Holland America Line

Travel the World and Stay Engaged with a Cruise Line’s New Immersive Program

Why You Should Consider Holland America Line’s New EXC In-Depth™ Voyages


Some cruise lines have moved away from the standard shuffleboard activities, and have developed new programs to create unique experiences to attract passengers who love immersive onboard activities and shore excursions. And if that sounds interesting to you, then you should consider Holland America Line’s new EXC In-Depth™ Voyages, designed to provide cruisers with unforgettable connections to each port of call.

So, we decided to get the details about Holland America Line’s new educational program from Dr. Peter Carey, Director of Explorations. He also happens to be a zoologist who has made literally hundreds of voyages to some of the world’s most remote corners, and his next voyage will set sail next month (Sept. 10, 2018) on the Maasdam cruise ship, which will depart Fort Lauderdale and, 34 days later, reach its final port of call in Tahiti. It may be too late to join the 1,258 passengers for the first cruise, but there are plenty more to choose from as EXC In-Depth™ Voyages are scheduled through 2020.

Holland America Line's Director of Explorations Dr. Peter Carey explains why you should book a vacation on an EXC In-Depth Voyage.
Maasdam: Holland America Line's Maasdam cruise ship charts a course for new and exciting adventures, starting with a 34-day voyage from Fort Lauderdale to Tahiti. 

This is an ideal vacation for immersive travelers who enjoy learning about the culture, history, marine life and other facets of every destination they visit on the cruise. And you’ll be joined with a team of certified specialists and naturalists who will lead lectures and shore excursions during your entire trip! Find out why Dr. Carey thinks you should consider Holland America Line’s EXC In-Depth™ Voyages – with unique Zodiac excursions in selected ports – for your next cruise vacation. Just leave the planning to us. One of Vacation’s expert travel agents will help you plan this once-in-a-lifetime cruise experience.

You’re about to embark on the first EXC In-Depth™ Voyage? Tell me what it is and what cruisers can expect on this special cruise.

This program is taking our normal focus on the destinations, but ramping it up even more by bringing in a team of specialist speakers specific to those regions on the itinerary. On board, depending on the itinerary, you could have an archeologist talking to you about the work they’ve done in the field in Peru or in Polynesia. You could have an ornithologist talking about the birds in the region; marine biologists discussing the issues facing the ocean in that part of the world. Basically, a very broad team of educators who know the region and are also providing their wealth of knowledge to everybody on board. And then when we get to the actual destinations, having the onboard activities and education, now is the chance to get out and see these things for real, and on some of these excursions you will be accompanied by the same person that was talking to you onboard. I often see it as you go to class with one of the cool professors who knows how to talk to you and isn’t dry, and then, if you want, you can sign up to go on a field trip with that professor and see things a little more in-depth.

Holland America Line's Director of Explorations Dr. Peter Carey explains why you should book a vacation on an EXC In-Depth Voyage.
Immersive Onboard and Shore Excursions: Guests on these cruises will not only get to learn about the history of each region, but a team of educators and specialists will accompany passengers to help bring onboard lectures to life.

Are there specific ports of call that you are excited about visiting during the cruise? 

Well, we’re starting in Fort Lauderdale in September and the first voyage is a 34-day South Pacific voyage that will end in Tahiti. So… from Fort Lauderdale through the Caribbean, the Panama Canal, a little bit of Costa Rica on the west coast and down the west coast of South America before we sail off into the middle of the Pacific Ocean going via Easter Island, Pitcairn Islands and a sprinkling of French Polynesian islands, where we’ll end up in Tahiti. And the voyages from there will continue to explore Polynesia for more than a month and a half.  And then we’ll finally wind our way down to New Zealand and Australia, hitting the peak of summer in the Southern Hemisphere and tracking the good weather. And then we’ll move up out of Australia through Southeast Asia and go as far west in the Indian Ocean to the Maldives before coming back through the Pacific.

One of the amazing things as a guide, is when you see the light bulb go off over someone's head when you've been talking about something - like whales or something like that - and then you're showing them whales from the deck of the ship.

Wow! That’s impressive! What are some places along the way are you excited about visiting?

I should mention that whole route isn’t just one cruise, but it’s broken up into different segments. I personally have been to a lot of the places on the different itineraries, but I’ve never been to Central America. So, I’m quite keen on this first voyage to be going into Costa Rica. I’m a zoologist so I’m excited to see the wildlife in Central America that’ll be quite a novelty for me. I have been to a lot of the far-flung islands in the Pacific and I’m quite enchanted by their remoteness, and that’s one of the cool things that people get a chance to experience, you really get a sense of how vast the Pacific Ocean is when your sailing among these islands.

I’m really looking forward to sailing past some of the really wild islands in the Central Pacific Ocean like the Pitcairn Islands in the area where the Mutiny on the Bounty survivors settled. We don’t go ashore there, but we sail past the island and we’ll get a chance to soak in a bit of that history – one of the most remote communities in the world. I really like remote areas so it’s a buzz to see things like that. People may recall the Mel Gibson or Marlon Brando version of the movie, but to see the island where it all took place (in 1789). It’s pretty cool! So that really stands out to me! 

Holland America Line's Director of Explorations Dr. Peter Carey explains why you should book an immersive EXC In-Depth Voyage with help from one of Vacation's expert travel agents.
Unique Experiences: Curious passengers on an EXC In-Depth Voyage™ will be able to learn about and explore local wildlife like this strawberry poison dart frog in Costa Rica. 

The big difference between Holland America Line’s EXC In-Depth™ Voyages and its competitors is Zodiacs. When will cruisers get to experience this new immersive tool?

Starting on the November 11th departure of Maasdam, which actually begins in Tahiti (Papeete), is the first of the voyages that we’ll have the Zodiacs in operation, where at a few ports, we’ll put our own boats in the water with our own Explorations Team – the ship’s naturalists – who will not only educate passengers, but they are also skilled boat drivers who will take us out into these new small islands that you can’t get to on a larger tour. So, it’s a tool that allows us to reach new areas, and we’re going to use those wherever the situation and landscape lend  themselves to getting there by boat. 

Are there unique onboard experiences that allow guests to experience and taste the cuisine of the places you visit during your voyage?

Actually, there’s quite a lot of that going on. We’ve got a whole stream of the EXC In-Depth™ Program that is based around the cuisine of the regions. We have a chef who has been curating and finding talented chefs who will move on and off the ship as we move through different regions, so they’ll be addressing the food that’s important in that specific region through cooking demonstrations and tastings. We’re using their expertise as another avenue to understand the culture. So, with the lectures and the food, guests will step off the ship knowing something about each destination’s history, culture the cuisine.

Holland America Line's Director of Explorations Dr. Peter Carey explains why you should book a vacation on an EXC In-Depth Voyage.
Zodiacs: Dr. Carey says Zodiacs will allow the team of specialists and passengers to reach new areas, and to use them whenever the situation or landscape lend themselves to getting there by boat.

Are there specific excursions that you recommend people to do on this new EXC™ In Depth Voyage?

I wouldn’t single out one in particular, but with this these EXC In-Depth™ Voyages being offered on the Maasdam, we are going to visit ports of call in a traditional way and there will be a range of shore excursions that people can choose to sign up for. Guests  may learn some new things from  the onboard educational program that inspire and inform them on what they want to do before they get there. It might also make it easier for them to do their own thing  because they’ve already been educated onboard. It really comes down to the personal interest because some people are really going to be keen on cultural contact. So, they’re going to want to sign up for an excursion that is going to see, for example, a religiously significant area in Sri Lanka and they’ll want to go with the anthropologist or cultural historian who understands that and can help bring that experience to life. Or it might also be somebody who’s a really keen birdwatcher who wants to go to the national park for a birding safari with a naturalist guide who will help enrich that excursion. 

What type of travelers are usually attracted to these types of cruises?

The one constant through all of it is the people we get are curious people, who are traveling to another part of the world because they’re really interested in that other part of the world. And so, that curiosity drives them to seek out opportunities to learn more about it and to engage a little bit more with the destinations… maybe forge a deeper connection. Beyond that curiosity, it then really splits because there will be some folks who are quite athletic and active, but many excursions don’t require this. Some of these activities don’t require anything more than sitting and enjoying an excursion with a very educated guide. Some of the trips will involve riding in our small fleet of boats (Zodiacs) and those will require you to walk up and down a flight of stairs and get into and out of a boat at the platform. But there’s quite a range in terms of fitness levels, but again the one thing that underlies it all, is that they’re all curious people.

Holland America Line's Director of Explorations Dr. Peter Carey explains why you should book a vacation on an EXC In-Depth Voyage.
For the Curious Traveler: "The one constant through all of it is the people we get are curious people, who are traveling  to another part of the world because they're interested in that other part of the world."

As a guide, what are you most excited to see or experience on these voyages?

One of the amazing things as a guide, is when you see the light bulb go off over someone’s head when you’ve been talking about something – like whales or something like that – and then you’re showing them whales from the deck of the ship. And we’re explaining their behavior, and everyone gets to see it in person. You can see the unfettered joy on people’s faces, and that’s what’s so rewarding about teaching on an educational tour like this… more than teaching in a university. You just see the joy in learning, and as an educator, that’s a pretty powerful thing. And with the quality of television and film work these days to bring people to these destinations, there’s no substitute for the personal experience of being there yourself and seeing it for yourself. And this is a great opportunity to do that.

Would you recommend an EXC™ In-Depth Voyage to other immersive travelers? And why?

Yes. You’ll come away from one of these cruises with a better connection to the destinations than you would get elsewhere. You’d have a better understanding of it and have a deeper connection. We’ll be using Zodiacs in some of the destinations which is a very novel tool to have on a ship the size of Maasdam. And we think the combination of the Zodiac opportunity and the broad lecture team onboard allows people to get the most out of the destination and really come away experiencing it in a deeper and more connected way.

Inspired by this article and want to speak with an expert travel agent about how you can plan an unforgettable EXC In-Depth™ Voyage with Holland America Line? Let one of Vacation’s on-call travel experts match you with an expert travel agent to customize an itinerary you’re gonna love.
Holland America Line's Director of Explorations Dr. Peter Carey explains why you should book a vacation on an EXC In-Depth Voyage.
Best Combination: Holland America Line's new program -- which includes a unique combo of Zodiacs and a broad lecture team -- will allow people to get the most out of each destination.