Tag Archives: Shore Excursions

The Edinburgh Tattoo is an exciting way to experience Scottish culture.
The Edinburgh Tattoo is an exciting way to experience Scottish culture.

When you cruise, what type of shore excursions attract you the most? Relaxing city tours, historically rich explorations or exhilarating adventures that get your adrenaline pumping? If you’re looking for once-in-a-lifetime experiences that combine a little bit of everything, Holland America Line has an incredible collection of shore excursions in Europe that feature some of the most exclusive events and exciting opportunities that allow you to explore the ports in a variety of ways.

Are you a golf fan, Formula One junkie or do you like to see the world from a different view? Read on and see why these six tours top the list of European shore excursions not to miss.

British Open Championship at St. Andrews
Rosyth, Scotland

Visit St. Andrews and witness the British open on a tour.

Visit St. Andrews and witness the British open on a tour.

For those who appreciate the game of golf’s rich history, the British Open Championship at St. Andrews tour is the ultimate tournament experience. Be there as the 144th British Open is played out on the Old Course at St. Andrews. Follow the best players in the world as they navigate the pot bunkers and gusty winds that are the hallmarks of this Scottish legend. This is the rare opportunity to witness golf’s oldest Major Championship return to the game’s most cherished links.

Prinsendam’s July 15, 2015, Irish & Scottish Explorer departure calls at Rosyth during the British Open.

Grand Prix Trials
Monte Carlo, Monaco

Amazingly the call at Monte Carlo on Nieuw Amsterdam’s April 22 departure coincides with the trials for the world-famous Formula One Grand Prix. Guests can attend the first day of the F1 trials, held on one of the most fascinating and talked-about racetracks in the world. From the port of Fontvieille a local escort will lead you on a 30-minute walk (approximately) toward the grandstand section, located in a central position. Local Grand Prix personnel will direct you toward the section where you are to be seated. It is then up to you to decide which trials you wish to attend as your ticket gives you grandstand access for the whole day with in-out privileges. Come and go as you please. Your escort will give you a map of Monaco for orientation and then you’re on your own for a most enjoyable day.

Royal Edinburgh Military Tattoo
Rosyth, Scotland

Edinburgh Castle is the beautiful backdrop for the annual Tattoo.

Edinburgh Castle is the beautiful backdrop for the annual Tattoo.

Traditionally, the ‘tattoo’ was the signal given by drumbeat that warned British soldiers to return to their quarters for the night. Innkeepers promptly turned off their liquor taps and the drums continued to beat for a half hour — the period of grace during which the soldiers were allowed to return home before being AWOL. The custom eventually developed into a ceremonial performance of military music by massed bands, held a few hours after sunset.

At the Edinburgh Military Tattoo that takes place every August against the majestic backdrop of Edinburgh Castle, the world-renowned Massed Pipes & Drums together with the impressive Massed Military Bands and the Band of the Royal Regiment of Scotland are among those who will gather for Scotland’s sensational Edinburgh Tattoo. The Tattoo concludes with that most moving of all Scotland’s performances — the lone piper, floodlit on the battlements, haunting tones reaching out across the darkened arena to echo in your heart long after the music stops. (This excursion is only available on select sailings in August and is not available on Sundays.)

Exclusive Mt. Vesuvius
Naples, Italy

Take an exclusive tour of Mt. Vesuvius on a 4x4 bus.

Take an exclusive tour of Mt. Vesuvius on a 4×4 bus.

Travel by coach along the Bay of Naples on the Exclusive Mt. Vesuvius tour, stopping en route at a local cameo factory before reaching the foot of awesome Mount Vesuvius — the only volcano on the mainland continent of Europe. From the village of Boscotrecase, you will board a special ecological 4×4 bus for a 25-minute drive through Mount Vesuvius National Park, through pine forests and broom to an elevation of 3,400 feet. Leave the bus and walk to the upper part of the crater, where you will enjoy a walking tour around the crater under the expert supervision of an alpine guide.

Mount Vesuvius creates a beautiful landscape with the bay and Naples tucked below. Vesuvius is best known for its eruption in AD 79, destroying the Roman cities of Pompeii and Herculaneum and killing up to 25,000 people. It has erupted many times since and is today regarded as one of the most dangerous volcanoes in the world because of the population of three million people living nearby. The mountain has a tendency for explosive (Plinian) eruptions.

We had a wonderful sunny day, and you want good weather. The drive in the 4 wheel vehicle part way up Mt. Vesuvius was great. There is quite a climb but rails to hand on to when needed. You get right to the mouth of the volcano which is amazing. This trip was my husband’s choice and I am so glad we took it. — Guest Chrisdo

Kickin’ Corfu! A 4-Wheel-Drive Adventure
Kérkira (Corfu), Greece

Drive your own Jeep around Corfu and kick back like a local.

Drive your own Jeep around Corfu and kick back like a local.

Get behind the wheel of a four-wheel-drive vehicle on the Kickin’ Corfu tour and drive yourself and your fellow guests along the main coastal route, and up a country road, through olive groves and the village of Ano Korakiana. The road up Pantokrator Mountain features 27 zigzag turns and leads to the old village of Sokraki. Stretch your legs on a walk through the narrow winding streets of the village and enjoy a meze (traditional light snack) with a glass of local wine. Set off again along a country (dirt) lane to admire the beautiful panoramic view of the island as well as the magnificent view of the old town of Corfu. Returning to the narrow asphalt road, pass through Troubeta, Arkadades, Makrades and Lakones.

Without doubt this tour was the best tour of the whole cruise.My wife drove the little four wheel drive ,without any problems,while I ran the Gopro. The best views. The stop at Sokraki was more of a full lunch than a light snack, with local produce and meats, wine and ouzo.The narrow roads through picturesque towns were a treat. And one breathtaking view after another. I would highly suggest this tour. — Guests Steve and Linda

Sensational Rooftop Walk & Stockholm’s Old Town
Stockholm, Sweden

Get a bird's-eye view of Stockholm on the rooftop tour.

Get a bird’s-eye view of Stockholm on the rooftop tour.

It’s been featured on the blog in the past, but it’s too special to leave off this list. Try something sensational and unique — a guided walk conducted along a historic rooftop in Stockholm. Drive 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.

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. With your feet back on the ground, continue to the Old Town for a ground-level walking tour through Gamla Stan — a living historical monument of international renown. On the way back to the ship, relax for a panoramic sightseeing drive through Stockholm, passing the Parliament Building, the Royal Opera, the city center with Sergels Torg and the Concert Hall.

My husband and I had a great time – what a unique opportunity to walk on the rooftop of a centuries old buildling in the middle of Stockholm. We had a view of the city from every angle, and learned a lot about the history of Stockholm. It was the perfect mix of sightseeing and adrenaline! — Guest TravelGal

Which one of these tours would you like to take? Many of the exclusive shore excursions fill up quickly, so remember to pre-book the shore excursion of your choice to save time onboard and ensure you have a seat!

One-year-old Isabelle waves goodbye to her Uncle Vincent who is staff captain on Prinsendam.
One-year-old Isabelle waves goodbye to her Uncle Vincent who is staff captain on Prinsendam.

Taking a cruise vacation is a social event full of memory-making moments both onboard and ashore. From mingling with guests around the ship to taking a fabulous shore excursion and visiting all of the fantastic destinations around the world, there are plenty of opportunities to capture the special moments and share them with friends, family and fellow fans of Holland America Line.

If you want to be social before you cruise, check out “Roll Call” on Facebook, Holland America Line’s way of connecting fellow cruisers before departure. Twitter, Instagram, Pinterest and the Holland America Blog are other outlets that provide a great way for guests to get cruise tips from fellow guests or share vacation stories and photos.

If you want to be part of the sharing, submit your fun photos and stories through social media channels, by clicking “Share Your Story” on the blog or emailing info@hollandamericablog.com. And if you’re out there cruising and tweeting while you sail, hashtag us at #HALcruises or #HollandAmerica, or tag us at @HALcruises. You can even hashtag your ship, like #Eurodam!

The photos and notes in this blog post are just some wonderful examples that show the dedication, fondness and love that our guests and crew have for Holland America Line.

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Well Wishes from Shore to Ship

The beautiful photo above came through email with this sweet note:

My uncle Vincent works as a staff captain on the ms Prinsendam. Every time when the beautiful ms Prinsendam visits the Netherlands (Amsterdam or IJmuiden), I go by bike, together with my mom and dad to the beach/pier to wave my Uncle Vincent goodbye. We always wish him and all of the crew and passengers a safe and secure journey. My mom took a picture of us the last time. — Isabelle Engel (1 year)

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Noordam Carries Historic Tote Bag on Transatlantic Crossing

From left: Captain Jeroen van Donselaar, Nancy and Francis Stiles, and Hotel Director Simon Tanner display the historic tote bag.

From left: Captain Jeroen van Donselaar, Nancy and Francis Stiles, and Hotel Director Simon Tanner display the historic tote bag.

Guests Francis and Nancy Stiles of Pennsylvania brought an unusual piece of history on board a Noordam transatlantic cruise: a tote bag that has been in the Stiles family since 1890 and carried on many sailings. The tote bag traveled on Holland America Line ships including the Rijndam and Statendam in 1929 and made its first transatlantic crossing in 1930 aboard White Star Line’s R.M.S. Homeric.

On this transatlantic cruise 84 years later, Captain Jeroen van Donselaar and Hotel Director Simon Tanner held a commemoration ceremony on the bridge, inscribing the ship’s itinerary on the bag.

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Getting Creative with Tiles

While some guests create tables and kitchen backsplashes with their Holland America Line Delft tiles, guest Ton Rijppaert has found another way to get creative with these favorite give-aways. A former HAL cabin steward from 1964 to 1972, Ton now cruises regularly so he’s amassed quite a collection of tiles and pins.

Ton Rijppaert from Rotterdam, the Netherlands, displays his tiles and pins in a photobook.

Ton Rijppaert from Rotterdam, the Netherlands, displays his tiles and pins in a photobook.

I collect HAL tiles (not plates) and pins … At this moment my collection consists of 290 tiles and 80 pins. I have them processed in a photobook. It is a loose-leaf album, so I can effortlessly handle additions. The tiles are shown at actual size. I always take the album with me on our cruises. That is the way I am “creative” with my tiles. During our voyage with the ms Rotterdam from our hometown Rotterdam to Singapore last January I had the opportunity to exhibit my tiles on board the ship (2 times). — Ton Rijppaert

Ton at home with his collection and the wonderful display onboard.

Ton at home with his collection, a new tile and the wonderful display onboard.

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Friends for Life

Crew members who work onboard become like family. Cruising is a 24/7 operation, and there’s a lot of time spent together. Special bonds are formed and lifelong friendships develop. Former Cruise Director Lizabeth Knight can attest to this in her story:

Teresa, left, and Liz onboard Nieuw Amsterdam.

Teresa, left, and Liz onboard Nieuw Amsterdam.

I’m a former HAL Cruise Director and Teresa Papp is a former HAL Event Manager. We were partnered together on the Statendam from 2009 through 2010. It was a tremendous partnership, and we were fortunate to work with a fabulous “family” on the Statendam. Even though we’ve both been officially gone from the company since 2010 we’ve remained close friends, and decided to take a “Family Reunion” cruise this year.

Since the Statendam does voyages that are longer than we can manage in our current lives, we chose a Caribbean cruise on the Nieuw Amsterdam. We were thrilled to find many of our Statendam family members onboard, making it truly a family reunion to remember! Thank you, Holland America Line, for the magical memories – from both the Statendam and the Nieuw Amsterdam! — Lizabeth Knight

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Warm Feelings in Cold Weather

The Shore Excursion department on Zaandam recently received new uniforms for their South America explorations. They were very appreciative of the cold-weather wear.

Judy from Zaandam's Shore Excursion team shows off the new uniforms.

Judy from Zaandam’s Shore Excursion team shows off the new uniforms.

Just a little appreciation for our new uniform! — Judy

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Is that an Original Holland America Line Design?

Chuck and Deborah Humbert.

Chuck and Deborah Humbert.

Chuck Humbert and his wife Deborah were wondering what to do with all of the vintage, complimentary tote bags that Holland America Line gives out. They got creative, and we think the result is fabulous!

Because of the superb quality of the design and fabric, they were recycled by my wife Deborah and her mother into a jacket and vest to be worn at the Mariners Luncheons. Needless to say they do attract attention. Careful attention was paid to the patterns when piecing together the final project lending to a memorable taste of our past cruises.

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A Presidential Dinner

President’s Club Mariners Mark Goldberg and Christopher Smith have made the ms Zaandam their winter home sailing around South America for nearly 100 days.

To honor them and their loyalty to Holland America Line Hotel Director Simon Tanner orchestrated a remarkable dinner in the Neptune Lounge just a few steps from their suite. This was most definitely a memorable evening for these VIP guests!

Left to Right: Christopher Smith, presidents club member; Clarissa Zwart, guest relations manager;  Marc Spijkerboer, culinary operations manager; Mark Goldberg, presidents club member; Anita Szilagyi, shore excursions; Simon Tanner, hotel director, pose with HAL crew members.

Clockwise around the table from bottom left: guest Christopher Smith; Clarissa Zwart, guest relations manager; Marc Spijkerboer, culinary operations manager; guest Mark Goldberg; Anita Szilagyi, shore excursions; and Simon Tanner, hotel director, pose with HAL crew members.

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A Golden Anniversary

Even regular blog contributors and current Grand World Voyage cruisers Jan and Dick Yetke got in on the fun.

We celebrated our 50th Anniversary onboard. Started out with a wake up call in the morning from Guest Relations Manager Christel and her whole front office staff, including Neptune staff, singing a Happy Anniversary song to us!!!! What a wonderful surprise and great way to start the day!!!

A little while later we were out of the cabin attending the Good Morning Amsterdam show and when we returned our door had been decorated with 3 gold balloons and a sign saying Happy 50th Anniversary, Jan and Dick!! It was from the Neptune staff and our cabin stewards. Wow, that was really nice!

Cards arrived all day long from friends on board!!! We received our first large flower bouquet from Captain Jonathan Mercer; Henk and Christel Mensink, hotel manager and guest relations manager; ship officers, staff, and crew!! So beautiful and so much appreciated by us! We felt very special.

Celebrations continued throughout the day with flower deliveries, a cocktail party, fabulous dinner and dessert.

When it was time for dessert, all the dining room staff gathered around the table and they brought the cake and they all sang their Indonesian song which means Happy Life to us!! Another, Wow, for us – so many singers.

The Yetke's 50th Anniversary celebration included balloons, cake and Captain Mercer.

The Yetke’s 50th Anniversary celebration included balloons, cake and Captain Mercer.

Content is king and social media is the new water cooler. We want to hear what you’re doing! If you have fun photos or a great story that you’d like to share with Holland America Line’s social media team, send to info@hollandamericablog.com or hit the icon on the home page that says “Share Your Story.”

Happy cruising — we hope to hear from you soon!

The beautiful Tayutic Hacienda is located in the misty hills of Turrialba.
The beautiful Tayutic Hacienda is located in the misty hills of Turrialba.

Spring has sprung and it’s an inspiring time! Today is the first official day of spring – and that means that flowers will begin to bloom in colder regions that have been covered in a blanket of snow and ice for many months.

As people across the northern hemisphere are looking forward to the return of the sun, Holland America Line’s signature tulip is beginning to bloom in the world-famous Keukenhof Gardens in the Netherlands, one of the most beautiful gardens in the world. In celebration of spring flowers, here are more gorgeous gardens — in no particular order — that you can visit on a Holland America Line shore excursion. Take a tour and take home some inspiration for your own backyard masterpiece!

Holland America Line's white Signature Tulip with its delicate fringe is a stand-out in the tulip fields.

Holland America Line’s white Signature Tulip with its delicate fringe is a stand-out in the tulip fields.

The Tayutic Hacienda
Puerto Limon, Costa Rica

Costa Rica is known for its lush setting and extraordinary biodiversity. At Puerto Limon head to the hills for a picturesque experience at Tayutic Hacienda. The gardens surrounding there were built by the wealthy Ortuño family, who made their money in the sugar cane business. Learn about ancient methods of sugar cane cultivation and walk the impressive gardens, buzzing with hummingbirds and butterflies, then dine in a covered hall surrounded by the exotic flora with beautiful mountain views.

One family visited all the way from the Jersey Shore and said,

“This was one of our favorite excursions. The bus ride though the countryside of Costa Rica was just beautiful — but wait — the best is yet to come! High on a hill the Tayutic Hacienda has the most magnificent views in the valley … We loved this excursion which was well organized and allowed us to feel “living the life” on the estate.”

The Jardim Botânico
Funchal, Portugal

Funchal, Portugal, is known for more than just great wine. The “Jardim Botânico” (Botanical Gardens) of Madeira are world-renowned for their beauty. Developed in 1960 on the coastline, the garden displays over 2,000 exotic plants both endemic and from all over the world such as orchids, magnolias, azaleas, palms, ferns and cacti.

Throughout the garden, visitors will find plants that are identified by their scientific and common names, family and place of origin, for a delightful and educational experience. The garden’s location, high on the hillside overlooking the ocean, adds another element of natural beauty to an already gorgeous setting.

JR from Seattle visited on Holland America Line’s Botanical Beauty Shore Excursion and said,

“We boarded the coach to climb up the hills of Funchal to the most glorious botanical gardens! Magnificent views of the city and water from the gardens. Beautifully organized areas of different landscapes…stunningly gorgeous. Don’t forget to see the exotic birds at the bottom of the gardens.”

The “Jardim Botânico” is a fabulous sensory experience.

The “Jardim Botânico” is a fabulous sensory experience.

Butchart Gardens
Victoria, British Columbia

At beautiful Butchart Gardens, see how the Butchart family has transformed a barren rock quarry into what is now one of the world’s best-known horticultural attractions, covering more than 55 acres. The gardens are a lush paradise of flowers, rare trees and winding paths and were created more than 100 years ago. Enjoy the cascading fountains and footbridges connecting the many themed gardens, including the beautiful Sunken Garden, the Japanese Garden and the Rose Garden.

Katharine from Oregon visited on Holland America Line’s Butchart Gardens & Short Drive tour and called Butchart Gardens “the loveliest place on earth.”

“I’ve been a half dozen times and have never been disappointed.” – Katarine, Oregon

The Buchart Gardens offer more than 50 acres of beauty.

The Buchart Gardens offer more than 50 acres of beauty.

Inverary Castle
Glasgow, Scotland

Inverary Castle appears out of a fairytale. The castle is England’s earliest example of Gothic Revival — built in the 1700s — and could not be more beautiful if it were a painting. No matter the time of year the gardens are well worth a visit. In early spring daffodils bloom with various shades of yellow, replaced by the vibrant reds, pinks and whites of the rhododendrons and azaleas that the West Highlands are famous for. Other highlights are the heathers, roses and varied trees that are spectacular later in the summer and autumn. The garden covers 16 acres, of which, around two acres are formal lawns and flowerbeds, the remainder being park and woodland. Extending over 400 acres they from one of the most important designed landscapes in Scotland. You can check them out on cruises to Glasgow on Holland America Line’s Inverary Castle & Loch Lomond tour.

Inverary Castle and its grounds look like something out of a fairytale.

Inverary Castle and its grounds look like something out of a fairytale.

Romney Manor Gardens
Basseterre, St. Kitts

At St. Kitts hop in a jeep for the Safari Island Drive to take in the beauty of this most scenic of the smaller Caribbean islands. After driving through the town of Basseterre, you will proceed westward to the renowned Caribelle Batik Studio and Romney Manor Gardens — beautifully maintained gardens and a batik factory. Here you will have some time to enjoy this spectacular 12-acre location and see batik-making in progress. Then you will continue the scenic ride around the island as your entertaining and knowledgeable guide points out places of historical and cultural interest. Hear about Old Road Village, where the British first landed on Middle Island, and the world-famous Brimstone Hill Fortress as you drive by. Your next stop will be at Gibbon’s Hill, from where you can see the Atlantic Waters meeting with the Caribbean Sea in a splash of waves that never ceases to fascinate.

Get to know the gardens with a guide at St. Kitts

Get to know the gardens with a guide at St. Kitts

Adelaide Botanic Garden
Adelaide, Australia

Adelaide’s Garden & Museum takes you to the Bicentennial Conservatory at the Adelaide Botanic Garden. The conservatory is located in the tropical rain forest section of the garden and is awash with waterfalls and rock pools. It was built to celebrate Australia’s bicentenary (1988) and is the largest single-span conservatory in the Southern Hemisphere. The Bicentennial Conservatory houses a display of lowland tropical rain forest plants from Northern Australia, Papua New Guinea, Indonesia and the nearby Pacific Islands. Many of these plants are at risk or are endangered in their natural habitats. You will have the chance to visit the Palm House, established in 1875 — the pre-cursor to the Conservatory. It was fully restored in 1992 and is believed to be the only one still in existence today.

Take in the beauty at Adelaide, Australia's 125-acre Botanic Garden.

Take in the beauty at Adelaide, Australia’s 125-acre Botanic Garden.

The Humble Administrator’s Garden
Shanghai, China

Shanghai, China, is a city where old meets new. Scenic Suzhou, founded in the 5th century B.C., maintains tradition. A famous Chinese proverb says, “In heaven there is paradise; on earth Suzhou and Hangzhou.” At Suzhou, the Humble Administrator’s Garden is 10 acres of pure beauty, with a variety of lakes and gardens dotted throughout. The name, “Humble Administrator” comes from another Chinese proverb that says,

“To cultivate a garden for a living is really the politics of a humble man.” — Chinese Proverb

Dotted with lakes and ponds, the Humble Administrator's Garden is one of the most famous in all of China.

Dotted with lakes and ponds, the Humble Administrator’s Garden is one of the most famous in all of China.

Also at Shanghai, visit the Yuyuan Garden. The Pan family, wealthy Ming Dynasty officials, had the garden built for them. The endeavor took 18 years between A.D. 1559 and 1577. Small bridges of different shapes and sizes, beautiful rockeries, clear water ponds, elegant pavilions and zig-zagging, covered corridors are nicely designed and built in this small but very delicate and pretty garden.

Mendenhall Glacier Gardens
Juneau, Alaska

Mendenhall Glacier Gardens is unique — it’s where beautifully designed landscapes meet rustic forest and cascading waterfalls. The bright greens, purples and pinks of the garden contrast the region’s greatest attraction nearby, the Mendenhall Glacier. See them both on Holland America Line’s Mendenhall Glacier & Gardens tour. You will be amazed at the diversity of the rain forest as you wind along pathways carved into the mountainside, heading toward the upper regions of the forest. Visit a one-of-a-kind Alaska garden featuring towering ‘upside-down trees’ covered with planted flowers. From the viewing platform at the 580-foot level, capture images of the Gastineau Channel, Douglas Island and the Chilkat Mountains.

MMouse from Vancouver, B.C. visited and said,

“The gardens were beautiful, especially the upside down trees & the flowers in the gift shop. The views from above were spectacular. The glacier & falls were also very impressive. Saw a bear by the salmon spawning streams, very close up! Once in a lifetime!”

The contrast in colors between  Mendenall Gardens and nearby Glacier is astounding.

The contrast in colors between Mendenall Gardens and nearby Mendenhall Glacier is astounding.

From tropical rainforests to temperate hillsides these are just a few of the many beautiful gardens Holland America Line visits around the world. Do you have a favorite that didn’t make the list? Let us know in the comments!

Remember, you can pre-book the shore excursion of your choice to save time onboard!

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

You can sail Pride of Auckland on the Waitemata Harbour.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

What would you do if you could spend three perfect days in paradise?
What would you do if you could spend three perfect days in paradise?

Complete with pink sand, blue waters and cobblestone streets lined with brightly-colored colonial buildings, some might say that Bermuda is the perfect cruise destination. In fact, Conde Nast Traveler readers have voted Bermuda “Best Island in the Caribbean/Atlantic” 18 times in the past 20 years! ms Veendam cruises to this island paradise roundtrip from Boston in spring and summer 2015 with leisurely three-night visits. Just picture it, three perfect days in Bermuda!

DAY 1:

After one sea day full of techsperts, culinary delights and fabulous shows, the ship arrives at Hamilton, Bermuda. Upon disembarking you can hit the beach! Leave your worries behind as you join the coastal sightseeing cruise Devil’s Isle Coastal Cruise & Beach Break. Get to know a bit about the land you’ll be exploring over the next few days and then have some fun in the sun — you’re on vacation, after all! Swim in the crystal waters, rent a kayak, snorkel and then head to Dark n’ Stormy Bar for a refreshing cocktail.

A perfect ending to a perfect first day is the Catamaran Champagne Sunset Cruise. Hop aboard the catamaran and sail along the shores of Hamilton Harbour, checking out the impressive homes along the coast known as Millionaire’s Row and Fairylands. Experience the warm Bermudian hospitality, a gorgeous glass of bubbly and the breathtaking colors of the sky as the sun dips down into the calm waters of the Great Sound. After the cruise, head back to the ship and enjoy some of the onboard nightlife or hit the sheets to wake up refreshed for another perfect day.

A sunset sailing is the perfect end to a perfect first day in Bermuda.

A sunset sailing is the perfect end to a perfect first day in Bermuda.

DAY 2:

Day two in Bermuda is all about exploration! Chances are you’ve heard of the Bermuda Triangle, so learn more on the Bermuda Triangle Shipwreck Snorkel tour. Bermuda boasts more than 200 square miles of the Atlantic’s northernmost fringe reef, and while the reef is beautiful, it’s infamous as a wrecksite. Gear up and head out to explore two of Bermuda’s most famous shipwrecks: the Constellation and the Montana. En route the captain will tell you all about the history of the notorious Bermuda triangle. You’ll have a nice amount of time to snorkel both reefs and head home with a refreshment in hand.

Head back to the ship to relax for a bit, then return to the action with a new perspective on the Bermuda Triangle Night-time Glass-Bottom Boat Cruise! This unique experience allows you to see the reefs in a new light — literally! Beams of light extend from the bottom of the boat illuminating the marine life below for an incredible view of the underwater party. The cheeky tour operator says, “This trip has so far enjoyed a 100% return rate, however, a money-back guarantee is offered in the event you disappear into the Bermuda Triangle.”

Explore the shipwrecks of the notorious Bermuda triangle!

Explore the shipwrecks of the notorious Bermuda triangle!

DAY 3:

By day three you might consider moving to Bermuda, so you should probably get to know the ins and outs of the island. See the island like a local with Bermuda: Off the Beaten Track. The tour takes you across the island into Bermuda’s one and only Tom Moore’s Jungle, filled with cave exploration, swimming adventures and lush land brimming with tropical trees and exotic birds. After a stop at David’s Lighthouse the tour heads to Cooper’s Island Nature Reserve, one of the island’s premier snorkeling locations, where you will have an opportunity to soak up the sun and sea.

After that, head back to town and the Hamilton Trolley & Ocean Discovery Center, where you’ll get to know the city of Hamilton and visit the Ocean Discovery Center. Relax and check out the colorful capital of your — surely soon-to-be — island home. Watch for the Botanic Gardens and Camden House — the official residence of the Premier. Step inside the Bermuda Underwater Exploration Institute’s Ocean Discovery Center to see one of the finest shell collections in the world, unravel the intrigues of the Bermuda Triangle and marvel at artifacts on display collected by world-famous Bermudian shipwreck-hunter Teddy Tucker.

Explore the colorful architecture and charm of Hamilton, Bermuda.

Explore the colorful architecture and charm of Hamilton, Bermuda.

TIME TO SET SAIL:

On the fourth day of Bermuda you’ll still have a few hours ashore to stroll the beach, shop for souvenirs or take a morning tour. At 1 p.m. Veendam departs and begins the trek back to Boston, and you’ll have another day at sea to enjoy the ship and reflect on your three perfect days in Bermuda.

Want to make three perfect days even better? Join Holland America Line’s next Dancing With the Stars at Sea 7-day cruise to Bermuda, June 6, 2015! And remember, you can pre-book your shore excursions online to save time onboard and ensure that you don’t miss your tour of choice!

What do you think three perfect days in Bermuda look like? Let us know in the comments!

Shore excursions explore the history and culture of Canada.
Shore excursions explore the history and culture of Canada.

Each summer travelers cruise to Canada and New England to take in the picturesque lighthouses and rugged shorelines. In the fall guests visit to get a peek at the stunning scenery as the leaves change color and the mountains light up with red, orange and magenta hues. Beyond the beautiful backdrops, however, Canada boasts a rich history and combination of cultures that are a joy to discover.

GATEWAY TO A NEW WORLD: THE ST. LAWRENCE RIVER

The name “Canada” originated from the Huron-Iroquoian word “Kanata,” meaning village. The Iroquois inhabited the region for about 10,000 years. Like the rest of the Iroquois Confederacy, the Huron Nation relied on an oral tradition to pass down their culture and history, and lived in familial villages in longhouses. The first Europeans to touch down in the area were Vikings in about 1000 A.D., who set up short-lived settlements before they were on their way. In the 16th and 17th centuries, as interest in “the new world” soared, Europeans began to settle along the North Atlantic shore, and to explore deeper. The explorer Jacques Cartier claimed Canada for France, called the region “The Country of Canadas” and began to make his way through the St. Lawrence River — which he also named — as he searched for a passage to Asia.

In the early days of North American exploration the St. Lawrence River became a gateway to Canada.

In the early days of North American exploration the St. Lawrence River became a gateway to Canada.

The St. Lawrence River became a highway for explorers, missionaries and fur traders. At the time fur was high fashion, and beavers were depleted in France and England. As a result, North American fur became all the rage in France and England. The fur trade boomed and for years this business provided a common goal for the French and natives that lasted for years before going sour as a result of land disputes. The Saguenay & the Heritage Route tour allows you to visit the first established fur trading post and learn about the historical importance of the Saguenay Fjord and St. Lawrence River. Today Holland America Line cruises the very same route visiting cities that were established along the way.

A MIX OF CULTURES: QUEBEC CITY

In 1608 Samuel D. Champlain arrived at the north shore of what the natives called “Kébec” and officially founded what is now called Quebec City. Years later Quebec was the site of the historic battle where the French surrendered to the British in 1759, and you can now tour National Battlefields Park — also known as the Plains of Abraham — a beautiful 250-acre park with hills, gardens, monuments and artillery artifacts, along with other UNESCO Historic Sites. From Cap Diamant there are spectacular views of the St. Lawrence River, Lower Town and surrounding countryside.

Shortly after the battle there at the end of the Seven-Years War, France ceded Canada to England in 1763. A fabulous way to see the city is to take the Historic Walk & Horse Carriage Ride. There you’ll have a chance to explore the cobblestone streets, ride the Quebec Funicular and check out Notre-Dame des Victoires, the oldest standing Catholic church in North America.

Quebec City maintains a colonial charm.

Quebec City maintains a colonial charm.

MONTREAL: CITY OF A HUNDRED STEEPLES

Also along the St. Lawrence, Montreal is both a city and an island. First named Ville Marie, the city was officially established by the French in 1642 and named for its mountain peak, “Mount Royal.” French missionaries moved into Montreal with hopes of converting the nearby Iroquois to Catholicism. You can see the strong religious influence in the surrounding architecture. Mark Twain once noted this on a visit to Montreal, famously remarking,

“This is the first time I was ever in a city where you couldn’t throw a brick without breaking a church window. Yet I was told you are going to build one more … ”

The French colonized the city for 117 years before the British took over in 1759. The French worked for the British Empire, who were later joined by colonists from Scotland, England and Ireland. In the 19th century English-speaking merchants arrived in Montreal and soon the main business language was English. The colonists intermarried and today most Montreal dwellers have British or French names. Old & New Montreal is a tour that offers a view of historic Montreal, along with a glimpse of the city’s bright future.

Montreal is famous for its churches and is nicknamed "The City of a Hundred Steeples."

Montreal is famous for its churches and is nicknamed “The City of a Hundred Steeples.”

HALIFAX: A MARINER’S STORY

Halifax, a laid-back yet cosmopolitan call on Canada and New England cruises, is known for its strong military tradition. Halifax was established as a naval base for the British to hold their claim in the new world. Over the years Halifax has served an important strategic position for Canada, even as powers changed hands. Halifax Citadel National Historic Site is the most-visited historic place in Canada. Experience Halifax, both historic and new, through its fascinating 250-year history with The Heart of Halifax tour. You’ll travel with a kilted guide on a deluxe motor coach tour and take a 250-year journey through the streets of Halifax past old buildings and National Historic Sites. Halifax was a progressive city, as the head of the first public library and the first newspaper in Canada.

Halifax also boasts a strong maritime tradition as a navy base and commercial center. Visit the Maritime Museum of the Atlantic for a glimpse at Halifax’s historic past, or check out Peggy’s Cove & Titanic Combination, where you’ll visit Fairview Lawn Cemetary and hear the tale of the great ship Titanic and its ill-fated maided voyage. Discover the true identities of the unknown child and J. Dawson, both recovered from the icy waters of the Atlantic Ocean. Their stories are part of a legacy that continues to fascinate visitors more than a century later.

Halifax has a strong military tradition.

Halifax has a strong military tradition.

Whether you’re visiting Canada as a guest or traveling within the country as a citizen, these tours offer an interesting and in-depth look at the histories briefly outlined above. Looking to explore the beauty of your own backyard? From Wednesday, Feb. 18 – Sunday, April 5, 2015, Canada residents can take advantage of the Canada Super Sale featuring savings of up to $2,699 on select summer 2015 cruises, including itineraries that explore Canada & New England, Transatlantic, Mediterranean, Northern Europe, Alaska, Hawaii, and more.

Remember, you can pre-book your shore excursions online to save time onboard and ensure that you don’t miss your tour of choice!

Do you like to research the history of a region before you travel? Let us know what fascinates you most in the comments!

The new Prince Edward Island, Canada, Coast & Cellar tour highlights many of the island's beautiful lighthouses.
The new Prince Edward Island, Canada, Coast & Cellar tour highlights many of the island's beautiful lighthouses.

Holland America Line’s cruises to Canada and New England feature some of the most beautiful scenery, diverse cultures and interesting history in North America. From stunning national parks to picturesque coastlines and plenty of colorful and interesting towns in between, there is plenty to see in this diverse region … and plenty of ways to see it!

In addition to the already-robust menu of available shore excursions, Holland America Line recently introduced 10 new tours that showcase the best of the area in a variety of ways. From hikes to earth’s mantle to a tasting tour that would delight any foodie, be sure to check out one of these new tours on your next Canada & New England cruise.

Explore Acadia National Park at Bar Harbor, Maine

1. The Intimate Look at Acadia National Park tour is the ultimate small-group excursion in Acadia National Park. Along with 13 other guests, you’ll get to observe the wonders of this majestic park. Drive along the ocean’s edge before stopping at Thunder Hole. Here, under ocean swells converge with a thunderous roar against the granite coastline. You’ll pause high above the 107 Otter Cliffs, then wind through lush pine and forests. Next you’ll continue up Cadillac Mountain, the Atlantic coast’s highest peak, passing scenic glacial lakes along the way. From the summit, enjoy a breathtaking, 360-degree view of the Cranberry Islands and Frenchman Bay, where the Holland America Line ship is anchored.

Acadia National Park features beautiful natural scenery.

Acadia National Park features beautiful natural scenery.

Learn About the History of Cap-aux-Meules, Îles de la Madeleine

2. Îles de la Madeleine is a stunning archipelago located in the heart of the Gulf of Saint Lawrence and Cap-aux-Meules is its second-largest island. Here, you’ll have the opportunity to take the new Islands Shipwreck & History tour. You’ll start at Étang du Nord, home of the second-largest wooden church in North America, La Vernière. Then you’ll visit the beach where the Corfu Island cargo ship was shipwrecked in 1963, with your guide painting a vivid picture of what took place. Next, a stop at the Havre Aubert Islands will include the Historic Site at La Grave. You’ll also visit the Musée de la Mer, or the maritime museum, that features ship models, photographs, maritime objects and collections of minerals, shells and rocks from the archipelago.

Hike the Earth’s Mantle at Corner Brook, New Foundland

3. You can find adventure in New Foundland with the Gros Morne Park Tablelands Discovery Center & Hike tour. You’ll start with a short drive to Gros Morne Discover Center that overlooks Bonne Bay. Here you can get acquainted with the landscape through exhibits and a viewing deck. Next you’ll head to the starting point for your hike to the top of the bottom of the earth! You’ll discover orange rocks from earth’s middle layer, pushed into place as the continents collided almost half a billion years ago. After your hike you’ll enjoy a tasty lunch in the community of Bonne Bay.

The top of the bottom of the earth is a highlight on the Gros Morne Park Tablelands Hike tour.

The top of the bottom of the earth is a highlight on the Gros Morne Park Tablelands Hike tour.

History, Nature and Puzzles at Charlottetown, Prince Edward Island

4. The PEI Coast & Cellar tour is the perfect pick for someone looking to take a step back in time. You’ll travel along the island’s stunning coast and stop at a couple of lighthouses, including the Point Prim Lighthouse — the island’s oldest. You’ll also head to the Rossignol Estate Winery for an unlimited wine tasting paired with Prince Edward Island cheeses … the perfect combination! The winery has a 45,000 bottle capacity and produces a variety of premium fruit and table wines made with local produce.

Visit Prince Edward Island's famous sites on the PEI Coast & Cellar tour, including Point Prim Lighthouse.

Visit Prince Edward Island’s famous sites on the PEI Coast & Cellar tour, including Point Prim Lighthouse.

5. The relatively new and incredibly unique Fun with Falcons tour offers a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity — a chance to watch a Saker falcon in full flight, soaring, diving and catching air currents! These beautiful birds fly at speeds up to 200 mph! And with a handler’s glove, you’ll get to admire them up close as they sit on your hand. Saker falcons are endangered, but their population is growing again thanks to conservation breeding programs.

6. Prince Edward Island is Canada’s smallest province, and small enough to explore by foot. The Charlottetown – On Your Own tour is a self-guided walking tour that combines the technology of a hand-held GPS unit with the adventure of a scavenger hunt as you search for solutions to a customized crossword puzzle. Each location on the walk reveals interesting facts about Charlottetown and the island, showcasing some of the city’s most beautiful architecture and the stories behind its buildings. This outing is the perfect tour for history buffs and curious kids alike, and of course those who can’t resist a good puzzle!

Food and Fundy at Halifax, Nova Scotia

7. Set out to enjoy the best of Halifax’s food, beer and wine scene with the Taste of Halifax tour. You will travel around the city, visiting five local culinary hotspots and trying everything from traditional local seafood and fusion fish dishes to Annapolis Valley pulled pork and craft pizza! This tour is perfect for any foodie with a mix of gourmet food trucks, trendy restaurants and breweries. You’ll enjoy craft beers and Nova Scotia wine — the fastest growing wine district in North America. You’ll also get to take in some history with stops at Citadel Hill and the historic Hydrostone neighborhood.

If you like to sample local cuisine, take the Taste of Halifax tour.

If you like to sample local cuisine, take the Taste of Halifax tour.

8. If you’re looking for more of an adventure at Halifax, the Blomidon Hike & Grand Pre small group tour might be just what you wished for. Enjoy an unforgettable journey through the Annapolis Valley, located between two parallel mountain ranges along the shore of the Bay of Fundy. This bay is well known for its beautiful landscapes and of course for having the highest tidal swing in the world. You’ll take a scenic drive through the western part of the Nova Scotia peninsula and take in the view from the Blomidon Viewpoint atop the North Mountain. Then you will head to Blomidon Park and set out on a challenging hike — the Borden Brook Trail. Along the way you will observe the changing tides of the Minas Basin, appreciate high cliffs and learn of the abundant wildlife in the area. On your way back to the ship, you’ll take in the beauty of the Landscape of Grand Pre, Canada’s newest UNESCO World Heritage Site.

Gorgeous scenery awaits on the Blomidon Hike & Grand Pre tour.

Gorgeous scenery awaits on the Blomidon Hike & Grand Pre tour.

Scenery and Culture at Sydney, Nova Scotia

9. The Otherside of the Cabot Trail tour features some of the most beautiful scenery that Cape Breton has to offer. Sit back and enjoy it all as you drive through the historic North End and follow the Trans-Canada Highway to Boularderie Island. Then you will continue across the Seal Island Bridge to view the Bras d’Or Lakes before making your way to the Cabot Trail. You will pass Beaver Pond, Middle River and Lake O’Law. This tour is perfect for nature lovers, as you get to take in the stunning coastline and beautiful foliage.

10. The Cape Breton: A Cultural Exploration tour starts with a visit to Eskasoni, a vibrant region that features history and natural beauty. You’ll get a unique look at this multicultural area that reflects two different and distinct cultures: that of the Scots, who settled the land, and the Mi’kmaq people who were there before. You’ll take a walking tour at the largest Mi’kmaq reserve in the world, tasting traditional foods, dancing and playing traditional games. Next, you’ll hop aboard a boat for a ride on the Bras d’Or Lake, where you will learn of its fisheries and eco-system. Then you’ll head to the Highland Village that offers a mix of breathtaking scenery and Gaelic culture. You’ll even get to participate in a “milling frolic” — a hands-on filling of the cloth, singing Gaelic work songs while you drink tea and eat oatcakes!

How to get there:

In 2015, 39 Holland America Line cruises will sail throughout Canada and New England. Maasdam will head to the region first with a 15-day cruise from Fort Lauderdale to Montreal departing May 1 and will sail seven-day cruises between Montreal and Boston until October.

From May 16 through October, ms Veendam will cruise seven-day itineraries between Quebec City and Boston. Back-to-back sailings on both Veendam and Maasdam can be combined for an extended 14-day roundtrip Collectors’ Voyage. Both ships’ itineraries include calls at Bar Harbor, Halifax, Sydney and Prince Edward Island.

In September and October, Eurodam will sail 10-day cruises between New York and Quebec City at the height of the stunning fall foliage season.

If you have any questions or would like assistance booking your shore excursions please contact our Shore Excursions Call Center at 1-888-425-9376 or 206-626-7320, Monday – Friday, 6:00 a.m. – 6:00 p.m., and Saturday & Sunday 8:00 a.m. – 4:30 p.m. Pacific Time.

Remember, you can pre-book the tour of your choice to save time on your vacation!

Which new tour would you take on a Canada/New England Cruise? Do you like the history or go seeking the beautiful scenery? Tell us in the comments below!

HILO_HELICOPTER

When it comes to Hawaii, the question is never really whether you’ve dreamed about visiting, rather how often you dream about visiting. Being the only state made up entirely of islands — there’s no easier way to see it than on a cruise, and Holland America Line has put together itineraries and shore excursions that highlight all that it has to offer. Its diverse natural scenery features fiery volcanoes, rushing waterfalls and idyllic beaches all in a sunny, warm tropical climate. Adventure is awaiting at Hawaii, here are some ways you can find it.

ADVinfo

Bike & Hike at Hilo

Hop on a 21-speed mountain bike for an eight-mile ride around the crater rim of active volcanoes with the Kilauea Volcano Bicycle Adventure tour at Hilo. At Hawaii Volcanoes National Park in Hilo you’ll make your way through an incredible rain forest, with stops along the way to take in the scenery. You’ll also have the chance to enjoy some time hiking, including a hike that leads you directly through an amazing lava tube. You’ll see the heart of the volcano at Halema’uma’u Crater and enjoy fresh island fruit, macadamia nuts and other snacks. After your ride, you’ll stop at the Jaggar Museum to check out real-time seismographs, eruption footage and beautiful displays of lava and Hawaiian geology.

This tour combines biking, hiking, and a trip through a lava tube.

This tour combines biking, hiking, and a trip through a lava tube.

Tube the Ditch at Nawiliwili

At Nawiliwili (Kauai), a short drive will take you to the Hanamaulu Ditch system where you can enjoy a unique tubing adventure taking you back in time to the sugar plantation era. Grab a tube, don a headlamp and jump in for a different kind of cruise! You’ll float down the tropical waterway consisting of open ditches, tunnels and flumes, all of which were engineered and hand-dug in the early 1900s — one of Kauai’s most spectacular engineering feats. At the end of your ride you’ll enjoy a snack and a pristine swimming hole, the perfect spot for a swim and a picnic.

AdventurePerson gave the tour five stars on the Holland America website. Here is what they had to say:

“Terrific adventure for all ages. You sit on top of large (truck size) very comfortable inner tubes (made from the same material as they make zodiacs) and float down these irrigation ditches, that are actually beautiful, fern covered, spectacular water plumes… You go through tunnels carved through the lava 150 years ago, turning on your headlamps as directed by the guides. It was thrilling and relaxing at the same time. I wanted to start all over and do it again at the bottom.”

Tube the Ditch at Nawiliwili.

Tube the Ditch at Nawiliwili.

A Volcano Adventure Awaits at Honolulu

If tubing is a little too leisurely for you, head to Diamond Head Crater in Honolulu for the hike of a lifetime. You’ll learn all about this world-famous volcano, including its Hawaiian history, European discovery and the origin of its name. You’ll set out on a 45-minute hike to the 763-foot summit of Diamond Head, stopping at several points to snap stunning photos along the way. You’ll enter a dark 200-foot tunnel and climb a spiral staircase. Upon reaching the summit, you will encounter an incredible panoramic view of Waikiki Beach, with its emerald green mountains and the sparkling aquamarine water of the Pacific Ocean. Enjoy the scenery before making your way back down.

ShuShu felt it was quite an achievement — and rated the tour five stars.

“What an experience, wonderful views of Waikiki Beach and we’re thrilled that we accomplished the hike!!!!”

Experience Hawaii from New Heights

Take your need for speed to new heights on a thrilling Zip Line through Paradise adventure through Paradise at Nawiliwili. Covering nearly two miles of gorgeous tropical river gorges, the 8-line zip course will give you a beautiful view of multiple waterfalls as you soar over 160 feet above them. The staff will guide you over one of the longest lines in Hawaii, at more than 2,400 feet in length!

zip Collage

You’ll have a great time zipping on eight different lines above Hawaii’s stunning scenery.

Come Explore the Sea

You wouldn’t be doing Hawaii right if you didn’t take some time to enjoy its beauty under water. With the Captain Zodiac Rafting & Snorkel Adventure tour at Kona, you’ll explore this picturesque island’s scenic coast with a 12-mile ride as you seek out pods of dolphins, sea turtles, whales in the early months of the year and other marine life. You’ll also admire the view of the lava formations and sea caves. The highlight of the tour is snorkeling in the Kealakekua Bay Marine Preserve. Kealakekua Bay is the site of the Captain Cook Monument, accessible only by boat and an important area in Hawaiian lore! The Preserve is home to hundreds of varieties of tropical fish and coral formations, and its calm and pristine waters make it the perfect spot for snorkeling.

Islandgirl gave the tour five stars and said it got off to a pretty incredible start!

“What a great experience! Captain Karl piloted our 24′ zodiac away from the dock and before we could get underway ….dolphins appeared! We had to stop and watch these graceful marine mammals as they swam at the side of our little boat! … The company equipment was excellent, so the snorkeling experience was excellent. Although the day was partly cloudy, the fish appeared and the colors were brillant. The zodiac slowly floated on the edge of the snorkeling until it was time to climb aboard again. Somehow they managed an easy access ladder, a warm fresh water hose down, and then a refreshing snack. This was what we came for, but…then there was so much more. On the way back to Kona, Captain Karl took us close to the shore to ride surf right up to the edge of sea caves, to view different plants, birds or land forms. He told great stories about the Big Island and the people and history.”

The Atlantis Submarine Dive at Lahaina, is another way to see Hawaii from underwater — but this one lets you stay dry! First you’ll head out on a boat ride along the breathtaking Maui coastline. Once you arrive at the site you will transfer to the world’s most technologically advanced passenger submarine. You’ll descend to depths of 125 feet, witnessing this watery world through two-foot viewports and admiring the variety of exotic tropical fish, coral gardens, moray eel and other fascinating marine life. You’ll also learn about Maui’s rich culture and history.

lahaina_submarine

The Atlantis is the world’s most technologically-advanced passenger submarine.

Helicopter Tours Let You Soar

If seeing Hawaii from below is not for you, how about seeing it from above? Helicopter tours provide phenomenal views of the islands. The ‘Circle of Fire’ Volcano Helicopter Experience at Hilo features stunning views of the most geologically active environment on earth — the famous Kilauea Volcano. This volcano has been in eruption continually since 1983 and the tour emphasizes the most current areas of volcanic activity! You’ll fly over lava flows, black sand beaches, tropical rain forests and small cascading waterfalls as you learn about the history and culture of Hawaii.

Jacqueline from the Netherlands said it was one of the best helicopter flights she’s taken.

“I have taken quite a few helicopter flights during my trips but this was one of the best ever. The volcano was sending lots of steam up in the air, of course it would have been great if it had really spewed things but you cannot have it all. We saw trees and bushes catch fire beneath us. The lava almost looked like a brownish mud slide but then the pilot found a crack in the field and was able to show us the glowing orange red molted lava beneath it. It was interesting and breathtaking. Our pilot made sure we all got the best possible views. He did take us over the rain forrest in the end and even flew us back over the bay so we could have a good look at our ship…”

lahainacollage

Maui is breathtaking from above.

You can also get a view of Crater Rainbow by helicopter at Maui. This thrilling 45-minute flight includes views of the Seven Sacred Pools (Oheo Gulch), Haleakala Crater, Hana Town, the Hana rain forest and the shoreline of Maui — some of the island’s most popular points of interest.

If you’ve dreamed of visiting Hawaii, there are a couple different Holland America Line ships cruising to Hawaii this year. Here are some options:

Statendam departs from San Diego, Calif., to Papeete on a 17-day Circle Hawaii, Tahiti & Marquesas cruise April 14, featuring calls at Hilo, Lahaina and Honolulu, as well as an overnight at a guest favorite – Bora Bora, French Polynesia. The 29-day circle Hawaii, Tahiti & Marquesas cruise lets guests cruise an additional 12 days before returning to San Diego.

You can visit all the stunning Hawaiian ports mentioned in this post with Statendam’s 17-day Circle Hawaii itinerary that cruises from Vancouver, Canada, to San Diego, departing Sept. 20, or Veendam’s similar itinerary that cruises roundtrip San Diego departing Nov. 26.

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

Have you been to Hawaii? What sites did you enjoy most? Tell us in the comments section below.

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