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Thursday 18 April 2019

Holland America brings you the world

The 145-year-old Dutch shipping line, now a Carnival brand, brings a luxury touch to their fleet of 15 mid-sized cruise ships all over the world.

While Holland America’s (HAL) unrivalled global reach extends across the globe with more than 470 ports of call, it’s here in Alaska where the venerable brand is in its element.

Claim as they might, no one other premium cruise line can match HAL’s coverage of this fabulous territory, filled with stunning scenery, photogenic wildlife and activities to match.

I’ve come all the way from Australia, just like many thousands of fellow Aussies do every year, to the crisp, clear air of this wilderness wonderland. Here, I’m aboard the ms Eurodam, HAL’s first Signature-class cruise ship which entered service in 2008.

And I’ve diligently preselected my shore excursions from the vast catalog offered to everyone who travels here - and on any HAL ship elsewhere in the world.

Even though I must watch my fellow fishers gloat over their prize king salmon during fishing excursion in Ketchikan, it’s is just one of countless shoreside offerings throughout Holland America’s network of port calls as we cruise serenely through the placid channels of Alaska’s Inside Passage.

Occasionally we stop to ogle the great glaciers while keeping an eye out for bears and moose as bald eagles wheel overhead.

During our stop in Juneau, I choose a thrilling hovercraft ride in a tiny 6-person machine. We skim across the water, mudflats and grassland as if it were nothing, all the way to the foot of the massive 56-kilometre Taku Glacier.

In Sitka I opt for a calming kayak paddle around the quiet nooks and crannies away from the township and the milling passengers. Add helicopter flightseeing, floatplane adventures, dog-sledding and sea kayaking and you have some idea of the scope of activity laid out for us when choosing what to do when you go ashore.

Cruise passengers throng the streets of Juneau (R Eime)

Getting out of the ports and onto an excursion is my idea of experiencing any destination. When the ship is alongside here during the busy summer cruise season, around 2000 people from each ship, plus crew, are wandering the streets and retail strip. There’s quite a hustle and bustle along the frontier-style shopping strip with everything from craft beer, faux fur coats and hats, gemstones and jewellry being hawked in a style not unlike the enterprising merchants who “mined the miners” in the goldrush days, selling them everything from eggs at a dollar apiece to gold-sniffing gophers.

Holland America Line (HAL) now operates an unequalled seven ships in Alaska. The 49th state is a firm favourite and once you’ve been aboard with HAL, it’s easy to see why so many diehard HAL fans keep coming back. An envied reputation for dining, whether in the main dining or a specialty restaurant, quality entertainment and shows as well as cabins, suites and staterooms that other cruise lines are always trying to match, keeps HAL at the forefront.

HAL is now a familiar sight in Australia and New Zealand ports too, with ships sailing all around our coastal waters and throughout the South Pacific. The Vista-class Ms Noordam (1924 pax) and Statendam-class ms Maasdam (1258 pax) are regular visitors, bringing HAL’s famous quality reputation right to our doorstep with most voyages either departing or arriving in Sydney, Melbourne or Auckland.

Apart from that, there’s very little of the world left that is not visited by a HAL ship. You can find comprehensive itineraries throughout North and South America, the Caribbean, Europe and all of the Pacific including Asia and Japan.

Eurodam carries a maximum of 2104 guests, about half that of the biggest ships currently being launched. She recently received many updates, including new lounge, dining and entertainment venues, and completely refreshed suites.

Speciality dining venues such as Pinnacle Grill, Canaletto and Tamarind offer tantalising alternatives to the quality main Dining Room. Plus there are many ‘food court’ style venues like Dive-In burger bar and New York Pizza as well as the wide range on offer in the Lido Market buffet.

Entertainment comes in rockin’ style at B.B. King's Blues Club or sophisticated classics on Lincoln Center Stage. The Main Stage is the venue for live, Broadway-style shows and performances.

Onboard activities include exclusive America’s Test Kitchen cooking shows and workshops, BBC Earth Experiences (which combine live music against a backdrop of mesmerizing footage from the BBC Earth television series), computer classes, extensive Greenhouse Spa and salon facilities, as well as wine, beer and whisky tastings.

Kids (or grandkids) 3-17 have their own supervised activities and dedicated ‘Club HAL’.

Cabins, suites and staterooms range from the presidential-style, 126sqm Pinnacle suite through Verandah and Ocean View to Interior, all with quality bedding, bathtubs and flat panel TVs with on-demand programming.

While reading about all these features and benefits will make you feel confident, it isn’t until you are aboard a HAL ship until you fully realise just why cruisers keep coming back and why this premium cruise line has the reputation of the best in its class.

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