Pair of Holland America Line ships ready for sailings to Australia, New Zealand regions
Australia, New Zealand and the South Pacific are heating up as popular cruise destinations. It’s no wonder, either: these destinations offer an alluring mix of natural beauty, cosmopolitan cities and fantasy-like settings. Holland America Line thinks so, too. The line recently announced it is sending two ships to the region this winter: the 1,924-guest Noordam and her smaller but much-loved, running mate, the 1,258-guest Maasdam.
Noordam will spend her time on 12- to 15-day itineraries that explore Australia and New Zealand with departures between this October and April of next year. The season begins with an amazing voyage on Oct. 13 from Vancouver to Sydney, a 26-day trans-Pacific crossing that stops in Hawaii, American Samoa, Fiji and New Caledonia.
Noordam will also sail three special 14-day New Zealand Discovery voyages that operate round-trip from Sydney, Australia, and seven or eight calls throughout New Zealand’s North and South Islands, plus scenic cruising in Milford Sound and Fiordland National Park.
The 1993-built Maasdam, on the other hand, has become something of Holland America’s explorer-style ship since the retirement of Prinsendam this summer. Smaller and beautifully maintained, Maasdam has a loyal following of guests who have been sailing aboard her for decades. Step on board and you can feel it instantly: there is something truly special about this ship.
Maasdam focuses on immersive itineraries and unique ports throughout its South Pacific journeys. Outfitted with a fleet of Zodiac rafts, Maasdam offers a pseudo-expedition style of cruising that offers adventurous outings for those who want it, and good-old-fashioned shore excursions for more traditional voyagers.
Maasdam’s voyages in the region range from 10 to 30 days, with the ultimate journey being a complete circumnavigation of Australia — one that visits 13 Australian ports and zips over to exotic Komodo Island (Indonesia), along with scenic cruising of the famed Great Barrier Reef, Torres Strait and Ribbon Reef and a sunrise at Lizard Island.
“Our Australia, New Zealand and South Pacific cruises are crafted to focus on the must-explore ports, must-see sites and incredible scenic cruising — from cosmopolitan cities like Sydney to the natural beauty of Milford Sound,” said Orlando Ashford, president of Holland America Line. “Having two ships with two distinct paths makes it easier for guests to choose if they want to get a memorable taste of the region or if they want to go all in and join us on a longer adventure. No matter which itinerary they choose, guests won’t be disappointed with what awaits.”
I’m a big fan of Holland America Line. I’ve been sailing with the line for nearly two decades now, and their classically decorated ships never seem to disappoint. But Holland America deserves kudos: the line has dramatically upgraded the quality of its onboard entertainment in recent years, with additions like B.B. King’s Blues Club and the new Music Walk venue on larger ships like Noordam that features duelling piano acts, classical chamber music and live blues and jazz nightly.
Food has also improved throughout the ship. Offerings in the buffet on a recent voyage to Alaska were tasty, and the quality of cuisine in the main dining room was dramatically improved over past voyages. Optional extra-cost venues, like the Pacific Northwest-themed Pinnacle Grill, were exceptional, as always.
Most passengers, however, arguably return for Holland America’s gracious Indonesian and Filipino crew members, who eagerly remember names, drink preferences and other details. It isn’t uncommon to step back on board after years away from the line and have someone remember you from a past voyage.
Thirty days aboard a Holland America ship in Australia sounds like no hardship to me.
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