Worried about getting stuck overseas on your next trip? This cruise line thinks it has the answer

May 9, 2022

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Are you looking for a way to travel overseas without risking a COVID-19 quarantine at the end of your trip? Holland America thinks it has the answer.

The Seattle-based cruise line is doubling down on long-haul itineraries from U.S. ports that will let you get as far away as Europe, Africa and South America without ever getting on an overseas flight — and thus not run the risk of being quarantined overseas due to a positive COVID-19 test.

The U.S. government requires travelers to test negative for COVID-19 just before flying back to the U.S. after a trip. If they test positive, they must quarantine until they test negative. But it doesn’t make the same requirement for travelers returning to the country by cruise ship.

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“We’ve added more of the long once-in-a-lifetime-type voyages [from U.S. ports],” Holland America president Gus Antorcha told TPG in an exclusive interview. “We’re adding more, and we’re pushing the team to [develop] more. You’ll see us go longer in the Caribbean. You’ll see us add more of the unique 14-plus-day [trips to] Europe.”

Speaking one-on-one with TPG recently during Seatrade Cruise Global, the cruise industry’s annual meetup in Miami, Antorcha noted that Holland America already offered more long-haul cruises from the U.S. than any other cruise brand.

The company this year is offering a 71-day voyage to Africa out of Fort Lauderdale’s Port Everglades, for instance, and a 35-day sailing to northern Europe out of Boston. It also is selling a 50-day voyage to the South Pacific out of San Diego. It has a 35-day Hawaii, Tahiti & Marquesas voyage scheduled out of San Diego for early 2023.

In all, Holland America ships offer round-trip departures out of U.S. ports to 225 different ports in 91 countries — more than any other cruise brand.

“Holland America is uniquely positioned in this segment more than any other cruise line,” Antorcha said. “The team knew this. I knew it, I guess. But … we’ve never talked about [it as] a product and marketed [it] as a product.”

With Americans newly hesitant to travel overseas due to the risk of a COVID-19 quarantine, “you’re going to see a lot of that marketing [of the long-haul sailings] start to come out. We’ll talk about it.”

Related: Many Americans won’t fly overseas due to quarantine worries

Antorcha said Holland America had seen surging interest in its long-haul itineraries from U.S. ports since cruising restarted in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic.

“On a relative basis [compared to other types of itineraries], they are selling better, significantly better,” Antorcha said.

 Holland America’ Koningsdam is scheduled to sail long voyages to Hawaii and Tahiti, among other destinations, out of San Diego in 2023. (Photo courtesy of Holland America Line)

He added that some of the company’s highest-occupancy voyages of the year had been its 30-plus-day sailings to Tahiti out of San Diego.

“I’m watching the data [for Tahiti bookings] and [am] like, ‘whaaaat is going on here?'” he said.

Antorcha noted Holland America recently added an epic 94-day Australia and New Zealand voyage, sailing round-trip from San Diego, to its schedule, and it was already selling very well. The trip will take place in early 2024.

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

The company also has increased the size of the ship that it uses for its annual around-the-world cruise out of Fort Lauderdale. Two around-the-world voyages planned for 2023 and 2024, respectively, will take place on the line’s 1,964-passenger Zuiderdam. The ship holds about 37% more passengers than the 1,432-passenger Zaandam, which used to operate such world cruises.

Both of the around-the-world sailings will be 128 days in length and take in dozens of far-flung ports around the world.

To be clear, passengers on Holland America cruises from the U.S. to an overseas destination still could face quarantine on the ship if they tested positive for COVID-19 during the voyage. But they wouldn’t face the prospect of being unable to immediately return to the U.S. from a trip overseas due to a positive test.

Antorcha said it wasn’t just the risk of being unable to fly home on schedule that was giving travelers pause over flying to overseas destination. It also is the hassle of all the COVID-19-related forms that they must fill out when flying to some countries.

He said his own parents had chosen to book a Holland America cruise to Europe this year that departed out of Boston instead of another type of trip to Europe to avoid it all.

Related: The 4 classes of Holland America ships, explained

“They needed a form and a separate entry requirement to Spain, [and] another one to Italy, and it’s just a little overwhelming,” he said. “The rules are all different. All of this over time I’m sure we’ll get sorted, but right now [avoiding flying is] just easier.”

Antorcha noted it wasn’t just truly far-off places such as Europe and Africa that were less of a hassle to reach right now by ship than by airplane. It’s also the Caribbean, which is relatively close to the U.S.

In response to demand, Holland America is adding more long sailings to the Caribbean out of Fort Lauderdale that allow vacationers to get deep into the Caribbean without getting on an international flight. These include voyages to Southern Caribbean islands such as Aruba, Bonaire and Curacao, and trips to the Panama Canal, as well as sailings that include stops along the northern coast of South America.

Holland America currently has more than 100 Caribbean cruises on its schedule of 11 nights or longer.

“We offer more 11-day (Caribbean voyages) than anyone else,” Antorcha said. He added that 11-night voyages to the Caribbean offer a much different experience than the typical three- to seven-day Caribbean voyages offered out of U.S. ports by most lines.

“What’s interesting is these also are booking really well,” he said. “On a relative basis, these book better than our other product.”

Antorcha said he hoped the U.S. government would drop its COVID-19 testing requirement for travelers returning from overseas soon. But even if it did, Antorcha said he expected that Holland America would stick with offering more longer Caribbean sailings. He said he saw it as a competitive advantage and point of differentiation.

“I think it’ll stay for us, because the shorter [cruise] market is crowded,” he said. “Seven days south Florida (to the) Caribbean, that’s crowded.”

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Featured image courtesy of Holland America. 

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