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Holland America Line Review

U.S. News Travel
  • Overall Rating: 4.0stars 4.0 4.0
  • Expert Rating:4.0stars 4.0
  • Traveler Rating:4.0stars 3.8
    • Couples: 3.9
    • Families w/ young children: 3.7
    • Families w/ older children: 3.8
    • Singles/Friends: 3.8
    • Groups: 3.7
  • Health Rating:
    4.5
    4.5

Holland America Line Overview

How it Ranks: Holland America has been ranked based on an expert evaluation of the line's level of luxury, as well as an assessment of user reviews and health ratings. Holland America Line appears on the following ranking lists:

Holland America caters to affluent adults with its midsize ships that carry between 835 and 2,106 guests and boast a nearly 2-to-1 passenger-to-crew ratio that ensures high-quality service. Holland America Line's 15 ships will spend 2015 cruising to destinations around Australia, New Zealand, Mexico, the Caribbean, Canada, southeast Asia, Europe, HawaiiSouth America and Antarctica. On a Holland America cruise — which can last anywhere from seven to 115 days — you can pass the time with enrichment programs, like photography, cooking and mixology classes, or soak up some culture with a walk through the onboard art gallery. And should you have some energy to burn, you can work up a sweat in yoga or Pilates classes before unwinding at the spa. Though they vary by itinerary options, Holland America's shore excursion options are also primarily adult-oriented, with activities ranging from animal encounters to bike tours to "voluntourism" opportunities. (Those traveling with children will benefit from Holland America's "Signature Collection" excursions, which allow more freedom to choose activities that suit your specific needs.) Meanwhile, Holland America's "As You Wish"-style dining allows flexibility when it comes to mealtimes: Mingle with fellow passengers over a five-course dinner in the main dining room, sample fresh seafood in the Pinnacle Grill or take advantage of 24-hour room service.

Pros & Cons

  • Small guest capacities make the ships feel spacious
  • Low crew-to-passenger ratio provides attentive customer service
  • Kids and teens programs available
  • More expensive than competitors like Carnival and Norwegian
  • Wi-Fi is available, but requires an additional fee
  • Limited onboard activities compared to larger ships

On Board

Holland America' refined atmosphere mainly attracts older travelers who can afford to pay the line's higher prices and prefer a more traditional style of cruising, complete with afternoon tea and ballroom dancing. The company has made strides in attracting families, offering Club HAL programs for guests ages 3 to 17; however, not all ships feature Club HAL facilities.

More about the onboard experience»

On Shore

Shore excursions offered by Holland America vary from sightseeing expeditions (like a tour of Al Ain in Abu Dhabi) to soft adventure (like snorkeling in the Great Barrier Reef) to culinary exploration (like a food tour of Kona, Hawaii).

Holland America also offers five distinct shore excursion collections: the Medallion ...

More about the on shore experience»

Before You Book

  • You do not need to make an up-front payment in order to make a reservation, but you will be required to put down a deposit within five days after you claim your spot. The amount will be determined on a per-person basis and the total cost of your cruise. (Note: A second deposit is required for all Grand Voyages — multi-week trips that cover entire regions.) Your cruise must be paid  within 75 days of your cruise departure.
  • Expect to pay an additional $11.50 to $12 per person per day for gratuity.
  • You will be charged for any taxes, fees or surcharges imposed by government or semi-governmental authorities.
  • If the amount of taxes and fees exceeds the amount estimated by Holland America, you may be charged extra after having completed your booking. There is no right of cancellation guaranteed under these circumstances.
  • Cancellation fees apply to all aspects of your cruise, including airfare add-ons, ground transfers, hotel reservations and pre- and post-cruise tours. To avoid paying a cancellation fee, you must cancel your cruise between 57 and 120 nights before your trip, depending on the itinerary, time of year and cruise length you choose. If you miss this deadline, you will forfeit your deposit and a percentage of your fare; the amount you lose will depend on how close the cancellation date is to the date of departure.
  • If you purchase the CPP Platinum Protection Plan, you will be guaranteed a refund of up to 90 percent of eligible amount you've already paid should you need to cancel, no matter how soon your ship is scheduled to depart. Certain plans can also include lost baggage and medical coverage.

Before You Board

  • You must fill out an immigration questionnaire at least 72 hours before your scheduled departure date using Holland America's Online Check-In tool. With the Online Check-In tool, you can retrieve your boarding pass and schedule, as well as any applicable dining and entertainment vouchers. Do not forget to print those documents and bring them with you.
  • If you are unable to use the Online Check-In service, you may still print your boarding pass, itinerary and vouchers at home and you can fill out required paperwork at the pier prior to boarding.
  • You must arrive at your ship at least 90 minutes before it is scheduled to sail. If you did not use Online Check-In, you should plan to arrive at least three hours early to complete the immigration questionnaire.
  • You will need a passport that is valid for at least six months after you return from your cruise. If you are on a closed-loop cruise (one that starts and ends in the United States), you will be allowed to board as long as you have a government ID, such as a passport card, an enhanced driver's license or a certificate of naturalization.
  • If you do not provide the proper documentations at your departure port, you may not be allowed to board the ship, and you will not receive a refund.
  • You may be required to obtain a tourist visa and/or vaccinations prior to your cruise. Visit the U.S. State Department website to determine the entry and exit requirements for each country on your itinerary.
  • You should notify Holland America of any special needs — such as accessibility equipment or dietary restrictions — at least 90 days prior to your planned departure date.
  • If you are pregnant and will reach the 24-week mark prior to or during your cruise, you will not be allowed to travel with Holland America. If you are fewer than 24 weeks pregnant, you must provide a note from your doctor confirming that you are fit for travel.
  • You must make sure that each piece of checked luggage is properly tagged with your name, stateroom number and sailing date. You may print your own luggage tags when you complete Online Check-In, or obtain luggage tags at the pier prior to departure.
  • Available shore excursions are typically listed six months prior to departure. You may book shore excursions online up to three days prior to your sailing date. You may also cancel your shore excursion up to three days before you depart; if you cancel your tour within three days, onboard credit will be added to your shipboard account. However, Alaska CruiseTours excursions canceled within three days of embarkation will not be refunded; this applies to Signature Collection tours as well.

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Disclaimers about ship ratings: A ship's Health Rating is based on vessel inspection scores published by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). If a ship did not receive a CDC score within 22 months prior to the calculation of its Overall Rating, its Health Rating appears as N/A; in such a case, the ship's Overall Rating is calculated using the average Health Rating of all CDC-rated ships within the cruise line. All ship Traveler Ratings are based on ratings provided under license by Cruiseline.com.