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75+ Ultimate First-Time Cruise Tips for Holland America (You Wish You Knew Sooner)


These are my 75+ ultimate first-time cruise tips for Holland America sailors. Each cruise line is uniquely different with its own special tips and tricks to help you navigate life at sea. If this will be your first time sailing with Holland America, these are my personal insider tips for making the most of your cruise adventures and avoiding rookie mistakes. Learn the ins and outs of booking, staterooms, dining, excursions, and daily life onboard the ship.

I love sailing with Holland America and I hope these tips help you plan a stress-free cruise and enjoy the wonderful adventures that await. These are tips I’ve learned during my many cruises with Holland America that I wish I had known sooner.

Table Of Contents


Booking Your Cruise

1. Have It All Package

The Have It All Package on Holland America includes drinks up to $11 with 15 drinks each day, Wi-fi, one specialty dining credit, and $100 to use towards shore excursions. It is only $55 per day and one of the best values. Having just 5-6 drinks a day pays for the package itself and this includes not only alcohol but also specialty coffees, bottles of water, and soda.

2. Should You Use a Travel Agent?

A question often asked is if cruisers should book through a travel agent. The benefits are that you may receive additional perks, cruise deals, and onboard credit. One thing to take note of is that once you book through a travel agent, any issue that arises MUST go through them. This could be great if they were a good travel agent, but frustrating if they are not. Make sure you book with a well-known agent that comes highly recommended if you decide to go this route.

3. Club Orange

Club Orange is a special upgrade that you need to request when making your booking. If you want to book Club Orange, you should call in to book your cruise. Club Orange is $25 per day, per person on cruises 13 days or less and $15 per person, per day for cruises over 13 days. If you want the luxury treatment without paying for the Neptune or Pinnacle Suite, this is a great option. Here are the biggest benefits of adding Club Orange to your booking.

  • Priority Access with an expedited line for check-in, guest relations, dining, shore excursion desk, tenders, and disembarkation.
  • Stateroom Upgrade: This means if you book the cheapest level veranda, for example, you will get upgraded to the more expensive option with a better location on the ship without paying extra. Often moving to better stateroom categories can cost a few hundred dollars extra, so by booking the lowest level stateroom (such as a room with an obstructed view) and adding Club Orange, it can end up paying for itself.

Example: An obstructed veranda on a recent 2024 7-day Alaska Cruise is $1,054 per person. The regular Veranda is $1,444 and that price jumps to $1,500 if you want to select your own location. Paying for Club Orange is $25 per day which is an additional $175. It is cheaper to book the obstructed veranda for $1,054, add $175 which totals $1,229, and then you will be upgraded to the regular veranda which would have cost you extra. You just saved $225 by paying for Club Orange which you can now spend on your Have it All package, plus you get all the extra perks!

  • Extra Amenities: Club Orange guests receive a bottle of sparkling wine on embarkation, their own concierge, premium bathrobes, and a special Club Orange tote bag.
  • Private Dining Venue on Pinnacle Class Ships


4. Best Rooms

The best rooms on Holland America are really based on preference. I always prefer a Veranda balcony stateroom, but you can find amazing deals if you do not mind being in an inside cabin. The Vista Suites on Holland America are also wonderful and incredibly spacious. Here are some additional tips to keep in mind when it comes to choosing a stateroom.

  • If you are located under the Lido where the pool is located, you may hear noise early in the morning from the chairs being moved across the deck.
  • Being located above the BB King and live music venues can cause noise from music in the evening. 
  • If you are staying in a connected stateroom, be aware you may be more likely to hear your neighbors.
  • Many love the AFT balconies for their amazing views, but be aware there is a strong vibration and upper levels have complained of soot on balconies. 
  • The front of the ship has much more motion and balconies towards the very front are windier.
  • Vista Suites are incredibly roomy and large with huge balconies on the Westerdam and Eurodam.
  • SignatureSuites are similar to Vista Suites, but even larger and have king size beds as well as a pull-down bunk, a Murphy bed, or a sofa bed. These suites are ideal for families.
  • Deck 4 on the Rotterdam ship has extended larger balconies.
  • Cabin 4156 and the cabin adjoining it on the Nieuw Statendam and 4152/4154 on the Rotterdam are twice the size of a normal balcony at no extra cost.
  • For Solo cruisers, the newest ships, The Rotterdam, Nieuw Statendam, and Koningsdam have Solo Ocean View Cabins. These are great if you like to book far in advance, but if you don’t mind booking 90 days out, you can find cheaper deals, even for balconies by paying double.

5. Neptune & Pinnacle Suites

Everyone who is able to book a Neptune or Pinnacle Suite raves about them. They are incredibly spacious with huge balconies and the Pinnacle suite even has a hot tub on the veranda. Many have been able to stay in these rooms by receiving offers to upgrade. Should you receive an upgrade offer, you should absolutely consider taking it! Here are my favorite perks of staying in a Neptune or Pinnacle Suite.

  • Private Dining Venue on Pinnacle Class Ships
  • All the perks of Club Orange
  • Use of Neptune Lounge which has snacks and refreshments throughout the day including a continental breakfast before 11 am with coffee or tea, and sandwiches, pastries and cookies after 11 am.
  • Private Concierge to assist with any of your needs
  • Not mentioned, but you can have Afternoon Tea (served at 3pm) and fresh canapes delivered to your room to eat on the patio upon request.
  • Complimentary laundry services
  • Cocktail party with the Neptune Lounge Concierge


Finding Cruise Deals

We all want to find the best cruise deals available so here are my top recommendations for booking incredibly discounted cruises.

6. Vacations to Go

The website has a special section called the 90-Day Ticker where you can find some seriously amazing deals. I have just in the past month found a balcony room on a Celebrity 12-day South American cruise around the cape for only $699pp and an 8-day Australian cruise on Princess for $599 pp.

7. New Holland America Standby Program

Holland America has just introduced a new Standby Program that offers a standby rate of $49 per day, per person to be put on the waitlist for cruisers who are located near a cruise port. You will receive notice if you are on the waitlist about 7 days before the cruise and very late notice if you make it onto the cruise, sometimes even on disembarkation day.

What makes this deal so enticing is that solo cruisers are not charged double to be put on the waitlist. If you don’t mind an inside cabin, you could be put on the waitlist for your own cabin on a 14-day cruise for under $1,000.

8. Delta Cruises

Another site I think is worth booking through is Delta Cruises. This is because when you book through Delta cruises, they give you Delta rewards miles which is an added value in addition to the other typical perks.


Packing Tips

9. How to Avoid Seasickness

I am prone to seasickness and even got sick on the first cruise I ever took. If you want to avoid seasickness my recommendation is to take non-drowsy Dramamine every morning like a vitamin. You may also want to book Mid-ship on a lower deck which will have less motion.

10. Pack Medications

Every time I travel, especially on cruises, I bring an entire bag of every medication you can imagine and I’ve never regretted it. I recommend bringing Dayquil, a decongestant, allergy medication, Tums, Peptobismol, anxiety medication, Imodium, and even a mild laxative. My entire medicine cabinet travels with me.

11. Packing Tips for Alaska

In Alaska, the weather can vary wildly. It can be warm, rainy, and it’s chilly near the glaciers. Always dress in layers. Here is our complete Alaska Packing Guide.

12. Packing Tips for The Caribbean

Packing for the Caribbean is a little easier, but key things to bring are reef-safe sunscreen, a hat, swimsuits, and comfortable shoes.


13. Dressy Nights

Every 7-day cruise has 2 dressy nights. While most cruisers don’t dress in full-length ball gowns, everyone does seem to get dressed up. I recommend wearing a nice dress. I also like to dress nice when I go to the main dining room and specialty restaurants so I will often bring clothing items like skirts, blouses, and a pair of nice slacks.

14. Unique Packing Items for Holland America Cruises

Here are some unique packing items that many seasoned cruises often bring with them.

  • Luggage Tags for Cruises: When you check in for your cruise, you will be able to print luggage tags which are used by the cruise ships to get the luggage to your room. These luggage tags ensure your printable tags do not rip off or become damaged. They do not need to be put on your luggage until you are embarking.
  • Lanyards: If you are worried about losing your cruise key cards (which I may have done once or twice), you can purchase lanyards to keep them secure around your neck. Your cruise card is used for getting into your room and for all your beverages. If you do happen to lose it, you can have a new one printed at guest services.
  • An Outfit with Orange: Holland America has a special event where everyone wears orange. It could be a dress, pants, top, and even a tie with the color orange. More info on this is below.

15. Items Not to Pack

You do not need to pack a hair dryer, body wash, shampoo, or conditioner unless you are picky. Holland America uses Elemis Spa products.

16. Items Not Allowed on Cruise Ships

Some common items not allowed on Holland America cruise ships are clothes steamers, hard alcohol, beer, drones, large scissors, candles, heated electrical appliances such as heated blankets, hot plates, humidifiers, plastic water bottles, and soda.

17. Laundry & Pressing Services

There are no irons, steamers, or laundry facilities on the Holland America ships, but they do provide a laundry and pressing service. You can opt to get clothing just pressed, have individual items laundered, or pay a flat fee for an entire bag of laundry. if you are taking an extended cruise you can also pay for a laundry package so you do not have to worry about packing as much. Below is also the pricing information:

  • $30 per bag
  • $63 for a 7-day cruise
  • $126 for a 14-day cruise
  • Shirt or blouse: $3.50 to clean only, or $5.50 to clean and press
  • Sweater: $3.50 to clean only, or $5.00 to clean and press
  • Overcoat or long coat: $6.50 to clean only, or $10.50 to clean and press
  • Walking shorts: $3.00 to clean only, or $4.50 to clean and press
  • Pajamas: $3.50 to clean only, or $5.00 to clean and press
  • Dress: $7.50 to wash or $6.00 to press
  • Suit: $7.00 to press, or $5.00 to wash and press pants 


Drink Packages

Here is useful information to know about the drink packages, various drink options, and ways you can save on beverages. The best option is to purchase the Have It All package that we mentioned above as it includes all beverages up to $11 for up to 15 beverages per day. If you were to purchase this individually it would be $54.95 per day, so unless you do not plan on consuming alcohol, the Have It All Package is a great value.

18. Coca-Cola Package

The Coca-Cola Package is an option on Pinnacle Class ships and includes unlimited fountain drinks and sodas.

Price $8

19. Quench Package

Quench packages are best for those who do not drink alcoholic beverages but want to enjoy sodas, canned water, specialty coffee, mocktails, smoothies, juices, and energy drinks.

Price $17.95 Up to 15 drinks per day

20. Signature Package

The Signature package is the most popular and includes everything from the Quench Package plus alcoholic beverages up to $11. Most drinks on Holland America are $10-$11.50. This includes well-known liquor brands such as Jose Cuervo, Buffalo Trace, Jim Bean, Sky Vodka, Smirnoff, Bacardi, Captain Morgans, and Jameson, as well as numerous wines and prosecco.

Price $54.94 for up to 15 drinks per day

21. Elite Package

The Elite Package includes drinks up to $15. To be honest, when we tried this package, it was unnecessary. We used higher-end spirits in our drinks and the higher prices wines were not brands we typically enjoy or drink. I’ve included a photo of the higher-end liquors included in the Elite Package.

22. Gratuity & Service Fees

An 18% gratuity is automatically applied to all beverages purchased. This means when you see that tip line on your receipt, anything extra you leave is above the 18% they will already charge you on your beverage package. In other words, even though a tip line is there, that is to leave extra. Your tips on beverages are already included in your package.

23. Free Drinks!

Yes, there are free drinks available. You will see pitchers of lemonade and iced tea on the lido buffet and these are free. Juice at breakfast, milk, punch, and brewed coffee are also free. I also recommend bringing a reusable water bottle to fill up with water (for sanitary reasons just remember to fill a glass first, then pour it into your reusable water bottle).

Additionally, if you enjoy Champagne, you will find that all the art auctions offer guests free champagne. There are also various meet and greets on the first day of embarkation with complimentary champagne. On the second night of your cruise, be sure not to miss the Captain’s Toast at the World Stage for complimentary champagne and Kir Royales.

24. Happy Hours

If you haven’t purchased the upgraded beverage package but still want to enjoy a few drinks, there is a special happy hour each day usually from 3:30 pm – 4:30 pm and drinks are 50% off. If your ship has the Tamarind Bar, there is also a Martini Hour between 5 pm – 6 pm. Also, check your itinerary for special “Sail Away” drinks that are discounted.

25. B.Y.O.B

Cruisers can bring quite a bit of wine and champagne with them when they cruise with Holland America. This is great if you are particular about the wine you drink as I am. While there is no specific limit to how many bottles you can bring, you will pay a $20 corkage for each bottle, but we find it is well worth it and a great alternative. A bottle of red wine can last 3-5 days, so on a 7-day cruise it might make more sense to just bring along a few of your own bottles.

For example, on the 7-day cruise I took with my in-laws, we brought a case of wine with us which was 7 bottles.

26. Wine Package

The wine packages are additional first-time cruise tips for Holland America most people do not know about. If you enjoy wine and champagne, instead of purchasing an alcoholic beverage package, it may be more cost-effective to purchase a Sommelier Suite wine package on Holland America cruise ships.

Wine packages are divided into 3- Cellar levels and each level has 4, 6, and 8 bottles packages. When you purchase one of the Sommelier Suite wine packages you’re wine will be available to enjoy during your meals in the MDR or delivered to your room, and any unopened bottles go home with you.

Below are the different pricing packages available. You’ll notice that purchasing any of the Cellar #1 packages is cheaper than the Have It All, Signature, and Elite packages. However, if you need wi-fi during your cruise, the Have it All package is still the better deal.

  • Cellar #1: $119 for 4 Bottles, $169 for 6 Bottles, and $219 for 8 Bottles
  • Cellar #2: $149 for 4 Bottles, $229 for 6 Bottles, and $289 for 8 Bottles
  • Cellar #3: $189 for 4 Bottles, $269 for 6 Bottles, and $329 for 8 Bottles

27. Beverage Package Rules

An important rule to take note of for your beverage packages is that everyone in the same room must purchase the same package. The only exception is for guests in your room who are under 21. If you have a guest who suffers from alcoholism, I have read that there are sometimes exceptions if you can submit a doctor’s note.


First-Time Cruise Tips for Holland America Embarkation & Arrival

Here are my tips for embarkation day that cover everything from boarding the ship to tips once you get into your room.

28. Embarkation Time

New for 2024* Just this past week I have read a few sailors who are no longer receiving a boarding time, but instead, their boarding time says anytime, 30 minutes prior to departure. Others will see a specific boarding time on their ticket.

My tip is that there is no need to rush and arrive earlier. In fact, if you do arrive early, you are risking that you may have to wait and deal with long lines. If you can get a late checkout, the best thing to do is just relax and arrive at your boarding time. Typically you will be on the ship in only 30 minutes. Holland America’s embarkation is very quick.


29. Arrive a Day Early

Always arrive a day early for your cruise. You should never risk missing your cruise and trust me, it has happened to many people. You can never know if there will be flight issues.

30. Download the Navigation App

Prior to your cruise, be sure to download the Navigation App and familiarize yourself with it. You will use the Holland America Navigation app for everything from booking reservations, checking your itinerary, and pulling up your excursion tickets. The app will still work even if you do not have a wi-fi plan.

31. Wi-fi

Connecting your wi-fi can be hectic on the first day of your cruise. If you are having issues connecting your wi-fi try switching browsers. If you still have problems, just go to guest services and they will get you all set up.

If you and your family all use Apple iPhones, texting between each other is free without wi-fi. Be sure to keep your phone in airplane mode for the entire trip so you do not accidentally get charged roaming fees.

32. Clearing the Mini-Bar

If you do not plan on using the mini bar, as soon as you get to your room and meet your stewards, ask them to clear out the minibar. This way you can use the room in the fridge to store extra water, soda, and snacks.

33. Extras to Ask For

On the first day, if you need things like extra pillows or hangers, you should ask your steward immediately. Do not wait or they may have none available.

On Holland America, everyone usually receives a special tile a day or two before they disembark. Sometimes people do not receive them or they run out. For this reason, I always let my room steward know on the first day that I really, really want my tiles. This way if they are running low, the steward can grab them and save them for me. I’m collecting these to make a tiled table and absolutely love that Holland provides these for their cruisers.


Onboard Dining on Holland America

My favorite part of sailing with Holland America is all of their exceptional cuisine. What sets Holland America apart from many other cruise lines is the quality of its cuisine. Even if you did not eat at any specialty restaurants, you would still not feel like you’re missing out by dining in the Main Dining Room. The food is always exceptional!

34. Anytime Dining is Easy

Unlike other cruise lines, you do NOT need a reservation to dine unless you want to make one. If you dine between 5 pm-6 pm you can walk into the MDR and grab a table easily. If you dine during busier hours, you should make a reservation to avoid waiting.

I personally like to eat early and then go see the 7:30 pm shows.

35. MDR on Dressy Nights

The number one question I hear asked in the Holland America Facebook groups is “How dressy are the dressy nights on Holland America”. You do not need to wear a ball gown, but I find everyone likes to get dressed up. Usually a nice dress for women and slacks with a collared shirt for men. There are men and women however who do wear tuxedos and gowns.

I absolutely love dressing up and really appreciate those cruisers who do. They all make the dressy evenings in the MDR feel more special. I never miss the dressy nights and always plan any specialty restaurants on non-dressy nights. The food in the main dining room is always extra special on dressy nights.

36. Themed Nights in the Lido

At least once during every cruise, the Lido Buffet has a special themed night that coincides with the destination. These are always very elaborate and beautifully done. For example, on Caribbean and Hawaii sailings you’ll see a whole roasted pig with the head on!

37. Seafood Boil at Lido

If you love seafood, look at for the Seafood Boil signs. This is a special offering in a section of the Lido and is an additional $35. Your Seafood Boil will have crab legs, fresh fish, mussels, and more. Everyone always enjoys this night.


38. Don’t Miss the New 2024 “Cake Me Away”

New in 2024 is the amazing “Cake Me Away” which you’ll find on your itinerary typically on a sea day during lunch. On my last cruise, this took place on the last sea day at 11:45 am. Cake Away features a section in the Lido Buffet with a huge variety of beautiful whole gourmet cakes to try.

I tried the Mocha Almond Rocha cake on my last cruise and it was absolutely fabulous. These are gorgeous and delicious, freshly baked cakes. For all my dessert lovers, this is a can’t miss!

39. Know the Hours

For some reason on every cruise, I just assume the Lido Buffet is always available for me whenever I want a snack. Sadly this is not the case so it’s important to know the hours, especially if you’re a late-night snacker. I try to get an ice cream cone every evening before bed and it makes me so sad when I don’t get there in time.

The Lido Buffet does a wonderful job of always having some areas open when other areas are closed. For example, if you plan on having dinner at the Lido Buffet or a late-night snack it’s important to know that the Lido Buffet is open from 5 pm – 8:30 pm, then it closes down and re-opens again from 10:30 pm – 11:30 pm. I personally wish the buffet would at least stay open until 9 pm so I could grab a snack before heading to my room after the 7:30 pm shows.

When you are on your Navigation App, always check the hours for the MDR as well. These hours change based on whether it’s a sea day or a port day.

40. Themed Brunch

On the last sea day, check your itinerary and the MDR hours as there is usually a themed brunch instead of the typical breakfast and lunch. The themed brunch often includes dishes that draw inspiration from your destination. On the Alaska Cruise they have reindeer sausage!

Holland America Morimoto by Sea Angry Lobster Pad Thai

41. Pop-Up Dining Nights

Pop-Up Dining Nights are when specialty restaurants not available on your ship, host a one-night dinner in the Pinnacle restaurant. You will need to check for this in your itinerary and ask about it when you board the ship.

Currently, all ships except the Nieuw Amsterdam will have a Morimoto by Sea Pop-Up Dinner available which is $55 per person. The Nieuw Amsterdam has its own Morimoto by Sea restaurant aboard the ship.


42. Specialty Dining Restaurants

Holland America Line has several specialty restaurants, but they are not available on all ships so if you enjoy visiting the various specialty restaurants, be sure to check out which ship you’re booking. Here are a few tips when it comes to specialty dining.

  • All ships have the Pinnacle Grill (Holland America’s Steakhouse) and Canaletto (Holland America’s Italian Restaurant). The Pinnacle Grill is also popular for lunch and is an additional $19 for lunch and $46 for dinner. Canaletto is $35.
  • Tamarind is $35 per person and is a very popular Asian-fusion restaurant that also serves sushi a la carte. It is a favorite among Holland America Line cruisers. You’ll find this restaurant on all ships except the Westerdam, Zuiderdam, Noordam, and Oosterdam.
  • Rudi’s Sel de Mer features exceptional French cuisine and seafood and has a stand-alone restaurant on the larger Koningsdam and Nieuw Statendam. At the stand-alone restaurant, the menu is a la carte. However, on other ships, there is a Rudi’s Sel de Mer pop-up dinner which takes place in the Pinnacle Grill and is available for $55 per person.
  • Morimoto by Sea is brand new in 2024 and has a stand-alone restaurant on the Nieuw Amsterdam. This restaurant is $55 per person and serves Asian-fusion cuisine such as Angry Lobster Pad Thai and seasonal Whole Crispy Fish. They will also have a pop-up restaurant on all other ships.

All specialty restaurants are the cost plus an additional 18% gratuity. To book a pop-up restaurant, be sure to ask guest services when you get on the ship to see if it is available and make a reservation.


43. Additional Free Casual Dining Options

Holland America also has several casual dining options that are completely free and they are fantastic!

  • All ships have the Drive-In which serves fries, a variety of burgers, and hot dogs.
  • NY Pizza Cafe is my favorite and serves freshly baked full-size pizzas with any toppings you’d like as well as a variety of salads. This is available on the Eurodam and Nieuw Amsterdam,
  • Larger ships (Koningsdam, Nieuw Statendam, and Rotterdam) have NY Pizza & Deli which also offers fresh deli sandwiches.
  • Grand Dutch Cafe is a favorite of all cruisers and serves classic Netherland dishes like their famous split pea soup with pumpernickel bread and shaved ham. They also have gourmet lattes, pastries, and beer. The Grand Dutch Cafe is featured on Holland America’s Rotterdam, Nieuw Statendam, and Koningsdam ships


44. The BEST Breakfast

In many of my Holland America groups, I always hear from new cruisers who only eat or grab breakfast in their room or at the Lido Buffet. I want to let you know in advance NOT to miss the breakfast in the main dining room. It is phenomenal with so many choices. If we are getting off the ship early, we even wake up extra early so we don’t miss dining in the MDR, it’s that good!

45. Chocolate Night

If you crave late-night sweets, check your itinerary for “Chocolate Surprise” in the Lido Buffet which typically takes place late at night around 9 pm – 10 pm.

46. Afternoon Tea

I absolutely love enjoying the Afternoon Tea at least once on every cruise. They are always on sea days at 3 pm. You’ll enjoy a selection of various tea sandwiches, scones, pastries, desserts, and teas.


Holland America Onboard Activities

Holland America has plenty of daily activities to keep you busy throughout the day. Here is what you can expect and activities you absolutely do NOT want to miss.

48. Orange Party!

The most notable activity on all Holland America cruises is their Orange Party which is so fun! This is a party thrown on each cruise where everyone throws on their favorite Orange outfit and dances the night away. There are also themed orange drinks and bites to enjoy. It is a very fun and festive event which you will find on your itinerary around 9:45 pm. The top of your itinerary will usually say the day is Casual or Dressy with Orange.

Orange is the official color of Holland America Line and a nod to their Dutch roots.

49. Bar Crawls

There are several mixology and cocktail activities available on the ship which are usually an additional $25 to sign up for, but the one you do not want to miss is the Bar Crawl that takes place before the Orange Party. It is amazing and the bartenders do some really showstopping tricks.

50. Wine Tastings

Throughout the cruise, there are also typically several wine tastings which range in price. This is also a great way to expose yourself to the wines available on the ship.

51. Cruise Meetups

Each cruise has Solo & Singles Meetups, Military & Active Duty Meetups, Pride Meetups for LGBTQ & Friends, and Young Adult Meetups for ages 18-30. These are a great way to meet fellow cruisers and make new friends. You’ll find these in your daily itineraries.

52. Arts & Crafts

There is a wide variety of free and paid arts and crafts types of activities available on Holland America. A few examples of free activities include origami, the art of flower arranging, and watercolors. There is also always a $25 painting on canvas class.


53. Teen & Children Activities

While Holland America does not have all the bells and whistles of other ships as far as entertaining children with go-carts and water slides, they do have a Kids Club. Kids Club, offers an array of entertaining events for kids and teens ages 3-17, supervised by a full-time, professionally trained staff. They’ll have an opportunity to join other kids their age for arts and crafts, sports, video game competitions, scavenger hunts, challenging team games, and themed parties.

54. Board Games

One of my favorite activities is playing board games at the Crows Nest. You’ll find a variety of games like Sorry & Scrabble.


55. The Library

A favorite feature of Holland America is its Library where you can borrow any books you’d like. This is on an honor system that you’ll return them by the end of the cruise.

56. Thermal Suite

Many cruisers love enjoying the Thermal Suite on Holland America which is located in their spa. Purchasing a Thermal Suite pass gives you access to their giant mineral water hot tub with jets, massage showers, cool monsoon shower with multidirectional jets, a sauna and steam room, and several heated lounge chairs with a huge window to the outside. 

Buying a Thermal Suite Pass is often cheaper if you purchase in advance at around $299 for a 7-day cruise or $49 for a day pass.

Pro-tip: There is one steam room that all cruisers can access for free, just ask for its location!


57. Unique Lectures

Holland America is known for its cultural lectures that are incredibly well-curated and feature stories unique to each cruise destination. On Alaska cruises, for example, you can learn about the Iditarod races.

58. Onboard Experts

Many cruises, especially Alaskan cruises, bring experts on board the ship to share their knowledge. On our Alaskan cruise, they even brought on board a rescued falcon and wildlife experts.


59. Sports & Health

Those wishing to stay healthy while on their cruise can enjoy a beautiful deluxe gym with large windows looking out onto the open seas. There are also numerous pickleball games, tournaments, and lessons. For an extra fee cruisers can take pilates, spin classes, and yoga. There are also free exercise classes like abs, Tai Chi, and even dance classes.

60. Casino & Bingo Games

Almost all cruisers are known for their Casinos and Holland America is no different. They have everything from slot machines to blackjack. While on board you’ll find numerous Texas Holdem tournaments in your itinerary.

Additionally, there are plenty of Bingo games where you could win hundreds of dollars and even a free cruise!

Onboard Entertainment

When it comes to entertainment, Holland America has plenty to choose from and always has a show every evening at 7:30 pm and 9 pm plus plenty of live music throughout the day and evenings.

61. The Music Venues

Holland America has several musical venues depending on what ship you’re on, but each ship offers a venue with live music and dancing. The two most prominent featuring live music are the Rolling Stones Lounge with bands playing everything from classic rock to pop and the BB King Blues Club which features an 8-piece band.

62. Dueling Piano’s

Each ship also has The Billboard which features live piano singers and dueling piano performances. There are also interactive songs where those sitting in the lounge all sing together and finish the lyrics.

63. Evening Shows

Each evening features two shows at 7:30 pm and 9 pm and every day has a different type of show. Some evenings have a dance performance, unique musical performances, and a comedian.

64. Movies

Throughout the cruise, you’ll also be able to watch a variety of movies on the World Stage. If you’re cruising during Football season, they also make sure to play the playoff games and of course the Super Bowl!


Shore Excursions

65. Price Guarantee

Many cruisers do not realize that Holland America has a 110% Price Guarantee for their excursions. If a passenger books an EXC Tour and then finds an equivalent tour that offers the same amenities and experiences, including date, time, duration, transportation, and meals, a request can be submitted through an online form up to seven days before cruise departure.

The passenger will be notified within two days of submission if the tour meets the requirements for the Best Price Guarantee. If it does, a non-refundable on-board credit will be issued to use during the cruise. The Best Price Guarantee applies only to shore excursions that are advertised with pricing and publicly available.

The Best Price Guarantee submission form can be accessed at by all booked passengers once they have checked in online.


66. Benefits of Booking Through Holland America

The major benefits of booking a cruise through Holland America are that you can be sure the excursion is safe, they are easier to access, and you are guaranteed to get back to the cruise ship in time. If your excursion is late, the cruise will not leave without you.

Pro-tip: Excursions sell out so quickly. You can book your excursions about 6 months before your cruise departs. Do NOT wait. Book your excursions immediately. Especially on popular cruises like Alaska.

67. Booking With Viator

Viator is a well-known website for booking excursions all across the world. You can see reviews from other cruisers and often find unique experiences not available anywhere else. Pricing is often cheaper than you’ll find through cruises and more private. Using Viator we booked a private boat in Sitka, Alaska to take us all around for only $200 per person. I was able to spend as much time as I needed to get amazing shots of sea otters and whales.

Here are some of the most popular excursions on Holland America cruises.



69. The Last Breakfast with Drinks!

Breakfast in the MDR is served until 9 am on Disembarkation day. We never miss the last breakfast on Holland America, even if that means getting up early. Additionally, any drinks from your drink package that weren’t used the day before will roll over so you can enjoy a few mimosas before your flight.

If you are taking your own luggage off the ship you can keep it in your room until you are ready to depart.

70. Using Luggage Direct in Fort Lauderdale

Luggage Direct is an amazing program available to cruisers disembarking in Fort Lauderdale. This program costs $25 per person and it will check you in for your flight and check in your luggage for you, the evening before you disembark from the ship. You will receive your boarding passes in your stateroom for your flight and your luggage will be waiting for you when you arrive at your home airports baggage claim.

You can sign up for Luggage Direct a few days before your disembarkation. You will receive a letter in your stateroom with disembarkation instructions and an option to sign up for the program. This program is available if your departure time is between 11:30 pm – 11:59 pm and you are flying with Southwest, American Airlines, Alaska Airlines, Horizon Airlines, United Airlines, Jetblue, and Delta.

You can also use your onboard credit to pay for this service.

71. Port Valet Free in Seattle

In Seattle they have a program similar to Luggage Direct called Port Valet and the best part is it’s completely free! You can even sign up to use Port Valet in advance or in your stateroom. This service is available to cruisers taking a flight from Alaska, American, Delta, Horizon, JetBlue, Southwest, or United Airlines and cruising with Carnival, Celebrity, Holland America, Norwegian, Princess, and Royal Caribbean.

Both Luggage Direct and Port Valet are great services if you have a late flight and want to be able to explore the city before your flight without having to worry about your checked luggage.

72. Self-Assisted Disembarkation

Those who want to disembark the ship with their luggage by themselves can do so early between 7:30 am and 8 am. Many do this to avoid standing in line at customs or if they are taking an early flight. However, we like to relax the morning of disembarkation and enjoy one last nice breakfast which is served until 9 am. We typically leave the ship between 8:30 am and 9 am and the process is quick and easy.

73. Airport Transportation by Holland America

If your airport is not close to the cruise terminal, there will likely be an excursion listed for disembarkation day that offers airport transportation. This can often be cheaper and easier than taking an Uber or taxi to the airport and you can use on onboard credit.

74. Departing Flights

Almost all cruise ships begin disembarkation from 7 am – 9 pm. I would not book any returning flight before 11:30 pm. It’s also important to know that airlines typically will not let you check your bags prior to 3 hours before your flight departure time.


75. After Cruise Excursions

If you will be staying an extra night and flying out the following day after your cruise departure, you’ll find a variety of different excursions to explore the city on the last day. For this reason, many people choose to stay an extra day, especially if you’ll be arriving in a new city.

Other Random Holland America Cruise Tips

76. How to Hear Announcements in Your Cabin

When you cruise, there will be daily announcements at 8 am and throughout the day. Often you’ll see everyone open their stateroom doors and stand in the hallways to try and hear the announcements. You can actually turn on your TV and put it to the Ships Bow station and then you will be able to hear the announcements in your room.

77. Ordering a Double

When you are at the bar, you can order a double and be charged for 2 drinks at a time. This is especially useful if you are a wine drinker and would prefer a full pour instead of having to take another trip up to the bar.

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About The Author

Sondra Barker is an established travel writer, photographer, and culinary enthusiast. She resides in Newport Beach, California one of the most beautiful beach towns in the country. Her favorite destinations include visiting various wine countries, cruises around the world, and fun theme parks like Disneyland.


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I created this site for purveyor of exceptional eats and escapes; our team is always on a journey to find the perfect bites in the most wonderful places.

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