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Cruise News: Holland America Line Adds Online Trip Planning and Onboard BBC Earth Programs

Plus: Princess goes gastropub, Crystal charts the rivers, and Seabourn heads north to Alaska

New Holland America Line partnerships will help cruisers plan and individualize their trips and connect more deeply with destinations and ports of call. The company is revamping its website, adding interactive research tools and authoritative recommendations of things to see and do. As travelers use HollandAmerica.com, they’ll be able to research the kinds of experiences they want to have, build a personal profile, or take advantage of predetermined one, based on their interests and wish-list ports.

In a major content collaboration, AFAR Media will curate online Destination Guides for each of the more than 400 ports Holland America Line visits. AFAR’s local experts will share as many as 20 top picks of sights, activities, restaurants, cafés, markets, and shops for each destination.

Using the Utrip software integrated into Holland America Line’s website—which helps shape profiles based on preferences about such categories as history, art and culture, food and drink, nature and outdoors, and contemporary life—travelers will be able to be able to take advantage of simplified searches through thousands of itineraries and shore-side activities, narrow their options, and save their specific choices. Attractions, restaurants, and shopping options will be matched to profiles, and interactive maps will allow users to see the location of each suggestion and click for more details.

Finding cruises to specific regions and ports will be made easier, as well. If you want to visit Spain, Italy, and Monaco, for example, or more specifically, Barcelona, Rome, and Monte Carlo, Utrip might suggest Oosterdam’s 12-day Mediterranean Rivieras voyage on May 24 or Eurodam’s 12-day Mediterranean Tapestry cruise on July 5.

The goal of the website revamp, to start in early 2016, Holland America President Orlando Ashford explained, is to do more to help travelers who are seeking cultural immersion and genuine experiences. Dreaming, researching, planning, anticipating, and sharing the excitement are important parts of travel, he said.

In another new partnership, with BBC Earth, Holland America will introduce fun and educational shipboard entertainment linked to the oceans and nature. Concerts, films, shows, children’s activities, and theme cruises are planned. A live concert will accompany footage from the Frozen Planet program, and game shows will reveal the “weird, wonderful, and obscure” in the natural world. BBC Earth film crews will introduce onboard theater screenings. For kids, there will be a shipboard explorer trail, workshops, and BBC Earth animal and dinosaur fact shows. The BBC Earth program will start rolling out in April and will be on all ships by September. A theme cruise will offer a deeper BBC Earth experience that gives access to the creators of the shows, who will share how the programs are made and lead master classes. Kids will get to take film workshops with the BBC Earth YouTube team.


Princess Goes Gastropub

Princess Cruises is pairing gourmet small dishes inspired by pub favorites with craft beers, cocktails, and wines in the Salty Dog Gastropub. The menu was developed with Ernesto Uchimura, former executive chef of Umami Burger and current chef of Plan Check Kitchen + Bar in Los Angeles. Offered nightly in the Wheelhouse Bar, with live entertainment, the gastropub menu features a selection of three small plates. Choices may include pale ale pork cheeks, spicy stout short ribs, wild mushroom sauté, or lobster mac & cheese. The pièce de résistance is the Ernesto burger—rib eye and short rib beef patty, grilled pork belly, caramelized kimchi, beer-battered jalapeño, and charred onion aioli, topped with Gruyère. Also new: an expansive international whiskey menu.

Crystal Takes to the Rivers

As Crystal Cruises branches into the rivers, the line has just acquired Europe’s largest river vessel, Mozart, and ordered four newly built river yachts. The redesigned Crystal Mozart will begin Danube River sailings in July 2016. It carries 160 passengers in roomy suites—the two largest are 860 square feet each. The four new river yachts coming in 2017 will be smaller. They’ll each have a glass-domed Palm Court with a dance floor, a library, fitness center, spa, and electric-assisted bicycles, kayaks, and jet skis. Two yachts, carrying 110 passengers each, will cruise the Rhine, Main, and Danube. Two others, a bit smaller, will ply the Seine, Garonne, and Dordogne. In a new twist, Crystal plans to sail during the day to make the most of the scenery, with overnights at some destinations. Highlights will include dinners at Michelin-starred restaurants. Plus, the line is introducing active adventures ashore for travelers seeking a high-intensity experience.

Seabourn Returns to Alaska

After a 15-year hiatus, luxury operator Seabourn will offer Alaska cruises in 2017. The line plans to deploy Seabourn Sojourn on varied 11-, 12-, and 14-day sailings from Seward (the port for Anchorage) and Vancouver, British Columbia. Travelers will have the chance to glide up close to Misty Fjords’ glittering waterfalls in a Zodiac, or paddle a kayak on a wildlife-spotting expedition in Tracy Arm. And, because it’s Seabourn, expect lavish flourishes like a “Caviar on the Ice” deck party.

Anne Kalosh doesn't count the cruises she's taken, though there have been hundreds—including five years as a shipboard newspaper editor, sailing the world. She loves the experiences sea travel offers. Her byline has appeared in many major publications, and she's on top of the latest cruise developments as the long-time U.S. editor for Seatrade-Cruise.com and Seatrade Cruise Review.