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The 5 best destinations you can visit on a Holland America ship

May 28, 2022
12 min read
Holland America Alaska
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Of the seven big lines that account for the majority of cruises taken by North Americans, Holland America is the brand most known for far-flung, globe-circling itineraries.

You’ll find Holland America ships in almost every corner of the world at some point during the year, operating itineraries that are unusual in their diversity of routes and specific port calls.

Still, the line’s heaviest presence by far is in Europe, Alaska and the Caribbean. In a typical summer, the line will deploy around half of its vessels to Europe while sending the other half to Alaska. The two regions are often the line’s entire focus for summers.

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During the winter, the line will move at least half of these ships to the Caribbean, while also sending some on far-reaching voyages across the world to Asia, Australia and South America.

For the coming winter, seven of the line’s 11 ships are scheduled to sail in the Caribbean, and there will be at least one ship each in Asia, Australia and South America. There also will be one ship operating an epic, around-the-world voyage — a long tradition at the line.

In all, Holland America ships sail to 98 countries, hitting all seven continents. They visit more than 470 different ports and cruise destinations. These are much larger numbers than found with such rival lines as Celebrity Cruises. The latter boasts voyages to around 300 ports in 79 countries.

Among Holland America’s itineraries, you’ll find everything from one-night sampler cruises between Seattle and Vancouver, B.C., to 128-night around-the-world voyages that feature stops at dozens of countries. That’s a much broader range than most other big lines, including Celebrity, Royal Caribbean, Norwegian Cruise Line and Carnival Cruise Line.

Whether you're looking for a quick getaway or an epic voyage, you can't go wrong with these five top Holland America cruise destinations.

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Related: The 4 classes of Holland America ships, explained

1. Europe

Holland America’s Eurodam sails in Europe during summers. (Photo courtesy of Holland America)

Some of Holland America’s most popular itineraries are in Europe, where the line has traditionally been a significant player. In a typical year, Holland America will deploy around half of its vessels to the region from spring until fall, making Europe one of its biggest focuses for more than half the year.

The itineraries that Holland America offers in Europe are wide-ranging, with a diverse set of routings in both the Mediterranean as well as across Northern Europe.

In the Mediterranean, sailings include everything from seven- to 28-night voyages that offer the chance to see such iconic destinations as Barcelona, Spain, and Rome, Florence and Naples, Italy, on a single cruise.

Some Holland America cruises in the Mediterranean also include visits to Istanbul and Kusadasi in Turkey (the latter a gateway to the famed ruins of Ephesus), and Haifa and Ashdod in Israel (for visits to Jerusalem and other iconic destinations in the country).

In Northern Europe, Holland America will take you to such well-known Baltic cities as Stockholm, Sweden; Tallinn, Estonia; Helsinki, Finland; and St. Petersburg, Russia, in a single sailing (note that Holland America's calls in St. Petersburg are on hold for now due to the war in Ukraine). There also are itineraries that will bring you to Iceland, Greenland and the Norwegian fjords.

Related: The ultimate guide to Holland America cabins and suites

Among the longest sailings Holland America offers in Europe is a 35-night “British Isles, Spitsbergen & Iceland Fjords Explore” trip that brings a complete circumnavigation of England and Scotland, several stops along the coast of Norway, and calls in both Iceland and the Norwegian-controlled Arctic island of Spitsbergen.

In Northern Europe, Holland America ships mostly sail out of Amsterdam and Rotterdam in the Netherlands (a nod to the company’s Dutch heritage) and Copenhagen, Denmark.

In the Mediterranean, the line’s hubs are Barcelona; Civitavecchia (the port for Rome) and Venice in Italy; and Piraeus (the port for Athens).

2. Caribbean and The Bahamas

Holland America’s Nieuw Statendam sails in the Caribbean. (Photo courtesy of Holland America)

You usually won’t find a single Holland America ship in the Caribbean and the Bahamas over the summer, when the line turns its focus to sailings in Europe and Alaska. However, come winter, Holland America will reposition quite a few of its vessels to the Caribbean and Bahamas sailings.

For the coming winter, for instance, Holland America currently has seven of its 11 vessels scheduled to sail in the regions — including its two newest and biggest ships, the 2,660-passenger Rotterdam and the 2,650-passenger Nieuw Statendam.

Holland America offers a broad range of Caribbean and Bahamas itineraries from a single home port in the regions — Fort Lauderdale’s Port Everglades.

If you’re looking for something short, the line has you covered in the form of quick, three-night cruises out of Port Everglades to its private island in the Bahamas, Half Moon Cay. The line also offers four- and five-night voyages out of Port Everglades to the Bahamas and Key West, Florida. However, Holland America is best known for longer sailings in the Caribbean. These include lots of seven-night itineraries to the Eastern Caribbean, Western Caribbean and Southern Caribbean, but also a large number of even longer, 10- to 21-nights Caribbean voyages.

The latter trips offer the chance to see a broader mix of Caribbean islands than is typical on Caribbean sailings.

Related: The ultimate guide to Holland America's Mariner Society loyalty program

Among the most elaborate of the itineraries that Holland America offers out of Port Everglades, for instance, is a 21-day “Southern Caribbean Wayfarer/Seafarer" voyage that brings calls at the islands of St. Martin (specifically, to the Dutch side of the island known as St. Maarten), St. Lucia, Barbados, Martinique, St. Kitts, St. Thomas, Grand Turk, Hispaniola (for a visit to the Dominican Republic), Bonaire, Curacao, Aruba and Half Moon Cay in the Bahamas.

The voyage is actually a combination of two shorter, back-to-back sailings that are designed without repeating ports.

3. Alaska

A Holland America ship in Alaska. (Photo courtesy of Holland America)

Holland America is particularly known for voyages to Alaska, where it dominates the market for cruises along with sister line Princess Cruises.

In recent years, Holland America has deployed as many as eight ships to Alaska in the summer — far more than most other lines. In the wake of a significant downsizing over the past two years, the line is cutting that number back a bit. However, it’s still planning on deploying at least six vessels to Alaska in the coming summers — a huge number.

Holland America also operates its own wilderness lodges in Alaska, as well as tourist trains and buses. It uses the lodges, trains and buses to offer an extensive range of nine- to 14-night Alaska “cruisetours” that combine a cruise with land-based touring.

The Alaska cruise season is a short one, lasting roughly from May to September. For 2022, Holland America plans to deploy six ships to the Alaska market:

  • Eurodam: The 2,104-passenger vessel will operate seven-night voyages to Alaska round trip out of Seattle. It’ll call at the Alaska towns of Sitka, Juneau and Ketchikan; Icy Strait Point, Alaska; and Victoria, British Columbia. It’ll also visit Alaska’s Glacier Bay National Park for glacier viewing.
  • Koningsdam: The 2,650-passenger ship will operate seven-night voyages to Alaska round trip out of Vancouver, B.C. It’ll call at the Alaska towns of Skagway, Juneau and Ketchikan. It’ll also visit Tracy Arm and Alaska’s Glacier Bay National Park for glacier viewing.
  • Oosterdam. Like Eurodam, the 2,388-passenger ship will operate seven-night voyages to Alaska round trip out of Seattle. It’ll call at the Alaska towns of Sitka, Juneau and Ketchikan; and Victoria, British Columbia. It’ll also visit Alaska’s Hubbard Glacier for glacier viewing.
  • Zuiderdam. Like Koningsdam, the 1,916-passenger ship will operate seven-night voyages to Alaska round trip out of Vancouver, B.C. It’ll call at the Alaska towns of Skagway, Juneau and Ketchikan. It’ll also visit Tracy Arm and Glacier Bay National Park for glacier viewing.
  • Nieuw Amsterdam: The 2,106-passenger ship will primarily operate one-way voyages to Alaska between Vancouver, B.C., and Whittier, Alaska. It’ll call at the Alaska towns of Skagway, Juneau and Ketchikan. It’ll also visit Glacier Bay National Park for glacier viewing, as well as either Hubbard Glacier or College Fjord.
  • Noordam: Like Nieuw Amsterdam, the 1,924-passenger vessel will primarily operate one-way voyages to Alaska between Vancouver, B.C., and Whittier, Alaska. It’ll call at the Alaska towns of Skagway, Juneau and Ketchikan. It’ll also visit Glacier Bay National Park for glacier viewing as well as either Hubbard Glacier or College Fjord.

The appeal of the one-way sailings on Nieuw Amsterdam and Noordam is that they can be combined with stays at the Holland America lodges mentioned above to create the longer “cruisetours” of Alaska that combine a one-way cruise with a land tour.

The land tour portion of such trips brings visits to such well-known interior Alaska locations as Denali National Park and the town of Fairbanks. Holland America is also unique among cruise lines in offering cruisetours that include a land tour into the Yukon Territory of Canada.

4. Panama Canal

Have you always wanted to experience a transit through the Panama Canal? Among major cruise lines, Holland America has one of the biggest array of sailings through the waterway.

In a typical year, the line will operate more than two dozen voyages to the canal, some of which are round-trip sailings from Florida’s Port Everglades while others are one-way trips between Fort Lauderdale and San Diego, California.

In the case of the former sailings, Holland America ships only transit part-way through the canal after entering it through the Gatun Locks on its Caribbean side. Such trips typically include a transit into the canal through the locks, cruising in the canal to Gatun Lake and a transit out of the canal through the locks before a stop at nearby Colon, Panama.

Among the shore excursions available from the port of Colon is a bus tour to see the locks in action from observation areas on land.

Other port calls during such Panama Canal cruises typically include the Caribbean islands of Aruba and Curacao; Cartagena, Colombia; and Puerto Limon, Costa Rica.

In the case of the one-way voyages between Florida and California, Holland America’s ships will make the full journey through the canal’s three sets of locks from the Caribbean to the Pacific or vice versa.

Other port calls during such cruises typically include Puerto Vallarta and Hautulco, Mexico; Puerto Quetzal, Guatemala; Corinto, Nicaragua; Puerto Caldera, Costa Rica; and Cartagena, Colombia.

5. The World

The Holland America ship Zaandam. (Photo by IVAN PISARENKO/AFP/Getty Images)

In addition to focused voyages in a wide range of cruise destinations from Europe to Alaska, Holland America has long been known for epic around-the-world voyages that include stops at dozens of destinations in four, five or even six continents.

These trips typically take place on the line’s smaller vessels and can last four months or longer, allowing Americans to travel across the globe without ever getting on an airplane.

Normally, Holland America’s around-the-world voyages begin and end at Florida’s Port Everglades.

The line plans one such trip for 2023 — a 128-day voyage from Port Everglades starting on Jan. 3, 2023, that includes stops in North America, Australia, Africa and Europe.

Taking place on the 1,964-passenger Zuiderdam, the trip includes a transit of the Panama Canal, multiple stops in French Polynesia including Bora Bora and Moorea; visits to multiple destinations in New Zealand; and calls at Madagascar, Mozambique, South Africa, Namibia, Angola, Ghana, the Ivory Coast, Gambia and Senegal.

In addition to its around-the-world cruises, Holland America is also known for full circumnavigations of South America that begin and end in Port Everglades.

For 2023, the line plans one such journey — a 74-day cruise on the 1,432-passenger Volendam that starts on Jan. 3, 2023.

Bottom line

Holland America offers an incredibly wide range of itineraries in cruise destinations around the world, from South America to Asia. However, you’ll find the most choices among Holland America itineraries in Europe, Alaska and the Caribbean. The line is also well-known for voyages through the Panama Canal and for its epic around-the-world cruises. Its annual around-the-world sailings, in particular, are something that sets it apart from other big lines.

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Featured image by A Holland America ship in Alaska. (Photo courtesy of Holland America)
Editorial disclaimer: Opinions expressed here are the author’s alone, not those of any bank, credit card issuer, airline or hotel chain, and have not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by any of these entities.

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