You may not have heard of Holland America, but they’re a premium 5 star cruise line who are worth knowing about!
They were originally a Dutch company (as you may have guessed from their name) that have been sailing the seas the 1890s. They are now a US based cruise company who continue to pay tribute to their Dutch heritage by naming their ships in Dutch.
Their ships are modern but traditional, elegant and relaxed.
Read on to find out just what you can expect from the Holland America fleet, and why you should think of sailing with them…
Meet The Fleet
So what exactly are their ships like?
Well, Holland America have a fleet of 15 ships, (soon to be 16 with the launch of the MS Koningsdam!) which are all mid-sized, spacious vessels. The smaller guest numbers mean that their ships have more personal space as well as having the facilities to keep you entertained that you would expect to find at sea.
The ships are broken into 6 classes and have between 8-11 passenger decks with 835-2650 guests.
You can take a look at detailed reviews of all the different ships in the Berlitz guides here. These Berlitz guides will tell you everything you could every want to know about the different vessels and are an online exclusive to us!
Is There A Typical Holland America Cruiser?
The Holland America line has that country club feel (where you are in a relaxed but classy environment) and is for those who love their destinations, as they travel to exotic locations such as Asia and Alaska.
Holland America is ideal for guests who like to enjoy traditions such as afternoon tea and the elegance of having an abundance of art on-board. It’s for those that like a relaxed ambience and an intimate setting and who aren’t after the bells and whistles of larger ships. There are no rock climbing walls or water parks here – instead you’ll find elegant atriums, vintage style décor and a great variety of laid-back entertainment.
Our specialist cruise consultant Debbie told us who she thought would be perfect for Holland America: “I think if you looking to experience the richer side of cruising, with less gimmicks and more substance, then Holland America could be exactly what you are looking for.”
Read more about Debbie’s time on-board the MS Eurodam here!
Singles are welcomed on-board and have plenty of opportunities to make new friends as well as solo cabins on the MS Koningsdam. There is also a Single Partners Programme where guests can share a room with someone of the same sex to avoid guests paying the double occupancy fee. If Holland America can’t find you a partner to travel with, you’ll still not pay the double occupancy fee! There are also facilities which make Holland America an option for families as well as disabled guests.
Did you know? Holland America spend around $4million on artwork for each of their ships!
Many people worry that they will get bored on a mid-sized ship because they mistakenly think that there will be little to do. But they couldn’t be more wrong!
Holland America have an area on-board called the Culinary Arts Centre where you can take classes that are presented by Food and Wine Magazine. You’ll learn to make dishes as you mingle with world renowned chefs and watch them give a master cooking class. These lessons will be streamed on the large screen as well as to your cabin – just in case you don’t make it to the showing in time! You’ll also have the chance to try your hand at wine tasting and cocktail making, all before dinner!
The Greenhouse Spa & Salon is Holland America’s resident on-board spa that offers a range of treatments and wellness rituals. Whether you want a relaxing facial or soothing massage there are plenty of treatment rooms and relaxing areas with breath-taking views of your surroundings. Reinvigorating treatments include hot stone massages, pedicures, hair styling and skin treatments. The spa itself boast a hydrotherapy pool with bubbling warm salt water and comfortable heated ceramic lounge chairs. We know we’d love to relax in the lounge area below…
This spa is complimented by a full on-board fitness centre. Classes include the likes of yoga, indoor cycling, Pilates and cardio circuit training and access to fitness equipment such as treadmills, bikes, stair machines, weights and rowing machines. If you want some outdoors exercise, enjoy walking around the top deck, jogging along the jogging track or else enjoy a game of basketball in the sports courts.
Everyone’s favourite source of cruise ship exercise – the pool – is available for you to take a dip in after a long hard day of sunbathing. Each ship will have two outdoor swimming pools, one of which is enclosed in a glass dome so that you can still enjoy a dip… even if you’re cruising in Alaska!
Our specialist cruise consultant Debbie told us about her time on-board the Eurodam: “Dotted around the Lido pool there was also little private cabanas with curtains – perfect for a romantic afternoon cuddled up. The ‘exclusive’ theme was something which seemed to continue through the entire ship from the nightclub to Silk Den. I really loved the idea of privacy and being tucked away in your own slice of luxury.”
For those of you that want some light entertainment, then you’ll be able to catch performances which include musical showcases, concerts featuring Broadway veterans, illusionists, comedians and musicians in the theatre. The Showroom At Sea is Holland America’s state of the art feature where you can watch these and it has a nightclub style setting. Here you can also watch movies which are shown on the big screen as you sit back and enjoy some free popcorn. There are also TV and film options in your room as the HAL Flicks programme gives you access to a choice of over 1000 DVDs, available free of charge.
Did you know? Holland America ships offer an “iPod art tour” where you can walk around the ship listening to an iPod as you tour 26 locations that feature fine art work.
The lounges on-board are a good place to meet people and relax as you listen to jazz, sing along around the piano or have a dance. In fact, Holland America have partnered up with Dancing With The Stars (the hit American TV show) so that you can learn to dance in a competitive environment and aim to be declared the winner! There are also spacious meeting rooms available for you to use and card games and bridge games can be found, as well as an area for religious service.
For those of you that want to hide your dancing shoes, another form of learning you could take part in is Digital Workshops provided with the Microsoft Techsperts. They can teach you anything from how to work a printer to how to write a blog post – all great skills for when you want to print holiday pictures back home or blog about your travels.
The enrichment programme on-board aims to give passengers talks and knowledge that they can take away with them after their cruise. Holland America are currently in a partnership with BBC Earth to teach guests a bit more about the places that they are travelling to.
Our specialist cruise consultant Barbara told us what she thought of the entertainment on-board Holland America’s MS Eurodam: “This ship would appeal to all age groups really depending on where she is sailing to. There is a pool with a retractable roof so great for all weathers, basketball & volleyball court for those feeling sporty.”
You can read more about her time on-board here!
Another popular recreational choice on-board is the shopping options, as there are plenty of world class luxury brands on-board such as Forevermark and Le Vian. As well as this there are shops for those little things you may have forgotten – such as toothpaste!
If you don’t mind what you spend your money on… then you could head to the casino and try your luck with the dice. Inside the casino is a selection of Las Vegas style cruising with everything from nickel slots to video poker. Have a go and enjoy the high stakes if you dare.
Finally, at the end of the day enjoy watching the sunset in the Crow’s Nest. After darkness hits this area will turn into a nightclub with a live DJ – a perfect spot to grab a cocktail as you watch the stars!
Did you know? Keeping to their Dutch roots, Holland America use a floral provider from the Netherlands to purchase fresh flowers for their ships worldwide.
Similar to most other cruise lines, Holland America have dining options that are both included in your fare and speciality options that you can pay to dine in. You can also dine in them at a time to suit you with “as you wish” dining. As you wish simply means you can choose a time to suit yourself, rather than relying on set dining times or turning up and waiting for a table.
In the Main Dining Room (included in your fare) you can expect to find international cuisine and you can eat here for any meal. The wine list available has over 100 labels on it, and examples of the food includes apricot glazes salmon, quinoa and sweet potato cakes followed by peanut butter silk pie.
The three speciality restaurants are Tamarind, Canaletto and Pinnacle Grill which are available for a small extra charge. Tamarind offers Asian Fusion style cuisine and is free for lunch and is $20 per person for dinner. Pinnacle Grill serves up Pacific Northwest steak and seafood and is $10 for lunch and $29 for dinner. Canaletto is adjacent to the Lido restaurant and provides an authentic Italian meal with a focus on plates to share for $10 per head for dinner.
The three casual dining venues include the Lido Restaurant (a good choice of sushi, gourmet sandwiches and salad bar), Slice (serving gourmet pizzas) and Dive In (which serves burgers and hot dogs). During the first few days of your cruise, any buffets will be waiter service instead of self-service to prevent any outbreaks of any nasty bugs.
Those of you who are health conscious, kosher or diabetic will have your needs catered to, just let Holland America know when you book. 24 hour room service is available to all guests and you’ll also be able to enjoy Afternoon Tea on many sailings.
Did you know? On many Holland America voyages you will receive your entire weeks’ worth of menus on the first night, so you can plan out what you want to eat the following week there and then. And if you want to be surprised – just hide the menus!
Family Friendly Facilities
There are full kids facilities available on-board for those aged 3 to 17 years old. Young guests will be invited to a Welcome Aboard party on the first night and can take part in a range of activities.
There are three tiers of kids clubs available which are:
Club Hal Kids: For kids aged 3 to 7. These younger children will be supervised at all times and take part in pirate treasure hunts, arts and crafts, ice cream parties and PJ parties.
Club Hal Tweens: Children aged 8 to 12 can join in x-box tournaments, karaoke parties and a Junior Ranger programme and make use of their own dedicated area to play arcade games, air hockey, table football and Dance Dance Revolution.
Loft For Teens: Is for teens aged 13 to 17 years old. They will be able to make mocktails, participate in sporting competitions, take tech classes and have fun at teen only club nights. Several ships have a teen only lounge and there are internet access stations and pools teens can play in.
When there are lots of children on-board there will also be a talent show held and children can join in with BBC earth’s enrichment programme and learn about dinosaurs.
All restaurants can cater to children and there will be special children’s menus to cater to kids’ favourites such as pizza, hamburgers and spaghetti.
Did you know? Parents can take advantage of Club Hal After Hours and have their children babysat if they want a night to themselves. Staff looking after children will have a degree in childhood education and development and the service is available from 10pm to midnight for a charge.
Holland America will cater to disabled guests with a range of options available such as print braille menus, wheelchair accessible cabins, tender lift systems and staterooms fitted with a vibrating bed alert.
Each room will come with a good range of amenities including a flat panel TV and DVD player (with a complimentary DVD library), Egyptian cotton towels, a safe, fresh fruit upon request, complimentary shoe shine and a mini bar.
One of our customers told us what they made of the amenities on-board Holland America in their review: “We were unobtrusively and well cared for by the stewards who kept the fruit bowl resupplied and swapped fading flowers for fresh as well as delighting us with endless towel animals to accompany our night time choccys.” You can read more about Barford’s cruise here!
The suites on-board will come with an even greater level of luxury and include items such as organic cotton robes and slippers, a fitness DVD, aromatherapy bath salts, nightly turn down truffles and orchids in your room.
Every ship also has an on-board medical centre run by a physician and three nurses – 24 hours a day. So rest assured that even if you need an x-ray at sea, you’re fully covered!
Staff, Gratuities and Dress Codes
Gratuities are charged at $11.50 per person per day if staying in a stateroom and $12 per per person per day for those staying in a suite. A 15% surcharge will also be added onto bar purchases.
The dress codes in the day time on-board are casual, although you can’t wear your swimsuit to the buffet! Mostly you will just need to remember to pack for the climate you are travelling to. The only thing you may need to consider is if you need to cover up when visiting religious sites, but you will usually be informed of this on your itinerary if you have chosen a cruise line excursion.
In the evening, the dress codes fall into two categories – gala attire and smart casual. Smart casual attire means slacks and sports shirts for men or trousers/ skirts and a blouse for women. Gala attire means jacket and tie for men or a cocktail gown for women. Many guests on Grand Voyages may opt to dress formally every night – but it isn’t compulsory! Most cruises will have a least one gala night but it will vary depending on your itinerary and length of cruise. For example, you can expect one formal evening on a cruise of less than seven days and two formal evenings on a thirteen day cruise.
Did you know? Holland America ships feature plenty of eco-friendly initiatives such as low-flow toilets and showers, environmentally friendly cleaning supplied and recycling options on-board.
So there you have it!
Would you be interested in sailing on a Holland America ship? Have you sailed on them before?
Let us know in the comments below.