This September, Holland America Line will begin an approach to cruising for travelers who are looking for thoughtful and immersive ways to see the world. Offered on the 1,258-guest Maasdam, new EXC In-Depth Voyages explores corners of the globe on itineraries from 12 to 34 days, using world-renowned experts, local scholars and customized Zodiac tours to immerse guests in the experience.
With EXC In-Depth Voyages, each journey offers guests a variety of themes and choices to tailor their exploration: photography; science and nature; arts and culture; food, wine and spirits; history and perspective; and active exploration. Guests are free to focus on one area of interest or combine their passions through onboard enrichment and captivating shore activities. Guests can choose to do as much or as little as they like.
“We created EXC In-Depth Voyages to further enhance our guests immersion experience in a more personalized way in the exotic destinations featured on this series of specially designed itineraries,” said Orlando Ashford, president of Holland America Line. “The addition of Zodiac tours will allow guests to be modern-day explorers, and Maasdam will visit many ports that we have never been to or haven’t visited in years; EXC In-Depth Voyages are truly unique.”
Expert Lead Workshops, Seminars and Learning Opportunities
From September 2018 through April 2019, EXC In-Depth Voyages expand on Holland America Line’s Explorations Central (EXC) programming by creating a total experience on board and ashore. Onboard enrichment is guided by a resident team of subject-matter experts — covering such topics as marine and bird life, geology, cultural anthropology, history and more — who sail on all EXC In-Depth cruises, complementing each adventure with informative talks and insightful discussions of their own field experiences.
A sea day could include a lecture on Captain Cook (history and perspective), discovering the indigenous breadfruit (food, wine and spirits), growing coral (science and nature), DSLR Basics (photography) and a traditional tattoo design workshop (arts and culture). Additional EXC programming on board is designed to bring guests together with similar interests and will offer interactive activities, destination insight from location experts and EXC Guides, and cultural encounters.
Since EXC In-Depth Voyages are designed with added emphasis on the destination and onboard learning, evening entertainment will reflect the local culture instead of mainstage production shows. America’s Test Kitchen is being replaced with local chefs, locally sourced ingredients and local traditions to enhance the culinary offerings appreciated by Holland America Line guests. Junior cruisers are welcome, but Club HAL kids’ activities will not be offered on EXC In-Depth Voyages.
Zodiac Inflatable Boats Amplify Up-close Experiences
Maasdam will carry Zodiac inflatable boats, the type popularized by Jacques Cousteau, so guests may enjoy opportunities to intimately explore less-accessible sites and wildlife habitats in select ports as part of the ships EXC Tours program. A mix of onboard experts and local guides co-guide Zodiac outings to enrich the experience for guests.
For example, guests might foray around sheltered islands to spot local birdlife including waders, oystercatchers, nesting cormorants and other species. Or venture up rivers to explore the history and sights of a region from a unique vantage. Perhaps they will uncover the beauty of nature reserves on a photo adventure that features rugged shores, blue waters, limestone cliffs and abundant wildlife. Zodiac tours are not included in the cruise fare.
Dr. Peter Carey, Holland America Line’s director of explorations, is currently scouting locations and refining plans for this innovative new series of voyages and Zodiac excursions. A zoologist who has traveled extensively throughout and researched the region, Carey will draw on his journeys and vast research into sea mammal behavior and seabird ecology to craft experiences that open up even wilder places for guests to enjoy and remember as the ultimate field trip. Carey is director of the Sub-Antarctic Foundation for Ecosystems Research and a contributing lecturer at the University of Canterbury and an affiliate professor with the Geography Program at the University of Alaska.
Other shoreside activities focus on offering experiences such as photographing the colors of a Tahitian market (photography), taking a guided walking tour of Komodo National Park in search of the Komodo dragon (active exploration), touring the Nukubalavu Village and seeing the Fijian kava welcoming ceremony (arts and culture), visiting famous ruins in Thailand (history and perspective) and watching the platypus playing in billabongs in Australia (science and nature).
Islands and Ports Off-the-Beaten Track
The ports on EXC In-Depth itineraries were selected to evoke curiosity and inspire wonder. Maasdam will visit 154 ports in 36 countries on 12 individual cruises with guests having the opportunity to explore far-flung locales like Easter Island, Pitcairn Island, Java, the Maldives, the Marquesas and Nuku Hiva. Twenty-eight ports are maiden calls or have not been visited by Holland America Line ships in years.
EXC In-Depth Voyages Range from 12 to 239 Days
The first EXC In-Depth Voyage departs Fort Lauderdale, Florida, Sept. 10, 2018, and sets sail for Papeete, Tahiti, via the Panama Canal. Along the way the ship calls at ports on the west coast of South America, sails across the Pacific Ocean to Easter Island, and visits several South Pacific islands during the 34-day voyage. Maasdamthen spends October and part of November exploring the South Pacific before heading to New Zealand.
Come December, Maasdam journeys along the southern coast of Australia, featuring a special 16-day holiday cruise departing Dec. 21. The ship spends January cruising the northwest coast of Australia up to Singapore where it embarks on a 20-day adventure in the Indian Ocean region. Following a 20-day Southeast Asia itinerary in February 2019, the ship explores the Spice Islands and ports along the northeastern coast of Australia, then sails back to the South Pacific and charts a course throughout the idyllic islands. The final EXC In-Depth cruise is a 24-day Polynesian Crossing ending at San Francisco, California, May 7, 2019.
Cruises can be combined to form longer voyages extending up to a 239-day adventure that covers French Polynesia, the South Pacific, Australia, New Zealand, South America, Southeast Asia and the Indian Ocean.
Overnight calls are a highlight of the EXC In-Depth Voyages. Guests will have overnight experiences in Callao (Lima), Peru; Easter Island; Papeete, French Polynesia; Tauranga and Waitangi, New Zealand; Adelaide, Australia; Singapore; Laem Chabang (Bangkok), Thailand; Sihanoukville, Cambodia; Halong Bay, Vietnam; and Hong Kong, China.