. A leisurely drive back to the city takes you along Mannerheim Street, the main street of Helsinki. Here you will see Parliament House, Finlandia Hall, the National Museum, Kiasma Contemporary Art Museum and the Olympic Stadium.

Fun Fact: Helsinki claims the number one spot in Monocle’s 2011 Quality of Life survey, which ranks the top 25 cities in the world to call home.

Take a stroll through historic Stockholm.

Take a stroll through historic Stockholm.

Historic Stockholm, Sigtuna & the Vasa Museum

There are a number of great ways to get to know Stockholm, and historic Stockholm nears the top of the list. Tour the major points of interest including the oldest street in Sweden, the Stora Gatan and the stunning Vasa Museum. Enjoy the historic elegance of the exterior of the dominating Royal Palace and stroll along the narrow, twisting alleys and cobblestone streets of Stockholm’s oldest quarter. Savor the romantic atmosphere and the sense antiquity of buildings dating from the 16th and 17th centuries, with Baroque doorways and regal Coats of Arms. You will also see the Stortorget (Great Square), which is the hub of the Old Town, and the old Stock Exchange — now home of the Swedish Academy. Passing through the city center, continue to the nearby island of Djurgården, once the royal family’s private hunting grounds. Here you will visit the stunning Vasa Museum. In its day, the early 17th century, the Swedish battleship Vasa was the pride of Sweden’s mighty navy. While preparing to set out on her maiden voyage in 1628, she capsized and sank in Stockholm’s inner harbor. In 1961, 333 years after the mishap, a Swedish team succeeded in salvaging the great ship, which was astonishingly well preserved. Leaving the Vasa Museum, continue through the northern outskirts of the city into the scenic countryside en route to Sigtuna, an idyllic little town with wooden houses, narrow alleys and the smallest Town Hall in Scandinavia, dating from 1744 and made of wood.

Sensational Rooftop Walk & Stockholm’s Old Town

Try something sensational and unique — a guided walk conducted along a historic rooftop in Stockholm (as seen on the blog). Begin with a drive from the pier to Riddarholmen, the small island in the Old Town of Sweden’s capital. During the 13th century, Franciscan monks built a monastery here, parts of which still remains in the cellar vaults of the many impressive buildings that stand here today. Riddarholmen Church is the final resting place of most Swedish Kings. Next to the church is the Old Parliament Building which you’ll enter and take the elevator up to the top floor and, via the attic, step out into the open. Buckle up with your safety harness and take your first steps along the narrow rooftop path offering fantastic views and fascinating stories that your guide will share en route. This rooftop tour is conducted according to rigorous safety standards. Even though the height (up to 130 feet) may be a challenge to some, this is the perfect starting point to learn of the history of Stockholm and take in some breathtaking views. One guest from Milwaukee, Wisconsin, took the tour and said,

“We loved seeing Stockholm from this vantage point! The day we went was glorious, but they do provide rain gear when necessary. Two guides with each group of 10, both very professional, well-experienced, and knowledgeable, covering basic history, pointing out sites, and even taking photos of people with their cameras.”

A Discovery Walk in Stockholm

An excellent way to get acquainted with any historic city is on foot. With a lightweight audio-player and a detailed map, you’ll find that this program offers an easy walking tour of the historic sights. Spend as much time as you’d like, or as little, at each spot. And since there are no schedules to keep, you are free to have a meal, take a break for refreshments, or spend time shopping whenever you want. Listen to all the facts and history of this memorable city while walking through the streets at your own pace. Simply consult the customized map to find each location and then go to the indicated number on the player for a detailed description of the site and its history. Follow the suggested route or set out on your own adventure, moving about the city with ease.

The Brandenburg Gate is considered a symbol of the tumultuous history of Europe and Germany, but also of European unity and peace.

The Brandenburg Gate is considered a symbol of the tumultuous history of Europe and Germany, but also of European unity and peace.

Berlin Highlights by Train: Sachsenhausen Concentration Camp

An approximately 2½-hour escorted train ride takes you from Warnemünde to Oranienburg, located 20 miles north of Berlin. During the journey, your host will hand out a light breakfast snack and coffee. Arriving in Oranienburg, meet your local guide and board a motor coach for the drive to the Sachsenhausen Concentration Camp Site. Sachsenhausen, built in 1933, was one of the first Nazi concentration camps. The first internees were communists and other political prisoners. Although this was not a ‘Death Camp’ like Auschwitz or Treblinka, thousands of prisoners died here, mostly of starvation. In 1958, the camp became an international memorial site in what was then East Germany and has been preserved to honor the memory of those who lost their lives here.

Berlin’s Top Sights by Motorcoach

Set off on a panoramic drive to view the city’s main highlights. Snap photos of the remnants of the Berlin Wall and Checkpoint Charlie — the point separating East and West Berlin. Continue to the Gendarmenmarkt — a 17th-century square and the site of the twin French and German cathedrals and the Schauspielhaus (Concert Hall). Pass Unter den Linden Boulevard — a tree-lined, east-west thoroughfare through the city of Berlin, the State Library, Alexanderplatz (a beautiful town square), and the Humboldt University—Berlin’s oldest university. Have lunch by the Brandenburg Gate, the only remaining city gate of Berlin and stroll to see the Reichstag—seat of the German parliament. Originally constructed to house the parliament of the newly founded German Empire, the glass dome designed by architect Sir Norman Foster is one of the city’s major landmarks today. Drive by the Victory Column — a landmark that celebrates the military successes of Prussia over Denmark. Pass Bellevue Palace — the official residence of the President of Germany — and Congress Hall. The tour culminates with a visit to the Allied Museum. Here you’ll find the original Checkpoint Charlie guardhouse, a Berlin Wall watchtower, an aircraft from the Berlin Airlift, and an American spy tunnel. When it’s time to call it a day, relax and enjoy the coach journey back to the ship.

Fun Fact: Berlin is the most multi-cultural city in Germany. Its 3.5 million inhabitants include over 470,000 residents with foreign passports.

Several Holland America Line ships will visit the Baltic in 2015 including Eurodam, Prinsendam and Rotterdam. Itineraries range in length from 12 to 28 days, giving guests ample time to explore the region, and many itineraries feature an overnight at St. Petersburg.

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 cruised the Baltic? Share your top tips in the comments!

Shore excursion @halcruises in Pisa. The famous leaning tower. The guided tour in the cathedral was great! - Lisanne @atg_nl
Shore excursion @halcruises in Pisa. The famous leaning tower. The guided tour in the cathedral was great! - Lisanne @atg_nl

Holland America Line’s Jocelyn Wu, special events coordinator – public relations, just disembarked ms Noordam with a group of journalists. She and many of the writers chronicled their cruise through the Mediterranean on Facebook and Twitter through fabulous photos and fun captions.

Journalist Gail Jennsen was onboard writing a story for Avid Cruiser and she’s tweeting photos of her adventure at @fourthirtyam. Anita Dunham Potter sailed to cover the Noordam cruise for her website, Expert Cruiser. She’s tweeting with @ExpertCruiser. Photos and tweets from Dutch journalist Lisanne Kerstens, who is writing for Around the Globe, can be found at @atg_nl.

Come along on their amazing photo journey and witness the culture, charm and beauty found on a cruise through the Mediterranean.

First stop, Rome, Italy. The ship departs from the port of Civitavecchia, and arriving a few days early enables plenty of time to see all that Rome to offer.

The Pantheon.

Jocelyn admires Rome’s Pantheon.

Welcome aboard!

Welcome @halcruises MS Noordam! #Hollandamerica - Lisanne

Welcome @halcruises MS Noordam! #Hollandamerica – Lisanne

At Naples, Italy, the sun rose over Mt. Vesuvius, and Anita captured the moment beautifully.

Good Morning from @HALcruises #Noordam in Naples it's a lovely day and check out Mt Vesuvius! - Anita

Good Morning from @HALcruises #Noordam in Naples it’s a lovely day and check out Mt Vesuvius! – Anita

The group took a tour that visited the Ruins of Pompeii, perfectly preserved since the eruption of Mt. Vesuvius in AD 79.

The ruins of Pompeii. Shore excursion with @HALcruises. Beautiful preserved archeological site. - Lisanne

The ruins of Pompeii. Shore excursion with @HALcruises. Beautiful preserved archeological site. – Lisanne

From Naples, the group took a shore excursion that visited the stunning isle of Capri.

Taking the ride up from Anacapri. A great souvenir from Capri is their famous sandal. - Anita

Taking the ride up from Anacapri. A great souvenir from Capri is their famous sandal. – Anita

The next call was at Palermo, Sicily, and some of the group learned how to prepare an authentic Sicilian dish on the A Taste of Sicily: A Cooking Lesson tour.

Sicilian cooking lesson at agritourismo farm Antica Masseria from Baroness Di Salvo. - Anita

Sicilian cooking lesson at agritourismo farm Antica Masseria from Baroness Di Salvo. – Anita

Lisanne took a different tour and visited the Teatro Politeama.

Nice shore excursion @HALcruises in Palermo today. This is Teatro Politeama at the main square. - Lisanne

Nice shore excursion @HALcruises in Palermo today. This is Teatro Politeama at the main square. – Lisanne

Another incredible stop on the cruise was a call at Livorno. From here, guests can take the “Tuscan Landmarks: Florence & Pisa” tour and visit two incredible places. In Florence, a half-day walking tour includes many of the city’s masterpieces. At Pisa, the group explored the Piazza dei Miracoli — site of the Leaning Tower, the cathedral and the baptistery.

After visiting Pisa, top left, Jocelyn went to Florence and went to the Piazza del Duomo.

Before visiting Pisa, top left, Jocelyn went to Florence and explored the Piazza del Duomo.

The ship continued to make its way through the Med with a call at Calvi, Corsica, where Anita captured a gorgeous sunrise and Gail discovered that it’s one of her favorite ports.

Calvi, Corsica, was a favorite call on the cruise. Anita shared this stunning photo on Twitter. @ExpertCruiser

Anita shared this stunning photo on Twitter. @ExpertCruiser

I've fallen deeply in love w Calvi, Corsica. I've only traveled in northern France and I must say, I've missed out. - Gail

I’ve fallen deeply in love with Calvi, Corsica. I’ve only traveled in northern France and I must say, I’ve missed out. – Gail

At Monte Carlo, Gail made her way to out of the city on a tour to Nice and Eze.

Day 8: Nice & Eze introdcued me to Cote D'Azur, Provence, French Riviera. I'm hooked. - Gail

Day 8: Nice & Eze introdcued me to Cote D’Azur, Provence, French Riviera. I’m hooked. – Gail

Anita admired the yachts in the harbor and went to the palace to see the changing of the guard.

Changing of the guard at Monaco palace no Prince or princess sightings. - Anita

Changing of the guard at Monaco palace. No prince or princess sightings. – Anita

Marseille, France, was the next port of call, and Gail and Lisanne enjoyed shopping in the markets and seeing the beautiful architecture. Gail called the region:

“A storybook dreamscape.”

Soap made from honey. Soap made from olive oil. Soap made from lavender. Check. Check. Check. - Gail

Soap made from honey. Soap made from olive oil. Soap made from lavender. Check. Check. Check. – Gail

Marseille was charming and thoroughly enjoyed by Gail.

Marseille was charming and thoroughly enjoyed by Gail.

Lisanne tweeted these photos of Marseille on @atg_nl.

Lisanne tweeted these photos of Marseille at @atg_nl.

Barcelona, Spain, was the last call of the cruise and the port of disembarkation. Barcelona is another city where a spending a few days after (or before) a cruise would provide time to explore all that the city has to offer, and perhaps attend a futbol game!

Gaudi's La Sagrada Familia is a "must see" when visiting Barcelona. Three shots from left: Jocelyn, Gail and Lisanne. Gail wrote on Twitter ... #bucketlist!

Gaudi’s La Sagrada Familia is a “must see” when visiting Barcelona. Three perspectives, from left: Jocelyn, Gail and Lisanne. Gail wrote on Twitter … #bucketlist!

The group went to a Futbol game - one of the most popular activities in the city.

The group went to a Futbol game – one of the most popular activities in the city.

While making their way through the Mediterranean, the group also took every opportunity to indulge in local cuisine!

Jocelyn, bottom left, enjoyed the variety of local culinary indulgences around the Med.

Jocelyn, bottom left, enjoyed the variety of local culinary indulgences around the Med.

And sweet treats are a must on any cruise to Italy!

"Yum, gelato!" said Anita.

“Yum, gelato!” said Anita.

To read upcoming stories about their cruise, check their websites. Anita can be found at www.expertcruiser.com; Gail is writing for www.avidcruiser.com; and Lisanne’s story will be at www.aroundtheglobe.nl.

When you travel, do you take time to post photos to social media, or do you prefer to wait until you get home to show your friends and family where you’ve been?

Be sure to follow Holland America Line on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram to see even more fabulous photos that show the true cruise experience.

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