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Spotlight on Holland America: Elegance at Sea

What sets Holland America apart?

Holland America flies under the radar in Australia as a major cruise line, although it is in fact a big player in the local market. Understated and elegant, this line eschews the splashy aesthetics of other lines to bring something a little more traditional and graceful to the table. 140 years of experience has allowed them to perfect the art of cruising, service and entertainment, and made them a line worth considering for your next holiday on the big blue.

So, who should try this line?

  • The typical passenger is well-heeled and a little older, although all ages are welcome and there is a Kids Club called Club HAL.
  • Those who like a little more peace and quiet will appreciate Holland America. It is a great line for relaxation.
  • Not fond of plastic water slides, gaudy decor and the more gimmicky aspects of big-name cruise lines? Holland America is perfect for you.
  • Formal evenings and dressing for dinner are commonplace on all of their ships, so if you like a little elegance then this is the right way to go for your next cruise.
  • Big partiers should probably look elsewhere. Holland America certainly has bars, lounges and even a nightclub- but the atmosphere is more low-key and refined than other popular lines.

The ships

You might have seen the distinctive dark-hulled vessels of the Holland America fleet in a harbour near you. The line offers cruises from Sydney and Auckland and stops in to many of the ports around Australia and the South Pacific. Most commonly spotted Down Under are the Oosterdam, Amsterdam, Volendam and Noordam.

Elegance and space are a priority across the line, and there are plenty of old-world touches like teak wraparound decks, large staterooms (25% larger than the average), simple and stylish pool areas and a general vaguely vintage charm. If you like the idea of recapturing the glamour of sea travel in its heyday, this is certainly a line that you should look into.

The art is one of the most striking features of a Holland America ship. Every vessel is home to a unique collection of works from paintings to sculptures, maps and furniture. Passengers can experience a little culture with a self-guided walking tour which is downloadable onto iPods and mp3 players.

The service

Holland America cruising comes with a touch of luxury, and nowhere is it more apparent than in the service offered onboard. The ratio of staff to guests is almost 1:2, so service is personalised and intuitive. Passenger comfort is a focus for the line, and it keeps loyal cruisers coming back time and time again.

The line has won awards for their warm and welcoming service, and it is one point of distinction that makes it worthwhile to contemplate a cruise with Holland America.

The culinary delights

Food is a highlight with Holland America. Dining is a big part of the experience, and there are both set-time and flexible options for the evening meal. The line pioneered specialty restaurants with the Odyssey (now Pinnacle Grill) and offers numerous alternative options, from the italian Canaletto bistro to the sandwiches and pastries at Explorations Cafe. In a nod to the traditions of yesteryear, Holland America offers stately afternoon teas which include a Royal Dutch Tea, an Indonesian Tea and a Cupcake Tea.

The company brings a unique perspective to cruise ship food, turning the tables on willing passengers in the Culinary Arts Center. It offers cooking classes by top chefs, wine tasting and mixology, regionally inspired workshops, and even courses for kids.

Overseeing all of the food-related aspects of a Holland America cruise is the Culinary Council, a team of chefs from all around the world which develops recipes and programs for the benefit of HAL passenger tastebuds.

The activities and entertainment

There is plenty to do onboard a Holland America ship.  During the day, passengers can be enriched and educated with the cooking classes mentioned above, digital workshops, wine tasting and mixology, art tours and trivia. All ships have a fitness centre and a traditional wraparound promenade deck for strolling, and various vessels boast sport facilities including golf putting greens, basketball courts, tennis courts and more. Of course, there is always the option to indulge in a cruise ship favourite pastime: relaxing by the pool. The tasteful and understated pool decks are a highlight of Holland America's fleet.

Dancing with the Stars At Sea is a new innovation of the line's, and a fantastic and fun way to be a little active and get to know fellow cruisers. Passengers can take onboard dance classes with professional dance instructors and performers, then compete in the DWTS competition to be named the Cruise Champion for their sailing. There is also the chance to progress to the 2015-2016 Champions Cruise where past champions compete for the Mirrorball Trophy in the Western Caribbean.

In the evening, passengers can experience a little glamour. The dress code is smart casual as a default, with formal evenings every few nights. This applies at dinner and in the public areas- something which adds to Holland America's elegant atmosphere. The show lounges on all ships host concerts, musicals, comedians and live music. The variety of evening venues range from the Explorer's Lounge with liqueurs and coffee to dancing in the Northern Lights nightclub.

The cruises

Holland America's itineraries span the globe. From Alaska to Antarctica and all the (warmer) destinations in between, you can find a cruise to suit your specific wanderlust. Have a look at all of the Holland America cruises which are available Down Under, or contact the friendly Cruise Sale Finder team for more information. You can also view reviews of Holland America Line by past passengers.