Tag Archives: Shore Excursions

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.

MCI_Hero

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.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Stingray

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Matt: For me, horses for sure!

The horseback riding tour is a highlight for Sams.

The horseback riding tour is a highlight for Sams.

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

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

And finally…

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

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

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

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

The stunning views of the South Pacific are romantic in themselves. Enjoy some romance of your own with one of these great tours.
The stunning views of the South Pacific are romantic in themselves. Enjoy some romance of your own with one of these great tours.

The South Pacific is one of the world’s most stunning destinations, and guests can enjoy a variety of its famous gems on a Holland America Line cruise. When you bring your love to the South Pacific, you’ll quickly see why it’s a favorite among honeymooners and romantics.

From an overnight stay at an overwater bungalow to picking out a popular anniversary gift, here are the top five shore excursions to celebrate your honeymoon beyond your cruise, help you enhance the honeymoon you never had, relive the one you did or just enjoy life in this stunning slice of paradise.

1. Stay Overwater Overnight
Bora Bora’s ancestral name means “created by the gods,” and a stay at the French Polynesian island’s stunning Pearl Resort on an overnight call will quickly show you how that name came to be! These famous overwater bungalows feature luxurious accommodations in an idyllic setting surrounded by amazing crystal waters. Spend the day taking advantage of the resorts’ amenities including the pool, beach and non-motorized water toys and finish your night with a romantic dinner. The following morning a canoe breakfast will be served and you’ll be able to enjoy the morning and early afternoon at leisure before returning to the ship.

Enjoy a swim with the locals from your bungalow at Bora Bora.

Enjoy a swim with the locals from your bungalow at Bora Bora.

The Hilton Moorea Lagoon Resort & Spa tour provides the perfect place to spend the night between calls at Papeete and Moorea, French Polynesia. The resort is set against a stunning mountain backdrop and surrounded by a beautiful clear lagoon. The bungalows feature a contemporary Polynesian design and the waters have tropical fish of all types and colors. You will be able to enjoy your day at Papeete before heading to Moorea, just a short 30-minute ferry ride away. You will be welcomed by the a cocktail and enjoy the hotel’s facilities including the pool and beach until the following day. All meals are included.

Photo credit: Hilton Moorea Lagoon Resort & Spa

Photo credit: Hilton Moorea Lagoon Resort & Spa

2. Pick A Pearl, Any Pearl
Traditionally, pearls are the proper gift for 30th anniversaries, but all women love and enjoy them any time. This perfect, romantic gift awaits you at Anapa Pearl Farm in Raiatea, French Polynesia, where guests can enjoy a fascinating look at one of nature’s most unique and beautiful gifts: the black pearl. On this tour, a short drive will bring you to a pier to board your boat to Raiatea’s reef. The pearl station is built over a lagoon, surrounded by waves crashing against the reef and spectacular scenery. Your guide will share all the secrets of the black pearl with you and you will learn how the oysters are seeded and the pearls are extracted. You will also have the opportunity to snorkel Raiatea’s stunning reef, featuring a coral garden filled with a large variety of tropical fish and get an underwater view of the rare pearl oysters in their underwater slumber.

The Anapa Pearl Farm is the perfect place to learn about black pearls and enjoy some snorkeling in the South Pacific.

The Anapa Pearl Farm is the perfect place to learn about black pearls and enjoy some snorkeling in the South Pacific.

Past guest Stargazer gave this tour five stars on the Holland America Line website.

I loved this excursion. The water was clear and beautiful and the pearls are beautiful. We rode to the pearl farm in a boat and went snorkeling … The shop was beautiful and the demonstration was interesting and fun. If you enjoy pearls, snorkeling and something different, you will enjoy this. It is very limited with only 16 people for each excursion, so book before you go.

The Pearl Farm at Rangiroa, French Polynesia, also gives guests the opportunity to learn about the mysterious black pearl. Transfer from the pier by bus along Rangiroa’s main road. Once you arrive at the farm, the staff will provide an introduction to pearl farming, explaining how black pearls are produced. You’ll learn how the oysters are selected, grown and grafted. The guide will show you the criteria used for grading pearls for quality so if you’re interested, you’ll be able to pick out the perfect one for yourself!

3. Make a Date
Enjoy spending the day together at Noumea with the Scenic Drive and Cheese & Wine Tasting at New Caledonia’s capital. You will walk around Le Meridien Resort, an exclusive five-star hotel on the northern tip of Anse Vata Beach, and enjoy the sights of the local market, Port Moselle Marina and many landmarks along the way. The Mount Ouen Toro Lookout will give you a fantastic view of the world’s largest lagoon. You will then arrive at a local restaurant to taste French wines with cheeses that compliment them perfectly. You will also have the chance to do some shopping at beautiful Coconut Square.

The scenery at Noumea is stunning at all times of day and a wine and cheese date is a great way to enjoy a local restaurant.

The scenery at Noumea is stunning at all times of day and a wine and cheese date is a great way to enjoy a local restaurant.

4. Enjoy a Spa Day
You also can also enjoy some relaxation time on a cruise to the South Pacific when your ship calls at Lautoka, Fiji, with the Nature Mud Spa excursion. After a scenic drive past villages and sugarcane plantations you will arrive at the foot of the Sabeto Mountains. Here lies a collection of natural thermal mud pools. Local villagers will welcome you with fresh flower leis, music and a kava ceremony with the village chief. The Fijian people have used these pools for their therapeutic properties for generations and now it is your turn! After thermal mud is rubbed into your skin you can finish up with a dip in the hot springs, removing the mud and leaving your skin exfoliated and smooth.

5. Cruise Through Paradise
There is a reason Ile des Pins, New Caledonia, is also know as “l’île la plus proche du paradis,” or the closest island to paradise, and a lagoon cruise tour around the stunning setting is the perfect way to see it. You will board a boat at Kanumera Bay to enjoy the nearby bays and islets. You will stop at Saint Maurice Bay to see some points of interest and visit Turtle Bay, scouting the area for loggerhead and green turtles. At Brush Island you might spot sting rays, manta rays, sharks and dolphins. You’ll also step ashore here to enjoy free time, take a swim, stroll or relax. Guests can also snorkel if you have your own gear.

It's easy to see where Île des Pins or Isle of Pines gets its name.

It’s easy to see where Île des Pins or Isle of Pines gets its name.

Guest Bigtes rated the tour on the Holland America Line website and said it was an exciting and exhilarating five-star experience.

Our tour guide found a wild but friendly Loggerhead turtle and invited us to jump off the boat and swim with it. It was magic to see it’s face with such knowing eyes … The swim and free time on the beach afterwards was highlighted with a close up view of a local sea snake found by our boat driver. We had lots of photo opportunities here. The commentary throughout the tour was very interesting and given with a great sense of humour. Our best tour of the trip and I would do it again.

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 to the South Pacific yet? Share some shore excursion suggestions with fellow blog readers in the comments below.

Puuhonua-O-Honaunau, or "The Place of Refuge," played a very special part in the lives of ancient Hawaiians
Puuhonua-O-Honaunau, or "The Place of Refuge," played a very special part in the lives of ancient Hawaiians

Cruises to Hawaii are well known for beautiful beaches, lush vegetation and incredible volcanic topography. Lesser known, however, is the rich history and culture of the 50th state. From Hilo to Honolulu, step back in time and gain some knowledge of the area with Holland America Line’s shore excursions. These tours provide a unique glimpse of the history and culture off the Aloha State, while also showing of the stunning scenery and memorable landscapes.

According to anthropologists, Hawaii was originally established around 300-500 AD by Polynesians from the Marquesas Islands. A second wave of settlement followed during the 9th and 10th centuries from Tahiti, radically changing the islands and the culture. Chiefs and ali’i (royalty) governed the isolated islands. The culture is deeply rooted in mythology and nature. As such, the society worked to appease goddesses like Pele, the goddess of fire believed to live in the volcanoes on the Big Island.

Hawaiian history was informed by the islands' astounding natural environment and isolation.

Hawaiian history was formed by the islands’ astounding natural environment and isolation.

British navigator Captain James Cook arrived at the island of Kauai in 1778 forever changing the islands. Years later came the arrival of missionaries that affected the islands in a number of ways. As modern ships and airplanes made the world feel smaller, Hawaii became less isolated. The U.S. military established bases there, and eventually on Aug. 21, 1959, Hawaii became the 50th state.

Today Hawaii is making waves in education and research, with particular advances in astronomy, alternative energy and ocean research. While tourism is responsible for a large portion of the islands’ revenue, and outside influences have shaped modern-day Hawaii, those of Hawaiian descent work hard to preserve and share the history and culture of this paradise.

Akaka Falls is the longest unbroken waterfall in the state.

Akaka Falls.

At Hilo, experience a diverse and well-rounded view of Hawaii on Historical Hilo & Akaka Falls. The tour begins at the Lyman Museum & Mission House, a beautiful missionary home with a fabulous collection of historic Hawaiian relics. There you’ll be greeted with a lei and have the opportunity to browse the artifacts of old Hawaii. The tour then continues on to Akaka Falls, the longest unbroken waterfall in the state.

For a historic look at Kona, check out the Kona See & Sea tour. See some of Kona’s most popular attractions by land and sea. The tour begins with a sample of Hawaii’s world famous gourmet coffee at Royal Kona Coffee. With a little extra energy head to Puuhonua-O-Honaunau, or “The Place of Refuge.” This beautifully maintained National Historic Park played a very special part in the lives of ancient Hawaiians. It was a haven where absolution would be granted for law breakers and vanquished warriors if they were fortunate enough to get here ahead of their pursuers. Today, the park features attractive grounds and interesting displays of Hawaiian history. From there you will visit the Painted Church — a small roadside place of worship known for its dramatic murals. Your motor coach will return you to the pier for a lunch cruise along the Kona coastline. The 65-foot catamaran offers a virtual step back in time as the on-board historian points out Kona’s landmarks and shares legends and local history. Unwind as you travel along the coast to Captain Cook’s Monument in Kealakekua Bay — accessible only by sea. Enjoy live Hawaiian-style music and keep an eye out for your maritime neighbors — spinner dolphins and green sea turtles.

In historic Lahaina, enjoy a world-class performance of Ulalena: Maui Theatre. Staged in historic Lahaina but equipped with modern lighting, sound, and multi-media technologies, Ulalena is a unique theater experience with original music, song, authentic Polynesian dance and acrobatics choreographed by the producers of Cirque de Soleil. The show brings Hawaiian mythology and history to life in a mesmerizing display performed by a stunning international cast.

Experience the culture of Hawaii with historical shore excursions!

Ulalena, right, is a memorable performance.

“First class performance! After a short walk over flat paved terrain, we arrived at a small theatre with ample seating and good viewing areas. The multi-media production was very entertaining and included works choreographed by Cirque du Soleil. What an interesting look at Hawaiian history. — Guest BJ”

The state capital, Honolulu, also has a story to tell. A Tale of Two Palaces: Hawaii’s Royal History takes you on a journey through time as you visit the historic highlights of the 1,500-year-old Kingdom of Hawaii. You’ll even have the opportunity to view the crown jewels! Traveling into the lush Nuuanu Valley, you’ll stop at Queen Emma’s Summer Palace. Queen Emma was the wife of King Kamehameha IV. Born in 1836, she was descended from Hawaiian cheiftains and John Young, an Englishman who became a friend and advisor to King Kamehameha I. There you’ll find an eclectic mixture of Victorian and Hawaiian treasures, rare artifacts and personal memorabilia.

Queen Emma's Summer Palace contains an eclectic mix of Victorian and historic Hawaiian elements.

Queen Emma’s Summer Palace contains an eclectic mix of Victorian and historic Hawaiian elements.

Remembered as “A day that will live in infamy,” the attack on Pearl Harbor is a more recent piece of Hawaiian history. Guests visit the site to pay respects to the men and women that lost their lives, and the event that led the United States into World War II. Pearl Harbor History & Honolulu takes you to the site. First visit the Arizona Memorial, where 1,000 servicemen still lie entombed in the sunken USS Arizona. It’s an incredibly moving experience. Holland America Line team members and guests recently visited the memorial and shared the below photos. Guests echo that the experience is informative, educational, emotionally moving and altogether respectful.

A visit to Pearl Harbor is an important and moving experience. Clockwise from top left: A Holland America Line team member poses at the site of the USS Arizona; A photo of the memorial by guests Petrus and Sylvia Huijgen; A group tour listens to a history lesson and the site.

A visit to Pearl Harbor is an important and moving experience. Clockwise from top left: a Holland America Line team member poses at the site of the USS Arizona; a photo of the memorial by guests Petrus and Sylvia Huijgen; the memorial attracts more than a million visitors each year.

“During our cruise, this excursion was one of my ‘must see’ trips. The tour starts with a very well-done movie appropriate for all ages and ethnic groups. Then, the tour of the Arizona Memorial that is such a special place. This was such a moving experience, one that should be experienced by all Americans! — Guest Powhatan”

After Pearl Harbor the tour continues to metropolitan Honolulu where you’ll visit Iolani Palace, the Hawaii State Capitol, the governor’s mansion and the quaint homes of the early missionaries.

Whether you’re a history buff or just looking for an interesting view of the destination, historic tours in Hawaii are a fabulous way to get to know the islands.

Have you taken a historic or cultural tour in Hawaii? Let us know in the comments!

If you’re taking a cruise to Hawaii and want to add a shore excursion, they can be pre-booked so you get the tour of your choice.

Pre- and post-cruise tours can take you to iconic Ayers Rock, deep in the "red centre" of Australia.
Pre- and post-cruise tours can take you to iconic Ayers Rock, deep in the "red centre" of Australia.

Cruises to Australia and New Zealand are increasingly popular. The region is extraordinary in its blend of rugged terrain, unique wildlife and urban beach communities. As you cruise into Sydney Harbor you’re immediately met with iconic sights like Harbor Bridge and the Sydney Opera House. However, other major landmarks require a bit of travel inland. The world-famous Ayers Rock, for instance, is right in the middle of the island continent. To experience the best that Australia and New Zealand have to offer, take advantage of a pre- or post-cruise tour package. Holland America Line arranges all the details on these overland tours, giving you the peace of mind and time to relax and explore.

Many of our guests are traveling a long way to get to Australia, so why not take advantage of seeing the rest of the country while you’re there? The Great Barrier Reef and the Outback are must-sees. And we can make it easy for our guests to see it. We maintain the same standards on our overland tours as we do onboard, so our guests know they’re in for a fabulous adventure! — Danielle Rosenow, Holland America Line’s manager, hotel procurement and tour inventory.

These tours are available as pre- or post-cruise packages. Whether they start your vacation on the right foot or cap it off with depth and color, they are a wonderful way to enjoy some time down under!
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Featherdale Wildlife Park, The Rocks historic district, wold-famous Bondi Beach and The Sydney Opera House are some of the sights you'll see on a pre- or post-cruise package.

Featherdale Wildlife Park, The Rocks historic district, wold-famous Bondi Beach and The Sydney Opera House are some of the sights you’ll see on a pre- or post-cruise package.

AUSTRALIA PRE- AND POST-CRUISE PACKAGES

3-Night Pre- or Post-Cruise Tour: Sydney & Blue Mountains

Immerse yourself in Sydney’s cosmopolitan sights, take a walk down the historic district, “The Rocks”, then travel west to the Blue Mountains National Park, home to an abundance of rare flora and fauna.

Day 1 – Arrive in Sydney: Enjoy an afternoon city tour to the historical Rocks area and Milsons or Blues Point for splendid views of the harbor. Continue on past Kings Cross and Double Bay through Watson’s Bay and world-famous Bondi Beach. Then head back to the Wentworth Sofitel, your home base during the stay in Sydney. There you’ll find the same quality that you expect onboard.

Day 2 – Sydney: Following breakfast, set out on a guided tour of the Sydney Opera House with its distinctive sail-like roof. Learn about its history, design and current role in the world-class city. After your tour take in the sights and enjoy a luncheon cruise on Sydney Harbor. The night is free to stroll Sydney independently.

Day 3 – The Blue Mountains: Kangaroos, koalas and Tasmanian devils greet you at the Featherdale Wildlife Park! Enjoy some time with wildlife then it’s off to explore the Blue Mountains National Park, with the famed “Three Sisters” rock formation and panoramic views of valleys and waterfalls. A ride on the steepest railway in the world takes you to an ancient rain forest. Afterward you’ll head back to Sydney for the evening.

Day 4 – Sydney: Depending on whether it’s a pre-or post-cruise package, head to the airport or to your ship.

From The Great Barrier Reef to the outback, experience Australia.

From The Great Barrier Reef to the outback, experience Australia on a tour package.

6-Night Pre-Cruise Tour: Explore Australia
(This tour operates as a five-night post-cruise package)

This tour gives ample time to get a true snapshot of Australia’s greatest attractions. From Ayers Rock glowing in the sunrise to the incredible undersea life of the Great Barrier Reef, Australia is at your fingertips.

Day 1 – Arrive Sydney: For guests arriving before 10:30 a.m., enjoy an afternoon city tour including visits to the historical The Rocks area and Milsons or Blues Point for splendid views of the harbor. Continue on past Kings Cross and Double Bay through Watson’s Bay and world-famous Bondi Beach. The evening is at your leisure. Overnight in Sydney.

Day 2 – Sydney/Cairns: This morning fly to Cairns. Travel to Caravonica at the base of the Kuranda Range where you will board the Skyrail, an enclosed cable car, which takes you skimming across the rainforest canopy. Enjoy breathtaking views of the Coral Sea and Barron Falls. You will then arrive at the unique mountain village of Kuranda. Afterward, transfer to your hotel and join your Tour Escort for hosted pre-dinner drinks by the swimming pool. Overnight at Cairns.

Day 3 – Great Barrier Reef: Board a high-speed catamaran for a full-day cruise of the Great Barrier Reef. Morning tea and a buffet lunch are included on board the catamaran. An astonishing variety of brilliant coral, tropical fish and marine creatures await. Snorkel from the reef platform, visit the underwater observatory or ride a semi-submersible to view this underwater paradise up close. Return to your hotel in the late afternoon. Enjoy an overnight at Cairns.

Day 4 – Cairns/Ayers Rock: This morning fly to Ayers Rock, located in the “Red Centre” of Australia. After settling into your hotel, you will visit Ayers Rock. Your tour will take you to the major attractions of this remote area including more than 30 rounded red domes that make up The Olgas (Kata Tjuta). Witness the changing colors of the Rock as the sun sets while sipping on a glass of sparkling wine. Afterward, return to your hotel and enjoy the evening at leisure. You’ll stay overnight at Ayers Rock.

One little tip … if you go to the Outback, you laugh about how silly the fly masks look, but buy one. There are a lot of flies and you’ll be glad you have it. But there is nothing like watching the sunrise or sunset over Uluru (Ayers Rock). The colors change in the sunlight. It’s beautiful. — Danielle Rosenow

Day 5 – Ayers Rock/Bush Walk/Alice Springs: Watch the sun rise over Ayers Rock then enjoy breakfast in the Uluru Cultural Centre. Join your Aboriginal guide on an interpretive walk of discovery to Uluru. You will learn about ancient Aboriginal Law and watch demonstrations of traditional bush skills such as building a fire without a match. Afterward, travel across the Simpson Desert to Alice Springs. Enjoy views of Mount Connor and stop at a camel farm.

Day 6 – Alice Springs/Sydney: Take in the sights, sounds and heritage of this iconic outback town. You will visit the Royal Flying Doctor Service. Afterward, enjoy panoramic views from the Anzac Hill lookout and spend some free time in the town center. This afternoon, fly to Sydney and transfer to your hotel for the six-night tour. The five-night tour takes you to the airport or your ship.

Day 7 – Sydney: Bon Voyage! Following a morning at leisure, transfer from your hotel to the ship or flight home.

*Please note that some tours operate in reverse depending on the flight schedule.

Auckland, New Zealand is a diverse and exciting city.

Auckland, New Zealand is a diverse and exciting city.

PRE- AND POST-CRUISE TOUR PACKAGES IN NEW ZEALAND

Experience Auckland’s diverse climates and natural wonders, as well as its boutique wineries and quaint villages.

3-Night Pre- or Post-Cruise Tour: Auckland Coast to Coast & Waiheke Island

Day 1 – Arrive Auckland: Transfer to your hotel, then enjoy a city sightseeing tour. Highlights include the tree-lined suburb of Parnell, spectacular east coast bays and a visit to the Auckland War Memorial Museum, housing Maori and Pacific Island artifacts and treasures. Your vacation package includes a ticket to the Sky Tower, to be used anytime during your stay, located adjacent to your hotel and the tallest man-made structure in New Zealand. You’ll have the evening to enjoy Auckland.

Day 2 – Auckland: Isthmus Breakfast, then head out over the Auckland Harbor Bridge to the stunning north shore to visit quaint seaside villages, black-sand beaches and a rare mainland colony of gannets. Stop for lunch and a wine tasting at a third-generation family-run winery. Then continue on to the subtropical rain forest of the Waitakere Ranges, known for their beautiful and dramatic landscapes, magical waterfalls, streams and an abundance of wildlife. On your return, pass through the suburb of Titirangi, popular with artists and nature lovers.

Blissful beaches, gastronomical treasures and small wineries make Waiheke Island, New Zealand, an incredible destination.

Blissful beaches, gastronomical treasures and small wineries make Waiheke Island an incredible destination.

Day 3 – Waiheke Island: After breakfast, board a ferry and glide past the volcanic island of Rangitoto on your way to Waiheke Island, one of New Zealand’s hidden treasures. Boasting a micro-climate a few degrees warmer than Auckland, the island is known for its peaceful and relaxed pace of life. Travel through Oneroa Village, then pass the enchanting bays and picturesque beaches of the northern coast to arrive at stunning Onetangi Beach. A morning tea stop overlooking the sea is followed by visits to two local boutique wineries for wine tasting. Return to Auckland by ferry. From there it’s back to Auckland for the evening.

Day 4 – Auckland: Bon Voyage! Wake up and enjoy a leisurely breakfast before heading on your way.

Whether you decide to add one of these tour packages pre- or post-cruise, the day-to-day itinerary is the same. Some guests prefer to extend their vacation with an overland option, while other travelers like to start with a package that builds up to the cruise.

If you’re taking an Australia/New Zealand cruise and want to add a pre- or post-cruise tour package, they can be pre-booked so you get the tour of your choice.

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