Hard to dislike Holland America

It’s been almost a year since I’ve been on a cruise. I’m getting antsy. Holland America cruise lines must be reading my mind. Once a week or so I get a mailing from them offering discounts on a private sale for one or more of their cruises. Most recently they sent me their full cruise catalog.

It keeps tempting me. For four cruises now we’ve traveled exclusively on Holland America. They included:

  • Southern Caribbean, including Bonaire, Curacao and Aruba
  • Transit of the Panama Canal, Fort Lauderdale to San Diego (16 nights)
  • Specialty cruise, Fort Lauderdale to Santo Domingo
  • Most recently, eastern Caribbean last December

If looking to shrink your carbon footprint, cruising is bad. These enormous ship burn tons of mostly diesel fuel a day. Some cruise ships are enormous and carry thousands of passengers. It takes a lot of energy to push all that mass over the briny.

We’ve been on other cruise lines too from the now defunct Dolphin to Royal Caribbean to Norwegian. Generally the more popular cruise lines have some downsides. Royal Caribbean and Norwegian run mostly megaships and are best for partiers and families. We’ll probably not bother with these lines again.

But we fit Holland-America’s demographics quite well: generally 55+, generally no kids or grandkids in tow. It’s all quite civilized and charming on HA: no mega ships; the ships are big but not enormous. They’re just big enough so that you can see pretty much the whole ship in one sailing. HA attracts a somewhat upscale clientele as goes for the budget luxury market. Lots of suites are available, but plenty of balcony cabins too, making the fares affordable for most.

All cruise lines will do their best to part you from you money, and it’s not hard to spend money. There are the casinos, of course, and often you but an arm’s length away from a bar. With a drinks package you don’t have to get sober for the entire cruise. HA also seems to have the best ports of call, including Half Moon Cay, their private island in the Bahamas. They go to lots of ports the others miss and their tours tend to be reasonably affordable and worth taking.

I enjoy sea days the most but they are getting rarer. The promenade deck allows you to make a circuit of the ship, so it’s an easy way to get exercise and burn off calories. During a cruise I will dedicate at least an hour a day to walking around this deck. It never gets boring. You can read in a lounge chair if you want, but I prefer to keep moving. It’s not hard to walk 3 to 4 miles a day on this deck. Bring a pedometer with you. With the long hallways it’s no problem at all getting plenty of exercise from just walking. There are plentiful staircases as well.

Two things about HA though stand apart for me and make it a compelling choice. The first is the food, which is always top notch and excellent. The portions aren’t enormous so you won’t necessarily put on weight. Their dining rooms are always beautiful and ornate and often includes a live pianist on a player piano. On a cruise, I like to be served breakfast. So if I can I will have breakfast in the dining rooms; it doesn’t cost extra. There is, of course, a huge buffet that’s usually open on the Lido deck and some specialty restaurants only open to those who booked a certain class of room. Their steakhouse (Pinnacle Grill) is particularly good and worth the indulgence and extra cost.

No other cruise line does musical entertainment better. HA’s innovation is a Music Walk on one of the lower decks. Every night you can choose between a Rolling Stone Rook Room, a classical quintet (Lincoln Center Live), a Memphis blues club and two piano bars. If you get bored with one venue, just mosey on over to the next one. The performers are all top notch and excellent; we’ve never been disappointed. They do usually have an evening show in the theater at the front of the ship. Most ships have the upgraded theaters with amazing LED light shows. The Music Walk though is where HA shines brightest. It’s not to be missed.

So naturally I’m pondering another cruise. Where to go? This year we are going to do an Alaskan cruise. HA pioneered these cruises and do them best. They even have their own resort in Denali National Park. HA though generally sails the world. I’m intrigued by one that goes around South America and makes it to Antarctica. There are other exotic cruises to consider such as a 51-day one to Hawaii and Tahiti. The more exotic cruises tend to be pricier.

All this means you need to have plenty of spare cash to indulge these kind of cruises. But we likely will at some point. I’ve been waiting for markets to recover before booking another expensive cruise. You can spend $20,000 or more on these kind of cruises without trying too hard. But I’m not getting any younger so if I’m going to do it, sooner rather than later is probably better.

If this sounds like it would resonate with you too, give a HA cruise a try. They’ve got a great and premium package. It’s easy to give up other cruise lines after doing a few HA cruises.

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