The ultimate guide to Holland America cruise ships and itineraries
Of the “Big Eight” cruise lines, Holland America Line is the one that prides itself most heavily on legacy. Among the other relatively new players in the industry, HAL stands out because of its longevity, having begun passenger operations in 1873 to ferry passengers across the Atlantic between The Netherlands and New York City.
Ships in the Holland America fleet — formerly the Nederlandsche-Amerikaansche Stoomvaart Maatschappij (Dutch-American Steamship Company) — carried immigrants from Europe to North America at regular intervals. As such, the line often attracts older cruisers and genealogy buffs looking to experience sea travel much like their grandparents, great-grandparents and even great-great grandparents did (albeit with more modern comforts). And veterans who found themselves on Holland America ships used as military transport during World War II often sail on the line’s modern vessels as a way to reminisce.
But that doesn’t mean the ships are stuffy, boring or limited to an older demographic. In fact, HAL’s ships are more modern than ever, with some of its newest hardware featuring high-tech theater shows, extensive art collections and contemporary music that even members of Generation Z are likely to appreciate. It’s common to see multigenerational family groups on Holland America voyages.
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Tied to the cruise line’s rich backstory is a focus on quality and upholding high standards of service. The line’s ships generally offer excellent food, tastefully designed decor and an impressive variety of music as entertainment.
Holland America cruises are considered mainstream and mass market, but they’re not bargain-basement sailings. They fall in line with brands like Celebrity Cruises and Princess Cruises, meaning you’ll pay slightly more for them than a Carnival Cruise Line, Royal Caribbean or Norwegian Cruise Line cruise. But Holland America sailings aren’t luxury. (The slightly higher price point also means you won’t feel like you’re in the middle of a never-ending frat party or a resort geared to families.)
Here’s what you need to know to determine if Holland America Line is right for your next cruise.
3 things TPG loves about Holland America Line
- Delicious food that’s carefully prepared with a focus on sustainability
- Abundant live music options to suit many tastes
- Extensive itineraries, from Alaska sailings that include land stays to lengthy world voyages
What we could do without
- The stereotype that Holland America is only for passengers of a certain age
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The Holland America fleet
With only 11 ships, Holland America’s fleet is on the small side when compared to the industry’s biggest players, some of which have more than two dozen vessels. HAL’s ships are divided into four classes: R Class, Vista Class, Signature Class and Pinnacle Class.
From oldest to newest, the ships have gradually increased in size. However, the largest ones still accommodate fewer than half of the number of passengers carried by the world’s largest ships — a nod to the fact that many of the line’s most loyal customers prefer a more intimate experience.
There are only two R Class ships on the roster — Volendam and Zaandam, which are the line’s two oldest and smallest vessels, each with room for about 1,400 passengers. Because R Class vessels are nearly 40% smaller than the line’s largest ships, they offer fewer amenities, making them perfect for anyone whose focus is the destinations the ships visit rather than the onboard amenities. As such, these two vessels tend to sail to more far-flung locales, including on world cruises.
Introduced between 2002 and 2006, the four ships — Zuiderdam, Oosterdam, Westerdam and Noordam — in HAL’s Vista Class are large enough for slightly more than 1,900 passengers at double occupancy. Like their smaller R Class fleetmates, they offer only two alternative restaurants (a steakhouse and an Italian eatery) in addition to complimentary buffet and main dining room venues.
Holland America’s Signature Class, comprising Eurodam and Nieuw Amsterdam, represents the line’s midsize offerings, with each vessel accommodating about 2,100 people. Like Pinnacle Class ships, those in this class are home to Pan-Asian restaurant Tamarind, in addition to the free options and for-fee Italian restaurant and steakhouse found on the line’s smaller vessels.
But it was with Pinnacle Class ships that HAL truly began to overhaul its offerings in terms of both dining and entertainment. Koningsdam, which debuted in 2016, brought with it the Grand Dutch Cafe (where you’ll find the best grilled cheese at sea, along with delicious split pea soup) and Rudi’s Sel de Mer, a seafood restaurant developed by chef and food artist Rudi Sodamin. It also boasts the Music Walk concept, a central thoroughfare that houses several performance spaces focusing on different genres of music.
While Rudi’s and the Grand Dutch Cafe are only found on the line’s Pinnacle Class ships (which hold 2,650 people and also include Nieuw Statendam and Rotterdam), Music Walk has been rolled out on Signature Class and Vista Class ships also, with R Class vessels featuring one or two of the individual Music Walk venues.
Destinations and itineraries
The sheer breadth of destinations Holland America covers is impressive for such a small fleet. Currently, the line has ships scheduled to call on six continents (plus a sail past the seventh, Antarctica) with stops in more than 50 countries.
Itineraries run the gamut from standard Bahamas, Caribbean, Mexico, Canada/New England and Pacific Coastal voyages to more bucket-list regions like Alaska, the Mediterranean and the Panama Canal. More far-flung destinations include places like South Africa, Oman, Egypt, China, Australia and New Zealand, Japan, Turkey, Morocco, Malaysia, Fiji and other areas of the world that are often cumbersome to reach if you’re not on a ship.
Many of the more off-the-beaten-path locations are reached via Holland America’s two most impressive sailing types: world cruises, which last more than 100 days, and Grand Voyages that might include circumnavigations of places like Africa, Australia and New Zealand or South America and Antarctica. Both of these types of cruises tend to sell out a year or two in advance.
Plus, with the line’s recent focus on longer cruises that travel round-trip from U.S. ports, Holland America makes it easy for Americans to set sail without having to fly.
HAL’s most popular and frequented destinations are the Caribbean and Europe, with other locales in proximity to North America — such as Canada/New England and the Mexican Riviera — proving to be the second-most popular with Holland America travelers.
Holland America has also had a commanding presence in Alaska for decades, offering some of the most robust opportunities to visit the 49th State. In fact, the brand is so established in the region that it owns and operates its own lodges near places like Denali National Park, making for the perfect pre- or post-cruise add-on.
Who sails Holland America cruises?
Passengers on Holland America’s ships tend to be well-traveled retirees (largely couples but with some singles in the mix) and multigenerational family groups usually consisting of grandparents, parents and children traveling together.
Because HAL vessels lack flashy top-deck attractions like waterslides and roller coasters, the experience is best enjoyed by people who don’t need constant entertainment. The ideal match for one of these sailings is someone who likes destination immersion and relaxation time, as well as superb dining and eclectic music.
Although every Holland America ship has a kids club on board, the youth spaces aren’t as expansive and tricked-out as the facilities on the larger and more family-friendly cruise lines. Well-behaved kids who enjoy learning and visiting new places will still have a great time.
Cabins and suites
Holland America cabins fall into four main categories: insides (no views), outsides (sealed windows), balconies (walk-out verandas) and suites (high-end cabins, usually with extra space and more amenities).
If you’re looking for a specialty cabin, those also are available. Holland America offers a selection of accessible rooms on every vessel. They span all cabin types, including suites, with fully accessible, fully accessible single-side approach (with both left- and right-side approaches as options) and ambulatory accessible varieties available. (Specific room types vary by ship.)
Spa cabins come in all basic cabin categories, as well as Neptune Suites. They encompass the same square footage as standard cabins in each of those categories and share the same layout. What sets them apart is that they provide spa-centric extras, such as flavored water and cut fruit, a spa concierge to assist with booking treatments and in-room fitness equipment like exercise DVDs and yoga mats.
Certain HAL ships also offer solo cabins for one person. Designed with lone travelers in mind, they feature full-size beds in lieu of queens, and they’re available in the outside category only, ranging from 127 to 172 square feet of space.
The line’s only rooms designed specifically with families in mind are outside family cabins, which offer from 222 to 231 square feet of living space and accommodate as many as five people with a queen bed, a two-person sofa bed and a single bunk that pulls down from the ceiling. These cabins are also outfitted with a split bathroom setup — one room with a bathtub/shower, sink and toilet and another with a shower and sink.
Standard features in all Holland America ship cabins include a queen bed that can split into two twins, a couple of nightstands, a vanity/desk area with a chair or stool and a phone. There’s also a closet with shelves and room to hang clothes. Rounding out the offerings are a safe, a minifridge, a variety of outlets and USB ports and a private bathroom. An in-room TV provides a handful of channels, ship-sponsored content and complimentary movies.
Select cabins also include sofas, some of which have pull-out beds. Other rooms made to sleep more than two people might have bunks that pull down from the ceiling.
Daily housekeeping service is included in all room types.
Standard amenities on Holland America vessels are a step up from those on most other lines. Some that you might enjoy include Elemis toiletries, bathrobes, shoeshine service, fresh fruit, signature pillow-top mattresses and complimentary 24/7 room service.
Restaurants and dining
Holland America consistently cooks up some of the best food at sea. In fact, through its own Culinary Council, the line offers menu items — and even stand-alone restaurants — developed by renowned chefs like Ethan Stowell, Jacques Torres, Rudi Sodamin, Andy Matsuda, David Burke and Masaharu Morimoto. You can even find their items in the main dining rooms, meaning you don’t have to pay anything extra to try them.
All of the line’s ships offer at least four dining options: two complimentary (the buffet and main dining room) and two for a fee (Italian eatery Canaletto and the Pinnacle Grill steakhouse). As the ships increase in size, so too does the real estate dedicated to restaurants.
The line’s Signature and Pinnacle classes both have added-fee Asian-fusion cuisine at joint venue Tamarind and Nami Sushi, and Pinnacle Class vessels also are home to quirky seafood restaurant Rudi’s Sel de Mer and the Holland-themed Grand Dutch Cafe. The latter is a fantastic place to seek out complimentary between-meal snacks and extra-charge alcohol and specialty coffee beverages.
Given the brand’s deep roots in Alaska and dedication to serving some of the best meals afloat, it uses sustainable Alaskan seafood sourced through a partnership with the Alaska Seafood Marketing Institute and certified by Responsible Fisheries Management.
Foodies will enjoy celebrity chef-led dining experiences and cooking demonstrations on select sailings. Plus, Holland America’s Vital Choice program provides passengers with at-home fish deliveries and recipes from HAL chefs so they can replicate the meals they’ve eaten on board when they return to dry land.
Passengers tend to frequent the main dining room on most nights. It provides an upscale sit-down experience with waiter-served meals. If you choose As You Wish dining, you can arrive at the dining room any time between set hours and eat at your own table (or a communal table if you wish). If you choose set seating, you will dine at one of two set dining times with assigned tablemates at the same table and with the same waiters each night.
Depending on each day’s schedule, the main dining room might also be open for breakfast and lunch.
Additionally, each Holland America vessel has a buffet that serves a large number of cuisines from several stations for breakfast, lunch, dinner and late-night snacking. And, speaking of snacking, afternoon tea is offered on select afternoons on each voyage.
Other noteworthy options include free pool deck pizza, burgers and hot dogs, as well as 24-hour room service. Although select room service items come with a fee, most are free. (Holland America is the only mainstream cruise line that doesn’t charge for standard, around-the-clock room service.)
Entertainment and activities
Because Holland America cruises focus on the destinations visited, rather than onboard attractions, the entertainment roster is lighter than what you’ll find with other mainstream lines. However, just because there are fewer options doesn’t mean the ones that exist aren’t excellent.
For starters, the newest vessels feature an entire music-themed promenade, and each ship’s main theater, dubbed the World Stage, hosts several fabulous shows each cruise.
Theaters and shows
The most notable of Holland America’s entertainment spaces is the Music Walk, a live music-themed promenade that’s home to several venues for everything from dueling pianos and blues performances to rock ‘n’ roll.
B.B. King’s Blues Club is a popular venue on Signature Class and Pinnacle Class ships. Named for the famed blues artist, it houses live performances of the same genre. On Vista Class, Signature Class and Pinnacle Class vessels, Billboard Onboard is where you can catch dueling pianos with musicians playing popular tunes that top the Billboard charts.
On Pinnacle Class vessels, a live band jams out to rock tunes in the Rolling Stone Rock Room. On ships in the Vista Class, the similarly themed Rolling Stone Lounge hosts a seven-piece band that covers a range of music styles, including R&B, rock, pop and country.
But the live music doesn’t stop there. A three-piece band plays pop arrangements from the ’60s through today at the Ocean Bar on all Vista Class and Signature Class ships.
The main theater, World Stage, features a changing roster of shows, including the a capella group Cantare; Step One Dance Company performances that meld technologically advanced sets with beautiful choreography; and Island Magic, a modern take on steel drum music.
Performances vary by ship, and a separate rotating list of performers also travels from vessel to vessel as part of Holland America’s partnership with Lincoln Center. (Note that Lincoln Center Stage, a venue previously dedicated to instrumental performances in the Music Walk area, is no longer found on HAL vessels.)
Finally, “Origin Story” is a high-tech, live-hosted documentary-style show that chronicles HAL’s history — from the original Rotterdam through the pandemic-related shutdown of 2020 — in a way that will leave you wanting to see it more than once. (Bring tissues.)
Other attractions and activities
Other activities you can expect to see on the daily schedule might include trivia, game shows (think Battle of the Sexes and the Newlywed/Not So Newlywed Game), scavenger hunts, pickleball, casino play, poolside movies, basketball shooting competitions, afternoon tea, board games, dance and mixology classes, spa seminars and wine tastings.
In keeping with Holland America’s less-flashy style, you won’t find much in the way of top-deck pastimes. There are no waterslides, go-kart tracks, surf simulators or rock climbing walls. What you will find, however, are two pools — a main pool covered by a retractable glass roof and another adults-only pool that overlooks the wake — as well as hot tubs for relaxing on each ship.
All ships also have tracks for walking and jogging. Locations and distances vary by vessel.
Holland America offers the appropriately (albeit uninspiringly) named Kids Club on all of its ships. It accommodates children from ages 3-17 under the supervision of professionally trained youth staff.
Children are split into three groups — Kids (ages 3-6), Tweens (7-12) and Teens (13-17) — for age-appropriate activities that might include video game play, arts and crafts, scavenger hunts, theme parties and poker tournaments.
Note that regular Kids Club programming isn’t available on sailings of 25 nights or longer, including world cruises and Grand Voyages. Children’s activities will be available from time to time as needed, depending on the number and ages of the children on board.
What to know before you go
Unless you’re sailing a closed-loop cruise (one that leaves from and returns to the same U.S. port) to one of a handful of destinations, you’ll need a passport in order to sail with Holland America. If you are taking a closed-loop voyage, you can sail with your original birth certificate and a government-issued photo ID, such as a driver’s license, instead of a passport.
Whether you’re required to have a passport or not, TPG always recommends traveling with one, just in case there’s an emergency that requires you to disembark your sailing in a foreign country.
You will also need your boarding documents, either printed or on your mobile device via the Holland America Line Navigator app, to show at the pier during embarkation.
Additionally, depending on your sailing, you might have to apply for visas in order to enter certain countries. In many cases, the line will handle the application and procurement for you, but pay attention to special instructions in cases where you might be responsible for obtaining your own documentation.
Unless you prepay gratuities or purchase a cruise fare that has them included in the price, you will be charged $16 per person during each day of your cruise ($17.50 if you’re booked in a suite). You can adjust the amount up or down or remove it completely (which we don’t recommend doing) by visiting the guest services desk. You cannot adjust or remove gratuities after your sailing has ended.
An 18% service charge will be added to bar, drink package and spa purchases.
Holland America offers two Wi-Fi package tiers for a fee. The Surf package allows for checking email, accessing webpages, using select apps and utilizing message services, such as WhatsApp and iMessage. The Premium package offers access to select streaming apps (excluding streaming services like Hulu, Prime Video and Netflix) and audio and video call capabilities on apps like FaceTime, WhatsApp and Facebook Messenger.
If you purchase a cruise fare that includes Wi-Fi, you will receive the Surf package. To purchase the Surf package separately, the price starts at $18 per device, per day; Premium starts at $23 per device, per day. Passengers can upgrade from Surf to Premium or add additional devices at any time.
Carry-on drinks policy
HAL’s alcohol policy allows cruisers 21 years of age and older to bring bottles (750 milliliters or less) of wine or Champagne on board for a corkage fee of $20 per bottle, regardless of where the alcohol is consumed. No beer, liquor or boxed wine is allowed.
You can bring wine back on board if purchased in port, but liquor and other types of alcohol will be held for you until the end of the voyage. Most nonalcoholic drinks are not allowed to be brought on board. However, each passenger is allowed to bring cans or cartons of water, not to exceed six 1-liter cans or cartons or 12 500-milliliter cans or cartons. Plastic bottles are not allowed.
Smoking generally is not allowed in indoor areas on Holland America ships, including cabins and cabin balconies. Designated smoking areas are available outdoors and in specific areas of the casinos on select ships. E-cigarettes are allowed to be used in passenger cabins but not on balconies.
Violations of these policies will result in a $250 fine; repeated offenses could cause a passenger to be disembarked from the sailing.
All of Holland America’s vessels offer send-out laundry, dry-cleaning and pressing services for a fee. There are no self-service laundry facilities on any of HAL’s ships.
Ships have a mix of North American 110-volt and European 220-volt outlets in their cabins. All of the line’s vessels also have USB ports in their rooms, including some near the beds for easy overnight charging.
The currency on Holland America ships is the U.S. dollar. The line’s ships operate on a cashless system whereby passengers link a credit card or sum of cash to their room keycards, which can then be used to charge onboard purchases.
The drinking age on Holland America ships is 21. Passengers younger than 21 may not purchase or consume alcohol, nor may they bring it on board with them.
Holland America has two types of evening dress codes: smart casual and dressy. The former includes jeans without rips, holes or tears. Shorts, ripped jeans, beachwear and men’s tank tops aren’t allowed in restaurants at dinner.
On dressy nights, jeans aren’t allowed in restaurants that aren’t considered casual. For men, jackets and ties are preferred, but collared shirts with slacks are permitted. For women, dresses and skirts or slacks with blouses are appropriate.
Daywear is casual and influenced by the destination and current weather.
Holland America Line loyalty program
The Mariner Society, Holland America’s loyalty program, allows frequent passengers to earn status over time if they sail with the line enough.
The program is straightforward, with five tiers. You reach each tier after accumulating a certain number of “cruise night credits.” Simply, for each night you spend on a Holland America ship, you’ll get credit for one night — or one point. Staying in a suite? You’ll snag double points.
The five tiers are 1-Star Mariner (after your first cruise), 2-Star Mariner (30-74 cruise nights), 3-Star Mariner (75-199), 4-Star Mariner (200-499) and 5-Star Mariner (500 nights or more).
Cruisers have other ways to earn points, too, such as spending a certain amount of money on board when you sail.
But what’s the incentive to join the program? After just one sailing, you’re entitled to drink vouchers, a special welcome lunch, discounts on Holland America merchandise and half off third and fourth passengers in a cabin on select cruises. Plus, you’ll be eligible for onboard credit when you book certain voyages.
When you reach each subsequent tier, you’ll unlock further discounts — or even freebies — on things like specialty restaurant dining, specialty coffees, minibar purchases, spa treatments, laundry and pressing services. You’ll also gain perks like priority check-in and tendering, as well as Wi-Fi credits.
How much does a Holland America cruise cost?
Holland America sailings aren’t the least expensive you’ll find, but they won’t totally bust your budget, either, particularly if you opt for a more bare-bones cabin in the inside or ocean-view categories.
Although the line doesn’t offer a truly all-inclusive cruise experience, it does allow you to purchase a Have It All premium package, rather than simply paying the base cruise fare. The package includes shore excursions, specialty dining, Wi-Fi and a beverage package. Gratuities are extra, but the line sometimes runs promotions that roll them into the cruise fare.
HAL also offers special perks and priority benefits to passengers who pay for Club Orange access. When cruisers book with Holland America, they have the option to purchase a Club Orange add-on that provides priority check-in and disembarkation, priority tendering, dinner in a restaurant exclusive to Club Orange and a complimentary cabin upgrade, among other extras. Prices vary by sailing.
When it comes to fares, at the time of publication, the least expensive weeklong voyage I could find was $371 per person — $53 per person, per night — for a seven-night Alaska sailing through the Inside Passage, round-trip from Vancouver, British Columbia, on Sept. 22, 2024, aboard Nieuw Amsterdam in an inside cabin.
Prices range all the way up to $91,199 per person — $686 per person, per night — for a 133-night pole-to-pole Grand Voyage sailing round-trip from Fort Lauderdale’s Port Everglades on Jan. 25, 2025, in a Neptune Suite aboard Zuiderdam.
How to book
Cruisers can book Holland America voyages directly by visiting the company’s website, by calling a cruise line representative at 855-932-1711 or by using a third-party online booking engine. If you need further assistance, a travel agent can help you narrow down the destination and ship you’re looking for, field any special cabin requests you might have and process your reservation without costing you anything extra for the personalized service.
To maximize the return on your investment, carefully consider the type of card you’re using to make the purchase. If you’re someone who plans to pledge loyalty to Holland America, you might consider the Holland America Line Rewards Visa® Card. It offers welcome bonuses (at the time of publication, 10,000 bonus points when you spend $500 within the first 90 days of card opening), 2 points per dollar spent on Holland America purchases (including onboard purchases) and 1 point per dollar on all other purchases. Points can either be redeemed toward cruise purchases or as statement credits.
However, you might get more value out of one of TPG’s favorite credit cards for booking cruises.
The information for the Holland America Line Rewards Visa Card has been collected independently by The Points Guy. The card details on this page have not been reviewed or provided by the card issuer.
Holland America is a cruise line that caters to passengers seeking a premium experience at a reasonable price. It takes pride in its heritage, and its ties to immigration and historical events make it a compelling draw for history buffs and travelers interested in genealogy.
Passengers also have an impressive number of choices when it comes to destinations. Holland America offers itineraries spanning all seven continents, so you only need to decide where you’d like to go.
HAL’s Pinnacle Class renaissance shows a marked effort by the brand to improve the onboard experience, particularly in the way of entertainment. Sailings offer passengers excellent music and shows and serve phenomenal food in an elegant atmosphere.
Whether you’re sailing with your significant other, friends or extended family, you’re sure to enjoy a voyage with Holland America.
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