Holland America Line's MS Westerdam in dock.

The Holland America Line brand carries well over a hundred years of storied history. But while it has been around for so long, there are still some little known facts, tidbits and interesting trivia which may heighten your interest in this historic cruise line, which is making its biggest ever local deployment this coming summer, with two ships sailing a variety of voyages.

While many passengers on local voyages will inevitably be Aussies and Kiwis, true to its heritage, a considerable number will also be Dutch.

The Holland America Line name has cultivated for itself an intensely loyal fan base not just on both sides of the Atlantic Ocean, but all around the world. But what many don’t realise is that the line is still a sentimental brand of choice in its homeland of the Netherlands. So popular is it in fact that it still has a ship based year-round in the Dutch port of Rotterdam.

Particularly on European voyages, the number of Dutch passengers onboard can be the majority, however all crew and many of the Dutch speaking passengers also speak English. In addition, Australia is now one of the line’s largest markets, with a high percentage of guests on many voyages also being Australian.

Your HAL Digital Workshop teacher may be later found performing in one of the ship's shows.
Your HAL Digital Workshop teacher may be later found performing in one of the ship’s shows.

“Enrichment” activities makes up most of the daily programme.

While many lines are retracting onboard enrichment programs to offer a greater quantity of things to do, Holland America Line is increasing the size and scope of its offering in an effort to improve the value of these activities. Partnerships with Microsoft and America’s Food & Wine magazine have seen the line invest heavily in these ventures. Passengers can now even undertake mini-courses in everything from photo editing to cooking the perfect roast. The courses and tutorials are generally free and are offered across the fleet, with the curriculum continuously changing to keep even the most frequent cruiser suitably challenged.

The line doesn’t have a dedicated entertainment team.

Onboard entertainment is a cornerstone of every successful cruise line’s modus operandi, and most major brands employ a dedicated team of entertainment-focused crew members whose sole job is to keep that daily schedule full of fun things to do, especially while at sea.

Holland America Line however, does not. In fact, the entertainment program is facilitated by crew members who have double duties in other areas of the ship. For example, activities such as “Where in the world” trivia might be conducted by the Future Cruise Consultant, while a pub crawl will utilise the specialist knowledge of the Culinary Arts Host.

If you'd like more space but don't want to pay for a suite, HAL offers "Large" versions of Interior or Oceanview staterooms.
If you’d like more space but don’t want to pay for a suite, HAL offers “Large” versions of Interior or Oceanview rooms.

The line has some of the largest standard cabins in the cruise industry.

Comfort being front and centre of the onboard experience, Holland America’s ships feature some of the largest standard size staterooms afloat. On top of that, the brand also offers Large Interior and Oceanview staterooms, which deliver a room similar in size to a mini suite, without the extravagant price tag.

HAL ships have pool decks friendly with colder climates.

The majority of Holland America’s destinations encompass colder climates such as Alaska, New Zealand and Northern Europe, which may lead you to keep your swimmers in your suitcase. But fear not, for the cruise line heats its onboard pools to a very comfortable temperature to ensure they are usable in any climate. In addition, all Holland America Line ships – except its smallest vessel MS Prinsendam – feature a retractable roof above the main pool, making them the place to be rain, hail or shine.

Children are not out of place on Holland America Line.

A common misconception about Holland America Line is that children aren’t encouraged due to the brand’s premium standard and activity listings suited more to a mature traveller. This however couldn’t be further from the truth. The line’s ‘Club HAL’ kids club is packed with an activity schedule featuring games and experiences for children and teenagers alike. In fact, the line’s newest ship MS Koningsdam features “Family” staterooms accommodating up to five guests in the one room.

For a premium cruise brand, the dedicated Club HAL is well set up for children and grandchildren.
For a premium cruise brand, the dedicated Club HAL is well set up for children and grandchildren.

HAL touches all seven continents at different points of the year.

There pretty much isn’t a part of the world to which Holland America Line doesn’t sail. Over a calendar year, HAL ships call into ports and conduct scenic cruising on all seven continents. The line has two ships based in Australian waters during the 2016/2017 summer season and has an extensive local program, with MS Noordam and MS Maasdam conducting a variety of sailings from Sydney, Auckland and Fremantle.

Holland America Line is also the largest hotel operator in Alaska.

One of the Holland America Line home regions is Alaska, and few other lines offer a similar selection of pre and post-cruise tour options in America’s 49th state. In no small part, this is due to the line owning the Westmark hotel chain – which serves as its home base during these land extension itineraries. The hotels are dotted throughout Alaska and operate to a similar standard of service excellence for which the line is famous. You’ll know you’re in the right place if you’re spotting some subtle Holland America homages in the decor at each.

If extending your HAL itinerary with a land tour, you'll likely stay in a hotel wholly owned by Holland America Line.
If extending your HAL itinerary with a land tour, you’ll likely stay in a hotel wholly owned by the brand.

The line doesn’t “do” traditional buffets.

Many trumpeted P&O Cruises’ “Pantry” concept as a world first, but it was in fact a Holland America innovation adapted to suit Australian tastes. Dubbed “The Lido Restaurant”, the casual dining concept sees you served by chefs rather than helping yourself and is further expanded on Holland America Line. In addition to the pre-made items, the line also features cooked-to-order Asian, Italian and Salad stations.

It’s possible to cruise for up to three months and never repeat a port.

Known has the “Elegant Explorer”, MS Prinsendam operates a series of voyages that see the vessel continuously discovering new ports – and never repeating the same ones! So popular is this ship and its itineraries, many guests take up multiple month residencies, with some guests sailing back-to-back for six months at a time. The vessel carries just over 850 guests and is the most popular as her small size enables her to discover ports and destinations its much larger contemporaries can’t even dream about accessing!

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