The Timeless Elegance of Holland America Line
At Sea; Thursday, February 15, 2018
Holland America Line’s Veendam sailed slowly through the night towards Havana, Cuba last evening. The distance we have to cover isn’t that immense; a fact betrayed by our snail-like pace over the water. This morning, calm seas and blue skies greeted us and while not much can be seen except for the odd tanker passing us, our relaxed pace perfectly epitomizes a relaxing day at sea.
I’d forgotten how much I enjoy these S-Class ships. Small and intimate, someone aptly described Veendam last evening as “mature.” I think that’s fair. If you’ve taken Holland America Line’s newest vessels, like Koningsdam, Veendam can, at times, feel less contemporary. To me, however, she also seems more timeless: hers is a décor that has aged remarkably well over two decades, helped along by Holland America’s loving program of refits interspersed throughout.
To me, Holland America has always been about the little details. Over time, some of those details have changed (remember the cool leather travel wallets you used to get, or the actual, honest-to-gosh luggage tags?), but plenty have stayed the same. Correspondence to your stateroom still comes sealed with a little sticker bearing the Holland America Line logo. Onboard stationary, from the printed When & Where daily program to letters delivered from Guest Relations, is thick and high quality. English mints and fresh ginger are still offered to guests as they exit the Dining Room.
Before I started writing about cruises as a career, I’d spent over 30-plus-days sailing with Holland America Line in my twenties. I’ve always appreciated that the shipboard atmosphere is quiet and elegant. There are scheduled activities, but not too many. There’s nothing raucous. Hairy Chest Contests poolside aren’t a thing. Ditto for thudding discos, wild adult games (you won’t find the popular “Quest” gameshow held aboard other ships here) or other distractions. It’s not that I don’t like any of those – they’re a lot of fun to watch – but when I cruise, I tend to prefer quiet to loud, unhurried to rushed.
The other thing I like about Holland America: live music. Tonight, live music is featured in the Ocean Bar from 5:30pm until 10pm; in the Explorer’s Lounge from 2pm through 8pm; in the Piano Bar in Mix from 8:45pm through Midnight; and up in the Crow’s Nest Lounge on Deck 12 from 8:30pm through Midnight.
One of Holland America’s newer innovations – and one that is perfect on this uncommon itinerary to Cuba – are its Explorations Central (EXC) shore excursions and enrichment programs.
To get guests prepared for our arrival into Havana tomorrow, a series of enrichment lectures and presentations are being offered today. These include:
- 9:00am: Cuba Orientation. Showroom at Sea, Decks 7 and 8.
- 10:00am: What to See and Do on our Caribbean Tours. Showroom at Sea, Decks 7 and 8.
- 10:00am: Ask Your EXC Guides. Atrium, Deck 7
- 2:00pm: EXC Talk: Cuba, No Place Like It. Showroom at Sea, Decks 7 and 8.
- 2:30pm: EXC Encounter: Cubanismos (Cuban Slang). Mix, Deck 8.
- 4:00pm: Ask Your EXC Guides. Atrium, Deck 7.
- 9:30pm: EXC Encounter: Catalina Lasa Bedtime Story. Explorer’s Lounge, Deck 8.
Holland America offers these EXC Enrichment Programs to complement it shore excursions offerings, all of which now carry the EXC moniker. Because of current U.S. regulations, our shore excursion program in Cuba works and runs a little differently from other destinations, but Holland America still offers a full complement of tours in Havana, Cienfuegos, and in our only other Caribbean port of call, Georgetown, Grand Cayman.
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