Cruises

Holland America Line: What You Need To Know Before Cruising

hi I’m Gary Bembridge of Tips for Travellers. In this video I’m going to tell you the six things that I believe you absolutely need to know about Holland America line before you cruise with them. First of all who is Holland America Line best suited for? It does tend to have a reputation for attracting a slightly older Cruiser, and that’s partly because it has a very traditional cruising experience. So if you’re looking for a fairly traditional cruise, and onboard you’re not looking for ice rinks, bowling rinks and climbing walls – but you’re just looking more for bar, lounges, some enrichment, entertainment, cooking classes and a fairly traditional approach to dining then Holland America is a great line for you.

Most cruisers are likely to be in their 50s 60s and above. Saying that there are a lot of families who go on Holland America, particularly in the summer vacations. They are very used to catering for solo travelers. They’re also used to taking on people who might be in a wheelchair, so they have accessible cabins and they have tours which are wheelchair friendly. You’re going to find on board most of the people are likely to be American, and you’ll find the whole on-board experience is US focused, but certainly if you’re looking for a traditional cruising experience Holland America is a great line for you. The second thing you need to understand about Holland America is their fare.

What does it include and importantly, of course, what does it exclude? First of all, of course, it includes your accommodation. So whether you’ve booked an inside cabin through to a suite. Second thing it includes is meals.

Breakfast, lunch or dinner can either be taken in the main dining room or it can be taken in one of the other complimentary venues – such as the Lido market or the pizza place or the burger place. In the dining room in the afternoons they have afternoon tea, which is included within the fair. The other thing that’s included, when it comes to drinks, are the following: regular tea, regular coffee, hot chocolate, lemonade, iced tea and of course water. You also get access to basically all of the facilities with one key exception – which are the Cabanas which are an area you pay to have access. If you have kids then access to the kids club is also free.

So between the ages of 3 and 17 they have Club HAL. Entertainment is also included in the fare, and there’s a couple of things that I really wanted to draw your attention to on Holland America. One of the big innovations and things that are rolling across the fleet is what’s known as the Music Walk. Four different and varied venues.

First of these is known as Lincoln Center Stage. This is a partnership with the Lincoln Center, which is one of the world’s leading centers for Performing Arts. Here you have classical concerts and various recitals. A little bit further along is BB Kings Blues Club. You have the BB King’s all-stars band and every single night they have a number of shows.

The third one, and probably the most popular, is Billboard Onboard. Here you have two pianists and singers facing each other and each evening they do a series of shows around different themes. Then, of course, you have what’s known as the Mainstage. This is the big theater where they hold the production shows and have guests entertainers and during the day they may have some enrichment lectures here. The other really important things that I wanted to note that are included within the fare is you have Digital Workshops, which are on partnership with Windows Microsoft.

Also a partnership with America’s Test Kitchen where you have cooking demonstrations and displays right throughout the cruise. They also have a partnership with O magazine, so the Oprah Winfrey magazine, where they have various wellness activities like meditation and the book club. They also have a partnership with BBC Earth, so they’ll have lots of activities and programs or shows featured around the wildlife and the nature. So what’s not included within your Holland America fare?

The first of these are gratuities. Gratuities at the time of recording are $13.50 per person if you’re in a balcony or inside cavern and if you’re in a suite that goes up to $15 per person per day. 15% will be added to all drinks and 15% will be added to any treatments that you have within the spa, and also in the casino if you want to tip you need to tip separately.

The second cost are drinks. Alcoholic beverages and specialty teas and coffees are not included in your fare. Now what’s important to know is you can bring basically one bottle of wine on board, and there’s no charge if you drink it within your cabin. When you come back from excursions if you do bring on board any alcohol it’s taken from you and it’s kept to one side until the end of the cruise. There’s a whole range of drinks packages available and they range from very simple soft drinks packages right through to ultimate drinks packages. The third thing that’s not included in your fare is excursions.

You can either book with Holland America Line and go on their tours which they do guarantee then if there’s any problems and they’re running late the ship will wait for you. There are independent providers who will sell similar tours but they don’t have that guarantee. You then of course you could use things, which I often like to do, in some ports which is hop-on hop-off buses because they often call it the port where the Holland America ship is calling. Although a lot of dining is included within the fare, there are a number of specialty dining options and depending on the ship they vary slightly. The ones that you should be aware of is Pinnacle Grill, this is their steak and seafood restaurant it’s something that Holland America are very proud of, and you pay at the time of recording $35 per person to dine in there. One of my favorites, which is on many of the ships, is Tamarind.

This is an Asian fusion restaurant and you pay $25 per person at the time of recording to go. There’s also an Italian option which is called Canaletto you pay $15 to go to Canaletto. Rudy’s Sal De Mar option is held about once every seven days on a cruise within the Pinnacle Grill, and this is a big seafood fest and that costs around about $45 per person. The third critical thing you need to know is the dress code. Basically they have, in the evenings anyway, a smart casual approach – which means that actually jeans (as long as they’re not ripped and torn) are actually fine in the main dining room and even you can get away with t-shirts.

Shorts and tank tops are not allowed in the dining restaurants at all in the evening. Roughly two nights out of every seven on a cruise are Gala Nights, where they do ask people to dress up a little bit more. So what I often do is just take some smart trousers and some long sleeve button-up shirts. Some people do like to wear jackets. Some people like to dress up even more.

So for ladies what ladies would wear is dress as similar to what you might find at a sort of daytime wedding – so quite dressy but not massively dressy. On Gala nights you can wear jeans in the casual dining restaurant. So the dress code is smart without being very formal and so you shouldn’t worry if you don’t like particularly dressing up a lot. Holland America have relooked extensively the way that they deal with excursions and they’ve created a new umbrella which is called Explorations Central.

They have taken over the crow’s nest and converted it to what’s known as EXC Central. You have the tour desk there, then you have the EXC guides (which are the staff that man the desk that help you understand the destination and give you tips if you want a self explore). You have some interactive tables where you can find out more about the ports and what’s going on. You’ll find leaflets about the different excursions and attractions. You’ll also find there’s various books about the destinations. You have EXC Talks which are about the destination or the history of the destination.

You also have EXC Encounters where they’ll often bring local entertainers or craftsmen on board so you get as some immersion into the port that you’re calling on. Then on the television there’s an EXC Channel which will have highlights of the different ports on or documentaries linked to the destination or area that you’re traveling through. So if you’ve booked a cruise on Holland America’s two critical things that I recommend you do before you go.

Log in to on the website and the cruise personalizer. You can download your luggage tags, you can download your documents that you need to check in -but very importantly you can start to book things like your drinks packages, spa treatments, all your excursions and you can also book your speciality dining. The second thing I’d recommend you do is go to Cruise Critic and look for the roll call for Holland America and look for your cruise and find out if there’s going to be a Cruise Critic Meet and Mingle held on board, as that’s a great way at the beginning of the cruise and there’s normally free drinks and free snacks and it’s a chance to meet other people. Now my sixth tip is how do you make the most of your time on board? The one tip that I would have that will really help you maximize your time on board is the app, which is called the Holland American Navigator app.

It’s completely free to use. It does work through Wi-Fi but you’re not going to pay any Wi-Fi charges. On this you can do a number of things. It has the daily program and the great thing about that is you can create your own personal daily program by selecting the items you want, and it’ll just show your daily program for the day.

It also lets you book excursions. It also lets you book some of your dining options (your specialty dining options). Another great feature is you can also look at your account balance, you don’t go to the front desk, and you can keep a track day by day of what you’re spending. If you plan to travel on Holland America I hope these tips have really helped you.

As I mentioned it’s a traditional cruising experience, it’s a premium experience. I think the ships and the decor are beautiful and I like its link back to its old maritime heritage. If you enjoyed this video I’d love it if you watched many more of my videos because you’ll get much more travel inspiration, advice and tips.